Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Exterminate! Exterminate!

One thing I love about Doctor Who (aside from the awesome theme music) is how the greatest threat to the universe are a race of human sized salt shakers with death lasers. At the mere mention of the word “Dalek” the Doctor gets all quiet and scared. The Daleks really are a joy to watch. That, and Billie Piper’s really cute and also fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thank God For Wikipedia

Having other things on my mind today, I didn’t have any content for tonight’s update. So you’re going to hear about Chinese water chestnuts.

Yep. Water Chestnuts. The crunchy discs found in American Chinese cuisine.

Eleocharis dulcis, which is the scientific name for the goody, is an aquatic plant that is native to China. Its not at all like chestnuts. Water Chestnuts stay crunchy when cooked, and are jam packed full of starch and fiber. Enjoy.

Monday, February 26, 2007

As Opposed To The “International Monetary Fund”

Ah the wonders of technology.. Tonight’s update was going to be a lengthy espousal of the supremacy of the IMF channel to other music channels. Then my damn word processor crashed and I’m too surly to type it up again. My fault for not saving it in time, I suppose.

Anyway, the IMF (International Music Feed) provides more music, wider content and fewer commercials than its domestically limited counterparts.

One more thing, if you actually do end up watching IMF, keep an ear open for the Fratellis. They’re a pretty kickass band, and Creepin Up The Backstairs is a rockin’ tune.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

You May Already Be A Winner

Judging from all of the random e-mails I receive, Africa is positively teeming with rich yet persecuted millionaires who are dropping dead like flies and leaving their money hidden in random banks. Then it passes on to some legitimate heir to try and get the money back, yet for some reason, they can’t get access to the money and need someone to help them out. Sometimes its not an heir but a lawyer claiming that I am the last surviving relative and the next of kin. Whichever it is, I have to respond with the utmost secrecy for it to be safe, even though its supposed to be perfectly legitimate. All I have to do is provide my significant information and some sort of down payment.

If some long lost Protestant farmer millionaire uncle dying in a plane crash doesn’t get you greedy for large sums of cash, there’s always the lottery. The South African lottery, that is.

Yes; somehow, despite never setting foot on the continent of Africa, nor ever signing up for any such contest, I have won a significant sum of money. All I have to do is provide my significant information and some sort of down…payment… Wait a minute. That sounds awfully familiar. Besides, if I won some sort of lottery, why would I have to give THEM money to get the money? That’s counterintuitive.

The first time I got one of these, I thought it was pretty original and the horrible grammar and spelling was cute. And they were a change of pace from the completely nonsensical spam mail that read like dadaist poetry. Then more and more started appearing in my inbox. Now I get, on average, three a month. Not so original anymore. Still laughably written, especially when you consider that these are supposed to be “educated lawyers.”

The way I see this scam is sort of like those movies that spoof whole genres. The first one, kind of stupid but kind of amusing on a fourth grade level. With each progressive sequel/spin off, it gets dumber and formulaic until you get to the point of wishing justified unpleasantries upon the perpetrators.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nice Bike

It was my privilege to see a preview screening of Ghost Rider last week. I know, I know, its meaningless since the movie’s in wide release now, but whatever. I’m sick and need a quickie update.

Ghost Rider is an OK movie. Simple plot is Johnny Blaze (Nic Cage) makes a deal with the devil to save his dad from cancer, which turns into a screw job when daddy Blaze dies anyway and Johnny gets drafted as Mephisto’s (I refuse to call him Mephistopheles as the movie does. It was originally Mephisto, and that’s what I’m sticking with) bounty hunter, a rider sent to collect on others who’ve made deals with the devil.

Well, Johnny ain’t happy about his situation, especially not when Mephisto sends him after his truant emo son Blackheart (also from the comics) and three elementally-based mini-bosses-I mean nephilim. And there’s something about Eva Mendes in there too, but the love angle falls a little flat (unlike Mendes’ torso, zing!).

Right, let's get this over with quick. Effects are pretty good overall. The flaming head stuff works pretty well and they do some nifty stuff with the bike, like driving up a building. No major complaints. Cage really puts in a lot of effort as Blaze (he’d better considering he’s got a Ghost Rider tattoo). Some of the imagery really jumps out at you, like the scene where Blaze & another Rider (a glee-inducing nod to the fanboy audience) charge off through the night to the final showdown.

As far as comic book movies goes, Ghost Rider’s pretty decent. Its not nearly as good as Batman Begins, X-Men 1 and 2 and the Spider-Man movies, but its no Elektra, Hulk or Fantastic Four either. Its middle of the road, hanging out with the likes of Daredevil and Blade. Look, the people aren’t going to be going in massive droves to see this movie. It will not inspire some youth to cure cancer. Its GHOST RIDER for crying out loud! Before this, his highest pop culture cred outside of comics was being a common theme for metalheads to put on their t-shirts.

I’m gonna go swig some Nyquil.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Commenting on the paradox of asking a man in a mask who he is

V For Vendetta is an interesting movie. Its definitely stylish and Hugo Weaving is awesome as the charming V, and is eminently quotable. Yet Alan Moore is not known for simple entertainment, and the movie is above all else, thought provoking.

Obviously the ruling regime of this dystopian England is a totalitarian is horribly oppressive and corrupt. And yet… despite V’s charms and just intentions, there is something absolutely unsettling about him. Its not the mask, its not the horribly burnt origin and lack of identity either, those are pitiable traits in his favor.

