Saturday, July 16, 2005

Crap! The new Harry Potter book arrived in the mail today, and I'm not done with the book I'm currently reading (Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson). I had ordered the Potter book from, and had received an email from them warning me that I might not receive the book exactly on the release date, which suited me just fine. So I didn't rush to finish the Patterson book. And then it just shows up! So, plan is to finish the Patterson one tonight, and then move on to Harry Potter. (And never mind all the books on the on-deck circle--sorry, Mags--that just got pushed back one slot again.)

Last night saw the season premiere of SciFi Friday's season premiere. It also saw a power outage here from 9:15 to 11:05 or so, and I was concerned I wouldn't actually be able to see the premieres of Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica. But, thanks to SciFi reruning their whole lineup twice, and the power coming back on just in time, it all worked out. (Still pretty miserable, though. Couldn't read or watch TV or anything, because it was dark, didn't want to leave the house because that would have meant disengaging the garage door opener... Fortunately, didn't have much in the refrigerator. Still, the loss of air conditioning meant for some discomfort. Thank goodness it was less than two hours, and at night!)

Stargate SG-1 felt pretty much the same, familiar show, considering the major cast changes. Richard Dean Anderson gone, Amanda Tapping taking a break, Ben Browder joining as the lead and Claudia Black (both from Farscape) as a long-term guest star, Beau Bridges joining... It was all handled pretty well, all things considered. Best decision the producers could have made was using flashbacks to establish an existing relationship between Browder's new character and the old characters, so there's none of that stupid "Let's be wary of the new guy until he proves that his different, foreign ways are actually useful and valuable to the team, no matter how strange they may seem to us" crap that completely turned me off of TNT's The Closer. The actual story--learning that the legends of King Arthur and Merlin are somehow tied into the greater Stargate background mythology, and investigating that--was familiar enough territory for the show, so while we were getting to know the new characters, it was clear that they were appearing in the same show that's been running for the past eight years.

Stargate Atlantis continued right on from where last season's cliffhanger ended, so fewer surprises there. This week, Mitch Pileggi joined the cast as a recurring guest (I think), and, as usual, he brings the right sort of mix of charm and sleaze to give the character some sort of edge without seeming like a complete jerk. (At least, advance word from the Stargate magazine is that he's there to create some tension; this episode, he's a pretty straightforward soldier-boy.) The other new regular character for the season hasn't shown up yet--he's played by a Baywatch pretty-boy--so I can't comment. I do think the choices they've made for Rainbow Sun Francks' character, Lt. Aiden Ford, are positive moves. He's now some sort of unpredictable human-Wraith hybrid, with an as-yet-unrevealed agenda. Previously, he was a nondescript soldier-boy. This is an improvement.

And then there's Battlestar Galactica. Again, picking up directly from last season's shock cliffhanger--although that apparently wasn't the original plan, according to producer Ron Moore's podcast commentary--this is more of the same, really. Which is just fine; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There are some fantastic sequences this time around: the scenes where Cally, Tyrrol and some third soldier are pinned down in the forest by sniper fire, played without any sort of Hollywood/TV crutches or glamorization is just harrowing, and the effects of the battle to defend the Galactica as it attempts to plot the course of the missing fleet are phenomenal. My personal favorite moment, however, comes in the middle of the battle. We cut to the ship's brig, where President Roslyn is being held, and you can hear the sounds of explosions and everything all around, and the guard asks her if she'll pray with him. Now, Moore points out that he wanted this bit to remind the audience of Laura's growing importance as a religious figure in the overall storyline, but I like it because it's just such a human thing. There's this big fight going on, and this guy, who would just be a nonspeaking extra on almost any other series, is scared shitless and the only thing he can think to do is pray. And it just brings it all down to an identifiable scale.

I swear, it's almost a shame the show is about people in spaceships fighting robots, because that just blinds too many people who can't see past that to recognize that this is one of the best, most affecting human dramas on the air.

And it's way better than Summerland.

And I also watched Two Brothers, a movie about tigers in India in the last century, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who made The Bear. And I'm a sucker for animal movies--I own Buddy, for crying out loud--but I thought this was great. And what I've been saying all along about reviewers being useless? Let me double that for customer reviews, and let there be a law stating that anyone who doesn't understand that "I expected it to be something else" isn't a useful opinion should be smacked.

And while we're making laws like that, let me include people who park in front of other people's driveways when they go to yard sales, and people who sit at a drive-through ATM doing whatever it is that they're doing after they're finished with their transaction, forcing other people to go to the ATM further away where it's harder to turn around and get back onto the road.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

NEWSARAMA.COM: SDCC DAY 1 - WILL EISNER's SPIRIT LIVES IN NEW ONGOING DC SERIES: "First up in December 2005 is a project designed to introduce the character to DC audiences a Batman/The Spirit stand-alone special written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Darwyn Cooke (for much more on this, click on the link for our conversation with Loeb), which will be joined by The Best Of The Spirit, an affordably-priced trade paperback collecting almost two dozen stories by Eisner, with a new introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Following that in 2006 will be an all-new ongoing The Spirit series written and drawn by Cooke."

