Saturday, May 15, 2010

American Godzilla, Take 2

These were uncovered recently, and a number of people are of the opinion that these are models for the Godzilla redesign for the new Godzilla movie in preproduction at Legendary Pictures.

Obviously I'll reserve judgment until I see it in action--assuming that these actually ARE the official model--but I don't like this. Although they're much better than the design from the Roland Emmerich movie, I still think they're too sleek and too intentionally mean-looking. Godzilla's not a dragon, and he's not a dinosaur. We've seen dragons and dinosaurs in movies; for Godzilla to work in an American movie he's got to be something entirely new. That was, again, part of the disappointment with Emmerich's movie: we'd already seen Jurassic Park, so this felt like old hat. (And worse, old hat in the rain and dark and murk because the filmmakers didn't have faith in the model.)

I'd much prefer something like this:

I don't know, maybe that's too clunky for American filmmakers, but I promise you, this is what the audience wants. You have to remember a couple of things for an American Godzilla to make good. First, Godzilla has a distinctive look that you can't veer off too sharply from before it's no longer Godzilla. Second, that people want to see Godzilla do more than just walk along the street and make everyone freak out; you don't need to give him an origin story, we all know what he is.

And third--and MOST IMPORTANTLY--Godzilla is the HERO. Yes, he has no time for people, but he's also not the villain. He's a force of nature. Did you want to see Godzilla get tangled up in a suspension bridge and killed with missiles while the light went out of his (her?) eyes and we heard the beating heart come to a stop? Because I sure didn't. Because the most beloved figure in a Godzilla movie is Godzilla.

If Hollywood really thinks it can do Godzilla again, more power to them. I just hope they do it right this time, and not make such a shattering disappointment.

Random Thoughts

Sarah Palin: “Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they’re quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments.” She just keeps proving and proving that she's never so much as glanced at the Constitution.

Anyone else think Sarah Palin's real problem with the Middle East is that she's jealous? I mean, they get to have the kind of strict, religion-based government she so clearly would love to install. Or, at least, she's claiming to. I don't think she wants to be president for any reason other than to be president. Just imagine the travel reimbursements!

:: Oklahoma made it a law that women seeking an abortion have to fill out questionnaires, even in cases of rape or incest. Fuck you, Oklahoma. That is just an affront.

:: Louisiana, meanwhile, is considering a bill that would prevent the law clinic of any state-funded university from filing "a petition, motion, or suit against any individual, business, or governmental agency seeking monetary damages." And if you don't think that's only under discussion because of the potential flurry of lawsuits that will be aimed at BP, you're crazy.

:: Elena Kagan... I don't have the wherewithal to go into her qualifications. I do think the Republicans are being hypocritical when they talk about her lack of judicial experience, especially since John Roberts had something like two years on the bench before sailing in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But it doesn't mean they're not right about Kagan's experience, does it?

Look, I'm sure Obama knows how she's going to vote on every important issue, otherwise he wouldn't be nominating her. Let's be honest and admit this Supreme Court pick reflects just how much Obama wasn't honest about when he was running for president. Here we've got a woman who has shown a willingness to compromise on free speech issues, who supports abortion bans, who doesn't support gay marriage, and who seems to believe in the infallibility of the executive office. So... that's what Obama stands for, then?

:: So we've all heard by now that the Obama Administration is caving in to Congressional fearmongers and seeking a law that will limit the Miranda rights of accused terrorists. The problem is, I don't see them so far offering up their idea of what constitutes an accused terrorists. Could a cop or someone just say "There's an Arab guy and he's drunk and it's late out," and that would be enough to arrest him, take away his rights, and hold him as a terrorist?

And I use an Arab as an example because, honestly, I don't see this law being used against anyone else, especially not white people, despite the violence we keep seeing from Teabaggers and their ilk. Carrying a firearm to a protest carries the threat of violence, but I bet you we won't see that called terrorism, despite that being what it is.

I don't see this law passing, and if it does, then god damn America. It's pathetic enough to see Eric Holder supporting a law that curtails American rights and takes us another step towards government absolutism, but to see President Obama supporting this? That one hurts. It's the final straw. I cannot continue to support President Obama, and I do not want to see him win a second term. I don't want to see a Republican, either, but let's face it, after the health care debacle, what else is going to happen?

By the way, wasn't President Obama supposed to be an expert on Constitutional law? What the fuck? I mean, with that under his belt, he knows exactly what he's doing, and that makes him... well, you see where I'm going.

