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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Screw the Oscars...here's the truth.

Geek Out's Official Best Films of 2005 List
A little late, but still oh so great. We're gonna start from the bottom and then keep going from there till we get to the top. Let's kick it off with:

The Worst Film of 2005: Crash

I went into this film with high expectations and left wondering why the hell I had high expectations for it. This heavy-handed film by first-time director Paul Haggis (screenwriter for Million Dollar Baby, creator of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER [that is not a joke]) attempts to shockingly unveil racial issues in modern-day America. Haggis insults his viewers' intelligence by repeatedly beating them over the head with his message, refusing to let them draw any conclusions of their own. The shock of the characters' comments begins to lose its edge once you see that ALL of the characters in this film are racist...but (and here's the kicker) they're racist in different ways. White people racist against Latinos! GASP! Black people racist against Asians! SAY IT AIN'T SO! Arabs getting called terrorists! SINCE WHEN?! Haggis acts as if we don't know that these issue still exist in this point in time. It's almost as if he knows how weak his script is, as he tries to give the dialogue weight and meaning by assigning big-name, likeable actors to the parts. Sandra Bullock saying she doesn't like black people? If you need me, I'll be crying in my room...HOW COULD MISS CONGENIALITY DO THAT TO ME?! Despite the stunt acting, the cast does (for the most part) do a great job with what they are given (which is...a terrible script). But good acting does not a good movie make (as the f'ed up saying goes), and when the time comes for each of the characters to have their moment of revelation where they all turn "nice" (Sandra Bullock momentarily appreciates the company of her hispanic maid! Awwwww! Ludacris decides to NOT keep the Asian slaves pinned up! What a sweetheart!), I found myself crying not tears of sadness, but of laughter.
Grade: 3.5/10

The Best of the Rest
23. Syriana: Maybe I'm a dumbass or maybe it's the fault of the filmmakers but I didn't understand a word of this movie. Thus, I can't say in any fairness whether it is good or bad. But understandable? Hell no. Grade: 6.0

22. Robots: Ehh...we coulda done without this one. Grade: 6.5

21. The 40-Year-Old Virgin: How ironic is it that this is Steve Carrell's star-making role when he was so much funnier in Bruce Almighty, Anchorman, and The Office? Whatever the reason, this is a mildly funny gross-out comedy with much more heart than any other I've seen. Not worth the praise critics seem to be heaping on it, but it's a fun movie. Grade: 7.0

20. March of the Penguins: This is one of those movies that will have you "Awww"ing a lot. It's also sad at times and funny at other times. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in this movie that you have NO idea how they could get, but unfortunately, it's too long for its own good, and has you yawning a little too much. Grade: 7.4

19. Fantastic Four: This is not a bad movie. It's not a Batman Begins or an X-Men 2, but it's not a Batman & Robin or a Superman IV, either. It's a light-hearted, fun comic book movie that had a good plot line, great effects and exciting action sequences. Not spectacular, but not worth the hate it gets. Grade: 7.5

18. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: Jaw-dropping at times. To find out all of the horrible things this company is doing...it's unbelievable. Has the same effect as Supersize Me, in that I now never want to shop at Wal-Mart again. Grade: 7.7

17. Red Eye: Starts out as a really intelligent, creepy thriller but kinda degenerates into a corny stalker chase movie. When it's good, it's real good, but it has a very lackluster third act. The acting is fantastic (Cillian Murphy officially = my BOIII), and while it's nothing fantastic, this is a solid suspense movie. Grade: 7.8

16. TIE The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe + Brokeback Mountain: Two good, but HIGHLY overrated films. Narnia stole a little too much from the Lord of the Rings movies, and I found it a little too unbelievable that LITTLE CHILDREN were fighting in these wars. Peter I could buy, but every time they showed Edmund in his armor I wanted to slap him. There are some unintentionally hilarious bits to it too (beavers in chain link armor?), and overall, I didn't feel a strong connection to the main kids. But it's a gorgeous movie, and I loved a lot of the scenes (most of the battle, Aslan's sacrifice)...it's just no Lord of the Rings.

Brokeback Mountain is touching and emotional, but not as touching and emotional as all of the critics say it is. I expected something amazing and just got something good. It's beautifully shot, fantastically acted, and it's a good story. Just a little too long, and it doesn't live up to its name. Grade: 7.9

15. Corpse Bride: I'm realizing now that a lot of this list is made up of disappointments. Here's another one: an unworthy successor to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a very good, funny, and entertaining movie while you're watching it, but it's ultimately forgettable. Tim Burton + Johnny Depp means you can't go wrong, and they didn't here, they just didn't go as right as they should've. Grade: 8.0

14. A History of Violence: Another disappointment. I love Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, and William Hurt (one of my favorite actors) in this movie. And I really loved where it was going for the first two-thirds or so. Unfortunately, I feel the movie missed out on the opportunity to be amazing. It was heading in the right direction...and then it just goes the predictable route, and it's kind of disappointing. I'm not really sure what I would've liked them to do, but it's not what they did end up doing. One things for sure: this is an incredibly well-directed film that, despite seeming more fantastic than it actually ends up being, is still a great movie (and Hurt is hilarious in it). Grade: 8.1

13. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory:Like I said before, Tim Burton + Johnny Depp means you can't go wrong. I love Depp's choice to play Wonka as a creepy, maybe-he-is-a-pedophile-and-maybe-he-isn't manchild who is really just obsessed with himself and has no regard for anybody else. He's absolutely hilarious, and the fact that this isn't a musical means I'm already gonna love it more than the original. And I do. It's visually stunning (what else would you expect from Burton?), hilarious, and has a lot of heart. Grade: 8.2

12. TIE Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith + War of the Worlds: SCIFI MANIA!!! I think Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels (and that's saying something, I love Attack of the Clones and think Phantom Menace would've been great without Jar Jar and with Haley Joel Osment as Anakin), and probably the second or third best overall (it's definitely below Empire...). This is a dark, intensely emotional film. When the clones turn on the jedi...aw, man. "What should we do, Master Skywalker?" asks the youngling Jedi. "Well, you little brat, you should lie still and let me hack all your limbs off, because I'm an evil S.O.B!" replies Anakin...aw, man. And the end of the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin when Annie burns up ("YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!")...that's good shit, man.

