Quick Movie Review: Corvette Summer (1978)

I’m not generally a car movie guy. I don’t really understand cars, which frustrates me because I’m certain I’m getting screwed every time I go to a mechanic. So, the car in this flick wasn’t the draw it was Mark Hamill. This was his first movie after Star Wars the previous year and, frankly, I’ve never seen him in anything from that time other than those flicks. Sure, I’ve caught him in cameos more recently, but this is probably the only movie I’ve seen that he didn’t get based on playing Luke Skywalker.

The plot of the flick revolves around high school senior Hamill, a real gear head who salvages a Corvette body and brings it to his auto shop class where they spend the rest of the school year rebuilding the car into the bad ass vehicle you see on the poster (which doesn’t show off the lightning bolt paint job). Then, on the first day of test drives, the car gets ripped off. Distraught, Hamill puts posters up all over his town and gets word the car’s in Vegas, so he hitches to Vegas with Annie Potts who’s on her way to town to become a prostitute. Hamill then spends the rest of the summer trying to find the car and eventually does after plenty of near misses, but then there’s a big twist that facilitates the last 20 minutes or so of the movie.

What really impressed me about this movie is that it wasn’t just a goofy comedy about a car. There were some real, human elements involved. Potts and Hamill’s relationship is incredibly complicated, but still reads as true. I also really liked that Hamill spent his first few nights sleeping inside of unlocked UHaul trailers. Something about that rang as really clever to me. And then there’s the ending, which I am about to SPOIL. See, it turns out that the car was stolen by the auto shop teacher’s former student who steals cars and resells them. The teacher, who Hamill considered a real friend, does this to make some extra money after taxes and bills got increased on him. Hamill then starts working for the chop shop guys designing cars, but something snaps in him, he kicks some ass, grabs Potts from a really strange porno scene involving the flippers you see in the poster and then drives the car back to his friends.

Hamill does a great job that makes me want to see him in more movies from this time and Potts even avoids being as super annoying as she would become in later years. Fun stuff, you should definitely check it out on Netflix Instant Watch!

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Kung Zhu

Because I’m still a seven-year-old at heart, I always make sure to hit up the toy aisle any time I find myself in a Target, Walmart or any other big store that sells toys. It’s usually to see what DC Universe Classics figures are on sale and possibly discounted, but I also give a look to to everything else just to get an idea what’s selling and what’s not. Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of these things called Kung Zhu, which I figured were just little hamsters with armor, but by the looks of this commercial I was half right. The other half takes some pages from the Hot Wheels track play book. I’ve got to say, even though hamsters are pretty lame, this is a cool idea. Training your toys to become more awesome and then sending them through an obstacle course? That’s rad. Has anyone actually interacted with these toys through their kids, friends’ kids or nieces and nephews?

Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 1

UPDATE: Now with complete sentences! Sorry, I posted then went right to bed last night. The show took a lot out of me.

This was an incredibly awkward episode with host–and apparently Bravo big wig producer–Andy Cohen trying to fit in lighthearted montages and audience questions while keeping Teresa and Jacqueline from jumping on Danielle both figuratively and literally. The whole thing was super awkward and tense, but pretty much what you’d expect. At least they didn’t break it up into three parts like the New York one last season. This time it was just a few minutes longer. Continue reading Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 1

Music Mondays: Fountains Of Wayne

I’ve done some moving around on the recurring feature schedule I made for myself recently. I’m dropping Crossovers I Want To See as a weekly feature because, frankly, I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that isn’t going to get old really quick. I also never got into doing a weekly record review on Fridays, but I still want to talk about music on a regular basis, so I’m changing the focus and moving it to Mondays, hence Music Mondays. There will be record review elements, but also more personal anecdotes involving various bands. The first entry will revolve around Fountains Of Wayne, a band I mentioned in last week’s Supergroup Showcase about Tinted Windows.

