Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A New Hope?

Image by Paolo Rivera
As you've no doubt read on a thousand other sites by now, Disney just bought Star Wars.

Holy. Crap. This is huge.

In their bid to own the half of the world not already claimed by Google, Disney now owns LucasFilm, the giant media conglomerate (emphasis on glom) founded by George Lucas. They paid a hefty $4.05 billion for it. Yeah, I said BILLION. That's an unimaginable number to you and me, but it probably cleaned out less than a square foot of one of Disney's Scrooge McDuck-like money bins.

Kudos to Lucas I guess for holding out for an additional $.05 billion.

In addition to the Star Wars franchise, Disney also now owns Indiana Jones, Willow and even Howard the Duck-- anything produced under the LucasFilm banner. They also own the LucasArts video game company, and special effects studio Industrial Light and Magic.

Disney wasted no time in announcing they're starting work on a new series of Star Wars movies, which will likely take place after Return Of The Jedi. So for the record we started with movies 4, 5 and 6, then moved to 1, 2 and 3, and are now probably going to get 7, 8 and 9.

I find myself curiously unconcerned about this whole announcement. If I was forced to come up with an opinion I suppose it would be, "I guess Disney can't screw up Star Wars any worse than Lucas did."

I was a huge Star Wars fan ever since I saw the first film in the theater way back in 1977. The Original Trilogy of films fired up my imagination unlike anything before or since and I greedily consumed every bit of info and merchandise I could that related to the movies.

Then came the awful Prequel films which pretty much stomped out any enthusiasm I had for the franchise. So I find myself not really caring much about the situation one way or the other.

There is one small hope in all this-- maybe now that Lucas is out of the picture we'll finally get proper DVD releases of the ORIGINAL theatrical versions of the Original Trilogy-- you know, the ones Lucas says no longer exist-- instead of the tarted up Special Editions he keeps picking at like scabs.

I'm honestly at a loss as to where they could take the storyline of the next series of films. Darth Vader's dead. The Emperor's dead. The Empire is most likely dead, or at least dying. The second Death Star is gone. So what's left? Three films about galactic senators passing bills designed to rebuild the Republic? Han and Leia raising a family? Lando and Chewie starting up a nightclub in Jabba's old palace?

I know there are many, many novels out there set after Return Of The Jedi that detail what happens after. I read one or two and was honestly bored to death by them. It seems like anything they do will be about as exciting as the several hundred pages of material Tolkein wrote after the destruction of the One Ring in Lord Of The Rings. I just don't see where you can go once your hero defeats the enemy and saves the world.

Who knows though, maybe Disney will surprise us and hire competent writers and directors and recapture what made the Original Trilogy great. I ain't holding my breath though.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 3: Walk With Me

A little less action this week as we take a detour from Team Rick & the prison and see what's up with Andrea, Michonne and Woodbury.


• Once again a dead person becomes a walker and their face transforms into zombie mode almost instantly (see Shane's transformation last season). One minute the chopper soldier who's er, "chopped" in half looks normal, the next he's got sharp, pointy, dirty zombie teeth. How does that happen so quickly? I could maybe see the zombification pulling his facial skin taut and changing his complexion to a pallid gray, but... how could it possibly affect the shape of his teeth?

• It's the long awaited return of Merle! Everyone's favorite one-handed redneck meth-head. He seems to have calmed down quite a bit since we last saw him. I guess the Governor's figured out how to tame him. For now.

Merle continues the time-honored Hollywood tradition of wearing a prosthetic that's a good 10 inches longer than his missing hand (Har!). Although to be fair, they did spring for a nicely done CGI shot of him displaying his nasty stump. 

• The TV version of the Governor seems much more believable than his comic counterpart. In the comic he was a one-dimensional psychotic dictator whose manner made you wonder why anyone would choose to follow him or live in Woodbury in the first place. He even looked cartoonish, what with his limp greasy hair and droopy handlebar mustache. 

TV Governor looks normal and is much more subtle. He can definitely be ruthless, but he knows sometimes a gentler approach works better. Why, he even drinks tea!

