Archive for: August, 2011

Imperial Trouble Episode 41: Dan Carroll and Robin Carroll

Imperial Trouble Episode 41: Dan Carroll and Robin Carroll

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Sam and Jason are joined by Dragon*Con media relations director Dan Carroll and czar of media badges Robin Carroll for a very special all-Dragon*Con episode! Topics include Dragon*Con’s 25th Anniversary, as well as guests, tracks and rules for better living at the largest fantasy/science fiction convention in the world.

When It Looks Like There’s No Turtles At All: An Argument Against Nothingness
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When It Looks Like There’s No Turtles At All: An Argument Against Nothingness

You know how some people don’t believe in ghosts? Well, I don’t believe in nothingness. And by nothingness, I mean the complete absence of light waves, sound waves, gamma rays, mild mannered scientists who have been transformed into incredible hulks by gamma rays and mild mannered scientists who have been transformed into merely credible hulks by gamma rays. For the record, credible hulks will convince you of their argument but are unable to lift a car. However, a discredited hulk not only can’t perform any feats of strength, he also can’t be trusted not to tamper with lab results.

So, nothingness. No atoms, molecules, light or sound. Zero presence of anything of any size down to the quantum level. Like where the sense of common decency would normally be inside people who text and talk during movies. And let me just go ahead and say right now that I am not a scientist, in case you hadn’t guessed. But I have been asking people in bars whether they think nothingness exists. Which means in the scientific community I’m at least as credible as Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood.

The most consistent answer I got from my drunken poll is that “Nothingness exists, our brains are just unable to comprehend it.” Number one, congratulations on your degree in neuropsychology. I had no idea that three cans of PBR bestowed an intimate knowledge of the brain’s cognitive limitations. I guess that explains how Pabst won the blue ribbon in the first place. And why the fathers of modern neuropsychology spent so much time getting drunk at the county fair.

Number two, possibly excluding some talented neurologists, barely anyone really knows the limits of what the brain is or is not able to comprehend. People seem to look at the ability  to grasp concepts like infinity or nothingness like a bodybuilder looks at a stack of weights. Oh, well if I just had more brain muscles I could totally do like twenty reps of unravelling the secrets of creating a perfect vacuum. I mean, I’ll grant you that it’s hard to think of nothingness. Zen monks have been trying to trick their minds into a state of zero thought for centuries. But even that isn’t truly nothingness. Even during intense meditation, your brain still goes on regulating your heart and your breathing.

I’m surprised people seem so convinced that somewhere out there, there’s actually a place where a pure void exists. Like if you flew to the edge of the universe you’d just keep going into some kind of “negative land” devoid of time or dimension. Or you could stand on an asteroid at the city limits of the totality of creation and peer out into the cessation of all existence. “Gosh, sure is sanity destroying,” you’d think to yourself.

I think what most people are referring to when they make a case for the universe being surrounded by nothingness is actually just outer space. According to Wikipedia:

Outer space is an even higher-quality vacuum, with the equivalent of just a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter on average. However, even if every single atom and particle could be removed from a volume, it would still not be “empty” due to vacuum fluctuations, dark energy, and other phenomena in quantum physics.

So even though it seems empty, things are happening at the quantum level. And according to the Wikipedia page for the Mötley Crüe album Dr. Feelgood:

Canadian producer Bob Rock found the process of working with Mötley Crüe difficult, describing the band as “four L.A. bad asses who used to drink a bottle of wine and want to kill each other.” In order to minimize conflict and allow production of the record to proceed smoothly, Rock had each member record their parts separately.

Which seems like an empty, terrible way to live but things were still happening at the musical level and Dr. Feelgood went on to sell more than 6 million copies.

The point being that if there was a place where nothing existed it wouldn’t be a place, and if you could go there it would be something because you’d be in it and if it were outside of our universe it would have to be something because it would have a location relative to our universe. Me being a layman, I’m willing to admit I may be wrong. But right now as it stands I think that as far as the universe and beyond goes, it’s all made up of something. It’s not only turtles all the way down, it’s even turtles when it looks like there’s no turtles at all. The end!

