Sunday, June 29, 2008

That Time Of Year Again

Went to Flashback Weekend again this weekend. Some highlights:

-There were more people dressed as zombies than one would expect. And, speaking of dressing, I believe The Girl and I were the only people not clad entirely in black.

-Elvira's hair and boobs are much bigger in real-life than they appear on TV. The line to meet her was never under a half mile long.

-While both Reggie Bannister and Bill Thornbury were hawking music CDs, at no time did they bust out a guitar jam like they did in Phantasm. What a drag.

-While waiting to see George Romero, a gaggle of girls dressed like prostitutes played Dokken's "Dream Warriors" on their little boombox. The Girl was apoplectic.

-And yes, George Romero does wear that safari vest everywhere he goes.

-The Girl is only 5'3", but she towers over Danielle Harris. When I pointed this out to her, that she was actually taller than someone, she replied with, "yes, but she's skinnier than I am." It's all or nothing with that woman.

-Somehow, I got into a lengthy conversation with Angus Scrimm about the composer Erich Korngold. It was probably the only non-Phantasm conversation he'd had all day. I'll also mention that he was sporting some white plastic glasses that would make Elton John envious.

-I must give Bill Hinzman credit for being a sport: he came to this thing actually dressed as a zombie.

-I feel sorry for the people of Rosemont, as it was Double Dork Weekend: the annual comic book convention was going on right across the street the same time as this.

All and all, a good time. And...I finally managed to procure a copy of The Stepfather on DVD.

Things couldn't have gone better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

There Are Some Musical Geniuses On YouTube

Like most terrible amateur guitarists, I spend a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of better guitarists playing, hoping to maybe catch something I can incorporate into my terrible playing. Usually, if you can't find a video of the original artist, there's always a video of someone else playing any given song. There are some players who are nice enough to even show you, step by step, how to play a song (although this practice is starting to come under fire). It's a nice tool for all guitarists.

Most of the players on YouTube are pretty good, like the guy in the above video (but some are just really bad). I admire these guys, that they're not embarrassed to put their playing out there, regardless of how good they are. Guitarists everywhere should appreciate this.

But, like with everything, there are some buzzkillers. Most of the comments for these videos are of the "UR TONE IS AWESUM!!" or "U REALLY GOOD! :P" variety. But there is almost invariably some asshole whose knowledge of the guitar is so great that they must point out any error, no matter how small. You could watch a video, and a guy can play it exactly how it sounds on the record, and you think it sounds great, yet you'll read the comments, and someone will say something like, "That's TOTALLY not how Michael Schenker plays that" or "UR NOT EVEN IN THE RITE TOONING!!" Some will make statements that are astounding in their idiocy. Like, if there's a video of a guy playing "Bark at the Moon" with a Gibson Flying V, someone will chime in with something like, "Randy Rhoads didn't play that with a Gibson Flying V; he played a Sandoval Flying V," of course overlooking the fact that Randy Rhoads didn't play any kind of Flying V on "Bark at the Moon," as he was dead at the time.

Maybe these folks don't realize that any given note appears on the guitar neck several times. There's a lot of different ways to play things. You can have your guitar tuned completely wrong, and still have it sound the same as a guitar that's tuned correctly; it's all just in how you play it. I was in a guitar store a couple of months back, and there was a dude in there playing "Eruption." This guy had it down pat: the divebombs, finger tapping, everything sounded like the record, note for note; sounded like Van Halen to me. Yet, I'm sure if one of these YouTube morons was there, they'd say something like, "That was nice, but you missed the flat fourth in that B minor pentatonic scale." Some people are happy with nothing less than perfection.

Of course, most of these assholes are just stupid. I'm sure they can't even play the songs they're so critical of. They just read the sheet music (which is almost always wrong) and decided that if you're not playing it exactly that way that you're wrong, even though it sounds exactly like it's supposed to.

Me, I'm happy with anything. Actually, whatever is easiest is what I'm down with. I don't care if that's how Michael Schenker played it or not, if it keeps me from having to move my fingers any more than necessary, I'm all over that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pass The Time With This Terrible '80s Flashback

I was clicking around on YouTube, and came upon this video for Dokken's "Dream Warriors," the title track from the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors soundtrack.