• This whole Woodbury story arc makes me very uneasy and nervous, most likely because I've read the comic and know what's coming (unless they change things around for TV). The whole time Andrea was taking her time strolling around the town I kept wanting to scream, "Get the hell out of there! Listen to Michonne! Get out NOW!"

• At one point Andrea and Michonne are walking around the streets of Woodbury with the Welcome Wagon Lady. Andrea asks Welcome Lady about the bodies she saw hanging from trees on the way to the town. Welcome Lady says, "I won't make excuses for the men" or something like that. What she should have said was, "What? How do you know about those bodies? You were supposed to have been blindfolded!" Whoever blindfolded Andrea (Merle?) deserves a time out, as she seemed able to see pretty well underneath the blindfold that barely covered her eyes.

• Milton (the tea-brewing science guy) is a brand new character who's never appeared in the comic. He has more than an academic reason as to why he's so interested in whether the walkers retain any memory or sense of self.

• Farewell to Mike and Terry, Michonne's walker bodyguards. Yep, they have names-- at least in the comic. We finally get an explanation as to why she had them tagging along (something comic fans already knew). For some reason though she's playing coy as to who they are/were (something comic fans also already know).

• So who gets to live in Woodbury? The Governor says there are 70 residents. It goes without saying that none of them were in the military. Can anyone who walks up to the fence come in? Does the Woodbury gang go around the area and shanghai people? I guess we'll eventually find out.

• I think I might have waited another episode before I revealed the Governor's secret aquarium collection. It would have been better pacing-wise to make him seem normal but menacing in the first episode and then reveal that he's bug nuts next week. It would have had even more impact that way, but I realize they've only got 16 episodes per season, so they have to hurry things along when they can. 

Don't worry, the Governor still has another shocking secret up his sleeve (if he's anything like his comic counterpart).

• I was a little disappointed with the Governor's "collection." The walker heads are all supposed to still be "alive" if you will, blinking their eyes and gnashing their teeth as they bob about in the water. I mean as long as the brain isn't destroyed, a decapitated zombie head is still functional, right? For the life of me I couldn't detect any movement among them-- it looked to me like they were just sitting motionless in their tanks.

I'm also a bit fuzzy as to why he's collecting heads in the first place? Trophies? Reminders of the terrible things he's done for his little kingdom? A replacement for television?

• It occurred to me that The Walking Dead's "everybody's already infected" theory neatly explains a question I've always had about zombie movies-- namely where the heck do all the zombies come from? OK, bear with me here. In most films people become zombies when they're bitten. So how are there always thousands of intact zombies shambling around? Do the zombies just take a small bite out of a person and then politely wander off, allowing them time to die and turn? Doubtful. A few people might escape with just one bite and then change, but it seems like the majority would be completely consumed.

In the Walking Dead universe, ANYONE who dies turns, even if they weren't bitten. So that explains why there are tons of ambulatory zombies wondering the landscape. A neat solution to the problem.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To The She Phone!


Commissioner! We just got a report-- the Joker's robbed th' First Bank Of Gotham again!

Great Scott! Not that Pale Paladin of Perversion! Quickly! Get me the She-Phone!

Right away, sir! Um... beggin' yer pardon sir, but don't yeh mean the "Bat-Phone?"

(sighs heavily)
Chief, it's 3 o'clock on a Friday afternoon and it's been a long, hard week. This bank situation will still be on our desks Monday morning. Now get me the She-Phone! And warm up a squad car! You're driving!

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this Out Of Context Star Trek Moment!

 Good to see "The Hokey Pokey" survives well into the 23rd Century.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sometimes The 21st Century Embarrasses Me

At last, the perfect solution for people who can't quite figure out how to cut a thin slice off the end of a stick of butter. Behold the Butter Cutter!

No longer will you have to risk your personal safety with dangerous butter knives or fumble with unwieldy and complicated butter-holding harnesses and straps. No more will you have to engage the help of an assistant to hold down and steady your butter during the tedious slicing process. Now you can have a perfectly sliced pat of butter every time thanks to this extremely specific kitchen implement that performs one function, and one function only.

Need your frozen waffles buttered in a hurry? Boy, are you in luck! Just look at the speed at which the Butter Cutter expels its creamy oleo ammunition. Why, the camera could only capture the zooming pat as a vague yellow blur! Think of the hours you'll save every week!

