Trade Post: Justice Vol. 1-3

I remember back when Justice was announced. I think it was my first week or so at Wizard. I can’t remember if I was actually there when they printed the news or if I read about it in the issue that had just come out, but they announced Alex Ross’s Justice League comic at the same time as the All Star line that would go on to include (and possibly end with) the fantastic All Star Superman and the ridiculously over the top, but still lots of fun All Star Batman and Robin. I stood outside one of the side doors of the old building while talking with someone about it. We were trying to figure out if it was just an Ultimate rip-off, but decided no, it would be interesting. Might as well make some books that don’t require 20 years of continuity knowledge for people to check out.

It’s funny how things worked out. By the time Justice finally started coming out I had forgotten that it was originally mentioned along with the All Star books and also that it was out of continuity. I remember being really confused after a few issues, especially when retro Supergirl and grown up Dick Grayson as Robin and kid of gave up on the series. I was done with Alex Ross’ obsession with the Super Friends and comics from the 70s that I haven’t read. But over time I acquired all three Justice trades and just read them all in two days and I really liked the series.

Maybe it’s that the Justice League books have been pretty lackluster for, well years now. Ever since Infinite Crisis and probably a little before that, the team hasn’t really had a sense of gravitas or stability that it deserves (and I’d rather give up the gravitas for stability, like with the JLI era). Maybe it’s that I’m sick of seeing the greatest superhero team on earths standing around, looking at pictures around a table and being forced to look at their symbols. Maybe it’s that lame events that no one cares about keep upsetting potentially interesting stories. Maybe it’s that I keep being shown HOW the team came together instead of why they exist. But Justice doesn’t seem to suffer from any of those problems.

Yes, it is steeped in Satellite-era Justice League sentimentality, but not necessarily continuity. Like I said, I’ve only read a handful of comics from that era, but I didn’t have trouble following any of the beats. Of course, I’ve been reading about these characters pretty consistently since that time, so I don’t know if this would be a great book to pass to a newbie, but it might be worth a shot. Anyway, the story follows the League’s reaction to a group of supervillains (mostly members of the Legion of Doom, not surprisingly) seemingly turning over a new leaf and helping people. It’s of course a big ruse by Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grodd, but it does feel like an epic story. And since it is an alternate universe or whatever you want to call it, you really don’t know what will happen to the characters.

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised with how much I liked the book. Like I said, I’m getting sick of the Super Friends nostalgia, but Ross and co-writter and penciller Jim Krueger used it is a spring board instead of a crutch. And really, that’s all on the surface. Yes it’s an old JLA team that you’re maybe not familiar with and yes, the villains are the Legion of Doom, but it’s not a goofy story by any means. Our writers also take time throughout the 12 issues series to give almost all of the big heroes their cool little moments. I really liked their take on Martian Manhunter’s society and them making Aquaman seem cool (something Peter David did a while ago, but, like I said, that was a while ago). They don’t do that thing where characters talk about how awesome a character is, instead, they show you why you should care. I think this is the one comic that really showed me why Barry Allen and Hal Jordan are cool.

Plus, you can’t talk about an Alex Ross comic without commenting on the art. While I’ve been finding a lot of his covers (especially the JSoA stuff) too rich in pastels, Justice feels like his classic 90s work. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be as many Easter Eggs as their were in Marvels or Kingdom Come, but the figures all look very solid and impressive, which is exactly what you want in a comic filled with larger than life superheroes. We even get spreads featuring the Green Lantern Corps and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which were my wallpaper at various times when I worked at Wizard.

I also have to complement DC on putting these trades together. They probably could have been more economically put together in 6-issue arcs (or even one big 12-issue volume) as opposed to the three, but the story does seem to have been broken up into a three act structure that benefits from the breaks in the trades (though, again, economically it sucks, but if you’re not worried about economics, check out the Absolute edition on its way out, if it’s not already out). What DC should get credit for is including Batman’s “files” in the back of the trades with sketches and art by Ross. I know most/all of this stuff was included in the comics themselves, but it’s nice to see that material make it into the trades, especially if you didn’t buy the issues. If nothing else, I learned that Giganta was actually a gorilla who could grow. The silver age was weirdsville you guys.

So, if you missed out on Justice when it was first coming out, gave up on it early like I did or avoided it completely because you thought it was too retro, I’d recommend giving it another shot. It’s a great big, epic superhero story that offers up a complex story filled with twists and turns that all makes sense in the end. Oh, and the art sure is perty.

Thanksgiving Scene: Night Of The Demons (1988)

Like last year, I intended to watch a good deal of horror movies on my inlaws’ FearNet, but without my wingman, I wasn’t able to keep myself up long enough to get through anything other than Night Of The Demons on Thanksgiving night. NOTD focuses on a bunch of kids who decide to have a Halloween party in an old mausoleum. As you would expect, there’s a demon in the house who starts inhabiting the teens. It’s not a great movie and probably one better watched with a group of people as it has plenty of hilarious lines and tons of bad acting. I will say that the directing and special effects are pretty solid though. So, maybe with a better cast, this would be a better movies. Oh well, hit the jump for the live blog.

