Monday, October 29, 2007

News Flash! Er, Flash News!

MTV.com is reporting that Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin will helm the upcoming superhero flick, “The Flash,” which will be a spinoff of George Miller’s upcoming Justice League film.

In the running (pun intended) to play the title character? Rumor has it Adam Brody (The OC’s Seth Cohen) may be attached to play Wally West. For those keeping track, this would also mean that Brody would be playing the role in Justice League. It’s fascinating how quickly Warner Bros. is churning out these DC Comics adaptations. I mean, Justice League is still in the planning stages and they’re already gearing up for follow-up projects? Did they forget how badly Catwoman bombed?

Warners: Take your time. We’ll be patient, I promise.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Radiohead Returns to Form with In Rainbows

It’s taken me far too long to write a proper review of Radiohead’s new album In Rainbows, partially because I didn’t want to short-change it after a single listen. Or a second or a third. After spending some quality time with its 10 stripped-down tracks, I can safely say that In Rainbows is Radiohead’s strongest album since OK Computer.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought Kid A and Amnesiac were breakthrough albums worthy of their praise. But they also require the listener to be in the proper mood for them, and be able to sit down and appreciate the album as a whole. If “Like Spinning Plates” hits my ears when my iPod is on shuffle in the middle of my commute, chances are I’ll skip it. Not a fault, necessarily, but Radiohead's early work on Pablo Honey, The Bends and the aforementioned OK Computer is far more approachable and more, dare I say it, listener-friendly.

Like most people, I liken 2003’s Hail to the Thief to a melancholic funeral dirge. The energy just isn’t there for a vast majority of the album and the gang just seems bored. Even Thom's soulful vocals can't save most of the tracks from being depressingly dull.

Thankfully, In Rainbows rectifies its predecessor’s faults. Thom Yorke seems to have purged himself of his techno-demons with last year’s synth-heavy solo project The Eraser, giving guitarists Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood plenty to do .

Favorite tracks? “Bodysnatchers” easily sits at the top, with its chaotic guitar distortions. I also liked the trippy “Faust Arp” and the socially critical “House of Cards.”

In Rainbows is Radiohead at the top of their game, mixing their best past sensibilities while at the same time moving forward musically.

Head on over to inrainbows.com and name your price for the download. Call it arrogance or generosity, but Radiohead is letting fans decide how much they’d like to pay for the album. A boxed version of the album, complete with a second CD, two vinyl records, artwork and a lyrics booklet will hit stores December 3rd. A standard version will be released in January.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justice League Movie News!

Some of the geekiest news on the Internet surrounds production of a live-action Justice League of America movie, directed by George Miller. For the uninitiated (and by default better looking and more popular), the Justice League is a team consisting of DC Comics’ most prolific characters, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman. Well, prolific and Aquaman hardly belong in the same sentence, but that’s for another article.

A lot of the wild casting rumors have sent tremors through Internet message boards. Jessica Biel as Wonder Woman? Ryan Reynolds as The Flash? Biel debunked rumors surrounding her interest in donning the star-spangled panties, but the major point here is that the cast is skewing pretty young. And, most importantly, it has nothing do with Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, nor the recently revived Superman series. Think of it as an alternate universe. And if you read comics, that should be fairly easy.

Now, take this with a grain of salt, but UGO has posted some script details, and things have gotten a lot more optimistic. The story concerns Batman keeping all of the other superheroes under surveillance, a two-on-one smackdown pitting Superman against both The Dark Knight and Wonder Woman, and villains Maxwell Lord and Talia al Ghul (daughter of Batman foe Ra’s al Ghul). The story also leads off with a superhero funeral, introducing each of the characters clad in black.

Again, take all of this unofficial buzz with a grain of salt. Ain’t It Cool News reported yesterday (10/26) that Teresa Palmer (Wolf Creek, The Grudge 2) will be playing the role of everyone's favorite Amazon in the patriotic corset. But, if you’d like some low-sodium Justice League news, you might want to wait until some official studio announcements.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Video Game Therapy

For years, video games have been stigmatized as a time-consuming, lazy and sedentary activity lacking in societal worth no matter how much they've come since their humble beginnings as a simple collection of flashes, beeps and boops.

Today they remain the cannon-fodder of lesser politicians, who find themselves grasping for an easy target to blame for America’s educational pitfalls and dwindling family values. And while the younger generation is surely lost (sarcasm) to the flickering lure of Master Chief, Super Mario and Solid Snake, the older generation seems to be reaping the benefits of this emerging form of entertainment, thanks to the Nintendo Wii.

According to a story published on newsday.com, the Wii is fast becoming a physical therapy tool for the elderly since its release last Christmas. Unlike Microsoft’s XBox 360 or Sony’s Playstation 3, the Wii forces players off the couch. Wii Sports, which comes bundled with the system, offers players the chance to play tennis, bowl and even box in the comfort of their own living room.

