June 28, 2004

Red VS Blue

For anyone who's into the military lifestyle, science fiction humor, video games, or these things in any combination, then you may want to check out Red VS Blue. Download a couple of the movies or public service announcements, if you like it you can even pick up the Season 1 DVD (like I did).

Basically, Red VS Blue lampoons military life using a first-person-shooter "capture the flag" game engine (in this case, Halo) in lieu of animation or live action. They've even coined a term for this technique of using video game engines to create films, machinema.

So okay, you've got the red team and the blue team. Each has a base at one end of a box canyon. When they're not fighting each other, the team members stand around and shoot the shit about all kinds of nonsense.

There are some really cool characters in this series, each has at least a little something to make them stand out. It just takes a little bit to get used to who's who, since they all look the same but are different colors; basically everyone in the Red army is a warm color (red, maroon, orange) and everyone on blue a cool color (powder blue, aquamarine, dark blue)

Sarge is the gruff, tough-talking leader of the Reds; he's similar to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. He's full of war stories but sometimes rambles on without making sense. Simmons sucks up to Sarge, often at the expense of his buddy Grif, who's a sarcastic, lazy backstabber that everyone seems to hate. Church seems to be leading the Blue team, he's quick to anger and mouth off. His buddy Tucker has chicks on his mind constantly. Then there's Caboose, the Blue team rookie who's dumber than a box of rocks. There's another rookie named Donut, the robot Lopez, a freelancer named Tex, and even a talking tank.

June 21, 2004

The West Virginia Barbed Wire Massacre

Just wanted to make another post about this movie I watched over at my parent's house, Wrong Turn.

It's your typical slasher movie, so if you like that kind of fare you might find it entertaining. I'm so jaded though that it almost seemed boring to me. It follows the usual slasher movie rules, you can pretty much predict who's going to die when.

In a lot of ways this is a bad knock off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, maybe seasoned with a bit of Deliverance. Takes place in West Virginia, features a hick family, chief weapon this time is barbed wire. They've even got all these wrecked cars from their victims stored around the place, which I think TCM had too.

What's weird about this movie are the killers themselves. We don't see them for a long time, just see their boots as they shuffle about and make moaning and wheezing noises. When you finally do see these guys, they're practically mutants. Matter of fact, they bear a striking resemblance to some of the orcs from Lord Of The Rings! Take the pale and bony "What about them? They're fresh!" orc from Two Towers, except make him chitter and laugh the whole time. Throw in the Uruk-Hai chief with the mad archery skills from Fellowship Of The Ring (yes, one of these guys actually has a bow and orc arrows!) Finally, throw in the deformed orc general from Return Of The King. Give them barbed wire, a shotgun, a big tow truck and no dialogue and you've got Wrong Turn!

Chronicles of YAWN

I saw Chronicles of Riddick over the weekend - for anyone who's planning to see it, get yourself a copy of Pitch Black and watch that again. It's a far more satisfying film.

For one, whoever did the audio editing should be forced to listen to Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" for 4 consecutive hours. The level ranges from huge explosions, to whispered dialogue that I'd need a hearing aid to understand. Whispers are okay if a hot chick is whispering "I love you" to the leading man, but they're not cool when a main plot point or something technical is said in a whisper. Seriously, that's what they did!

The story is just enough to string the explosions and fights together, but that's typical action movie fare. The plot is of course confusing, or should I say more confusing than usual for a science fiction film.

Riddick however loses his cool. At the end of the movie he actually emotes! Unfortunately instead of being pissed or showing another manly emotion, he's sad then confused. Riddick, the cocky and cold-blooded bastard, is sad and confused. Bad time to flex those acting muscles, Vin!

June 15, 2004

Greatest Hits - Duran Duran versus Asia

I'm really into my music, my collection is so large I probably have something for every occasion: Rock & Roll for when I'm driving, electronic to get me energized, Mozart for concentration, jazz for relaxation.

What I like is a really satisfying album, the kind one can listen to from beginning to end and the music is just right. Disks like Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon or Wish You Were Here, ELO's Out Of The Blue, AC/DC's Back In Black, Led Zeppelin's II, IV, and Houses Of The Holy, the soundtrack to Heavy Metal or the first Matrix movie, Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe.

Another musical joy is when a band puts out a really good Greatest Hits collection. This doesn't always happen, for instance REM left "It's the end of the world as we know it" off their recent collection, which is odd considering this was their first mainstream hit. Van Halen left a whole bunch of songs off Greatest Hits Volume 1 (including all the David Lee Roth covers), but are fixing that when Best Of Both Worlds comes out next month.

