Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Fistful of Gods! (Brad's Picks)

So, anyone out there actually excited for Wrath of the Titans?  No?  Yer all just going to go see the blandness that is The Hunger Games again?  Lame.  Well, I actually enjoyed the CGIriffic remake from a few years back despite another wooden performance from Sam Worthington, and even though I miss the days of yore with Ray Harryhausen's brilliant stop-motion art, it's always fun to see the Greek Gods go bananas on insignificant puny humans.  And how can you not love Liam Neeson's oh-so-shiny God armor?  But, if I were to pick my favorite cinematic incarnations of the divine they would have to be...

5. Trismegistus (The Keep): One part Hermes, one part Thoth.  I believe Michael Mann and author F. Paul Wilson are the only ones to ever play around with this monster of muscles and I don't think the film ever put a name to the red-eyed being.  Unleashed thanks to some Nazi snooping, Trismegistus might have surpassed the horrors of World War II if not for Scott Glen's mysterious (and completely incomprehensible) stranger.  Whatever the case, F that Gabriel Byrne.

4.  Thor (Adventures in Babysitting):  The God of Thunder doesn't just hang around Asgard and party with The Avengers.  Sometimes he chillaxes in New York City helping hot babysitters with their car troubles.  Sure, he's kinda gruff at first but once you give him back his winged helmet, he's all blonde smiles.

3.  God (A Serious Man):  A seriously hilarious and downright painful re-telling of Job, the god of A Serious Man puts Michael Stuhlbarg's college professor through the wringer.  His kids care only for nose jobs and F Troop, his wife falls for the slimy politeness of Sy Ableman, the Columbia House records henchman won't take "No" for an answer, his brother's boil won't seep, his antisemitic neighbor has the ideal father/son relationship, and the rabbis are useless but easy on speeches.  There's a storm coming, but what's it all mean...nothing, yer screwed.  If only his ancestors had been kinder to a Dybbuk.

2.  The Alpha & Omega Bomb (Beneath the Planet of the Apes):  So Chuck Heston thought the worst thing that could happen in this future world was a little ape uprising, but that was before he met the religious mutant zealots underground.  They're pig ugly and bassackwards but who can blame them for worshipping The End when Dr. Zaius's goons are storming the castle.   ALL HAIL THE BOMB!

1.  The Supreme Being (Time Bandits):  Sure, he's a giant luminous head when he needs to terrify a child and his gang of thieving dwarves, but at his core The Supreme Being is just a kindly suited Ralph Richardson picking up Evil's leftovers.  Robin Hood, Napoleon, Agamemnon.   It's all part of the plan.


Comic Review: The Amazing Screw-On Head

    There are a few people working in the comic field who sometimes make me think they might just be writing to or for me.  Kurt Busiek, Warren Ellis, and maybe nobody more so than Mike Mignola.  And with The Amazing Screw-On Head, he’s put out yet another bunch of off-beat fun that tickles more than one of my fancies.

    The title story, which I’d first experienced as an animated short several years ago, is an enjoyable bit of retro heroic nuttiness, with its uncompromisingly can-do hero, amusing villain, and guest appearance from Mr. Abe Lincoln.  There are several other fun stories in the volume, too.

    But the real treat for me was How Doctor Snap Murdered Professor Cyclops and what Came of It.  Or -- The Prisoner of Mars.  The ‘what-what’ tallyho! British unflappability of the characters and the total bug-nuts nature of the story had me laughing my buttocks off.  Bloody Martians!  The whole thing reminded me of one of Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens tales.

    For any fan of Mignola’s brand of past shrouded, pulp infused, grim humor filled genius, this is a must read volume.  Check it out.

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
Author/Artist: Mike Mignola
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59582-501-8

A Fistful of Gods! (Matt’s Picks)

    With Wrath of the Titans hitting screens, we’re looking at some of our favorite gods in film.

5.  Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen lets us know that “God exists, and he’s American.”  Plus, he doesn’t wear any dang pants.  How awesome is that?!

4.  The Starchild from 2001 is the first human to raise above his primate nature, the next step on the ladder, as different from us as we are from the chimp.

3.  Aisha is, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed,’ and if you happen to be the distant descendant of her old world lover, you might just be in a world of trouble. 

