MacFarlane’s Geek Chops

In the midst of geek culture month, with Entertainment Weekly basically devoting an issue to comic book media, the San Diego Comicon, and Olivia Munn’s new book, I found myself watching some Family Guy.

Now I’m not some gotta-watch-it-every- night acolyte (which would get me in trouble anyway), but I have seen most of the shows.  And, of course, one gag that never gets old is the random cut-away and/or appearance by historical figures, celebrities, and 80’s geek culture.  Series Overlord Seth MacFarlane doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, what with his entire episode riffs on Star Wars and Empire, but you still have to give him his props.

You listen to Megatron…

What God is up to…

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DC Memorable Moments

Over at Comics Should Be Good!, they’re compiling a list of the ’75 most memorable moments in DC Comics history’.  Like any good blog, they’re stretching this out over time, in chunks, and then they’ll have readers vote on a top ten a little later.  These moments  are one-page or sequential panel sequences.

Of course they’re trying to mix in events that are important to the DC universe, like origins, big reveals, etc., with more contemporary moments that today’s readers can recognize and recall.  Looking at the list so far, Action Comics #1 obviously stands out, because without Siegel and Shuster and Clark Kent, it’s all moot.  So many different creative types in comics, TV, movies, and literature have given their interpretation of the Superman origin – it remains such a cool idea and one of my favorites.  There are a few more origins there – Robin and Two-Face from Batman, Supergirl, Earth 2, and Darkseid.  Also a number of universe shaping events from over the years. Continue reading

Movies: Toy Story 3

We took in Toy Story 3 over the weekend – family movie night.  Since this movie’s been out for quite awhile now, and because it’s been almost universally lauded as great (an opinion we share), I’m not going to do a full review.  Suffice to say that if you liked the earlier movies, this chapter is every bit as strong.  If you have kids and are looking for the rare gem that has universal appeal (especially when considering how many truly awful ‘family’ movies get released), Toy Story 3 is top of the mountain.  See it while you can, before something dumber and less entertaining bumps it out of the local cineplex.

And on the topic of the local cineplex, here in Springfield we’ve seen locally-owned Kerasotes Theaters bought out by national chain, AMC.  The formal switchover took place a couple of weeks ago, and AMC wasted no time in jacking up prices for both tickets and snacks.  Now it’s only slightly less expensive for a children’s ticket on a weekend night than for the previous price of an adult tickets.  Full-price tickets are up $2, and the snack prices have increased by a third (with no more popcorn combos).  Not very happy about this.  I briefly reviewed prices around Central Illinois, and we currently have the most expensive theaters in the area.  Yay, Springfield! With no real competition for AMC, this isn’t likely to change.

As far as the movie, kudos to the writing team (John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, and Michael Arndt).  Other producers should hire these guys whenever possible, because they know what they’re doing.  Hats off to production team and Pixar as well.  Without such an understanding of the digital environment, without such control of the technology and the characters’ physical capabilities, and most importantly, without such empathy and knowledge of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the gang, this would have been just another cash-grab sequel.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the show for me was imagining how the writers came up with the plot points, the escape caper, and the toys’ version of Mordor.  You could imagine some Pixar dude picking up the kids at daycare and thinking about all the possibilities – from salvation to purgatory – of such a place for toys.  The whole escape caper sequence had elements of everything from Sneakers to Oceans 11 to the granddaddy, The Great Escape. And when you think about the possibilities for Toy-hell, your area landfill and recycling center is perfect.  It’s too bad other more conventional action movies seem incapable of cleverly playing with convention and delivering this kind of experience.  So many of them just fail.  Toy Story 3, however, blends action, comedy, and those emotional moments almost effortlessly.  A real pleasure to watch, despite the inflated prices.  See it while you can.

World Cup Finale

After a solid month of frenetic international soccer, the World Cup ended with Spain’s 1-0 defeat of Holland on Sunday.  Watching the game at a jam-packed BW3, I couldn’t help but think of how this displays wasn’t exactly a scintillating endorsement for the sport.  Plenty of flopping, diving, and ugly tackling, and not nearly enough creativity or swashbuckling offense.  Prior to the game, Alexi Lalas optimistically predicted a 3-2 shootout.  And of course this is what we got:

De Jong Karate Kick

De Jong Karate Kick - Reverse Angle

Nigel De Jong, you may recall, is the same a$$hole who broke U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden’s ankle in the March warmup match in Amsterdam.  Meanwhile, Mark Van Bommel was laying down the law like Van Damme on Red Bull, and the referee seemed determined to avoid sending anyone off before halftime.  If ever a match was screaming for a first half red or a quick goal, it was this one.

