Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September Q & A: Zach and Rich

We close out our September Q & A with one a little more free form, as Rich asks, “If you and I were erased from existence and replaced with Zach Huang and Richard Savage, what would they be like - and what implications for our friends and the world?”

An intriguing if bizarre question, and one that deserves careful scrutiny. While it’s a bit unclear, I’m assuming this is asking what would our lives have been like if we had grown up in each other’s families (and presumably races) rather than our own. Richard Savage would then grow up in a fairly liberal white family with an older and obnoxious sister in a quiet all-white town, while Zachary Huang would grow up in a mystery home and a mystery family in a mystery town with an unknown number of siblings. It strikes me that I am not the greatest possible data-seeker with my friends.

I’m curious as to how Rich Savage would survive the Pitman public school system: I was never really bullied, but I’m not sure if that’s because there wasn’t really a pattern of bullying at my school, or just because my fellow students were kind of afraid of me. So, since he presumably wouldn’t have been involved in such delightful childhood incidents like stabbing a kid in the head with a pencil in 8th grade, or choking a friend unconscious in the hallway senior year, he may have had to face bullies a bit more often than I did. It would probably be made up for though, as his interest in a legal career would almost certainly be better embraced by Mr. Savage, as would his love of ancient history (we both loved video games, so that’s a wash).

It’s a bit more of a mystery to me as to how Zach Huang’s life would be growing up, since I haven’t the slightest idea of what Rich’s childhood was like (we have far more important matters to discuss when we talk, like whether ancient Greece or ancient Rome was better), though I wager I can imagine a few changes in my life: without the father that I actually got, I’d probably have better spending habits than I do now, which would be a double-edged sword of ensuring that I would have a lot more money on hand at the expense of not having the totally amazing movie collection that I currently have. Granted, much like my other friends I doubt I’d know what I was missing (you should hear the foolish things some people have said about my collection being “excessive” or worse!), but that’s no excuse at all. With Asian parents I probably also wouldn’t have been able to try to go to college for theater instead of one I’d be able to make a living from, so there’s a good chance I’d currently have a degree that’s more helpful in getting a job.

Which brings us to college, and our subsequent romances. Rich has always struck me as being a bit more monogamous than me, though that may be somewhat more due to the women we’ve both wound up with. Regardless, he’d almost certainly have properly patched things up with my first girlfriend after the initial break-up (she had cheated on me with someone that dumped her almost immediately after she left me for him -- ah, young love), unlike how I reacted, which was the bad decision to sleep with her a few more times before breaking things off for good (I never claimed to be a saint, people). Hell, poor Rich might still be with her to this day, saddled with children before his time. Of course, Zach Huang would be very unlikely to have had such a lengthy relationship with real world Rich’s ex (I’m keeping the girl’s names out of this, obviously -- Zach Savage and Rich Huang may not be afraid of cyber stalkers, but that doesn’t mean we need to drag everyone else down with us), which probably would have made me actually fit in a bit better with the rest of our college friends, as they were all about relationship swapping and awkward avoidances throughout school, so dating and breaking up with Rich’s ex would be par for the course with all of us. And if Rich’s ex is reading this, I’m sorry dear. I do hope you’re feeling better after such a lousy birthday weekend, but this bird was meant to live uncaged!

It’s hard to say what changes this would all have on the world at large, mainly because neither of us has yet to do anything to affect the world, so I suppose changing our identities would have to have a greater effect on the world at large, because it could hardly have less of one. Still, only time will tell, because we are both still young men, and most of our chances to remake the world in our image still lie before us.

For that matter, while I’m going back to movie reviews tomorrow, I trust that the site’s future is still mostly ahead of it, and I hope that you’ll all stay tuned for that as well. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the occasionally grotesquely self-indulgent September Q & A, and please don’t stop visiting. I’ll cry if you do.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September Q & A: Bob Harras

Jason has another question (and one easier to answer than yesterday’s) with, “Will Bob Harras (newly announced Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics) be better than Dan DiDio?”

Glad you asked! The promotion of Harras to being DC EiC was kind of a surprising one for two reasons: for starters, when Dan DiDio and Jim Lee got promoted to co-publishers, no mention was made of the need for an editor in chief at DC, and it was just kind of assumed by everyone (or at least everyone outside the company) that the two of them would be handling EiC duties as part of their new job. The second reason this is so surprising is that Bob Harras was arguably the single worst EiC in Marvel Comics history, so he doesn’t exactly have the proudest possible history to work with.

Harras’ first major effort as editor was in the early 90s, when he was EiC of all the X-titles (this was at a time when Marvel had five EiCs, each one controlling a different section of their comics). For those that weren’t reading Marvel Comics at the time, this was the time when the mutant titles first began getting completely bogged down in yearly crossovers like X-Cutioner’s Song, the Phalanx Covenant, and the Age of Apocalypse, and writers of Uncanny X-Men and its sister title X-Men started going through writers at a pretty rapid clip due to editorial interference. In 1995, when he took over as EiC of the entire company, he expanded that practice (the crossover practice, not the rapid turnaround of writers, though that did continue on the X-Men until Grant Morrison was hired after Harras’ ouster) throughout the entire company, beginning with stretching out the Spider-Clone Saga for more than a year longer than originally intended, along with Onslaught, which fed into Heroes Reborn and Zero Tolerance, which fed into Heroes Return, etc. until we get to the present day when Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio have both decided to announce that their exciting events after Siege and Blackest Night were that both companies were going to take a year off from the company-wide crossovers.

This crossover obsession that Harras largely spearheaded has been deeply poisonous to the comics industry, leaving us with two major companies that are now caught in the situation where they have to keep doing these major crossovers to keep readership up, even though those very crossovers leave their core audience increasingly burned out and bitter. He also presided over Marvel during its bankruptcy and near-breakup (before Toy Biz stepped in and bought the company), but that wasn’t really his fault. He became EiC right when the company was busy collapsing around him due to the disastrous business decision of former owner Ronald Perelman, and while Harras certainly didn’t do anything to help save the company, he didn’t really have the opportunity to do any substantial harm financially.

Of course, now that we’ve established that he was a pretty disastrous EiC, we can move on to the more pertinent question: will he still be better than Dan DiDio was? DiDio became Executive Editor of DC in 2004, replacing Mike Carlin, and his reign was largely marked by controversy as well. While it had been planned well before he became head editor, it’s not out of place to mark the beginning of his tenure with the release of Identity Crisis, a seven issue miniseries that helped bring the DC Universe into a more “mature” environment, that environment being one filled with rape, excessive character deaths, and heroes frequently behaving like villains (such as the numerous brainwashings). Of course, it’s also been marked by quite a few good developments as well, such as a willingness to launch numerous new titles and characters in the hopes of expanding the business, such as Shadowpact, Blue Beetle, All-New Atom, and R.E.B.E.L.S., and while most were eventually cancelled due to poor sales (the new Atom, in fact, wound up being killed), he showed a willingness to experiment that is pretty healthy for an EiC. He also gave Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns free rein to reshape the company however they saw fit, and while that helped result in the rejection of all DC’s innovations of the 80s and 90s in favor of more Silver Age-oriented stories, it also led to the two of them making franchises like Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman exciting again (indeed, I for one would argue that Morrison’s Batman and Johns’ Green Lantern and Flash are the best any of those franchises have ever been, however lame Blackest Night may have been).

So I guess what I’m saying is that DiDio was a very mixed bag as Executive Editor, Harras was pretty much a disaster. I mean, perhaps I’m being a little too hard on him -- I can indeed recall some good runs during his tenure, like Kurt Busiek’s fantastic run on Avengers that has yet to be topped, and he was the one that gave the go-ahead for Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo’s completely awesome comic Generation X(though he did later help drive Lobdell away from Marvel entirely), but the good parts of his tenure were pretty few and far between. This is admittedly coming from someone that’s never worked in the industry and has never had a single interaction with the man, and it seems that quite a lot of industry vets seem to feel that he will be a great benefit to the company, so I may well be talking completely out of my ass here. I do like DC quite a bit, and I hope he works out well for them, but I have serious doubts that he’ll even be as good as DiDio was, let alone that he’ll be able to turn the company around sales- and creative-wise. Still, I also thought Quesada was doing a terrible job when he first started, so I have been wrong about this sort of thing before.


Monday, September 27, 2010

September Q & A: Epaminondas

Rich, never one to shy away from asking the tough questions, gives us quite the poser with, “What would've happened if Epaminondas was defeated at Leuctra and 371BC? What are the implications for Sparta, Thebes, Phillip and, ultimately, Alexander?"

It appears as though Wikipedia is once again going to get a workout, as I figure out what the hell this question is asking. It’s a good thing September is ending soon, because I really do not want to answer any more of these mad questions of ancient Europe. Regardless, Epaminondas, or E Unit as I like to call him, was a Theban general (or Boeotarch) who, in 371 BC, pretty much torpedoed a Greek peace process, and then led the Theban armies to a decisive victory over Sparta, effectively ending Spartan dominance over Greece, and leading to a brief period of Theban dominance that led to a great deal more warfare.

Of course, we’re now dealing with a mad alternate world in which he lost the Battle of Leuctra, presumably dying in the process because that’s how the ancient Greeks rolled. The main thing that would change would be in how Sparta would have retained its hegemony over the rest of Greece for some time longer, while Thebes would have remained a vassal state, unloved and forgotten.

