Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Where Are All The Fuckin' Ninjas?"

Not in this movie, as ninjas are Japanese, and House of Flying Daggers is Chinese. Not that it matters, because even Godzilla couldn't have made this a better movie.

House is director Yimou Zhang's follow-up to the incredibly successful Hero. Like Hero, House is a ridiculously beautiful kung fu movie. And, like Hero, it features the oh-so-purty Ziyi Zhang. And, unfortunately, like Hero, it's fatally flawed by Zhang's inability to tell a story.

House tells the story of an Chinese army captain, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), sent to find the House of Flying Daggers. The Flying Daggers are a group of assassins. Jin goes undercover as a rogue to follow a blind Dagger, Mei (Ziyi Zhang), the daughter of the Daggers' former leader. Even though Jin knows his mission is to find the Daggers and to make sure Mei doesn't get away, he does something very stupid, and falls in love with her. This is also where the movie does something very stupid, and decides to follow the wrong plotline.

This movie has two major problems. The first is that it pulls a major switcheroo on the viewer. Remember Gladiator, that perfectly shitty Best Picture winner from a few years ago? Remember how the ending promised us a full-out assault on Rome, and, when the ending came, turns out it was just a knife fight? Same deal here. We anticipate the Chinese Army storming the House of Flying Daggers, and for some real shit to happen. We're even teased with a beautiful shot of the army, clad in green, silently approaching the Daggers' lair through a bamboo forest. Do we get to see some shit? Well, no...

...because of this movie's second problem: It's not really a kung-fu movie. It's a romance cleverly disguised as a kung-fu movie. And that's why there's no war at the end of this, because the movie has to resolve its primary plot, which is the love story between Jin and Mei. No time for kung-fu fighting; we wanna see what happens to these star-crossed lovers!! Zhang's Hero was saddled with a similar burden that basically ruined that film (that, and the fact that it told the same story roughly two too many times). This type of film can be pulled off (witness Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), but this isn't it. Zhang probably needs to go back to making straight romance movies, instead of gearing me up for some serious ass kicking, only to disappoint me with all this lovey-dovey bullshit. Skip this, and go see Kung-Fu Hustle instead. Now there's a kung-fu movie!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Retard Of The Year Award

Seeing as how the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. recently reuninted to go out on a concert tour, I thought it would be a good time to recount how a Dinosaur Jr. concert led me to be named Retard of the Year for 2003.

On November 5, 1994, a friend and I attended a Dinosaur Jr. concert at The Riviera Theater in Chicago. A good time was had by all.

A number of months later, I went into a local record store and noticed that they were selling a number of Frank Kozik silkscreen concert posters. I've always enjoyed Kozik's work, so I decided to pick one up. Looking through the posters, the only band represented that I had ever heard of was Dinosaur Jr. So, I purchased that poster (the one pictured above) for the bargain price of $12. (To see what it sells for now, click here.) Because this was a legitimate piece of art (albeit, a very ugly piece), signed and numbered by Kozik himself, I framed it and hung it on my wall. And, regardless of where I've lived or what else has been hanging on the walls, this poster has always been hanging on my wall.

Fast forward to 2003. That poster is still hanging on my wall. One day, I just happened to glance at the poster, and actually looked at it for the first time in my life. The poster advertises a concert for Dinosaur Jr., Come, and Juned. "Hey, I went to a Dinosaur Jr., Come, and Juned concert once!" The poster claims the concert was on November 6 at The Metro in Chicago. "Hey, the concert I went to was on November 5 at The Riviera in Chicago!" After having had this poster on my wall for eight years, it finally dawned on me that not only had I been to a show on this tour, but I had been to the one the day before the one advertised on the poster. An almost totally random purchase that I based on nothing but preference in bands had turned up a poster for a concert that I had missed by one day. An incredible statistical anomaly, and one my subconscious mind probably realized right off the bat, but took the rest of my brain eight years to get the joke. And, hence, I was crowned Retard of the Year in 2003, for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Incredible Oversight (and probably, retroactively, for the previous eight years I had failed to notice this). Way to go, Hero!!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Poll Of The Week

If you've watched any of the assorted entertainment news shows (Extra, Access Hollywood, The Insider, etc.) in the past six months, you'll know that, every day, there is always a feature on the "housewives" of Desperate Housewives. Needless to say, it was Tabloid TV heaven when the story broke that the photoshoot for this month's cover of Vanity Fair, which features the Housewives, was nearly not-to-be when Marcia Cross walked off the shoot, due to the attention being lavished on Teri Hatcher. Catfight!!

So, as a tribute to Tabloid TV, I'll ask the question they ask every day: Who's your favorite Housewife? Don't know about you, but I'd have been lavishing more attention on the one that walked out than the ones that stayed.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

U.S. Mint Loses They Damn Mind

The other day, I was picking up some change off of the coffee table, and noticed an odd looking coin. "What foreign currency have I been duped into taking now," I asked myself. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it wasn't a krone or a drachma I was looking at, but a U.S. nickel. And a very goofy nickel, at that (see picture above).