:: Also, since he's hellbent on breaking every campaign promise, it needs to be noted that Obama notified Congress in an after hours memo that the "national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq" is going to "continue in effect beyond May 22, 2010." So our troops ain't coming home any time soon. Frankly, I don't think we're going to leave Iraq until we end up getting forced out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Little Frog Sidekick Is Exactly What I Need

Wonderful.

Lost vs. Muppets, Round 2

Once again, the Muppets invade the ABC Studios; this time, the Swedish Chef gets some information out of Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof.

The Bone Movie That SHOULD Exist, But Won't

This is an amazing short, done just for fun in Flash animation by a dedicated fan and marvelous artist named Andrew Kaiko. It’s just an idea of what a movie version of Jeff Smith’s seminal comic book Bone might look like in good old-fashioned hand-drawn 2D cel animation, and it just makes me sad that the film is actually being done in CG animation (and by the makers of the odious Happy Feet, at that). Kaiko retains the exact look of the comic, and makes the characters move the way you always figured they did when looking at Smith’s drawings. This IS Bone: the flavor, the design, the charm—absolutely perfect. The voices, by the way, are from a video game based on the comic.

This is enterprising and perfect; someone needs to scrap the CG version and give Kaiko the money to make an entire film in this style. Stupid Hollywood…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thank You, Madame Tussaud

Now I know what I want for my birthday.

Christina and Gaga

I've been seeing a lot of absolutely ridiculous sentiment on the web of late regarding Christina Aguilera's new video. Lady Gaga fans are apparently accusing her of ripping off Lady Gaga in her new video, "Not Myself Tonight."

This is an idiot statement made by people who don't know anything about pop culture.

It's funny to me the sheer number of Gaga haters who will go on and on about how unoriginal Gaga is (duh; the woman named herself after a Queen song, for fuck's sake), only to be countered by Gaga's acolytes with a disdainful "Please, what's original anymore, anyway?" It is equally funny to me the number of the Gaga devout who will say that and then turn and accuse any other woman who dresses a certain way or dances a certain way in a music video of ripping off their precious, who-cares-if-she's-not-original Mama Monster and take great offense at the idea.

So, either you don't care about originality or you do... which is it?

The whole thing really makes me laugh, because Gaga fans are trying to eat their cake and have it, too. On the one hand, she's supposed to be critic-proof because no one's original anymore, but at the same time, they still want to claim she's unique in the world of music.

But Lady Gaga is just following in the outrageous, button-pushing, boundary-testing footprints of Christina and Britney, and they were just following a path well-trodden by Madonna, who was herself just trying to take Cher further, and Cher was influenced by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and Bowie was just applying mime, costume, and Victorian theatrics to rock music. This kind of artifice has always existed in rock and pop, and to claim someone who has been in music for a decade pushing the buttons of what's acceptable (even in her first single, she was a genie we had to rub the right way) is now, all of a sudden, ripping off someone who has barely been in the music industry is stupid.

If you're making this claim, you don't look clever, you look like you don't know what you're talking about.

Another note about the video; something I found interesting on a personal level. Christina Aguilera is sexual. For all of her artificial persona, she's always been genuinely sexual. There's heat coming off of her videos. I've never doubted in any of her videos that, like a lot of great pop music, all of the show and all of the circus and all of the costumes and makeup really came down to singing about fucking. That's my problem with Lady Gaga: she's cold, uninviting, asexual. And while you can certainly dance to her music--and I dig her music, as much as I despise her videos--her world seems less artificial than it does disingenuous and antiseptic. Christina is putting on a show, but she knows it's a show. Lady Gaga is nothing more than the show.

I said once on this blog that Lady Gaga's videos always look to me like the opening scenes of a rape video. That's about how sexy they are. "Poker Face" is a great example--for all of the frenzied editing and all the implications of bestiality, prostitution, and gang bags, there's no heat there. There's nothing sexy about her, and nothing sexual either. For as much as she states she's owning her own sexuality, she never once comes across as someone who knows how to use it.

That's Lady Gaga in a nutshell for me: a disingenuous performance piece pretending to be art, completely hollow, but with decent music for all that. Incidentally, I feel the same way about Madonna.

But Christina... Christina's something different. She doesn't need to imitate Lady Gaga. After all, without Christina, Lady Gaga wouldn't exist.

Happy 60th Birthday, Stevie Wonder!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

YOU DON'T KNOW JACK (2010)
Interesting docudrama with Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Not gripping, exactly, and I'm not sure it will change anyone's mind on the humaneness of doctor-assisted suicide, but it was an interesting picture. Ultimately, though, like a lot of HBO movies, I have a feeling it'll just fade from memory. Pacino was very good; so was John Goodman. *** stars.