Sometimes the 21st Century embarrasses me.

Honestly I'm glad that time travel is probably impossible. Imagine if a gentleman from the year 1800 somehow came to our century. What would he think when he saw modern man, his bloated and tattooed body straining against his stained sweatpants, using a contraption like this one? Most likely his reaction would be a combination of laughing his pantaloons off, sobbing uncontrollably and vomiting with rage as he witnessed what mankind has become.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 2: Sick

Wow, another awesome Walking Dead episode! That's two in a row. Can they keep the streak going? Let's hope so.

You know, I was really worried for the show when producer Frank Darabont was fired last season, but so far the new creative team seems to be working out just fine. It almost seems like they read the fans' online complaints and addressed them.


• For a while there I wasn't sure if poor Herschel was going to make it through the episode, especially after I noticed Scott Wilson's name isn't in the opening credits. But thankfully he survived-- for now anyway. Hopefully Carl will be able to find him some crutches, as there probably aren't a lot of C-Leg prosthetics lying around the prison.

• Looks like I was wrong about one of the prisoners being Tyreese. Oh well. I know the comic book version wasn't a prisoner, but since he hasn't been introduced yet I thought this would be a good way to do so. I was right about the scruffy prisoner turning out to be Axel though, who was a pretty prominent character in the comic.

• I couldn't help but laugh when the prisoners wanted to borrow a cell phone to call their loved ones. Wow, they have been out of touch for a long time!

It seems kind of iffy to believe the five prisoners just sat in the commissary patiently waiting for help for ten months without ever once sticking their heads out a door to see what was going on, but there you go. I guess they're prisoners-- they're used to sitting and waiting.

• I was expecting the group of prisoners to become regulars, but most of them barely stuck around long enough to have any lines! Big Tiny, we hardly knew ye! He seemed like a fun character and I hoped he'd be around longer, but it wasn't to be.

Tomas (the leader) thought he was such a badass, but he just wasn't prepared for Team Rick. So what was Tomas' thought process in trying to "accidentally" kill Rick? Did he think Daryl and T-Dog would just shrug and start following him? Seems like he didn't think his plan through very thoroughly, which is probably why he was in prison in the first place.

And I honestly wasn't expecting him to get a machete in the head, especially from Rick, but I understand why he did it.

• Apparently being a prisoner means you can't follow simple, basic directions. The jailhouse gang were very patiently and clearly told to aim for the zombie's heads, and what do they do? Shank 'em in the gut like they're plain old inmates, with predictable results.

• Poop room! Ha! Speaking of which, where is Rick's group going toidy?

• I find it interesting that it's becoming a little vague as to who the good guys are. In this episode Team Rick seem more brutal and cold-blooded than any inmate could ever hope to be. I suppose that's the only way to survive in this world.

After the whole Shane debacle and the unseen, presumably hard winter, Rick has become a man who will literally do anything to keep his group alive-- including outright murder. And killing is becoming easier for him all the time. Are Rick's actions justified? Or is he just plain nuts? It's an interesting question, and I can't think of any other series that has presented its hero in such an ambiguous moral light.

• Carl's becoming quite the little killing machine. He proudly boasts of killing two walkers as he scrounged for medical supplies. Which is probably exactly what would happen to a kid growing up in a world like this, robbed of a normal childhood.

• Lori's character seems to be written much better this season. She hasn't annoyed me once so far.

• Even Carol has found a purpose as the group's back-up medic. That scene with her practicing surgery on a walker? Again, something I never thought I'd see on a TV series, even on cable.

About her walker anatomy lesson-- I understand why she's doing it, but how much could she learn from it? Cutting open a living, breathing human is one thing. Cutting open a dried up leathery walker is quite another.

• Everyone in the cast seems to have suddenly become important, and all have a role to play. Compare that to last season, when the secondary cast was little more than set dressing. It's a trend I hope they keep up, but realistically they probably won't, especially once the Governor and his crew turn up.

Next week: The Governor makes his debut. And if he's anything like his comic book counterpart, it's not gonna be pretty.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Business Is Boomin'?