*Pretty sure I haven’t seen this one before. Checking it out on the inlaws’ FearNet, I didn’t even know it was still around. Too bad they don’t have wireless here.

*This is ANOTHER movie with a kid hiding in his sister’s closet while she changes only to scare her. THAT’S NOT OKAY!!!

*The meathead boyfriend is pretty hilarious. As is his interaction with Judy’s brother.

*Woah, that is definitely a nice ass bending over in the convenience store while her friends steals shit. Like, TONS of shit. I think there’s also a girl showing her boyfriend exactly which kinds of pads she likes to buy. Hilarious.

*Damn, that ass’s face isn’t too hot.

*It’s fun watching a horror movie actually set on Halloween. I can think of the Halloween flicks and Trick r Treat. Maybe I just haven’t seen a lot.

*”Are you dating her for her personality? Because she has big cha-chas.” – Judy’s little brother. Are all little brothers obsessed with their sister’s boobs? Damn, this kid is annoying. I’m hoping for a graphic evisceration.

*I’m also hoping for some pretty terrible stuff to happen to the ass in the pig nose.

*This feels a lot like The Funhouse actually. I think that’s the movie with the kid hiding in his sister’s closet. You’ve also got the set-up with two couples meeting up to go somewhere. I know that’s not a lot in common, but it’s still there.

*Haha, I know it’s lame, but the car with what I assume our heroes in it pulling up to the stranded pig-man car (his name is apparently Stooge, ugh) and asking “Need a hand?” and then clapping had me chuckling.

*Wow, this is one of the worst bits of exposition explaining the crematorium they’re using “Biggest one in four counties.” What a weird bit of information to know. Are there stats? Also “I can’t believe we’re partying here.”

*”A brick wall on top of an underground stream? That’s a feat of engineering genius.” “Ghosts can’t move over running water.” They’re really mainlining you information.

*Though I like that it’s set on Halloween night, it doesn’t really feel like Halloween. Though, to be fair, the Halloween presented in ET seemed completely foreign to me too. I had no clue people trick or treated in the day. We only ever went at night.

*Wow, these guys are NOT good actors.

*Oh man, I should see if Rob wants a “best/worst parties in horror movies” list for TR. In this one, they party to a song about computer dating.

*I just noticed that, like TrT, most of the girls in this are dressed like fairy tale characters: Alice in Wonder Land, Peter Pan (?), the Wicked Witch (?) and whatever the girl in the pink is supposed to be.


*I actually kicked around the idea of having a similar party in run down building near where we went to college, but after walking through it on a highway cleanup and realizing there weren’t any floors, decided it would be a bad idea. Also, we would have been caught in a second as, like I mentioned, it was on the highway.

*Something weird happened when Stooge chased the black guy into the other room. I’m guessing bad touching.

*GAH, why does FearNet run commercials? Especially for Ninja Assassin? That hardly makes sense, but I do want to see this movie. That was a pretty long commercial.

*Now they’re doing something called a “past life seance.”

*Woah, the demon thing in the mirror was pretty creepy. Why are they angry at the chick who noticed the mirror was falling. That was the slowest mirror fall I’ve ever seen.

*Shooting the scene through the broken pieces of mirror on the floor with the cast all lined up in just the right spots was pretty rad.

*Uh oh, there’s a giant vault in the basement. I’m guessing they’ll foolishly open that and then die. Nope, the demon opened it himself.

*Oh, cool. The demon’s invisible, but they can hear something and spell something. Now it’s in pinkie.

*Stooge just called his mom his old lady, but that’s supposed to be your chick. Old man is your dad. took me a while to get that straight in my head.

*Goth girl is trying SO HARD to deliver her lines about the house being possessed and what the difference between possessed and haunted is, but it’s just not working.

*Hey kids, here’s a tip, when someone at your party in a possessed house has a sudden change in voice, it’s probably a good idea to bounce.

*Sorry Canadian Tuxedo dude, but demon possessed pink chick would rather do Stooge. It’s probably for the better. Oh wait, she seemingly possessed Goth Girl, so you should be good while the two couples go off and explore.

*Haha, now one of the kids is talking about how this place has been haunted since the early settlers were around.

*I kind of want to punch the obvious Final Girl (Judy) in the face. She’s awful.

*Uh oh, the black guy and the Goddess chick are trapped in. She thinks they’ve all died and are in hell. He’s looking for the gate. Ah, her name is Helen and now she’s disappeared.

*Aw, Jay left Judy in a room after she shot him down.