I doubt there would have been a very drastic difference for the Macedonian contingent, as if anything, they would likely have crushed the Greek armies even more easily without E Unit having helped to revolutionize the way Greek armies fought. One of the reasons the Spartan armies lost the Battle of Leuctra in Earth-1 was because they held fast to outdated fighting tactics, and so lost to an inferior force that nonetheless had a much more intuitive fighting style. On Earth-2, without that happening, the Spartans (and Greeks in general) would have had no real impetus to change their fighting style, and so would have been left even further behind the Macedonian armies when Philip came a’calling.

Of course, on Earth-2, the Greek armies would have one advantage: it doesn’t really matter who wins or loses on their world, as that world has a very definite expiration date. No, it may not arrive when Sparta reigns supreme over Greece, or when Macedonia rules over it, or when the Roman Empire is in charge, but one day the Anti-Monitor is going to show up and eat the whole damn universe, and there is nothing Philip or Alexander or E Unit or all three in a united effort can do about it. Under such circumstances, would it really matter one bit whether the Greeks won or lost?

Sure, sure, I know there are those out there that would try to argue that everything matters, that God has a plan for us all, and we are just spitting in his face if we don’t live our lives to the end the way he wants us too. Well, boys and girls, I’m here to tell you that that’s a load of crap. Would a truly loving God put us all in this world, only to then allow the Anti-Monitor to erase all of existence, rendering all of our hopes and dreams, our achievements and accomplishments, thoroughly meaningless? Of course not. The Anti-Monitor’s existence is proof in the falsity of religion. All that we are is a grand cosmic mistake, brought into our hellish existence by the cruelties of random chance, and torn out of existence just as harshly. We are all doomed to misery before vanishing into the void as if we had never been at all. That is our only promise for the future.

When faced with such a gloomy reality then, does it truly matter whether or not Epaminondas was defeated at Leuctra or not?


September Q & A: TV

Today we get a couple TV related questions from Jasmine, who writes, “Have you watched Glee yet?”

I sure have, and I am a huge fan. I’ve always been a big musical nut, so the concept of a musical TV show certainly has a great deal of appeal to me. Add to that that it’s probably the most light-hearted and cheerful shows I’ve ever seen (despite the occasional foray into more serious subject matter, like gay bashing and teen pregnancy), and Fox has a clear winner on their hands that they’ll no doubt be cancelling soon just to spite me.

That’s not to say that the show is perfect, of course. While I get that it’s about a glee club, and glee clubs aren’t really known for doing obscure songs, it would be nice if every single song on the show didn’t have to be a major multi-platinum hit. While I’m not expecting them to suddenly bust out a song by the Teardrop Explodes or Love or someone, they could at least occasionally do something by a semi-popular indie band like the Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, or the Decemberists. Hell, they even have a goth girl in the glee club, and did an entire episode based around how it should be okay for her to be a goth because she’s just expressing her individuality, and what goth music did they use to promote this? No, not Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy or Depeche Mode or the Cure. Nope, the whole episode was about Lady Gaga, because who says goth better than that? Also, I don’t care how energetically Matthew Morrison dances to it, the Thong Song is neither a great nor a good song (the show tries to claim both).

Of course, that’s not really a huge issue (unless it goes on for five seasons, in which case they will seriously need to expand their musical expertise a bit more), and as long as Jane Lynch stays as wonderfully hostile and insane as she was for the entire first season, I’m sure the show will do just fine for itself.

Also, “Why do you like The Big Bang Theory?”

The main reason is simply how it’s the single best repository of nerd humor that has ever made it to TV. Every single episode is awash in great jokes about comic books, science fiction, physics, and other wonderful nerd jokes that tend to go right over the heads of non-nerds. Indeed, I think my single favorite moment from season three came when Sheldon, drunk on wine, decided to bust out a Tom Lehrer song while giving an acceptance speech. Simply put, when the nerdy four of the five main characters are all bouncing off one another, it is one of the funniest shows out there.

Of course, my saying that tends to highlight the show’s greatest weakness, which is Penny. I get what the mindset is behind her character: she’s a combination sexy love interest and a gateway to the “real” world for the nerd crew. Unfortunately, in practice we just get a character that’s trying so hard to be hot that she’s almost never actually funny (which I think one can agree is generally a problem on a comedy), and the “real world” we witness generally never seems to evolve beyond stock stereotypes of high school (which, curiously, you can also witness in Glee) of big muscular bullies tormenting all the nerds. Not to mention I’m pretty sure Penny is meant to be an average person, and instead she’s borderline retarded (it’s possible that me and my friends are a great deal smarter than the average person, but I’ve seen myself and my friends in action and I don’t buy that for a moment), so roughly half of her interactions with the nerds basically consist of the nerds saying something smart and her going “Huh?” I don’t know how much of the show’s audience would not be watching the show without her, but I personally wouldn’t mind in the slightest if she got phased out completely, freeing up more time for Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Town

While Ben Affleck’s acting career has been pretty hit-or-miss both quality-wise and box office-wise, he is now two for two with great directing jobs. His Boston, here just as in Gone Baby Gone, is as textured and crime-riddled as New York was in the 70s. If it isn’t quite on the level of his directing debut, that’s only because he set the bar dauntingly high for himself.

In addition to directing and co-writing here, Affleck also stars as Doug, a professional bank robber who’s just completely beaten down by the life he’s been born and raised into. His life finally takes a turn when he meets Claire (Rebecca Hall), the manager of a bank he and his crew rob. Following her to make sure she isn’t talking to the police, they accidentally start talking and soon move on to dating. Through her, he sees the chance of a life that’s better than the one he has, and begins to fool himself into thinking he can escape from his old life. Unfortunately, his old ties, particularly his boss Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) and his best friend Jem (Jeremy Renner) are determined to do everything in their power to keep him right where he belongs.

So I’m making the film sound like more of a character study now than a crime movie, and while that’s certainly true, that’s certainly not intended to ignore the action scenes and ever-mounting tension to be found in the film. There are three major action scenes spread throughout the film: the opening bank robbery, a car chase with the police about halfway through the film, and a massive shoot-out with the Boston PD and the FBI at the climax, all of which work extremely well. The car chase in particular is quite possibly the best I’ve seen in a film in the last ten years, and I think part of the reason it works so well comes from how emotionally invested we’ve gotten in the story and its characters. Compare this to, say, the part in G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra when the Joes are chasing after Cobra agents through Paris and trying to recover a dangerous warhead from them. Guns are firing, cars are being destroyed, there’s explosions and chaos everywhere, and it’s completely impossible to give a damn about any of it because all the characters are such bland ciphers that nobody on the entire planet could have any emotional stake in the outcome.

The tension in the film also builds itself up at a perfect, steady pace. The film rarely feels the modern need to scream at the audience that they should be nervous, but like a classic noir we can still feel, as the movie progresses, the slow and inevitable feeling that doom is hovering over all of the characters, merely biding its time before it descends upon all of them. Consider one masterfully done scene partway through. Doug and Claire are eating lunch at a sidewalk cafĂ©, when Jem shows up and introduces himself to Claire. Doug knows that Jem has a tattoo on the back of his neck that Claire can’t be allowed to see or she‘ll know that he was part of the crew that robbed her bank, and tries to silently signal to Jem that he needs to leave immediately. Jem is unaware that his tattoo would be a giveaway, though, and decides to ignore Doug’s signaling, staying around to torment Doug and express his great displeasure at Doug dating a witness that could potentially get them all thrown back in jail, all while seeming polite and cheerful to Claire. You almost want to start screaming when you watch the scene unfold, because Jem is such a loose cannon throughout the film that we have no idea from moment to moment what he’s capable of doing next. We get the feeling that, should she discover the tattoo and start freaking out, he might just pull out a gun right then and there and shoot her publicly, worrying about the consequences later. Indeed, between this film and The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner is really showing a virtually limitless range as an actor. He so fully embodies his role here that we start to wish the film had been about him instead. Where Affleck’s character is mostly dead inside, Renner is so full of life that he almost jumps out of the screen, leaving chaos wherever he goes.

I’m really liking the recent resurgence in quality crime movies. With this, Gone Baby Gone, The Departed, and others, we’re very slowly starting to get some films that properly evoke the great noirs of the 40s and 50s, crime stories that you can really get down and dirty with, and I for one could not be happier. This may be a bit slow-paced for the ADD generation, but for those who like an absorbing film that actually takes the time to say something, you can’t go wrong here.

Rating: *** ½


September Q & A: Why are video game movies so lame?

Jason asks, “Why do you think it is that all video game movies suck so badly?  Is it that video games have bad writing overall or is it something else?”

I don’t think it really has anything in particular to do with the overall storylines of the games themselves, I’d say that the main problem comes from how little respect Hollywood (and the writers and directors there) have for video games, and how movies based on them are treated as nothing more than cheap cash-ins. This is not to say that the general poor stories from the games don’t contribute at all, but video game movies have much bigger problems facing them.

We’ll set aside the films of Uwe Boll for the moment (though I do have to appreciate the brass ones involved in just straight up separating scenes in House of the Dead with actual footage of the game) and just focus on the more mainstream ones. In the last five years, we’ve gotten the following in theaters: Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, DOA: Dead or Alive, Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun Li, Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time, the King of Fighters, and Tekken (plus a surprising number of Boll movies that we‘re discounting). Notice that, with the possible exception of Advent Children, every single one of these is either an action movie or a horror movie (and the three Resident Evil films are really action-horror, with Silent Hill being the lone straight horror movie). Now, I have not seen Advent Children, but I did just watch the trailer on Youtube and it seems to be focused almost entirely on big loud action scenes too, which tells me that when Hollywood thinks of video games, they think of people shooting or hitting each other and absolutely nothing else.

