Saturday, July 26, 2008


Another Frank Miller comic very faithfully adapted into a movie. I'm not sure it was the best choice for conversion, since the highlight is definitely the art, not the story, but they ended up making an entertaining film anyway. What I found interesting is that most of the elements from the movie I didn't like didn't really show up in the comic. The contrived subplot with the evil senator, the laughable sexuality, they're not there. What is there is all the interesting war imagery and clever dialogue, with it becoming apparent that the movie's greatest contribution was having Gerard Butler shout "This is Sparta!" instead of just saying it before kicking that fool into the pit. It's a very tight story, pretty different from most comics I've read.

And the focus really is the way it looks and not how it's written. As you can guess from the wide cover, it's not in the normal scope, with each page being double wide and filled with beautifully drawn and painted images. Miller can still tend to get a little lazy when he has a lot to draw in one panel, but it's mostly all really good and iconic pencil work, and Lynn Varley's colors just make it even better. It's pretty obvious that they weren't going for historical accuracy, just a visually interesting, different sort of comic book. It definitely worked well, even without Zach Snyder's cool use of slow motion.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sin City

Remember a while ago when I said I'd read the Frank Miller comics those popular movies were based on? Yeah, well I did it. Sin City's not quite a continuous storyline, but a bunch of interconnected tales that can be pretty easily pieced together through well-placed evidence into something resembling a coherent universe. It's been collected in seven volumes, six of which are fairly meaty yarns and the other being a collection of smaller ones of various length. One of the things I really liked from the movie and which carries through into the comics, which should happen since the film was an extremely close adaptation, is the clever writing. It's a good mix of Film Noir and more contemporary style, and the dialogue is always pitch-perfect without ever having to be vulgar. Plot twists are pretty common, and they're rarely surprising, but they do enough to keep it fresh while the various hard-nosed protagonists beat the crap out of everybody they meet.

A couple of problems I did have were with the art and depiction of women. You can see from his other work that Miller knows how to draw and create good compositions, but that ability isn't always expressed here. The black and white, with splashes of color being integrated more as it goes on, is an interesting look, and makes creating some unique and very creative scenes possible. But it looks like Miller might have rushed a lot through certain parts, because the drawings themselves are often quite messy and it can be difficult to tell what's going on when people are getting killed. It just works sometimes a lot better than others. With women, I'm not complaining about the fact that nearly every female character is a stripper or prostitute and that they're all heavily sexualized and drawn like they're naked even when they aren't. Sin City is a bad place and none of the male characters are great role models either. And while he goes out of his way to draw naked women, Miller doesn't shy away from drawing naked men either. What bothers me is how boring the women are. They all look the same, with the same face and perfect body, unless their purpose is to be old and fat, and rarely have a personality as interesting as the male characters, whether they're heroes or villains. Sin City's an interesting and innovative comic, but it didn't amaze me, although I can't say how much of that is from already knowing half of the bigger stories from the movie.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Game Update 8: PSN Demos 3

They keep adding demos and I keep playing them.

The Bourne Conspiracy - I couldn't even finish the demo before I got fed up with the game. They claim it's based on the books since they couldn't get Matt Damon's likeness rights, but it's clearly a barely interactive rehash of the action scenes from the movies with poor combat.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot - Succeeds at its goal of being creepy as hell. Looks to be an interesting continuation of a story I don't know much about, and beating the crap out of psychotic freaks with blunt instruments is extremely visceral.

Dark Sector - Pretty solid shooting action, very derivative of Gears of War but the glaive makes it interesting. Boss fight was pretty bad, though.

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit - Really impressive anime-esque cel-shaded graphics, less impressive but still fun combat system.

echochrome - I like the style and concept quite a bit. The execution seemed a little strange, but it's probably something you get used to after playing for a while.

Haze - The gameplay didn't seem bad and the jungle setting was better than the typical stuff, and I liked that the power-up gimmick wasn't bullet time for once. Still, the game got destroyed by critics so I probably won't pursue it farther.