Photo by Orin Zebest from San Francisco, CA, USA (Porthole Whole) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Imperial Trouble Episode 40: Beau Brown, Matt Nitchie and Patrick Freeman

Imperial Trouble Episode 40: Beau Brown, Matt Nitchie and Patrick Freeman

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Sam and Jason are joined once again by Beau Brown, Matt Nitchie and Patrick Freeman, the creative team behind Bob and Carl: Sci-Fi Janitors. Topics include childhood science fiction influences, puppet slams, Quantum Leap, Bob and Carl’s Dragon*Con plans and pretending Godzilla is your father.

Imperial Trouble Episode 39: John Boyega and Harrison Krix

Imperial Trouble Episode 39: John Boyega and Harrison Krix

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Sam and Jason are joined by actor John Boyega of Attack the Block and prop maker Harrison Krix of Volpin Props. Topics include being a badass, the appeal of Michael Bay, the hierarchy of costume contests, negative internet comments, lip dubs and an impression of Harrison’s dog.

The Lacy Hem Of His Embroidered Sleeve: A Review Of “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles”

Christian Slater is interviewing a vampire and he’s wearing his best interviewing vest, so you know he’s going to ask the hard hitting questions. Come to think of it, he’s pretty surprised when Brad Pitt admits to being a vampire. Why did he want to interview him in the first place? Does he interview everybody he meets in an alleyway? Maybe he works for the Wino Times.

Brad Pitt starts telling the story of when he was a human back in the 1700’s. He spends most of his time feeling suicidal and hanging around fancy statues of angels because his family is dead. Given the high mortality rate back then, the fancy angel statue business must have been booming. Maybe that’s how Brad Pitt’s family got so wealthy, by being fancy angel statue barons. Then a Cajun accuses Brad Pitt of cheating at cards and pulls a gun on him. Brad Pitt pulls his flouncy ruffled shirt down to display his bare chest, presumably to help the bullet get to his heart faster. Gee, thanks— if you hadn’t pulled your frilly pirate shirt down I’d have never been able to murder you with this gun. In fact, most modern bullet proof vests include a layer of puffy lace fabric.

Anyway, Tom Cruise shows up and starts sucking Brad Pitt’s blood and it’s apparently so delicious he starts levitating up in the air. Guess that explains where Angelina Jolie got her ability to fly. Then Tom Cruises forces Brad Pitt to drink his blood from his wrist below the lacy hem of his embroidered sleeve, which is also the only way Tom Cruise will accept your friend request on Facebook. Brad Pitt turns into a vampire and sees a fancy angel statue open its eyes and look at him. That really was the golden age of fancy angel statue technology.

Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt tie their hair in ribbons and go on a vampire bender, drinking prostitutes’ blood and sleeping in top notch coffins. Then they turn a twelve year old Kirsten Dunst into a vampire. They dress her up like a doll and make sure she learns to play the piano. She and Tom Cruise go around playing the piano for families and killing them afterwards. How did word of mouth get around about this amazing twelve year old vampire pianist if they killed everybody they ever performed for? How did they even get in the door? Oh, hello! Can my “daughter” come in and play the piano for you? Yes, I know it’s the middle of the night and I made air quotes when I called her my daughter. She’s very good, though. Just let us in. No, you have to invite us in. Why do we have fangs and unnaturally pale and veiny skin? Look, do you want to hear Für Elise or not?

Kirsten Dunst and Brad Pitt get sick of Tom Cruise, so they slit his throat and throw him in a swamp to die. He survives and comes back for revenge so they set him on fire and flee the country, which is also the only way Tom Cruise will allow you to unfriend him on Facebook.

Then Kirsten Dunst and Brad Pitt meet some vampires who live in a theater and put on shows about death and drinking blood. They even kill people on stage during the performances! Way to challenge your craft, vampire actors. I’m not expecting On Golden Pond but not every performance has to end with you biting a naked lady on the neck and draining her blood. Also, have you considered not parading your victims around in front of a live audience? That’s how Frankenstein’s touring company of Guys and Dolls got shut down.

The vampire actors are mad at Kirsten Dunst for killing Tom Cruise so they lock her in an open chamber and let her turn into a pile of ash in the sunlight. Brad Pitt gets his revenge by burning them in their coffins and torching their entire theater. I bet theater critics all over the city were like, “Hooray!” Newspapers probably read “Shitty Stupid Vampire Theater Burns! No More Dumb Plays About Neck Biting! Wolfman And The Mummy Shine In ‘The Producers’!