2.  Never debate philosophy with a world destroying explosive, even if you're on the Dark Star.

Let there be light!

1.  Crom from Conan the Barbarian laughs at the four winds.  And he has the sense of decency to stay out of the way, ask no tribute and offer no aid.  He’ll judge you on your own merit and no other consideration.


Like the Constitution, We’re Good Without God

    On Saturday the 24th, I traveled into DC to attend the first Reason Rally, a sort of celebration/call to action for folks like myself who believe in the rule of law and reason, as opposed to superstition, rumor, and whatever drivel Glen Beck crapped out of his mouth last night.  After having our previous President say that I wasn’t a real American, it was nice to have a bunch of patriotic fellow rationalists together in one place to show that not only are non-religious people Americans, but we’re motivated and not going away.  And I have to admit a certain swell of pride when secular members of our armed forces brought out the flags of the services and of the United States, and we collectively said the original Pledge of Allegiance.

(Not from the event, but it looked a lot like this)

    The event itself was a bit uneven, with several highs and a few dragging bits.  One nice aspect of the overall schedule was that everyone was on for only a few minutes, around 10.  This kept people from going too long for the most part, though a few people still managed to make their presentations drag somewhat.

    The highlights were Richard Dawkins, who spoke rather eloquently about some of the things that make the US Constitution as special as it is; James Randi, who is like an ancient secular leprechaun; and Adam Savage of Myth Busters.  I also enjoyed presentations by Hamant Mehta, Jamila Bey, Fred Edwards (how is this guy not in movies?), Victor Harris, and Nate Phelps (yes, related to Fred Phelps).   And host Paul Provenza was a gas.

    The first few hours were quite inspirational in a way, with a lot of call to action and encouragement for political action.  And a general call to come out of the atheist closet.  As was brought up on more than one occasion, secularists are the ‘fastest growing but least trusted minority in America.’  And chances are, we’re not trusted because a lot of people simply don’t get us.  I’ve heard on more than one occasion that it doesn’t matter what someone believes, simply that they believe in something (the implication is that that something must be a supernatural something).  I find that sentiment more than a little troubling.  But whatever, it was nice to see a whole bunch of people who think that evidence should be the basis of belief, and not old books or mystical revelations.

    One of my fellows observed that for the next event, she would prefer that things be a bit more ‘professional’ and family friendly.  I can’t disagree.  For a meeting on the national mall, I’d prefer the swearing of which there were a couple extreme patches, be kept to a minimum.  Though I agree with the Tim Minchin song lyrics, that if the F-word offends you but religious organizations protecting pedophiles doesn’t, then perhaps you should look into getting your priorities straight.  However, I still think the overall event would have been stronger had a few people kept a more polite tongue.

    As the day went on, there did end up being a few too many mid-level speakers going over the same handful of subjects that would hit the cutting room floor in a video version for sure.  It got pretty cold and rainy, I wasn’t properly dressed, and we were all getting pretty hungry.  So, after Eddie Izzard did his bit, we headed out.  Heading into the Metro station was a bloody nightmare.  It’s the busiest I’ve ever see it.  We got the idea to go back a stop and try there, but then the train ended up being crammed full of people and we figured it would be easier to just walk to our destination.  So, after a brisk walk through DC, which I enjoy doing once in a while, we ended up at the Mad Hatter, an Alice in Wonderland themed pub some of our group had heard of.  Well, for themed eateries, it was pretty lame.  The theme consisted of some movie posters and food names…the end.  That said, the food was actually pretty good and shockingly inexpensive for in town DC.

    Overall, a good day.  It gives me hope that there are still Americans out there who believe in the principles of the Constitution, not the pulpit; the rule of law, not mythology anthologies assembled by ignorant savages.  There are still people who believe in the vision of some pretty extraordinary men who understood that mixing gods and government is now and always has been a recipe for disaster.  We know what governments ruled by religion look like.  We have plenty of examples.  I’m glad  I’m not the only one who wants a return to the best of American values like E Pluribus Unum, instead of the post-War usurping ‘In God We Trust.’  And my grandfather fought fascism without needing to say ‘under God’ in his pledge, so why can’t we?  If you want to live in a country where religion is more important than reason and law, I’m sure Saudi Arabia is nice this time of year.