MLB 08: The Show - Convinced me enough to purchase my first sports game in years, although that wasn't completely the game itself's doing.

Overlord: Raising Hell - I like the idea of an action-RPG thing where you have tons of minions to do your bidding, but what they showed might have been too simplistic. It would have helped to see some normal gameplay instead of just a bunch of tutorial stuff.

Siren: Blood Curse - Fairly creepy, and decent looking for a downloadable product. Not a big horror fan, but it could be fun for people who are.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Game Update 7: E308 Game Impressions

Again, I watched a lot of stage demos on Gamespot. No conference impressions this year because they just weren't worth writing about.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway - Second year in a row. Looked nice, especially the increased focus on story. Never played many tactical shooters, though.

Crysis Warhead - If it can do what the original couldn't and run at a decent level on my computer, I definitely want to check it out.

Dead Space - Creepy looking survival horror in space. Could be pretty cool.

Fallout 3 - I'm pumped for this. Bethesda's basically making Oblivion in a post-apocalyptic setting, which is all they really need to say for me to want it.

Fable 2 - I thought it looked pretty good. The amount of depth to the world is much more impressive than the combat system.

Far Cry 2 - I'm playing the original right now, but I want to get my hands on this soon - really open and dynamic shooter, could be quite interesting.

Gears of War 2 - The new level they showed looked like a fun, and they showed new features like shields, capturing enemies, and hinted at riding a Brumak, which would be great. The first Gears was a really good shooter and there's no reason the sequel won't be as entertaining.

inFAMOUS - That's the official syntax? Whatever. The idea is cool and I like Sucker Punch as a studio, but they didn't show anything in the demo that would actually compel me to try the game.

Mercenaries 2 - Another return to last year. Blowing the hell out of things in South America still looks highly entertaining.

Prince of Persia - Looks like it will be too easy, but the interesting graphics and fact that it's a new Prince of Persia game makes me still want it.

Project Origin - The sequel to FEAR has potential, although the city streets they've shown don't seem very interesting.

Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty - It being downloadable for 15 bucks and a direct sequel to Tools of Destruction makes it appealing to Ratchet fans, and being short and not requiring that game to play should make it appealing to people who haven't tried the series before.

Resident Evil 5 - Might be too similar to RE4, but the producer said they'll show some changes soon that might surprise us. I'd still be pleased with a nicer looking game that played like 4.

Resistance 2 - I still haven't played the original, but the level they showed look sweet if unpolished, fighting against a gigantic boss, and the trailer set the mood quite well.

Resistance: Retribution - A PSP game that fills in the gap between the two console games. I'm not into Resistance really, but I guess it didn't look bad for an early handheld shooter.

Rock Band 2 - It looks like Rock Band, and it adds a bunch more songs and will include the ability to import most of the songs from the first game (which may cost a fee). So it will be good.

Too Human - Eh. The mix of repetitive hack-and-slash RPG combat and clumsily implemented action elements make it look like a jack of all trades that will really please no one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

Batman Begins was one of the better releases in the now quite popular comic book/super hero movement in modern action movies, although it wasn't perfect. The Dark Knight isn't either, of course, but it is probably the best comic book movie I've ever seen. I'd be lying if I said a big part of that wasn't Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, but the movie wasn't one-note either, as it excelled in most areas. A problem with Begins was the action scenes themselves. The movie completely captured the grittier, darker mood that the Batman franchise took in the 80's, but when people were getting violent it often got confusing because darkness and the trendy shaky camera conspired to muddle what was actually happening. The Dark Knight still isn't perfect, but it's generally easier to see what Batman's doing as he pounds faces in. There are some excellent vehicle sequences as well, which were amplified in intensity by the great and incredibly loud sound design, with my seat in the theater actually rumbling when huge trucks were barreling around. It's not restricted to loud moments - there are plenty of times, usually involving the Joker, where it's impressive how well they got across the characters sickly violent nature without ever breaking the PG-13 rating.