*Yeesh, Pinkie (Suzanne) looks pretty terrible all possessed and what not. Sorry Stooge, you might be getting fucked, but it’s not in the good way.

*Anyone that ever says something like “I’ve never had sex in a casket before” and doesn’t finish it with “and I never ever want to” can’t be friends with me. Sorry.

*Suzanne pushing the lipstick into her nipple is pretty crazy.

*The Suzanne demon’s voice sounds like Dr. Claw. The effect of her squeezing Don Johnson kid’s eyes out was pretty cool.

*Feels like the shit is finally hitting the fan. Pretty much everyone is either dead, a demon or knows there are demons. Cool.

*I like this concept of the demons not having a full run of the house. Since they have physical bodies, they can’t just float through walls. Though, that doesn’t really explain how the gate disappeared or how seriously locked the door is (though, really, it could just be locked from the outside).

*Judy’s mini freak out after getting attacked by the severed arm in the room with the dead versions of the people boning in the coffin is hilarious because she’s a terrible actress and so are the people popping out of the coffin and awkwardly moaning and sorta kinda grabbing after her.

*This movies seems pretty well directed and written, but the acting is just craptastic.

*Canadian Tuxedo went out like a champ man. Gah, just let Judy fall black guy and save yourself.

*Hey, Sal’s last name is Romero, creative. Since the grave popped up they seemingly can alter reality. I’m surprised his last name wasn’t Raimi with all the steady cam shots and pancake makeup ghosts. If we’re going to reference our references, lets at least be honest about it.

*Uh oh, Judy wants to open the big giant vault door that the demon phased through. This could be really good or really effing bad. Oh God, it’s the crematorium.

*Why do the demons have vampire teeth? Wait, why can’t the demons just ghost through the door and possess them?

*Haha, how come Halloween ends at dawn and not midnight? Also, this feels very much like April Fool’s Day with the whole “AFD ends at noon on April 2nd thing or whatever.

*Haha, I love how instead of warning Judy, Roger just bolts anytime bad stuff happens around them.

*Looks like everyone’s a zombie demon thing now.

*Haha, this time Roger just leaps through a window. Gotta love this guy.

*Yeesh, thy’ve got to climb up barbed wire to get up the wall.

*Roger, maybe it’s time to cut your losses and make a break for it. Aw, good for him, he came back for her even though she’s being pawed at.

*How the hell do you explain this to your friends’ parents who are now missing children?

*Also, hey, the black guy made it through a movie!

*Haha, what?! What a weird ending. We go back to the old guy who said the kids were going to hell earlier (I think it was to Judy who was actually trying to help him with something). Anyway, his wife cooks an apple pie that he had put razor blades in, then, as his throat rips open she says “Happy Halloween.” Hun wha???? It was a great effect though.

500th Post

Hey gang, sorry for the lack of posts this week, but the missus and I traveled to New Hampshire for the holidays. Hopefully you all got the perfect amount of pumpkin pie over the holiday, I had to settle for this tiny one I picked up at Building 19, but on the plus side, I did read through a bunch of trades of which I will have reviews up soon and even live blogged a movie called Night of the Demons, which will be going up right after this (I brought my laptop, but her folks don’t have wireless, and their computer chair isn’t the most comfortable, so forget it).

Anyway, to celebrate this 500th post, which I’m sure no one but me really cares about I wanted to share my brief blogging history with you. UnitedMonkee was launched back in March of this year with a post called Why Hello There, but it wasn’t my first foray into the world of blogging. In fact, a good chunk of the posts on this blog were actually copied over from a blog I had while working at Wizard called Kickin’ It Old School (you can read all the KIOS posts under the label of the same name to the left). I was actually walking with former Wizard internet czar Jim Gibbons. We were walking towards the New York Comic Con and I asked if I could do a blog for the Wizard site. He said sure, but asked me what it would be about, so I told him I’d think about it. A little while later I came at him with the idea of a blog that looks at older material as opposed to the up-to-date stuff most of the other blogs zeroed in on. The scope would of course open up, but that was the original idea. That first post went up May 9th, 2008.

For the longest time I was actually very anti-blog. Who cares what I have to say about anything? Well, not too many people at the moment, about 50-100 each day, but that’s a whole hell of a lot more people who would listen to me ranting in my house every day. It really grew on me and I’ve become a huge fan of the medium. As you can maybe see if you go through the older posts (from either KIOS or UM), I’ve gone back and forth trying to figure out the best way to actually write something and present it. I’m basically learning as I go and I hope you guys are enjoying it.

So, what does the future of UnitedMonkee hold? I’ve got a crack design team (Rickey) working a new logo that combines the awesomeness of monkeys, beer and his art. I’m also slowly working on a sight redesign through WordPress, but it’s slow going as my patience is running low. Any designers out there want to give a hand? Drop me a line. Also, like my October-wide Halloween Scene posts, I want to do the same with Christmas this year. I’m sure that won’t bring in as many younger readers, but I’m hoping my reviews of White Christmas and Holiday Inn might bring in that ever-present elderly readership I’m trying to nail down.