Brad Pitt runs into Tom Cruise in modern times. Tom Cruise hasn’t changed clothes in two hundred years. He’s essentially got on one of my great-grandmother’s doilies. Somewhere an old woman’s tea trolley is in danger of tea cup ring stains. And then the interview is over! Also, this review. Good night!

Gone Are The Days Of Shock And Delight: A Review Of “Misfits”

Gone Are The Days Of Shock And Delight: A Review Of “Misfits”

Remember when Heroes was interesting? Before Claire got bangs and ran away to Mexico or whatever and they started spending of their time with that steam-punk, back-in-time carnival? No? Well who cares, because Heroes sucks now. Gone are the days where I wonder if it’s appropriate for me to be attracted to the dad. Gone are the days I feel shock and delight when I realize that Hiro Nakamora’s future self is a time-traveling madman who probably knows tons of sick ju jitsu moves.

That show and LOST, man. Shark-jumping failure. It only hurts because I loved both of them so much, and now my nerdy heart is broken.

But from this withered shell of once-genius springs a show that’s just so great–Misfits. The premise is along the same lines as Heroes: ordinary you-and-mes get super powers, compelling plot lines ensue. The difference is, the Misfits are a band of fucked up failures with behavioral problems. They’re doing community service together when they gain their powers.

Unlike Heroes, you don’t get pulled back and forth wondering who the good guys are. There really are no good guys: there are impulsive, self-conscious, self-centered, manipulative assholes who you grow to really care for. The characters need and love each other because ultimately they’re kind of afraid of their own powers (and their actions. The plot packs major punches to some pretty fragile mental health).

When I started the show I thought that certain aspects were intolerably annoying. There’s an awful lot of techno, for example. On occasion during the first season, I wanted to hold the character Nathan’s head under water (and now I love him! He looks like mini Bob Dylan!). I powered through these moments because the show is on the whole is so stylish, funny, gritty and tender.

The character Kelly is probably my favorite: she’s an obnoxious, stereotypical chav, and if you were British, you would know what that means. It’s kind of the south-LA-Latina-gangster of Europe. She’s fun to watch, she’s fierce and loyal, and my high-school-self recoils in terror when I see her long ass fake nails she probably uses to claw at people’s eyes.

The show is artistically dark and artfully directed and the cast is incredible, which is why I’m adding it to my list of things titled “Misfits” that are excellent:

  • The series I just reviewed. Booya.
  • The American rock progenitors of horror-punk
  • The devastating movie starring Clarke Gable and Marilyn Monroe
  • The better band from the show Jem and the Holograms

So get on board, champs. Especially if you’re into brilliant super hero shows that are set in their own comic-like universe, which you definitely should be. Up up and away.

Bunny McIntosh is a co-founder of Baby Robot Industries and writes on meltingdolls.com. Her favorite food is honey butter and her favorite actor is the dad on Star Wars. She hates optical illusions and playing sports (except wrestling). Follow her on Twitter @BunnyMcIntosh.

 

No One Has Ever Called Me A Donkey To My Face: Why It’s Safer Not To Audition For Gordon Ramsay

No One Has Ever Called Me A Donkey To My Face: Why It’s Safer Not To Audition For Gordon Ramsay

Say what you like about Gordon Ramsay—I’m sure you’re right—but I’m a fan. Sort of. I don’t dive for the remote when Kitchen Nightmares comes on, and when friends bemoan his intolerable cruelty, I make a half-hearted point about how he genuinely seems to be trying to help most of the time. When it comes to Gordon Ramsay, that’s more or less what it means to be a fan.

But for some reason, in spite of my noncommittal interest, I’ve kept up with Hell’s Kitchen as though it were a primitive religion. Nine seasons over six years, and I’ve seen every episode.

It’s a guilty pleasure, I guess. I watch it the way people watch Hoarders and Supernanny and other TV sideshows. It’s wickedly fascinating to view a terrible situation from a safe distance, and we all seem to justify it by imagining that we’re being educated on how to stay out of trouble. Never start collecting newspapers. Never let your children sleep in your bed. Never audition for Hell’s Kitchen, even if you’re a five-star chef with $1mil in gambling debt and the mob has just set your car on fire. Never. No. Stay in the car.

