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.