Well, that about sums it up, hopefully this was interesting to a few of you. If not, give it a second and the Night of the Demons live blog will be up. Followed soon after by my review of the Justice books. I’m just waiting to see if the Steelers break my heart or not tonight. I’m thinking they might, but hoping the rag tag group of scrubs they’ve got in there can pull it off. Dixon just ran it in for a touchdown!!! They’re up! Okay, gotta finish watching this, have a good one!

Happy Turkey Day

Hey everyone, hope you had a good Thanksgiving, ate plenty of mashed potatoes and stuffing and enjoyed watching some pretty one-sided football games (I hate the Lions for sucking so bad, damn them for making me root for them with my eyes closed so tight). If you get the reference, bonus points for you. Posts will probably be pretty few and far between this weekend, though I do feel a creeping urge to write a bit about my history with Black Friday shopping (or as we used to call it, Day After Thanksgiving shopping). Maybe tomorrow after getting up early for breakfast and then coming back while the ladies go shopping. Also, that’ll be my 500th post! Crazy, right?

NYC & LA Movie Marathon: 7 Movies From Both Cities

I watch a LOT of movies. More so than usual since I’m unemployed/work from home. Netflix really has become my closest friend which is both sad and technologically impressive. Anyway, I like to watch movies or shows while I work on freelance, which means I’m not always giving them 100% of my attention, but enough to do a series of mini-reviews. I’ve been trying to figure out some thematic similarities between the movies I’ve been watching (like the otherwise unrelated Dr. Horrible and Angel of Death from the other day). It wasn’t until I was watching Last Action Hero today which takes place in both New York City and Los Angeles that I realized that a big chunk of the movies I’ve watched recently are set in one or the other. So, what the hell? Even though they’re mostly unrelated, here’s a look at seven movies I’ve watched in the last few weeks set in these places. Hit the jump for the incredibly entertaining reviews.

First up, New York, both because it’s a place I’m semi-familiar with and it contains the movie I watched first.

F/X (1986)
As long time United Monkees know, I watched F/X 2 a little over a year ago and had a great time with it. It was a fun little action movie that didn’t seem to take itself too seriously and had fun with the concept. The original is a bit more straightforward and intense that I was expecting, with Cocktail’s Bryan Brown taking on an assignment from the government to make it look like a mobster (Jerry Orbach) gets killed so he can testify. Turns out he gets double crossed and things go downhill from there. Brian Dennehy still stars as the one guy trying to help Brown’s character and the two team-up to take out the bad guys and win the day, using plenty of Brown’s special effects tricks. It’s a cool movie, but definitely not as fun as the sequel.

Not only do Righteous Kill and F/X share a common setting in the form of NYC, but they also share something in the form of awesome actor Brian Dennehy. In this case he plays lieutenant to Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. This review absolutely contains SPOILERS, so if you don’t want the movie ruined, skip to The Muppets Take Manhattan. Anyway, the whole plot of this movie revolves around De Niro’s seeming confession to being this killer of guys who fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system. We even have video footage of him confessing. But, it turns out that the video is Pacino making him read his (Pacino’s) diary. See, throughout the movie, they’re only referred to by their nicknames, so when De Niro reads a real name, we don’t actually know who it is. I found the twist to be a fairly interesting one that would probably make sense on further viewings (less High Tension and more Usual Suspects). Personally I liked watching these two veterans working together in a fairly tight script that brings in the talents of 50 Cent, Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg and Carla Gugino. Definitely worth the NetBox watch in my opinion.

I must admit, I’m not a huge Muppets fan. That’s not to say I don’t like them, I just don’t have the history with them that a lot of people my age seem to. My only childhood memory of them is from Muppet Babies. After that? The video they did with Weezer. So, it was kind of on a whim that I watched The Muppets Take Manhattan on NetBox and I had a great time with it. The story follows Kermit and the Muppet gang who are fresh out of college (seems like that would make a great movie premise itself) and taking their show to New York to get it on Broadway. After several failed attempts to get the show made, Kermit kind of blows up at his friends who all decide he would be better off if they told him they got other jobs and moved away. This leaves Kermit in NYC, working in a diner and still trying to get the show made. He, of course, succeeds eventually, only to get in an accident that leaves him with amnesia and taking a job as an ad exec, Mad Men-style. I had a ridiculous amount of fun watching this flick and trying to figure out if I’d ever been to the parts of the city Kermit was walking around (I’m guessing so, though the place has changed quite a bit in 25 years). I also really enjoyed the flashback that spawned Muppet Babies. It made a lot of things make sense. Now, I’ve got to check out the rest of the movies.