There aren’t many bands out there that I remember exactly when I first heard them, but it just so happens the the night I staid up watching MTV’s 120 Minutes and discovered Man…Or Astroman?! I also saw the video for FOW’s “Denise” off their second record called Utopia Parkway. This was probably around 1999 when that record came out, so I would have been 16. I was instantly taken in by their awesome pop rock sound. Soon enough I bought Utopia Parkway and then eventually found their first, self titled record at my beloved Boogie Records. I even got my friend Matt into them, which was fun. In fact, I believe I found their first album at the library first ad listened to it a bunch before finding the used copy. Anyway, it was fun to get into a band with a good friend who also had good taste in music.

The band consists mainly of Chris Collingwood (far right, above) and Adam Schlesinger (far left, above) on guitar and bass. These guys are the brains behind the operation as they’re the main songwriters. Collingwood also sings, offering his versatile vocals to the tracks. The guy has proven that he can sing in every style from mournful longing to country warbling and good old fashioned rock and roll. Jody Porter (second from right, above) acts as the other guitar player and Bryan Young (the other one) plays drums. These guys come together to create beautifully eclectic records that zoom in on real life from the heartbreak of breaking up to the mind-numbingness of working a crappy job. I defy you to listen to a FOW record and not relate to most of, if not all of, the songs. I always describe FOW as “What pop music should be.” What I meant by that is that it felt like the natural progression from 60s pop and 80s New Wave, skipping all the bad stuff including the late 90s pop I was being subjected to at the time.

Of course, just as I started getting into them and started spreading the records amongst my friends, the band went on a few year long hiatus. During the break Schlesinger helped write the original songs for the Josie and the Pussycats flick. At the time I started getting heavily into bootleg trading online. This was back when you had to actually swap discs, I assume you just send digital files back and forth now with the use of FTPs or YouSendIt. I eventually found some people swapping live FOW shows and got my hands on an in-store Sam Goody acoustic set they did on 5-5-99 and a lesser quality regular live set from a place called The Shelter in Detroit on 7-15-99. Both are still in my regular listening rotation.

Soon enough I would go away to college in Delaware, Ohio. A few months into my sophomore year, I read that they were playing in Cleveland at a place called Peabody’s. I immediately told my buddies Matt and Charlie who were going to school in nearby Columbus, Ohio and more importantly, had access to a car. The three of us made plans to go to the show on 11-12-2002 and I even got introduced to OK Go, another band I would wind up loving. Luckily I did a concert review on my old website, so here’s my review from back then:

FOW is one of my favorite current bands, so I was stoked as hell when I found out they were touring. As I said earlier, we drove all the way to Cleveland (from the Columbus area) to see them. After OK Go finished up, some people moved around and we ended up being one person from the stage. I could have literally reached up and touched Chris. It was amazing. Actually, I wouldn’t have been able to touch him because he’s a very tall man. Their set blew me away. It had all the songs I wanted to hear “Leave the Biker” (my personal favorite), “Utopia Parkway,” and “Denise.” The only song I really wish they would have played and didn’t was “Lazer Show,” but I was by no means disappointed. They played three or four songs from their upcoming album that sounded great. Two songs that stood out were “Bright Future in Sales” and “Stacy’s Mom Has Got It Goin On.” Usually I don’t like it when a band plays songs that I haven’t heard yet, but it was different this time. The songs were so good they made me want to go out and buy the album. They closed the show with “Sink to the Bottom” (I think). Right after they left one of my friends reached up and took three pics from the pic holder on the microphone. Do I feel bad about this? Nope. I’ve got a FOW pic, even if Chris didn’t use it, it’s still cool. By the way, Jody looks like a true rock star, a combination of Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. As a whole the band was tight and performed amazingly. They didn’t quite have the energy of OK Go, but their music is also a lot more mellow. This very well could have been my all time favorite concert.