I saw this truck careening through town yesterday and had to wonder-- Is piano moving really a profitable business model here in the 21st Century? Good lord, how many people could there possibly be who own pianos these days? Especially in this town, where you're considered a success if you can afford to buy name brand macaroni and cheese rather than the store brand. And of the microscopic percentage who do own pianos, how often do they need to have them moved?

Outside of Laurel & Hardy shorts and Warner Bros. cartoons I don't think I've ever seen anyone moving a piano.

I honestly can't imagine them getting more than two calls a year, if that. They must sit around their office all day, every day, staring at the phone trying to will it to ring. "C'mon... it's been months since we had a call. Ring, damn you! Riiiiiiiiiiiiing!"

By the way, forgive the less than optimal photographs. I was having a hard time keeping up with the truck and trying to shoot if from my moving vehicle. Hopefully he didn't have any pianos in the back as he took the corner on two wheels.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

That Ain't Right Update!

A week or so ago I posted an entry about the Sexy Sesame Street Halloween costumes being sold by, that were apparently (and somewhat unbelievably) officially authorized by Sesame Workshop, the current stewards of the characters. You can read all about it here.

Since then there have been some new developments in the saga.

The Sexy Sesame Street costumes are part of the rampant "Sexy Blank" plague that's been sweeping the world of Halloween merchandise for the past decade of so, and closely resemble traditional hooker-wear. It's now come to light though that Sesame Workshop only authorized the design and sale of the masks, not the rest of the outfit (the model's wearing a mask?). They had no idea it would be used in conjunction with a sexy costume (although one would think a quick glance at the Yandy website would have clued them in).

Obviously the CEO of Sesame Workshop is a regular reader of my blog (as millions are) and when he read my report on the unauthorized costume, his hat flew off his head, he did a spit take and yelled into his intercom for his corporate lawyer. And then he got mad!

Needless to say Sesame Workshop is not happy with the way Yandy is using their creations and are threatening legal action unless they pull the costumes from their website immediately.

I think Nelson Muntz said it best:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shrunken-Head Joe 8x10 Glossy

As I was looking through my blog I realized I posted this on Flickr a long time ago, but for some reason never posted it here on my blog. So here you go.

It's Shrunken-Head Joe's 8x10 publicity photo.

Joe was a character created by my pal KW Monster back in the 1990s. We collaborated and produced a Joe comic strip that ran in the local free paper for about 2 years. We both wrote it, then I would pencil it and KW would ink it. It was apparently pretty popular; to this day people still tell us how much they liked it.

Then one day the editor of the paper actually read the comic, was horrified by it and we were fired. We also had quite a fancy Shrunken-Head Joe website for a while. Maybe someday we'll revive him.

This was my attempt to make a 1940s-looking film noir publicity photo of Shrunken-Head Joe like all the movie stars used to have.

I was just looking at this thing for the first time in years and noticed there seems to be a lot of empty space above Joe's head. I was thinking, "Wow, what horrible spacing by 1998 Bob, but then I remembered-- the extra space is intentional. He's got a shrunken head. His head is tiny. It doesn't take up as much space as a normal head. That 1998 Bob was a genius!

They always seemed to be leaning into the frame in those old shots, and there was always a shadowy, amorphous background.

And quite often they were shown smoking in their publicity photos, as if they couldn't put down their coffin nail for even the 1/30th of a second it took for the shutter to open. I drew this in Photoshop, circa 1999, on a couple hundred layers. I didn't have a graphic tablet at the time, so it was all drawn with the mouse. Don't ask me how.

It Came From The Cineplex: Resident Evil: Retribution, Dredd, Looper, Taken 2

Well, Fall's here, and along with the tons of leaves filling your yard and clogging your guttering, the cineplex is full of movies that weren't quite good enough to be summer blockbusters.

In the interest of looming personal deadlines, I will do my best to be brief.


Resident Evil: 
Paul W.S. Anderson gives his wife Milla Jovovich something to do once again, in the FIFTH Resident Evil movie.