Holy crap, I loved this movie. I just watched it today (well, yesterday at this point in the early morning) and had so much fun with it. See, it’s a fictionalized history of Def Jam records back in the 80s, but starring a ton of their artists like Run-DMC, the Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Kurtis Blow, Rick Rubin, Sheila E., the Beastie Boys and New Edition among others. I only really started exploring hip hop within the last five or six years, but that exploration has heavily included Run-DMC and the Beasties. I also had a couple Fat Boys tapes back when I was a kid (I’m guessing around the time they got huge, musically speaking, because I vaguely recognized a track or two in the movie from those tapes). That combined with my fairly recent viewing of VH1’s 2009 Hip Hop Honors which focused on Def Jam really made this movie interesting for me. There’s a lot going on in a fairly limited amount of time, but I feel like the director did a good job of balancing the main storyline of Run-DMC thinking of jumping form the Krush Groove label and the B-story of the Fat Boys trying to make it big. If you’re interested in early hip hop at all, this is a must-watch flick. I was also surprised to find out that director Michael Shultz also directed past UM reviewed movie Car Wash and a few movies I didn’t get around to reviewing like the epic Last Dragon (SO awesome) and Cooley High (surprisingly depressing).

New York To LA and Back

The movie that inspired this entire entry starts off with a kid in NYC who loves Arnold Schwarzenegger movies getting sucked into movie-LA and eventually bringing the fictional Jack Slater back into the real world. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I really loved this movie. I remember watching it with my grandparents back around the time it came out on video and thinking it was kind of dumb. But, see, now I’ve seen most of the movies it tries to spoof and had a much better time with it (I’m guessing my grandparents also thought it was dumb, but I bet they never said anything). The kid calls out all kinds of late-80s, early-90s action movie cliches, trying to convince Slater that he’s living in a movie. What I like is that all aspects of the story are interesting and I guess the credit for that goes to world renowned scriptwriter William Goldman (whose book of scripts including Butch & Sundance, Misery, Marathon Man & The Princess Bride is sitting mostly unread on my shelf) who came in and did a rewrite after Arnold insisted on it. Credit should also be given to Die Hard and Predator director John McTiernan who did a great job of mixing the comic and action elements. Sure, the kid’s acting can be a bit thin at times and maybe over-the-top, but I think it works, especially (maybe only) if you’re a fan of these kinds of movies. Oh, it also features a cartoon cat voiced by Danny Devito, how can you go wrong?!

Now On To LA

After watching several movies about cops getting new partners (Dragnet, The Rookie, Lethal Weapon (the latter two soon to be reviewed on their own), it’s funny how similar they end up. This one has dandy Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee teaming up to take down crime in LA’s Little Tokyo. Soon enough, something minor leads them to something huge and our heroes have to put a stop to it. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to this one, but I still enjoyed the weird aesthetic of it. See, Lundgren loves Asian culture, while Lee only knows martial arts because his mom made him take lessons and otherwise doesn’t care. When I was a kid I always got this one confused with Big Trouble In Little China. That doesn’t really mean anything, I guess. On another note, Wayne’s World’s Tia Carrere also stars in this movie. On another nother note, the director Mark L. Lester also directed the more-fun Class of 1999 and Commando.

Hey, guess what? I’ve had a surprising amount of luck watching movies lately. Case in point? Alien Nation. I added a few sci-fi movies including this one a while ago and decided to give this one a shot. I remember seeing the TV series randomly syndicated when I was a kid watching late-night TV but had never seen the movie, which stars James Caan and Chicago Hope’s Mandy Patinkin. Kind of like V, Alien Nation is based around an alien race that is welcomed to earth and begins to be integrated into society, though basic stereotypes still exist. These aliens were bread to be slaves though. Like with Showdown, this movies focuses on cop Caan being saddled with Newcomer (that’s what they call the aliens) Patinkin. As the two learn about each other, they find out about a much bigger plot to addict the Newcomers to drugs and have to put a stop to it. I really liked James Caan in this flick. I guess I haven’t seen him in too many things, but I liked his every man approach. I haven’t seen a ton of his movies, but this made me want to do so. It also made me add the TV series to my Netflix queue, though I was it was on instant watch. I don’t have incredibly high hopes because it got canceled after one season, but it did spawn a number of TV movies. Anyone familiar with them?

So, that ends my cinematic tour of NYC and LA, though I’m sure I’ll see another movie or two set in one of those places before the end of the week. I’ve enjoyed my brief stay and wish I would have taken more pictures, but what are you gonna do?