    On a personal note, though I don’t understand it, I don’t actually have a problem with people who hold religious beliefs.  But like sex, I think it should be kept behind closed doors and among consenting adults.  And again like sex, if clubhouses are set up for its practice, they should be taxed like any other business (and if you don’t think religion is a business, you’re only fooling yourself).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dork Art: Mondo 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Tomorrow, Mondo unleashes their latest Disney print and it's actually something I give a damn about.  Ken Taylor's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea measures 24 x 36 and will set you back $50 if yer lucky enough to click on their site at the right second.


Star Trek Infographic

And all that, lead to this...


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brad's Week In Dork! (3/18/12-3/24/12)

Really cranked it out this week.  Between blitzing through The Wire, Double Featuring some Star Trek, re-obsessing over Hellboy, and finally getting a hold on some more Brave & The Bold Batman crack I don't know how I have time for a marriage as well as one of the crazier weeks on the job.  Thankfully, I can still reach epic levels of dork watch in the wee hours of the morning, pounding one movie after the next.  And where last week say my return to Daily Grindhouse with my Shatner's World review, this week I pushed my love for Corman's World.  That documentary hits the street Tuesday and all you crazy Cormanites need to snag yourself the blu ray.  I've watched it three times now and it still hits all the right trashy pleasure centers.  And it inspired me to pick his first film, Five Guns West for this week's cineAWESOME! review.  Need to track down Corman's other early cowboy picture, Apache Woman; if anyone has any ideas please let me know.


The Walking Dead "Besides the Dying Fire":  I've had a lot of problems with AMC's The Walking Dead.  It's got some serious peaks and valleys, and the season finale was no different.  The show opens on the heels of last week's it's-about-time death sequence with a herd of zombies barring down on Hershel's Farm.  Absolutely love seeing all these walkers gather and shuffle their way through the countryside and the resulting fiery assault was definitely thrilling if not confounding (seriously?  Lets all get in our cars and circle wildly blasting/wasting ammunition?).  However, the show introduces at least one element/image from the comic that I was not expecting to appear in this fairly grounded series and it brought a big ol' smile to my face.  But what the hell is with Lori's reaction to her husband having to do what he had to do last week?  Her shirking at his touch was infuriating.  Yeah, I'm looking forward to next season but I'm hoping they can get some of these characters back to making sense.

Justified "Guy Walks Into A Bar":  The show has seemed to flounder a little bit , but Raylan and Quarles' barroom confrontation had me on pins & needles.  For about ten seconds I actually thought Quarles was gonna drop with a bullet in his head.  Instead, the tension is released thanks to a barmaid with a shotgun, which actually drops Raylan in the sack.  Good bye, Winona.  The best bits for me come from the camaraderie between Quarles and his reluctant henchman Wayne Duffy--the poor bastard can only sit back and watch as his bossman brutalizes young chickens.  Creepy Neal McDonough ass nudity.

Star Trek "Space Seed":  Late in the week, my Mondo Gallery Tyler Stout print for Star Trek II arrived and I celebrated with an immediate double feature of Space Seed/Wrath of Khan.  It had been far too long since I had watched any original series Trek and what this viewing of Space Seed proved to me was that I need to crack into the rest of my TOS blus.  Ricardo Montalban definitely owns this episode with his guest spot as 1990s World War III dictator Khan Noonien Singh; his uber-masculinity date-raping his way to the heart of officer red head--"OPEN YOUR HEART" he bends her to his will and it's pretty darn scary.  Thankfully Kirk's still there to throw down with the super man, knocking him out cold with whatever bit of engineering he can wrap his mitts around.  Still, the Captain's gonna learn to regret just dumping the Botany Bay boys on Ceti Alpha Five...but more on that later.

Batman - The Brave and The Bold Season 2 Episodes 13-21:  "Holy Neapolitan, Batman!"  I fall more and more in love with this cartoon with each and every episode I see and the second part of the second season is no different.  We've got Batman & Robin duking it out with The Rainbow Creature who's colorful rays affect the dynamic duo in multiple ways--Green turns ya floppy!  Then there's the Plastic Man/Uncle Sam planetary team-up in which an alien race learns the joys of American Freedom via a sing-a-long Yankee Doodle Dandy!  And don't even get me started on Ace The Bat Hound & Adam West's Protobot smackdown of the Black Mask's goons.  MADNESS!!!!  Beautiful, Wonderful Madness!  If all you know of the Dark Knight is a brooding Christian Bale or the Republican Smasher of Frank Miller's graphic novel than do yourself a favor and revel in the silver age whackness of The Brave and The Bold.