And War of the Worlds was much more frightening and intense than I ever could've imagined it being. You know, this movie gets a lot of shit because of all of the dumb stuff Tom Cruise was doing at the time, but despite being a dumbass, the guy is a damn good actor, okay? Watch Minority Report. Watch Rain Man. And watch this movie while you're at it, because he's great in this too (though not as great as the PHENOMENAL Dakota Fanning...damn that girl can act). The tripods scared the hell out of me the first time I saw this...the scene with the people running through the streets getting vaporized? Intense. Spielberg finally takes on alien invasions, and he brought his A-game to the table. Grade: 8.4

11. Good Night, and Good Luck: George Clooney is proving to be a formidable talent behind the camera. Following up his brilliant directiorial debut (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) is this fantastic piece of history. Clooney expertly details Edward R. Murrow's attacks on McCarthy and his communist witch hunt in stunningly gorgeous black & white cinematography. David Strathairn absolutely becomes Murrow, and the supporting cast (including Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., and Prison Break's Robert Knepper) is great as well. Someone my age will probably have trouble following what's going on at first, but you quickly catch on and are able to enjoy this brilliant film for what it is. Grade: 8.5

TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2005
10. Capote
Philip Seymour Hoffman is unrecognizable in this story of writer Truman Capote's struggle to finish his historical fiction book "In Cold Blood," and I mean that in a good way. Hoffman's performance as Capote is dead-on (I saw video of the real Capote on Youtube...haha...I love our generation), but as boring as this film might sound, it's surprisingly exciting, emotional, and at times, funny. The whole cast does a great job, and unlike a movie like A History of Violence, all of Capote is building up to the reveal of something in the end...and it's quite disturbing, but most of all, it's a good payoff. You all ought to check out this film. Grade: 8.6

9. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The best animated movie since The Incredibles (which, come to think of it, really wasn't that long ago...but you know what I mean). Wallace & Gromit will always be great, no matter what, and their translation to the silver screen is essentially seamless. This is a hilarious movie that you pretty much have to enjoy, unless you're heartless. Grade: 8.8

8. Everything Is Illuminated The movie adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books (Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name) is also one of my favorite movies of the year. Even though half of the book is left out (it kind of had to be, in order for it to be watchable), first-time writer/director (and long-time actor) Liev Schreiber does an amazing job adapting the book to the big screen. The casting of Eugene Hutz in the role of Alexander Pierchov is a stroke of casting genius, as this guy is literally the living embodiment of the hilarious narrator. He nails the broken English perfectly, and get everything from the look to the walk down perfectly. This movie starts out funny and ends out really, rreeeeally sad. It's the story of a collector/writer named Jonathan Safran Foer (Elijah Wood) who hires a touring company (run by Alex and his grandfather, who claims to be blind but really isn't) to help him find the woman whom he believes saved his grandfather from the Nazis in WWII. The locations are beuatiful, and the film could probably qualify as a foreign-language movie, as about half of it is spoken in Ukrainian (is that a language?). This quirky movie does justice to the book, even though it makes a pretty drastic change at the end and leaves out a ton. Oh, and the music is amazing. Grade: 8.9

7. Sin City I don't really know what I can say about this movie...it's hilarious, it's exciting, it's scary as hell (who knew Frodo could ever scare the shit out of me?), it's full of violence (read: action-packed), and it's just a damn good time. The almost-all CGI'ed backgrounds help create a comic book feel to the film...and with the creator of the comics co-directing, you know it's gonna be faithful. Sin City is such a gorgeously violent film...no other movie that I've seen deserves to be called "living art" like this does ("Living comic book art," but art nonetheless). Grade: 9.0

6. King Kong Peter Jackson officially kicks ass. Sure, the LOTR movies were some of the best movies ever made...but is that all he has in him? Hell, no. This guy made me believe a team of computer geeks could create a living, breathing, 25-foot-tall monkey. This guy made me accept Jack Black as a serious actor. This guy made one of the best moviegoing experiences I've had in a lonnng time. The movie evokes visceral, gut reactions in you. The bug scene makes your skin crawl, the scene on top of the Empire State Building makes you queasy, and the T-Rex fight...hot DAMN this is escapism at its very best. Kong is definitely King. Grade: 9.1

5. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire: My peers will hate me for putting this in my top five, but I have to. The Harry Potter movies have just gotten better with each successive installment, and this is the best yet. Despite the incredibly rushed initial 15 minutes, this is an almost flawless film. It perfectly captures the spirit of the book, and each of the three tasks are just as intense and exciting as I imagined them to be. On top of that, the character drama really works in this film, much moreso than it has in the previous ones. And the ending...oh, God. Ralph (Pronounced RAYF?? WTF IS UP WITH THAT?!) Fiennes as Voldemort is another stroke of casting genius...seeing this scene was like a dream come true. They had HUGE expectations to live up to...Voldemort is the biggest villain this side of Darth Vader, and they definitely met my expectations. Fiennes's Voldemort was disgusting, terrifying, intimidating, and insane...everything he needed to be. Bring on the Order of the Phoenix. Grade: 9.2

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang The funniest film of the year. This movie was absolutely robbed at the Oscars. This movie was pretty much robbed of everything it deserved, and it deserves so damn much. The only other person I know who has seen this is Alex Taussig (not including a couple friends of mine whom I showed it to), and that's a damn shame. YOU ALL NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE. It is hilarious, romantic, exciting, suspenseful, mysterious, thrilling, and [insert positive adjective here]. It's got everything you could ever want in a movie. I've got a new equation for you guys. Robert Downey Jr. + Val Kilmer = Chemistry out the wazoo. The two are hilarious together as the toy store robber-turned actor-in-training-turned detective (Downey Jr.) and the gay detective film consultant guy (Kilmer). When Downey Jr. gets caught up in a mystery that's way over his head, he needs Kilmer's help to solve it, and you'll be sure that there's plenty of body-dropping, gay-kissing, nut-shocking, grammar-correcting fun that ensues. Go see this movie--now. Or if you're not into the illegal downloading thing, wait until May when it comes out on DVD. Grade: 9.4

3. Serenity I'll admit I'm biased: not only am I one of the obsessive fans of Joss Whedon (writer/director of Serenity, creator of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly) but I am also a HUGE fan of Firefly, the cancelled TV show on which this movie is based. Serenity is like Star Wars meets The Matrix meets Indiana Jones, only it's so much more. Whedon skillfully mixes the action, science fiction, and western genres to create one of the best science fiction films since The Empire Strikes Back. It's a shame that not too many people went to see this, because I firmly believe that this could have and should have been the next Star Wars. Just the right blend of comedy, action, and romance. Great acting. An incredible script. Go rent it. Grade: 9.5

2. Batman Begins Take Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin, put them all together, and what do you get? A movie that isn't even one FOURTH as good as Christopher Nolan's masterpiece Batman Begins. Nolan is already one of my favorite directors after such films as Memento and Insomnia, and here he succeeds in not only revitalizing the Batman franchise and not only in making the greatest comic book movie to date, but he also make a damn good movie by any standards. Just look at the cast: Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy...they're all fantastic. But they pale in comparison to Christian Bale, who not only plays the part of Bruce Wayne perfectly, but also plays the Batman the way he was meant to be played. This film is so good, that it holds the viewer's interest even when Wayne isn't in the Batsuit, which happens to be most of the movie. This is the story that hasn't ever really been told even in the comics; the story of HOW and WHY Bruce Wayne became Batman. I love this movie with every fiber of my being, and it was my favorite film of the year until I saw...Grade: 9.6