Most of that though is all Ledger - the guy really dove into the character and created one of the most unnerving performances I've ever seen. Every tick, every line shows you the depth of his psychosis. Although I thought it was more impressive, the job he did really shouldn't be compared to Jack Nicholson's in the 1989 film, because they're very different. Nicholson's Joker was perverse and hilarious, Ledger's is just perverse. There are times when he will make you laugh, but that isn't really the goal. I haven't seen any of his other work, but his passing is truly unfortunate. He had quite a talent that we won't have seen enough of. Not that he was the only good member of the cast. Bale's Batman voice is still a little weird, but he does a good job of handling both ends of the character. I haven't seen Eckhart do much serious stuff, but he is great portraying the downfall of Harvey Dent. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine don't stretch their talents that far but are solid playing familiar characters. I don't like how they had to recast Maggie Gyllenhaal in Katie Holmes' old role, but she probably does a better job than Katie would have. Nolan really impressed me with Memento, and whether he does another Batman or moves on, he's one of the more talented directors working right now. There were some surprises with how he handled all the different characters, but I thought they did a great job keeping everything in check and entertaining.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Sopranos - Season 4

The saga of the Soprano families continues. This was a really important season, with the single most important plot event of the show so far occurring at the end. It's not quite something you won't see coming, but it's still a bit of a surprise to see the central dynamic of the show change so dramatically. The pivotal scene is extremely well acted by the main characters, and it might be the biggest moment in one of history's best shows, as I've been told on more than one occasion that I shouldn't even bother watching the last two seasons. I still well, although I can't say me expectations haven't been tempered, especially since I already know about the non-ending.

They really did a good job that year of creating a story with tons of interweaving facets. Everything connects nicely without seeming contrived, and even though they still stay focused on a few topics per episode, it's all balanced very well. Janice dates Ralph who continues to cause Tony problems who's dealing with more pressure from Carmine in New York. Furio deals with feelings for Carmella who finds out about Tony's continued infidelity and has more arguments with her kids. While in jail, Paulie gets led on by Johnny Sack who is furious over comments made by Ralph. Chris' drug problems hurt Adriana, who's being used by the FBI. It all goes round and round and never gets boring. Hits get called for and canceled at the last second, and bad situations continue to get worse without being predictable. It's quite funny sometimes too, and the dream sequences are still fresh and some of the best put to film. The Sopranos is a darn good show.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Liveblog 14: 2008 All-Star Game

It's the All-Star Break, and the Yankees once again find themselves several games out of playoff position. Their offense has really been bad this year, with one or two key bats always seeming to be injured and a complete failure to hit well with runners in scoring position. My optimism for the season has been dwindling, although I still think they have another second-half run in them. But right now is the All-Star Break, and the final Midsummer Classic to be played at Yankee Stadium before the new one opens next year. Last night was an interesting Home Run Derby, with Josh Hamilton hitting a mind blowing 28 homers in the first round, several of which were absolutely crushed, but losing in the final round to Justin Morneau, who seems to have a knack for undeserved accolades. Tonight is the game itself on FOX, with Cliff Lee and Ben Sheets starting for their respective leagues. I'll try to blog the whole thing, so here's hoping it's not too boring.

Pre-Game - They're introducing the teams and stuff. There are always some overlooked players who don't get to go and less worthy guys getting in on reputation, but man, I think Jason Varitek could be the least deserving All-Star ever. Terrible offensive season, and even sub-par defense. The players for the Mets and Red Sox get lusty boos from the crowd. There's a lot of members of the Hall of Fame here. They're predictably making a hoopla of the final game at the Stadium. They're introducing the starters for each league along with pretty much every living HOFer at that position. It's kinda cool. Taking a long time, though. George Steinbrenner's being brought to the mound on a cart to give the ball to the Yankee HOFers. He looks pretty terrible. They're throwing the first pitch to the current Yankees involved in the game. It's half an hour into the runtime and I'm ready for the actual game to start.