Star Wars Musical Instruments From England

Okay, so the Eigenharp Alpha isn’t actually from Star Wars, but you can definitely see the similarities between it and an instrument or two from Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. I stumbled across the video below of three dudes playing these things on YouTube and think I’ve found a brand new musical obsession. According to the EigenLabs website, the version on the left here is called the Eigenharp Alpha and has, well, I’ll just copy their own description:

“Available in a variety of finishes, it has 120 highly sensitive keys, 12 percussion keys, 2 strip controllers, a breath pipe and numerous pedal inputs. This gives almost endless possibilities for flexible keyboard layouts, fast instrument switching and expressive musical control. The comprehensive software system provides a wealth of musical performance features, including playback of its own native instruments, many common software plugins, soundfonts or midi instruments.”

Pretty cool, no? I’ve been fascinated by electronic music ever since I heard the crazy mixes of Fatboy Slim back in the day. Since then I’ve been wanting to pick up a drum machine and some kind of turntables (I’ve recently been looking for MP3 versions, but more for funsies than as a serious buyer). This thing looks like it would be the perfect instrument for someone trying to get their feet wet. I also like how, since it’s so brand new, there probably aren’t as many rules you’re supposed to follow when it comes to playing it.

The only problem so far is that it runs over $6,000. Compared to a really nice guitar, that’s not too bad, but I bet a lot of people might shy away from that because it’s a brand new instrument.

In the good news department, there is a smaller version called the Eigenharp Pico which boasts “18 playing keys and 4 mode keys, a strip controller and breath pipe, the smaller Pico has the majority of the playing features of the Eigenharp Alpha.” This one translates to a little under $600 by my calculations (and by mine, I mean Google’s).

Of course, considering the fact that I’m mostly unemployed and trying my hand at this freelance writer thing, I won’t be purchasing an Eigenharp for myself, but if you faithful readers wanted to band together and order me one for Christmas (or if Eigenharp wants a review) I’d be more than happy to accept this generous gift. Oh and perform at your parties. I’m sure I’ll pick it up pretty quickly.

I Kind Of, Sort Of Liked The G.I. Joe Movie

In an interesting twist of fate, I had just found out I was getting the DVD for G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009) from Netflix the very same day we recorded the podcast for War Rocket Ajax. Those of you who have listening to it might remember the long conversation that some of the guys, including my buddy and Topless Robot honcho Rob went back and forth about the ridiculousness of the movie. And yeah, it was ridiculous. Like Rob said, this is the world’s greatest fighting force and they send only a handful of guys to defend Paris. But, like I said, I kind of liked it.

Now, please understand, this isn’t a great movie. I’m not even sure it’s good, but I had a good enough time watching it. When I was a kid I loved G.I. Joe. I remember watching the cartoon, but that’s not where my memories come from. Those would be from the toys. I had a pretty good number of action figures, vehicles and playsets all of which I would spread across my living room floor and play with for hours. We also had a fireplace made up of individual rocks, so that was the perfect place for some epic battles as well. Anyway, seeing as how all the toys (or guys as I used to call them) were tossed into a shoe box, I didn’t really know what their names were and I played with them long past when the cartoon was done, so they were just “the Cobra Viper who’s painted orange and blue” and “the guy with the beret.” I would also play with my older cousin’s Joes when I would visit my Grandma in Cleveland (as well as his Transformers), so there were even more characters I played with but didn’t really know.

All of this is a roundabout way to say that I don’t really have a connection to the Joes as characters. In fact, the three most recent incarnations I’ve encountered were the animated movie (SO weird), the Devil’s Due comic World War III (fantastic) and the first trade of the Marvel comics (boring). So, even now, my experience with the characters is pretty much “Cobra Commander is an ass,” “Destro makes weapons,” and “Snake-Eyes doesn’t talk, also likes guns and swords.” That’s a way of saying that I didn’t care that the characters probably didn’t line up with their animated and comic counterparts. That doesn’t mean that I liked the idea of all the characters being inexplicably linked to each other in complicated ways. Duke used to date Baroness. The eventual Cobra Commander is Baroness’ brother. Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes knew each other as kids (that’s in the comics though, right?). I remember there also being talk of there being a romantic relationship between Scarlet and Snake-Eyes, but I didn’t really notice it in the movie. Oh and of course Ripcord had a thing for Scarlett (though who wouldn’t?).

The action scenes were fun and over the top. That’s the kind of craziness I like. Heck, I even dug the accelerator suit chase scenes. Maybe it’s because I went into this movie expecting absolutely nothing and knew I wasn’t going to get insulted like some nerds do, but for the most part I liked it. Having watched it about a week or two back, I can honestly say that it has mellowed better than Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. I liked Transformers 2 while watching it, I’ve had a lot more questions and concerns after watching it, but G.I. Joe still feels about the same.

Oh, one thing that did bug me about the story was the whole turn of character with the Baroness. It’s too bad they wouldn’t let her just be an awesome villain. Take out the nonsense linking her to Duke and Cobra Commander and you’re fine, because you don’t have to explain anything away (why she turned bad). She should have just been bad the whole time. So, not only did we get robbed of the potential awesomeness of Cobra Commander as a villain throughout the whole film, but we also get the Baroness taken away from us as a rad villainess. It’s really too bad. Hopefully, screenwriters will start treating these propoerties like the rich source material they really are and make big action movies that are both fun and good. We shall see.