THE BEST FILM OF 2005
1. Munich
Steven Spielberg proves that he hasn't lost a thing in the 30+ years he's been directing movies. Munich is his most mature and intricate film to date; unlike some movies this year (CRASH) it never forces an opinion on the audience, but instead offers up the evidence and lets you draw the conclusion. Munich is, on the surface, a dark and emotional thriller. But it's so much more than that. It touches on the modern-day struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, and even offers a social commentary on the nature of war (as the chilling final shot clearly illustrates). Inspired by true events (in other words: complete bullshit), Munich tells the story of what happened after the assassination of several Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, when the Israeli government hired a six-man team to take out the orchestrators of the Munich assassination. It's disturbing and unsettling without being off-putting, it's exciting and thrilling without being over-the-top, and it's truly meaningful in our post-911 world. There's a reason Spielberg is a household name, and that's because he hasn't made a truly bad film in his entire career. Munich is no exception. Grade: 9.7

Now take my advice and go see all of those movies that you haven't yet seen. Except Crash. Don't bother with that one.

Movies I Didn't Get To See: Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, The Aristocrats, Jarhead, Broken Flowers, and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It's HALFTIME



I figured that since I did this at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season of television, I ought to do a midseason update while most of the shows are on break (all are from here on out except for AD; oh, and Chris has one more episode this week) till January. Figures, that when I’m on vacation and actually have time to watch all of these, they stop airing them.

Anyways, before you start, yes, I know I watch WAY too much TV. Just be thankful I didn’t add the animated shows to my list, because that would’ve expanded it quite a bit. But what can I say, I love good TV, and there is a $#!+load of good TV out there to watch. Naturally, the bad out there far outnumbers the good, but still, this season is so chockfull of good stuff it blows my brain. Were it not for a combination of my iPod Video, my DVR, and my DVD-Recorder, I wouldn’t be able to watch half of these. And so we begin:

Oh yeah, and if you don’t wanna know what happens in these shows, then don’t read this, because I’m ‘bouts to get spoilerific on your @$$es...

Arrested Development: FOX Mondays @ 8
If you know anything about me, then you know that this is my all-time favorite show of all time (of all time). I won’t rant about why it’s so amazing here, but you’re just going to have to take my word for it: Arrested Development is by far the greatest television program currently on the air. The 5 or 6-episode-long arc with Charlize Theron’s Rita character was great, and brought the show places that I hadn’t imagined it going. I liked that Michael had a love interest that lasted longer than an episode or two, and that she was actually likable in a really, really weird way. The other thing I like about it is that we had NO idea why she acted so weird for the first three or four episodes. I can remember thinking, “WTF is up with this woman?” And when it was finally revealed that she was mentally retarded and essentially had the mind of a first-grader, it all made sense. It will be so rewarding going back and rewatching those on DVD knowing what we now know. The episode before the most recent one was absolutely hilarious. It was one of the best episodes of AD I’ve seen in a LONG time, and it was actually the first episode of AD I had seen in a long time. Since FOX cut the episode order down to 13 (effectively, most have said, canceling it), the show had to go on hiatus for about a month (maybe longer) in order for the writers to wrap up the storylines sooner. Still, last night’s episode featured a “classic Arrested” episode after it, and ran ads for “Downloadable V-Cast Arrested Development clips.” It looks like FOX is finally doing what it should have been doing this whole time: promoting the show....so maybe they haven’t given up on it yet. Or maybe this is just their last-ditch effort. I don’t know. I can hope, right?
(7 episodes have aired so far, 6 are remaining.)

Everybody Hates Chris: UPN Thursdays @ 8
I don’t think I’ve talked about this yet, so I’ll give it a quick summary: take The Wonder Years, set it in 1980’s Brooklyn and make it about Chris Rock’s live as a young kid, and that’s Everybody Hates Chris. Rock narrates the show, and his narration tends to be where the funniest parts come from. But Chris’s dad’s obsession with saving money, his mom’s insistence on being (as Rock puts it) a “ghetto snob,” and his little sister’s constant need to blame Chris for everything that goes wrong are hilarious as well. Young Rock is the only black kid at his school, and gets picked on quite a bit, but unlike the recent small-screen adaptation of the daily comic strip “The Boondocks,” the race jokes are never cringe-inducing, they’re generally just funny and lighthearted. For example, the basketball coach becomes obsessed with getting Chris on the team just because he’s black, even though Chris is awful at basketball. EHC has that kind of “Oh-$#!+-he’s-gonna-get-his-ass-whupped-for-doing-this” kind of formula to it. I have to liken it to a television classic of my generation, “Kenan & Kel,” although things tend to work out for Chris in the end (unlike the Nickelodeon duo). The show will sometimes cut to fantasy scenes from Chris’s imagination, similar to shows like Family Guy, Scrubs, or Andy Richter Controls the Universe, which I always like and think works great. In the end, EHC is really just a good, funny, family sitcom. You should check it out.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Invasion: ABC Wednesdays @ 10
Invasion gets my thumbs up from the start for this reason: it’s aired on ABC, which means I get in HD. Hell yeah, folks. HD is glorious, and Invasion’s on-location filming looks absolutely gorgeous on my flat-panel, widescreen TV. I will give shows aired in HD more of a chance than I would were they not in HD, and the gorgeous video quality will sometimes distract me from the Godawful storytelling “qualities” (can you say, “Threshold?”). Invasion is slow-paced, but I don’t really mind that. It’s nice to be able to sit down and breath after seeing pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat action dramas like Prison Break and 24. Still, Invasion has managed to keep the mystery fresh with a slew of great twists. For one thing, Sheriff Tom Underlay is even spookier than he looks: he was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his wife (he was completely unharmed....sound familiar? That’s right: Unbreakable. But I don’t mind, it’s a great plot element). Later, Muriel (Mariel? Meriel? Whatever.), after feeling strange for weeks following the hurricane, goes back to where she was discovered and finds a dead body in the water....HER body. That was sick. In the good way, I mean. Then, in the most recent episode, things REALLY picked up, as the suspicious Jack Black-a-like Dave was kidnapped by a mysterious man and woman who have been researching events similar to what’s going down in this place. (In case you don’t remember, a hurricane hit this place and brought with it mysterious lights that lurk in the water...a number of people were lost during the hurricane but found--totally unharmed...and naked--afterward, and have been acting strange ever since...oh yeah, and those people can breathe underwater.) As it turns out...these guys found a body near the crash site of Tom’s plane...they made a cast of his face and GUESS WHO IT LOOKS JUST LIKE?! Tom Underlay...that’s right...so he has a dead body out there, as well. I really like the direction this show is heading...it’s getting me really excited and I want to know more about what’s going on. In the most recent episode, this one-armed cop got taken by one of the mysterious lights in the water (we finally see it up-close...it’s a luminescent, squid-like creature), but returned unharmed, and with his missing arm back! It was weird...but it got even weird when Tom convinced him that God was testing him...and that he had to cut the arm off with a chainsaw...it was creepy. I HAVE to give props to the composer, because, man, he has scored some POWERFUL stuff for the most memorable scenes yet, and I don’t think they would’ve had the same effect without him. This show is shaping up to be the new Lost. You should all check it out, HD or not.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Lost: ABC Wednesdays @ 9
You’ve all heard about Lost. It’s only the best drama on TV. Oh, and this one’s in HD too. You just KNOW Lost looks drop-dead gorgeous in HD. And it so does. The Lost creative team have done the unthinkable: not only have they given us a lot of answers this season, but they’ve managed to keep the episodes suspenseful and mysterious, and they’re just getting better. I mean, how can you top the revelation of what’s under the hatch? Reveal that the tail-end plane crash victims survived as well? Hell yes, man! And they did...and it’s just been nonstop from there. Walt’s been seen in the jungle, we had an entire flashback-free episode (or was it 100% flashbacks? Depends on how you look at it), Rose was reunited with her husband, another character died, we saw the guy who died last season again, we found out what Kate did...I don’t know HOW they do it, and I don’t know how they’re gonna keep it getting better, but somehow, I know they will. Because after each of these things I’ve mentioned above, I didn’t think it could possibly get any better....and then it does. It really amazes me. I have NO idea where this show is going, but I’m loving it. Count me in for the long haul.
(9 episodes have aired so far, 13 are remaining.)