Top 1 - Why does Joe Buck still cover baseball games for FOX? He doesn't like baseball and nobody likes him. It's a complete waste of everyone's time. The balance of starting pitchers to relief pitchers for both teams is really... dumb. Starting Pitchers are intrinsically better players, and you don't really get a benefit from half a dozen closers when the game's still nine innings long. Oh well, complaining about All-Star rosters is pretty played out. I just hate it when people still cite appearances in the game as arguments for or against a player's body of work. Cliff Lee's on the mound. I don't know how much of his amazing start to the season was real, but his numbers have come down a bit by this point. They're still excellent, though. Hanley Ramirez leading off. He has a good hack at the first offering but strikes out three pitches later. Chase Utley up next. His teammate Jimmy Rollins won the MVP last year but except for a stint on the disabled list, I thought Utley had the better season. He looks at a called third strike on the inside corner. It seems like Lee and Joe Mauer have a good rapport. Lance Berkman flies out to Hamilton in center to end the first.

Bottom 1 - Commercial for the new Mummy movie. It looks like the same sort of stupid fun as the first two, but it's disappointing when the actor who plays a major character (Rachel Weisz in this case) doesn't return for a sequel. Ichiro Suzuki pops out to Matt Holliday in right. Sheets usually gets injured, but he's been a rock for my fantasy team this year. Derek Jeter up second, and he smacks a ball to second which Utley fails to turn into an out. I guess it's a hit. Jeter steals second easily. Hamilton strikes out on a nice breaking pitch. A-Rod pops out to the catcher Geovany Soto to end the inning. What a choker.

Top 2 - Lee is still pitching, and gets Albert Pujols to ground out. Pujols has more extra-base hits than strikeouts in his career, about a 3:2 ratio. Just so you know, that's completely ridiculous. Chipper Jones singles up the middle for the NL's first hit. Holliday grounds out to Kevin Youkilis, who tags him. Ryan Braun has also been a beast for my fantasy team. He strikes out here though, and Lee did a good job.

Bottom 2 - They're seriously pimping JJ Abrams' new show, Fringe. It looks interesting, although I still can't tell what it's about. Manny Ramirez up. Would you want to throw to the catcher of your chief rival in the division? I wouldn't, but that's what Sheets is doing. He strikes out Ramirez after a lengthy at bat. Milton Bradley up, replacing injured (and also undeserving) David Ortiz in the starting lineup. Bradley gets a full count and draws a walk. Youkilis at the plate. Bradley manages to steal second as well. Looks like he took out Utley with the slide, although he was already falling over. Youkilis is out on a foul tip. Mauer hitting. He walks on another full count. The Brewers manager (Yost?) probably isn't happy with all the pitches he's throwing. Dustin Pedroia is up. He's quite the little imp. He pops out to center to end the second.

Top 3 - Joe Saunders now pitching. Kosuke Fukudome grounds out to first. The graphic with his name and stats was in Japanese, which was kinda funny. Geovany Soto flies out. Ramirez hits a solid single to right. Utley grounds another one to Youkilis, and we're moving on.

Bottom 3 - Quick inning for Carlos Zambrano - Ichiro singles, but Jeter grounds into a double play and Hamilton also grounds out.

Top 4 - Roy Halladay pitching, his first game after shutting out the Yankees in embarrassing fashion. Berkman strikes out. Pujols hits one down the right field line, and gets called out at second on a nice throw by Ichiro, although the replay showed he was safe. Jones grounds to Jeter for out number three.

Bottom 4 - Zambrano still pitching, he strikes out A-Rod. He accidentally throws a curveball at Manny's head, but he ducks under it. He then grounds out. Bradley grounds a ball to Ramirez, but the throw is high and he reaches on an error. It doesn't matter though, as Zambrano picks him off first without throwing another pitch.

Top 5 - Ervin Santana throws some nice looking pitches to Holliday, but ends up giving up a homer for the first run of the game. Braun grounds out. Grady Sizemore replaced Manny to start the inning, and after one out Joe Crede replaces A-Rod. Weird move until they explain the reasoning of giving fans a chance to cheer him as he leaves. Santana strikes out Fukudome and Soto to end the frame, but the damage was done.