The Wire Season 3:  Another week another season of The Wire consumed.  And it's the best season (and most painful) yet.  The main plot returns to the major crimes division's investigation of Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale, but for me the heart of this season rests with Robert Wisdom's Bunny.  As the mayor's office pushes the department to keep the murder rate under 275, the Major starts to think creatively, asking his officers to ignore minor drug deals--to the point where they set up their own corner dubbed Amsterdam where drug dealers can sell without police concern. It's a fascinating experiment that naturally can't go well in the current political climate.  The build of this season was typically intense for the series, and there was at least one death that knocked me flat on my back.  However, it's Bunny's arc that elevated the show over your typical cops & robbers programming.  And yeah, I gotta admit that The Wire has now become my favorite Crime Show.  Better late than never.


Five Guns West:  ‎"All I Got Left Is My Life, I Aim To Keep It." Roger Corman's first time behind the camera is not a revelation. But it's a solid, cheap Western. The Confederacy pardons five outlaws in an effort to free a Yankee stagecoach of its gold fortune. But most of the film is spent tensions between the five outlaws build while Dorothy Malone's rancher keeps thrusting herself in front of the gang's soft headed psychotics. There are glimpses of Corman's brilliance--one central location used to its fullest and glimpses of brutal, sexually sinister dialog. Five Guns West will probably only be remembered as Corman's first film, but it deserves more than to be so simply dismissible.  For further ramblings read my latest Westerns review over at cineAWESOME!

21 Jump Street:  "Fuck You Science!...Fuck You Miles Davis!" Wait--what? I actually enjoyed a film starring Channing Tatum!?!?!? Has anyone checked Hell, are they building igloos down there? But dang, the big screen revival of 21 Jump Street had me busting at the gut with some of the sharpest stupid quotables of the year, and the Hill/Tatum chemistry is sweet when its not downright creepy. Honestly, I'm still in shell shock that I enjoyed this as much as I did but the script grabs the ridiculous seriousness of the HIgh School Undercover program and drives it to brutal (and sometimes violent) comedy gold. Hopefully Korean Jesus will grant us a sequel.

Casa De Mi Padre:  ‎"Mexico is not for cowards." (Translated from Spanish) In the same fashion in which Black Dynamite celebrates as well as mocks the blaxploitation genre, so does Casa De Mi Padre for the telenovela--and it's not a little chuckler, but a fullblown gutbuster. Will Ferrell's ranchero struggles to find his place within the family while engaging with the Jaguar God, scoring with his brother's hot captive fiance, and taking on Gael Garcia Bernal's Canadian Slim drug dealer. It's goofy as heck, but when Ferrell claims "I Am Armando Alvarez" I also found myself cheering his badassery. Imagine Three Amigos era John Landis taking on the violent grindhouse mimicry of Robert Rodriguez.

The Three Musketeers:  The Four Mediocre Musketeers join forces to tackle Orlando Bloom's fancy pants Lord Falderal, Mads Mikkelsen's horse offending Rochefort, Christoph Waltz's armored Cardinal Richlieu, and Milla Jovovich's twirling swordstress Milady. And it's in 3D!!!!! Or was if you saw it in theaters (which I doubt) or have one of them newfangled televisions. Honestly, all the CG and 3D and ridiculous airships in the world couldn't raise this film above a snooze. Paul WS Anderson should just stick with the Resident Evil movies.  No one was asking for, or wanted another Three Musketeers adaptation.  Please stop.