Many have lamented the Dutch strategy of attempting to kick the Spaniards into submission; many more have lamented the Spanish flair for collapsing, faking, and generally falling down at the slightest of contact.  Dan Loney sums it up better than most.  Basically, he states, you can’t expect teams to really play in a World Cup Finale – it’s simply too big, with too much pressure, and too many watching across the globe.  Others have noted how we haven’t had a well-played and exciting championship game since 1986, when Argentina defeated West Germany in Mexico City.  Shouldn’t come as too much of surprise that this match resembled the most recent Lakers-Celtics series:  Superbowls, NCAA Championships, and World Series often suck for aesthetics.  The only recent exception I can think of is the Gold Medal Hockey game in Vancouver.

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Books: World War Z

…by Max Brooks.  In World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, the author tells the story of a massive zombie outbreak through interviews with key participants and survivors from all across the globe.  These interviews, of soldiers, politicians, bureaucrats, and everymen, chronicle the Zombie War from outbreak to eventual triumph.   It’s one part fictional historical fiction, one part novel-in-short stories, with plenty of horror and sociological commentary thrown in.

It’s an awesome idea – the kind I wish I would have come up with – and Brooks (son of Mel) not only turned the book into a bestseller, but used it’s predecessor, The Zombie Survival Guide (Beemsville review here) as a sort of research thesis to lay the groundwork for this story. The audiobook version features a host of familiar voice-talent, and I’m told is quite good.  To the surprise of nobody, a movie is currently in development.

But back to the book itself…  The narrative takes place approximately ten years after the end of the war.  It’s an oral history commissioned by the UN to collect first-hand accounts.  Brooks splits it into three basic sections:  the initial outbreak, the great panic with humanity in full retreat, and the war to retake the planet.  The narrator/interviewer moves around the globe, chronicling the effects and responses of various societies’ showdown with the living dead from China to Pakistan to the UK.  The international approach is one real strength of the books – probably a third of the interviews deal with the USA, with the remaining two-thirds focused on the rest of the planet.

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Who’s Sad Now?

Are you sad the World Cup is nearly over?  At the very least we’ll have a first-time champion with either Spain or Holland.  And no one will be too sad to hear the last of the vuvuzelas.  The Germans are sad because the octopus was right, the Uruguayans are sad (even though they cheated to get there), and U.S. diehards are sad because a fully healthy team could’ve given the Dutch a better game.

I was on vacation last week and sad because my task was not relaxing or avoiding dangerous bus excursions but laying tile in the basement.  I worked at a slow pace, but I made up for it by being incompetent.  Yes, I was sad on vacation…

Meanwhile, the boys over at Sad on Vacation have a couple of newish sketch videos posted:

Hopefully this wasn’t the only thing they learned from their recent trip to L.A.

Lingering Sting

A week after the disappointing loss to Ghana, and the sting still lingers.  Especially after watching the Ghana-Uruguay game yesterday – the kind of clash that would’ve favored the U.S. style of play and intestinal fortitude.  You may have noticed how many teams have collapsed and capitulated when face with adversity.  England, Mexico, and most surprisingly, Brazil, all fall into this category.  I still believe the fatigue from chasing the Algeria game really hurt our team against Ghana.  Not as much as the decision to start Clark and Findley, though…

And yet with no Charlie Davies and a less-than-100% Oguchi Onyewu, the quarter-finals or semis were probably a bridge too far.  That said, and with the help of the Nike marketing team, let’s express our gratitude for Team America’s effort:

Speaking of Nike marketing, many have noted how the players featured in their high-dollar promotional campaign, Write the Future have sort of sucked or failed to show up for this World Cup.  Ronaldinho (cut before the tournament), Ribery, Rooney, Cannavaro, Drogba (broken elbow), and Ronaldo have all had the hex.  Soccer Wit Emeritus Dan Loney sums it up superbly here with  Zork the Future.  Definitely worth a look, especially if you remember the old text-based games of the 80’s and 90’s.

Finally, on the topic of poignant, humorous, and insightful, ESPN’s Bill Simmons (aka the Sports Guy) checks in with 20 Questions on the World Cup.  A great read…  Highly recommended.