Bottom 5 - My mom makes a weird breathing noise when she's sleeping. It's not snoring but it's about as annoying. Nate McLouth and Russell Martin replace the two struck out Cubs, and Dan Haren takes the mound. He gets Youkilis to fly out to right. Mauer bounces an infield single over his head. He actually deflected the ball with his glove, which may have prevented an infielder from getting the out. Ian Kinsler pinch-running, which is a waste of his mad hitting skills. After a throw over, he gets the AL's third stolen base. Next pitch is ball four to Pedroia. Two on for Ichiro. Unfortunately, he strikes out, leaving it up to Jeter, famed pumpkin eater. Gotta love sign holders pandering to the station showing the game to get screen time. Full Of eXcitement. Great. Jeter grounds out to Haren to end the threat. He won't be the hero tonight.

Top 6 - Morneau at first, Kinsler at second, JD Drew in right, Varitek catching, Justin Duchscherer pitching. Ramirez smacks a single to left. Utley singles with Ramirez running, runners at the corners with no outs. Berkman hits a sac fly to score Ramirez, two runs for the NL. Michael Young replacing Jeter mid-inning. Pujols singles up the middle. Jones strikes out swinging. Holliday pops out to second to wrap it up.

Bottom 6 - Adrian Gonzalez at first, Dan Uggla at second, Miguel Tejada at short, Aramis Ramirez at third, Corey Hart in right, Haren still pitching. Hamilton singles to start it off. Crede pops out. Why's he an All-Star? I have no idea. Sizemore up. Hamilton steals second and Martin throws it in to center, but not badly enough to move him to third. I don't know why Hurdle is using all the pitchers for two innings, it seems stupid. Sizemore watches strike three with a full count, two down. Bradley pops out to center on the first pitch, and we go to the seventh.

Top 7 - Carlos Quentin in left, Joe Nathan pitching. Come on, Buck. Nathan isn't underrated. Braun quickly strikes out. McLouth flies to center. No, he doesn't. He hits a pop fly there. Martin does the same. The AL has three more chances to make up this deficit.

Bottom 7 - Ryan Ludwick in left, Edinson Volquez pitching. Morneau doubles to right-center. Kinsler moves him to third with a ground out. Dioner Navarro batting for Varitek before he ever got an at bat. Even his own manager knows he sucks. A nicely moving fastball catches Navarro looking at strike three. Drew up. He hits a game-tying, two run homer. I'm not sure how I feel about that. That's probably the only time you'll ever see a crowd in New York cheer JD Drew. Volquez strikes out Young, but now it's anyone's game.

Top 8 - Jonathan Papelbon pitching. I don't really feel the need to go over the crap he said recently, so I won't. He gives up a bloop single to Tejada. Uggla strikes out swinging. The New York crowd is really giving it to Papelbon. It's pretty funny. The FOX guys vehemently defending him are pretty nauseating, though. Tejada steals second and Navarro throws it away, moving him to third. Gonzalez hits a sac fly to Quentin, and the NL has the lead again. Can't blame that on Papelbon, though. David Wright hitting for Pujols. Called third strike, end of the frame.

Bottom 8 - Brian Wilson's pitching. Not the Beach Boy, just the Giants' closer with a bad ERA who's somehow leading the NL in saves. Quentin flies out to center. Carlos Guillen pinch hits for Crede. This is the second time Buck's claimed he was the AL's last position player, at the same moment they show Evan Longoria watching from the dugout. Not the Desperate Housewife, just the Rays' third base rookie sensation. Guillen K's. Billy Wagner comes in to relieve Wilson. "Oh, shit!" Clint Hurdle exclaims. "I forgot that this is an exhibition and I should use as many players as I can to please the fans instead of using three pitchers in six innings!" Sizemore singles. Longoria pinch hits for Bradley. Sizemore snags second base. Longoria auto-doubles to score the tying run as Wagner blows another. Morneau grounds out, but we got us another tie.