I’m not sure it’s that much of a coincidence that my favorite video game movie (or at least my favorite movie based on an actual video game, which discounts Scott Pilgrim) is none other than Silent Hill, which is the only one that actually focuses on anything other than people assaulting one another. Even it isn’t a really perfect film, with its largely nonsensical plot (though to be fair, it’s only taking after the game series there), but it at least succeeds with what it’s attempting to do, which is to create a lot of creepy, horrifying images and set pieces for us to pull us into a nightmare world. The rest of the films could theoretically work as action movies (after all, there’s nothing at all wrong with action movies, if that’s what you’re trying to do), except that they’re generally made lazily and incompetently, with the film studios generally signing up directors with poor or nonexistent track records and assuming that name value from the games alone will be enough to sell the movies. I’ve been picking on Uwe Boll so far here, but it’s not even like he’s the worst offender in this; if you watch his films, he’s very visibly tried to improve as a filmmaker with each of his movies, to the point where he’s become downright competent over the past couple years. Compare his recent work with the film career of, say, Andrzej Bartkowiak, who made his directorial debut with the terrible Jet Li film Romeo Must Die, and somehow managed to get worse over time, giving us Doom and Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun-Li as his last two films. Or there’s the always wonderful Paul W.S. Anderson, who peaked early in his career with the surprisingly acceptable films Event Horizon and Mortal Kombat (made in 1995 and still holds up, I feel, as the single best movie with a fighting tournament that was based on a video game and wasn‘t animated, which I know you all agree is high praise indeed) has since gone on to direct such drivel as Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Afterlife, while also finding time to inflict Alien vs. Predator on all of us (by the way, he was also the one that made the decision to make a movie combining two franchises that had both been hard R in every film, and make their joining a PG-13 affair).

Now, while I admit that a) video games tend to not have really elaborate or, well, non-retarded plots, and b) video games, as often as not, involve the main characters hitting or shooting enemies, that’s hardly all video games (who wouldn‘t love to see a film version of, say, PaRappa the Rapper or Katamari Damacy or Pikmin or Call of Dut--well okay, it‘s not like I‘m saying no games at all are based on shooting people), and yet that’s all Hollywood seems to ever understand from them. Hell, even when a game *is* based around shooting one’s enemies, Hollywood tends to screw it up, like with Hitman. Those that played the games will recall that the series was based around being a competent assassin, sneaking around undetected, generally killing the targets with one shot so they can’t raise any alarms, rewarding players that don’t kill indiscriminately. So of course the movie had Timothy Olyphant running around blasting everyone he saw and getting chased by the police and the mob everywhere he turned because he was the exact opposite of stealthy. Of course video game movies are going to be lousy, if all the studios are doing is reading how many copies of the games have sold, getting a quick one page sheet of the major characters and a sentence or two of plot synopsis, and making the movies based on nothing more than that. But hey, I do have a great deal of optimism that within the next ten or twenty years, we will start getting (a small percentage of) movies based on video games that turn out to actually be really, really good. If nothing else, at his current rate of growth, Boll should start making some really good movies in another five to ten years.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September Q & A: Godzilla, walrus, and grizzly

We go back to longer answers with Jasmine, who gives us a bit of a twofer: “Who would you like to take on in a fight a walrus, a grizzly, or Godzilla? If it was a tag team fight who would you pick as a partner to go vs. the other 2?”

Let it be known that I am not a particularly proud man. When push comes to shove, I will absolutely take the path least likely to get me killed, and when faced with a fight to the death against a walrus, a grizzly, or goddamn Godzilla (Gojira to my Asian homeys), the only one I could possibly hope to not be horribly killed against is the walrus. Walruses are pretty nasty, and I think they’re actually pretty fast given that they’re all tusks and blubber, but they’re also killable by a human being without access to high-tech weaponry. The grizzly bear is also killable by mere mortals, as the “classic” 1976 film Grizzly taught me, but you pretty much need a bazooka to accomplish this; hell, they can apparently just swat you out of the air when you’re flying over them in a helicopter (the movie may have been exaggerating somewhat on this point, but I choose to believe it was an actual documentary with some extremely brave and lucky cameramen).

Godzilla, on the other hand? I have never once seen him actually killed, despite spending dozens of movies fighting other monsters as big as or even bigger than him, all while cheerfully ignoring any and all pitiful human efforts to destroy him. Sure, the American Godzilla got killed back in 1998 (and again in Godzilla: Final Wars, where the Japanese Godzilla took him out in one hit like a champ), but it was some retarded cross between a T-Rex and that nasty squid thing from Deep Rising by the guy that did The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, so it doesn’t really count. Every time puny humans (or semi-puny aliens) have tried to stop him, their efforts have been met with dismal failure. While I could quite possibly manage to run away from him successfully if he came at me, it would only be because he decided to spend some time wiping out my whole town and the surrounding countryside, and probably all the rest of New Jersey in the process. As many of you know, that’s where pretty much all my stuff is, as well as most of my friends and family, and I cannot condone this.

By the same token, though, I would absolutely want Godzilla on my side (or better yet, in front of me) in my tag team match against the indigenous wildlife of Canada, preferably in a Canadian setting so that nobody I really care about would die. The grizzly/walrus tag team wouldn’t stand a chance against us, though I suspect I’d most likely be playing a bit of a Ricky Morton role, coming in and getting badly beaten until I could make the hot tag to my partner. I mean, it’s not like I get into fights very often (a whole one in my entire adult life, and that didn’t last very long), and I’ve seen Godzilla tag teaming quite a few times, my favorite being when he partnered up with King Seesar to take on the ultimate threat of Mechagodzilla in the classic film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Really, there’s only two situations in which I could see the Zach “The Savage” Savage/Godzilla tag team on our quest to the Tag Team titles. One would be if we went in unprepared against the Mega Powers, the classic late 80s pairing of Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man. Obviously I’d be pairing off with Randy, so all the fans could see which Savage was the superior one, and I’d leave Godzilla to do the real heavy lifting with Hogan. Now, I’m sure my boy ‘zilla would do some serious damage, but I just don’t know that even he would be able to withstand the devastating power of Hulkamania unleashed, particularly if their manager Miss Elizabeth decided to interfere with the match, a possibility that seems to be curiously high in the world of professional wrestling. The other danger would be if we somehow got roped into participating in a War Games scenario against the original (mid-80s) Four Horsemen lineup of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Barry Windham, with manager James J. Dillon. Not only would it be a four on two fight in the confines of an oversized cage, but the Horsemen were all about cheating to win, going so far as to straight up break rival Dusty Rhodes’ hand and ankle as part of their treacherous ways. Now, while I personally have no real problem with sneaking in some blinding powder or a random foreign object in my trunks to give me an edge, my partner Godzilla always fights honorably, which could easily put him at a disadvantage in the proceedings. Of course, if we were to go into a War Games against the mid-90s lineup that I first saw of the Horsemen, that of Flair, Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, and Steve “Weak Link” McMichael, we would easily run roughshod all over them, much as the nWo did for pretty much that entire incarnation. Even Walrus/Grizzly would destroy that team, and they wouldn‘t even need Fake Sting to do it.


September Q & A: Potpourri

I’ve gotten a few questions for the month that aren’t really elaborate enough for me to stretch out an entire post, so to solve this issue I figured I’d take several of them and mash them all up into one grand post. Enjoy!

First up, Jasmine: “What’s the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?”

Nine letters. Also, Wikipedia tells me it’s actually somewhat more complicated than that, as the yam is actually part of the Dioscoreaceae family while the sweet potato is part of the Convolvulaceae family, which would probably mean quite a bit to me if I ever ate either of them. Sadly for those of you whose lives hinged on this answer, though, not only am I neither a botanist or a farmer, I also don’t think I’ve ever eaten either food. As such, I can’t bring myself to research a question so without value to myself.

Jasmine has another quick question, “Why are you eerily similar to the character Dwight Schrute? Do you think the writers of The Office know you or are stalking you and creating a character based off of you?”

Let the record state that my friend Laura has confirmed that I do not look like Dwight, so neener neener on you. Unfortunately, the reason that came up in conversation was because my hoarder uncle, who just moved in with us last week until he recovers from an infection, saw me watching the Office, pointed at Dwight, and told me he looked just like me, which gives me just one further reason to dislike my uncle greatly. That said, I do want royalties, because I am nothing if not a total whore for money.

Shana also chimed in, asking, “Who’s your favorite character on How I Met Your Mother and why?”

Much like pretty much everyone else who watches the show, my favorite character is Barney. Yes, I still have the stalkerish crush on Alyson Hannigan that I’ve had since I first started watching Buffy, though that’s slightly diminished by her having dyed her hair black a few seasons ago. Seriously, her natural red hair was beautiful, why she felt she had to change it is beyond me. Really, though, as long as we can all agree that nobody’s favorite character is Ted.

Shana again: “If you could be any character from the "Twilight Saga", other than any of the Volturi or the kiddies they run Dakota Fanning...who would you be and why?”