I, personally, am not a big fan of the Elm Street movies, but The Girl is, and Dream Warriors is her favorite. I believe she may actually know all the words to this song.

So, out of my love for her (and to make fun of her a little), here's the music video. My favorite part is when George Lynch busts out of the wall and Patricia Arquette is stunned by his guitar-playing ability. Clever editing doesn't get better than this.

Press play and enjoy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Apparently, I Had A Bad Childhood

Like every kid in my generation, I grew up on Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes cartoons. I always thought they were hilarious. I never once felt like maybe my mind was being warped.

As I got older, I stopped watching Looney Tunes in pursuit of more adult things, like porn. In fact, the Looney Tunes of the '40s and 50s that I grew up on just kinda faded out of existence altogether; they just weren't on TV anymore (for reasons that will become obvious). Oh sure, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are still around, but those old cartoons just kinda went away.

Recently, The Girl has gotten on a cartoon kick, buying up all the old Disney movies she loved as a kid. This got me jonesing for those old Looney Tunes cartoons. Turns out, they are still available, as Warner Bros. has has made them into boxset called The Looney Tunes Golden Collection. While we were perusing the Disney movie selection at Sam's Club one day, I saw they had some of the Looney Tunes boxsets (and at half price, no less). So, I picked up the first two sets. And, upon watching them again after a 20-year absence, I see now that these cartoons weren't intended for children at all.

Other than the fact that they're animated, there is nothing in the Looney Tunes that would appeal to children at all. Most of the jokes will go over childrens' heads. Some of the references, which really makes no sense 60 years later, would be completely lost on children. I mean, what kid knows who Humphrey Bogart is? And this is just the parts that would appeal to kids. These cartoons are extremely violent, mean-spirited, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and racist. Mind you, that analysis reads into a lot of things, but it shows that our views on a lot of things have changed in the past 60 years, as most animation studios wouldn't be caught dead putting anything like that in the cartoons of today.

It's my assumption that these cartoons weren't meant for children at all. As I mentioned before, there's no appeal for children. Everything in them, from the humor to the context, is geared towards adults. I think the only reason that they appealed to my peer group was that they were cartoons and kids will watch anything that's animated (and it was pretty funny to see Daffy Duck have a shotgun go off in his face). And I don't think they warped us because all cartoons back then were like that. Anything that would be considered inappropriate for children nowadays was in all those cartoons back in the day. If our kids were to watch these after growing up on Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer, they might have some serious questions after watching these (just like they might after watching old Sesame Streets, apparently).

But, all that being said, I still enjoy the old Looney Tunes. I think they're even better now that I actually understand the jokes and can appreciate the subtlety of the humor. I guess it turns out that things do get better with age.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hulk And Incredible Hulk

If I were a smart man, I could do a compare-and-contrast between the George Bernard Shaw play which I stole the name of this post from and the Don Juan myth, but instead I'll just do some shit about the two Hulk movies.

I'm somewhat surprised that Universal has chosen to reboot the entire Hulk franchise, rather than making a sequel. I can understand why Warners did it with the Batman movies, as Joel Schumacher did irreparable damage to that franchise. But at least they waited almost 10 years before coming out with a new Batman movie; Ang Lee's Hulk came out five years ago. And now, having seen both Hulk movies, I'm still wondering why we needed a new series.

Lee's Hulk came out to an insane amount of fanfare. Universal seemed to be tentpoling their entire business on this one. And, while it did almost make its budget back during its American release and a profit overseas, it was seen as a failure, namely because it didn't live up to the amount of hype piled upon it. But, how could it? It wasn't the kind of movie that makes $200 million.

You knew something was up from the start, when Lee chose to rewrite the most well-known origin story in comics, by making Bruce Banner the product of inherited genetic mutation and not failed radiation experimentation. And Lee wasn't interested in just making a movie about a monster destroying crap. (This is Ang Lee, after all.) No, Lee made a movie about two children, as adults, trying to come to terms with their difficult fathers (and it just happens that one of the children is The Hulk).

