Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Five Movies

The Spirit (2008)
One of the silliest things committed to film in recent history. It's bad, but in a good way. I understand what Frank Miller is trying to accomplish, but it comes off as odd in a movie made in 2008 rather than 1958. Lots of intentional laughs, the least of which is the sight of Sam Jackson in full Nazi regalia.

Valkyrie (2008)
This movie has gotten an absolutely terrible rap, mainly due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in it. Despite the many opportunities for it, there aren't as many "I want the TRUTH!" moments here as you may expect; Cruise is actually fairly subdued in it. In fact, if it were anyone BUT Cruise, I think people would take to it better. Still, it's pretty good.

"The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (1981)
The TV series version of the novelization of the radio series written by Douglas Adams. This is of the highest order of geekdom, influencing pop culture to this day (AltaVista's Babel Fish and Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" take their names from it). Your tolerance of this will depend on your tolerance of the driest and silliest of British "humour."

The Wrestler (2008)
A movie about where has-been professional wrestlers literally go to die. The fact that Mickey Rourke has aged badly and has plastic surgeried his face to near-unrecoginizability really helps sell him as a wrestler who has gone from his late-'80s WrestleMania heyday to wrestling in high school gyms. There are only two wrestling movies better than this: Hitman Hart and Beyond the Mat. But those are both documentaries about real wrestlers. This is as good as "fake" wrestling movies get.

Lots of Oscar bait out at this time of year, and, if it wasn't so damn depressing, The Wrestler may have been better than...

Gran Torino (2008)
It's scary to think that Clint Eastwood is actually age-appropriate to play the racist, retired auto worker in this, his probable last on-screen role. I suspect Clint will keep directing (hell, Sidney Lumet is still directing at 84), but I doubt we'll see him acting again. Which is a shame, because he's really good in it.

A fitting final role. Check it out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Lions Hit Rock Bottom

The curse of Bobby Layne has come to full fruition for the Detroit Lions. While folks outside of Detroit aren't that familiar with The Curse, Lions' fans have been haunted by it for 50 years. It has apparently caused futile playing, subpar coaching, bad draft choices, career-ending spinal injuries, superstars retiring in their prime, even death. All of this attributed to a man who played for the Lions 50 years ago.

Not familiar with The Curse? Basically, it goes like this: In 1958, Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne, who had led the Lions to three championships in seven years, was unceremoniously traded to the Steelers. Layne hated the trade so much that he is reported to have said that the Lions wouldn't win for another 50 years. And while the Lions did actually win games in that 50 years, they didn't win many.

In the Lions first 24 years of existence, they won four championships. In the 50 years since, they've won none. In fact, they've only been to the playoffs nine times since, winning a whopping one game. Over that same period, they've managed to accumulate the worst winning percentage in the NFL, culminating in this season's 0-16 record, the only team in history to accomplish such a feat. And all of this attributed to what some bitter jackass may have said 50 years ago.

But, there is a bright side to all of this. Layne said the Lions wouldn't win for 50 years. The 50 years is up in 2008. If the Lions don't win the Super Bowl next year, they've got no excuses anymore.

They should probably just pack up the franchise and move to Oklahoma City before it gets any worse.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Walsh Murder Solved; Dead Serial Killer Rolls Over In Grave"

On Tuesday, the Hollywood Police Department announced they had closed the murder case of Adam Walsh, one that had been standing open in their books for 27 years. The police pinned the murder on dead serial killer Ottis Toole, who had long been a suspect in the case, even confessed to the murder at one point, but against whom there was never sufficient evidence. Apparently, despite the fact that no new evidence has surfaced in the case since Toole's death 12 years ago, the police are comfortable placing the blame firmly on Toole and calling the matter closed.

I believe everyone is aware of how fucked up Los Angeles' police department and justice system are without me having to remind them, but this is some of the laziest police work in history. If you thought letting O.J. get away with a slamdunk conviction for two counts of murder was sloppy, that's nothing compared to this Walsh case.

As I mentioned before, there hasn't been any new evidence in this case since Ottis Toole, once the prime suspect, died. And there most definitely wasn't any forthcoming. I'm sure the only reason they actually decided to close this case was because they got tired of John Walsh, who turned Adam's death into a crusade to bring felons to justice, calling them every few months and asking them how the case was going. So, they picked the dead guy they liked for it anyway and blamed it on him.

Blaming this on Toole is like blaming the weather on Zeus and the other Greek gods. Sure, Toole confessed to the murder at one time, but Toole also confessed to hundreds of other murders he didn't commit. He couldn't be linked to any of those, and he couldn't be linked to this one either. I'm sure Walsh, who also long suspected Toole as the culprit, had something to do with the decision to blame this on Toole: "We'll just blame it on the dead guy Walsh likes for it; what's he going to do, deny it?"

This is a great coup for the L.A.P.D., as it opens a new avenue to close cases. I suspect within the week that they'll announce the closure the Black Dahlia case by pinning it on Henry Lee Lucas, another dead serial killer who confessed to thousands of murders he didn't commit.

Methinks that motherfucker fits the profile perfectly.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What I'm Listening To

In my pursuit to cram everything possible into my head, I'm constantly listening to new music, be it new to stores or new to me. Here's what I've been listening to lately:

Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider
How do you not love a concept album about a serial killer who cuts legs off his victims to make his own spider? Ya know, for a guy in his 60s who plays golf five days a week, Alice Cooper can still rock. Best song: "The One That Got Away," which begins with the line, "You look like you'd fit in the trunk of my car."

T.I. - "Live Your Life"
I like this song, because it has Rhianna singing a bit of the "Numa Numa" song. That, and they play it at least once an hour on the radio. I like it when the radio tells me what to like.

AC/DC - Black Ice
It's good when bands don't change, especially when it's AC/DC and they sound exactly the same as they did on Back in Black. For two guys pushing 60, the Young brothers sound more vital than guys half their age.

The Lemonheads - The Lemonheads
I, like everyone else on the planet, wasn't aware The Lemonheads were still in existence until I saw this record. (Actually, they aren't; it's pretty much just Evan Dando now.) They were always a little too "stoner" for me, so I listened to this on a lark. What I found was a uncharacteristically hard rock record; no "It's a Shame About Ray" here. Fans of J Mascis will recognize his screeching guitar throughout. It's nice to be surprised occasionally.

David Bowie - Live Santa Monica '72
If you like the Ziggy Stardust soundtrack, you'll really like this one, which has an almost identical setlist (excepting all the songs from Aladdin Sane, which hadn't come out yet) and better sound quality. Somewhat of a "lost" record, this recording, originally recorded for radio transmission, has been traded in bootleg for 25 years. It was worth the wait.

Billy Squire - "My Kinda Lover"
Have you ever had one of those times when a song you've never cared for suddenly gets lodged in your head, and the only way to get it out, other than with a shotgun blast, is to listen to it, like, 500 times in a row? That's how I ended up purchasing this song off iTunes. Best 99 cents I've ever spent; much cheaper than shotgun shells.

Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me
Yet more proof that you need not like an artist's entire discography to listen to them. Probably the most conventional record that Manson has ever put out; maybe that's why it's actually listenable.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Actually Contribute To The Nielsen Ratings For Once

If you've read at least one post on this blog, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I end up hating most TV shows that everyone likes, which is why I'm invariably disappointed every year when at least one show I like gets canceled due to poor ratings. (Seriously, one every year; usually more.) With the exception of Law & Order, I particularly hate Crime Shows, because they are all pretty much the same and pretty much stupid (probably because they're all produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, or would like to make you think they are). And seeing as CBS' lineup is approximately 50% Crime Shows (the other half is sitcoms, with some Reality rounding out the mix), I'm particularly loath to watch any of their programming.

However, I have been watching The Mentalist, a new Crime Show on CBS this year, which is not all that surprising, because I end up watching most of the new fall shows to some degree. What is surprising is that not only do I enjoy it, it's the #1 show on television, something of a rarity for me. (That's a bit of a misnomer, as I've somehow managed to watch every episode of Grey's Anatomy, and that was the #1 show for a while.)