The thing that’s unsettling about V is that, under all of that Romance and bravado, he is as insane as the regime he wants to bury. He is a murderer, arsonist and demagogue. He subjects Evey to absolutely brutal psychological torment. He has good intentions, and certainly good motivations, but even he realizes by the end of the movie that he is just as much a monster as his enemies. There’s something about British comic characters being anti-heroes (see Judge Dredd. Just don‘t see Judge Dredd starring Stallone), and that’s in effect here as well. He does a lot of cool stuff, but when you deconstruct the character, he’s a lot less likable and a lot more disturbing. Gordon and Finch are definitely closer to real heroes than V, but they don’t wear masks or quip witty dialogue, so they don’t get the knee-jerk sympathy of the audience.
To my mind, a good movie is one that hangs with you some time after it ends. Either you get so wrapped up in the characters that your mind wanders to thoughts of “what happens next?” and “well what if this happened?” or you get drawn into the ideas thrown out by the movie. V For Vendetta accomplishes that.

And of course there’s a bald Natalie Portman for half of the movie for those of you who like that sort of thing.

That's A Mighty Nice Coat You've Got

I have over the course of the last week or two, subjected myself to quite a lot of cinema. Which is good, because it gives me something to blather about for a couple of entries.

Frank Miller’s Sin City is equipped with an all-star cast and a visual style unlike anything else out there (well, aside from the Sin City books). Is it ridiculous? The amount of punishment that people can take while still being able to survive is pretty ludicrous. Is it disjointed? Oh hell yes. The three stories barely intersect, but then again, the real story is the city itself. Which brings us to the violence. Sweet sassy molassy is it violent. It’s a movie populated by bad people doing horrible things to each other. I mean, Marv alone racks up a particularly memorable body count. And then there’s Kevin. If you see this movie, you will never, ever look at Elija Wood the same way. And he doesn’t even speak. Oh yeah, and there’s a hooker army led by Rosario Dawson. I'm not making that up.

Yet despite the buckets of blood spilled in this movie, Miller & Rodriguez make it strangely beautiful. It blends the grotesque with the stylish, as if Caligula had decided to direct film noir instead of making his horse a senator. Now, until the next 2 Sin City movies get made, there’s 300 on its way in March, which just has to rock the casbah. Frank Miller + Spartans. Come on, its not trigonometry.

So, what do you follow up a movie like Sin City? Well, if you’re me, the only logical progression is Garden State. Yes, Garden State. Because I like Scrubs, that’s why. Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. Women will and do love this film. Its got that certain “awww” factor that chick flicks have, yet is absurdist enough that its not emasculating to watch. Its actually a very gentle and, well, sweet comedy. Not a knee slappin’ “ZOMG ROFL!!1!1eleventyone!” kind of comedy that the industry tries its damndest to spit down our gullets like a mother robin feeding its chicks. Its more of a Royal Tennenbaums kind of funny. The thought I had running through my head the whole time was that it had that “student film” vibe. That and I really thought the line “What is Tickle?” was hilarious. It’s a nice movie, even if it is set in New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hey nonny nonny

Hell has frozen over, and I am returned. Another Fat Tuesday come and gone, and here I am facing another 40 days/nights of blogging. Should be a good time. Let’s get started.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing happens to by my favorite comedy by the Bard. Its witty, doesn’t rely too much on ludicrous plot devices and deus ex machinas to resolve the ending. And there’s not a fairy named Mustardseed in sight. it’s a polished comedy, laced with innuendo, and did I mention witty? That and it was made into an excellent 1993 Kenneth Branagh film (but that’s a review for another day).

Vitriolic lovers and their merry quarrels aside, there is something that’s been bugging me about the play. The setting is Messina, which is on the island of Sicily. Don Pedro and his bastard brother John are both from Aragon, Benedick is from Padua, and the meathead Claudio is from Florence. Padua and Florence are both on the Italian mainland, and Aragon is in northern Spain. What exactly are these people doing together on Sicily?

Well, I don’t feel like digging into textbook after textbook at this time, so a little snooping on Wikipedia has yielded some results. Shakespeare wrote in the late 1500s-early 1600s. The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile were united in 1492 by Ferdinand & Isabella, who celebrated the newly forged Kingdom of Spain by sending Columbus off to accidentally discover the West Indies. So, by this, Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, is not entirely an independent prince, or the setting of the play is before 1492. Now, what’s an Aragonnese prince doing in Italy?

Turns out Sicily was conquered by Aragon in 1282 after a local revolt (the Sicilian Vespers) against France. Aragon controlled Sicily until 1479, whereby it was ruled by Spain. So that’s a good chunk of time under Aragon. So that explains why Don Pedro acts like he owns the place. He does. Leonato’s welcoming of the Prince and his posse begins to make sense.

Claudio and Benedick’s presence is a little more nebulous. This is Renaissance Italy we’re looking at, so it was not uncommon for professional soldiers and nobles to be crawling all over the place looking for business and booty. Well, this is a comedy, so its focused on the booty aspect. Well, there’s not much that can be discerned about Claudio and Benedick. They are the Princes companions, but the do not have titles like he does, yet are described as “young nobles.” They have to be younger sons because of primogeniture (the 1st son inherits all the family holdings) and signed up with the Prince because Sicily is a perennial battleground and there’s plenty of glory and riches in warfare. They are very close to the Prince. Personal friends in fact. They don’t act like gruff mercenaries so they must have signed on with the Prince for their living and through service become good friends. I guess that’s possible with mercenaries, but still, it doesn’t really fit the tone of the play.

And what of Don John? Well, he’s a bastard. And an asshole.