Really? This is the fifth one? I honest to god couldn't remember and had to look it up to be sure. They're all starting to run together, especially since they insist on using the colon titles. You know, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and on and on. I can't remember all those sub-titles and keep them straight. I got bills to pay.

There's a lengthy prologue at the beginning of this installment that explains what's gone before, for which I was grateful, as I couldn't remember what the hell happened last time.

This is probably the most video game-like of these movies yet-- it felt very much like I was watching someone play a game, without getting a chance at the controls.

I've liked these movies for the most part, but when researching them I noticed something: the ones I liked best (Apocalypse and Extinction) were the two that were not directed by auteur Paul W.S. Anderson. Whoops! Sorry Paul!

I liked the opening sequence, which was filmed backwards and in slow motion-- very cool and involving. I have to wonder though if it was influenced by the trailer for the Dead Island video game that came out a while back, which used the exact same technique?

One complaint I have about these movies-- they seem to always end where they ought to begin. I remember in the first movie they screwed around in some underground bunker for the entire running time, then the final scene the camera slowly pulled back to reveal Alice emerging into a Raccoon City overrun by hordes of zombies. That was the movie I wanted to see! That's where it should have begun.

This one ends the same way. They're fighting their way out of yet another underground complex, and at the end they're on the lawn of the White House, as the camera once again slowly pulls back to reveal they're surrounded by a Hellscape full of zombies, demons and flying monsters. It looked infinitely more interesting than the previous 90 minutes. Why do these movies always end right at the good part?

Once again I was forced into seeing a movie in despicable 3D. OK, no one held a gun to my head, but there was no 2D option at my cineplex, so if I wanted to see it, it was in 3D or not at all. That seems to be a growing trend in these parts, and I don't like it. Not a bit. I loathe 3D with a white hot passion and wish it would hurry up and go the way of the dodo and Jersey Shore. No 2D option? That's just not right. There was definitely nothing about the 3D worth paying an extra $3.

The Plot: Another Alice clone fights zombies. That's pretty much it. 

• Nice to finally see Ada Wong in the movies.

• Motorcycle riding zombies!

• Interesting opening sequence (if a little derivative).

• The always welcome return of Michelle Rodriguez. Unfortunately even though she's playing two of the same character (don't ask), she doesn't really have much to do.

• Paper thin plot.

• Unnecessary 3D (is there any other kind?).

I give it a C.

Dredd 3D
Forget all about the cheesy Sylvester Stallone version from the 1990s. Forget it. Immediately. Let us never speak of it again.

Now this is the way to make a Judge Dredd movie! Violent, gory and way, way over the top, just like the comic.

Karl Urban is the perfect Dredd: grim, intimidating and uncompromising, he's everything the character should be. 

In the comic there's a running joke that Judge Dredd never takes off his helmet. Surprisingly, Urban stays true to this trait, leaving it on throughout the entire movie (except for a few seconds before he dons it at the very beginning). The helmet obscures his entire face, save for his mouth and jaw, which probably made it a challenge to act in it.

One thing I noticed about the design of his helmet-- there are two red prongs that intersect right about where his eye line should be. I wonder if it was hard to see with those prongs in the way?

The movie's very true to the spirit of the comics, with minimal changes for once. All the familiar trappings are here: the telepathic Judge Anderson, Dredd's multifunction "Lawgiver" gun, his "Lawmaster" motorcycle, and of course, MegaCity One and the Cursed Earth. 

Supposedly the entire film was made for only $45 million! That's incredibly cheap these days. Heck, romantic comedies with no special effects cost more than that. Sadly, the film hasn't performed well at the box office, grossing just over $13 million. At this point a sequel looks unlikely, which is too bad.

So what went wrong? Is it because the character of Judge Dredd, a British creation, is virtually unknown here in the States? Or is the horrifying specter of the Stallone version still, after all these years, casting a grim shadow over the cineplex and tainting the production? I vote for the latter.

I suppose that when one goes to a movie with "3D" in the title, one shouldn't be surprised that it is only offered in three dimensions and not in two. That doesn't mean I have to like it though. As I've stated many times before, I don't like being forced to see 3D movies.