Usually, when I like a show, it's quick to be canceled. If not immediately, then somewhere not far down the line. But not The Mentalist: #1 show on television.

I'd say that America has stepped up its standards to meet mine, but, in actuality, I believe I've lowered mine. It's a Crime Show on CBS, for Christ's sake! It's official: I've become an idiot. But at least I know there's one show I watch that won't get canceled.

At least not this year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

NBC Changes Their Name To NBL (For "Nothing But Leno")

NBC, in a desperate grab to keep their late-night ratings champ from going elsewhere when he leaves The Tonight Show in six months, have announced that Jay Leno will be hosting his own primetime talk show, five nights a week. His new show will take over the 9:00pm slot on weeknights. For NBC, this is a great coup, as they get to keep Leno at NBC and out of the hands of competitors. Also, they will save millions of dollars by continuing to pay Leno's salary and maintaining his show budget, rather than plowing money into scripted programming, which costs up to three times as much an episode of The Tonight Show.

Unfortunately, for us, the TV viewers, we get stuck with five nights of Leno in primetime.

That's all fine and good, if you like Leno, but I personally haven't seen 16 of his shows in the 16 years he's been on the air. However, every year, I watch at least 16 episodes of Law & Order, a show that just happens to air in the new "Leno Slot."

And that's where we're going to get fucked. NBC is essentially turning into Fox, in that they'll only offer 10 hours of non-Leno programming during the week, as opposed to the 15 they're airing now. That's five shows that will have to go. And they'll do that by either canceling poor performers (like Law & Order, which nearly didn't come back two seasons ago) or by not making any new shows and moving everything else around to fit Leno's schedule.

I would guess they'll simply cut shows to make room for Leno, and then not make any new shows, because that's why they kept him in the first place: to eliminate that cost. If I was handicapping, I would say the shows that are gone (and NBC has helped me out by already canceling some of these) would be ER, Knight Rider, Lipstick Jungle, My Own Worst Enemy, and probably Law & Order. Three of those already air in Leno Slots, so you wouldn't even have to change the schedule. Works out good for everyone really...

Except fans of those shows. Obviously, I'm a Law & Order fan, and I actually liked My Own Worst Enemy, which joins Raines, Journeyman, Bionic Woman, and Heist in the shows-that-I-liked-which-NBC-canceled-in-less-than-a-season pile.

But fuck what I like. As long as NBC gets to keep Leno, we should all be happy.

Aren't you?

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's '90s Flashback Night (Now With Better Pictures!)

Went to a Juliana Hatfield show last night. It was kinda an impulse thing that I'd been thinking about doing for a while, but I did go, and I had a good time.

For those of you who don't remember, Juliana had a minor hit in the early '90s with the song "My Sister." She's out on tour now supporting her new record, How to Walk Away, and, oddly enough, her new book, When I Grow Up.

There were a couple of opening acts. The second one, a Massachusetts group called The Everyday Visuals, were so fey that they made the Counting Crows seem butch in comparison. Every member of the band was a multi-instrumentalist, so you had no idea who was going to be playing a guitar or keyboards on any given song. My favorite part of their set is when the lead singer, who looked like a less greasy version of Chris Robinson, jumped off the stage and loudly whispered the lyrics into the ear of a female patron.

Now THAT was gay.

Something else I noticed during all the sets: almost everyone playing a guitar would just casually lay their guitar on the floor or prop them against an amp when they weren't being played. It made me wonder why they didn't have guitar stands. I realize most of these guys are unwealthy, working musicians who can't afford luxuries like, say, guitars cabinets with two of every guitar, like what Stephen Carpenter of Deftones carries around with him. But guitar stands, just basic guitar stands, cost $10, and are in every music shop in the nation. Hell, you can even buy one that holds two guitars for less than twice the price. They're such a common item that even I own one. Is it possible that I make more money and am able to afford simple luxuries such as this, moreso than a working musician?

I shudder to think.

Oh, and not to post another "Where's Waldo" picture like this, but here's a picture of me at the show:

Good luck with that one.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


A Las Vegas judge yesterday managed to do what no other judge has been able: to put O.J. Simpson behind bars.

I've heard a lot of people say that "They" are out to get O.J. Well, that's probably true, but wouldn't you be out to get a guy who got away with double murder, all because of a racist cop and gloves that O.J. couldn't fit over three other pairs of gloves?

And that civil suit, that was supposed to punish O.J.? That was a joke. O.J. never went poor. O.J. was never homeless. O.J. was never stealing shi...well, that one he DID do.

Have fun in prison, O.J. You've earned it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Time Travel Is Confusing

Last night's episode of Terminator featured a storyline in which a Terminator accidentally traveled back in time all the way to the '20s. Which showed me two things: That time travel on the show doesn't work as I thought it did, and that Terminators are stupid.

I guess I always assumed there was some limitation on time travel in the Terminator universe, a reason why they could only travel into the present. Any time there is a situation where Skynet sent a Terminator back to get at the Connors, it was always into the present. I guess I just figured that maybe the Terminators could only travel, at most, 45 years into the past.

But then, here's this Terminator that goes back 100 years, in a botched attempt to assassinate the Governor of California, which blows my theory out of the water. It also raises the question, if the Terminators are able to travel that far back in time, why don't they travel farther back in time to kill off Sarah Connor and her spawn?

Let's look at the history. First, you've got a Terminator going back to '84 (which was the present at the time) to get Sarah Connor before she gets pregnant. But you've got Michael Biehn there to safeguard (and tap) that.

Then, you've got the Terminator(s) going back to '89, but this time, Sarah and John Connor are savvy to Skynet's plans, and they're looking everywhere for Terminators.

Now, you've got this show, where the Connor family actually jumps nine years into the future, and when the Terminators come back into the present, there are shitloads of people there safeguarding the Connors. At this pace, the Terminators are going to fail miserably.

It would seem to me that the smart thing to do would be to travel back to a period where the Connor clan wouldn't suspect anything, instead of just traveling into present day, where they are more than ready for any Terminator attacks. Why not go back to, say, 1876, when people didn't even understand electricity, much less time travel or artificially intelligent cyborgs? You could kill off Sarah's ancestors and change the outcome of the future. I seriously doubt you'd have much trouble killing those simple-minded motherfuckers.

But, no. The Terminators won't do the easy thing. They just keep attacking the Connors when they are at their strongest. Which would lead me to believe that Skynet and the Terminators are the stupidest machines in history.

I think there's a more practical answer, however. It's easier to make a movie or a TV show set in present day than it is to make one that takes place sometime in the past. You don't have to get "period" set dressing, you can use modern cars, you can wear modern clothing. Hell, the TV show had the Connors travel forward from '99 to '08 (something that Michael Biehn claimed was impossible in the first movie), just so they didn't have to haul out all the late-'90s set decor. So, as it turns out, the Terminators aren't so much stupid as the producers of the show are cheap.

I was hoping for a trip back to medieval times, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Axl Makes Good

There are a lot of urban legends about getting free stuff. Like the one about being able to get a free Tootsie Roll Pop if you redeemed a wrapper with the picture of an indian shooting an arrow at a star. Everyone's heard that, but is it actually true? Probably not. But that's just one example. I'm sure there are hundreds of others that got started by someone. I'm sure there are more false ones than have ever been true ones.

However, this one turned out to be true.

Honestly, I originally brought this up because I like Dr. Pepper, and was hoping that Axl Rose would stop procrastinating on this damn album and get us all some free Dr. But I, like the rest of the free world, took this at face value as a hoax and completely forgot all about it. I was even at Best Buy the day Chinese Democracy dropped, and still forgot about it.

And I think that's what Dr. Pepper was relying on, as they made the coupons for free pop available for 24 hours only. If you missed it, you missed it. Maybe they'll bring it back. But I wouldn't count on it.

BTW, the album is terrible; the absence of Izzy and Slash is a deathblow to the record and GN'R.

I suspect more people got free Dr. Peppers than will buy this album.

Monday, November 24, 2008

24 Returns

Last night marked the return of 24, coming back after a Sopranos-esque 18 month hiatus. However, it wasn't the season premiere; it was only a "prequel" movie that sets up Season Seven, which starts in January.