Top 9 - Francisco Rodriguez pitching to Ramirez. I do not approve of this decision, unless Rivera relieves him mid-inning. Mariano should pitch the ninth regardless of situation for the symbolism in the Stadium's final All-Star game, because if the AL wins in the bottom of the ninth he will not have gotten to pitch at all. Ramirez walks. Christian Guzman pinch runs. Hart flies out to Drew. With Ludwick batting, Mariano is brought in. If he loses the game, I will feel silly. Ludwick works a full count, but strikes out as Guzman is caught stealing to end the inning. First double play turned in this game. It's kinda cool to see cooperation from three different teams to make a play, so I wish it happened more.

Bottom 9 - Starting Pitcher Ryan Dempster in to relieve late. Weird. He has a strange-ass Jazz hands delivery. Kinsler strikes out as Tim McCarver idiotically pontificates on the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. Seriously, the thing Dempster does with his hands during his windup is bewitching. It fucking freaks me out. Navarro strikes out as well. They mention Tim Lincecum being unable to play in the game after being hospitalized with "dehydration and flu-like symptoms". I'm not saying anything because being in the hospital is pretty serious, but what does that sound like to you? Drew strikes out looking to move it to extra innings. Shit.

Top 10 - Rivera still pitching. He punches out McLouth. By striking him out. Not actually hitting him. Martin has a nice, long at bat before singling. Another hit-and-run and a single by Tejada puts runners on first and third with one out. But a groundball double play from Uggla keeps the tie intact.

Bottom 10 - Please win the game here. Aaron Cook pitching. Young hits a groundball on the first pitch, but Uggla flubs the play. He's screwing up left and right. Quentin up. He lines a ball under Uggla's glove, and now runners on the corners with no outs. He is gonna get raped in the clubhouse after the game. Ken Rosenthal adds insult to injury, telling a story about it being Uggla's father's dream to see his son play in Yankee Stadium. Oy. They're walking Guillen to face Sizemore. He grounds it to Uggla of course, who throws it home to get the force. Longoria with the chance to be the hero. He grounds it to Guzman, who again gets the out at home. Now it's up to Morneau. He grounds it to Tejada, who makes a great play to get the third out. That's not the way I wanted the game to end, but man, I still wanted it to end.

Top 11 - Joakim Soria is pitching. Gonzalez punches a single through the infield. Wright goes down on strikes again. Guzman hitting. He pops out, but just think about this. He could have hit a double to score Gonzalez, and the NL could have gone on to win in the bottom of the inning. You would have had Padres and Nationals hitters scoring against a Royals pitcher to determine which league gets homefield advantage in the World Series. Three teams that won't come close to the playoffs having a say in what happens there. How fucking stupid is that? The tie a few years ago was lame, but forcing postseason ramifications into a silly game that's supposed to be meaningless fun is one of the worst ideas ever, coming from a commissioner's office full of them. Hart flies out, and it's time for the bottom of the 11th.

Bottom 11 - Cook's still going. Kinsler singles to center on a bloop. He tries to steal, but is caught on a pitch out. Great. He was safe, but the umpire blows the call. I guess he doesn't want to go home. Navarro walks. Drew singles up the middle. Without the bad call, this game's probably over. Young singles up the middle, but being a catcher, Navarro can't run and is thrown out at home. Fucking umpires won't let the game end. They show the replay. He was safe. This is unbelievable. Please end this, Quentin. He grounds out to third. I seriously can't watch anymore. If this game isn't proof we need to replace human umpires with robots, I don't know what is. I'm going to bed.