The FP:  "Yo, For Reals." I wanted oh-so-desperately to enjoy this post-apocalyptic Dance Dance Revolution gang war film, but the enjoyment of the ridiculous premise does not extend beyond the two and half minute trailer. When BTRO dies in the cage against L Dubba E, it's up to his brother JTRO, KC/DC, and BLT to find the right combo of montage to tackle Lee Valamassy's viscious grills--and why should we care? Cuz L Dubba E has stopped the flow of liquor in Frazier Park and without liquor there's no hobos, and without hobos there's no ducks...yeah, The FP is all about Ducks. But this is a one trick pony that doesn't garner more than a few chuckles. Bonus points for James Remar narration and Clifton Collins Jr clown fro cameo.

Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan:  "I Don't Like To Loose." The bravado of Admiral James T Kirk is brought to the test when Ricardo Montalban's Khan Noonien Singh returns from the past to unleash his hate upon the entire crew of the USS Enterprise. Essentially a sci-fi collision of wills, Star Trek II deserves every ounce of praise as the single best movie in the franchise; an exploration on aging and loss as much as a fantastic high seas adventure exchanging cannon blasts for phaser fire. And despite what hope the sequels bring, the emotional climax still brings a lump to my throat.

Excalibur:  Once you've seen the incestuous horror of John Boorman's Excalibur than you'll never need another telling of the King Arthur legend. Splashed with psychedelic lighting and buckets of blood, this film roars like the figurehead who sits at the Round Table. Nigel Terry as our King is a naive monster who deserves to inherit his father's lust and Nicholas Clay's Lancelot is a pompous beauty until he's just a bearded terror on the battlefield. But really, this picture is all about Nicol Williamson's Merlin and Helen Mirren's Morgana Le Fey. Animals.


With the recent release of Hellboy Volume 12: The Storm and The Fury, I decided to go back and re-read all the trades leading up to this momentous Mignolaverse arc.  Marathoned these four books late Firday night/early Saturday morning.  Reinvigorated my love for HB.

Hellboy - Strange Places:  The last book to be completely written and drawn by Mike Mignola, Strange Places begins with a nice little bit of African Mythology, turns into another monster beat 'em up with the fish lady Bog Roosh, and eventually unveils not only the origin of the Dragon Ogdru Jahad, but Hellboy's own Right Hand of Doom. Hellboy, once more, comes face to face with his apparent destiny and he's given another opportunity to pound it away. Strange Places is definitely not a book for newbies to jump into, but fans of the series will get some much desired answers and a whole lotta new questions. And the epilogue with Sir Edward, Queen Mab, and Gruagach succinctly sets up the Epic War about to hit England in Darkness Calls.

Hellboy - Darkness Calls:  This marks the first collaboration between Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo, and even though it might feel a little off at first, you will quickly come to appreciate Fegredo's twisty style. Darkness Calls is the beginning of the end for Hellboy...or at least the current version of "end". After the events of The Island, Hellboy must contend to the Witches of England who would have him for their king. Hecate, the Queen of Blood, is on the verge of reawakening thanks to the toadish Igor Bromhead and the Baba Yaga wants to snatch Hellboy's eye for her revenge. Lots of plot and buildup in this volume, but there is also an excellent skeleton army attack, a sword fight with the Witchfinder General Henry Hood, and an epic battle with Koshchei The Deathless. As fun as this comic can be, Darkness Calls reminds us that the world is at stake, and Hellboy must face his destiny if he's to save us from damnation.

Hellboy - The Wild Hunt:  The Osiris Club invites Hellboy to partake in the tradition of The Wild Hunt, a group of noblemen tasked in the slaughtering of England's Giants. But there's treachery afoot as the pieces of the witch Nimue are gathered by the pigbeast Gruagach, and the shadowcast fairy folk plot revenge against man. The Wild Hunt is one of my all time favorite Hellboy trades; I absolutely love how past short stories like The Corpse and Box Full of Evil are revealed to be significant markers in the saga, and how the origins of Hellboy are connected to the mythology of Great Britain. War is Here. Nothing will be the same again. Ragna Rok.

Hellboy - The Storm and The Fury:  The Second Stage in Hellboy's saga concludes with The Storm & The Fury and it is without a doubt, the single best trade of the franchise--a statement I don't make lightly, knowing full well that Mike Mignola is the true artist of Hellboy's story, but Duncan Fegredo accomplishes great feats with his work here, delivering images equal to and sometimes superior to those found in previous volumes. The Noble Dead of England have risen to follow Hellboy into battle against Nimue and The Dragon, Great Britain will never look the same. Great Moments for all the supporting players; Morgan Le Fey's motives nearly reveal themselves, the poor pig Gruagach witnesses the sad product of his revenge, and the Osiris Club seems to miss the point again. And the climax! ARGH! I need Mignola's next chapter immediately!

Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm & The Fury complete one of my all time favorite story arcs in comics and if you have never dipped into the Mignolaverse than you are most certainly missing out on the mediums best work.


Matt’s Week in Dork! (3/18/12- 3/24/12)

    A pretty good week.  Got in a surprising number of movies again, considering how danged busy I was, and the fact that I had two days where I was gone from dawn to bed time and beyond (blast you inventory!!!).  But the second such day was a great trip into the city.

Separate Ways:  Weirdass lion-lady Karen Black can’t handle her loveless marriage.  I can’t say that I blame her, as her husband is a boring dick who shuts her out at every opportunity.  But, the longer the camera stares at her, the more I was reminded of Mask, and the more I felt for the husband (I know it’s mean, but she’s brutally unappealing in this film).  And then a lycanthrope era David Naughton shows up!  And he plays the sax.  No kidding.  However, this is just another one of those 70s style movies about relationships where everyone is awful and you have to wonder why anyone ever got together in the first place.  Blink and you’ll miss Sybil Danning at the car shop.

Hot Target:  New Zealand is the location for this smutty bit of fluff.  80sed-up tart Simone Griffeth looks like she just stepped out of a magazine ad for watches or jewelry, all bottle blonde and too red a lipstick and nail polish.  Getting past the misquoting of Casablanca, and the absolute awful creepiness of the illicit affair, the nudity, of which there’s quite a bit, is awkward as all get out.  This is the sort of thing Cinemax would go on to make time and again with Shannon Tweed.

Do or Die:  Andy Sidaris is back with another round of guns, explosions, goofy humor, and big…I do mean big boobs.  The plot is secondary.  Something about Pat Morita sending hitmen after our leads.  But whatever.  You’re not watching Sidaris for the story, the acting, or any of that.  A lot of familiar faces and familiar…well, there’s a lot in this movie you’ll have already seen if you’ve been following the franchise.  More of the same, but that’s fine.

21 Jump Street:  “F*%# you, Miles Davis!”  I don’t know if anyone is more surprised than me that I loved this movie.  I’m almost appalled, frankly.  But this movie is really, really funny.  I was curled up in a ball, tears streaming down my face, laughing so hard I thought I was going to choke.  That’s not really common for me.  The cast does a great job and the script is shockingly clever, even when it’s being stupid.  And the biggest shock for me is how much I liked meathead Channing Tatum, a guy I’d have been perfectly happy to never see work again in my life, but who won me over at least for the length of this film.

Casa de mi Padre:  Kind of like a Mexican version of Black Dynamite, this homage/parody of old school Mexi-schlock movies is very funny, and very goofy.  There’s plenty of room fro the usual antics of star Will Ferrell, but it’s the villainous Gael Garcia Bernal who is the real stand-out.  Every moment he was on screen I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.  His cigarette acting alone should get him some kind of nod in the next award season.

Nude Nuns with Big Guns:  Look, if you read the title of this movie and think, “Hmm…this seems like a movie for me,” then you should know what to expect.  You pretty much get it.  Grim violence, awful deeds, lots of nude nuns (some do indeed have large guns).  The women aren’t especially attractive, and the men are especially repellant, but the overall movie was enjoyably trashy.  Very 70s in vibe, which is what the whole neo-grindhouse thing is all about.

Cat in the Cage:  Mr. Snookems or whatever he’s called, has to be the least threatening cat ever captured on film (no matter how dramatic the score gets).  Other than Sybil Danning, this movie has pretty much no redeeming features.  It’s boring, it’s nonsensical, and everyone’s reactions to everything is, in that typical Euro-cinema way, completely arbitrary.  A cat?  Screaming hysterics!  A murder?  Hmm.  Walking down a hall?  Total raging freak-out!  Who are these people?  Why is European film so full of people with emotions set on a randomizer?  I don’t know, and this film doesn’t shed any light on it.