Here's a question: Why redesign something that has been the same since 1938, the first year of the "Jefferson" nickel? I realize that eventually people get tired of the "same old, same old." This is why car companies change car models every five years or so ("The Dodge Dart: All New for 1967"), why household goods companies add new ingredients to their products ("Now with Teflon!"). Manufacturers know that people won't buy a product if they get bored with it, so they mix it up to keep it new and fresh.

But, see, those are things that you have to buy. If you don't like them, you don't spend money them. The nickel is a different story. It is money. People are going to use it regardless. It could have a picture of a turd, with the slogan, "Fuck you, Jesus!" and people would still use it, because they have no choice.

So, why change it? Did they get some polling data that indicated that use of the nickel was down, due to its 67 year old design? Last year, the nickel went through a bit of a makeover, with the reverse of the coin containing a couple of new designs. The same has been going on with the quarter, the reverse now representing the States of the Union, but the front of the quarter is still the same. Paper money has also undergone a transformation, but this is to combat counterfeiting: a problem not relevant in coinage. (Wait until we get goofy, foreign-looking, colored paper money!)

The nice thing about the coins was that they were all, stylistically, the same: The profile of the President on one side, the whatever on the other side. Now, we have an "All New for 2005" nickel that doesn't look like any other piece of currency. What's up with only half of Jefferson's head? When I first picked up the coin, I expected to turn it over and see the other half. (I was disappointed to find a buffalo, returning to the back after a 67 year absence.) Tres ugly! Maybe the U.S. Mint will return to their senses and put the nickel back the way it was. Or, worse, make all the other coins look like that. It would make for some ugly coins, but would make for a neat history lesson for our kids: "When I was a boy, little Jimmy, coins had the President's entire head on them! What crazy times we lived in!!"

"Sign, S-S-Sign Up Now, Girl"

"If you and y'alls peeps wanna holla, you best sign up for a GGG-GMail account. This the shiznits, for real."


Thursday, April 07, 2005

'Roids: They're All The Rage

Major League Baseball once again flexed its anti-steroid muscle by suspending 41 more players since Monday. Wow: Four days, 42 players. At this rate, every player in organized ball will have a suspension by the end of the season.

Well, probably not. Honestly, I don't think that, regardless of the number of tests performed, the number of suspensions will exceed 100. "Why," you ask? Because it's bad business.

When a players' strike caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, the fans responded in kind by not showing up for games the next year. And this went on until the 1998 Home Run Derby by Sosa and McQwire got people interested in baseball again. (It's ironic that two men credited with saving baseball are also two men whose names have been linked to steroid use.) Since then, baseball has been doing alright. But a rash of high profile steroid suspensions could put an end to that.

In order to get people to watch baseball, MLB has to present an interesting product. And in order to present an interesting product, it needs great players to do incredible things. And in order for some players to do great, incredible things (and this applies to all sports, not just baseball), they have to take steroids. (That may sound like bullshit, but peep this: Last year, three former MVPs admitted to steroid use during their MVP seasons; reality bites sometimes.)

What would happen to baseball if suddenly everyones' favorite players got busted for steroids and (worst case scenario) got banned from the game? Seventy home runs is exciting; 25 is not. Leading the league with 12 home runs may have been exciting in Ty Cobb's day, but the stakes are much higher now, and people have come to expect waaay more from players. With all of our (possibly) performance enhanced players on suspension, people would stop watching, regardless if it's now a "clean" game or not. The only reason there is a "new" steroid policy is because the Commissioner got so sick of hearing people bitch about steroids that he came up with this "steroid policy". But he's not stupid. He knows that busting suspect players like Bonds and Sosa would not only taint those players' accomplishments, but would taint baseball as well. And with as much trouble as baseball has had in the past with putting asses in seats, he's not going to jeopardize any good relations he's built with fans by fucking with their favorite players. People don't actually want these players to get suspended or thrown out of the game; they just want to know that what they suspect about them is true.

So, we'll get some more Bush Leaguer suspensions, maybe some B-list major leaguer sacrificial lambs, but the chances of big names like Bonds or Sosa getting busted are about as good as Pope JP2 coming back from the dead and curing cancer. I suspect that Bonds will become a decent, caring person before he ever gets busted for steroids. And that "decent/caring" thing isn't gonna happen anytime soon.

Now, I'm Really Scared

Seven was already a scary movie to start with, but this reenactment of the final scene is made even more terrifying by the presence of a Boohbah:

SCARY!! (courtesy of CG Gallery)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One Deadly Sin

I don't know: Maybe my expectations were fucked up on Sin City. I enjoyed the comics; I enjoy Bob Rodriguez's movies. Why isn't this a good fucking movie?

Because, it's the best fucking movie I've seen this year. (Yes, I realize it's only April, but gimme a break.) I guess I expected a warmed-over version of the comics, something that just followed the plot. When I heard they were making a movie of the Sin City comics, I thought, "No fucking way are they going to adapt this straight up. It's too dark." Well, what do I know: This thing follows the comics down to the panel. You could take stills from the film and match them directly to panels in the comic. That is a slamdunk adaptation.