Wrap-Up - They played on into the night, and the game didn't end until Young drove in Morneau with a sac fly in the bottom of the fifteenth inning. Once again, the AL has earned homefield the dumb way. You ever have a dream where you get free stuff that you wanted? I hate waking up from those. In any case, that was a doozy of a final All-Star Game at the Stadium.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Assy McGee

Assy McGee is a very strange show, and one of the more underrated that Adult Swim has produced. The "second season" was actually the rest of the produced episodes from season one that weren't shown when it was taken off the air originally due to horrible ratings and viewer response. They went ahead and aired them this year, and I don't know if the reaction was any different, but it was still an entertaining show. Assy is a great parody of the standard loose-cannon detective character, and he has some of the best one-liners I've ever heard, they just happen to be uttered in a very mumbled voice coming out of a butt. One of my favorites is when he shoots a passenger on a bus in the knee, and the victim screams that he needs a doctor. Assy callously shoots him in the other knee and says, "Now you need two doctors." The second season episodes developed the concept a bit more, bringing back old characters and introducing depth to others. It's all a big farce, but it's an enjoyable one. I was hoping for them to go over the top with a stupidly elaborate climax to the season, but the finale was just another episode. I guess I shouldn't expect too much from a show called Assy McGee.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

MC Lars - Radio Pet Fencing

Radio Pet Fencing was indie nerd rapper MC Lars' first album that he didn't release by himself, and the last before he dropped "Horris" from his moniker. They had to stop selling it because they didn't have the rights to the samples used, but Lars put it up on his site for free anyway, although it's since been taken down. It's pretty lo-fi in places, with simplistic beats and a pretty basic vocal flow usually. Still, Lars' smart lyrics, unusual song topics, and musical creativity make it more enjoyable to listen to than you might expect. His ability to string together rhymes seamlessly isn't as natural as many stronger rappers, but there's still plenty to get out of even his early work. It's not even all rap, with "Mr. Wormsly's Addiction" being a pretty good rock instrumental.

"Hey That's Me" is the standard self-focused track, although the subjects of his bragging, such as a high SAT score, are a bit nontraditional, and includes samples from various kids' comedies. "Yes I Am an Alien" is another clever song, with a chorus that would later be reprised in The Graduate's "Space Game". It has a nice mix of rap and indie rock elements. "Certified" is a pretty long track, with cool instrumental elements and excerpts from some sort of bizarrely uninformative video warning about the danger faced by infants. "Rapbeth (Foul is Fair)" is about a play by Shakespeare with a chorus that anyone should be able to recognize. "Sarah" is a very personal-sounding song that still manages to be very entertaining, and "Escape From Robot Island" is a funny, catchy track, including guest vocals from one of Lars' friends who tends to mumble since he can't really rap as fast as he tries to. I've seen Lars live twice, but both times he performed more recent songs, so it was cool to hear some of his earlier work.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Usually it's easier to write when I have things to complain about, but there really wasn't much wrong with one of Pixar's best films yet. It's really astounding how much better they are at animated features than every other American studio. The first couple Shrek movies were passable, but everything else looks either uninspired or just plain awful, and I'm never interested enough to see if my first impressions (and most critics) were wrong. To be honest, I don't even keep up well enough with Pixar's work, with this and The Incredibles being the only movies I've seen that they've made since 2001. Although this did a good job of encouraging me to check the others out. Wall-E has everything that you could want in a family-friendly animated film. It's very clever, with plenty of jokes that people of any age could probably laugh at. It's filled with cute moments, to the point that I was actually slightly annoyed by th "aww"s coming from the other people in the audience. The story, despite very little dialogue, especially in the first act, has a good message without getting too preachy and rings very true emotionally. And although I'm saddened by how America has pretty much abandoned traditional cel animation, a process Pixar started with the success of Toy Story, it's hard to complain when their work looks so amazing. The combination of intricate details and enjoyable stylization is perfect.