Hard Hunted:  Some of the charm of the earlier films is missing by this point, but it’s still fun in that special Sidaris way.  Lots of near pointless plot twists and turns.  Occasional boobs.  Occasional gun fights.  Occasional acting.  It’s what you expect.

Fit to Kill:  “Are the pictures in English?”  Andy Sidaris and his regulars are back, but this time they’ve brought Julie Strain in on the game.  As fun and stupid as these movies are, they’re starting to feel like a public service message about the dangers of breast enhancements.  Please ladies, just don’t do it.

Firefly:  Firefly did in 14 episodes what most shows can’t do in three or four seasons.  Creating a memorable cast of characters, thrilling adventures, and a cult-like devotion in fans the likes of which haven’t been seen since the original Star Trek.  Playing with tropes of science fiction and the Western, it fills the screen with larger than life characters that both adopt and defy cliché.  The Han Solo-like ‘rogue with a heart of gold’ Mal, the honorable whore Inara, the plucky farm girl with mechanical thumb Kaylee, and others.  Sadly, one that also shows up is a Joss Whedon special, the idiot-savant waif/super-warrior River, a modern character cliché I can’t stand (unless played by Milla).  Taking on science fiction and western stories gave us hover-train robberies, ultra-tech heists, Magnificent Seven stand-offs, and other fun stuff.  While not perfect, it really is something special, and its frustrating brevity also makes each episode that much more special, never letting the show outstay its welcome.  For me personally, the show captures that certain magical something about the rugged individualist, surviving on the fringes on his/her own accord.  I’ve said it elsewhere, but Mal and Serenity always puts me in mind of Jake Cutter and Cutter’s Goose, or Charlie Allnut and the African Queen, or perhaps more obviously for many, Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon.  Like the best science fiction, this tells good stories about interesting people, which should appeal to any with an open mind.

Serenity:  After FOX’s horrible mishandling of the Firefly TV show, showing it out of order, changing its night, not giving anyone a chance to see it, much less for the show to develop a following, I’m quite sure nobody expected a movie to come about.  But the show, like its protagonists, defied the odds.  With success of sales on DVD and a vocal, rabid fanbase, a modest budget was cobbled together and a movie was made.  Sadly, part of the translation to the big screen meant a watering down of the show’s style, dropping a good deal of the Western vibe that gave the show some of its unique charm.  It also took a darker turn, which kind of made sense when you look at where the short lived show seemed to have been heading.  And, at least the film actually answers some of the questions introduced in the show, like what’s up with River? and who are those Reaver folks? and why are they so danged freaky?  The action is pretty good and the story is all right.  The Operative makes for a pretty cool villain, and for this fan of the show, the treatment the crew gets was somewhat devastating (yes, there are deaths of main characters).  But, when all is said and done, I still wasn’t fully satisfied.  I’d have rather had another dozen episodes, or heck, maybe a couple of seasons.  Still, at least it serves as an adequate capper to the series, which is better than many get (Twin Peaks, Enterprise, Farscape…well, Peacekeeper Wars was OK, I guess, etc.).

Parisian Love:  A pretty forgettable bit of fluff about petty thieves and wealthy folk, and what happens when they get mixed up with each other, and of course, fall in love.  It’s fairly well made, but paints with some broad strokes.  The best thing about it is the glimpse into the look and style of the time.  Houses and locations are often quite impressive, and while perhaps somewhat fantastic or stylized, still point toward a certain truth.  I guess Clara Bow is charming in her way, but her way doesn’t especially charm me.

Down to the Sea in Ships:  While it’s got some pretty cool footage of boats and locations, this tale of whaling vessels and Quaker love isn’t especially good.  And man, is it title-card heavy.  It’s primary notability comes from being the debut of Clara Bow, as a precocious young woman who hops a ship (though her story is secondary at best).  I did like the Graduate-like wedding bit, though.  Overall it was OK, but nothing special.  Whaling is an ugly business, though.

    I also got in a couple episodes of The Tomorrow People, which I’m still enjoying.  Very weird show, but plenty of that crazy 70s British crazy.

    Also got some reading in.  I blew through a some Hellboy (read my review here).  And I finished off a pretty good history book, 428 AD (read my review here).

    And on Saturday, a friend and I went into DC to attend the Reason Rally.  More on that later.