Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kristen Bell!

Yo, Joe! Episode 20

Cobra's Candidate

We open on a mayoral candidate, Robert Harper, getting heckled while promising "law and order" under his tenure. Punks are all over the place, ripping down his signs and throwing tomatoes in his face. Things are so bad in this local election that a team of G.I. Joes--Scarlett, Lady Jaye, Snake-Eyes and Timber, Spirit and Freedom, and Zap for some reason--has been assigned to protect a political candidate, which doesn't sound like the way the military actually works. They chase the gang away. Scarlett seems to especially be demeaned by this detail.

Well, no prizes for guessing that this baby gang is taking orders from the Dreadnoks. They capture Snake-Eyes, Spirit, and Zap and take them to their underground headquarters. The townies under their command seem to feel they're getting in too deep, and the Dreadnoks think maybe they shouldn't get paid, which just pisses off their leader, a girl called Pilar.

Snake-Eyes saves Pilar's life, pulling her out of the way of a train during an unsuccessful escape attempt.

Harper ditches Scarlett and Not-Scarlett for a meeting with his advisors in an Extensive Enterprises building. Now, once again... come on. How are Tomax and Xamot allowed to do business in the United States without getting arrested? They've exposed themselves time and again as financiers of Cobra, and still Lady Jaye and Scarlett have to climb up the side of the building just to discover the Crimson Twins talking to Cobra Commander, giving Harper a briefcase full of money, and talking about how they've paid the Dreadnoks to get the local street gangs to make trouble so that Harper's "law and order" rhetoric will get people to vote for him. Seriously, you gals are surprised?

Tomax and Xamot see them outside and get into their dance costumes to fight the lady Joes. And the Twins get their asses kicked and knocked into a dumpster. Okay.

Well, now Storm Shadow arrives with some Crimson Guards and a note from Cobra Commander ("Cobra Commander knows I can't read," says Buzzer, whose file card reveals him to be a former English professor) revealing that Firefly is going to sabotage tonight's political rally and that the Dreadnoks are not to fail. You know, though, without Zartan in the lead, the Dreadnoks seem not only useless, but completely pointless.

Meanwhile, Lady Jaye and Scarlett are getting led around by Tito, Pilar's 10 year-old brother, who agrees to take the women to his leader for 20 bucks. Pilar's not thrilled to talk to them, and Scarlett's charge that the gang is being duped by Cobra falls on deaf ears. Pilar's getting paid, and that's what matters. And just as I'm supposed to believe that a bunch of street punks are a serious threat to Scarlett and Lady Jaye, Quick Kick and Wild Bill show up to help them fight. Of course, they have a helicopter, so it's hardly fair.

In a prison cell, Zap (lamely) taunts the Crimson Guards and Spirit uses a rifle to signal their position. Wild Bill sees it and swoops in to break out the Joes. Snake-Eyes captures a Crimson Guard and Zap promises him that Snake-Eyes will "twist you into the first snake-flavored human pretzel" if he doesn't reveal the Cobra plan. And the guy does it, expediently.

Now Zartan finally shows up on a Cobra Hydrofoil with Firefly, who has a remote detonator and charges placed all over town. And the gang attacks Harper, and G.I. Joe steps in, and Tito's trapped in a building that gets blown up by one of Firefly's bombs, and Pilar tries to save him, and Ripper tries to stop her, but Lady Jaye stops Ripper, and Pilar and Scarlett rescue Tito, and the gang members chase away the Dreadnoks because of neighborhood and family and all of that, and Harper's been exposed, and Zartan and Firefly never even get off the Hydrofoil. And in the end, Harper gets only two votes.

Tomax and Xamot are as frustrated by the election results as I am by this terrible episode. Boring, boring, boring.


Yo, Joe! Episode 19

Lights! Camera! Cobra!

I love the opening of this episode--Cobra forces and Joes fight, and Cobra Commander and Duke start battling it out, looking totally off model, and then it's revealed that this is a movie being filmed. The director, George Landsburg, is upset that the movie isn't authentic enough, and starts pitching a fit, demanding that his producer, Marty Goldblatt, get him some real G.I. Joes as technical advisors.

By the way, is it me, or does the director look like great science fiction and television writer David Gerrold?

Cut to the Cobra Temple, and Destro enters the Commander's chambers to see the Commander eating. Destro is totally horrified and disgusted--we don't see what he does, but obviously the Commander's not wearing his hood. He chuckles and tells Destro "It takes a strong stomach to watch me eat." Wow, there must be something fascinating going on under there. Destro, trying not to look, tells the Commander they've located a missing Firebat, which Miracle Studios is using as a prop in their G.I. Joe movie. It contains a homing device that could lead back to the Cobra Temple. Destro recommends destroying the Firebat, but the Commander doesn't want to spend $15 million on a new one (from Destro), so he decides to send in some specialists to retrieve it.

And, because he's an imbecile, he picks Zartan and the Dreadnoks. And, to convince us that Zartan is a badass, we run into them robbing a London bank and, even though they've got the money in their freaking hands--a million in gold--Zartan tells his men to drop it so they can take the Commander's four million for a job they haven't done yet. Asshole, take the money, you already have it. The stupid things Zartan will do for love.

Well, George Landsburg gets his Joe advisors--Cover Girl, Shipwreck, Mutt and Junkyard, Blowtorch, Dusty, and Recondo. It seems like a random grouping at first, but I don't think it is. I mean, Cover Girl and Mutt are awesome, but Blowtorch, Dusty, and Recondo are guys you seriously need a break from, and as much as I love Ship, he is an obnoxious loudmouth. G.I. Joe basically got some of their more irritating members out of the house for a while and sent a couple of babysitters to watch them. Hmm, Quick Kick must be on leave...

Shipwreck is just pissed that he can't spend some time in town on a little "shore leave." He finagles his way into getting some official Joe equipment for the film, so Shipwreck gets some money and a car and takes off. Wow, out of the house for five minutes and you've already lost one of them. Cover Girl follows him on a Silver Mirage motorcycle to keep him out of trouble. Which was probably part of Ship's plan all along. Watch these two together; he's got the hots for her, and she kinda digs it.

Well, Zartan and the Dreadnoks are already on the set. Zartan pretends to be another actor, but Recondo is suspicious and, always too full of himself for his own good, gets goaded into a nighttime race against Zartan in the desert. He and Dusty, along for the ride, get attacked by the Dreadnoks mid-race and crash into a ravine. Dopes.