SHORTS (2009)
Busy, noisy, pointless kids' movie from Robert Rodriguez. There were a few things I liked--Kat Dennings (and Rodriguez obviously loves her too, given the way his camera cradles her every curve), the crocodiles, and... well, that's actually kind of it--but I have a sneaking suspicion that Robert Rodriguez really doesn't feel like he has to try very hard when he's making a movie for kids. The first two Spy Kids are fun movies, but everything since--Spy Kids 3, Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and this movie--feel like a lot less real effort is being put into them, and instead just based on assumptions that kids love gross-out humor and not much else. *1/2 stars, mostly for special effects.

KICK-ASS (2010)
Not a smart movie, by any means, but a fun one. You can't take it seriously, despite the movie's pretensions to media-savvy satire, something it abandons in the third act in order to make an over-the-top action climax the celebrates the basic stupidity and total fantasy of the very genre it pretends to deconstruct. Based on an unbelievably shitty and insulting comic book by the ridiculous Mark Millar, it tells the story of a high school student who tries to be the superhero Kick-Ass. There's a parallel story about Hit Girl and Big Daddy, an 11 year-old girl and her father who are taking on a crime boss and who Kick-Ass falls in with. I liked Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, a totally unbelievable and uncomfortable little whirlwind who exists only because fanboys seem to love the idea of inappropriately young girls who act like adults in only the most showy ways possible, but who still need emotional protection (basically the same Lolita syndrome that drives the films of Luc Besson). I liked Nicolas Cage's silly affectations as Big Daddy; he plays the character as socially awkward and revenge-driven, and someone who of course would try and put on an Adam West persona when he's in costume. Like I said, dopey and not as smart or substantial as it thinks it is, but hilarious and fun. ***1/2 stars.

VALENTINE'S DAY (2010)
Garry Marshall tries to do Love Actually with a set of vaguely connected half-stories that all have to do with relationships in some way. There are attempts at a lot of unearned emotional endings, but the stories are thoroughly predictable and didn't really connect with me since we don't spend long enough with any one character to really build up the emotions necessary to care about what happens. Some of the performances are alright: Taylor Swift was funny, Jessica Biel and Jennifer Garner were at least likable, I always love Anne Hathaway (saw another bad movie because of you, babe), and I'm surprised by how much I like to see George Lopez in movies. Ashton Kutcher is surprisingly likable here, too. Still, the movie typically ignores almost anyone but white people, and it comes from the pseudo-progressive school of "Gay couples are adorable as long as we don't have to see any men kiss." Some genuinely sincere moments, but it's all over the place. ** stars.

Anatomy of a Dalek

Anatomy of a Dalek
Illustration Key

Lost: Black, White, Etc.

I recommend you read Alan Sepinwall's column about last night's episode of Lost; he said pretty much everything I wanted to say, and he says it better.

I had mixed feelings as I was watching the episode itself; it was fantastic, very well-acted, and I was engaged, even riveted, the entire time... but there was a little bit of thinking about how all of this will be capped off, resolved, and answered in the just two episodes left of the series (even if one is going to be two hours). Even at this stage, even as in the show's pocket as I've been all season, there's still this sense of agnostic doubt that occasionally nags at me.

I thought about the episode for some time afterward, and I realized that there are some things we will probably just never understand--such as the nature of the island itself, or whatever's in that golden well--but mostly they seem to be things I can live with. Maybe I don't even want the well to be explained; maybe that would cheapen it, the way George Lucas cheapened the Force by trying to explain it in a scientific manner that left a taste of "master race genetics" in my mouth.

What I was glad for, though--and what Sepinwall points out--is that it finally took the Island's over-arching good vs. evil structure and put it in human terms. All of the parallels we see when it comes to family issues on the Island begin with Jacob, the Man in Black, and their (forced) adoptive Mother. And now we understand the nature of the forces the characters have spent six seasons being played with. It's a game, to an extent, but a game with serious stakes.

My Paladin Rating was -25

I Am A: Chaotic Good Human Bard (3rd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-10
Dexterity-13
Constitution-10
Intelligence-12
Wisdom-15
Charisma-16

Alignment:
Chaotic Good A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment because it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gizmo

I'm not going to lie, I'm highly jealous of Reis O'Brien for snagging this Gizmo toy off of eBay. I haven't even thought to look for this anywhere, but seeing this picture on Geek Orthodox set off a flood of memories in me.

In the summer of 1984, I was all about Gremlins. Since my birthday's in July, I got a lot of Gremlins stuff for my birthday, including this Gizmo. I used to take him everywhere, too. I can't believe I don't still have him, to be honest, because for the longest time he was always around. I even kept him in my backpack at school.