My biggest gripe about the 3D in this film, besides the fact that it plucked an extra $3 from my wallet, is that it was pretty much nonexistent. There are a few set pieces in which characters take "Slo-mo," a drug which slows down a person's perception of time, which feature some nice 3D effects, but the rest of the time? The movie's as flat as a pancake. In fact there were long stretches in which I forgot it was supposed to be in 3D at all.

What's even more curious about it is that this wasn't some "shot in 2D and post-converted to 3D" thing. It was filmed with 3D cameras! So why all the flat, barely perceptible depth? It doesn't make any sense. Pointless and worthless technology.

The Plot:
It's the future, and humanity lives in vast, crime-filled MegaCities. In order to maintain order, the Judges, who act as police, judge, jury and executioner all in one, roam the streets fighting crime.

Judge Dredd is given the task of training the telepathic rookie Judge Anderson. Their first mission: to investigate a series of murders in Peach Trees Block, a vast housing project. Once inside, Ma-Ma, a cruel and vicious drug dealer, seals off the Block, trapping the Judges inside. Dredd decides the only way to survive is to climb several hundred levels to the top of the Block and rid the world of Ma-Ma.

• Faithful to the comic character.

• Minimal changes to the source material for once.

• Lots o'blood and violence.

• Horrible, horrible, worthless, practically nonexistent 3D.

• The plot is very derivative of the 2011 Indonesian movie The Raid: Redemption, in which a police officer has to make his way up a tower filled with thugs to reach a drug dealer on the top floor.

• Could have used a bit more of the weirder elements of the comics (which feature mutants and killer robots).

I give it a B.

Wow, an honest to goodness thought-provoking and original piece of sci-fi. What a novel concept.

In the film Bruce Willis plays the older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For some reason director Rian Johnson felt it was necessary to use facial appliances to make Gordon-Levitt more closely resemble Willis. 

The prosthetic makeup used on Gordon-Levitt was somewhat successful. They managed to make his nose look just like Willis,' but at other times the prosthetics just made him look like he'd had bad plastic surgery. And what was up with the eyebrows? It looked like they drew in crude, almost Vulcan-like eyebrows on Gordon-Levitt, and looked nothing like Willis.'

Personally I don't think any makeup was necessary. The two actors look enough alike that I wouldn't have had a problem believing they were supposed to be the same person, but what do I know?

There's a subplot in the film involving telekinesis which I will not speak of further. I will say that it came as a total surprise and changed the entire direction of the movie from what I was expecting. Kudos to the filmmakers for not mentioning this subplot in any of the trailers, so that it would remain a pleasant surprise.

A small part of the movie takes place in Shanghai, China. Supposedly Chinese production company DMG Enterprises requested the filmmakers shoot additional scenes set in Shanghai (not seen in the American version) to more easily sell the film to Chinese audiences. Wow. So not only is America several skillion dollars in debt to China, now we're tailoring our movies to them!

Many people around the interwebs have this theory that the character of "Kid Blue" in the film is the younger version of Abe, Joe's boss from the future. All I can say is that thought never once crossed my mind. I don't think it's true, but if it is, it wasn't presented very well.

Filmed for only $30 million, which is nothing short of amazing these days. Heck, some films spend more than that on their craft service!

The Plot:
Time travel is invented in 2074 and immediately outlawed. You know what they say though, when time travel's outlawed, only outlaws will have time travel. Because personal microchips make it tough to kill a person without getting caught, criminal organizations send bodies of people they want whacked back to 2044, to have agents known as "Loopers" do the whacking. They're sending people back into the past to be killed so there's no evidence in the future.

Joe, our hero (so to speak) is a Looper, and makes a pretty good living at it, until one day his future, older self is sent back for him to kill. When Young Joe hesitates, Old Joe escapes. Whoops! Now Young Joe has to hunt down his older self and kill him before his bosses find out and kill him for not killing himself. Confused?

• An original script, something you don't see much these days.

• Lots of ideas and concepts thrown at the audience (maybe a little too many).

• Another great performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

• Nice background details (for example, solar panels and other contraptions on cars, indicating they no longer run on fossil fuels).

• A trailer that doesn't give away every plot point in the movie.

• Some of the time-travel science is a bit wonky, but that's pretty much par for the course in any movie involving the subject.