Cover Girl finds Shipwreck in the one place you can expect to find a new sailor in town. Um, no, wait, the other place you can expect to find a sailor: the sleaziest dive in town, getting into a fight over a card game. The funny thing is, the Dreadnoks are supposed to be so tough, but Torch, who wants to get Ship and Cover Girl arrested, gets his ass wrecked by a real biker. Why does Cobra keep paying these guys?

Meanwhile, Ripper and Buzzer are destroying the desert set and get into a fight with Mutt, Junkyard, and Blowtorch. Zartan goes all out and puts an explosive on the Firebat and, as the explosion rocks the set, he and the Dreadnoks escape.

This is a lot of trouble to go through for a plane they could have just hopped in and flown off with the second they arrived. Instead they try to destroy it, despite the Commander's clear orders not to. And the bomb didn't even dent the Firebat! This is why you don't hire Zartan to do anything remotely important.

Still, Landsburg is thrilled to have the whole thing on film--the most realistic battle scene ever filmed. (Not counting all of those World War II cameramen, I guess.) Oh, except that he didn't get anything on film at all. All of the cameras were destroyed, except for one, and that wasn't even running. Ready when you are, CB!

To add insult to injury, Shipwreck calls Marty and asks to be bailed out of jail. After that mess is sorted out, the Joes get on some Cobra Trouble Bubbles (also being used as props) and go out in the desert to look for Dusty and Recondo and rescue them from some hungry coyotes while Mutt guards the Firebat. And there's some flirtatious banter between Cover Girl and Shipwreck; she clearly likes winding him up.

Returning to the studio, Mutt and Junkyard are unconscious and the Dreadnoks (minus Torch, in jail) attack. Shipwreck's had enough of this shit, so he just lets his fists do the talking for him, until Zartan knocks him unconscious. Ship falls into the Firebat and hits the auto-pilot, which activates the homing beacon, sending the Firebat straight to the Cobra Temple.

Cobra Commander, Destro, and some Crimson Guards go out to meet the Firebat, and Shipwreck awakens to see himself surrounded by Cobras. So what does he do? Continues his ass-kicking rampage, of course! He knocks the Commander down with one punch to the face plate, which must have hurt his knuckles, you'd think, before being knocked out and dragged away. Cobra Commander wants him put in a chamber for later entertainment. Uh oh. It's Arena of Sport time if Shipwreck's not careful.

Wow. Every time a man is captured, it's time to put him in an arena and force him to engage in death games. Whatever gets you off, but seriously, are you so immune to the pleasures of the flesh that this all that works anymore, Commander? Things not going as well with Zartan these days?

When Shipwreck does wake up, the Commander's new game is to put him on a beam over a vat of molten lead and have Cobra soldiers shoot at him while he tries to dodge. Needlessly complicated? Hey, it's not efficiency, it's Cobra.

Great exchange:

Shipwreck: "Do you expect me to talk?"

Cobra Commander: "No, I expect you to fry."

As the game commences, Cobra gets a transmission from Cover Girl showing Torch in some kind of death press. She says Torch is going to give up the location of Cobra HQ if Shipwreck isn't given back. Sadistic torture is a new step for G.I. Joe, so the Commander's a mite confused.

As we see when the transmission ends, though, it's just movie magic; the torture chamber is a set, and Torch is really Recondo in makeup. And while this is going on, Zartan breaks down the jail doors and rescues the real Torch. But Cobra Commander, perhaps hoping to get back in Zartan's good graces, flies a bunch of Firebats to the movie set with a hostage Shipwreck and offers him for Torch back. Seriously, this is way too much trouble to go to for Torch, who isn't even a member of Cobra. He's just the flunky of a mercenary occasionally hired by Cobra. Where's your commitment to terrorism, Commander?

Destro, thinking it's a trap, orders Cobra to attack. A fight breaks out, during which Cobra Commander demands that his army scatter the bones of the Joes at his feet. Landsburg gets the cameras rolling, capturing the whole thing on film. G.I. Joe Skystrikers suddenly fly in and attack the Firebats, and a simple theft to recover one plane becomes the destruction of many, many planes.

Do you think Cobra Commander ever just sits there and wonders what's gone wrong with his whole scheme to rule the world?

Even Destro treats him like a punk; when the Commander thanks Destro for saving him, Destro shoots back "I saved a customer!"

But it's all on film, and the advisors get invited to the premier of The G.I. Joe Story, and they all wear tuxedos--even Cover Girl. Landsburg explains to a group of reporters that the film wouldn't have been possible without some very special people--mom and dad.

Shipwreck: "Let me at him! I'll murderlize the bum!"

Well, he's a sailor, he was bound to say it sooner or later.

You know me, I love a Shipwreck-heavy episode. But this one is pretty darn fun outside of him. Great stuff.


Yo, Joe! Episode 18

The Phantom Brigade

Major Bludd leads a squadron of Firebats to destroy a munitions depot in the Carpathian Mountains, but G.I. Joe is there (you know, wherever there's trouble, all that). Scarlett is in the lead Skystriker, and she radios Duke.

And Cover Girl's all "Don't worry about Duke. He's right here beside me."

And Scarlett's all "Yeah, I'll just bet he is."

Meow! Hiss! Catty! I love it. Well, unlike Flint, Duke's a real man and chicks dig him. He must not kiss Lady Jaye's ass like Flint, because she's not biting, but Cover Girl and Scarlett? Good work, Duke!

The Joes press their counterattack on Cobra, while Gung Ho is left to guard the depot and antagonize the base commander by comparing his accent to Count Dracula's and scoffing at the local legends of vampires. You'd think this was setting Gung Ho up to run into the Count himself, but no. No vampires show up on this episode.

For once, some Cobra soldiers make the smart decision and retreat despite Major Bludd's orders, reasoning that you can't spend money when you're dead.

This time around, Cobra Commander is holed up in some creepy old Gothic castle, which is pretty cool. Two superstitious Cobra Eels and the Baroness escort an old gypsy woman to see Cobra Commander, who is fuming over Bludd's failure. He wants the gypsy to use her magic to bring forth dead warriors to enlist in Cobra's army. The gypsy has personal objects from three warriors, and can use them to draw those warriors--who are not at rest because of their treacherous or accidental deaths--to Cobra Commander.

By the way, this episode aired on 9 October, which is a shame, because it's so obviously intended to be the Halloween episode. I mean, look at all of this atmosphere.