And while it's good to have 24 back on the air, I hated that nearly the whole thing took place in Africa, my most-hated of locales. It also appears that some of the season takes place there as well.

Maybe we'll get lucky and it won't take place in Africa. The movie isn't just the first two episodes joined together, as I first thought, but a completely standalone product they made about six months ago. And Jack does leave Africa at the end, which is a good sign.

We'll see what happens in January.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Time To Break Out The Old Guitar!

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting (what terrible alliteration) that both Mitchell Hurwitz and Ron Howard have signed deals with Fox to produce an Arrested Development movie.

If this really does turn out to be true, I guess it is time to break out the old guitar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Almost Over

Last night, the second-to-last episode of The Shield aired. I've tried not to read any spoilers about the final episode, but, based upon what's happened so far and where the show appears to be heading, I'm going to say that the show ends with Vic Mackey going down. And I don't mean to jail; I mean into the ground. And who's gonna do it? Well, I don't won't to jinx it by telling you, but, if you go back and read any post I've written about The Shield on this blog, you'll get a pretty good idea of who I think the triggerman will be.

And, with the end of the "evil" Vic Mackey comes the end of The Shield. But, with this particular ending also comes the reason I typically hate shows like this: They make us root for the wrong guy.

Vic Mackey is obviously an anti-hero of the highest order. He bends, even breaks, the law to serve his own twisted agenda. He is inherently evil, but, still...he's the best character on the show. It's not helped by the fact that all of the "good" characters are boring and tedious. It's impossible NOT to root for the charismatic bad guy.

But, since our society and morals require that evil be punished, guys like Vic Mackey end up going down in flames. And I end up being pissed off.

Regardless of how it ends next Tuesday, it's still been a great seven-year run. I just wish it had worked out a little bit better for my favorite bad guy. Who knows; maybe he walks away in the end.

There's still hope.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Last Five Movies

Quantum of Solace (2008)
Or, The Bond Supremacy. Anything that made Casino Royale a new and fresh take on the Bond franchise is gone in favor of making, essentially, a fourth Bourne movie. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this movie isn't as good as the Bourne movies OR the last couple Brosnan Bonds, for that matter. It doesn't help that the movie is burdened with a boring villain, or that the movie is at times incomprehensible due to some Michael Bay-level editing. And if you think Quantum of Solace is a stupid title, wait until you say it aloud at the box office. Disappointing.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Not the worst movie Kevin Smith has made, not the best movie he's made. Like 99% of his movies, it's basically another take on Clerks. Funny as hell, but nothing we haven't seen before.

Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
Yet another of the 100,000,000 Italian murder mysteries that came out during the '70s. The only thing that separates this one from the other 99,999,999 is that it features three Bond Girls in various stages of undress.

Hell Ride (2008)
Really? 2008 and people are still making Pulp Fiction rip-offs? Isn't there a more recent movie people can rip-off? It's not helped by the fact this piece of crap was written, directed, and stars Larry Bishop, who directed another deplorable Pulp Fiction rip-off called Mad Dog Time back in '96, back when it was actually fashionable to do so. Let's leave the Pulp Fiction plagiarism to Tarantino, who's making an entire career out of it.

Zack and Miri is a close second, but...

Role Models (2008)
Take any romantic comedy that Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway (who actually have a really terrible-looking joint flick coming out) has ever made, reverse the genders, and actually make it funny, and you have some idea of what Role Models is like. It's a heavily-disguised Chick Flick, with a plot that you've seen a thousand times before. But the fact that it's so goddamned funny sets it apart from the rest of its ilk. It's a great date movie that everyone will enjoy.

Check it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dr. Greene Returns From The Dead

If you happened to catch last night's episode of ER about half-way through, you might have been tricked into thinking that NBC was just fucking around and airing a rerun. But no, it was a brand-new episode. And why might you think it was a rerun? Because it starred Anthony Edwards, whose character, Dr. Mark Greene, died six years ago.

Actually, the show was a half flashback, half real-time show. Other actors from the past, like Laura Innes, Abe Benrubi, and Paul McCrane made appearances as well. Admittedly, it was pretty cool to see characters that have been off the show for years reappear. And Edwards' appearance was some particularly soap opera-type shit, like when Roger Thorpe on Guiding Light returned from the dead after nine years. (Paul McCrane's character died on the show, too, but I don't think anyone remembers he was on it anyway.)

I did wonder why they didn't have more "period" characters on, like Dr. Carter or Dr. Lewis, who were on the show around that time. It must have been their days off. Maybe they'll turn up in the finale.

By the way, Eriq La Salle, who eulogized Michael Crichton, the show's creator, at the start of the episode, looks like hell. Apparently, not doing anything since leaving the show really wears a man down.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rays Lose First World Series, And No One Notices

So, after 10 years of being the laughing stock of the American League, the Tampa Bay "Don't Call Us Devils" Rays have gone to their first World Series...and got smoked in very convincing fashion. Even with a "do over" game, they still couldn't keep from getting knocked out in five games. And, based upon the TV ratings, not a damn person cared.

This year's World Series holds the dubious distinction of being the lowest-rated Series ever, 17% lower than the previous low series. The only night the World Series won in the ratings was the night of the Obama infomercial. It was an all-around loser of a Series. Not that it's a surprise.

The previous lowest-rated series was the '06 Series between the Tigers and Cardinals. Even though those are big-market teams with large fan bases, that was like the 50th time those two have played each other in the World Series. Hell, there was one Series that was watched by no one. THAT SHIT IS BORING!

The second-lowest-rated Series was last year's contest between the Red Sox and Rockies, which is self-explanatory, as, since the Red Sox have broken their curse, and appear to be capable of winning the Series every couple years or so, they've basically replaced the Yankees as the team everyone hates. And that brings us back to, ratings-wise, the worst World Series ever.

The last team the Phillies took to the Series was a rag-tag bunch of hillbillies and scumbags that fascinated the nation. A lot of people watched that Series. This year's team aren't fascinating in the least. Other than Ryan Howard, I can't name any other Phillies. Is Von Hayes still with the team?

And as Tampa Bay is not a city, but a body of water, I can't see what kind of fanbase a team that plays there would have. (Seriously, do you know ANY fans of ANY Tampa sports team? If you say "yes," you're a fool for believing whoever told you those lies.)

So, when you put these two forces of nature together, it only stands to reason that nobody's going to watch.

I know I didn't.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ABC Doesn't Air Obama Infomercial? Blasphemy!

In opposition to all the other major networks and a couple of cable networks, ABC chose not to air Barack Obama's personal infomercial. Even Fox, which had to delay the start time of a World Series make-up game, aired the infomercial.

Instead of the infomercial, ABC aired a new episode of Pushing Daisies (the best show on TV, IMO), which might have been a bad move, since Pushing Daisies is reportedly on the cusp of being canceled due to low ratings.

I like the out-of-box thinking, which chose not to drink the Kool-Aid and made their own programming choice. "Hi, I'm Barack Obama, and I've got a half-hour infomercial all about me which we're offering to air on your network. Would you like to partake?"

"Pass." Nice move, ABC.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore, 1927-2008

Just wanted to mention the passing of Rudy Ray Moore, better known to the world at large as Dolemite.

I'm not sure why a hard-ass pimp brother like Rudy Ray would take the name of a relatively weak, usually white mineral as a moniker, but I guess he liked the name more than the chemical properties that went along with it. I'd say obsidian or onyx would be better picks, but, hey, to each his own.

Anyway, tip out a 40 to one of the good ones.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Annual Fall Shows Rundown

Here's a brief recap of the fall shows I've seen far, as well as my thoughts on a couple of returning shows that got the "Writers Strike short shrift," and one that has been hideously retooled:

Life on Mars (ABC)
It's always a really bad sign when, mere months before it airs, a network completely restaffs, recasts, rewrites, and reshoots a pilot episode. It basically says that that original pilot was not good at all (possibly because it had Lenny Clarke and Colm Meany in it). What I don't get is how this "new and improved" version of the pilot is an improvement, as it's a scene for scene remake of the pilot of the British version of the show, complete with allusions to future episodes of the show identical to those in the British version. Is that what this rework amounts to: copying the British show to a "T"? If so, you've got 15 episodes until you're on your own.