Love Batman, love the Spirit, love Darwyn Cooke, love Jeph Loeb when he's trying... Guess I'll be buying a new, ongoing DC superhero comic next year after all.
Okay, so I read this online column (and listen to the podcast) from this aging nerd, Augie DeBliek. To be honest, it just kind of makes me feel better about myself. Anyway, in today's column, he describes his travel woes as his flight from New Jersey to San Diego for the big comics convention, originally scheduled to take off at 11:50 am, finally left the ground at 6:30 pm. And at the end, he says:

"Of course, none of this might have been necessary if they had just kept the original departure time of 11:50 a.m. that everyone on the plane had purchased their ticket for. I think it's kind of sleazy for an airliner to change a flight's schedule like that. If they pull that trick next year, they're not getting my business again."

And the thing is, if you're that dissatisfied with a product or service that you're going to make some sort of ultimatum-type statement like that, then what you really need to do--I think--is just take that final step and just not fly that airline again. Because what I'm hearing is a problem worth complaining about, but worth putting up with. Well, if it's worth putting up with, because you--or Augie--believe that the problems are an anomaly, a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control, then it's not worth complaining about, because that's just the way things are. And if you don't believe it's an anomaly or unavoidable, but is actually the fault of the airline, then just use another one next time. Fool me once and all that. Am I saying I'm not for second chances? Well, yeah, I suppose I am, but what I'm really saying is that I'm for people just not assuming that they'll get a second chance, thus giving them a stronger incentive to get it right the first time. And I'm for people recognizing when it's worth complaining about something without doing something about it, which would be never. If it's worth talking about in negative terms, then you need to follow up with action. Otherwise, shut up.

Which is a really long way for me to explain why I'm not complaining too much about the DC Comics miniseries leading up to their big Infinite Crisis event crossover miniseries spectacle shebang hullabaloo, even though they are turning out to be some pretty pedestrian, dull comics indeed. (I'm not including Rann/Thanagar War in that, because I like Dave Gibbons too much, but I could have included it... Okay, I guess I just did.) As a kid, I used to love these sorts of big crossover things, and I don't know if this one isn't appealing to me because I'm an adult and my tastes have changed, or because it's just not particularly good. Probably both.

But I've been reading them, because they all lead into this Infinite Crisis thing that's supposed to affect all the DC comics, and I wanted to be on board with that. However, now I find myself questioning whether I really want to read it after all. It's going to be written by Geoff Johns, who almost single-handedly drove me away from superhero comics with his atrocious Green Lantern: Regurgitated miniseries. (Yes, I was already teetering; that comic drove me over the edge.) But it'll be drawn by Phil Jimenez, which means it'll be really pretty. On the other hand, so's Otherworld, the Vertigo comic he's writing and drawing, which isn't superheroes, and which he's taking a break from to do Infinite Crisis. But I thought I'd gotten past the days when I'd buy a book just for the art.

But here's the rub: the events of Infinite Crisis are supposed to affect all the DC universe comics, and I don't want to be lost when the DC comics I read are affected. On the other hand, the only DC universe comics I'm currently getting, as of my current order, would be Birds of Prey, Supergirl (and who knows if I'll still be reading that by the time Infinite Crisis comes out), Gotham Central, and Plastic Man. And Plastic Man probably won't be too heavily affected at all.

So, that's not many books to worry about. But I just read that Gotham Central, the comic that focuses on the police in Batman's world, and thus doesn't leave the bad taste in my mouth that the other Batman comics do these days, will be crossing over with Infinite Crisis. And, as part of the tie-in, Captain Marvel, perhaps one of my most favorite superheroes, more so than even Superman, almost on a level with Batman, will be guest-starring in Gotham Central. So... I don't know. But until I decide not to get Infinite Crisis, I can't really bitch about the whole thing, because that would be hypocritical.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Okay, so far, the winner for most irritating podcast from a professional organization is TV Guide. (I don't think I could pick a winner for the most irritating amateur podcast.) It's bad enough that the presenters and their commentary are about as sharp and insightful as a bag of wet cement. But it's 40 minutes each week. Who has that kind of time?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New on eBay: 18-foot, flame-fisted 'mech' | CNET "The 18-foot-tall giant in steelworker Carlos Owens' Alaska backyard isn't quite up to smashing Volkswagens--or taking the kind of pounding footsteps that might strike fear into the heart of an enemy."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Forgot to mention the trailers I saw yesterday:

The Transporter 2: The first one looked pretty cool in the trailers, and then turned out to be kind of stupid and empty. This one looks kind of stupid and empty in the trailer. Waiting for cable...