As attempting to describe the plot of this movie is nearly impossible, some random thoughts:

--High definition digital video (HDDV) is going to kill film as a filmmaking format. While I still think that regular DV (like you can buy at the store) is total dogshit, HDDV may be the future. While regular film does actually have more resolution than HDDV, it's only on the negative, and is gets waterered down in the transfer to a positive print. Plus, any transfer to a widescreen format cuts resolution, as cropping and enlarging a square 35mm film cell into a rectangle automatically decreases resolution. Lighting for film is a nightmare, as what your eye sees and what the camera sees as colors are two different things. Also, you fuck something up, you just wasted film that now goes right into the toilet. Truly, a nightmare medium. HDDV has none of these problems. There's a reason why George Lucas, one of our more innovative filmmakers (no, seriously: He's figured out how to remake the original Star Wars movies in 3D), has used HDDV for his last two movies. (Wow, that got really technical; let's go back to the fluff.)

--Speaking of digital whatnot, I understand Rodriguez is allll about making epic scale movies for no money, but, seriously, man, you need to spend more than $20 on effects. Some of the effects shots in this movie are embarrassingly bad. Look at Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow: Made for relatively little money, shot in a fashion similar to Sin City, but great effects. That's because that movie was made by a digital animation company: They can do as much as they want on the effects. You can't go to an FX company and say, "Guys, here's the effects shots I need, and here's a $50 to cover costs." You end up with South Park style cars made from construction paper. You gotta spend some money if you want to make things look good. And don't try to blame it off on the quality of digital video; watch the trailer for Revenge of the Sith (which was shot in HDDV) and tell me how much of that looks fake. And speaking of bad FX...

--Let's settle on one color for blood. I realize that, in the comics, which are in black and white, that blood is white. And that's fine if you want the blood in the movie (which is also in black & white) to be white. But, when you also have blood that is red, well, that white blood kiiiinda looks like bird shit. Just something to think about for your next black & white movie.

--Jessica Alba has the biggest lips I've ever seen on a human woman. (I've seen bigger lips on a few mares, but Jessica is not a horse.) Her lips could beat Angelina Jolie's in a fist fight any day.

--Did Tarantino actually direct a scene in this movie? Allegedly, he directed the scene with Dwight and Jackie Boy in the car on the way to the tarpits. Seeing as how it isn't any different in tone or style from the rest of the movie, nor does it suck donkey dick like nearly every Tarantino project post-Pulp Fiction, I seriously doubt the validity of this claim. He may have been on the set during the shooting, but I don't think he had a hand in it. (I will say that if Pulp Fiction had a sequel, it would be this movie.)

--Clive Owen is about to get very famous. Especially if Brosnan does actually bow out, and Owen becomes the next James Bond. (While he's actually underutilized here, check out Closer and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead; mufucka can act.)

--For fans of the comics: If there's anyone more perfect than Mickey Rourke for Marv, you let me know. And I'll punch you right in the face for lying.

Seriously, go see this movie right now. It's just great fun for the whole family. (And go buy the comics too.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

"I'm So Doped Up, I Don't Even Know What Team I'm On!"

Major League Baseball decided to punch the MLB Player's Association in the balls on Opening Day by touting the effectiveness of its new steroid policy. But, instead of busting out a big name like Bonds or Sosa or Giambi, the Commissioner's Office presented us with...Alex Sanchez. (I know you're probably asking, "Who the fuck is Alex Sanchez," as I'm sure the rest of baseball, and possibly Sanchez himself, is as well.) Sanchez vehemently denies these charges, saying, "I'm going to fight it, because I've never taken steroids or anything like that...I never take any steroids because I don't need them." Uh, sure.

Actually, I don't think that Sanchez did take any type of anabolic steroid or human growth hormone. But what I don't think he realizes that there are actually more than just steroids on the "steroid" list. Substances available over the counter, such as ephedra and diuretics, are considered performance enhancing drugs. And I think that's what this knucklehead doesn't realize: You don't have to take steroids to get suspended for taking steroids.

Sanchez has also been quoted as saying, "I take stuff I buy over the counter. Multivitamins, protein shakes, muscle relaxants. That kind of stuff." Well, when you were buying this "over the counter" stuff, did you bother to check if any of it contained any of the banned substances? You can buy ephedra at any drugstore without a prescription. Does that mean you can load up on it because it's not "steroids"? Of course you can't, ya dummy, cuz it's right there on the list next to anabolic steroids. I don't know if the urban myth that eating poppy seeds will cause you to test positive for opium is true, but wouldn't it be worth the trouble to find out if you knew it was something you'd get busted for? Maybe if you'd taken a little time to actually read the new drug policy, and see exactly what it was you were putting into your body, you'd still be playing. To quote Ron Burgundy: "That's Bush League." Which is probably where Mr. Sanchez will be spending the rest of his playing years.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I'm Going Directly To Hell For This

I know it's inappropriate to make fun of the recent dead, especially when they die slow, painful, and ironic deaths. (I say "ironic" because dying of starvation after being removed from a feeding tube that had to be inserted because she tried to starve herself thin 15 years ago is ironic.) And I know I'm going directly to Hell for posting this, but this is some seriously funny shit:

Terri Schiavo's Blog