This kind of stuff on cartoons was the bane of the pathetic existences of religious parents' groups and that idiot that wrote Terror in the Toy Box, one of the most unintentionally hilarious books I've ever read--and you just have to, because it's really stupid, but so incredibly funny. It was about how all of the toys from the early eighties were the work of Satan. Dude, if the best example of how awesome evil and darkness and demonhood that Satan can work up for TV is Skeletor, Satan's just half-assing it. Not that Skeletor isn't awesome, but he's awesome precisely because he's so hilariously inept.

Anyway, the gypsy has a coin, a gold wedding ring, and a locket, and brings Cobra Commander's mighty warriors to heel.

A Centurion!

A Mongol warrior!

And, er... this guy!

Hmm. Oh, wait, he's got...

A World War I-era bi-plane!

Because, of course, a bi-plane always beats the most modern military weapons in the world. I know, I know, but they're ghosts, so they have all of these powers and shit.

Anyway, the Phantom Brigade attacks the munitions dump with their powers and shit--yellow flame with red eyes, that kind of stuff. Wild Bill and Snow Job are seriously freaked out by it. I mean, the Mongol's arrows turn a Slugger to ice. Scarlett tries to shoot the Mongol with a disruptor arrow, thinking she's a hologram, but she sure ain't.

Meanwhile, Quick Kick gets his ass kicked in a swordfight with the Centurion. Ha ha, good. Damn you and your quips and impressions to hell. Seriously, doing impressions is, like, the second most annoying act in the talent show. (The first is always, always ventriloquism. That's the worst. These guys haven't been able to come up with an original act in 80 years. It's always the same unfunny antagonistic relationship between a grown man and his invisible friend. "Now, Morton, be nice..." Ho, ho. I don't understand any person who thinks ventriloquism is funny--and anyone who calls it puppetry doesn't know what they're talking about. So ventriloquism is the worst, impressions are slightly less worse. But they're still terrible.)

Well, this is where Cobra Commander puts his foot in it. He's so thrilled with his Phantom Brigade that he turns to the Baroness and tells her that she may soon become useless. Oh, Commander, will you never learn? The same thing's going to happen that happened with the synthoids! You pissed off Destro, and he helped G.I. Joe smack you down. What the hell do you think the Baroness is going to do, you idiot?

That's right, she goes straight to G.I. Joe and tells them the secret of the Phantom Brigade and how to defeat them. She doesn't waste any time, either. The battle is still going on when she shows up. She tells the Joes that she's helping them for the sake of her own job security, which is just a big clue that your terrorist organization is going nowhere. Seriously, just like with the synthoids, Cobra has a real chance to take over the world and make themselves the rulers of all, but someone gets their feelings hurt and worries about their job and throws a spanner in the works. Dude, when your radical terrorists are worried about "job security" and not the fanatical destruction of the world order, you've completely failed.

Duke sets the mission: find the three personal objects that belong to the ghosts and give them a proper burial. Meanwhile, Wild Bill signals the bi-plane pilot with the US flag and they both land. The pilot, sadly, doesn't know he's actually dead, which just makes the other two ghosts laugh at him. But the pilot is still in love with the girl back home, and begs the ghosts to remember what it was like to be alive and in love. The Mongol warrior remembers her husband, who died soon after their marriage. But they are still in Cobra Commander's power as long as he has their objects.

The Joes--who include Gung Ho, Roadblock, and Snake-Eyes, so it's really ass kicking time--storm the Cobra castle. Cobra Commander is confronted by a skeleton who demands the return of the three objects. The Commander tries to shoot the skeleton, but lasers do nothing, so the Commander drops the trinkets on the ground and the skeleton promises that the spirits will be there when he meets his fate. Duke and Gung Ho arrive just in time to see Cobra Commander escaping in terror, but Duke decides to let him go (WHAT?) because they've got the ghosts' personal objects.

Well, the ghosts get what they want. The Centurion, who lost his lucky coin gambling, gets to rest. The Mongol is reunited with her husband. And the pilot will now be with his girl, Jenny, forever. Apparently, giving these things a burial just means putting them in a hole and covering it with some dirt. The hole looks about six inches deep, too. No priest, nothing? Oh, okay.

I like the last bit--Wild Bill looks up and sees the pilot and Jenny, flying away, together at last. Thumbs up from both, pilot to pilot.

Good episode. One of my favorites so far. It's just so cool and outlandish. It feels kind of like an anime, actually. I like this one.


Walter Cronkite 1916-2009

I'm young for Walter Cronkite; he retired from broadcasting when I was just four years old. I'm more familiar with him from his narration of documentaries like The Dream Is Alive and historical footage, and especially his many interview appearances where he talked about the problem with modern news bias.

For my Mom, however, he was the calm, reasonable, trustworthy voice of the news establishment, and I see what she means. He projected intelligence and reason. He seemed reliable and even comforting. He didn't report from a corporate bias. He was a real journalist, not someone who simply read the news. We have absolutely nothing like that now. The few reporters I would've considered trustworthy are long gone. They ruined Dan Rather. Peter Jennings is dead. We are without a calm, rational anchor--these days, news broadcasters seem to aspire to host The Today Show or Good Morning, America rather than do real news. If there is any real news on television these days. It's mostly being inundated with screaming and trying to prove predetermined "conclusions."

Walter Cronkite's death is a reminder that there is no other Walter Cronkite. And I'm not sure we'll ever have anyone like him again.

Dear Fox: FUCK. YOU.

Go to Forces of Geek to read about how Fox has sent out a casting call to replace Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille on Comedy Central's revival of Futurama.


They're casting for actors to play Fry, Bender, Leela, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Mom, Kif, and Zapp Brannigan.

According to the post, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, and Maurice LaMarche have mentioned this on their Facebook pages.

I agree with Forces of Geek: "any attempt to recast these talented folks should be the first indicator that the new season is poorly executed and just a cheap attempt to push out product."

What the hell is wrong with Fox? Futurama had to struggle to survive as long as it did, and Fox just kept dicking them over, moving the show around and making it impossible to build an audience. Then, when it makes a metric assload of cash on DVD, it's still a struggle for Matt Groening and David X. Cohen to get the movies made. And when those make more cash, Comedy Central agrees to pay for a new series... and this is what Fox does? It dicks the show over some more.

Either this is a ploy to get the actors to reduce their salaries, or Fox truly doesn't care. And either way, it's bullshit. Because the reason the show has been a favorite of so many fans is because of the talent of everyone involved, from Groening and Cohen, to the writers and directors, to the animators, and the voice actors.