• The Levitt-Willis makeup worked better in some scenes than in others.

• My usual gripe: the story takes place in 2044, far too close to the present day for the level of technology on display in the film.

I give it an A.

Taken 2
The original Taken took the box office by surprise back in 2008. Liam Neeson was an uncompromising badass who shot first and didn't even bother with the questions later as he searched the globe for his kidnapped daughter.

Sadly, everything that made the first movie good is largely absent here. Taken 2 is pretty much a remake of the first film, but lacks the surprises, energy and style.

Most of the cast of the first film returns here, although why they even bothered to include Brian's (Neeson) crew of ex-CIA agents is beyond me, as they had literally 30 seconds of screen time.

Famke Janssen once again plays Brian's wife Lenore, and this time is the one who's Taken (they actually say "Taken" many times throughout the movie, and each time they say it like it should be capitalized). She's OK in the first half of the film, but once she's kidnapped she pretty much becomes a sack of laundry that moans now and then to let us know she's still alive. 

Maggie Grace is back as Brian's daughter Kim. Thankfully she doesn't get Taken this time, and actually helps move the plot along, daintily kicking a tiny bit of ass alongside her father.

The action's not as good this time around, which could be because of the patented Blurry Shaky Cam™ used in all the fight scenes. Honestly the camera was jerking around so much I had no idea what was happening most of the time, and had to wait until the end of the fights to find out who won (Surprise! It was Brian!).

There's a lot of unbelievable action this time. OK, all action movies are pretty unbelievable, but this one ramps it up past eleven. Kim throws a live grenade out the window of her hotel room onto an adjacent roof, an action totally ignored by security. Later she and her dad drive through a U.S. Embassy checkpoint without getting shot (despite the heavy gunfire aimed in their direction) and somehow walk away without being detained in Guantanamo for the rest of their natural lives.

The most ridiculous sequence involves Kim-- who hasn't yet passed her driving test-- speeding through the streets of Turkey while Brian shoots at their pursuers from the passenger seat. Bear in mind that this is a young woman who doesn't know how to drive, but somehow careens and drifts around sharp corners as she outruns the bad guys. 

The Plot:
Pretty much the same as the first, except this time the wife gets Taken instead of the daughter. Oh, and it's not as good.

• Liam Neeson is great as always.

• Blurry Shaky Cam™ makes it difficult to figure out what's going on in the action scenes.

• Cardboard villain with a silly moral code ("You killed my son! My beloved son who was a despicable slave trader and human trafficker! For that I'm going to kill you!").

• Ridiculous chase scene, made all the more amazing as it's performed by a young woman who doesn't have a license.

• Maggie Grace is 29. She's playing a character who is apparently 18. I know it's a time honored Hollywood tradition for actors to "play young" but it always bugs me no end.

I give it a C.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this Out Of Context Star Trek Moment!

Yep. That's a dude wearin' a dress.

In fact he's wearing the same style of dress as Counselor Troi (back row in the little blue frock). How embarrassing for the two of them to show up for work wearing the same outfit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 1: Seed

Hey, The Walking Dead's back! It's about damn time too. It's been seven months since the last episode. If they don't stop having such long stretches between seasons Carl's gonna be shaving soon!

No doubt about it, this was an awesome episode and a great way to start the new season. I really don't have any major complaints about it. Let's hope they can keep up the good work.

SPOILERS! You've been warned!

• We get new opening credits, listing all the new cast members.

• So it looks like several months have passed since the Season Two finale. Michonne mentions something to Andrea about how they survived the winter. No doubt they wrote in a time jump to help explain Carl's growth spurt. And Lori's belly. And Herschel's hair.

• Team Rick is now quite the well-oiled zombie killing machine. I didn't see a single character do something stupid, unlike last season. Good. It's high time they started writing these characters a bit more intelligently.

• Carl has seemingly gone from Idiot Plot Device to a serious and valuable member of the team. Good. His bone-headed antics last season, which inadvertently resulted in several deaths, was wearing thin. Let's hope they keep up the good work and don't have Carl revert to his old ways.