Gary Unmarried and Worst Week (CBS)
With dreck like this on the air, it's no wonder that the sitcom is essentially dead. What astounds me is that CBS just keeps cranking them out, all equally unfunny. They have nearly succeeded in making their programming 50% crime shows, 50% sitcoms; they air more of each than every other network combined.

My Own Worst Enemy (NBC)
A great concept: A man comes to learn that he's the split personality of a secret agent. You really couldn't come up with a better starring vehicle for Christian Slater. And Mädchen Amick, whom I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years, still looks great. All that being said, this will probably be canceled after next week.

Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Hands down, the best show on TV right now. While all the other "Talking to the Dead" shows take the "scary" route, this one turns the same concept into the blackest of comedies. The casting, the writing, the production design, everything is perfect. If you're not watching this, you probably shouldn't watch TV at all.

Lipstick Jungle (NBC)
Sex and the City without the sex (as this is network TV). I don't understand how Candice Bushnell can continue to crank this crap out, because, pushing 50, she's just about out of the demographic for this show.

The Ex List (CBS)
A psychic tells a woman that the man she will eventually marry is one she has already dated. So, she must go through her "ex list" to find Mr. Right. This is about enough material for a 90 minute movie, not a 26-hour series. In fact, I'd lay money down that there's something very similar to this airing on Lifetime as we speak.

Kath and Kim (NBC)
I don't claim to be the smartest person, but this show is either a) way too smart for me to understand, or 2) stupider than I am by half. I'll guess, um...

Sanctuary (SCI FI)
This starts out to be like Millennium, but turns into...I don't know, Munsters Go Home? Not worth a second look.

Sons of Anarchy (FX)
I generally enjoy every series on FX. Unfortunately, most of them take a while to get going, like the recently-canceled The Riches, which took two boredom-filled seasons to go nowhere. This one's a slow starter, too. I'll give it 'til the end of the season.

Eleventh Hour (CBS)
Yet another "imported from Britain" series clogging the airwaves (three of which are on CBS). This might be something I would watch...if Fox hadn't already been airing a better, nearly-identical show for the past four weeks. Yes, Fringe is the better of the "If You Liked The X-Files, You'll Love..." shows.

The Mentalist (CBS)
One of CBS's plethora of Crime Shows, it's another Psychic Who Solves Crimes Show, with a twist: the protagonist is not actually psychic, but literally played one on television. A pretty clever take on a pretty tired concept, I think this one has some wheels.

And the show that has been retooled within a inch of its life? Why, it's...

Prison Break (Fox), of course.
For a show that had the best first two seasons in recent memory, it sure has had the worst last two seasons I've ever seen, capped off by this new and improved "caper-filled" season. It's like Ocean's Eleven, except that there are only seven in the Scofield Gang. (There was even an episode set in Vegas the other week. How embarrassing.) You know it's gotten bad when the writers ankle the best villain on TV with a subplot in which he sits in an office and reads a bird book all day. (No, seriously, that's all he does.) By Season Two, this show had assembled the best cast on TV. Now, that same cast is reduced to slogging through the same plot, week after week: Steal x from y for z. They even miraculously brought back Sara Tancredi from the dead; maybe they'll bring back John Abruzzi, too, as death is apparently not final on this show. (Not that I'm complaining, as it's nice to have at least one female in this sausage fest, but how do you survive a decapitation? I'd really like to know.)

Hopefully, this will be the last season of Prison Break. It'd be the only way to preserve any sort of legacy this show has. It can't get any worse.

Don't check it out. I want them to cancel this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Last Five Movies

Eagle Eye (2008)
Standard fare action movie drivel. I'm not sure how Shia "The Beef" LaBeouf became an action star, considering he looks like a guy who couldn't get a prom date unless he paid for one. I like it when Hollywood tells me who I'm supposed to think is cool.

Blindness (2008)
Really high-concept stuff here, based on the work of a Nobel Laureate. Incredibly depressing, with the scenery switching from pitch blackness to whiteout within seconds. This got slaughtered at the box office, only to be outdone in ineptitude by...

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)
Maybe if this movie had been more true to Toby Young's book (which I hear was actually more outrageous than the movie) it would have been more enjoyable. Instead, it's just a cheesy romantic comedy that wastes the talents of everyone involved, particularly those of Simon Pegg and Gillian Anderson.

Body of Lies (2008)
Yet another in a long line of "Hate the Government" movies that worries more about the message it's conveying than about actually being entertaining. It is possible to do this kind of movie correctly (like in Blood Diamond), but this ain't it.

With movies like these in release, it's easy to be the best with a little effort...

Appaloosa (2008)
A Western written by Robert B. Parker (of all people), adapted and directed by Ed Harris. It takes some balls on Harris' part to not even give himself the best role (that honor goes to Mortensen). Harris has only two directing credits to his name, and they've both been great. If only he wouldn't wait so long between films.

Check it out.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What I'm Listening To

Not as though you care, but just so you know, here's what albums are spinning in my CD player:

Ozzy Osbourne - Tribute
Osbourne's somewhat-belated live album tribute to the guitar virtuosity of Randy Rhoads, recorded over several shows of the Diary of a Madman tour. Would probably be a perfect live album, if it wasn't for Osbourne screaming "STAND UP!" at the audience every 15 seconds.

Black Stone Cherry - Black Stone Cherry
Debut album of the Kentucky hard rock band. If all debut albums were as good as this, no band would ever release a second album.

Queen - Live Killers
I know some would say the Live at Wembley '86 is Queen's best live album, but Live Killers has all of their early hits, not just "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You."

Metallica - Master of Puppets
Metallica's major label debut is also the one that put them on the map. Probably the most influential metal record ever. Metallica would keep up this frenetic pace for one more album before they essentially turned into Nickelback.

Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain
Prince lets his inner Hendrix fly, and comes out with a record that wins two Grammys, an Oscar and sells 13 million copies. Albums don't even attempt to achieve this level of genius anymore.

Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction
Remember what I said earlier about debut albums? Case in point, right here. GN'R put out an actual heavy metal record at a time when other metal bands had gone glam. They also had the distinct misfortune of being a truly great band to release their first album T minus four years before heavy metal was made irrelevant by the release of Nirvana's Nevermind.

Ya know, after actually writing all those down, it's occurred to me that it's '80s Flashback Night in my CD changer. For a guy who claims to loathe the music of the '80s, I sure do listen to a lot of it. Next thing you know, I'll be listening to Men Without Hats and The Human League.

I shudder to think.

Monday, October 06, 2008

O.J. Is Going Away

If you hadn't already heard, O.J. Simpson was found guilty on all 12 counts in his robbery and kidnapping trial.

Now, no sentence has been passed down yet, but I suspect it will be the absolute most years you can receive. Maybe even a number that doesn't even exist: "Orenthal James Simpson, I hereby sentence you to 70 gabillion years in prison, with no possibility of parole."

It may have taken 13 years, but I think justice has finally caught up to this motherfucker.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

First Time In 25 Years...

...That the Milwaukee Brewers have lost a postseason game. Mind you, they haven't been to the postseason in 25 years, and have only had two winning seasons in 15, but you've got to hope for something. I honestly don't expect the Brewers to advance past the first round, because I have realistic expectations, unlike Cubs fans, who are completely delusional.

I had the pleasure to attend the Brewers-Cubs games last weekend, and all I heard from the Cubs fans was that they were going to win the World Series. I suspect they won't win the World Series, much as they haven't for the past 100 years, or even go, because they haven't in 63 years.

Hell, even the Brewers went to a World Series fewer years ago than that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Magical!

Am I the only person not amazed at David Blaine's brand of "magic"? I think this newest "trick," the Dive of Death, is the straw that breaks the camel's back and gets people to realize this guy is a complete joke.

Basically, the premise of the trick is that, after occasionally hanging upside down for 60 hours ("Wow! How dey do dat?"), he jumps off a scaffolding to the ground below. What amazing things will happen?