King Kong in Color: I had suspected my excitement level about the new King King movie might rise when I saw the trailer on the big screen. It didn't, for all the reasons previously stated, but I'll still see the movie when it comes out, because I suspect the thrill of actually seeing a good remake of this story I love will be more satisfying than seeing a bunch of familiar clips redone with a bigger budget.

Sky High: Actually looks like fun, and it's written by the creators of Kim Possible. If I thought the theater would be empty, I'd consider seeing this in the theater.

And that's actually all I can remember.
Genocide is news | Be A Witness: "Genocide is the ultimate crime against humanity. And a government-backed genocide is unfolding in the Darfur region of the Sudan. As the horror in Darfur continues, our major television news networks are largely missing in action."

Okay, back to politics, briefly... Cynically, I know campaigns like this probably won't make any progress, because people just don't want to hear bad news, particularly if it's happening to someone else somewhere else. But I'm all for anything that might result in the American public being just that little bit less ignorant...
James Bond 007 - - James Bond At Its Best - 2006 - BloodFever - Young Bond Book 2 is 'BloodFever': "Following the huge success of the first Young Bond book, SilverFin, Puffin Books and Ian Fleming Publications are delighted to reveal the title and jacket image for the second book in the series, BloodFever, which will be published on Thursday 5th January 2006. The book is by the much-acclaimed author of SilverFin, Charlie Higson."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

So, Fantastic Four. Saw it, enjoyed it. It's apparently getting some lousy reviews, but since I don't read reviews, I don't know what the complaints are. (Nor do I care, really; what, am I supposed to read them and then go, "Oh, I guess I shouldn't have enjoyed this or that after all?" Or do I give a damn about debating them? No, don't think so.) Here, then, are my thoughts--my review, as it were--if anyone cares.

I really liked the main characters. They felt true to the spirit of the original comic book characters while feeling like a fresh interpretation. Chris Evans was great as the Human Torch, Ioan Griffud brought the right amounts of charm and brainy awkwardness to Reed Richards, and Michael Chiklis came across quite well as the Thing, making him seem more than just a guy in a suit. (And looking much less like a big, orange turd than he had in the photos I'd seen.) And Jessica Alba as Sue Storm... Well, when isn't Jessica Alba great?

The dynamics between the characters also felt true to the original. And the movie had enough sense to realize that the Fantastic Four is a family, instead of a super-group. Also, the film got to the origin quickly enough that it didn't feel like we were waiting forever to get to the point.

However, what the movie gets wrong, and it's a pretty big failure, is there isn't very much of the fantastic going on. The movie feels small and empty and cheap. In the beginning, Victor von Doom apparently has this big, sophisticated space station orbiting the Earth, but apparently, there isn't anybody actually on board running it, because we don't see anyone else (that I can recall), and certainly nobody else gets zapped by the cosmic rays. Much of the movie involves the cast sitting in rooms talking to each other. They don't get out, they don't have adventures, and they don't really use their powers for most of the film. Until the big battle with Doctor Doom (who is never called that), which brings me to another problem. But overall, it feels more like a TV movie than a big-screen adventure.

Doctor Doom is, arguably, the number one Fantastic Four villain. But, in the context of this movie, it just didn't quite work for me. For one thing, when the Fantastic Four comic is good--which isn't as often as you might think, for the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Comic Magazine"--it's not about these superpowered folks fighting crime or beating villains. It's about them having adventures, which do bring them into conflict with others, but not exactly the same as in a Spider-Man or Daredevil story. So, when the only thing we see the FF doing in this movie is fighting Doctor Doom, it just doesn't feel quite right. Particularly since, in this story, he's played as a failed businessman trying to revive his company's fortunes, who then finds himself with superpowers. Not only is this pretty close to the Spider-Man movies' Norman Osborne, but when you pit one guy against the Fantastic Four, he's just going to look outnumbered. Which is indeed how the fight at the end of this movie feels. There isn't a real sense of threat or jeopardy. Maybe they should have fought some sort of giant mole monster or something.

Having said that, despite its flaws, Jessica Alba isn't in the movie any less, so I'm ultimately okay with the whole thing. But it's no Batman Begins.

And seeing it in a crowded theater with a bunch of screaming monkey-children, and sitting right in front of Darth Vader (okay, a guy stuck breathing out of an oxygen tank, but a loud oxygen tank), I have decided I never want to see a movie in a theater with other people ever again. Seriously, it was like sitting in the middle of the fucking zoo. So my enthusiasm for seeing War of the Worlds or The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D in the theater has dropped off almost completely. I can watch them on DVD, even smaller, if it means I don't have to listen to monkey-children screeching.