Live Blogging The Big Bang Theory “The Vengeance Formulation”

I first learned that Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff was going to be on this episode of BBT while writing the Big Bang Theory Geek Translator I did for (by the way, my latest TV column for them went up today, just saying). It was a good episode, but not an excellent one. I had fun with the prank on Sheldon and his retaliation, plus his interplay with Leonard and Raj, but the Howard story felt a little off. Would he really tell her he doesn’t want to commit? Bernadette is crazy hot. Ah well, everyone stumbles sometimes. Hit the jump for the live bloggy goodness.

*This nerdy girl is super cute.

*Ooh, Howard, you should been a little quicker with your answer about wanting a relationship. You could be hitting that on a regular basis at least for a short time.

*It’s hilarious that these nerds don’t know the three date rule.

*”Are we talking ‘date’ the social convention, or ‘date’ the dried fruit?” – Sheldon.

*Cool, Sheldon’s gonna be on NPR. Haha, and it’s pledge week.

*It IS much catchier in Hindi Raj.

*I wonder if Howard will ever punch Sheldon.

*”You, Raj, talk to me.” – Penny. Good one Penny.

*Makes sense that Howard thinks he’d end up with Megan Fox and Katee Sackhoff.

*”You’d have better luck with the three breasted hooker from Total Recall.” – Leonard. Haha, they WOULD be saggy by now Howard.

*Aw, poor Leonard. They’re being so mean and he’s right there.

*Ah Kripke, pumping Helium into Sheldon’s office is pretty cold. But damn, that’s hilarious. I can only assume Sheldon’s revenge will be even better. Or it’ll accidentally cure is speech impediment.

*”Always nice to be part of your masturbatory fantasies.” – Dream Katee Sackhoff.

*I never watched Battlestar Galactica and don’t get the deal with her.

*”I hope that’s all you’re doing, we share that tub.” – Howard’s mom.

*Oh Raj, your Lollipop Guild joke was awesome, but way too soon.

*Seeing Sheldon defeated is pretty depressing.

*”I didn’t come to help, I came to mock.” – Raj

*First he wants to poison Kripke, then use a Whoopie cushion. Find something in the middle dude.

*Haha, Penny says Howard just missed Wonder Woman and Scarlett Johansson.

*Wow Howard. That’s desperate even for you. I can’t believe he proposed!

*I want to make foamy vengeance!

*I knew it, Sheldon’s revenge is fantastic, assuming it’s Kripke who enters. Oops, there’s other people there.

*Oh Sheldon, you never admit to pranking someone. I hope this doesn’t come back to get them all fired.

An Interesitng Trend In Reality Shows

A few months back, I wrote a post I never published about how I think the term “reality show” is thrown around a little bit too liberally. Most of the shows we watch that are dubbed as such are really just game shows. Amazing Race? Game show. Survivor? Same thing. Real World’s a reality sow. So is anything Dr. Drew does. Anyway, that’s not really the point of this post, but it is related. This whole trend of voting people off of shows and sending them home has been bothersome to me since Survivor hit so many years back and Road Rules felt the need to adopt a similar concept.

I understand that you need to get rid of people in competitions for money and even for dating shows, but any shows that purport to help people grow or learn should keep people around for long enough to “fix” them (yeah, I know that the odds of someone getting real help on a reality show probably isn’t the best, and also that these competitions also usually involve some kind of financial prize. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be removed from such shows, but I don’t think it should necessarily be a requirement. If Ray J likes all the girls on his show equally, let him keep them all. If all of the Next Iron Chefs really kill it, keep them around and see how they do next time. People will screw up. Sometimes several at a time. Just watch any Real World/Road Rules Challenge for the proof (the last episode of The Ruins saw four people head home, two who broke the rules, two who lost challenges).

So, I was happy to see three different reality shows that recently launched, all with the mission statement of helping people out in various ways, which are not falling prey to the same old boring format that every other reality show seems to subscribe to. First up, Bravo’s Chef Academy. The whole idea of this show is for people to learn how to cook with this big time chef. They’re not necessarily trying to be big time chefs, just to learn how to cook. Each week they’re given a lesson and a test on that lesson and they either pass or fail. If you fail three times, you’re out of the school. This format feels a lot more organic than the same-old, tacked on one you’re used to whether you watch cooking competition shows or not. Plus, I like the main chef guy, he’s fun and dude LOVES Columbo.