This is typical Fox bullshit. They don't care about quality. They never have, and they never will. And they sure don't give a shit about the fans of anything. They cavalierly treat their viewers and their creators like crap in their quest for more money.


God forbid Fox support an animated series that isn't by Seth McFarlane.

There's an email posted at the linked site. Tell them how you feel. Tell them you won't watch a recast Futurama. And if it's a ploy, tell them to go fuck themselves for getting the fans involved in it.

UPDATE: As an antidote to my nerd rage, Mark Evanier has some thoughts about this being a showy ploy on the part of Fox to get the cast to lower their salaries. Which is still yet another excuse to hate Fox.

Friday, July 17, 2009

17 July 1976

Yeah, it's my 33rd birthday today, so I thought I'd do this birthday meme that was sent to me and that I've been sitting on for a while.

It goes like this:

1) Go to Wikipedia

2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.

3) List five events that happened on your birthday

1203 – The Fourth Crusade captures Constantinople.

1717 - Handel's Water Music premieres.

1762 - Catherine the Great becomes Tsar of Russia.

1815 - Napoleon surrenders to the British.

1917 - King George V changes the royal family's surname to Windsor.

1918 - The Bolsheviks murder Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

1936 - The Spanish Civil War begins.

1942 - The Battle of Stalingrad begins.

1945 - The Potsdam Conference begins.

1955 - Disneyland opening ceremony.

1968 - The Ba'ath Party is installed in Iraq.

1975 - The Apollo-Soyuz link-up.

I know that was 12 items and not 5, but history's interesting.

4) List five important birthdays and one death

1744: Elbridge Gerry
1763: John Jacob Astor
1928: Vince Guaraldi
1935: Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach)
1954: J. Michael Straczynski

And as mentioned below, James Cagney and PJ Soles. (Also, interestingly, Angela Merkel. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!)

Death: King Edward the Elder of England, 924

Some others of interest to me: Henri Poincaré (1912), Billie Holiday (1959), and Pat Roach (2004). Also, oddly enough, Erle Stanley Gardner was born on 17 July, and Mickey Spillane died on 17 July.

5) One holiday or observance (if any)

World Day for International Justice

First Image of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

I heartily approve of this.

Happy Birthday, PJ Soles!

Happy Birthday to my adopted actor, PJ Soles, who has an official website.

110 Years of James Cagney

One of the greats, born today in 1899.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rorschach Sings the Classics

He's no Norbert Milken, but he made me laugh.

Oh, what the hell. Here's Norbert Milken, because he makes me smile!

The Great Debate

I don't even know what VH1's The Great Debate is, but Nathan has a survey up that's based on it, so I thought I'd take a crack.

Worst thing to happen to a penis on film: There's Something About Mary vs. Porky's
There's Something About Mary. I caught my penis in my zipper once when I was a teenager, and it is fucking painful. It wasn't to the horrific extent as in the movie (just the frank, not the beans), but it really hurt. Ugh, I can still remember the pain.

Most effective PSA: Crying Indian vs. Your Brain on Drugs
Crying Indian. They were showing that when I was a little kid, and it always made me feel really bad. The fried egg on the pan just seemed preachy to me.

Best teen soap: 90210 vs. The O.C.
I haven't seen much of The O.C., but I kind of hate it for giving us Adrian Brody and Rachel Bilson, driving a ton of idiots to do stupid things like listen to Death Cab for Cutie because the TV told them to, and co-opting Chrismukkah as though it were an original idea. Besides, 90120 had Tori Spelling, and I'm sorry, but I adore her. Plus, you know, 90210, from what I can tell, had a better sense of how soapy it was.

Dreamiest Travolta Stud: Tony Manero vs. Danny Zuko
Tony Manero. Grease is so fucking dumb. Saturday Night Fever at least has better music. And Travolta doesn't, um, "sing" in it.

Kanye West: musical genius or tool?

Hotter Russian tennis babe: Maria Sharapova vs. Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova.

Which is the better Hulk: Hulk Hogan vs. Incredible Hulk
I used to love Hulk Hogan when I was a kid. Then he did a reality show so that the world could see what an ass he actually is. Although he did give us a hot daughter... that he seems very sexually attracted to... The Incredible Hulk rules in any form.

Most hated reality show villain: Omarosa vs. Spencer Pratt
Spencer Pratt is a sore on the ass of humanity. I didn't watch The Apprentice, but I did see Omarosa on The Surreal Life, and I have to admit, the combination of bitchy, sexy, and black does a lot for me.

Which was the wildest toy craze: Cabbage Patch Kids vs. Tickle Me Elmo
I was a kid when the Cabbage Patch Kids craze was on, and it seemed so weird and scary to me at the time. By the time Tickle Me Elmo came out, it was old hat (I worked at Target during the Power Rangers stupidity). I have to go with Cabbage Patch Kids on this one, if only because it seemed so bizarre to under-10 me.

Who is the bigger attention whore: Chriss Angel vs. David Blaine
David Blaine. "Magician," my ass. Houdini never had anyone bail him out of a stunt, loser.

Ultimate 80s teen villain: James Spader vs. Billy Zabka
Zabka. James Spader played a good rich douchebag, but Cobra Kai would fuck your shit up.

Most memorable commercial featuring a cat: Morris vs. Meow Mix
Since I immediately thought of the Meow Mix jingle when reading the question, I have to say that one. I haven't thought about Morris in a long, long time.

Sadder song: Nothing Compares 2 U vs. Tears in Heaven
I don't like either song very much--never really have--but "Tears in Heaven" is about the death of a child, where "Nothing Compares 2 U" is about a break-up, so the edge goes to "Tears" on this one.

Primo 80s teen queen: Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany
Tiffany, all the way. Always Tiffany. Forever Tiffany. Jesus God, I still love Tiffany. I got an email from her once. Just saying.

Who's your maple syrup mama: Mrs. Butterworth vs. Aunt Jemima
The Mrs. Butterworth bottle is iconic, but I think Aunt Jemima tastes better. Really, though, we always had Log Cabin in the house.

Social networking: Twitter vs. Facebook
I don't know. I like the immediacy of Twitter, and I'm not on Facebook. With all of its groups, friend counts, etc, Facebook just seems like something for really needy people craving social contact.

Best talent show ever: Star Search vs. American Idol
I have to go with Star Search, because it seemed more genuinely like a talent show. Idol is all about finding someone who fits neatly into the cookie cutter image of Bland, Inoffensive, Very Marketable Pop Star Who Can Quickly Record an Album You Won't Buy.