Recently I picked up two collections from 80s bands. I like 80s music, not only because it's what I grew up on, but I've found that it makes great summertime music. I guess 80s pop just fits right in with the general mood you get on a nice sunny day. Anyway, here's what I picked up: Duran Duran's Greatest and Asia's The Very Best Of Asia: Heat Of The Moment (1982-1990).

First of all let me say that Duran Duran's album is unbelievably good. This is actually their second greatest hits album (another trend in the music business, release a compilation that's lacking a few songs then put out an all inclusive album a few years later), but Decade lacked some of their well known songs. Greatest has it all, boy does it sound good when I'm driving around in the sunshine! They don't get any better than this.

Asia's is also their second collection, their first only held 8 songs (most of which came from the first album). This one has 18, it not only spans their first 3 albums with the original lineup, but also contains some B side rarities.

The only odd thing about this collection is that two of the songs are edited down. I'm assuming this is to fit everything on one CD, since there's just over 76 minutes of music. They cut over 1 minute out of Sole Survivor and just over 2 minutes from Here Comes The Feeling. As odd as it seems, they did a better job on the second song; it's almost impossible to listen to Sole Survivor since it sounds so butchered. Maybe it's me, but why not just cut one song from the collection so you don't need to edit anything? But considering how much music is here, maybe I should quit bitching.

June 09, 2004

Good Night, Mr. President

I remember President Ronald Reagan as the best president in my lifetime.

Of course I knew nothing of politics as a child. I vaguely remember seeing Nixon on TV, and my neighbors dad saying something about 'the President is in a lot of trouble'. Then he stepped down, but the fact that the President could be a criminal was something I was too naive to really understand.

I don't recall anything about Ford. Carter I remember all too well, his was the Presidency that I feel came closest to ruining our nation. I can remember the hostage crisis and long gas lines, not to mention the Soviet threat, but he seemed completely helpless.

President Reagan turned that all around. I remember hearing over the Lakewood High School PA that Reagan had been sworn in...then about 40 minutes or so later that the hostages were released! He stood up to Iran, Lybia, the Russians...hell, he wasn't afraid to stand up to anybody! And when someone like France stood in the way (as in not letting us fly over their air space), Reagan would just find another way.

Reagan was the first President who made me feel proud to be an American, because of the conviction and the strength he displayed.

June 05, 2004

Bubba Ho-Tep

I watched Bubba Ho-Tep with Bruce Campbell. For anyone who's into independent films (Six String Samurai comes to mind) or just strange movies, this is definitely worth checking out.

Synopsis - Elvis (Bruce Campbell) never died, he changed places with one of his impersonators to escape his own fame. Then he broke his hip and went into a coma. Bottom line is that now he's living in a nursing home, where everyone assumes he's just a delusional impersonator, and has a nasty growth in his nether regions that he keeps fixating on. But now a soul sucking mummy haunts this place, killing off the elderly one by one. So the King teams up with an old black guy who's convinced he's JFK, to take out "this Bubba Ho-Tep".

Every time I heard about this film, the premise sounded dumber or just plain retarded. But each and every one of the reviews says that the real genius is Bruce Campbell, who pulls off a convincingly old, regretful and melancholy Presley without resorting to obvious comedy.

I watched this film and though it's as corny as it sounds, it's a damn good film! Despite the fact that for the first 20 minutes or so Elvis doesn't even get out of bed, Bruce Campbell's performance made me laugh, feel sympathy for the King's circumstances, even connect with the character's sense of loss and frustration. As crazy as the story sounds, it not only doesn't fall flat on its face but actually holds together and maintains your interest to the very end.

One added bonus is the commentary track, which is performed by the King himself. I didn't listen to the whole thing, but in the first few minutes he rambled on about popcorn, wondered what kind of film this was, figured it was pretty serious, then got back to his popcorn.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't The Mummy - this film was made on a shoestring budget. But for as crazy as it sounds, it's a far better film than something like League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen!

June 04, 2004

Why The Star Trek Movie Franchise Should Stay Dead

The Next Generation cast has played itself out, seems like they ran out of good ideas after First Contact (the one with the Borg). Anything at this point would just suck even worse than the last two Trek films (specifically the last one).

Plus let's face it, only a core group of lunatic cultists would really want a Deep Space Nine movie, and no one in their right mind is waiting for Voyager to hit the silver screen.