At least, that’s what I take away. It’s not that I think I couldn’t make it onto Hell’s Kitchen (although I don’t), or that I wouldn’t get very far (although I wouldn’t). It has nothing to do with the show. That part could be fun, provided you can stand the cigarette smoke. The problem is that if you make it to the end, you go to work for Gordon Ramsay. That’s the prize. After six years of researching him as an employer, I can confidently say that prize sucks.

I’ve ended my share of job interviews with a smile, a handshake, and the assertion that although I hope the company finds what it’s looking for, I’m not it. Once, it was because the interviewer asked me what I’d do if, having performed my job perfectly, I routinely found myself being screamed at for something beyond my control. Another interviewer spent so much time ascertaining the details of how I deal with stress that there wasn’t time in our 30-minute interview to discuss my qualifications. Thanks anyway.

That isn’t to say that I’ve loved every boss and every job I’ve had. I once worked across the hall from a business owner who watched porn all day on a little television beside his desk. And my last job involved a co-worker who was so mean all the time that the sound of her laughter made my mind go blank with panic and fury like some kind of angry possum. So for all my selectivity, no job has been perfect.

No one has ever called me a donkey to my face, either, so I stand by my method.

I mean, suppose that for some reason—call it brain damage—you really did want to work for Ramsay. Even if you win Hell’s Kitchen, experiencing the smallest amount of abuse, failure and public misfortune of all the competing chefs, you’ll still have had a bad service or two along the way. So now you’ve got this new job. But there’s footage that was broadcast worldwide of your new boss berating your and explaining precisely, and at an unseemly volume, why you are a useless, fat, disgusting cow who can’t even cook a simple risotto. True, the camera also captures your comeback, either via shaping up on appetizers or killing the next challenge, and the idea is that because you eventually win back Ramsay’s respect, it’s all water under the bridge of your professional development. Ramsay is helping you! He’s making you stronger! He’s like an emotionally-distant, abusive father, and you’re like a huge idiot on a TV show. But suppose that’s what you wanted. Fine.

Still, after a bad day at work, when entrees are sent back and somebody quits in the middle of service and you’re sweating all over the tableside carving station (what? real restaurants don’t force reluctant chefs to wander around the dining room with a push-cart? the hell you say), you’re going to think back to that video. You’ll recall the scene where a tuba plays as you deliver your subpar risotto, and Ramsay interrupts service so everyone can see him hurl the entire pan into the garbage, and you’ll wonder what the hell has become of your life.

Oh, sure, the winners of Hell’s Kitchen don’t work directly with Ramsay. But just because he’s not there to bring his furious palm down on an undercooked portion of halibut doesn’t mean he’s not your boss. And don’t think he can’t slap a fish at you over the phone. No. Best not to audition in the first place. Stay home with your flaming car and your terrible children and organize your newspapers. It’s safer.

Kristina Ackerman runs popular cooking and crafting blog Knuckle Salad, where seldom is heard a discouraging word— especially from Gordon Ramsay.

The Kind Of Thing That Shows Up In R. Crumb’s Heaven: A Recap Of “What Dreams May Come”

Robin Williams is driving a little wooden boat around on a lake in Switzerland. He’s wearing a really thick sweater. Seems like that sweater would just drag him down to his watery grave if he fell into the lake. Then he crashes his boat into a pretty lady’s boat. Instead of capsizing and dying a soggy woolen sweater-related death, he goes on a picnic with the lady. “Soon.” the sweater thinks to itself.

Robin Williams marries the boat woman and they have two children with androgynous haircuts. His wife runs an art gallery so she has a haircut like He-Man. “By the pageboy of Grayskull! I hang the paintings!” Then their children get killed in a car wreck. Then Robin Williams gets killed in a car wreck. He is survived by his wife’s bangs and his sweater.