Hotter Simpson sister: Ashlee vs. Jessica
Jessica Simpson is still, damn it, the Queen of My Heart. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. Ashlee used to be gorgeous, but she decided to mangle her face with plastic surgery while talking about how girls should be happy with what they have, so fuck her.

Mightier kick-ass TV car: the General Lee vs. K.I.T.T.
The General Lee. K.I.T.T. is pretty cool, but it does all the work for you.

Which was the better dance craze: Y.M.C.A. vs. the Macarena
They were both incredibly stupid. I think it's hilarious how both "dances" contain absolutely no leg movements, thus maximizing the amount of white people who can "perform" them. But "YMCA" was a better song.

Ultimate all-girl pop group: Spice Girls vs. the Pussycat Dolls
Spice Girls. I used to really dig them--I have their first two albums, and I went to see their movie in the theater. They were funny and personable and cute, and they could actually sing. The Pussycat Dolls--and damn them for taking a classy burlesque show and turning into a cheap, shitty pop group--have no personalities, are indistinguishable from one another, and look like trannies from outer space. Not to disparage Nicole Sherzinger, the only one with any talent, the one who sings all the parts on their albums, and is actually kind of lovely. I'll put "Say You'll Be There" against any PCD piece of crap any day.

Which invention helped men more: Rogaine vs. Viagra
I can't say; I don't know anyone who has used either. I have hair and can get it up, so that puts me out of the running. I did always enjoy, in a very kitschy way, the Hair Club for Men commercials, while Viagra commercials just kind of piss me off with their smug idiocy.

Most believable man in drag: Mrs. Doubtfire vs. Tootsie
I guess Tootsie edges out Mrs. Doubtfire in the basic verisimilitude of transvestism, but Mrs. Doubtfire was helped along by Harvey Fierstein, who is a better drag queen than either in Torch Song Trilogy. Also, I hate the movie Tootsie, but I liked Mrs. Doubtfire.

Which sex tape had the bigger impact: Paris Hilton vs. Kim Kardashian
Impact? First of all, Pamela Anderson, who normalized the "stolen" sex tape as a business deal, had a much bigger impact than either's sex tape. And second, Kim Kardashian's is much more fun to watch, since she comes across like a woman who actually really enjoys sex, where Paris Hilton is distracted and boring. Not that I'd kick either out of bed, but I'm on Team Kim all the way.

Which sports anthem pumps you up more: "Rock and Roll, Part 2" vs. "We Will Rock You"
"We Will Rock You." I never thought "Rock and Roll" was particularly exciting, and living in Chicagoland, it's on every freaking Bulls promo.

Perez Hilton: love him or hate him
I hate him, and I'm glad he got smacked. He's a sad little man, so desperate to be accepted as a celebrity by other celebrities, and at the same time so desperate to be better than them and savage their images with no consequences. While you have the freedom in this country to say what you want, his comments about sore loser Carrie Prejean are mitigated by the fact that he called the guy who ended up popping him a fag.

More controversial rapper: Eminem vs. Snoop Dogg
The idea of a controversial rapper just seems ridiculous to me. When I was a kid, we had 2 Live Crew and Ice-T's "Copkiller." What the hell did Eminem and Snoop Dogg ever do that seemed controversial? I think Eminem is a putz, but I don't remember what the controversy was.

Great quote from "Weird Al" Yankovic: "I'm a fan of Eminem, and I love that parody of 'Purple Rain' that he did. What was it called? Oh yeah, 8 Mile."

The Snuggie: genius or crap
I can't believe anyone is even talking about it. Proof that you can get people to buy anything, even if it makes them look like a flamboyant monk.

Who wins in a fight: He-Man vs. ThunderCats
Wait, He-Man has to fight all of the ThunderCats by himself? I think it's a draw, honestly. I think He-Man would make short work of Panthro, Cheetara, and Tygra, but he and Lion-O both have strength and a magic sword on their sides.

Bigger book craze: Da Vinci Code vs. Harry Potter
Harry Potter. No one lined up with their children at midnight to get The Da Vinci Code. Plus, the Harry Potter books are good and not for subliterate imbeciles.

Most entertaining pageant: Westminster dog show vs. Miss America
The Westminster Dog Show has dogs. Easy win. If the Miss America pageant was honest about what it really is--the America's Most Fuckable 18-23 year-old Contest--and we didn't have to hear them talk about world peace and gay marriage, and didn't strip people of their Judged Sexiest crowns when they do things that make people see them as sex objects, then maybe they'd have the edge. But at least the Westminster Dog Show admits it's all about judgment. Plus, it's got dogs.

Better talk show host: Conan vs. Letterman
Letterman, but only when he was on NBC. I'm not a big Conan fan, honestly. He's alright, but I've never gone out of my way to see his show. I do like Craig Ferguson, if only because his show is a little quieter. I want someone like Dick Cavett again.

Huger Schwarzenegger bad-ass: Conan the Barbarian vs. the Terminator
Now there is a Conan I'll go out of my way for.

Who's more bootylicious: Beyonce vs. J. Lo
I like Nathan's answer: "J. Lo, but they're both assholes." Indeed!

Jerkiest high school principal: Rooney vs. Vernon
Vernon was a dick who abused his power and got angry, but Rooney was willing to destroy himself in his efforts to catch Ferris Bueller playing hooky. Plus, Rooney's funnier. Definitely Rooney. And Vernon, let's face it, told Bender the truth about his future. Just because the rich bitch likes making out with you doesn't mean your problems are solved.

Who's got more cooties: Pete Doherty vs. Amy Winehouse
I can't look at a picture of Amy Winehouse and her hideousness without wanting to vomit. Seriously. Stop posting pictures of her all strung out, with those teeth, her eyes rolling back into her head, barely able to stand because she just loves drugs so damn much. It's fucking disgusting.

Steamier bisexual fantasy: Lindsay Lohan vs. Tila Tequila
They're both awful. Now, if we were talking about 2004 Lindsay Lohan, that would be one thing. Not post-2005 junkie drunk Lindsay Lohan. Plus, picturing Lindsay with Sam Ronson is just not my thing at all. Tila Tequila is just some ugly dwarf who isn't actually bisexual and has nothing to talk about other than how hot she wants us to believe she is. The whole notion of either one being a steamy fantasy is pretty disgusting.

Besides, my steamy bisexual fantasies right now tend to involve James Franco coming on Zac Efron's face. Just to make you all aware of that.

Ultimate primetime game show: Wheel of Fortune vs. Jeopardy
Jeopardy. Wheel of Fortune is boring and slow.