Alright, for one, this isn't a trick. If I step off a curb in front of a bus, and it somehow doesn't hit me, that's not a magic trick. Same deal here: Jumping off a scaffolding and not dying is not a magic trick.

It's also not very magical when, seconds before hitting the ground, Blaine's descent is stopped by a decelerator, a pretty common stunt device. I would have been impressed if Blaine had taken this jump and landed on his feet, apparently unaided, and then walked off the stage with no "strings" attached. Blaine just pulled off the world's most overglorified bungee jump.

And the fact that he only jumped from 44 feet up is embarrassing. It's quite possible to survive a freefall like that without dying. Yet Blaine felt he needed some safety fall 44 feet. The late stuntman Dar Robinson twice jumped off the CN Tower, the second tallest structure on the planet, with the use of a decelerator. Robinson's jump was 1200 feet; Blaine's jump was 44. I think you can see who the bitch is.

And then, after the trick is over, Blaine "magically floats away." Wow: An off-camera crane lifts him out of view while John Saunders sells it to the audience. "How in the world did he escape into the atmosphere?" Fucking amazing. David Copperfield did the same thing when he made the Statue of Liberty disappear by making everyone look in the wrong direction. That was impressive; this was not.

Hopefully, people will see what a sham Blaine is and will run away screaming when he approaches them on the street and says, "Hey, you wanna see something."

Best that could happen to him, really.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shocking. Absolutely Shocking.

Get. The fuck. Out.

The only thing more obvious than this is that the sun rises every day. But thanks for being honest with us, Clay.

And I have a question: Exactly how much does People have to pay you to come out of the closet?

Just curious.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Emmy Results

When I make my annual Emmy picks, they're strictly "for entertainment purposes only." It's too bad I didn't lay some money down on this one, because I actually handicapped these pretty well.

Actually, I only picked two wins, but I am particularly proud of the Bryan Cranston and Glenn Close picks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Last Five Movies (Extended Edition)

Righteous Kill (2008)
You can put DeNiro and Pacino together in any movie, and THIS is the movie you make? I'd be absolutely fascinated to see a pre-editing version of this movie, because I'm sure that it would be infinitely better than the jumbled, scattershot mess that actually got released.

Burn After Reading (2008)
I'm sure that this seemed extremely clever on the Coens, at least. What it seems like to ME is a mish-mosh of ideas with no plot that's only occasionally funny. In fact, when Brad Pitt isn't on the screen, the movie suffers greatly.

Find Me Guilty (2006)
Despite what people think, Vin Diesel actually CAN act, as evidenced by this movie, Sidney Lumet's second-to-latest. People might have a better opinion of Diesel if he made more movies like this, and fewer movies like...

Babylon A.D. (2008)
If I hadn't already seen Children of Men, maybe this would have been more entertaining, but I have, so it wasn't.

Vantage Point (2007)
This movies tries to disguise the fact that it's basically just a stupid Chase Movie by coming up with the silly gimmick of the multiple "vantage points." Turns out, it's STILL a stupid Chase Movie.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
A year after Sam Peckinpaw reinvented the Western, he turned the genre on its head again with this, the most upbeat and lighthearted revenge story ever put to film. This also begins the most prosperous decade of Jason Robards' career, during which he won two Oscars.

Usually, this spot is reserved for the best movie I've recently seen, but, this time, it's for the worst. And, of course, that movie is...

The Boondock Saints (1999)
Am I really seeing this? Yet ANOTHER fucking movie about Irish gangsters in Boston? Really? Again? Ya know, I live in Milwaukee, which is not only bigger than Boston, but was home to an actual Cosa Nostra family. Ya know how many movies have been made about that? None. Yet this is approximately the six millionth movie made about Irish Boston street thugs. And the fact that it's probably one of the worst movies ever made doesn't help its case. After seeing it, it's no wonder that the career of writer/director Troy Duffy, who was once touted as the "next big thing," crashed to the ground so hard that it actually went all the way through the center of the Earth and came out the other side and out into space, never to be heard from again. I'm embarrassed for everyone involved.

That being said, I do have a recommendation. Gene Siskel once said that some movies are so bad that a documentary of the making of that film would be more entertaining. And, in the case of The Boondocks Saints, this is entirely true. And while Overnight (2003) isn't entirely about The Boondocks Saints, it's enough about it to show why it's so incredibly bad. And it also paints Troy Duffy out to be one of the most arrogant and egotistical douchebags in the history of the planet.

He gets exactly what he deserves in the end. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Soft Drink Civil War

I was clicking about on the "Internet" when I came across this, a map showing what soft drinks are called throughout the United States. As I'm from a "pop" state and I currently live in a "soda" state, I thought it was interesting.

If I was really motivated, I could make up a "drinking fountain" v. "bubbler" map, but I know that only one state would fall into the latter category.

That's pretty much a waste of time.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Greatest Sports Injury Ever?

I love it when bad things happen to "good" people. And, while Brady's blown knee may not be the greatest sports injury ever (that honor goes to Joe Montana, whose injury in the '91 NFC Championship not only kept the 49ers from their third straight Super Bowl, it effectively ended Montana's career with the Niners), it's a pretty damn good one. The guy went mentally retarded last year, setting nearly every passing record, accumulated the most wins ever in a season, and almost won the Super Bowl. AND he's dating Gisele. After this, he's gonna be a guy holding a clipboard.

Ya know what the Patriots need right about now? Brett Favre. Oh, wait...he'll be playing AGAINST them next weekend.

Oops. I guess you can never plan too far ahead.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

East Bound And Dead

I usually don't do obituaries except for those that merit notice, and this is a whooper. Jerry Reed, the two-time Grammy winner who secured his place in history with his role as Cledus Snow in Smokey and the Bandit, has died at age 71.

It's a shame that Reed was relegated to relative obscurity in the country music world, because he was country music exemplified; he actually was a good ol' boy. Oh sure, he won two Grammys, but I defy you to name a Jerry Reed song that isn't "East Bound and Down."

A great loss for country music.

And, in other obscure death news, Don LaFontaine, the most recognizable voice-over actor since the death of Ernie Anderson, has also died.

If you don't know who LaFontaine is, check out this clip of him in a limo with four other well-known voice-over actors:

Promos for 24 will never be the same.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Hero Comes Back

Half a year ago, I posted about my new favorite show, Kitchen Nightmares. Like all shows that feature a British protagonist, I figured the show must have been adapted from a British show, but I'd never seen it. However, I now have BBC America on my cable, so I'm able to watch the original show, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. And I must say that it's actually a better show.

Like every show on Fox, Kitchen Nightmares is designed and edited to be nothing but Ramsay shouting and acting like a general lunatic: "After the break, see what crazy shit Gordon does next!" The British version, of course, is much more subtle. Oh sure, every other word out of Ramsay's mouth is "shit" or "fuck," and there is a fair amount of shouting, but the show isn't solely about that. This show is actually about Ramsay trying to fix these restaurants, not just about him going apeshit on their owners. If you pay attention, there's a lot of tips about how to run a successful restaurant, like how to maximize food profits and how to push food with short prep times in order to offset the high prep time foods. And it's funny; the show actually highlights the fact that Ramsay's a pretty funny guy who yells and swears a lot.

Regardless of which version you're able to watch, you should watch it. So, check it out the original on BBC America or catch the American version on Fox when it starts up again next week.

I can't wait.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Stupidest Idea Ever

There's word coming down from on high that Aaron Sorkin is planning to make a movie about the founders of Facebook, a popular internet social networking site.

Wow. I really have no idea what Facebook is, and, apparently, neither does Sorkin. But, when I think back through history, and all the things that have been invented or developed, this is the thing Sorkin wants to make a movie about? Why not Eli Whitney and the cotton gin? Or Buckminster Fuller and the geodesic dome? Or, if you're just dying to do something about this new thing called the "World Wide Web," why not Larry Page and Sergi Brin and their development of Google? Hell, a movie about how they make Goober Grape would be more interesting than a movie about Facebook, because, seriously, how do you get peanut butter AND jelly into the same jar?