And it's a good movie. It's not standard-fare comic book stuff. It goes way deeper into Bruce Banner than the fact that he occasionally turns into The Hulk. And Lee actually gives his movie a comic book look, with split screens and multiple angles that replicate the layouts of comic book pages. It's all an extremely ambitious take that most people who saw it hated.

Universal must have hated it as well, because they decided to make another Hulk movie with a complete reboot of the franchise rather than a sequel. And, rather than attempt to improve upon the things they hated in Lee's version, they removed everything that made it interesting and made one incredibly boring movie.

I'm sure that if you've never seen another Comic Book Movie that The Incredible Hulk is just great. The Hulk smashing shit non-stop must just be the most awesome thing ever for people who have been living in a cave for the past 20 years. But, for those of us that have seen all the other Superhero Movies, this is just bad. It's the least original movie I've seen in a long time. There's nothing here that I haven't seen in Spiderman 1-3, Blade 1-3, Fantastic Four 1 & 2; hell, I saw an almost carbon copy of this movie a month ago when Iron Man came out. It's as though Universal has taken the screenplay from one of the aforementioned movies and replaced its main character with The Hulk. This movie is so unoriginal, it puts Lou Ferrigno in the same cameo role that he played in Lee's Hulk.

In fact, the best thing about The Incredible Hulk is that it appears to be turning out to be a bigger failure than Hulk. It's a lot stupider, it has a bigger budget, and, based on its opening-weekend numbers, is on track to make less money than Hulk. If this thing does indeed fail to make any money, we'll probably end up with yet another entirely new Hulk franchise by 2012.

I can't wait.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I Must Have A Mental Problem

I don't know why I go see M. Night Shyamalan movies. Ever since I was disappointed in the closing minutes of Unbreakable by its nonsensical ending, I have yet to see a Shyamalan movie that has been more than 25% watchable. Yet, there I am, opening weekend, shelling out my hard-earned money to see every one of his fucking movies in the theatre.

I don't know what I'm expecting to see. Maybe somehow I think I'll see that The Sixth Sense wasn't the only good idea he ever had or ever will have. I know that I hate everything he does; it may be the reason I started this blog was to rip on his movies. And I think he's a good director (or used to be), but he may be the worst screenwriter in history. I know this; I know all this. Yet I keep seeing his movies.

So, it should come as no surprise that I was compelled to see The Happening.

I'll come right out and say at the start that the idea for this movie is much better than the shit he's been passing as "ideas" for his last couple of movies. I think a very good movie could be made out of the premise of the Earth developing a natural defense mechanism against human beings. But The Happening isn't that movie, because Shyamalan does nothing with it. I would imagine you could make a documentary on this subject that would be more interesting than this movie. One of the scariest books I've ever read was Demon in the Freezer, a non-fiction book about smallpox. And The Happening is the best you can do with the idea of our planet trying to kill us?

It all stems from Shyamalan's incompetence as a writer. Because the object of terror in this movie is essentially invisible, Shyamalan conveys its movement with the sound of blowing wind. So, what you have is the characters running from wind for an hour and a half. "Oh my GOD: THE WIND!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHAH!!!!!! JESUS!!!!!" Yeah, that's some scary shit. And his usually-sharp directing doesn't help any, because it's completely absent. He shows us nothing of interest throughout the movie.

And the acting isn't of any help either. I mean, you got John Leguizamo, who usually brings some life to the party, but he's dead within the first 20 minutes. And then you got Marky Mark, and, really...c'mon. That leaves you with Zooey Deschanel carrying this entire movie. Good actress, but even Atlas couldn't carry this fucking movie.

There really isn't anything to recommend about this movie. The one thing I enjoyed about it was Shyamalan's restraint in not appearing in the film. Based upon the trajectory of his previous acting appearances in his films, he was on course to cast himself as the first or second lead in this one. Instead, he's not in it at all, which is a good thing, as he's also one of the worst actors of all-time.

Not that I expected to be anything but disappointed in The Happening, but it would have been nice to see a Shyamalan film that didn't automatically jump to #1 on the Worst Movies of All Time list. Maybe next time (but I doubt it).