I don't know what happened to it. I wonder if it was one of the toys my Mom sold while I was away for the weekend. This used to happen all the time--and this is the stereotypical lament of guys my age: I would go away for the weekend, and my Mom would tear down posters she didn't like and sell toys she decided I was done playing with. So Gizmo probably exited my life that way, along with my Master of the Universe figures, Star Wars figures, and a stuffed animal I'd had since infancy and dearly wish I still had...

But enough of weird mother issues. I'm just surprised how strong my feelings were when I saw this picture. Good find, Reis!

I'll have to look for one for myself when I can afford to.

Never Meme Flowers

Via.

1. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
The Lorax. It always got to me when I was a kid, how sad the Lorax was with all of the trees pulled up and destroyed.

2. If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
I love the house from Hannah Montana. It's right there on the beach, which is still kind of a dream of mine.

3. What's the longest you've gone without sleep?
About 32 hours, I think.

4. What's your favorite Barry Manilow song?
I'm not a big fan of his, but I LOVE "Mandy." I've got a heart made of cheese.

5. Who's your favorite Muppet?
Rowlf!

6. What's the habit you're proudest of breaking?
I don't know that I'm openly proud of breaking any habits. I quit smoking ten or so years ago, but I'm not proud of it, it was just something I did: stopped smoking.

7. What's your favorite website?
You're lookin' at it, baby.

8. What's your favorite school supply?
Notebooks. Endless possibilities in there. I would be lost without notebooks. (And I mean old-fashioned, 100-sheet, wire-ring, college-ruled, paper notebooks, not some kind of laptop.)

9. Who's your favorite TV attorney?
Dan Fielding, of course.

10. What was your most recent trip of more than 50 miles?
I can't remember the last time I drove that far, honestly.

11. What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or junk shop?
I got a bookcase once for 50 cents. It was incredibly cheap, but it lasted longer than I thought it would.

12. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
In my bedroom, watching it happen live on television. I was still living at home; Becca was on her way over before work, and had heard something about it on the radio. That was a very scary morning; we watched the second plane hit live, and then there were reports about the Pentagon and United 93. A very irrational part of me wondered if this was Red Dawn happening for real.

13. What's your favorite tree?
Treebeard.

14. What's the most interesting biography you've read?
I don't know if this sounds stupid now, but Drew Barrymore's autobiography Little Girl Lost made a big impression on me when I was in high school. It showed me how easy it is to lose track of yourself and become something you never wanted to be. Kept me from making a couple of poor decisions.

15. What do you order when you eat Chinese food?
Crabmeat rangoons and white rice.

16. What's the best costume you've ever worn?
One I made myself: Harry Jarvis. Harry Jarvis is a space adventurer I used to write short stories about in high school. He wore a vinyl jacket and an outback hat, mostly because I had those things and thought they'd work as a costume. I outfitted it with laser pistols (from LazerTag, of course), a satchel, and some other little things.

17. What's your least favorite word?
It's not a real word, but I hate commercials for the product Beano. What a fucking irritating word.

18. If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?
Well, none of them. None of them are good names (except Virginia, and that's not a man's name).

19. Who's your favorite bear?
Billy Bob Brockali.

20. Describe something that's happened to you for which you have no explanation.
I know I've talked about this before, but there was that time in high school when I had a premonition of death. Sitting in study hall, middle of the day, and a sudden, tingling warmth hit my nose hard and washed over half of my head and then down my neck and spine. I couldn't explain it; I wasn't doing anything (although I was reading a Michael Crichton novel, so draw your own conclusions on what that could have done to my brain). I knew then and there that someone had died. When I told my Mom, she told me I was acting crazy, but it turned out my Great Aunt Bonnie had died in the middle of the day after taking a fall. Weirder still: I had never met her in my life.

21. If you could travel anywhere in Africa, where would it be?
Egypt. I want to see the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings.

22. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
Fast food, and it was a massive mistake. Spent a great deal of time in the bathroom yesterday.

23. Where do you go for advice?
My wife and my parents.

24. Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?
I use both of them fairly regularly. The thesaurus is handy when writing Godzilla Haiku.

25. Have you ever been snorkeling? Scuba diving?
Scuba diving, no, but I have been snorkeling on Guam.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010

One of my all-time favorite artists, one of my influences, and a master of his craft. Very sad.

Lena Horne 1917-2010

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

ME: I need to find something for Mother's Day.

FRIEND: I thought you didn't believe in holidays.

ME: Not generally, no.

FRIEND: Then why do this one? Because your Mom expects you to? You're always riding me for going to church only on Easter and Christmas.