Who stole the show: Urkel vs. The Fonz
Both of them did. But I liked Fonzie, whereas I fucking hated Urkel.

Spicier sexpert: Dr. Ruth vs. Sue Johanson
Who the hell is Sue Johanson? I don't know about "spicy," but Dr. Ruth was funny on that episode of Quantum Leap.

Weepiest tear-jerker: Terms of Endearment vs. Steel Magnolias
They're both pretty manufactured and lifeless to me. Terms of Endearment has better acting, by which I'm pretty much only referring to Jack Nicholson.

Who is the flashier showboat: Sanders vs. Owens

Who is the better royal lay: Prince Harry vs. Prince William
I'd go with Prince Harry, because he looks more like his beautiful mother and Prince William is slowly morphing into his father.

Best TV housekeeper: Mrs. Garrett vs. Alice
Mrs. Garrett, if only because she was in Hair. (And so was Nell!) Plus, I get weary of The Brady Bunch.

Most bad-ass Tarantino flick: Reservoir Dogs vs. Pulp Fiction
They're both good, but Pulp Fiction is better. Though my favorite is Death Proof.

Hottest Gilligan castaway: Mary Ann vs. Ginger
Ginger. Mary Ann was cute, but Ginger was sexy. And a redhead.

Most legendary Hollywood couple: Kermit/Miss Piggy vs. Bogart/Bacall
Are you kidding? Muppets always win!

Bruno vs. Borat
I haven't seen Bruno yet, but I enjoyed the hell out of Borat and can't wait to see the new one. I love humor based on exposing Americans for the uptight, hateful people they so often are.

Guiltier reality TV pleasure: Rock of Love vs. Flavor of Love
I've never watched either show. I mean, gross.

Ultimate female movie psycho: Glenn Close vs. Kathy Bates
Glenn Close. Annie Wilkes was scary, but Alex Forrest was sexy and enticing, which makes her even deadlier. Because Annie is someone you don't want to be trapped with, and Alex is.

Who has the most fabulous reality show: Tyra Banks vs. Heidi Klum
I've never watched Project Runway or America's Next Top Model. I have seen Tyra's talk show, though, and it's disgusting. And Tyra is incredibly bitchy, and very holier-than-thou. Any possible respect I could've ever had for her was erased a couple of years ago when she went off on the media for daring to call her fat after she'd put on a few pounds, even as she makes her living schilling for a system that is completely based on judging others by their looks. I'll bet no one who ever appeared on Top Model felt bad for Tyra when the media told her what she tells them.

And Heidi Klum is just so damn cute! Ich liebe dich, Klumster! Du bist eine der schönsten lebendigen Frauen. Und zur Hölle mit Elle MacPherson, du bist wirklich der Körper!

Which are cuter: kittens vs. puppies
All animals are cute.

The Hills: Genius or Dumb
I've seen bits of it, and it's pretty fucking dumb. And not only that, it's lazy.

Who's the bigger political cad: Edwards vs. Clinton
Clinton, if only because Edwards just isn't as good as it. Plus, as far as I know, he never banged a country singer, which is something we all aspire to. Or maybe it's just me, but still, respect.

Does disco suck: yes or no
Not in and of itself. There's shitty music in every genre. But I like a lot of disco.

Coolest TV cop pair: CHiPs vs. Miami Vice
I've never seen Miami Vice, but CHIPs is incredibly lame.

Most memorable commercial featuring an old lady: Where's the beef? vs. I've fallen and I can't get up!
"I've fallen and I can't get up!" is much funnier. For me, "Where's the beef?" got replaced by Hostess' "Hey, where's the cream filling?" I tend to use that one when my rabbit looks confused.

Hotter Charlie's Angels trio: the 2000s vs. the 70s
Hmmm. I loved the trio in the first Angels movie, but by the second one, I'd come to really not like Lucy Liu or Cameron Diaz. Can I combine them? I'd say Drew Barrymore, Jaclyn Smith, and surprise entry Tanya Roberts would comprise the sexiest trio for me.

Boxers vs. Briefs
Boxer briefs are the most comfortable.

Battle of the 80s charity songs: "We Are the World" vs. "Do They Know it's Christmas"
Lionel Richie sure knew how to write an affecting pop song: "We Are the World."

Ugliest sports injury ever: Holyfield vs. Theisman
Theisman's was more horrific.

Raddest video game craze: Pac-Man vs. Donkey Kong
Pac Man, definitely. Man, that was fun. No disrespect to Donkey Kong. Those two, along with Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda, are the only video games that are really iconic to me.

Who would you rather adopt: Arnold vs. Webster
Arnold. Arnold was funny. Webster was insufferable. Of course, the fact that the actors on the show obviously despised Emmanuel Lewis didn't help...

Lady GaGa vs. Katy Perry
Musically, I'd give a slight edge to Katy Perry. They're both pretty generic, but I kind of dig "Waking Up in Vegas" because the music video's clever and the song sounds like it could easily have been recorded by Kelly Clarkson. ("I Kissed a Girl" is still unforgivably stupid, though.) Lady GaGa, on the other hand, is a "Dirrty"-era Christina Aguilera rip-off, and not a very good one--all of her songs are the exact same song. She just seems pointless to me.

If I don't have to listen to the idiot things they say, though, it's totally Kitty Purry over Lady GaGa every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Katy is gorgeous and sexy, while Lady GaGa looks like Paul Williams in drag. And while Katy is a twit, Lady GaGa bothers me because she's trying so hard to do the Christina Aguilera thing without any idea of what made it work for Christina (hint: Christina looked like she enjoyed sex, and also looked like she was in control of her image, whereas Lady GaGa's music videos look like the opening scene of a rape). There's nothing organic or real about Lady GaGa's sexiness; it's all for attention. And while Katy Perry did the same thing with "I Kissed a Girl" and a lot of her subsequent appearances afterwards, she's at least had the grace to tone it down.

Who's tougher: Rambo vs. Rocky
Rocky. He went the distance. John Rambo is just damaged and dehumanized, and it always comes down to whining with him.

Best boy band: 'Nsync vs. New Kids on the Block
They both suck hard, but I like Justin Timberlake's solo work. I don't know what happened, but at some point (and probably after a couple of Saturday Night Live appearances and stopping the fake ghetto talk), I became okay with Timberlake. But both "bands" can suck it.

