Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's Hard To Find Good Help

It must be trying for Vic Mackey to go to work every day, considering the number of traitorous and duplicitous members of his Strike Team that he's had to deal with.

Like Terry Crowley, a Justice Department spy, who tried to get Vic busted for bending the law to the breaking point. Or Lem, who, not only destroyed most of the money from the Armenian "money train" heist, but also wore a wire for IAD to implicate Vic in Terry Crowley's murder. Or Army, who threw the whole Team under the bus by refusing to take a lie detector test that would have cleared him of being in league with Antwon Mitchell. Even long-time partner Shane Vendrell, who covered up the fact his wife stole the missing money train money, threw a racially-motivated beatdown on Tavon and then begged Vic to cover it up, fractured the Team by choosing the money over loyalty, and got implicated in a murder-for-hire plot against Vic when he got in too deep with Antwon Mitchell. (Oh, and he killed Lem.) Almost everyone who has entered the Team's clubhouse has made life hard for Vic.

Which brings us to Ronnie Gardocki. Through the good times and the bad, Ronnie has remained completely loyal to Vic, backing him almost all of the time. When the Strike Team disbanded, it was Ronnie who remained as Vic's partner. Even when Armadillo burned off Ronnie's face in retribution for what Vic did to him, instead of being mad at Vic, Ronnie used his recuperation time to plan the money train heist. If only we all had someone who was that loyal to us; the world would be a better place.

Check out the ongoing saga of Ronnie Gardocki when The Shield starts back up on Tuesday.

Showtime Has Another Winner

Back in olden times, before Henry VIII gobbled his way through six wives and any food he could get his hands on, before Anne Boleyn lost her head, before Thomas More was anything more than a lawyer, this is the setting for The Tudors, Showtime's new weekly series. I happened to catch the first two episodes on Showtime On Demand. (I believe you can also watch them on Showtime's website.) And I rather enjoyed it.

Like most historical dramas, it's fairly dense in the historical aspect, sometimes requiring picking up a history book to understand what's going on. (Like Lord Buckingham's being bitter about not being an heir to the throne due to his family losing The War of the Roses and the subsequent death of Richard III.) However, it's actually easier to follow than HBO's Rome. And, of course, it's filled with the requisite sex and deceit present in every Medieval Times Show. It's a good time.

I think it also marks a shift to where all the good programming is on premium cable. Historically, HBO has always had the best shows, but they currently only have one worth watching. (And that would be The Wire) Showtime, on the other hand, just keeps putting out shows that turn out being some of the best stuff on TV. (Which is a good thing for Showtime, because their original programming is the only reason to watch Showtime.)

Now, if they could just get their movie selection to be as good as their original programming, Showtime might be the new network to watch.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Final Four Is Set

With yesterday's games behind us, the Final Four are set. But, with this Final Four comes an odd anomaly. Should Florida and Ohio St. win their respective games, the matchup for the basketball championship will be the same as it was for the football championship. And, should Florida win that game, they'll have beaten the same team for two championships in two different sports in the same year. I don't think that's ever happened before.

We'll see how it all plays out when the tourney resumes next week.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Six Degrees Has Another Go At It

It's strange how shows just disappear off TV, seemingly canceled, only to magically reappear sometime later. Like when King of the Hill suddenly started airing after being MIA for nearly a year. Or, when Day Break, the show that replaced Lost, disappeared after a couple of episodes, only to reappear, in its entirety, on the internet.

Or, like Six Degrees, which stopped airing four months ago, just popping back into the schedule on Friday nights. As I mentioned a while back, the show really wasn't that good, and I can see why it would possibly get canceled. But, apparently ABC decided that new episodes of a bad show were better than reruns from the night before.

So, tune in tonight and every other Friday, and see if it gets any better. Maybe Tom Brady's baby will make a cameo appearance.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Marquette Got Smoked

After their first, transitional year into the Big East, Marquette appeared to be ready to do something. They started the preseason ranked, were ranked all but one week of the season (once, as high as eighth), and did pretty well against some big-name schools (like beating Big East powerhouse Pitt twice).

And then they got blown out of the brackets by Michigan State.

Not that I should be surprised. Marquette only seems to be able to advance out of the first round when there's a chance that might beat Kentucky somewhere down the line.

Oh well; we'll see what next year brings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Another Vegas Legend Goes Bye-bye

And yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of The Dismantling of Vintage Vegas. On Tuesday, the Stardust Hotel and Casino, the last of the once mob-controlled casinos still on The Strip, was razed in the name of progress.

Honestly, I had no idea this was in the works. I was just in the Stardust eight months ago, and it didn't seem like a place that was mere months from extinction. But, when Mr. Vegas himself, who had been playing there for nearly 10 years, pulls up stakes and leaves, I guess the writing's on the wall.

In the Stardust's place will be this monstrosity, yet another resort-only property featuring four differently-themed (read: boringly Modern) hotels. Look for it in the next four years.

In the meantime, feel free to reminisce about the Stardust at their still functional website, or at Leaving Las Vegas' Stardust retrospective.

Up next for probable demolition: The New Frontier, home of Gilley's, the best bar in Vegas. What a damn shame.

Monday, March 12, 2007

300 Could Have Been 300 Times Better

I think most of your action-minded fans were geared up to see 300, and, from the looks of the box office, I think most of them did. (With the exception of anyone in Iran, which disapproves of the movie's portrayal of its ancient Persian ancestors. That and the fact I believe it's against the law to watch movies over there.) And The Girl and I were two of the several million that went to see it.