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What A Difference 10 Years Makes

Remember 10 years ago? Yeah, me neither, but it's been about 10 years since the whole Britney/Christina thing started. And, based upon how it started out, who'da thunk it would've turned out like it did?

These two former Musketeers hit the music scene around the same time, with Britney first out of the gate. Even though Britney was only marginally talented, and could best be described as a "cracker," her handlers were smart enough to make her out as a virgin whore, everyone's underage fantasy. And it worked, with her debut album selling 14 million copies in the US alone.

Christina came next. Infinitely more talented than Britney, with a booming three+ octave vocal range, Christina didn't get the help from her people that Britney did. She was a pretty little semi-Hispanic girl with a voice that didn't match her body. But her album sold well, but little more than half of Britney's.

Britney wasted no time in trying to put her new rival out of business, cranking out two more records in as many years, one of which sold over a million copies its first week. Meet your new Queen of Pop.

Christina, on the other hand, was in a bit of a bind. While she was more talented than Britney, which obviously has nothing to do with selling records, she didn't have Britney's image or sex appeal, which does apparently sell records. Sure, some of her lyrics were mildly suggestive, but she had essentially been cast as a "good girl."

So, Christina did what any girl in her position would do, and transformed herself into, what appeared to be, an actual whore. She got some gigantic fake boobs, styled her hair into an assortment of fright wigs, applied her makeup in ways that would embarrass a clown, and was seldom seen in public in little more than a g-string and pasties. Her new image made Britney look like Mary Poppins.

But, it didn't work. Her second record didn't sell as well as her first, and paled in comparison to Britney's other records. (And I realize that Christina had two other records in there, but one was in Spanish and one was a Christmas record. Those don't even count.)

And this is where there's a break in the story. Based upon the trajectory it was following, one might expect that Britney career would just keep selling records, and that Christina would tend to follow her "whore" path and sleaze her way out of the business within two years.

But, oddly enough, it went the other way. Christina remade herself yet again in the image of Marilyn Monroe, released a Grammy-winning double album that sold pretty well, married a perfectly nice lawyer, and had a lovely baby.

Britney, however, went to shit. Shortly after the release of her third album, Spears got married twice in nine months (once less than three days) and divorced as many times within two years. She shit out two kids in less than 365 days. She made two trips to rehab. She went crazy and shaved her head. She committed more motor vehicle damage than the competitors in Death Race 2000. And, after a laughable appearance on the MTV Video Awards, she released an album that has sold approximately eight copies to date.

And now, Christina looks like this:

And Britney looks like this:

It just goes to show you: you can't even count your chickens after they hatch. They might just turn out to be rabid badgers.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Smells Like Burnt Gorilla To Me

Years and years ago, I wrote a post about NBC Universal's plans to annex part of their studio backlot to the City of Los Angeles. Even though these plans are still currently in the planning stage, it looks like they just got a lot more land to work with.

On Sunday, a massive fire broke out on the Universal Studios backlot. At least 500 firefighters were called in to help stop the blaze. The fire caused tens of millions of dollars of damage. It's the seventh fire to cause significant damage on the backlot.

A lot of history went up in the fire. The New York Street set, last seen most extensively in Bruce Almighty, was almost entirely destroyed. Courthouse Square, which has been involved in the last three fires, was partially destroyed. (Oddly enough, the actual Courthouse, made famous in Back to the Future, survived the fire, just as it survived the previous two.) A vault building, containing copies of videos and 35mm prints, was destroyed. And, most tragically, the famous King Kong ride was burned right to the ground.

The funny thing about this that I don't think people realize that this is kind of a big deal, that all this shit burnt down. I watched a video on Yahoo where an LA TV station was interviewing people who were pissed that they wouldn't be able to get into the studio while it was burning to the ground. Millions of dollars in property burning to the ground, and these folks are mad that they won't be able to see where Desperate Housewives is shot.

According to Universal's president Ron Meyer, everything will be rebuilt to it's previous condition. The King Kong ride, however, is gonezo, to be replaced by some even more ridiculous attraction.

While all this stuff getting destroyed is tragic, it could have been a lot worse; the whole thing could have burned down. Hopefully, they'll get it all rebuilt and keep it from catching on fire again.