My Name Is Earl: NBC Tuesdays @ 9
HD as well. My Name Is Earl is about a lovable redneck named Earl, who decides to change his ways after he wins the lottery and immediately gets run over by a car, later learning of the concept of “karma” while watching The Carson Daly Show from the hospital. So Earl makes a list of all the bad things he does, and decides to cross them all off, one by one. The show sounds incredibly formulaic, which is why I was hesitant to watch it and avoided it at the beginning, but once they aired the first three episodes back to back, I fell in love. I tell ya, it’s all about Randy, Earl’s brother. He’s the best. But Catalina and Joy aren’t rough on the eyes, I’ll tell you that. Sorry. Anyways, Earl is not as formulaic as it sounds. It’s not like, each episode, he tries to correct something, encounters a problem, overcomes it, and then solves it, end scene...that DOES happen from time to time, but there’s usually more to it than that. I like that we get the backstory to what he did wrong, we get subplots now and then, he’ll start out trying something, give up, and then retry it again in a later episode...it’s really intelligent and well put together.(10 episodes have aired so far, 14 are remaining.)

Prison Break: FOX Mondays @ 9
Oh yeah, baby. Here we go. The Big Kahuna. Prison Break is without a doubt the best new show of the season. Michael Scofield’s continued his plans to break out his brother, Lincoln Burrows, while acquiring some “extra baggage” along the way. He recruits mob boss John Abruzzi because he needs the transportation he can provide, he gets his cellmate Sucre in on the plan so that he can work on it from his cell, he needs Westmoreland for his money, but the pervert T-Bag and and the drug dealer C-Note are only onboard because they stumbled upon the plan and threatened to snitch. FOX has again proved their idiocy with the planning of this show: apparently, they didn’t expect it to be successful, because a full 22 episodes would get interrupted by their most popular show, 24 (hey, I won’t bash, because that’s a damn good show)...so now, since Prison Break has really taken off and become really popular, they’ve got a bit of a problem. So they billed the most recent episode as the special “Fall Finale” and the season will continue in MARCH. @#*&ING MARCH. God, don’t get me started on Fox. They’ve canceled more shows that I’ve loved than any other network. Anyways, back to Prison Break. That scumbag T-Bag (that was completely unintentional, I swear) slit the best character’s (Abruzzi) throat (and just as the guy embraced Jesus. That’s just mean), so Abruzzi is out of the picture. Meanwhile, on the outside, Burrows’s girlfriend is getting into trouble with the Feds, we discover that the the man Burrows is on trial for killing is still alive, and that his sister (the VICE PRESIDENT) is orchestrating the cover up, and Burrows’s son is on the run from the feds, but not after they killed his mother and stepfather before his very eyes and frame him for the murders. Luckily, one of the feds has a heart of gold, and decides to help Burrows’s girlfriend uncover the conspiracy. But he gets shot, too. Lots of people get hurt in this show. So anyways, fall finale was really suspenseful. Burrows is hours away from his execution, but he’s in lockdown because he flipped out on one of the guards. So the gang votes to go on without him, Michael won’t give up: he sends Burrows a pill that when he takes it, sends him into seizures and he has to get taken to the hospital wing...which is exactly where the escapees are headed. BUT NO!!! THEY GET TO WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO ESCAPE, AND IT’S COVERED BY A HUGE...F-ING...PIPE!!! Oh, man, talk about suspense. That was the finale. Damn. This show is seriously an edge-of-your-seat thriller in the purest form, and I absolutely love it.
(13 episodes have aired so far, 9 are remaining.)