If you love medieval war violence, this is your movie. If you're looking for a well-made movie, well, not so much. While it's nice to look at, with all of its sepia-toned, computer-generated landscapes and armies, its plotting is something that may have been generated by a computer as well. Here's a quick plot summation: Greeks kill hundreds of Persians in battle; Greeks talk about how easy that battle was; Xerxes gets angry over his army's losses; a quick scene of how things are going back in Sparta; repeat until everyone's dead. It's also fairly predictable, even without having read Frank Miller's book. If you can't predict that the hideous freak is going to turn traitor, you may want to consult a neurologist, because your brain has stopped functioning.

I figured after the last outstanding adaptation of a Frank Miller comic that this one would be good as well. But, as anyone who's seen Daredevil or Electra can attest, they usually don't turn out that well. C'est la vie.

I Join The Next Generation

Serendipity is a funny thing. The other day, The Girl was out with one of her friends. The friend regaled her with stories of how her husband had just bought an Xbox 360, and about how cool it was. The Girl has known I have wanted one since they came out, but, being as I'm a cheap bastard, would never spend that much money on myself. The Girl heard how much joy it had brought to the friend's husband, and she figured it might bring some joy to me as well.

And this is how I ended up with an Xbox 360.

I don't know why it took me so long to buy one, as it's pretty goddamn cool. I didn't think gaming in 1080i HD would look this good, but it does. And once I managed to scrape together enough leftover Best Buy giftcards, I bought the insanely overpriced wireless adaptor and got hooked up to XBox Live, where I proceeded to download every demo they had available. (If you're in the market, and wondering whether to go with the Core or Pro setup, the essential 20 GB hard drive that comes with the Pro version easily makes up the price difference.)

The big downside? The spotty backwards compatibility with the old XBox games, which they have been slowly rolling out as they port them to the new console. As someone who owns three of the four Hitman games for the original console, I'm somewhat disappointed that only one is compatible (and no, it's not the one I don't own, which would piss me off even more). Oh, and the fact that the wireless controller just eats batteries.

All and all, a great investment. And if Dead Rising isn't reason enough to buy one, you must just not like having fun.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Most Confusing Schedule Ever

I've bitched almost non-stop about this new "hiatus season" the networks are trying, and I'm about tired of it. But, it makes me ask just one question: Is House still on the air?

I honestly don't know. I don't even know what they're airing in it's place. I just know that when TiVo is taping The Unit rather than House, House isn't on.

But then, this is Fox, the Home of Nonsensical Programming. They chose to premiere their three most popular shows in January. King of the Hill, one of the longest-running shows on TV, was MIA for almost a year, only to come back with three episodes before disappearing to make room for Seth McFarland's latest abortion. (And when did Sunday become SethMcFarlandDay?) The Simpsons, which usually premiers in November, started in September, and has aired 12 episodes. (I thought there were more than 12 weeks in seven months, but I might not know what I'm talking about.) Plus, on any given night, you'll have no idea what might be airing on Fox. (I believe they've canceled every show that was new this year.)

Which brings us back to House. If I'm not mistaken, House was the first show on all of TV to air its season premiere, waaay back in the first week of September. Since then, they've aired 14 episodes. (For comparison, 24, which premiered in January, has aired 11.) House went on World Series hiatus, post-sweeps hiatus, the no-real-reason hiatus, and now, well, I don't know why it's not on.

Which brings me back to my original question: Is House still on the air?

Bravo, Fox, for making your schedule so fucking confusing, all in the name of not airing a couple of reruns. Bravo.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I Sell Out To Corporate America

I've been with my video service, GreenCine, for a long time. When I first decided to sign up for an online video service, I went with GreenCine because, at the time, they had the largest library out there. (They still do, actually, as well as thousands of video-on-demand titles. They even have a sister site which offers nothing but porn.) They were a nice little indie business that carried all of the hard-to-find titles I was looking for.

But, with all of their perks, they have three big negatives that always raised doubt: 1) they're more expensive than everyone else; 2) shipping is about a five day turnaround (they ship everything from San Francisco); and 3) they only seem to carry about one copy of everything, which is bad if you want a new release. And, seeing as how, on a good month, I can turnaround about 20 movies, I thought maybe I could do better.

So, I made a change.

Every time I go into Blockbuster, I'm assaulted with their Total Access video service. Getting that much exposure, I decided to give them a try. And I made a good choice.

Every single obscure movie I could think of is carried by Blockbuster, with immediate availability, even new releases, of which I'm sure they have hundreds of copies. If you want something that comes in a set, they send them in order automatically. If a movie is currently in theatres, you can reserve it in your queue, and is added once it comes to video. And, should I choose to, one day, upgrade to HD video, Total Access offers both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. In a five day period, I got five movies; not bad for a three-out plan. And, it's cheap.

But, this is all pretty standard shit. Where Blockbuster really turns into a Netflix buster is with its stores. Instead of mailing the movies back, if you return them to a Blockbuster store, they give you a free rental on the spot, one for each one you return. PLUS, they scan the movie you just returned, so the next movie in your queue will ship right away. PLUS, every month, they give you a free coupon for any movie or game in the store, which, in light of recent developments, is extremely cool.

I thought I was pretty cool not to have turned to the Netflix Darkside. Turns out, I just needed a better offer.

I'm such a sellout.