The Jerry Springer Show: trash or gold
Trash. Back in the 90s, when the show was pretending to be a show about helping people, it was much more dramatic. So, sometimes it was entertaining trash. Have you seen The Steve Wilkos Show, with Jerry's former security guy? Wow, he's an ass. He just screams at people. It's kind of sick, especially how much he seems to relish yelling at women who piss him off. It's about as sick as infertile Maury Povich's obsession with teen pregnancy. Man, he loves to yell at kids.

Super Harrison Ford hero: Han Solo vs. Indiana Jones
I love them both, but Indy always seemed more human to me.

Top pop princess: Britney vs. Christina
Britney is beautiful and talented, but Christina is much more beautiful and much more talented.

Scariest serial killer: Freddy vs. Jason
I'm just getting to know Jason; I never saw his movies as a kid like I did Freddy's. And while Jason's a good bogeyman, Freddy attacks you in your dreams, which is much scarier. I mean, I can stay out of the woods but I can't avoid going to sleep. So, Freddy is scarier, but I like them both. They're like Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster.

Boobs: fake vs. real
If I can touch them, they're real. It's possible to go too bizarre with fake ones, but it's not like every real pair of breasts is a winner, either. Real, fake, I just love boobs. Like I always say, if there are two things I love, it's tits.

Mega music mogul: Diddy vs. Jay Z
They can both suck it.

Geekiest fans: Star Wars vs. Star Trek
They can both be pretty bad. I tend to hate all groups of fandom, if only because I get tired of being told I'm not as "true" a fan of something because I don't have a slavish devotion to continuity and don't hate everything that's new.

Team Aniston vs. Team Jolie
Ugh. Two women pathetically fighting over a man while he--who actually did the cheating--comes out clean? Keep proving the stereotypes true, ladies. I don't like either one.

Bigger blockbuster craze: Jurassic Park vs. Titanic
I saw both movies in the theater multiple times, but I have to give it over to Jurassic Park. I was 16 years old, it was the beginning of summer, I had my first job that year, I fell in love for the first time that year, I had already loved the book... I don't know, it was just a fun time.

Greatest band of all time: Beatles vs. Rolling Stones
I hate this debate. They're both great, end of story.

Supreme diva: Whitney vs. Mariah
Whitney Houston is another person who did a reality show to show the world how pathetic she is. I'm sure Mariah will do the same one day. All I know is, I like one Mariah song and no Whitney songs, and Mariah is sexy.

Which alien would you rather party with: ALF vs. ET
They both seem like lame party guests. And I couldn't go the whole night without strangling ALF to death.

Simpsons vs. Family Guy
The Simpsons; yeah, it sucks now, but Family Guy is just incredibly idiotic. "Hey, this is like a TV show from the eighties!" is not a joke. The Simpsons, at least the first 10 seasons, is one of the funniest shows in history.

Best pop star ever: Madonna vs. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson. His musical output up to about 1989 is amazing, and Madonna... well, everything of hers I liked can probably fit on one CD.

Fiercest supermodel biatch: Naomi Campbell vs. Janice Dickinson
While the bitchy, sexy and black thing applies to Naomi Campbell, I have to go with Janice Dickinson, because she's bitchy, sexy, and insane.

Which baseball franchise rules: Red Sox vs. Yankees
The Chicago Cubs.

Sexiest 'stache: Burt Reynolds vs. Tom Selleck
Burt. That 'stache is what all 'staches aspire to.

Worst celebrity excuse: Simpson's acid reflux vs. Piven's mercury poisoning
Mercury poisoning. I've had acid reflux for about 12 years, and I totally get it. Acid reflux can make it hard to even talk, let alone sing.

(Besides, the new worst excuse ever is Lady Sovereign trashing a convenience store last week because they wouldn't sell her cigarettes and then blaming it on hay fever.)

Biggest fall from grace: George Michael vs. Boy George
Did either of these guys have grace? I'd have to say George Michael, if only because it was all drugs with Boy George and George Michael's homosexuality was a bigger deal in the news because, still, America is terrified of homosexuality and mostly accepts drugs.

Greatest cheestastic Broadway show on Earth: Cats vs. Phantom
They're both incredibly cheesy, but Phantom of the Opera has better music. And a plot.

Who cares more about the world: Sting vs. Bono
Sting. He's a lot less preachy than Bono, and preachiness is the sign of somebody who doesn't actually do anything about the problem, and is embarrassed about it.

Least arousing sex book: Joy of Sex vs. Madonna's Sex
Joy of Sex is more innocent and informative and, well, joyful. Madonna's book is an over-the-top gynecology exam, far too cynical and cold to really be sexy.

Would you rather be a Flintstone or a Jetson?
A Jetson. It's a convenience issue.

Most indestructible rocker: Ozzy Osbourne vs. Keith Richards

Most hideous footwear trend: Crocs vs. Uggs
God, they're both so amazingly stupid. But at least men didn't try to pull off Uggs. So I'd go with Crocs, because they're unisex hideousness.

Funniest TV foreigner: Balki vs. Latka
Latka. I am one of those "Andy Kaufman was a genius" people.

Better buzz: Red Bull vs. Jolt
I've never had Jolt, but I have had Red Bull and, based on the shitty taste coupled with their evil commercials (including one that implied that rape was hilarious), I don't want to say anything nice about them.

Which member of The View would you eat first if stranded on a desert island?
Sherri Sheppard. She's a moron, the world will never miss her. Plus, she'll provide a longer store.

I know she's evil and shit, but I don't have to be on a desert island to eat Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I'll eat her anytime.

Best cartoon pet: Snoopy vs. Garfield
How can you make me choose, damn you?! I have to go with Snoopy. Garfield tends to lay around and be cynical, but Snoopy's so many things--a World War I flying ace, a novelist, a vulture, Joe Cool, and he can dance.

Best Jersey export: Bruce Springsteen vs. Bon Jovi
I have to agree with Nathan: why isn't Frank Sinatra a choice? Maybe because there's no question when it comes to Frank. So, excluding Frank Sinatra, who is above this kind of pop culture debatery, I have to go with Bruce Springsteen, because although his output is spotty, he doesn't out and out suck like Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi sucks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Way to Look at Life

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week (my 200th of these posts... jeez).

Interesting piece about a junkie (Matt Dillon) who robs pharmacies and then enters drug rehab in the early seventies. This was Gus Van Sant's first feature film, and it's interesting to see it now after have seen a number of his films over the last 20 years. It's better than many of them--it's a pretty raw debut, and some of the performances are quite good (Dillon never comes off well to me, but I thought Kelly Lynch and Heather Graham were very good, Graham in particular, because she lost her ability to be this much of a presence a long time ago). Like most of Van Sant's films, though, it starts to get muddled in the final third, but it doesn't sink the movie. *** stars.