Smallville: WB Thursdays @ 8
Ah, Smallville. I’ve been with you through it all. Through the good times (seasons 2 and 3) and the bad (season 4 and, to a much lesser extent, season 1), but only now, in your old age, do you finally start maturing. Season 5 is without a doubt the best season yet...James Marsters plays the classic Superman villain brilliantly. We’ve gotten a lot of great moments this season: Clark socking Lex RIGHT IN THE KISSER, Clark jumping onto a nuke and disabling it in midair, Aquaman vs. Superman underwater, Clark getting shot and dying, the Fortress of Solitude, GENERAL ZOD, Clark pulling a helicopter down from the air...oh, I could go on forever. Season 5 has really surpassed all of my expectations, and it’s all come to a head in the latest episode, “Lexmas.” This was the first Christmas episode Smallville’s had, but I won’t bore you with the details of the Clark/Chloe “Santa is real!” storyline of this episode and focus on the good stuff: First off, Jonathan Kent has started running for senator against Lex. That’s a great idea. In “Lexmas,” Lex approaches a man who will destroy Jonathan’s career if Lex gives the word...but Lex isn’t sure yet. Unfortunately, he soon gets shot and mugged. While lying in the alley bleeding to death, Lex starts dreaming...of his perfect life. He’s married to Lana, he’s left Luthorcorp, he has a son (and a daughter on the way), he’s friendly with the Kents...life is good. His dead mother appears to tell him “this is what you could have, if you drop out of the race.” Unfortunately, things take a wrong turn when Lana dies after childbirth...Lex refuses to accept this future (despite all of the other good things, he won’t lose the woman he loves), so when he wakes up and is treated, he decides to go ahead and fight dirty for the title of Senator...and he has a great line. (I’m paraphrasing:) “I know what the key to happiness in life is....money...and POWER. Once you have those, you can ensure that anything you want to happen, will happen.” This is great. This is the turning point, the Anakin-in-Revenge-of-the-Sith-point where Lex stops being the nice(ish) guy that we know and love, and starts being the evil son of a bitch that we know even better and love even more. This is great. Smallville has really stepped up to the plate, and in three episodes, it’s the Big One...the 100th ep...and somebody dies. I was surprised when I found myself more excited to watch Smallville week to week than I was to watch Veronica Mars or Invasion or Prison Break. But it’s just that good now. It really is.
(9 episodes have aired so far, 13 are remaining.)

The Office: NBC Tuesdays @ 9:30
If you haven’t seen the US version of The Office yet, you are missing out. I know a lot of people tend to think that the British original is the better of the two, but I don’t see it. They’re different, that’s for sure...but I have to say, I laugh much more at the US version, and I like the characters more as well. Steve Carell is great at playing the heartless bastard of a boss who is Michael Scott. He runs a...I donno, I guess some kind of paper-printing company...something boring, I know that. But since the show is basically a mockumentary, and since Michael Scott is a complete showoff, he always tries to act funny in front of the camera. But it’s tough to look likable and hilarious when you’re a racist, sexist, unfunny ass like he is. In real life, that is. From where I’m sitting (the couch), it’s absolutely hilarious to watch Michael act like such a moron and have nobody laugh. But as great as he is, he can’t top Dwight. Dwight thinks that he is the coolest guy around. He takes karate lessons with a bunch of preteens, he plays paintball, and is a science fiction/fantasy geek. He is also a strict rule-enforcer, and the Assistant Regional Manager (“Assistant to the Regional Manager”), he is constantly following Michael around. Rounding out the cast are Jim and Pam, two younger employees who are clearly attracted to each other, but since Pam is engaged and refuses to admit that she has a thing for Jim, they rarely make any progress. In addition to flirting they love ripping on Dwight and pranking him. The great thing about The Office is the supporting cast. They’re all recurring characters that appear in each episode, and you get to know each of them more and more as the show goes along. Kevin is by far the funniest, but Ryan’s deadpan sarcasm is always good for a laugh, so are Stanley’s responses to all the racist remarks Michael makes towards him. And Angela, that tight@$$ *!+*# (sorry, Montas, I’m doing that a lot this entry, but in my defense, this is ****ing LONG), is great as well. I love all the awkward silences in The Office, as well. Just listen to the hum of the computer monitors after Michael tells a god-awful joke. Brilliant. The British show only had 12 episodes total plus an extended special. The US show had 6 episodes its first season, but Steve Carell’s increased popularity due to this summer’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” has led the show to increase in popularity this season, so it’s getting a full 22 episodes. That is so kick@$$. Another big thing this season: almost every episode, they’ve left the office for one reason or another; be it an awards ceremony or a fire drill or what have you...something that was never seen in the UK Office. But fine, I’ll stop comparing them. Just check it out.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Veronica Mars: UPN Wednesdays @ 9
Nobody watches this show. And I hate it. Because this truly is a brilliant show. Take the wit and cleverness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, remove anything supernatural from the show, and you’ve got something close to Veronica Mars. Now, although that’s a pretty damn accurate analogy to make, I hate doing it because as soon as I mention the name “Buffy” people who haven’t seen it before tend to tune out. I know I did before I watched Buffy (I’m now convinced that Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator is an absolute genius; he’s proven himself with Angel, Firefly, and Serenity...and by the way, he loves Veronica Mars too and had a guest appearance on it), but it really is a hilariously witty, clever show that happens to be about a teenage girl fighting vampires. Well, Veronica is the high-school-aged daughter of a private eye. I can’t go into in-depth detail here, but let’s just say she solves mysteries on a week-to-week basis. I suppose the show is, on the surface, a teen soap opera, but it’s really much better than that. The dialogue and writing are genuinely funny and clever in such a Joss Whedon-esque way that fans of any of his shows should be surprised that he didn’t have a hand in the production of this show. At its heart, Veronica Mars is really a crime noir set in the sunny, bright, beachside locale of Neptune, California. There is a season-long mystery that Veronica uncovers bits and pieces of each week, and there are generally so many subplots each episode that isn’t as formulaic as a “Mystery of the Week” type show like Law & Order. I honestly can’t think of a way to explain this show and make it sound good, but if you think it sounds at all interesting, talk to me and I’ll let you borrow the first season DVD. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)


Wait a second, shouldn’t I be doing actual homework?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The guy dresses up like a bat...clearly has issues.



Batman Begins.

You've seen it, right?

If not, I'll beat you over the head with a dachshund.

Or a french poodle...I like the way they think...

But I digress.

Batman Begins did the impossible. It not only revived a franchise stabbed, shot, choked, drowned, then brought up and set on fire by Joel Schumacher, but it managed to create a comic book/superhero film that is one of the best films of the year.

Director Christopher Nolan has a great track record. However, were it not for the presence of a Batman sign hanging from a door in his first film "Following," nothing would have indicated that he would be up for directing a Batman film. But upon further reflection, it makes all the sense in the world. "Following" was a black and white film that used a clever technique of jumping backward and forward throughout the story to tell the tale of a man who follows people as a hobby. He isn't a stalker, perse, and he doesn't do this for sexual reasons, it's just a hobby of his.

Nolan perfected his time-manipulation technique in his sophomore film, "Memento." "Memento" was the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who lost the ability to create new memories after the brutal murder of his wife. Shelby is out for revenge, but in order to keep track of his investigation, he has to repeatedly tattoo new clues and information onto his body so that he won't forget. He also takes pictures of everywhere he goes and everyone he meets, and writes information on the back to help him remember after he forgets who they are. The film is effectively told backwards, beginning with him finding and killing his wife's murderer...but the story is very linear, despite the backwards storytelling. It's one of the most compelling and intelligent films I've ever seen, and if you haven't already, you should check it out.