I also checked out a VH1 show called Tough Love. It’s the show’s second season and features a matchmaker taking a bunch of lonely women in and teaching them how to find a man. I’m sure the actual show synopsis is more concise and less offensive, but you get the idea. Anyway, since the point is to teach these women how to break out of their shells and learn how to attract the opposite sex, it would seem counter-intuitive to dump them once a week throughout the season. So far, they haven’t said anything about eliminations and I didn’t watch the previous season, so I’m not sure what the deal is. I could see him kicking out some of these broads who are clearly stuck in their ways and not listening to his advice (ladies, calling yourself by an alias and forgetting your dates name are surprisingly not-good when dating).

The third and most obvious non-elimination show is Dr. Drew’s Sex Rehab on VH1. As you might expect, this shows features several people who may or may not be celebrities who are dealing with sexual addictions. While in the program, they must abstain while also going through the therapeutic process. But, if they don’t, it’s not like they’re going to get kicked out, even though I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to punch a few of them in the face.

So, I’m hoping that this branching-off from the formula that’s been brainlessly pounded into every reality/game show of the past 10 years. People give the genre a lot of crap and a lot of it is deserved, but hopefully we’ll see some imagination put into this things that doesn’t involve making people eat strange things.

Web-Based Shows On DVD: Dr. Horrible & Angel of Death

dr horrible In an odd twist of fate, I watched two DVDs made up of material that was originally intended for the internet. First up, Em and I watched Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I remember when it was coming out online, but I wasn’t really high on Whedon at that point because I didn’t love Astonishing X-Men and I hadn’t yet watched Firefly, so I didn’t mind skipping it. But, after watching through Buffy all the way through again and really enjoying the Firefly/Serenity world, I put the DVD on our queue. Of course, after the slew of horror movies I watched in October, it got pushed back. Anyway, we finally watched it and both really liked it.

But really, this thing was designed for us to like it. It’s written by Whedon and stars two guys from shows we both love: Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother and Nathan Fillion from Castle and Firefly. Plus, there’s singing, which Em loves. And superheroes which we’re both fans of. So, yeah, you couldn’t get much more inside our wheelhouse. I’m sure everyone’s already seen it and I’m the last person on the planet to check it out, but I will say that the ending really surprised me. Here you think you’re watching this fun, light goofy movie and then kablammo. I guess I should have expected it from Whedon (this is the guy who now has me looking at every horror scene and trying to figure out what the twist will be – the GIRL is the vampire, not the guy!). But still, wow. I didn’t see that ending coming.

angel of deathThe other web-based movie I watched was Angel of Death and this one was completely random. I added the movie to my queue solely because Zoe Bell is in it and I find her incredibly attractive and she’s an ass-kicker, so I figured it would be a good action movie, even though I wasn’t familiar with it. And yeah, even though I didn’t like Death Proof and I’m still not sure if I like her acting (I can’t tell if her delivery is off just a tad or if it’s just her accent), I was still excited. Then I popped the DVD in and it said “Ed Brubaker’s Angel of Death” and I freaked out a little bit. I can’t believe I haven’t written more about Brubaker on this site, but his Captain America is one of the greatest long-term comic book series’ of all time. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not reading that comic.

So, I did a little searching online and remembered when this thing was coming out. I guess it was webisodes or whatever. But, watching it all together on the DVD, it really did feel like a movie instead of a serial. Plot-wise, you’ve got Bell playing a hitwoman who gets stabbed in the head and starts feeling bad about accidentally killing a little girl, so now she goes on a revenge kick killing the bad guys. I can’t say I was paying 100% attention, but I didn’t really have to. Aside from Bell, Doug Jones and Lucy Lawless were in it. Ted Raimi’s also in it, but I honestly didn’t see him. I really should pay more attention.

Anyway, I’m torn about the movie. It’s nothing spectacular, though it LOOKS fantastic. Like I said, it doesn’t feel like a web-based series (though neither does the Totally Rad Show podcast, so take that for what it’s worth), but it also doesn’t feel like the high caliber of story I’m used to from Brubaker. Maybe that’s because his comics deal in genres that aren’t as popular in comics as they are in movies. The noir thing is pretty common in films, but not comics. So, Bru writing a noir/70s-ish movie doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as his comics. To be fair, though, I probably should give the disc another watch (I’m not going to now though).

I also watched a few of the special features on the DVD (there are a good number) which were kind of interesting. There’s a whole feature about Bru which is cool, though listening to Bell call him a geek is both funny and a little cringeworthy. I also had a much more curmudgeonly view of Bru from my days at Wizard, though he was incredibly nice the time I talked to him for a big Captain American retrospective Wizard did about three years back. I guess you just assume he’s grim and gritty because he does that so well, but in the doc he comes off as a dude whose dream is coming true by being able to jump from comics to movies and I certainly can’t blame him. As a hopeful comic writer myself (I’ve finally getting some outlines together for submissions) he’s absolutely one of my heroes and I can only hope for a career (if it happens) even remotely similar to his. Well done Ed!