It really was a great show. I had seen some huge bands by that time, but they were the first one that I felt like I really discovered and followed (even though, yes, I discovered them on MTV). That upcoming album I mentioned would turn out to be 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers and it would turn out to be my favorite of the group so far. The first three songs on the record “Mexican Wine,” “Bright Future In Sales,” and “Stacey’s Mom” are killer pop rock songs. “Hey Julie” would go on to be a favorite of the missus’ and even her ringtone. Heck, I even like “Valley Winter Song” at a time when I thought I hated county-ish music. Even though it’s a favorite, I’m still not a great fan of “Hailey’s Waitress,” but even the best records can’t be perfect. Matt and I saw the band in Detroit while touring behind this album, though I can’t remember exactly when.

In the last few years, we’ve gotten two more releases from the band. One, a two-disc collection of B-sides, outtakes and live tracks called Out-Of-State Plates came out in 2005 which also included their recording of “…Baby One More Time” a song their label passed to them and they recorded before Britney Spears got ahold of it and turned it into a gigantic hit. It’s not a bad record by any means, but there’s a reason many of these tracks aren’t on regular albums. It’s still fun to listen to, but not up to the same caliber as the regular records. Their last original record Traffic and Weather came out in 2007, another great, fun record that I still enjoy to this day, even after a sometimes-damaging heavy rotation in my car’s CD player for quite a while. I just discovered there’s a live DVD too, so I’ll have to check that out and hopefully a new record this year.

I can’t think of another band that I discovered during that time that still makes music I enjoy as much as the first records I heard. Most of the 90s bands I got into have seemed to have a dip in quality of their songs or have moved into stylistic places I’m not such a fan of, but Fountains Of Waynes’ diversity lends itself well to my aging along with them. Fun fact, after my Wizard internship, I was at home with my parents. The computer was kept in a hutch that also held the stereo. One day I was listening to Welcome Interstate Managers and “Little Red Light” popped on. I started freaking out because the song has a lyric that goes “New York to Nyack, feels like a hundred miles.” I had just spent nine weeks in Nyack so that was pretty awesome. They even refer to the Tappan Zee bridge which I had crossed a few times. It was cool to have lived in a place referenced in a song. That was a new feeling. Now I live in that area and still get a kick out of finding myself in more and more of the locations they sing about.

Hey, Don’t Buy Sony TVs

I know this is just a little blog that not a lot of people read, but one of the things that makes the internet great is that regular people can speak out about the problems they’re having. In this case, I’ve been having a problem with a Sony Bravia TV (KDL-40V4100) that was purchased in late 2008. I went through what exactly was wrong with the set (do they even still call them sets?) in a post last month.

Since then, I’ve had the cable company come out and they told me it wasn’t the signal, which I had already figured because the cable works fine on our little TV perched above the big one (which feels very white trash). Last week I was able to get an electronics repairman to come out and give it a look. After explaining to him what was wrong, he said he’d have to go back to his shop and do some research for pricing. He called me back and told me that the tuner board–the source of the problem–was pretty pricey and the whole thing with installation and all that would be $460. That’s on top of the $120 I paid for him to come out to my house to give it a look (I did the house call route because the TV’s too damn big to wield on my own and the hours are a little wonky so the missus can’t get home in time from work to help me).

Anyway, with that information in hand, I decided to call Sony up today to see if they could do anything. I understand that it’s past warranty, but I thought they might do something to help considering this very expensive television stopped working after less than two years. That doesn’t seem right does it? Well, after getting passed around I was basically told that, since I didn’t have the extended warranty (a gamble at best that I apparently should have taken) and you really can’t tell what’s going to happen with electronics once they’re sold, there’s nothing they could do.

Well, here’s what I can do: tell you about my poor experience and never buy a Sony product again. I can also at least attempt to harness the power of the internet to let other people know what kind of shoddy merchandise these people pass off as high quality and the lack of customer service. I can guarantee that my family and I would have spent far more money on Sony products than it would have cost to fix this problem. $460 from a big company like that to fix a defective product seems like pretty small potatoes compared to a lifetime of buying TVs, stereos, DVD players and whatever else might get invented in the coming years.