It’s a testament to how well I paid attention when watching the Twilight movies that I only have a vague idea of who the Volturi are (they’re one of the vampire families, right?), which does leave my options here somewhat limited. I’d definitely hate to be Bella, what with her having to go through life with scoliosis and a textbook abusive boyfriend. I’d also hate to be Jacob, because I’d have to spend all day every day working on my 300-inspired CG abs to try to distract attention away from the Lovecraftian horror that is my nose. While I hear it’s quite fun to be an abusive boyfriend, and it pretty much has to be fun to be able to race up a giant tree, I also wouldn’t want to be Edward, because let’s be honest, high school sucks bad enough when you have to be there for four years, let alone over one hundred years (seriously, didn’t the teachers ever get suspicious?). I’d probably have to choose to be Alice Cullen, because really, who wouldn’t want to look like this?

My stalker Shana once more asks, “What is with this retarded fascination people have with those freakin ‘Silly Band’ bracelets? Why does it appeal to all ages, from lil kids all the way up to college kids...maybe even older...both males and females? I don't get it.”

Well, my keen grasp of children’s pop culture may be slipping a little, as I had to go on Wikipedia to find out what they were. Now that I know, I find I also do not see the appeal. Kids today should have cooler fads like we had back in the 80s, such as slappy bracelets and jellies.

We’ll close this out with (surprise surprise) Shana, who asks, “Why did people ever find Jerry Seinfeld funny? I get that about as much as I get this Silly Band craze.”

For those that didn’t figure out from her name, Shana is Jewish, and for those that didn’t figure out from her question, she’s so totally a self-hating one. She’s complained about pretty much every Jewish comedian I could name, from Seinfeld to Woody Allen, saying she hates their whiny voices. So really it’s more of a matter of her hating her heritage, I’d say. Still, the question is partially faulty, as it assumes people don’t still find Seinfeld funny, as he tends to sell out every theater he performs in, and the Bee Movie, while a bit of an underperformer, still made over a hundred million in theaters, so over a decade after he ended his show while it was still the most-watched show on television, he’s still doing pretty well for himself.

That said, there’s a few reasons people found his show funny (I’m assuming here that like most people, she only knows him from his show). Obviously first and foremost is that it was really clever and funny, with Jerry and Larry David creating a perfect blend of light-hearted silliness and cynical meanness that should never have worked, except for how it totally did. It was also completely unconventional: while the show wasn’t quite about nothing like it often claimed to be, it had no problem frequently basing entire episodes around the cast getting stuck in some lousy situation and just having them all bounce off of each other (as opposed to other sitcoms at the time, which did tend to make sure each episode had an actual plot to follow), and Seinfeld held fast to one of his core plans for the show: that nobody would ever learn anything. That may not sound like much, but it’s something that no other sitcom (hell, no other show) had ever done before, to go through nine entire seasons without the characters changing in the slightest bit from the first episode (or the second episode, in the case of Elaine). They may have gotten different jobs, fallen into and out of different relationships, but they always wound up right back where they started before too much longer, which meant that they could never do any kind of real Special Episode like a two parter wedding, requiring them to keep their ratings through nothing more than strong writing instead of stunts or extensive celebrity guest spots (check out season two of Friends for a great example of the latter, where now that the show was a hit, every other episode had a new celebrity popping up). It also wasn’t afraid to break the fourth wall more than slightly, throwing in Jerry’s actual stand-up in each episode, while on the scripted show proper he plays a stand-up comedian named Jerry Seinfeld who spends half of each episode smiling and visibly trying not to giggle at how much he’s lucked out with this dream job. Compare that to, say, George Carlin on his sitcom the George Carlin Show, where he just looked like he was having a miserable time right up until the show was mercy-killed, or how unhappy Louie C.K. is frequently looking on his new show Louie (though to be fair, that show is intentionally going for uncomfortable, mean-spirited humor, and while I can’t say I find it all that funny, it certainly has succeeded on the uncomfortableness and mean-spiritedness, and it‘s the only sitcom I‘ve seen since Seinfeld that also worked in the star‘s stand-up). It’s a series filled with rule-breaking that’s been frequently imitated, but has yet to be successfully copied, and while I don’t think it’s the best show of all time by any means, I can’t deny that it’s easily the most game-changing sitcom since the genre was invented back in the 50s. That said though, his documentary Comedian? Really not very good at all. Don't see that.


Monday, September 20, 2010

September Q & A: No more movies

We kick off the week with a big one, as Rich asks, “What would you do if movies did not exist?”

Well, the short answer is that I’d play a lot more video games. I first started getting hardcore into movies in high school/early college, which corresponded pretty closely to when I stopped playing video games. It was largely just replacing one obsession with another, really. I have been trying to make more of an effort with my video gaming over the past year or so, and I’ll hopefully be getting a PS3 sometime in the next year (yes, just in time for a PS4 announcement, no doubt, or if the luck I had with the PS2 continues, I’ll be getting the PS3 just a couple weeks before a surprise price drop). So yes, if movies did not exist, I’d still have all my video games to keep me company. And my books, which I’d definitely have more time to read. And my comics too.

Of course, without movies, video games and comics would be pretty drastically different too. Both forms of entertainment have pilfered quite heavily from movies over the years, to the point where people seem to feel the need for extensive cinematic cut scenes and dense plots in most of their video games now or they’ll feel they didn’t get their money’s worth. Comics had largely moved on from aping movies for a good half a century, but over the past decade when it was discovered that film studios could actually make tons of money off of comic book movies, the comics industry has been flooded with writers trying to use comics as a springboard for a film career, making overly long stories that take half a year to conclude, and making mainstream superhero comics into the more violent, cynical beast they are today. I much prefer when a medium manages to utilize its own strengths, rather than trying to ape the strengths of another medium.

That’s a tangent for another day, however. Once more delving back to how I had been back before I became a movie addict, we can theorize how else I would be changed today. I went to a lot more concerts, as I had a great deal more disposable income at my fingertips (which would also mean I’d most likely have the money for my own place if I wasn’t always going about buying up all the movies I could find). I was also on the Internet a lot less, as several of the sites I was first obsessed with were movie-related, be they IMDB or Roger Ebert’s website or Amazon. I’m still obsessed with Ebert and Amazon, of course, though the rose-colored glasses have been somewhat taken off with IMDB since their completely ghastly redesign last week. Seriously, go look at that shit, the site looks like it was just beaten with an ugly stick.

I’d almost certainly have a different job today as well. When I finally graduated college, I had no money to speak of, due to my shopping addiction, and so my mom got me a job immediately working for Sony, a job that largely wouldn’t have existed if movies didn’t exist. Without that, I’d have probably knuckled under and become a teacher or something, or possibly have gotten a job in some office or for a theater group. All of which tells me that my life would be nothing but improved without movies, a notion I find I cannot reconcile with how happy I am with my movie collection. I’m already a pretty social person, so it’s not like I’d magically become more social without movies, though I probably would have kept in better touch with my old high school friends thanks to the rise of online gaming, as opposed to my current situation, where I actually have to call them up on the phone, which is really just such a 90s thing to do, right?

I’m not sure if there would be anything else about my life that would have really changed. My daily walks around town are related to how I was becoming a bit of a chunk due to poor eating habits, but none of that has anything to do with movies, and neither does my love of alcohol (my love of expensive alcohol really would just go back to my love of the fancy life), which has mostly just made me a more happy, well-adjusted soul. So yeah, a lack of movies wouldn’t really change who I am all that much, it would just give me a good deal more free time and money, though I’ve found that the combination of those two tends to make both vanish pretty rapidly.


Friday, September 17, 2010

September Q & A: Brett Favre and supervillainy

We finally move away from my friends’ questions for a bit, as reader BalladeersBlog asks, “If you were a super villain, how would you ‘get rid of this Bret Favre problem…permanently?’”

Well, this is really a multi-part question, as we first need to establish what kind of super villain I would be. Now, there’s three major types of super villains, the mad scientist type, the super powered bruisers, and the magic based villains. Now, while I suppose it could be fun to just have actual super powers, the bruiser category has probably the highest risk of the three of me having some retarded power and becoming some lame villain that Favre would easily overcome with an unexpected team-up with a super-hero. Consider; the mad scientist type contains such villains as Dr. Doom, Lex Luthor, and Brainiac. The magic-based category features names like Baron Mordo, Diablo, and Dr. Alchemy. The general super powered crowd, though? You might wind up as the Green Goblin or Darkseid, but you’re a great deal more likely to end up as the Kangaroo or Killer Croc. It’s far too much of a crapshoot to seriously entertain.

Now, that leaves us with science vs. magic, and while both categories have their general allure, I think I’m going to have to view this as follows: when you screw up as a mad scientist, you normally wind up in jail. When you screw up as an evil wizard, though, you can easily find yourself in Hell, or caught in the Dark Dimension, or some other horrible nightmare dimension. Simply put, science villains get the same rewards with much less risk, and if there’s one thing I like in life it’s a lack of risk.

Next we’d have to determine where I would locate my secret lair, and while I’d love to have it on Oolong Island, it suffers from a combined factor of being owned by the Chinese government and being somewhat fictional. Neither of those prospects really does it for me, sadly, and since I’m currently stuck living it up in Jersey, I think I’m going to just go ahead and build my base deep with the Pine Barrens. That way, any time I need to capture someone to run experiments on, it can easily be explained away as someone having just gotten lost in the swamps, or even being taken by the Jersey Devil (Note: so far as I know, there isn’t a super-powered character from any comic book company named the Jersey Devil. Definitely a strong consideration for the name of my top henchman).