Then Robin Williams goes to Heaven! Everything is made of paint because he loves paintings so much. I love macaroni and cheese but I don’t want to live in a house made of it when I go to Heaven. Also, his dog is there. Even though Robin Williams gets to fly and run really fast and manifest physical objects with his thoughts, his dog has no special powers and has to keep being a regular dog. Maybe the dog is in dog purgatory. He probably rejected dog Jesus but lived a good life anyway.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. shows Robin Williams the ropes in Heaven. Robin Williams asks him if there’s a God. Cuba Gooding, Jr. says yes, God’s up there “shouting down that he loves us and wondering why we can’t hear him.” An affectionate hobo with laryngitis on some scaffolding might have that problem, but God can probably make himself heard whenever he wants.

Turns out whatever Robin Williams’s wife paints on Earth appears in his Heaven because they are soul mates. So he sees a tree that she painted come to life and bloom flowers. Good thing for him she doesn’t paint Tijuana bibles starring Scrooge McDuck or Harry Potter/Draco erotic art. Guess that’s the kind of thing that shows up in R. Crumb’s Heaven.

Also, Robin Williams won’t take his trenchcoat off in Heaven. With all the lakes and clouds and dripping paint it looks pretty humid up there. He’s got to be burning up in that thing. Then he meets a beautiful Asian woman. She takes him to a steampunk beach where everyone wears lace and flies around. Apparently they’re flying away to help people be reborn as babies on Earth. Hey, I’m here to help you become a baby! How? I don’t know, but look at my crazy parasol! And I got some goggles and a top hat! Now go get in a vagina!

There’s also steampunk dudes riding penny-farthings wearing white gloves. Where are you guys going? To the art-collective bicycle co-op to drink PBR! Then a mermaid flies up out of the water into the sky. I don’t want to tell you how to do your mermaid business, but the whole reason you have fins instead of legs or wings is so you don’t have to take to the skies. Grass is always greener I guess.

Then the hot Asian woman tells Robin Williams that when she was alive she overheard her father say Asian women were “lovely and graceful” so that’s why she looks Asian in Heaven. Then she reveals she’s actually his daughter. Here’s a tip— if you’re going to be giving your dad the “welcome to Heaven” tour, don’t choose an appearance that gave him a boner when he was alive.

Back to Robin Williams’s wife on Earth. She’s eating frosting and contemplating suicide. That Hieronymus Bosch painting over her bed probably isn’t helping. Let’s see, I’ve got 400 thread count sheets, a white noise machine and an enormous depiction of the souls of the damned being devoured by bird headed demons. Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream!

Cuba Gooding, Jr. tells Robin Williams his wife committed suicide and he can never see her again because suicides go to Hell and nobody has ever brought a suicide back from Hell before. Robin Williams is still wearing his trenchcoat. They go to Heaven’s library to get a “tracker” to find his wife. They find Max von Sydow floating in the air reading a book and wearing a fur coat and flamboyant hat. Guess he’s reading up on how to dress for The Players Ball.

They take a boat to Hell through a crazy storm and a bunch of dirty naked people come up out of the sea and surround them with arms outstretched. Must be what it’s like to be in front of the Michael Franti and Spearhead stage at Bonnaroo. Then Cuba Gooding, Jr. reveals he’s actually Robin Williams’s son. Robin Williams must have mentioned that Snow Dogs gave him an erection at one point when he was alive.

Max von Sydow and Robin Williams find his wife in a filthy Hell version of their house and Max von Sydow says Robin Williams has three minutes to talk to her and after that he’ll go insane, like the five second rule for food, if every time you ate a dropped piece of toast you had to look into a soul-destroying void of madness and depravity. Which is actually how the Little Miss Sunbeam bread logo was created.

Anyway, Robin Williams refuses to leave his wife’s side even though he knows he’ll lose his mind in Hell. You know what else he refuses to leave in Hell? His coat. Anyway, his sacrifice saves his wife’s soul and they both go to Heaven. What about all the other suicides in Hell? Oh, sorry— you need a spouse or loved one to risk their sanity on your behalf in order to leave Hell. What’s that you say? Your life of loneliness and inability to find someone to love you drove you to suicide in the first place? Get back in the fire, loser!

Ultimately, What Dreams May Come was a beautiful movie with gorgeous visuals and flawed logic, unless you’re the founder and CEO of Burlington Coat Factory, and then it’s a triumph of the human spirit. The end!

Uh Oh, Is That Anne Heche? “Cedar Rapids” Reviewed

Author’s note: I wrote this entire review thinking that the movie is titled “Cedar Falls” and the fact that I don’t care enough to hit “Find and Replace” to change it to “Cedar Rapids” should give an initial indication of the quality of this film.