So, in the end, pardon my French, but fuck Sony. I’ll get this TV fixed now because I can’t afford a new one, but when the time comes for another TV? You can damn well bet that it won’t be a Sony.

Two Shockingly Violent Music Vidoes

I’ve been turning VH1 on in the morning as background music while I work and noticed a pair of crazy-violent vidoes. First up The Black Keys’ video for “Tighten Up” which not only has kids wailing on each other but also the dudes in the band WITH THEIR INSTRUMENTS!

The other one is Maroon 5’s “Misery” video, which, I have no problem admitting, I do not get at all. Are they supposed to be superheroes?

When I said they’re shockingly violent I don’t mean that I’m offended by them in any way. I was just surprised that VH1 fare would have so many asses being kicked all over the place.

My Favorite ToyFare Feature: We Want Action (TF #139, March 2009)

I worked as an associate editor for ToyFare for about a year. I had written articles for them before that and have continued to do so as a freelancer. I love writing about toys and finding out what’s coming up from companies, but I also really like delving into the history of toys. My absolute favorite thing was coming up with an idea, pitching it to my boss, having it approved, writing the whole thing, editing it and seeing the finished product.

Enter what we dubbed the action feature feature, the idea being to compile a list of the coolest things that toys can do aside from standing there and having joints. Eventually named “We Want Action” the feature is my favorite non-interview piece I’ve done for TF. The list was a ton of fun to write, but then we had to find images of the toys included, which wasn’t always easy. Sure, we had the big ones in the ol’ toy library, but we also asked a few freelancers to send in pictures, talked to some websites with pics and–coolest of all–I had my dad send out some of my toys which actually made it into the mag. You can see a “Thank You” included there in the last picture for him. If you’re curious the Swamp Thing, Computer Warriors, Karate Kid and Beetlejuice figures are all mine. So much fun! Click the thumbnails for much larger versions you should be able to read!

Scott Pilgrim Trade Post: All Six Volumes

After walking out of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (the movie), I was conflicted. I liked Edgar Wright’s direction a lot. It was crazy and frenetic and had a strong sense of being of a comic book. I don’t mean that in the colorful, over-the-top way most people do, but in the way he would have a conversation over several different locations with jump cuts acting the same way as your eye passing over a panel. It took me a while to understand that’s what he was doing, but once I did, I had a lot more fun. Plus, the acting was great as were most of the fight scenes and the casting was spot on. Seeing the movie did make me want to read the books again. I though I had read the first five volumes along with one of the Free Comic Book Day specials, but not the last and wanted to see how they compared.

So, I ordered them off of Amazon forĀ  pretty good price and had them a few days later.Before I get too far into my reading experience this time around, I want to make a few comments about how I felt about the books going in. I knew it was a weird video game/action movie-inspired world going in, but thought the way O’Malley revealed it wasn’t so great and wished there had been more evidence of this being a reality where people have Street Fighter-like fights on a regular basis. That turned me luke warm on the first book. My impression of the others was that, while they were fun books, I guess I never really got why this book of all books was so incredibly popular.

I’ve heard the Scott Pilgrim books called the Harry Potter of comics, but I think that’s a ridiculous overstatement. I read the first Harry Potter book and while it wasn’t for me, I could see that J.K. Rowling had a clear grasp of storytelling, characterization, subtext and plot development, while O’Malley seemed to have a lot of cool ideas. When Michael Cera was cast as Scott, I had my doubts if he could pull off the manic, hyper character in my mind and he didn’t really, though I liked his interpretation of Scott in the movie. But, after thinking on it for a while, the only ideas I had in my head about Scott as a character were that he was really stupid, dimwitted, loveable and can and will fight hard for the love of a girl, meaning he felt fairly flat as a character. Basically, it felt like a lot of other indie comics I had read about slacker protagonists from Snakepit to Box Office Poison, but with fighting and explosions. I got that people like the lovable loser in love angle, but I’d seen enough of that for it to be super appealing to me.