Now we get to my grudge match with Favre. I don’t follow football all that well, though I did just join my first ever fantasy football league, and he is on a rival team, so I suppose that does indeed countermand whatever enjoyment I got from his cameo in There’s Something About Mary. I can’t even hate him for being a jock, because despite my having been an overt nerd back in high scho--well, from birth to the present, I was never really bullied, and had several jock friends, because I never figured out how cliques worked. However, while I have no real stake in football, I am aware that the general backlash against Favre right now is coming from his staunch refusal to retire despite being well past his sell-by date, much like Chuck Liddell’s staunch refusal to retire from the UFC, so I can find a way to sympathize here. Nobody likes seeing one of their old heroes embarrassing himself out there. Therefore, in the interests of helping out the world in my super villainy, I’m going to go ahead and do away with the entire Minnesota Vikings. This is partially so that I don’t have to worry about splash damage, and partially because none of them are on my fantasy football team, so fuck ‘em.

There are a few different ways to wipe out the entire team. A bomb or guns or something are right out, just for being too mundane for my tastes. One idea that I quite like is that of fellow science villain Swarm, a Nazi scientist whose body is made out of bees. Bill Mantlo was firing on all cylinders when he came up with that guy, let me tell you. Animal attacks tend to be a bit unreliable, however, what with the possibility that they might just turn on me, or simply not finish off the whole team. By the same token, attempting to de-evolve the team, or transform them into animals is also out, as there’s a high risk of a more heroic scientist countering my efforts. No, I think the best possible plan here is simply some good old-fashioned time travel, say, back to the age of the dinosaurs. It’s a time when all diseases and viruses are completely foreign to a modern day human immune system, the wildlife is large and eager to eat mid-sized mammals with little to no wilderness survival skills, and there is nothing approaching civilization to offer any kind of aid whatsoever as they’re rapidly wiped out by the harsh environment. Not even the great longevity of Brett Favre could survive such a thing.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

September Q & A: When Romans clash

In a lovely change of pace, my friend Rich writes, “Who would win in a fight, 1st century praetorian or 4th century comitatensis?”

For this question, I had to use the vast resources at my fingertips to give a proper answer. Now, some would claim that you’d need to buy tons of books about ancient Rome, weighing the various merits of each century and the Empire’s overall military strength at each time. That’s expensive and foolish, however. Wikipedia is much cheaper and far more reliable than any so-called “book” I’ve ever “read”.

First up we have the Praetorian Guard, formed specifically to have a super elite guard for emperors and their generals, under the impression that there would be added safety and status for them to have a private mini-army that could kick the crap out of a more standard mini-army. Against them we have the Comitatenses, who were legions earmarked as a more mobile type of troops, as opposed to those bunkered down at some fortress or other cozy environ. Verily, this fight shall be a true battle for the bards to sing of!

First, we have to address the time distance. There’s a three century gap between the two, which means that the Comitatenses have three hundred years in technological advances to fall back upon. For those that don’t think that could make a big difference, just understand that a present day squad of Marines could take down the entire military forces of any world power at the start of the 1700s. It’s a tremendous advantage for the Comitatenses, one that cannot be overstated (one could also make the quite valid argument that, if the 4th century Comitatenses did decide to make war with some 1st century Praetorians, they‘d have a pretty easy time of it, since their enemies would have been dead for centuries, but to avoid any such cheap arguments we‘re going to casually assume Kang the Conqueror has gotten involved).

Of course, there’s also the issue of the Praetorian Guard having been around during the peak of the Roman Empire’s power, while the Comitatenses selected here are milling about while the Empire is collapsing around them. Not only does that strongly imply that they’re aren’t being trained nearly as well as the 1st century super soldier program, but their morale has to be kind of in the gutter as well. No army is going to be fighting at its best when it’s just getting the crap kicked out of it time and again, so I have to assume the Praetorians have a definite advantage here.

Now we’re going to have to focus on which would have the advantage based on their job description. Now, the Praetorians might offhandedly seem to have a lock on this, what with their super elite status, but just consider the life of the Comitatensis here. Designed to be a more fluid fighting force, they’re the ones that run from location to location always shoring up the weak points in the overall defenses, requiring them to be tough, fast, and adaptable to any variety of situation. In short, it means that whatever the Praetorians throw their way, the Comitatenses should be able to find an answer to it.

In the end, though, I am going to have to give it to the Praetorian Guard. Sure, the Comitatenses may have superior weaponry, but the Praetorians helped inspire the name of Dr. Pretorius, the mad scientist who convinced Victor Frankenstein to revive his creation in Bride of Frankenstein, the single best horror movie of the 1930s. The Comitatenses may be pretty adaptable, but I scarcely think they can successfully adapt to an army of monsters stitched together out of dead parts fighting alongside the Praetorian Guard! Plus, one time Frankenstein’s Monster totally ordered the giant dog he was riding to eat Wonder Woman, who was being mind controlled by Darkseid at the time. 4th century Rome is no match for that.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Q & A: Obama Nation

Jasmine, who doesn’t seem to fully comprehend what exactly a question is, writes, “Critique Obama's presidency to date.”

Glad you asked, because I am clearly the political pundit the world has been waiting for. I will freely admit, I did kind of catch Obama fever a bit back in 2008, partially because eight years of conservative rule had pretty badly damaged this country, partially because otherwise Sarah Palin would have been one serious medical crisis away from becoming president, partially because I just thought it would be cool to help elect our first black president, and partially because, based on what I knew of his politics up to that point, I was cautiously optimistic that he could put our country back on a proper path.

Now, regarding how he’s been doing in office so far, I will state that it is a tad early to properly critique his presidency, since he’s not even halfway through his first term, but let’s not let something silly like that stop us. However, going by what he’s shown us so far, he’s been a proud example for young black men to look up to, and is showing that a minority can be every bit as average a president as a white man. His biggest achievement so far has been as the first president to pass health care reform, despite pretty much every president from Nixon onwards trying and failing. Unfortunately, he accomplished this by watering it down so much that the reforms were borderline worthless, leaving some successor down the road to accomplish some form of real reform.

So far as the rest of his efforts as president have gone, he promised to get rid of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but seems to have decided instead to carefully leave all gay rights issues to the public and the courts, essentially letting the matter be taken completely out of his hands so he doesn’t have to deal with any backlash one way or the other. He did manage to refocus the overall wars in the Middle East from Iraq to Afghanistan (something that should have been done back in 2003, but that’s hardly his fault), though there is the ongoing problem of Pakistan harboring a sizable amount (some have argued almost all) of the Taliban, and I have serious doubts that he’s going to be able to both deal effectively with that and complete the troop withdraw scheduled for next year. In fairness though, I have serious doubts that there is an effective solution to the problem at this point. If there was going to be a solution to the Taliban, it would have been back in 2001, when Bush horribly screwed up the initial invasion and allowed Bin Laden and a great many of his allies to flee the country we had just invaded. So yay for that, I guess.

There’s the overarching issue of the economy, which is still pretty terrible, but which seems to have at least bottomed out. Again, there is no good solution for this, beyond going back in time and preventing Reagan from ever becoming president, so I can’t really join in with the hatred for Obama (or Bush, for that matter) on this. It’s just a crisis that was coming no matter who became president, and there was no quick fix at all for it.

Once health care reform got passed, the next big item on the Obama agenda was supposed to be immigration reform, something this country desperately needs (for the record, I am fully in favor of making it a great deal easier to become a U.S. citizen, and while I can certainly understand racists not being fans of that, at the very least the process needs to be a great deal more streamlined). However, it seems to have been put on hold until after the mid-term elections, something I feel is a major mistake when there’s a very real chance his party is going to lose its majority in the House and Senate. I suppose he could just circumvent Congress entirely on this, but that kind of plan would probably cause quite a lot of general outrage. Still, barring some massive counter-Tea Party sentiment in November, it’s doubtful that he’ll get any meaningful immigration reform accomplished in his presidency.

And that leads to what is probably his biggest weakness as president. He’s trying so damn hard to reach across the aisle to get bipartisanship that he’s letting the Republican party dictate the terms of his presidency, and so the Democrats are coming across as largely useless, something that’s unfortunately very likely to be the deciding factor in people’s voting decisions in two months. I do overall like him, and think given time he could do a lot of good for this country and the world, but the man seriously needs to grow a set of balls and realize that the Republican party is actively shouting down anything he proposes automatically, and just force everything through with the majority he’s got now, before that majority is taken away from him. The evidence of their utter disdain for him and his efforts is plain as day, and it’s foolish and irresponsible of him not to acknowledge and deal with that. Otherwise, we will very soon be back to policies of cheering on the rich and fucking the poor and middle class, policies of invading foreign countries because our president has a grudge against their ruler, and policies of putting minorities back in their place.


Monday, September 13, 2010

September Q & A: All them Jersey shows

Once more my cousin April chimes in, asking, “What do you think of the Real Housewives of New Jersey? See I have been to Jersey a number of times and never see anything like what is portrayed on TV. Ditto the last comment for the Jersey Shore?”

I have not seen the Real Housewives of New Jersey, as I am neither a woman nor a man in such a serious relationship with one that they can force me to watch one of their shows as a bonding experience. The closest I’ve ever gotten was the series premiere of Desperate Housewives, which taught me that that sexy women being all catty with each other is not enough to get me interested in a TV show, even with the faint promise that people wound probably be shot to death before the season ends (or, more likely, as the season ends). So I can’t really give that show any kind of fair evaluation, but if you’re hoping for an unfair one, then I am more than happy to oblige.