A cranky editor once crankily told me that when reviewing a book, movie or band, you have to lead with some praise for your subject material, no matter how awful it really is. Success, it would seem, is contingent on the overall positivity of your paper. Based on personal observations of said editor, it is also contingent on how much schnapps you can drink in your office during lunch. I don’t quite understand why either of those things contributes to newspaper sales, but that’s why I’m the apprentice, and he has three DUIs. Because I’m not a grandparent, I don’t have any schnapps in my house, so I’m substituting whisky. The true mark of talent is the ability to improvise.

Cedar Rapids is a movie starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. That is the only positive thing I can think of about this movie.

Ignore the glowing reviews, the 6.6/10 IMDB rating and the 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie is awful. Ed Helms is an irritating, unlikeable sap who toils away in thankless anonymity for a deplorable company. I don’t know exactly what they do at this company, but it involves selling stuff and being an asshole. I think they sell insurance, or penny stocks, or CD club subscriptions or something, either way, it isn’t important. It’s about sales, it’s about the Midwest, and it’s about the most awful thing I’ve watched since either The Last Airbender, or Spiderman 3.

Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a something salesman living in the shadow of the company’s top dog, played by Rob Cordry. The top dog, whose name I don’t care about, is a terrible person in every regard. Like every other character in the film, he’s a gross caricature of a Midwesterner, combined with the predictable, stereotypical traits of a pushy, boorish salesman. Then, all of a sudden, he dies. Now Tim Lippe, the idiot that everyone hates, has to go to the big convention in Cedar Falls. I’ve never run a successful company, but if I did, I would have a strict policy stating that if the top guy in the company dies, the worst employee doesn’t have to take his role as the top guy. That’s common sense.

For some reason that is never explained, Tim is dating his 7th grade teacher, played unenthusiastically by Ripley from Alien. If starring in a movie where monsters routinely explode from inside people’s torsos is a big part of your career, starring in a movie where nothing happens ever and everything sucks is probably a letdown. Weaver emotes this sentiment with her face and wardrobe.

So now we’re in the big city of Cedar Rapids, watching some very predictable fish out of water scenarios. They have telephones in the rooms? What? A TV with a remote control? How can small town Tim Lippe deal with all this modernity? Fast forward about half an hour, unless you want to watch a terrible pastiche of Borat and Pleasantville. Uh oh, is that John C. Reilly?

Unfortunately for us all, it is. Like everyone living near an ocean, JCR clearly had no desire to be in the Midwest, or in this movie. Reilly’s character is another cookie cutter Midwestern asshole. He’s a loud, fat lothario whom I hate. Hit fastforward again, or endure another half hour of Reilly harassing Helms, women, and my sensibilities. Uh oh, is that Anne Heche?

Once again, unfortunately it is. Heche plays another salesperson, but somehow manages to craft a character so two dimensional character that it makes her Lois Lane look like Jessica Rabbit. Is she a love interest for Helms? I don’t care, and neither will you.

From here on out, you can pretty much guess where this goes. Fish out of water, sexy lady, obnoxious John C. Reilly. It toils on in that direction for another 45 unpleasant minutes. Ed Helms gets himself into some pickles, has sex with that lady, enters a talent show, for some reason, and then learns a valuable lesson about something. I think the lesson is about spreading your small town wings and learning to fly, or realizing that the most precious gift of all is love, or that the thing you were looking for was with you all the time.

In the end, Cedar Falls/Rapids is an very lengthy piece of phoned in acting, crude jokes, awful writing, and unmemorable characters. It is boring, tremendously clichéd, and completely unwatchable. The worst part is that it squanders the talent of a hilarious character actor like Reilly, a strong leading lady in Weaver, and a great straight man in Helms. In a single word, I would describe this movie as “completely terrible in every way.” The End.

Everett Steele is a full time partner at Baby Robot Industries, an infrequent writer, and a part time lover. You can harass him via Twitter, at Everettsteele.com, or email him, unless you’re proposing a sequel to either Cedar Rapids or Cedar Falls.