But, I guess this is why I'm not a famous Hollywood writer: I just don't know what John Q. Moviegoer wants to see. I know that I am literally fucking dying to see a movie about Facebook. And I know you are, too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Collection For The Ages

In this month's issue of Milwaukee Magazine, there's was a brief blurb about the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee's collection of nurse romance novels. I found this to be a ridiculous notion, as who in the world would collect a punch of crappy paperback romance novels about nurses? But dumb things like this interest me. So, seeing as I actually do my banking on UWM's campus, I decided to stop in and have a look.

The collection, which was entirely donated by an alumnus, is housed in the Special Collections section of UWM's library. When I told the woman at the front desk what I was there to see, and stated the reason for my visit as "curiosity," I'm certain she thought I was insane (which I am). She pulled several titles for me to peruse, with title like Ski Lodge Nurse, Confidential Nurse, Nurse in Acapulco and Cherry Ames, Cruise Nurse. They all had the same basic premise: the titular nurse finds love in some difficult situation. I think these books a truly a case of "you've read one, you've read them all." But, the fact that the library carries more than 400 nurse romance titles, and that the back page of each novel lists dozens of other titles tells me that these were probably extremely popular at one time.

Max Yela, the head librarian, even stopped in, I'm sure, surprised that someone was actually looking at these things. He, too, finds the idea ridiculous, but fascinating as well, as they chronicle a mindset of days gone by that no longer exists. Seriously, when was the last time you thought of a nurse as an object of desire? Or seen one in a white starched uniform, once commonplace apparel that has basically been relegated to a Halloween costume?

Yela didn't think the magazine article did the collection any justice, calling it a "puff piece." But, had it not been in there, I wouldn't have seen it and wouldn't have stopped in to visit. Media exposure, shit or not, always raises awareness. I'm sure he'd be happy just to have people come in and take a look out of intellectual and literary curiosity.

If YOU are curious about the nurse romance collection, stop in and see it at UWM's Special Collections library. Or visit this special page of their website devoted to it. Or, hell, check out this website that I blundered across of another collection of nurse romance novels.

I guess if you're going to collect something, you could do a lot worse.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Best Video Store In The World

Since moving back to Milwaukee after a near 10-year absence, I've been trying to reacquaint myself with some of the places I used to enjoy frequenting. And, basically, that means the video stores I used to frequent. So, I broke out the old wallet and pulled out all those old video cards.

A lot has changed in eight years. VHS is pretty much dead as a format. All of the big chain stores (Blockbuster, Hollywood, etc.), which, back when, used to have unique libraries from store to store, have standardized their libraries so that basically every store is the same. Some stores don't exist anymore. But there is one that is still around that makes all of these other changes irrelevant.

When I last lived in Milwaukee, my chief video store was Video West, a tiny independent store, crammed into a triangular building at a five-way intersection. Ten years ago, they were the best video store in Milwaukee, with thousands of VHS titles and a couple dozen DVDs. In the years since, they have virtually replaced all their VHS (yes, they do still have hundreds of VHS tapes) with DVD, and then added several thousand more (something to the tune of 10,000 titles). If you can think of it, they probably carry it.

Actually, when you walk in, it's pretty underwhelming. Couple of racks of DVDs sprawl out in front of you. It's not until you turn around and see the wall of VHS tapes that you begin to understand the scope of what they carry. When you enter the back part of the store (to which you'll pass a section of every Oscar winner), you're greeted by just about every musical ever made, as well as a couple of hundred of classic movies. They have entire sections devoted to Bob Hope, John Wayne, The Three Stooges, Jerry Louis, Elvis, Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. This section alone makes it the best video store I've been in. But, there's more.

Go through that section into the next, and you are greeted by roughly half of their collection, crammed into a 12'x15' room. Here are the war movies, karate movies, foreign films (including several hundred devoted solely to British cinema) and, the pièce de résistance, their sci-fi and horror collection, which takes up nearly two thirds of the room. (This collection will have a write-up in Milwaukee magazine in October.) If there is a horror movie on video, chances are it's in that room.

Oh, and did I mention all of this is sitting atop the largest porn collection I've ever seen?

When I stopped back in after all those years away, I found they still are not computerized, with all the rental receipts still written out by hand. When I asked if my membership was still good, the man behind the counter said I'd just have to update my membership. He pulled out a file folder and produced my original paper application. Where else in the world does this happen?

Seriously, if I'm the CEO of Blockbuster, I'd be embarrassed to go in a video store like this. After seeing what they carry and how they run their business, I'd be ashamed to call what I do "video rental."

If only all stores were like this. The world would be a better place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last Five Movies

Tropic Thunder (2008)
After all the hype surrounding how great this movie is, much like with The Dark Knight, I was disappointed when this turned out to not be as funny as I had expected. Oh sure, it IS funny, and everyone (especially Downey, in the most racist role since Amos and Andy) is great in it, but it's not the laff riot that critics like Roger Ebert and Peter Travers made it out to be. I will say one thing, though: Tom Cruise is nearly worth the price of admission. And, based upon his work here and in Magnolia, I'm beginning to think that "less-is-more" may be a good direction for Cruise's career to take.

McQ (1974)
No one's career was hurt more by the death of the Western than John Wayne. So, he did what any aging star would do, and remade himself in the image of Old Dirty Harry (or, Dirty Harry's dad, if you will). It's odd seeing The Duke in any context other than a cowboy and it really doesn't work. Brannigan!, Wayne's second take on the genre (essentially McQ in London) is even odder, as seeing Wayne anywhere outside the United States is a little freaky.

Something of note: McQ also stars Eddie Albert, who was older than Wayne when he made this movie, and would outlive him by nearly 30 years. There's something to be said about living well.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Typical late-model Woody Allen comedy. Not as joke-filled as some of Allen's movies, but what do you expect from a 70-year old who cranks out a movie a year like clockwork? I will say that the Spanish cast of this movie makes the American cast look like dinner theatre in Des Moines.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987)
Seriously, sometimes I watch movies just to watch a movie.

I was really surprised that I liked this, but...

Pineapple Express (2008)
The trailers for this movie do it no justice. When I saw the trailers, I thought, "That does not look funny at all. I don't see why anyone would see that." But, me being me, I saw it anyway. And was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it is the funniest movie I've seen all year. I didn't think a Stoner Action Movie would work, but, turns out, it does. I also think that Seth Rogen should write all Judd Apatow-produced movies, because they just aren't any good when he doesn't. A good time.

Check it out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sorry For The Delay...

...But, apparently, when you move to one of the largest cities in the Midwest, it takes two weeks to get your cable and internet hooked up.

Who knew?

Anyhoo, I'll try to keep things interesting while I get back to full internet capabitlity.


So, This Is What Happens...

...When you don't have a computer, television, phone, and don't read the paper: people die left and right. (Actually, I do have access to terrestrial TV, but the only station I get is NBC, which is Olympic City right now, and has no time for such frivolities as news.)

Both Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac dropping dead on the same weekend is quite a shock. And I'm completely oblivious, as I'm living like Abe Lincoln at our new place. As death tends to occur in threes, I wonder who the third will be.

If I were Jessie Jackson, I think I'd be worried. That death curse that Barack Obama put on him may just take hold this week.

Get those death pools updated!

This Is Just Great

Seriously, I never thought I'd be happier in my life than when I saw this picture to the left. This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Packers fans since..well, this is better than when they lost the Super Bowl.

Actually, it would be better if he were wearing a Vikings or Bears uniform, but there was no chance in Hell that was going to happen. "Yeah, right: we're going to trade our Hall of Fame quarterback to a team we play twice a year. Oh sure, we hate the guy, and are glad to see him on another team, but...c'mon."

I wish him all the best and hope he has a great year.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fuck You, Fans!

A few months back, I made mention of the retirement of Brett Favre. While I was glad to see him go (because fuck Packers fans), it was regrettable that one of the game's great retired.

That is, until two days ago, when Favre submitted his reinstatement paperwork. By doing so, he basically forces the Packers into trading him, releasing him, or putting him on the roster. Which is exactly what the Packers hoped to avoid doing with him retiring.