I wound up reading all six volumes in about a 24 hour period which was actually a lot of fun seeing how writer and artist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art, storytelling and timing had improved over time. It was also interesting seeing how Scott and Ramona’s relationship developed and fell apart as did Scott’s battles with her seven evil exes (I like how she makes a big deal of calling them exes in the movie instead of ex-boyfriends). I still wish the first book telegraphed the weirdness of the world a little earlier, but the second time around it didn’t bother me as much. The movie borrows heavily from this book, which makes sense because it’s all of the set-up for the following. I did a lot of comparing between this volume and the movie because of that and I applaud Wright for being able to pull so much wacky shit off, though I really wish they would have included the line about Scott being the best fighter in town. It’s a short, small line that helps the overall idea be understood better in the comic than the movie in my opinion.

After that, though, reading Volumes 2-4 was almost like reading a brand new book. I had very little recollection of what had gone on in those comics, which made it kind of nice and refreshing to read this stuff as if for the first time. I must have been really uninterested when I read them the first time around. They’re so short and easy to burn through (I read 1-4 in one evening) that I guess I consumed and moved on without really absorbing. This time around, though, I really enjoyed them, especially as they differed from the movie. There’s just so much more material to delve into, with flashbacks and explanations of how Scott and Kim started dating to Knives finding out about Ramona much earlier and actually fighter he in the mall (a cooler fight than Scott’s in this book for sure). You’ve also got a lot more history with Envy and Scott and Kim’s friend Lisa coming back into the picture. These volumes are interesting because they seem to almost crawl along. They’re still super fast reads, but you get your fights and then a lot of interactions between characters to build the emotional/personal world they’re dealing with. We also find out that their world involves Vegans having super powers and robot arms, which is pretty cool, though the personal world gets built much better than the sci-fi/fantasy world.

Then the fifth book comes in and pulls the rug out and develops lots of status quo changes from domiciles to characters coming and going. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of the series, for sure and it feels like the most plotted out of the books, like O’Malley had more in mind than “fights a dude” when he sat down to write. There’s so many beats that he needs to get to in order to set up his ending, but I think he nails them all pretty well, at a good pace and with his characters in mind, though, again, I’m still not sure who Scott is as a person. Is his naivete all an act? Is he a dumbass? I like him, but I kind of don’t want to. By the end of this volume you’re pretty firmly on his side because SPOILER he was wronged and Ramona just teleported out of her place, he got locked out and the cat ran away. At least he got a cool pad to live in thanks to his parents. 4 also has one of my favorite smaller bits of business when Scott’s trying to explain the X-Men’s ridiculous history to Ramona who’s focused on other things. I remember explaining The Death Of Superman in a similar way to my Grandma in the early 90s and her being nice enough to act like she knew what the hell I was talking about.

While the fifth volume felt like a lot was going on, but it was all paced well, 6 had kind of the opposite feel with a lot happening that didn’t seem completely necessary, like Scott spending SO MUCH time with Envy. I did like seeing him go around to see his other exes (for some reason, I never made the connection between this book/movie and High Fidelity, one of my all time favorite movies, until it was mentioned on the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast which interviewed O’Malley, Wright and Wright’s writing partner, I highly recommend giving it a listen here or on iTunes) and I thought the finale was really well done and full of potential danger (obviously I knew how the movie ended but wasn’t sure how the book would end). Overall I liked the ending and thought it fit well with the rest of the book. Oh, and I think I finally started to see Scott as a character.

One thing that the movie picks up more on than the comics do is that Scott has been building up a potential army of evil exes himself with his callous nonchalance masked in naivete. Again, I’m left wondering if he’s really that clueless or an ass. It’s hard to tell really. And again, I lean towards him just really being that clueless, though hopefully less so with the end of the series.

Something that bothered me this time that I don’t remember bugging me before was the inclusion of SO MANY “whatevers” and “or somethings.” Jesus, do people really talk like that still? It just seemed very 90s/Reality Bites. Then again, it might take longer for hip slang to make it’s way up to the Great White North.