 

You Sank My Battleship! Suggestions For Turning Classic Toys Into Mega-movie Franchises

It’s a little early to name the best movie of the year (hint: it ain’t Green Lantern), but it’s not too early to name my favorite movie of 2012. That would be Battleship, the naval action spectacle based on the popular Hasbro board game. With a cast that includes Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker and, uh, Rihanna, how could it go wrong? And did I mention the plot? According to the good folks at Wikipedia, it’s about an “international navy fleet engaged in a very dynamic and intense battle against an alien race .”

Sounds just like the popular game we all grew up with, right?

Now that we’re putting everyone’s favorite childhood memories on the table, without fretting over such inconvenient details as, oh, say, what they were really about, I have only one question.

Where do I sign up?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not just looking for a cheap buck—although if Hollywood comes calling, I’m not going to turn my nose up at any tractor-trailers carrying bags of cash with dollar signs on them, like in those old Scrooge McDuck comic books.  No, sir. If movie studios are eager to cash in on my childhood, then I have an obligation—nay, a duty—to offer my assistance. After all, as a perpetual adolescent who’s been 15 for more than 25 years, I’m their target audience.

Without further ado, here are my suggestions for pillaging strip-mining capitalizing on those favorite toys of yesteryear.

Army Men: This one’s too easy, since the video game industry has already provided us with the template: a series of games about molded-plastic combat troops doing battle against giant real-world backdrops (flowerbeds, workbenches, etc.). Forget the games’ backstory and just get to the money shot: tiny little soldiers waging bloody war across a typical suburban home, from the kitchen to the backyard.

During WWII, an elite squad of Allied soldiers (including Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis and Brendan Fraser) infiltrates a top-secret laboratory to stop the Nazis from launching a teleportation device. Something goes horribly wrong, and Axis and Allied troops alike are transported across time and space to the home of little Timmy Burrows in Wilmington, Delaware. Oh, and they’re now like an inch tall. And throw in some cowboys and Indians while we’re at it, just to spice things up. Picture a cavalry regiment flattened by a car tire, or a mad German scientist played by Ralph Fiennes—the troops’ only hope of returning home—snatched up in the jaws of a giant housecat! It’s got franchise—and Oscar—written all over it. You know, like Lord of the Rings.

Barbie: Who else but Gwyneth Paltrow could portray this glamorous fashion model, teacher, doctor, homemaker, astronaut and President of the United States? And who else but Bradley Cooper would fill role of her love interest, vapid male model turned football star turned Wall Street trader Ken? It’s a romantic comedy, a medical drama and six different action movies rolled into one. Will their love survive the crash of the stock market, a triple heart transplant, and a terrorist attack during the Super Bowl? You’ll have to wait for the sequel.

Hot Wheels: Picture the Fast and the Furious franchise or the Smokey and the Bandit movies, without all the bothersome plot and attempts at acting. Picture dozens—no, hundreds of the sleekest, meanest machines ever built, let loose across the highways of this great land for two hours of car chases and spectacular explosions. Done! Next?

Sea Monkeys: An oil drill destroys an underwater city of humanoid fish-men, prompting all-out undersea war—in 3-D! It’s got an environmental message—like Avatar, except underwater! Liam Neeson is the lord of this ancient aquatic civilization, with Amy Adams as his impudent daughter, who falls in love with marine biologist Shia LaBeouf. The guy who plays Gollum needs to be in there somewhere, too. I think it’s a law.

Slinky: Nuclear scientist Kevin James activates a new supercollider poised to create a brand-new, clean, renewable source of energy. But oily Vince Vaughn sabotages the experiment so that his company can continue to profit from our dependence on fossil fuels. Hey, maybe it’s the same company that destroys the sea monkeys in the other movie! Anyway, the supercollider becomes a giant perpetual-motion coil of doom that, um, slinks across the country, destroying everything in its path! Alcoholic President Tom Arnold sends a team of specialists—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Zooey Deschanel—to stop this helix of atomic death from… well … spiraling about. Who cares how they stop it? It’s got property damage! Explosions! And let’s add a bit of gratuitous—I mean, tasteful nudity. You know, for the foreign markets.

Spielberg, call me! And mail the checks to me care of this website.

More writing by Kevin Moreau can be found by asking a sea monkey for directions to The Island of Kevin Moreau. Photo courtesy of Amanda M Hatfield