Based on its name and infamy, I assume that it’s a reality show based on housewives in New Jersey going around slutting it up and trying to make my state look as trashy and horrid as possible. While I have no real issues with people from Jersey going out of their way to mock our state -- after all, I’ve spent my entire life hearing jokes about it from people outside the state, maybe this is a way we can all take back those jokes, like black people taking back the word “nigger” from their white oppressors -- I will say that I’m not a particular fan of marital infidelity (I slept with a married woman once, and was almost murdered for it), so shame on them for potentially promoting that. I don’t honestly know if they are or not, but shame on them anyway just in case.

Now, Jersey Shore I am a huge fan of, though going by various comments about it I’ve read on Amazon and elsewhere, I seem to be enjoying it for all the wrong reasons. It almost functions as a real life version of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where the cast can be relied upon to consistently make the worst possible decision at every last moment. I got to watch it at a friend’s house for the first time last New Years, where a muscular school teacher (now shockingly unemployed) clocked Snookie in the face at a bar, and I don’t think there was a single episode from then until the end of the first season where someone didn’t get punched right in their goddamn face. It’s as if the show was made specifically for me to incessantly giggle at like a child. It’s similar to the way I was able to somewhat enjoy Dane Cook’s Tourgasm, because as Jay Mohr described it, it’s like a real life version of Spinal Tap. The only real complaint I have with the show is really with the DVDs, which advertise themselves as uncensored despite keeping all the nudity censored and a sizable chunk of the profanity. What exactly was de-censored here?

One thing I have noticed that strikes me as curious about all these Jersey-based shows (both the two you specifically asked about, and the show Jerseylicious, which apparently my friend is in the new season of, though I’ve managed so far to be such a good friend I haven’t watched any of it) is that, judging by them, not only does Jersey seem to be an over-the-top parody of itself, but apparently every last person in the state is Italian. Now, lest I misspeak, or claim knowledge without any actual fact-checking, I fired up the Wikipedia page on New Jersey, which states:

“New Jersey is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse states in the country. It has the second largest Jewish population by percentage (after New York);[25] the second largest Muslim population by percentage (after Michigan); the largest population of people from Costa Rica in the United States; the largest population of Cubans outside of Florida; the third highest Asian population by percentage; and the third highest Italian population by percentage according to the 2000 Census. African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and Arabs are also high in number. It has the third highest Indian population of any state by absolute numbers.[26][27][28][29] Also, it has the third largest Korean population, fourth largest Filipino population, and fourth largest Chinese population, per the 2000 U.S. Census. The five largest ethnic groups are: Italian (17.9%), Irish (15.9%), African (13.6%), German (12.6%), Polish (6.9%).”

So yeah, 17.9% of the population is Italian here, and it seems every last one of them is on a reality show with Jersey in the title. Clearly I need to start attending mass, so I can get my TV deal.

UPDATE: Alright, I just got done watching/fast forwarding through the first episode of this season of Jerseylicious, so a couple comments about that seem appropriate here:

1) Apparently my friend doesn't show up until later in the season. That, or she's pulled a pretty odd prank on me, in which case I must say "well played".
2) This is the sort of salon I'd recommend only to people I disliked and wanted to see walking around town looking as though they and their forty friends had just jumped out of one tiny car. I'm saying they all have clown makeup on, you see.
3) The show is actually somewhat fascinating to me, as it seems to have absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever to it. Scientists should study this show to try to determine how such a perfect storm of terrible could have come to pass, and then get greenlit for a second season.


September Q & A: Germany's red-light district

We kick off the new week with a nice tough pair of questions from my cousin April, who writes, “What are you thoughts on the red light district in Germany and what do you think it will take to get it shut down?”

For those that are unaware, a red-light district is an area where all the sex industry businesses operate, from porn shops to strip clubs to (in countries where such is legal, like Germany) brothels. Now, I don’t keep up on current sex industry news in Germany, so I’m not really sure if there’s been some sort of recent scandal that’s prompted this line of questioning. What I can say is that, while I can’t really see myself ever actually needing to buy the services of a prostitute (indeed, growing up in the age of the Internet as I have, I’ve never even needed to pay for pornography before), I am fully in favor of legal prostitution.

Let’s face it, prostitution is going to occur whether it’s legal or not, and having it legal makes it a great deal safer for both the prostitutes themselves and the clients. In countries where it’s legal, the prostitutes get better protection from their clients, such as security guards, enforcement of condom usage to better prevent the spread of STDs, regular screenings to catch STDs that the condom failed to prevent, and the ability to call the police whenever the system does break down, all of which are things that can’t be done nearly as well (or in some cases at all) in systems where prostitution is criminalized. It’s also a good deal safer for the client, sharply reducing the likelihood of them taking home an STD, getting assaulted/robbed by a pimp, or getting arrested by the police. Even for those who hate prostitution because it “breaks apart families” or whatever, keep in mind that several studies have shown that about 70% of people of both genders in this country (the United States that is, not Deutschland) have said they’ve at least seriously considered cheating on their spouses or long term partners, (and about 50% have actually done so), so if you’re worried about your husband or wife cheating on you, guess what. They are, and they didn’t need a prostitute to help them do so.

Legalized prostitution also brings with it more legal regulations than merely STD checking, of course, the biggest one being that it goes a long way toward preventing girls from being forced into the industry by falling in with some abusive pimp. Under a legalized system, it’s a lot easier to make sure that the prostitutes are all there because they want to be, not because they’re forced to be. It doesn’t completely eliminate the problem of sexual slavery (sadly, nothing will), but it does go a long way towards correcting it.

That said, what will it take to get Germany’s red-light district shut down? I can think of a few ways myself, and you can judge for yourself the various effectiveness of each plan. First, there’s the possibility of a dramatic religious resurgence throughout the country, one akin to that of a good old fashioned evangelical Christian revival (though given Europe’s overall immigration trends over the past couple decades, perhaps Islam is a bit more likely to sweep the country). In both the Bible Belt and the Middle East, any source of pleasure that doesn’t come directly from reading and re-reading their religious texts (or rather, the specific passages of their religious texts that their religious figures want them to focus on) is considered vile and sinful and must be destroyed. No red-light district could survive such a jihad.

Alternately, any German citizen so truly offended by its existence that they can’t keep living with it around can certainly take matters into their own hands, be it by trying to burn the district down, committing a string of serial killings of prostitutes and strippers, or, if they have the money for it, hiring an outright mercenary squad to try to wipe out the entire place (or, if they have even more money, dropping bombs on the site from the skies). That’ll certainly show them what happens when they stray from the path of goodness. One could also, with the proper motivation and subtlety, go around trying to actively infect the sex workers with HIV, which would eventually cause such a mass panic that the government would, if not shut down the area entirely, at least quarantine the area until it could all get settled. Also, given that it’s Germany, there’s always the chance of another war breaking out, in which case the district would probably be moved closer to the front lines of the conflict to help keep up troop morale. It may not be shut down entirely, but at least it would be in a different spot, right? Just as good!

Also, one day the human race will no longer exist, so just have some patience. The red-light district will certainly not outlast the human race.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

September Q & A: Miniature horses

Jasmine, who is clearly hogging this week’s Q & A (seriously people, send in more questions so I can spread these out a bit better), asks, “What are your thoughts on miniature horses?”

Now, to the untrained eye this may at first seem like an incredibly frivolous question, and one that no reasonable person could write an entire page of thoughts on, this site is pretty much all I have to justify my English degree, and so I find myself taking this blog every bit as seriously as I took college (which, yes, explains why I was there for so long). Now, regarding the question, I have never personally encountered an actual miniature horse, so I’m going to have to publicly collect my thoughts on them here, and there’s really no better place to start than with regular sized horses.

I’m a pretty big fan of the idea behind horses; not only do I love westerns, but how can you not respect an animal that helped my European ancestors conquer so much of the world? Unfortunately, I have actually encountered horses within the real world, and for whatever reason they are not fans of me at all. A girl I used to know once took me to a house she was tending to while the owners were away, and decided to show me their horses. All she warned me of was that I should not let them turn so they’re facing away from me, because if they do that it means they’re going to try to kick me. Naturally, the instant I tried to get near one, it immediately started turning away from me, necessitating my turning along with it so that we were essentially just circling each other in an endless struggle. I don’t recall how this standoff (turnoff?) ended, though I like to imagine I was rescued by ninja dinosaurs.

All of this leads me to conclude that I most likely would enjoy miniature horses, as they would be incapable of seriously injuring me no matter how much hatred they have in their teeny little hearts for me. Without bothering to do actual research on this, I’m imagining that they’re somewhere around a foot tall or less, possibly even hand-held because, while it would be true that a horse the size of a Doberman would also count as a mini horse, the whole point of creating one would be lost.

That said, though, there is something to be said for having a pet that you can roughhouse with a little. I have a dachshund/beagle mix, and while he enjoys playing, whenever I roughhouse with him I have to be careful not to hurt him at all or else he’ll immediately yelp and start slinking around the house giving me sad, woeful looks like I just assaulted him. Frankly, it would be nice to have a good-sized pet so I can stop getting these annoying guilt trips. Some would say that it’s a bad idea to get a horse with the intention of roughhousing with it, but I’d argue that it’s a far worse idea to get a horse that fits in your hand with the intention of roughhousing with it. That’s the sort of thing that would get expensive pretty damn fast.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September Q & A: French onion soup and the dangers of food variety

My friend Jasmine, teaming up here with my cousin April, asks, “Why do you hate French Onion soup?”