To clarify my point, plus poke a little fun, let's take a look at the problems with the last Trek film - Star Trek: Nemesis

The Bad Guy - In the beginning, a bald human named Shinzon throws off the shackles of slavery and takes control of the Romulan government. What, is the entire Romulan military taking leave on planet Mardi Gras? The only thing I can compare this to is if Saddam Hussein escaped jail, then with one fell swoop slew Congress and claimed the Presidency while no one did a damn thing about it. How believable is that? Then again, that might make a great Bond film...

Anyway, it turns out he's an unstable clone of Captain Picard who is using the mental powers of his right hand man to get into Picard's mind and mess with him, because they're both so scary similar or something.

Riker & Troi - Now we get to finally see the wedding of these two. Wait a minute, wasn't their relationship dead when Next Generation started back in the 80s? Their chemistry is as boring now as it was then, the only time it ever showed any spunk was in that Borg movie when they got drunk together. This is about as rewarding as the Scotty/Uhura romance from Star Trek V; wait, we were all trying to forget that one, weren't we?

B4 - But wait, there's more! They find B4, a prototype of Data. For most of the movie I wasn't sure if he was going to be a force of evil like Data's brother Lore, or something else. Turns out he's nothing more the retarded older brother Data's "father" never told him about - out of shame, I guess.

ACTION! - There's a bunch of forgettable stuff that happens, which is sad considering this is mostly an action film. There was an SUV chase, but I don't remember any of the details except that something drives over a cliff and into a shuttle. I wonder if any of the writers asked themselves, "Why is there a Road Warrioresque chase scene when everyone has these cool shuttles to fly around in?"

There's also a big space battle at the end and I'm presuming the Warbirds get destroyed, because they're not around for the aftermath. And I think there are some fistfights or maybe phaser firing, but just can't recall.

The Scimitar - Turns out Shinzon also has this bad ass ship, it's got an assload of weapons and can take on a couple of Romulan Warbirds and the Enterprise and hardly break a sweat. Someone should really keep an eye on those slaves.

The Big Climactic Battle - After a suprisingly forgettable starship slugfest, Enterprise and Scimitar have one of those dead-in-space face offs that you may remember from The Search For Spock. You know, where the Enterprise and a Bird of Prey face off while Kirk negotiates with Reverend Jim from Taxi dressed up as a Klingon?

But wait, another surprise! Scimitar has this ultimate weapon that will kill everyone. Sounds like Wrath Of Khan to me, except this time instead of a cool sounding Genesis Device it's a radiation beam that's much more deadly than your run-of-the-mill radiation beam.

So despite the fact that both ships are crippled beyond repair, Scimitar is still somehow capable of deploying its ultimate weapon. This involves unfurling these elaborate spines on either side of the ship, which are miraculously undamaged! Not to mention that this weapon (and the deployment mechanisms) must be on some kind of backup power supply that's still fully functional.

Did I mention that this weapon takes 7 minutes to deploy? And in that whole time everyone on Enterprise is helpless to stop it. What, no tachyon burst from the Deflector Dish to negatively charge the weapon? Modify the weapons to randomly rotating frequencies? Slingshot around the sun? I guess this is the one time when no one has any good far-fetched ideas. No one except...

Mr. Data - ((If by some stroke of luck you give two shits but haven't seen this film yet, stop reading now!)) He gets it into his head to jump over to Scimitar through the space that separates them. And by "space" I mean space, as in that place where no one can hear you scream. I guess his skin must be freezer burn resistant or something, because he makes it with no great effort.

Anyway, he gets over there and checks things out, then discovers that he can destroy the ultimate weapon by firing a phaser into it. But this will also destroy him. So after uttering his last words, which are not memorable at all, not even "Remember", he does so. What, no timers on a phaser? No way to calculate a method of being blown back out into open space by the shock wave, thus (inexplicably) surviving? This has got to be the lamest excuse for a heroic death in recent movie memory.

The original cast of Star Trek at least got a good send off, they had a heroic last mission then sailed off into the sunset - LITERALLY! (check out the end of Undiscovered Country if you don't believe me) It's a damn shame that the Next Generation cast instead gets to slink off into the darkness, no heroic fanfare or tearful farewell. But considering the bland turn Trek has taken since Gene Roddenberry died, perhaps this is for the best after all.

June 01, 2004


This past Sunday I attended Leigh & Margarita's wedding. This was hands down the best wedding I've ever attended - I mean come on, there was a Mariachi band! Everything blended together so seamlessly that it looked easy, though I'm sure there was a whole lot of work that went into the ceremony. Here's to the happy couple!