Studies such as this one seem to be popping up daily, with reports that regular gaming amongst elderly populations helps retain brain function and improve both visual skills and hand-eye coordination.

While I’m not advocating that video games are the best thing to emerge in the entertainment industry since the advent of the motion picture, they are viable medium that can not only provide escapist fun, but exercise the mind, body and even the eyes. With immersive games such as BioShock, Halo 3 and World of Warcraft, you might even get caught up in a great story or make some friends through online multiplayer.

But I digress. There’s an election on the horizon, and we all need someone to blame for society’s ills, don't we? And I hear there’s a new Grand Theft Auto on the way as well. That should fuel the fires of ignorance. After all, haven’t political figures taught us over the years that all games are about beating hookers, stealing cars and shooting cops? And who ever heard of a narrow-minded politician?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Planet Terror Hits DVD

New on DVD, Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror represents the far superior half of the Grindhouse double feature, surpassing Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof as an exhilarating reproduction of 1970s trash cinema.

Planet Terror’s story is relatively simple. A military bio-weapon experiment results in a viral outbreak, turning hundreds of people into disfigured zombie-like creatures (or “sickos,” as one character calls them). We’re introduced to some colorful individuals, including one-man army El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), barbecue aficionado J.T. (Jeff Fahey) and the sexy Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton). You’ve also got genre favorites such as Bruce Willis, Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator) and Tom Savini (gore effects genius behind Dawn of the Dead) appearing in supporting roles. It’s a B-movie that’s completely aware of itself, but you’ll care about these characters and be surprised when you do.

Of course, if you’ve seen any of the promotional material for Planet Terror, you know that Rose McGowan is the real star, machine-gun leg and all. She plays Cherry Darling, a sarcastic go-go dancer with countless “useless” talents that come in handy throughout the film. Of course, she loses her leg when attacked by a group of “sickos” and is later equipped with an armor-piercing appendage, courtesy of ex-boyfriend El Wray. Sure, there’s explosions and blood spattering every which way, but I dare you to take your eyes off of Rose.

And that brings us to one of the main attractions of this film and just about anything else in the “grindhouse” genre, and that’s the bloodshed. It’s comically over-the-top here, and after the first few killings you’ll be immune to whatever gore this movie throws at you. That is, until Quentin Tarantino’s penis starts to melt in the final act. That’s just gross and wrong on all levels.

Special features on the bonus disc include all of the behind-the-scenes featurettes you’d expect from a Rodriguez release, similar to what he put together for the Sin City double disc. If any director makes you feel like a film student just by watching his DVDs, it’s Robert Rodriguez.

While it may be wise to wait for the inevitable “theatrical cut” of Grindhouse, featuring Planet Terror and Death Proof on one disc complete with the fake movie trailers shown in theaters, Planet Terror is a fine film in its own right. It’s a solid addition to any collection.

Robots in Disguise and on DVD

The two-disc special edition of Transformers hit store shelves this week and is a definite buy. Love him or hate him, Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon) has made a film that plays up each of his strengths—from the cavalcade of explosions to the car chases to the frenetic action sequences. Transformers is two hours of pure Bayhem.

Of course, the film has the weaknesses of just about any other Bay flick, namely in terms of characterization. While the film is grounded nicely in its simple tale of a guy (the surprisingly talented Shia LaBeouf), a girl (the stunning Megan Fox) and a car (the yellow Autobot Bumblebee), there are a handful of characters that add little to the plot. Anthony Anderson’s hacker character is pretty unnecessary, and John Turturro, who shines in other films such as The Big Lebowski, is wasted here as an over-the-top government agent.

But let’s be realistic. This is a film about alien robots beating the oil out of each other. If characterization ranks high (if at all) on your giant robot movie checklist, you may need to get out more. It’s fun, it’s loud and it’s a nice escape for a few hours.

And escape you will. As soon as Sam’s (LaBeouf) Camaro transforms and mixes it up with a transforming police car (the Decepticon Barricade, for those of you keeping track), you’ll be roped in. It’s the first of many action scenes that just don’t let up. There’s desert combat, a highway brawl between Optimus Prime and Bonecrusher and an all-out melee between all of the Autobots and the Decepticons during the final act of the film.

But it’s not all about the action necessarily. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Sam is awkwardly trying to hide the Autobots from his parents as Optimus and crew completely trash the backyard. The sequence has a Spielbergian touch (he did executive produce, after all), and provides a quieter moment to get to know the personalities of each of these characters.

While this movie is obviously aimed at a new audience (and to get today’s kids hooked on the toys), there’s plenty here for longtime Transformers fans to chew on. Peter Cullen, who voiced Optimus Prime in the original cartoon series, returns to the role while many familiar faces round out the remaining Autobots, including Jazz, Ratchet and Ironhide. The filmmakers played a bit more free and loose with the Decepticons, both in terms of character design and vehicle types. However, when Megatron (Hugo Weaving) verbally abuses Starscream toward the end of the film you’ll be eight years old all over again.