Nolan's third film was a remake of a five-year-old Norwegian thriller entitled Insomnia. The movie starred Robin Williams, Al Pacino, and Hilary Swank, and was about an aging detective sent to a town in Alaska where the sun never sets to solve a murder. After the detective accidentally shoots his partner and blames his death on the murderer that he's hunting, he is forced to team up with that very murderer (Robin Williams, in a brilliant casting decision) to keep his secret under wraps, all while he can't catch a wink of sleep.

All three of these films were small, independent pictures that despite vast critical acclaim were not huge box office successes, yet they were all psychological thrillers grounded in reality. It was this aspect of Nolan's films that was most intriguing of the many things he brought to the table when deciding to take on the project. He teamed up with comic book writer David S. Goyer and put together a screenplay that would reboot the Batman franchise, erasing the previous four flicks from film continuity (much to the fanboys' joy). Goyer and Nolan were going to tell a story that was never told in the movies, and was never really told in the comic books either: the transition from Bruce Wayne into Batman.

Nolan gathered together an ensemble cast that is nothing short of extraordinary, including the likes of Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson. But best of all was the decision to cast Christian Bale as the Dark Knight. Bale, more than any other actor to don the cape and cowl before him, was able to be true to both Bruce Wayne and his secret identity: the Batman.

Christopher Nolan is truthfully just a great filmmaker. To date, I have loved all four of his films, and will be eternally indebted to him for what he did to Batman. He made a great movie, plain and simple. Forget the fact that it's about a comic book superhero, Batman Begins is truly a great film, and far surpasses all of the previous four films combined. The acting is brilliant across the board, he manages to include several villains without it getting too crowded (Cillian Murphy is absolutely perfect as the Scarecrow), establish realistic relationships between the characters, and provide a healthy balance of drama, action, humor, romance, and character development. It clearly wasn't an easy task, but Nolan succeeded where others failed by centering the film around Bruce Wayne, instead of around Batman. Nolan proved that Wayne can be equally interesting inside and outside the costume. The fact that the film loses no momentum even though you don't see the costume until halfway through is a testament to that.

The ending sets the sequel up perfectly, and I am EAGERLY awaiting Nolan and Goyer's return to the Bat-franchise. Just make sure you bring the rest of the cast with you guys, all right?

If you haven't seen this movie yet, be sure to pick up the 2-disc Deluxe Edition DVD. It comes with hours of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew that really provides you with an in-depth look into the filmmaking process. It also comes with a cool 72-page collection of comic books that inspired the film, including the very first Batman story from '38, an origin story that clearly influenced the film, and the first issue of Jeph Loeb's fantastic "The Long Halloween" saga. It's well worth the money.

Batman Begins is, so far anyways, the best film of the year in my eyes, and only Spielberg's upcoming Munich has the potential to take that title away from it. You owe it to yourself to see this film if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Gone for Good.


Last night, as I was preparing for a party with a bunch of my friends, I happen to come across an Instant Message that one of my friends had left for me while I was away.

It said, quite simply: arrested development's been cancelled.

That's a sick joke, I thought. He was probably just trying to say something to catch my attention so that I would come back. Something like that, right?

Then I did some digging. Just to ease my mind.

And I learned the awful truth: FOX has not only cancelled the best show on television for good, but they won't even give it a full final season. The episode order has been cut back from a full 22 episodes to a measely 13, meaning that there are only eight remaining episodes. In the entire. @#$*ing. Series.

What a way to start a party, right?

I've been dreading this moment ever since I became an avid Arrested fan. It's always done poorly in the ratings department, despite the numerous awards and critical acclaim it has received. In the back of my mind, I guess I always really knew that this was going to happen: it wasn't a question of if, only a question of when.

Things didn't look good for the show when its episode order was reduced last season from 22 episodes to 18, but it still somehow managed to get a third season. And now..this. I knew I would be devastated, but I really had no idea how hard this news would hit me.

I know that almost anyone out there reading this thinks I'm overreacting. It's just a TV show, right? Who cares? There's some other pretty funny stuff on TV...this way, you'll have another half-hour free each week.

But that's not it. As incredibly lame as it sounds, Arrested Development was more than just a regular, run-of-the-mill TV show to me. I was obssessed. I was in love with each of the characters on the show. I will actually miss these fictional creations. I'll miss laughing hysterically at Tobias's unintentional double entendres, George Michael's awkwardness around his cousin Maeby, Michael's constant sarcasm, GOB's charmingly idiotic statements, and Buster's panic attacks, among many, many other things.

Arrested Development is the first show I've ever seen that has transcended the level of "just a TV show" to the point of becoming a serious part of my life. I adored every aspect of this show and refuse to let it go without a fight. I'll sign any petition you throw at me, write any letter to any big-name star or producer or studio, anything it takes to get this show back on the air.

And if in the end, it really does get cancelled for good? Then at least I'll be able to relive my time with the Bluth family over and over again, thanks to the magic of DVD.

...


God, I have no life.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Heavy Boots



"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is the second book from the supposedly hot new writer, Jonathan Safran Foer. But I've never heard of him. At least I hadn't before we started reading this book. Foer wrote his first book, "Everything Is Illuminated," in 2002 and it received a ton of critical acclaim. The film version of that book, starring Elijah Wood, was recently released in theaters.

But enough about that book which I known nothing about, I'm here to talk about the book that I actually read. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (or, as I am going to refer to it from now on, ELIC). ELIC tells the story of a nine year-old boy named Oskar Schell who lost his father during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As the story starts out, we don't know everything that has happened so far. The backstory is revealed in bits and pieces as the book goes on.

Oskar is an incredibly hyper kid with ADD. Or maybe he's just really inventive. Or eccentric. Or insane. It's never really made clear what's up with him. Whatever it is, he's this hilariously random character and it's really fun to read his narration. Some of it is just so bizarre, you have no idea where Foer could have come up with it. The book opens with Oskar suggesting that "I could train my anus to talk when I farted. If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I'd train it to say, 'Wasn't me!' every time I made an incredibly bad fart." Other things, such as a story of a jujitsu trainer telling him that "a jujitsu student becomes a jujitsu master by destroying his master's privates," only add to the many bizarre aspects of this novel. Oskar has a penchant for saying that he has "heavy boots" whenever he gets really nervous about something, responding with "I'm okay" whenever his grandmother says his name, and inventing ridiculous things to help him feel safe. He suffers from insomnia and carries around a book of Stuff That Happened To Me that contains, among other things, pictures of keys, flying airplanes, humping turtles, and a picture of a body falling from the World Trade Center (that he convinces himself might be his dad).