ME: Yeah, but who are you more afraid of: your God or your Mom?

FRIEND: ... Good point.

Song of the Week: "Burnin' for You"

Blue Oyster Cult, from 1981. I heard the intro in a movie the other day, and it's been in my head ever since. Fortunately, this is a damn awesome song.

TV Report: Half a Season of Doctor Who

After catching this week's episode of Doctor Who, I suddenly realized we're about half a season in now. It's been flying by quickly, and that has a lot to do with how much outright fun the series has been. I think there have been some hiccups, but I also think that has more than anything to do with Steven Moffat's attempts to extricate his series from the lingering shadows of Russell T. Davies' tenure. Moffat's gone to the trouble to bring us real Daleks instead of the scavengers left over from the Time War (though I do concede that the Daleks' plan made no real sense), and he's dealing with Amy's attraction to the Doctor in a very interesting way, as though he's trying to take the angst of the Tennant years and shake it out, wring it a couple of times, and let it air dry.

With this week's episode, "Vampires in Venice," Moffat has established a tone that is at once goofy and exciting, marvelously silly, and a wonderful mash-up of the classic series and the new series. I love Matt Smith as the Doctor; there's a scene in this episode where he's having a mysterious-yet-flirty verbal tete-a-tete with this week's villainess, and not only is the Doctor enjoying the sparring and the intrigue, but you can see where Smith is just having a lot of fun playing the character to the hilt. It's exciting, seeing the pure joy everyone's having and getting to share in it.

Becca put it perfectly when she said that "Vampires in Venice" felt like a Hammer movie. (In our home, that is always a compliment.) It reminded us both of the Gothic tone of The Daemons, and we could easily see Jon Pertwee in the same episode. That sums up exactly what I love about this new season of Who: it has a sense of the whole history of Doctor Who, but without letting that history weigh it down or making the scripts slavishly devote themselves to continuity (whatever continuity can mean after 47 years of the show). I just love it so much.

Meco: Star Wars Party



Meco - Star Wars Party - 2005 (Buy It)

I guess Meco's just going to limp to a conclusion here. The proceedings are just so dulled down, so barely alive. Meco was 66 when he made this album, and he seems... tired.

Let's go in order here: "I Am Your Father" is dull club trance which sounds completely outdated; if this were 1995, maybe. "Star Wars Party" just sucks awfully, to be honest; it's inspired by the characters and has no real Star Wars theme except for a dumb chorus that name checks the characters.

"Star Wars Love Themes" isn't as alive as it could have been, but it's nice that it gets in some of the Anakin/Padme love theme from Attack of the Clones. I wish Meco had done something in his old medley style, but this is just so slow and uses this repetitive beat that sounds a hell of a lot like his snare drums from the old filler. It's obviously inspired by Bolero. It just limps off. I notice some of the voice clips he's using now are actually from the movie, but not all of them.

"New Star Wars" is just pointless masturbation to an endless repetition of the main title music.

"The Empire Strikes Back" is the same medley as twice before now; and it's another remix. "You Are Reckless" is actually the second half of one track, which starts off kind of pretty, but it's just a lot of repeat and that Yoda voiceover, only much, much more of it, and it still sounds terrible (although there is a little Frank Oz here and there). Then Meco brings back the end of the medley and we've got a new track that just kind of sucks.

"Jedi Knight" makes another appearance, though it's been remixed and edited (it's 90 seconds shorter) and I think the vocals are new. They sound clearer; they're not so buried in the mix, but it reveals that Yamira is not much of a singer. It almost sounds like the kind of music Bowie was doing ten years earlier, but that's a lot of praise it doesn't really deserve. Either way, though, the music does sound better, but the addition of a male chorus is pretty stupid.

And then we have to sit through "Lapti Nek" again! Just let me die!

"Live Your Life" sounds like an unfinished demo, and is just inspired by Star Wars, I guess. Can just anyone get access to music software these days? Meco, did you just give up on ever doing anything good again?

The last track, "Boogie Wookie," does not boogie. It sounds like another unfinished demo, though it does pick up occasionally.

This is just the most pointless album to own. There's no purpose to it whatsoever, except for Meco to cash in on a hit he made 30 years ago. And I can respect that, but I can also wish he just hadn't bothered.

Grade F
A Side: None
BlindSide: the new version of "Jedi Knight," maybe, if fake club techno is your groove
DownSides: "I Am Your Father," "Star Wars Party," "New Star Wars," "You Are Reckless," "Lapti Nek," "Live Your Life"

Cross-posted from Septenary.

Sunday Hottie 275

JOSH HOLLOWAY