To explain this one, I have to explain two things. The first is that I somehow managed to avoid having ever seen what is apparently one of the most popular types of soup in the country until earlier this year, when I saw one of my college friends eating some at another friend’s going away dinner. Being the calm, collected individual that I am, I responded as any such man would: by pointing at the bowl and going “what the hell is that?!?” See, if you’re like me and have never seen such a thing before, it’s basically soup with a layer of cheese on the top, which makes it look suspiciously like the chef had just yanked it all out of a nearby swamp (yes, we have those in New Jersey). It’s a completely hideous looking food, and anyone who eats it should be completely ashamed of themselves.

Of course, as Jasmine knows, my childhood/early adulthood was spent largely shunning most foods, and it’s only been over the past decade that I’ve really started branching out at all. My childhood food mindset tended to operate along the following lines: I couldn’t wait for pizza to cool down before I bit into it when I was six so it burned me, therefore pizza is disgusting and I should never eat it ever. Nowadays pizza is of course one of my favorite foods, but that’s only after a good fifteen year-or-so boycott of the foodstuff.

Another boycott I recall is of McDonald’s, which used to be one of my go-to places as a child, until one day in late elementary school/early middle school I bit into a McNugget and found a bone. I wouldn’t eat at any of the chains again (well, aside from their fries)until probably only four years ago until my friend Jasmine visited me and demanded McDonald’s. This is a somewhat more justifiable food boycott I had enacted, in part because finding a bone in a McNugget is pretty damn gross, and partially because the food at McDonald’s is pretty uniformly terrible. Outside of their fries, of course.

My friend Tammy also loves to tell a story about my first encounter with dumplings at a Mongolian restaurant near Rutgers. I was still testing the waters of Asian food at the time (this may have actually been only the second or third time I’d ever had Asian food in my life, so while I may love it now it was utterly foreign to me then), so since it was a buffet, I just put on my plate whatever my friends told me to. When it came time to eat I was mostly holding up okay until I got to my first dumpling, which I bit into, and then promptly spit out while exclaiming something along the lines of “there’s stuff in it!” Which there absolutely was, I say for the record, so ain’t nobody can call me a liar here. Could I have handled this startling revelation a bit better? Almost certainly. Do I feel that I should have handled it better? Absolutely not. That food is goddamn deceptive and sneaky, so you think it’s going to feel and taste like one thing while it smuggles Greek soldiers into your mouth. I for one shall not stand for it!

In addition to Asian cuisine sans dumpling, here’s some other mostly really common foods I found I enjoy from late college onward: hamburgers (I hated them too when I was little, don’t remember why), pasta (I never had anything specifically against it, just never tried it), Indian food (just tried it for the first time last year), seafood (this one’s more my mom’s fault, as she hates seafood so we never had it when I was younger), hot wings (I still don’t like ones with bones in them, but I have discovered a great, enduring love for boneless wings), and chicken noodle soup -- my soup options as a child were limited to tomato or a different can of tomato, which I guess helped lead us to today’s question.

For those wondering, here are some foods I’m still not a fan of: McDonald’s cuisine, Mexican cuisine, anything that gets my hands sticky (ribs, etc.), Brasilian food (it tends to have this wonderful combination of crunchy and bland that I wasn’t a huge fan of), whatever the hell the food was at my friends’ Stacey and Kevin’s wedding (sorry guys, but you had like jellyfish and kelp and shit, what was that?), and Burger King (with the exception of the Angry Whopper, which they’ve discontinued because they’re dicks). I’m sure there’s more I’m blanking on, but that should be quite well enough for you to plan out my surprise 30th birthday party with nothing but good food available.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September Q & A: Educating ourselves with movies

Continuing with the fine theme of hostility from yesterday, my friend Jasmine asks, “What are the educational merits of Cannibal Holocaust and Executive Koala?”

Well, there’s a few answers I could give. Cannibal Holocaust is quite educational in the realm of what life is like deep within the rainforest (something, I should add, that comes in handy if you ever decide to go on vacation within the rainforest like I did earlier this year), and why you shouldn’t abuse cannibal tribes (*SPOILER* they’ll eat you). Executive Koala, on the other hand, teaches its audiences about just how the business world works, and how prejudicial it can be when you’re just a simple koala trying to get ahead in the world today, and you possibly sometimes kill people.

I kid, of course. I don’t know that either of them really has much in the way of actual educational value, unless you consider figuring out how to get your movie banned in dozens of countries and investigated as a snuff film (Cannibal Holocaust) or how to make a movie that leads to angry texts at night after unwittingly pissing off an entire roomful of people (Executive Koala) to be educational. That said, it’s rare for a movie to be educational in the traditional sense. Whatever its overall merit, it’s not like you’re actually going to learn how to fix up a car (or, for that matter, how to steal one) from watching Gone in 60 Seconds. As for learning anything scientific from a movie, you can just put that thought out of your head right now. I would conservatively estimate that about 99.999999999% of science facts that you encounter in a movie are completely inaccurate and were just tossed in to try and justify whatever ridiculous plot the writers came up with (for a lovely recent example, just watch the trailer for the A-Team movie, where they use the physics of cannon fire to slow the descent of the tank they’re in that’s falling out of the sky). Even documentaries aren’t safe, as a great deal of the time the filmmakers are bringing their own personal beliefs into whatever they’re discussing, and selectively choose what facts to use (or in some cases outright make up their facts) to try to prove their view point is the correct one, leaving them at the same general level as a cable news pundit. I wouldn’t even recommend using movies to try to learn how to spell words, unless you’re specifically watching a movie about a spelling bee, and then you might want to keep a dictionary by your side just to play it safe.

No, movies (and art in general) have educational value only in what they teach us about ourselves and other people. The arts belong more to the realm of philosophy than the realm of hard sciences, except that I would take even a mediocre movie over any philosophy book I’ve ever read (sorry, college philosophy professor whose name, face, and gender I can’t remember because your class was so boring). This is not to say that films should all be deep, meaningful treatises about the human condition (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with adding a few Bergman films to your collection), as we can learn things even in the most unexpected places. To use one of your examples, Cannibal Holocaust did show me that, while I am endlessly entertained by watching people getting dismembered, I do indeed have a problem with watching animals being killed for added shock value. Of course, for a more present day example, we can use the people who go to see the films of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who were responsible for such films as Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and the recent Vampires Suck. All of their films made several times their budgets, so it’s quite obvious that quite a few people out there enjoy their films. I don’t think I personally know anyone that actually does, but if I do meet one, then I’ll already know a couple things about them: 1) I cannot trust their taste in movies at all, and 2) if they should laugh at a joke I tell, I need to seriously examine that joke to determine if it is terrible enough to make me millions of dollars.

So yes, there is indeed educational value to such films as Cannibal Holocaust and Executive Koala, though it’s certainly not the kind of education that you’d get from the public school system. No, this is the type of education that only comes from life. Fo’ real.


Monday, September 6, 2010

September Q & A: Old vs. new movies and what's good in horror

Today’s question comes from my friend Sofia, who asks, “Please explain your like for the movies you prefer. In other words, why do you enjoy watching movies which are older than you and have little to no fear factor in this day?”

Well, that’s certainly not a leading question at all. Anyway, for those of you that aren’t Sofia, the main backstory for this is our disagreement over the film Orphan. She felt it was one of the scariest horror movies she’s ever seen, I felt it was a piece of garbage. I thought we agreed to disagree, but going by this question I may have just started tuning her out, which I feel should amount to the same. Since I don’t think I did a proper review, I disliked Orphan in large part because it was yet another lousy killer kid movie in which there’s a character that’s actively trying to kill everyone around them and acting incredibly suspicious at all times, one and only one adult notices this, and when she tries to warn others everyone immediately jumps down her throat for having the nerve to accuse such a sweet angel. Sofia also thought the big twist ending was great, while I felt it was merely endemic of the movie’s complete lack of balls. *SPOILER WARNING* The evil little girl the family adopts turns out to actually be a short adult in disguise, which to me removes a great deal of the potential creepiness when she tries to seduce the dad immediately after we find out. Also, I may be remembering this wrong, but I recall it being a largely bloodless affair, which can be fine when a movie’s succeeding on its other merits, but not when I’m trying to find any justification for watching it.

Of course, the main thrust of the question is about my tastes in general, and I do freely admit that quite a lot of my favorite movies, horror or otherwise, were made before I was born. It seems obvious to me that judging a movie based on what year it came out is completely arbitrary and ridiculous, but I’ve actually had a few friends make fun of me for watching movies made before I was born. Even ignoring the consideration that virtually every critic and cinephile views the 60s and 70s as a golden age of film, all anyone would have to do is consider all the movies they love from their own childhood (I was born in 1980, so my childhood would include such films as Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Airplane!, A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Little Mermaid, the Back to the Future trilogy, and the like, but you can substitute your own first decade of life), and then realize that by their own argument they should then be making fun of someone ten years younger than them that likes those very same movies. Quality knows no decade, my friends.