Oskar is merely one of three narrators that tell their stories throughout the course of the book. The other two are his grandmother, with whom he is very close, and his grandfather, who he has never met. Their stories are told through letters; Oskar's grandmother's are addressed to him, and his grandfather's are addressed to his son (who he met only once). These letters mostly tell the story of their complicated and incredibly depressing relationship, often telling of their lives before they came to America when they lived in WWII-era Dresden. Grandma knew Grandpa when she was a little girl, because Grandpa dated her older sister. After her sister became pregnant with Grandpa's child, the World War II firebombing of Dresden took place, killing Grandma's sister in the process.

Eventually the two meet each other again in a coffee house in America. By this point, Grandpa has lost his ability to speak, and has tattooed the words "Yes" and "No" on his right and left hand, respectively. He communicates with people by writing things down in notebooks. Many times, ELIC will show the reader these pages by having single sentences on pages, such as a page saying, "Do you know what time it is?" or another saying "What are you doing here?" Grandpa and Grandma get married, certainly not out of love, but out of what, I'm not really sure.

Oskar's story truly begins when he discovers an envelope in his dead father's room that contains a key. Written on the envelope in red ink is the word Black. Oskar decides that it is actually the name Black and sets off to meet every single person in New York City with the last name Black. On his journey, he meets all kinds of bizarre and creative characters that often seem straight out of a Charlie Kauffman film, and Oskar is somehow able to touch each one of these people in different ways.

I found myself getting so depressed reading the sections narrated by Grandma and Grandpa that I eagerly awaited the next Oskar Section. As the Grandparents' story continues, they label different areas in their apartment as "Something" or "Nothing" areas. Their relationship is completely devoid of any passion whatsoever. In fact, they really only seem to stick together (when they do stick together) due to the closeness they feel to Grandma's sister whenever they are together. Grandpa is constantly perfecting his sculpture of Grandma, but is in reality reshaping it to resemble Grandma's sister. After Grandma becomes pregnant, Grandpa leaves. Grandma raises Thomas Schell, Oskar's father, on her own. Although he eventually discovers his father, Thomas was never a part of Grandpa's life at all, and he only returns to be a part of Grandma's life after getting word of Thomas's death.

That's enough summarization. Despite the fact that the Grandparents' story is depressing and not as much fun to read as Oskar's parts, it is still very well written and it adds to the story. I absolutely love Foer's writing style in ELIC. Foer manages to truly become each of the characters he is writing, and even distinguishes between them by visually obvious tricks with the typeface. Oskar is generally written in the usual style, except for dialogue. Instead of having a conversation that goes like this:

"Hey," I said.
"Yo," she said.
"What's up?" I asked.
"You're stupid," she replied.
"That's not very nice!" I cried.
"Shut up." She insisted.

...a conversation in an Oskar Section would look like this:

"Hey," "Yo," "What's up?" "You're stupid," "That's not very nice!" "Shut up."

I was surprised by how easy these were to understand. It really makes you think about how many other things that we take for granted in writing really aren't necessary for total comprehension.

Grandma's passages contain a lot of spaces in between the sentences. She also tends to always write on the left side of the page.
Like this.
And her sentences are usually short.
Like this. But this is nothing compared to how Grandpa's passages are written.

Grandpa rarely uses periods. And he apparently isn't a huge fan of the semi-colan, either. His sentences are basically big, long, run-on sentences, he uses commas as periods, and every now and then, after a large run-on sentence, he'll put a period. The thing is, it's often really difficult to tell if he's using a comma where a comma should be used, or if he's using it instead of a period, at one point, he starts running out of paper, and he's running out of room to write so he starts writingclosertogetherandprettysoon you can't even read what he's writing, he starts writing over the writing that's already there, eventually the page is almost entirely black.

A lot of the reviewers thought that these different ways of writing were just cheap gimmicks, but I disagree. I think that they add to not only the originality of the book but to the story itself. They're really befitting of the characters and they serve the story in their own unique ways.

ELIC also uses pictures more often than most novels tend to. When it talks of Oskar taking a picture of, say, the back of a woman's head, sure enough, there's the picture on the next page. The pictures are used in ways to convey things that aren't easy to get across in writing. One good example of this is when it talks about the people using the pens in the art supply store to write their names down or writing the name of a color using a different colored ink, and then there are two to three pages of all different colored ink writings of all different words and names.

All of the uniqueness of ELIC makes it seem more like an experience to me and less like just a book that I read. The characters are so layered and real that I get really absorbed in their stories. A few reviewers argued that Oskar didn't seem like a real person. Personally, I don't know how well people can judge how a nine-year old would act after losing his father in a terrorist attack, but either way, Oskar was a really believable person who I not only thought that I could know, but I really wanted to know as well.

The revelations at the end dissappointed a lot of people, but for me it helped ground the book in reality as well as offer up some really surprising twists--which I love. I love getting to the end of a story and discovering something that changes your view about something or takes you completely by surprise. ELIC is one of the best books I've ever read. It's refreshingly original not only in the story, but in its narration and presentation as well. It is one of the only books that I've ever laughed out loud at, and it is very emotional and touching at other parts.

I'm gonna give this one a rating of Extremely Good and Incredibly Well-Written.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Good Sex, Bad Lex? Part II



Anyway, back to Smallville.

So episode 2 of season 5 was another great, for a lot of reasons. First of all, Clark and Lana are together. Finally. At last. Jesus, it's taken four seasons to get here? They were supposed to be like this from day one, but whatever. I digress. ;-) So it was nice to see them together acting like an actual couple. Very cool.

I really loved the continuity in this episode. Mentions of Jason and Clark's old girlfriend, a BRILLIANT exchange between Clark and Chloe about how Pete knew about Clark's powers, and best of all...the reintroduction of the Level Three plotline (which the writers had claimed they would carelessly forget). Another great episode.

And the sex scene...I had a LOT of doubts about it in the beginning, but really, when all is said and done, it was very well handled. They set it up as Clark and Lana being two people who were really ready to start a loving relationship and take the next step in that relationship. Hey, this IS a modern retelling of Superman!!

Onto episode 3. At first, glance, this is just a filler episode. Even so, it's a damn good one. You finally see some fallout of the recent meteor shower, as this crazy kid hijacks a nuclear facility and is gonna blow up Smallville. Simple enough, eh?

Only Clark doesn't have his powers...and top of that...he was just SHOT. Yeah, with a bullet. And on top of THAT, he dies. SUPERMAN. FLIPPING. DIES. Thinking back now I remember how sick this episode was, and how unbelievably pumped I was when just as Clark passes away, Lionel wakes up from his daze, punches through the glass, and SPEEDS AWAY.

@#*& ME, THAT WAS AWESOME.

You just don't get any better than John Glover with superpowers going all kick@$$. You just don't.