What's impressive is how good of a main character Wall-E is despite his speaking being limited to crude pronounciations of names. After being alone on Earth with just a cockroach for companionship for who knows how long, he encounters a much-more advanced robot with nearly as strong vocal limitations, and despite Eve's proclivity for large explosions at first, they quickly become friends, before she has to return to the humans' colony ship for her mission and Wall-E tags along. I won't say any more about the plot, other than it's (insert grandiose complimentary adjective here) how well the central relationship works when all the two characters really say is each other's names most of the time. The whole thing is really beautiful, and it ties in nicely with the B-Plot about humanity and how their lazy consumerism has literally turned them into fat cartoon characters. The old videos before they had to leave for space feature a live-action Fred Willard trying to be optimistic about abandoning the home planet, and the juxtaposition between people then and in the present just using film techniques is very interesting. It's more interesting if you take it a step farther, with the robots being more realistically rendered than the people. There are some silly plot contrivances in the climax and resolution, but it all still finishes in a very satisfying and touching way. I really want to see The Dark Knight but this may end up as the best film of the summer.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Condemned

The Condemned is another terrible movie starring a professional wrestler, but unlike The Marine it's not the stupidly enjoyable kind of terrible. Well, that's not completely accurate, there were a few idiotic moments that provided laughs, but in general it's a joyless, brainless action movie that has the balls to be preachy about its own lack of joy and brains. The plot is a shameless rip-off of Battle Royale, with convicts on death row instead of Japanese high-schoolers. The idea of people being forced to fight to the death for the amusement of others wasn't original to that movie, but every detail seems to be copied, like the remote island, exploding collars, and choppered-in supplies. For some reason though, Battle Royale seemed less tasteless. Maybe it's because every female contestant wasn't sexually assaulted and it didn't try to justify itself by having the villain pontificate on how bad the government and the mass media is.

As just an action movie though, it's not that great either. There were some entertaining confrontations, but mostly it's just some brutal beatings, explosions, and a few people getting shot. I used to watch some wrestling when my brother was getting into it a while ago, and Steve Austin was always an entertaining anti-hero, probably my favorite one. None of that gruff charisma really comes across here though, as he tries to be as nonviolent as possible and never even has any good cheesy one-liners. I don't see who they were trying to appeal to, it was too dumb to be a good movie but not dumb enough to be a fun bad movie. Vinnie Jones is the psychotic "evil" contestant, but doesn't seem to be as likable outside of a Guy Ritchie movie, and the only truly good moment was the absurdity of the main bad guy's death. A truly silly scene in a movie that didn't have many others. I really can't recommend this to anybody.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I haven't seen either of Bekmambetov's "Watch" action/fantasy/whatever films, but I guess they were somehow interesting enough to find success outside of Russia and get him a job in Hollywood. I can't really say I'm that impressed by his storytelling skills, but he sure knows how to make an over-the-top action scene. Wanted is (apparently very loosely) based on a comic published by Top Cow and written by Mark Millar, whose work I also haven't experienced but has done well enough for me to have heard of him. It (the movie) is about a loser whose life changes when he finds out he's inherited his father's abilities as an elite assassin and is brought into a secret guild that carries out hits around the globe. It's quite a while before he really gets into that though, as a lot of time is spent showing how much of a loser he is. A lot of the focus is at the office where he works, with some really unfunny scenes about how much he hates his fat boss and dirtbag friend. The narration by James McAvoy is really bad, especially in these early scenes, where you can see him and the writing straining very hard to be clever but failing at every turn. I was glad when he left that and got into killing people.

McAvoy and Angelina Jolie are featured in most of the action, and they have a pretty decent chemistry on camera. She's sexy as she always is, and he seems a little out of place starring in a movie like this but doesn't do a bad job overall. Morgan Freeman is the leader of the assassins, and does the typical wise old man thing he always does, and towards the end his character gets more interesting and funnier. Common makes another acting appearance, although the actual acting he does is minimal and I think he's just there because his face looks cool. There are many other mildly interesting characters, and the middle of the movie is a bunch of McAvoy getting his ass kicked and partaking in some entertaining missions before the big one, avenging his father's killer. It's around this point that they start throwing out plot twists like they're party favors, and it's not long before the final big violent sequence with lots of running, shooting, absurd curving of bullets, and exploding rats. The very end makes one final attempt at too-cool-for-school humor, and then there's the credits to a very mediocre movie. While it usually pretty dumb, the filming and visual effects in the action scenes make it easily watchable for fans of the genre. If you think you'd like it from the previews, you're probably right.