Overall, I found reading these books to be a fun process. It’s like watching a romantic comedy written by a guy who’s played as many if not more video games than me and has a knack for making the ridiculous seem commonplace and for that, I give O’Malley a lot of credit. The series isn’t perfect and it’s defintiely no Harry Potter, but it still got me really interested in a different kind of comic than I usually read and seems to have done the same for a lot of other people because I saw a lot of younger kids leaving the showing before us and joining the missus and me in our showing. I’ll be passing these on to her next, by the way and am curious to see how she responds as she doesn’t have that video game base that many of us geeks have.

Supergroup Showcase: Tinted Windows

THE PLAYERS: Taylor Hanson on vocals (Hanson), James Iha on guitar (Smashing Pumpkins), Adam Schlesinger on bass (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy) and Bun E. Carlos on drums (Cheap Trick).
THE STORY: According to the band’s site, Adam and Taylor have been friends for a while as have Adam and James. The three of them got together and wanted to find a drummer like Bun and eventually asked the man himself and he agreed. They recorded a self-titled album which came out in April of 2009 and toured. It seems the members have gone their separate ways since last year as there haven’t been any updates on the site.
OFFICIAL SITE: TintedWindowsMusic.com

Holy crap I love this record, you guys. I bought it along with the wildly disappointing Transplants record and Blind Faith’s record, but this one really blew me away. It’s not only one of my favorite supergroup records of all time, but quickly becoming one of my favorite records period. It’s kind of the perfect storm of a group for me to like. I am a gigantic Fountains Of Wayne fan, so Schlesinger’s involvement is cool, plus I know he and Iha have been on each others’ records and even own a recording studio together. I’ve discovered an appreciation for Hanson’s vocals recently and who doesn’t like Cheap Trick? So this is definitely a case of great tastes tasting great together.

Overall the record has a very power pop/rock vibe to it that oftentimes veers very closely to FOW territory (the opening riff of “Kind of a Girl” sounds almost identical to that of FOW’s “Little Red Light” off of Welcome Interstate Managers), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Back when I first discovered FOW, I would describe them to my friends as “what pop music should sound like” (this was in the early days of Britney and NSYNC) and that’s exactly what this Tinted Windows disc is. Hanson’s got one of those great, higher range voices that makes perfect sense when heard singing about girls (which seem to be the subject of most of the songs on the record), but also can get a good growly bluesy thing going on. I defy you to listen to this record without tapping your foot or bobbing your head. Even after just a few listens, I felt very comfortable and familiar with the record, singing along with the songs in my car. These songs won’t blow your mind, but they will make you want to move. I really like to think about what these guys would talk about when they were just sitting around shooting the shit. On paper the group sounds so strange. The guitar player from the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the Hanson kids, a guy from Fountains of Wayne and the Cheap Trick drummer, but it all works out on the record with everyone giving into their lust for pop rock gems.

I’ve listened to a lot of supergroup records while working on this column and while this one isn’t the first I’ve liked, it is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I really dig listening to the Wilburys, but, in the end, that sounds like a combination of dudes I can pull out. That’s Dylan, that’s Roy. With Tinted Windows, the whole record sounds not only like a band I want to have a hundred more records from, but also one that seems incredibly cohesive and polished. This is a unit not just a lotĀ  If you like pop, rock or pop rock, I can’t recommend a record more than this one. Then go get yourself some FOW and Cheap Trick records and maybe even give Iha’s 1998 solo record Let It Come Down which, as you might expect Schlesinger appeared on.

Jersey Shore Season 2 Episode 5

Uuuuuuugh. You can probably guess what tonight’s episode of Jersey Shore was all about: Sammi and Ronnie bullshit. This time it’s because JWOWW and Snooki delivered the note they typed up last episode and then spent most of this episode worrying and lying about. Hit the jump for the full live blog. Continue reading Jersey Shore Season 2 Episode 5