As someone who revels when anything goes bad for the Packers, I'm loving this. The level of animosity between Favre and the Packers has risen to hilarious levels. If you believe Favre, he didn't want to retire, but was forced out by the Packers. There are reports that, when Packer management went to visit Favre in Mississippi earlier in the week, they offered him a multi-year contract to stay retired: free money to not play football again. The Packers have claimed that Aaron Rodgers is their guy and Favre would not be the starting quarterback for the Packers again, even if he's just sitting on the bench.

This is great. And both parties are equally to blame. The Packers are so stoked to get Rodgers going that they almost literally shoved Favre out the door. And Favre has been playing this "will-he-or-won't-he" game for so long that the Packers couldn't wait for him to retire. They both fucked themselves.

But the best part is what happens to the fans. After years and years of crowing how their beloved Favre is the greatest quarterback ever, they are going to be rewarded with Favre playing starting quarterback, on Opening Monday Night, in Lambeau Field, for the Minnesota Vikings. I hope he throws for 450 yrds and 6 touchdowns.

I think I just became a Favre fan.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"In Five Minutes, This Place Is (Un)Becoming A Starbucks"

Last Friday, Starbucks came out with a list of 600 stores it would be closing in order to shore up expenses. (The Wall Street Journal has a map of the store closings here.)

This is just the other shoe dropping for Starbucks. I think they've realized that you can't open a Starbucks in every available storefront property and not expect to hit a wall. Eventually, much like what happened with Krispy Kreme, you reach a saturation point where you have more retail outlets than you have demand for. It amazes me that they went almost 5% past their breaking point before realizing they might have overextended a little.

But, there have been some unexpected side effects. While I have never heard of anyone petitioning the company to have a Starbucks opened in their community (as, if you wait long enough, one will just show up regardless), there are now people who are now petitioning Starbucks to keep their doomed stores open. A rather high profile example is right here in Wisconsin, where the mayor of Madison is petitioning the company to keep open a store it is closing there.

Now, I'm willing to bet Starbucks didn't just pick these locations out of a hat. I imagine they looked at the financials of every store in every market and found the weakest ones, or ones that were cannibalizing business from stores they'd prefer to keep open (like a kiosk stealing business from a storefront outlet). I'm know they're smart enough not to shut out a city completely unless they know they can't make money there. Here in Wisconsin, the only city that is losing its sole Starbucks is Marshfield, but only like 17 people live there, so fuck them. The mayor of Madison is going to have to live with the fact that, after her beloved downtown location closes, there will only be nine other Starbucks in the Madison metropolitan area to choose from, including one less than half a mile away from the closing store. It's even on the same street.

That's what we in the business call "a lot of fucking Starbuckses."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight Returns

I was soooo psyched up for this to be the greatest movie ever. It had incredible word of mouth; there was the Peter Travers' review in which he came all over himself; everyone was calling Ledger's performance Oscar-worthy. Just so many reasons for this movie to be great.

So, I went and saw the midnight showing on Thursday...and got sucker-punched by a 2.5 hour-long movie that wasn't even as good as Batman Begins.

Because I really don't feel like typing any more on this disappointment, I'm going to take the lazy way out and let you hear Nick Degilio's review, as he sums up my talking points rather nicely:

I will come out on my own and say one thing: as much dirision as I heaped upon the casting of Heath Ledger, he may be the only reason to see this movie. He really is that good in it. (However, Bale's "Batman voice" may be one really big reason NOT to see it. It gets so bad that people were laughing toward the end.)

Oh, and when Heath Ledger died, I made some comments in regards to his role in this movie. Not to give away any spoliers, but read this, and...oops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Snubs Are In!

The Emmy nominations came out today. Some thoughts, as always:

Outstanding Comedy Series
Do the producers of Two and a Half Men have naked pictures of someone? Because that's the only reason I can explain why they get nominated for this year after year. There ARE much better shows. Like, where, pray tell, is Pushing Daisies, probably the best new show last year? And it's nice to see that Emmy voters realized Desperate Housewives is not a comedy (or a drama or an anything, since it didn't get any nominations for anything).

Outstanding Drama Series
Network TV needs to be worried. There are two shows from basic cable that got nominated here, one of which garnered 16 noms. And that show won the Golden Globe (remember those?) this year, another bad sign for the "Big 4" network shows. Personally, I don't think Mad Men is as good as Damages or Dexter, but what do I know.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
A field so talented, they upped the nominees to six (same with Best Drama Series) to fit them all in. I'll root for the underdog in Bryan Cranston, because a win means Breaking Bad will be back.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
This is when Glenn Close wins this one, as she should have in '05. Two of the other nominees have already won it the past two years, and if Kyra Sedgwick was going to ever win, she'd have done it by now. And Holly Hunter already has an Oscar, so I like Close's chances.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The entire cast of Lost gets snubbed...with the exception of Michael Emerson, who has supplanted Terry O'Quinn as the best character on that show.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
So, this is where Denis Leary ended up when he got pushed out of Best Drama Actor. He'll lose here too.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
You have to give this to Kristin Chenoweth, because she's so adorable. She's only six inches tall, you know.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
WHHHAAAAAATTTT?!?! No Katherine Heigl??!?!? Shocker!!

Outstanding Reality and Reality Competition Program
I think it's about time for Antiques Roadshow to win this, since Bullshit! wasn't even nominated this year. Because fuck those other shows. And Amazing Race will win the Competition one, because it wins it every year.

Outstanding Reality Program Host
Really? REALLY?!? Seriously.

Check back in September to see that all your faves lost.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Terminator 4 Is Coming (Soon)

The trailer for the next Terminator movie is out. Check it out.

Now, to be quite honest with you, I didn't even know this movie was going to happen. Apparently, the film had some legal problems with the rights. But they've been resolved and the movie's been shooting for a month or so.

Also, in the past, I expressed my doubts about this movie, as it would have no Arnold in it. But they appear to have somehow wrangled Christian Bale, who's a respectable actor, into this supposed trainwreck, so, honestly, how bad could it be?

Oh, wait...wasn't Christian Bale in that movie about the gun karate?

Maybe this will turn out to be a turd after all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Greatest," My Ass

During one of my internet clickathon sessions, I came across this: Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time List. It's actually rather old, but this is the first time I'd seen it.

Now, if you've ever read this blog before, you know exactly where this is going, but I'd like to digress for a moment.

When I think of what makes a great guitarist, I think about three criteria: mastery - how technically adept a player is; innovation - what this player is doing that no one else has done; and influence - how this player has influenced others. High marks in those three categories, in my mind, would make you a great guitarist. Rolling Stone, however, appears to have some different criteria.

They have a lot of the greatest guitarist on the list; there's no squabbling with that. But I think there's a lot of people on there who shouldn't be, and, even if they should be, are ranked waaaaay ahead of some who are much better.

Take, for example, Kurt Cobain at #12. Cobain was a great songwriter, combining a great ear for pop with a punk's musical taste. But that doesn't make him a great guitarist. If you listen to the records, Kurt's really not that great a player; it's all a lot of sloppy noise.

Or, take Jack White at #17. A talented guitarist, but he's not doing anything that someone like Rory Gallagher wasn't doing much better 30 years ago. Or Johnny Ramone at #16, who literally never played anything but power chords. Or The Edge at #24, who's a good guitarist, but not anywhere near as good as, say, Buddy Guy at #30. There are at least 100 more that I have problems with, but...

As I was going through this list from the start, I saw a lot of the greats, guys who are great players that everyone knows and follows; guys like Hendrix and Clapton and Stevie Ray and Chuck Berry, Jeff Beck, Page, etc, etc. But as I kept going, there was a couple of names I wasn't seeing. And it took me a long time to get to them.

Absolutely buried at #70 is a guy who is top 5 material, easily: Eddie Van Halen. If you got a number of guitarists together and asked them who their influences are, I'd bet 80% of them would have Van Halen on their list. He's a guy that basically redefined the heavy metal music foundation laid out by Jimmy Page and Tommy Iommi. He could all-out play stuff that you'd never heard before (try to think of anything prior to "Eruption" that sounds like that). This is what a great guitarist is. And I think the only guy on this list that got jobbed more than Van Halen did is Randy Rhoads. For a guy that's been dead for 25 years and had only two recordings to his name (Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman), he's only slightly less influential than Van Halen and just a good of a player.