Wow, what happened here? Van Sant followed the interesting Drugstore Cowboy and the excellent My Own Private Idaho with this... mess. Lots of potential, particularly in the casting (especially Uma Thurman), but it just loses focus halfway through and lost me completely by the last act. I hate to say I didn't get it--that sounds dismissive--but I didn't get it. I have no idea what Van Sant was trying to say with this one, and what I did understand I didn't think was particularly interesting. He's made worse films--Psycho and Finding Forrester leap to mind--but this one doesn't even try as hard as it wants us to believe. *1/2 stars. (Van Sant followed this up with To Die For, which I still think is his best work.)

I'M REED FISH (2007)
Nice to meet you. I'm going to go stand over there now. * star.

Wow, this one got a lot of flack, didn't it? I honestly didn't think this was a bad movie at all. It's rough and unpolished, and wants a little too badly to be a Richard Curtis movie, but I enjoyed Simon Pegg and I felt pretty close to his character's main problem--never finishing anything and wanting to change it. And I always enjoy Dylan Moran, who was hilarious. Not a great movie, but a nice one. It's not Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but it doesn't set out to be, either. *** stars.

This is easily my favorite of Bunuel's films that I've seen so far. Fernando Rey plays a man who falls in love with a younger woman. Bunuel very interestingly has the woman, Conchita, played by two different women--Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina--to signify the many facets of her character, which alternately confound, enrage, inflame, and adore Rey as he tries to romance her and jumps through hoops to satisfy her concerns. It's the eternal drama between men and women, and played very honestly, artfully, and confidently by Bunuel. And the encroachment of the outside world and its interference is played very interestingly, leading to a surprising conclusion. **** stars. A masterwork.

I wonder if Truffaut got vilified for making a Hitchcock pastiche the same way De Palma did when he made Blow Out and Body Double and especially Dressed to Kill? Anyway, Truffaut's film is indeed an excellent pastiche of Hitchcock, down to the great Bernard Herrmann score, with Jeanne Moreau as a widow who goes about murdering the men who were responsible for her husband's death. It's a marvelous film, expertly made. **** stars.

No one has anything interesting to say about the way Americans relate to each other sexually, do they? They infuse so much bullshit on sexual relationships. No wonder so many people go to Europe to get laid. * star. So much nudity, and Diora Baird keeps her clothes on? You're doing it wrong.

I always dug this show, and it makes a lot of sense for the Titans to go to Tokyo considering how much the series purposely looked and felt like an anime. I enjoy just about any Warner Bros/DC Comic animation, and this was a really nice, clever, fun movie. *** stars.

This movie was a lot better than I expected, given a lot of the criticisms I've heard over the years. And I'm glad it picked up the story of Tommy, now older and played by John Shepherd, as he heads off to some kind of mental farm and worries that he's either turning into Jason or that Jason is going to return. Suspenseful, as we're left guessing whether or not Tommy is committing the murders or not. Not quite as good as Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, which is probably my favorite of the series, but fun. *** stars. I have a question about the time frame, though. Didn't the second movie take place, like, 3 or 5 years after the first movie? And in the fourth movie, Tommy was 12, and in this one, he's probably 16 or 17. Are these movies taking place in the future, or do the filmmakers just not care? I mean, it doesn't ruin my enjoyment or anything, I just think it's kind of funny.

Thom Matthews plays Tommy in this one, the return of Jason from the grave (apparently John Shepherd got all born-again and didn't want to make this one; too bad, because Matthews just doesn't seem quite right in the role). This one really cements Jason as a sort of nightmare figure/movie monster. In fact, the whole movie--which is surprisingly free of nudity and very, very low on gore--is played more like a classic monster movie with comedy than as a slasher movie. The tone shift doesn't kill the movie, though. It's kind of dumb, but it's also kind of funny. There are some big laughs here (my favorite moment is when Jason is attacking a camp full of kids--yes, for the first time since the second movie, there's a camp, and a Friday the 13th--and while they're hiding, one kid turns to another and says "So, what did you want to be when you grew up?"). I enjoyed it. I'm enjoying these films a lot. *** stars.

Powerful drama from Kon Ichikawa about the remnants of the Japanese army, abandoned by their commanding officers and starving to death. Eiji Funakoshi plays Tamura, a soldier who tries to hold on to his humanity and his hope while everyone around him descends into cannibalism. It's a hard movie; we see soldier after soldier becoming dehumanized, succumbing to barbarism in order to survive. This is the kind of movie that makes war look as disgusting as it is. **** stars.

As with any anthology film, it's a bit of a mixed bag, filled with 18 vignettes set around Paris. I liked a lot of it; there were some episodes that were lesser, I think, but the beauty of a film like this, where the vignettes don't overstay their welcome, is that you can pick what you want out of it and focus on them. I loved Tom Tykwer's piece about a blind man reflecting on a relationship (with Natalie Portman) that he thinks has ended. I also loved the episodes with Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant as a couple keeping their marriage alive, and Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands as a couple ending theirs. For my money, the film ends with the best segment, by Alexander Payne and featuring Margo Martindale as a lonely American woman traveling to France on her own. As she reflects on her experiences and her loneliness--which, she says, ultimately doesn't bother her--we really understand this woman and her American-accented French. It's lovely. Her final lines--"And I felt Paris fall in love with me"--are just heartrending in their perfection; it's like Payne--as he did at the end of About Schmidt--really just understood all of the emotions of the world and filtered them into cinema. ***1/2 stars.

These softcore parodies used to be funny--and they used to have Evan Stone. Now they're just cynical crap. 1/2 star for Rebecca Love being in it.

Startlingly unfunny comedy, a series of vignettes that are like a master class in how not to make a comedy. To my surprise, everything in the film that's actually funny is directed by John Landis, who has a very, very spotty track record (the "Video Date" segment is hysterical). I also thought Griffin Dunne was funny in the "Hospital" segment, even though he's basically riffing on Steve Martin. But the whole thing is mainly set-up without the laughs, or parodies too close to their objects to be funny. And to my disappointment, everything directed by Joe Dante--with the exception of Reckless Youth, a parody of social hygiene scare films from the thirties (specifically The Social Disease) starring Paul Bartel and Carrie Fisher--falls flat. What a waste of time. *1/2 stars.

At Home with Lucy Pinder