Lori even managed to not be annoying this episode. And Carol finally seems to have something to do other than look worried. And T-Dog! He had more lines in this episode than he had all last season.

Do you suppose the writers read all the fan complaints on the internet and decided to address the various problems with the show?

• At the end of Season 2, we saw Rick and Co. resting after fleeing Herschel's farm. Then a dramatic crane shot revealed the prison in the distance, seemingly a quarter mile away. Half a mile at the most. Yet somehow the group drove back and forth around the area for several months without seeing it. I suppose it's possible (they made a half-hearted excuse about zombies blocking certain routes), but... it seems unlikely.

Wait a minute! Now that I think about it, they were planning their moves by looking at a road map! Wouldn't a prison be listed on the map?

• Much of the "clearing out the prison" scenes were straight out of the comic book. Pretty awesome to see it come to life like this.

• The infamous prison riot armor even made its appearance! Fans of the comic were no doubt squealing with glee at the sight of it. In the comic Rick, Glenn and Michonne donned the armor in order to safely clear out a nest of zombies. Here they just put on a few select pieces, mostly the bulletproof vests. Odd. If I found a suit of carbon fiber armor in their you can bet I'd be wearing it even in the shower!

• Lori raised some valid- if gruesome- concerns about childbirth in a world crawling with undead.

•  Carl seems to be becoming quite a little horn dog, as he was planning on bunking with Blonde Girl until Herschel shooed him away.

• Michonne was nothing short of awesome in this episode (as she always has been in the comic). Strange that they didn't explain her two "bodyguards." Maybe they're saving that for later? For the record, the two jawless and armless zombies Michonne is leading around on a leashes are her former boyfriend and his buddy. She somehow discovered that by having them tag along behind her, most of the other walkers will ignore her. She cut off their jaws and arms so they can't attack her. Hardcore.

• I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Rick Grimes is Herschel Greene's personal Satan. Before Rick came along, Herschel was living a relatively peaceful life with his family and friends on his magically protected farm. Then Rick and his crew show up and in short order Otis is killed, Herschel is forced to confront the unpleasant truth about his dead wife and walkers in general, he falls off the wagon, one of Rick's crew encourages Herschel's daughter to slash her wrists, two of the people under his care are killed, he loses his farm...

And to top it all off, Rick chops off Herschel's leg! If Herschel survives, he would be absolutely justified in putting a bullet in Rick's life-wrecking head.

• So apparently Herschel has become the new Dale. In the comic, Dale was the oldest and wisest member of the group, ended up getting bit on the leg by a walker, and Rick chopped off his leg in order to (successfully) save him. Now that Dale is gone, it seems he's willed his plotlines to Herschel.

• The appearance of the human prisoners at the end is another element straight out of the comic. The older guy who says, "Holy sh*t!"-- I'm betting that was Axel, an inmate who became a big part of the group. There was at least one black inmate standing there-- I wonder if that was Tyreese? In the comic Tyreese was a civilian who joined the group long before they made it to the prison. But introducing him here would be a good way to finally add him to the show. I guess we'll find out next week.

• All in all this was a great episode, but I'm wondering if they can keep it up. Remember the first episode of last season? It started out promising as the group was traveling down the highway and had to hide from the zombie herd. Then they found Herschel's farm, made themselves comfortable and all action stopped for the rest of the season. I'm hoping we don't get a repeat of that this year. Hopefully the prison won't turn out to be another Herschel's farm.

• Lastly I'd like to thank the asshole at who wrote a review of the episode with the headline, "Walking Dead Creator Amputates The Season Premeire." I was doing my best to avoid spoilers all day before I could watch the episode, and thanks to you I accidentally saw your idiotic headline and knew someone was going to get something chopped off.

First of all, that headline doesn't make a lick of sense, and second, who writes a fraking SPOILER in their headline? Thanks for ruining the episode.

According to AMC, this premiere episode scored a whopping 10.9 MILLION viewers. Almost 11 million people! That'a a new all time record for a cable series. Not bad for our little zombie show.

The highest rated network show so far this fall is Modern Family, which pulled in 5.5 million viewers. Half the amount that Walking Dead got.

That pretty much seals it: Network TV is dead, or at least on life support.
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