And then there's the outright omissions. Like, where's Robin Trower, whose playing influenced guys like Van Halen and Rhoads and just about every other player in their generation? Or Yngwie Malmsteen, whose insane virtuosity has led to the writing of countless books on "How to Play Like Yngwie." Or Steve Vai, who's playing is actually better than Van Halen's, AND he could probably teach doctorate level courses on music theory on top of it. And I know these are kinda obscure names, but...who the fuck is Glen Buxton? Or Mickey Baker? Or Scotty Moore?

I don't know, but apparently they're some of the greatest guitarists ever. Couldn't prove it by me, but, hey, what do I know? I only a meager guitar player; I'm not a music journalist, so how would I know what a great guitarist is?

After seeing this list, I suspect they don't know either.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Don't Know Why I Bother Anymore

I enjoy going to the movies. I enjoy it so much and do it so often that I actually refer to it as a hobby rather than a way to pass the time.

Summer is the time to see movies; this is when all the big movies come out. During a summer, I'll see a dozen or so movies. But, despite my love for watching movies, I'm beginning to wonder why I feel the need to see the piles of shit that the studios are passing off as movies these days. As of right now, I have seen everything in current release (with the exception of Sex and the City, Zohan, American Girl and Kung-Fu Panda), and I can safely say I'm quickly losing confidence in Hollywood's movie-making ability.

Take Hancock, for example. I've always thought the idea of the scumbag superhero was an entertaining one. Superman turning into a drunken lech was the only good part of Superman 3. So, why wouldn't a whole movie of that same thing be great? Because, once you get away from that idea, which this movie does at about the 45 minute mark...well, it's just shit. Rumor has it that the original cut of this movie was two and a half hours long; I wonder if they cut out all the good parts.

And then there's Wanted, the movie in which Angelina Jolie looks to weigh about 87 pounds (skeletons are sooo hot this year). Here we have some of the most mind-blowing action scenes ever filmed entangled with one of the most harebrained plots ever. Director Timur Bekmambetov's previous movies were less nonsensical, and they were all in Russian!

Then there's this weekend's new movie, Hellboy 2. As is the case with most of Guillermo del Toro's movies, he gives us things to look at that are absolutely beautiful and other-worldly, but, unlike his previous movies, he attaches them to a plot that a two-year old would consider simple-minded. (Maybe it's just me, but I'm noticing a pattern with the "beautiful visuals with no plot" theme in movies.)

In fact, the only thing in current release I would recommend anyone see is WALL-E, which I had no expectations for, and was presently surprised that it turned out to be the best movie I've seen all summer. (Yes, it's better than Indiana Jones.) Considering there's like a dozen or so movies in wide-release right now, that's a pretty bad average.

So, to commemorate "The Summer of Shit" (much like I did with last summer's "Summer of Sequels"), I've changed the poll to "Worst Summer Movie So Far." There's plenty to vote for, so don't be stingy.

And, hopefully, the season will turn around when The Dark Knight comes out next week. But I'm not holding my breath.

Last Five Movies

And while I'm piling on the movies, here's some others you maybe should/shouldn't see:

Definitely, Maybe (2008)
I don't know why I feel compelled to watch Ryan Reynolds' entire filmography, but doing so requires me to watch movies like this. So, that's why this got watched.

Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Only from the strange, twisted mind of Michel Gondry could a movie like this come. It's so goofy that I can't even decide if it was any good at all. I do like the idea of the all VHS video store, though. About eight years ago, I could have shown you a half dozen places like this; I don't even know if they exist anymore.

Sukeban (1973)
Speaking of stuff that doesn't exist anymore, the bad sense of taste and judgement required to make a movie like this has regretfully gone the way of the dodo. Which is a shame, since the amount of nudity and violence in this movie and the others like it makes it better than most movies made today. Oh, how one longs for those simpler times!

Cleaner (2007)
So, this is what Renny Harlin's career has been reduced to: getting the A-list cast of Sam Jackson, Eva Mendes, and Ed Harris to star in a direct-to-video movie. But, that's what happens when you almost single-handedly bankrupt a studio. Just ask Michael Cimino how his career's going.

Just the general cult greatness of this one keeps Sukeban out of the top spot:

Q, The Winged Serpent (1982)
Michael Moriarty, chewing more scenery than Godzilla, discovers the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl roosting in the spir of the Chrysler Building, and holds New York City for ransom. Possibly the craziest plot ever concocted (by the crazy mind of Larry Cohen), supremely cornball effects, and some rather flippant acting make this something that everyone should see at least once. You may not like it, but you need to at least see it.

Check it out.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Only 168 Day 'Til Christmas!

I happened to glance into the Hallmark Store at the mall today, and noticed that they were putting out their Christmas ornament display.

Just for the record, it is July 9th, 168 days from December 25th.

I thought the ornaments were coming out a little premature last year, when I noticed them in August. But, here it is, the second week of July, and the Christmas shit is already coming out. Just to make sure this was as ridiculous as I thought, I walked down to the Carlton Cards store to see if they had their ornaments out. They didn't, so just Hallmark is insane. I mean, I understand wanting to get a jump on your Christmas shopping, but five and a half months early? That's getting a little out of hand.

Anyway, if you too are a person who likes to do their Christmas shopping half a year early, check out Hallmark's website and get your ornament orders in. They're sure to be flying off the shelfs, what with Christmas just around the corner and all.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Brewers Do Something Sensible For Once

Today, the Brewers did the ballsiest thing they have ever done, and made a blockbuster trade that brought reigning AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia to the team. This gives them both Sabathia, who's having a kinda slow year so far but is still a great pitcher, and Ben Sheets, who's already one of the better pitchers in the NL.

Now, while I think this is a good move in the short-term, as the Brewers get Sabathia for a handful of minor leaguers, this has absolutely no long-term implications. Sabathia is on the last year of his contract, as is Sheets, and Prince Fielder has made it clear that he is going to rape the Brewers in the ass when his contract comes up for arbitration after the season. So, unless the Brewers are going to raise their ticket prices to $1000 a pop, someone or someones have to go, which means that if they don't win the World Series this year, they pretty much rented Sabathia for nothing.

This has worked for other teams, however. The Diamondbacks won a World Series with this same strategy, and the Marlins won two. Mind you, the Brewers are doing it the stupid way, and just signing one player at a time per year, but when have the Brewers not done something stupid? If it weren't for the Cubs, the Brewers would be the stupidest team in baseball.

Who knows. Maybe it will all work out. But I doubt it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Baseball Requires No Talent

I just happened to catch SportsCenter tonight, and saw that the Tampa Bay Rays had just swept the Red Sox, which I thought was odd, as the Red Sox are the defending champs, and the Rays may be the worst team in the history of baseball.

I then saw that the Rays have the best record in baseball, in a division with both the Red Sox and the Yankees. Which led me to this conclusion: that winning in baseball is not a factor of talent or payroll, but is merely based on luck.

Seriously, you're going to tell me that adding Eric Hinske and Troy Percival to the worst team in baseball, a team that has never finished better than fourth (and they only did that once), suddenly turns them into the best team in baseball? I can't see any other reason than plain old luck to explain it.

And, while were talking Rays baseball, when did the Devil Rays become the Plain Old Rays? Does the "Ray" still mean the same thing? Are they still in the ray family, with the stingray and the manta ray? Or are they, like, energy rays, like gamma and ultraviolet? Or maybe it now refers to a conglomeration of people named Ray, like Ray Romano and Ray Bolger? And why did they change it? Did they not want to be involved with the evil implications of the word "devil"? Or are they trying to distance themselves from the stigma of the animal that killed Steve Irwin, much like how the Washington Bullets changed their name to distance themselves from the #1 cause of death in their city? Or maybe they found out that you're able to win baseball games if you change your team name.

Interesting theories, all. WAAAYYY more interesting than the fact the Rays are in first place. In fact, it's really a waste of mental capacity to wonder why, because you know exactly where they'll be next year: right back where they've always been.

And all will be right with the universe once more.