The second disc in the set is crammed with special features, including how the Transformers concept originated over two decades ago, what it took to get the project off the ground and how the elaborate special effects were created. You get a sense of Bay’s directorial style on the set (near-frighteningly intense), and why some of the decisions in the film were ultimately made (why Megan Fox? Bay wanted the hottest 18-year-old he could find). Bay also addresses some of the Internet whining that went on during the film’s production, including the uproar over making Bumblebee a Camaro (he used to be a Volkswagen) and putting flames on Optimus Prime. For anyone interested in how summer blockbusters like this come together, this second disc is a comprehensive look at the production from conception to finished film.

It won’t necessarily change the way you look at the world or at movies, but Transformers is a spectacle that you’ll want to revisit more than once, if only to soak in more of the action. The plot may be flimsy and a bit ludicrous, but if you can buy the fact that robots have come to Earth and disguised themselves as cars and trucks (all General Motors products, by the way), then you’ll pretty much believe anything else this movie throws at you. It’s a roller-coaster ride that’s well worth the price of admission.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Salad Fingers - Episode Two

I know I made some lofty goals and assumed I'd be able to update this week, but my brain is utterly fried. To celebrate this lapse of cognitive ability, here's my favorite episode of "Salad Fingers"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How Does One "Superman" a Ho?

If you've heard a ringtone or turned on a radio in the past few weeks, chances are you've heard Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat," an ode to cranking Robocop and Supermanning young women. While I'm sure his reference to cranking Robocop has something to do with cyborg Detroit policemen, I could not for the life of me understand what it meant to "Superman" a "ho". Does it mean to blow up her home planet? Make her jump tall buildings in a single bound? Throw a big cellophane Superman logo at her face as seen in the second Christopher Reeve film?

What has young people across the country so entranced, forcing them to post videos of themselves on YouTube flailing about awkwardly in an attempt to dance the "Soulja Boy" or whatever you want to call it?

To fully understand this modern-day macarena, I headed over to urbandictionary.com, which clearly explained:

When you are mad at your girl for not having sex with you. So when she falls asleep you masturbate and cum on her back. After that, stick the bedsheet on to her back and when she wakes up it's stuck to the cum and she has a cape like Superman!!!

Well, there you have it. The song that thousands of teenage girls across the country are learning the dance moves to is a song about masturbating on a girl's back. I could go over what it means to "Spider-Man a ho," but that would be way too many superhero-associated one-handed sex acts for one night.

Soulja Boy also uses the word "ho" in the song 30 times. Isn't that kinda not cool these days?

A Zombie James?

I had one of those great weekends that brings you back to life after feeling less-than-alive for an extended period of time, thanks to good friends, late nights, and trying to play Super Smash Brothers Melee while eating frozen pizza and being too inebriated to properly smack the shit out of Captain Falcon. Good. Times. Me and my friends also checked out Six Flags Fright Fest which was great, albeit a tad crowded.

Also on their way later this week are two highly-anticipated DVD releases that warrant immediate purchase: Transformers and Planet Terror, which both hit store shelves on Tuesday. Both movies are a whole hell of a lot of fun. I mean, it's Rose McGowan with a gun for a leg fighting zombies and 30-foot robots beating the hell out of each other on the same day? What more do you want?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

speech

Since I'm about ten seconds away from a complete and total breakdown this week, here's a clip from "The Office" that made me crack a smile, albeit for a minute.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Father, The Son, and the Holy Needler?

I came across this little gem from the Denver Post during my coffee/early morning web surfing. Apparently, churches all over the country are using Halo 3 to attract young parishioners. But does the M-rated game work as a religious recruiting tool? Absolutely. It just doesn't seem all that appropriate.

Now, I'm a practicing Catholic, and I think that if religious leaders of any denomination want to test new waters to reach out to young people, then more power to them. I'm also fairly liberal, and don't see violent video games as necessarily being a negative influence on children if they're taught the difference between reality and fantasy.

But what I do have an issue with is that religion and Halo are two entirely different spheres. While multiplayer Halo matches offer a wide variety of gametypes, they mostly involve blowing up your opponents in a violent fashion. Then there's the single-player campaign which involves mass slaughtering of a group of religious zealots. Doesn't necessarily gel with the whole "Thou shalt not kill" thing. Insert your "well, actually" argument here.

What I DO like is that some religious leaders are using Halo 3 to talk about some of the game's larger themes. From the article:

The organization recently sent e-mails to 50,000 young people about how to share their faith using "Halo 3." Among the tips: Use the game's themes as the basis for a discussion about good and evil.

In that sense, sure. There's a lot to discuss, and I liken it to using Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in a homily to relate to young people some of the grander themes in The Bible. But a violent, albeit totally awesome, video game has no real place within a place of worship.