So Lionel's at the Fortress now, and Jor-El has taken over his body. Apparently, when Lionel came in contact with one of the stones last season, his body was transformed into a "VESSEL OF KRYPTONIAN KNOWLEDGE." Sound familiar? Not to anyone reading this, I'll bet. Sounds a bit like the Eradicator to me. But anyways, Jor-El has assumed Lionel's body. So Jor-El can take over Lionel now and come face to face with Clark. He brings Clark back to life, despite Clark's protests....with one big, frikkin huge consequence: SOMEONE CLOSE TO CLARK WILL DIE.

That's awesome. Sorry, but it is. And it gets better. Clark gets his powers back and it's like he never lost them. The guy JUMPS onto one of the nuclear missles, dismantles it as it heads into the atmosphere, and saves the day. That's Superman, folks. Brilliant.

AND IT ONLY GOT BETTER.

Episode 4 featured none other than the King of the Seven Seas himself, Aquaman. Or a young version of him, anyway.

First of all, this episode would get a 10 in my book just for the simple fact that Lois walks around in a bikini for half of it. HELL yes.

Sorry.

So Aquaman in his younger days is a guy who has a penchant for wearing an orange shirt and green pants (clever nod to the comics), talks like a surfer, and is all for saving the animals. He starts hitting on Lois after he saves her from drowning, but Clark suspects something's amiss with this guy. So he tracks him down in the water. Aquaman can swim like Clark runs out of water. It's a cool effect. Best of all though, is the underwater fight between Clark and Arthur (that's Aquaman's name). Needless to say, Clark gets his ass handed to him. He's not in his element under the water.

Arthur's trying to disable these weapons Lex has been developing that will blow up submarines or something but at the risk of killing all of the fish around it. Arthur's not down with that. So he and Clark team up and stop Lex. I love seeing Lex step into his villain role. Rosenbaum has really gotten to spread his wings over the course of this show as a kind Lex, a crazy Lex, and now an evil Lex.

But the best parts of this episode come from (a.) James Marsters (commonly known as Spike from the brilliant Buffy and Angel) as Clark's new history professor (who unbeknownst to Clark is also the evil Brainiac), and (b.) the clever inside jokes with Aquaman. At one point, Aquaman suggests that he and Clark form the Junior Lifeguards Association, to which Clark replies, "I don't think I'm ready for the JLA just yet." Also, in a clever nod to the HBO show Entourage in which a running gag and main plot thread has been the development of an Aquaman movie, Arthur tells Lex that "he doesn't travel in an entourage."

So far, season 5 has been fantastic. I'm absolutely loving it. The next episode looks god-awful, but I can excuse one bad one as long as they keep up with the goodies. I want more James Marsters, more Lionel, more mythology, and more scantily-clad Lois. If I get all this, I will be one happy fan.

I'm out.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

INFINITE CRISIS IS HERE!!!


(Good Sex, Bad Lex? Part II can wait...because....)
It's finally here...the biggest event in DC Comics in two decades....THE COUNTDOWN IS OVER: INFINITE CRISIS HAS BEGUN!!! as the headline says atop Wednesday's Infinite Crisis #1, DC's unofficial follow-up to the "classic" Marv Wolfman/George Perez Crisis on Infinite Earths that rebooted DC Universe continuity in 1985.

LOOK OUT! HUGE, WHOPPING SPOILERS ARE AHEAD!!!!

Taking over the writing chores is DC's Golden Boy, Geoff Johns. From JSA to The Flash to Hawkman to Green Lantern to Teen Titans to, most recently, JLA, everything this man touches turns to gold. He is one of the most successful writers in the industry, and for good reason. Johns is a d@mn good writer. He is able to tell stories that pay an immense amount of respect to the characters' pasts while still keeping things fresh and original.

The art is handled by...well, really the only person who could have a fighting chance of following George Perez's gorgeous "Crisis on Infinitie Earths" art....Phil Jimenez. This is, without a doubt, his best work to date, and will no doubt skyrocket him to the forefront of the artists business.

Everything in the past three years at DC has been leading up to this event, from Graduation Day to Identity Crisis to the most direct lead-ins, Countdown to Infinite Crisis and it's four offspring miniseries: The OMAC Project, Villains United, Rann-Thanagar War, and Day of Vengeance. Now that these four minis have come to a close, the event that every DC fan has been eagerly awaiting can finally happen.

Infinite Crisis #1 is a fantastic start, and really gets you excited for the direction this miniseries is headed in and the ramifications it will have throughout the DCU. The division between DC's Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) comes to a head in this issue; Batman is responsible for the creation of a super-spy sattelite called Brother I that fell into the hands of the evil Maxwell Lord, Superman was tricked by Lord into beating Batman almost to death, and Wonder Woman--in order to stop Lord from controlling Superman again--murdered the man.

On top of all this, Brother I has grown a mind of its own and has unleashed an army of 300,000 nigh-unstoppable androids known as OMACs to eliminate any metahumans on the planet, The Spectre has gone on a hunt to destroy all of the magic in the DCU (and has succeeded in killing the wizard Shazam), the world's villains have banded together to destroy the heroes, intergalactic war has broken out, and the JLA watchtower has just exploded. (Whew!) Talk about the worst day in the DCU...

Infinite Crisis has promised big changes, and it's delivered. The kill count in issue one alone amounts to 6 characters, however minor they might be in some eyes. The main story of issue one takes place on the moon in the ruins of the JLA Watchtower, where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman not only confront each other, but also an eavesdropping Mongul. Meanwhile, a group of shadowy figures observe what the other heroes of the DCU are up to. Who are they? We don't know..yet.

The art is absolutely gorgeous. The spread of all the OMACs gathering in the sky above Nightwing is amazing, but pales in comparison to the double-page spread of the group of villains surprising the Freedom Fighters....it's absolutely breathtaking. The story ain't half-bad, either. In fact, I loved every second of it...except for that final page, where the shadowy figures are revealed to be...Earth-2 Superman, Superboy, and Lois? Uhh....no thank you. The reason I said Crisis on Infinite Earths was a "classic" (emphasis on the quote-unquote) is because, although it is generally referred to as such, I think it really kinda sucks. Don't get me wrong, Perez's art is fantastic, but the story...it's just there. It doesn't rank among the best of anything...maybe it's up there for the best of widespread crossover reboots, but it doesn't really have much competition in that category...It does what it was meant to do, and nothing more. It's so confusing, so grand in scope, and involves so many characters that it's easy to get lost when you read it. On top of that, none of the characters introduced in it are very compelling.

So, the fact that Infinite Crisis appears to be a pretty direct sequel to that in the sense that the "multiple earths" are returning again does not bode well, to me. But I'm willing to give Geoff the benefit of the doubt, seen as he's never dissappointed me thus far, and the other 31 pages of the issue were brilliant. I'm hooked, DC, what can I say? You're marketing strategy worked...I'm with you guys for the long haul.