All that said, it is true that film has definitely changed stylistically over the years, and I will freely admit that I think a lot of the changes that have occurred over my lifetime have been pretty bad ones. I just ranted about my hatred of shaky cam and quick cutting in my Expendables review last week, which is something that’s gone from being amazing and innovative in Saving Private Ryan to being so overused and poorly used that it’s made countless modern action movies occasionally impossible to watch. Another innovation that I’m only half sold on is the use of CG, which started in very limited regards in the 70s and 80s, but didn’t become refined enough that we could get new kinds of movies with them until Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park. When done well, CG can create new worlds for us to enjoy, like in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Dark City. When done poorly, we’ll get incredibly wooden acting because of actors not having any environmental clues to work with (see the Star Wars prequels), or we’ll get monsters or robots or whatever that not only look like they were made on a computer, but don’t seem to actually be properly interacting with the environment around them. It completely takes you out of the moment when you see stuff like that. And don’t even get me started on how CG has ruined the time-honored tradition of the car chase.

While CG isn’t a huge problem with modern horror movies (aside from monster movies and the awful CG blood that cheap horror movies sometimes use -- hey guys, red corn syrup doesn’t cost much and it’ll make your movie stop looking so damn cheap), the horror movie did fall on very hard times after the 80s, and while it’s gotten better over the past decade (after the genre was on life support throughout the 90s), it’s still nowhere near as healthy as it was back in the 70s and 80s. First, we have the overwhelming spate of horror remakes*, where we get music video directors making absolute garbage and knowing the quality of their work doesn’t matter at all because the films will make several times their costs just on name value. Then we have all the PG-13 horror movies that are cold-bloodedly designed by the studios to be as tame and inoffensive as possible to capture as wide an audience as they can while laughing at the very thought of trying to make an actual good movie. There’s also all the miserable ironic slashers that came out in the wake of Scream’s popularity, but those thankfully mostly died out with the 90s.

So now that I’ve listed an army of things that I hate, what do I like? Well, there’s three main things that a horror movie can do for it to work for me. First, it can make me laugh hard and consistently, like Shaun of the Dead or Black Sheep do (though like most of the slacker zombie movies ripping off Shaun of the Dead don‘t). Second, it can be really ridiculously bloody, like Hatchet or Wrong Turn 2 (both of which are also pretty damn funny, it should be noted), though a horror movie does have to have more than just gore to it if I’m going to think it was an actual good movie (it also needs lots of nudity, yes). Third, and this is sadly the least frequent, it can be really tense and suspenseful, like The Descent or The House of the Devil. It’s the least frequent because it’s by far the most difficult to pull off, with most horror directors deciding instead that having someone jump in front of the camera while the music suddenly screams at the audience is a perfectly legitimate scare and they don’t have to try any harder than that. For a perfect example of just how hard it can be to base a horror movie around tension and suspense, one need take no further look than Orphan. *rimshot*

* I should note that I’m not one of those guys that automatically hates all remakes, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. The number of horror remakes we’ve gotten in the past decade that weren’t lousy can be counted on one hand.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

September Q & A: The Fourth Kind, Aliens, and Alaska

It is now time to kick off the September Q & A with a question from my cousin April, who writes, “I would like to know if you have seen 4th Kind and what your thoughts are. Where do you stand on aliens and Nome, Alaska?”

Glad you asked, April. I can’t comment specifically on The Fourth Kind, as I managed to avoid seeing it when it came out in theaters and then soon came out on DVD. This was due less to an oversight on my part (which does happen, there are quite a few movies that come out each year), and more due to how pretty much every critic I trust tore the film apart, and then a couple of my friends also went to see it and completely hated it, and the premise sounded pretty goddamn stupid too. Sorry, but while I did love the Blair Witch Project, there hasn’t exactly been a shortage of downright crummy movies imitating it in the decade+ since its release, and I didn’t really have any eagerness to watch yet another one that just swapped out the witch for some aliens.

Which brings us to the second part, and my thoughts on aliens. I have to say, the universe is a vast, virtually limitless place, and I do find it very unlikely that in all of that, we are the only planet with any life on it. So yes, I absolutely believe that somewhere out there is some form of alien life, though what it would look like, how it would act, and how intelligent it would be are all well beyond my pay grade. In regards to the unspoken connecting question, do I think that aliens have already visited us, in such a way as to inspire so many terrible movies, no, I absolutely do not.

The issue I have (well, one issue out of a great many) with these tales of alien encounters and abductions is that they all seem to take something that one would think would be the most world-changing event since the discovery of fire -- contact with, not just alien life, but an outright advanced alien civilization -- and makes it thoroughly mundane. Think about it: we would be talking about a race so far ahead of us technologically that they had figured out how to travel several times faster than light just to travel to our world so that they can kidnap Billy Bob and give him an anal probe. Or, apparently in the case of the Fourth Kind, make everyone wake up to owls watching them. Scary.

Now, it should be noted that Nome, Alaska has no real connection to anything alien related beyond the film The Fourth Kind, which is a completely fictional story inspired by how about 20 people have disappeared in the area since the 1960s (yes, story inspirations are often several degrees of magnitude less exciting than the end product intends to be), so since I know very little about Nome specifically, let’s get to talking about Alaska as a general concept. Like most people in this country, I remember Alaska exists mainly whenever Sarah Palin or Levi Johnston is in the news for some new horror (side note: apparently Johnston is prepping himself for a run for mayor of Wasilla; I can only hope he succeeds, just to show exactly what kind of qualifications are needed for the job). I’m sure the state has its good points, for much like the universe, there has to be something of merit in such a large place. Sadly, I doubt I’ll ever find out, for while I’ve been traveling a lot more over the past year or so, there’s quite enough other states and countries that I’d prefer to explore first. Like Russia, for instance, which I hear has a lovely view of Alaska.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

So yes, as promised, here is my early choice for 2010’s Best Picture. Now admittedly, it is still pretty early in the year as these things go -- if nothing else, the various film companies don’t start tossing out their Oscar bait until November at the earliest -- but as this has been a remarkably piss-poor year for movies so far, and as I am never shy about championing silly cult movies over Serious Drama, I feel confident that it’s at least going to make my top three for the year. The fact it’s free falling out of theaters only proves my point further somehow. I think. Possibly.
The film stars Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, early 20s Canadian slacker and bassist, who has spent over a year in a terrible depression after a terrible break-up, and who now has finally gotten over it by dating a high school girl (Ellen Wong). While this certainly seems like a probable long-term solution, he soon finds himself obsessed with new girl in town Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and quickly moves on to her, only to discover that she has a bit of baggage coming along with her: namely, her seven evil exes that Scott must now defeat if he wishes to win her heart.

It seems like a fairly standard romance plot, yes, but what’s surprising is in how well it blurs the lines between film and comic book and video game. The film is based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley (indeed, the film’s only real weakness comes from how rushed it gets at points trying to cram all six graphic novels into less than two hours) and takes quite a few visual clues from its source material. Additionally, since the comic had such a love affair with video games, the movie itself winds up structured like one, with each successive ex introduced like a boss fight, complete with a Street Fighter style Vs. image on screen. Indeed, it even opens up with the intro music for Zelda 3, something that has made me break out into a huge grin each time I’ve watched the movie.

Which is not to say that that’s really all the movie has going for it. Really, it excels in virtually every department. The music is quite well done, which is a plus since a large part of the film involves Scott’s band Sex Bob-Omb engaging in a series of Battle of the Bands. The soundtrack was designed by Beck, who also made all the music for Scott’s band, and roped in Canadian bands like Broken Social Scene and Metric to contribute songs for their competitors, making it, if nothing else, possibly the best movie about music in quite some time.

The cast is also spot on. Michael Cera does a great job adapting his normal nerdy persona into a more multi-functional character that’s nerdy, tough, heroic, and kind of a complete jerk to the girls he dates. His supporting cast also does fine work as well: Ellen Wong is completely heartbreaking at times as his seventeen year old girlfriend that he tosses aside when he finds someone new, and his gay roommate Wallace (Keiran Culkin) straight up steals every scene he’s in. Given how poorly the film did, I doubt co-writer/director Edgar Wright will ever get to make a sequel like he wanted to, but if the stars align enough to get a deal made, I can only hope Wallace is the lead. Winstead also does well enough in a fairly thankless role where she basically has to look adorable and find some way to frequently say bitchy things without actually coming off as unlikable. It’s a tough role, but I think she did pull it off pretty well.

Indeed, as I said before, the only area the film is lacking in is its story. That’s the story, mind you, not the script. The script is mostly wonderful, giving us a ton of great jokes, a fast pace, some nice character moments, and a lot of great action scenes (if you were wondering, yes, in addition to its other qualities this is a much better action movie than The Expendables). Unfortunately, due to its hyper-compressed nature the story largely winds up being outright tossed aside in the second half of the film to make way for all of the fights with the evil exes. This is hardly a crippling flaw, as the first half does such a great job of setting up the ground work, but it would have been nice to have had Scott and Ramona’s romance fleshed out a bit more, or really just more time for the rest of the supporting cast to show themselves off. Especially Wallace.

I suppose I can see how some people would have a problem figuring out how to handle the film, as it really is unlike any other movie ever made, though it may help if I point out that right now, after a couple decades of misfires and complete bombs, we finally have what is not only a good, but is an outright perfect video game movie. Both structurally and stylistically Wright manages to work in all the best parts of video gaming, creating a pretty seamless visual feast. Much like his previous films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, he manages to simultaneously poke fun at and honor the genre he’s working with (unlike the much more popular film Vampires Suck, which does neither), giving us a movie that all video games fans (most particularly but not exclusively the 8-bit and 16-bit veterans) owe it to themselves to see. None of you will be disappointed, I guarantee you.

Rating: ****

P.S. Next week: Q & A time.