The Challenge Rivals Trailer

As a philosophical discussion blooms in the comments section of my most recent Real World Watcher post, I remembered the most exciting part of last week’s episode: the trailer for the upcoming Real World/Road Rules Challenge called Rivals which premieres at 10PM EST on June 22nd. Though, technically, they just go by The Challenge now since no Road Rulers are performing. Anyway, this brand new–and frankly ingenious–Challenge concept pairs up past contestants who have had a problem with each other and pairs them up. To kick things off there’s 28 players split into seven teams of four people each (a pair of male and female rivals). Each challenge day will be gender specific. If your team wins, you’re good. If you lose, the gender of the day gets sent to “The Jungle” (the new version of the Gulag or Duel or what have you) and must compete against another team that gets voted in by the other teams in a public election. As usual, whoever wins comes back to play again while the losers get sent home. It looks like TJ Lavin has made a full recovery as he will be back in the host seat. Good for him!

Here’s the pairings according to the Wikipedia page. Obviously, don’t read on if you want to be surprised: Adam & CT, Adam & Leroy, Aneesa & Robin, Brandon & Ty, Camila & Theresa, Cara Maria & Laurel, Davis & Tyrie, Evan & Nehemiah, Ev & Paula, Jasmine &  Jonna, Jenn & Mandi, Johnny & Tyler, Katelynn & Sarah and Kenny and Wes. If you’re like me and can’t remember who all those people are, what season they were on or why they have beef, click the Wiki link for explanations!

Here’s a few thoughts that sprung to mind. First, I think it’s about damn time that they started bringing in people from the most recent Real World. Usually, they use people from the previous cast when launching a new Challenge, which is annoying because you’re already invested in the characters and usually wouldn’t mind seeing them some more (plus, if you’re like me, you have trouble remembering cast members from that long ago). Vegas‘ Leroy and Adam will be on the show which should be interesting. I think Leroy will be able to keep his cool, but Adam is a wild card. I also think they would have gotten Mike and Dustin if possible, that would have been interesting. Second, pairing CT and Adam, Wes and Kenny and Cara Maria and Laurel up is pretty awesome. Third, I love that it seems like the challenges have been specifically designed to not only force the rivals to work together but also to put them in as close physical proximity as possible.As if being on the same team as the person you hate wasn’t bad enough, you’ve also got to trust them to catch you while dangling a hundred feet over a lake (or whatever).

The funniest pairing to me is Tyler and Johnny Bananas because during the last Challenge, Johnny was talking about this longstanding rivalry between him and Tyler, while Tyler had no bad blood there. It seems like a lot of these pairings are between one really crazy, head strong person and another who’s a little more relaxed (ie Johnny and Tyler or Laurel and Cara Maria or CT and Adam respectively) while others have two pigheaded folks (Wes and Kenny, some more I can’t think of). It’ll be fun to see who can play the game well and who just can’t get over their pasts. Will greed or bruised egos win out?!

80s Odyssey: Hunk (1987) & One Crazy Summer (1986)

Let it never be said that I don’t watch the occasional movie for the ladies. What would you call T&A when it comes to dudes? Well, whatever the case, Hunk, has it in spades as geeky Bradley Brinkman makes a deal with a devil played by Deborah Shelton to become Hunk Golden, beach superstar. See, Bradley develops a program called something like “The Yuppie Program.” The interesting thing about this is that, as far as I can remember, it’s never really explained what this program is or does, but it becomes very popular. I’m wondering if the writers thought it might take too much time to actually explain the program to a largely computer ignorant viewership. Anyway, the program’s a hit and the company Bradley works for thinks he’s an actual yuppie so he gets sent to the beach (the Hamptons, maybe?) to work on another one. The problem is that he’s a huge geek, so he has trouble fitting in, even with the help of his loudmouthed landlord.

Then, the lady devil comes around and Bradley becomes Hunk and you get a lot of standard “body switch” shenanigans that aren’t very surprising. But, there is still some excellent weirdness in the movie that kept my interest. See, the actual Devil–played by James Coco–spends his days time traveling to some of the greatest atrocities in history and joining in which means he’s always popping up in period costuming when he does show up. The other aspect of the movie I dug was that Hunk is basically a superhero. He’s got enough strength to stop a runaway jeep before careening into the ocean, so you get a little exploration into that world as well as the way society would react to it.

But the real craziness comes in the epicness of the plot. You’d think this would be your average “person learns a lesson about how great they are” movie with some laughs along the way, but Hunk actually has stakes. See, if he doesn’t turn back into Bradley (there’s a ticking clock element to the story counting down to his decision about which body to choose) there will be a huge world war that we even get a glimpse of. Sure, it’s a goofy scene shot on a beach with limited budget and effects, but I was surprised they really went for it. There’s even a back story behind how the she-devil became a devil and all that.

I feel like I keep writing the same thing when it comes to these movies, but it’s not like Hunk is a long forgotten or missed classic, but it does have a lot of fun with its premise, which is something that can’t always be said about these kinds of movies. If you’re a fan of this kind of story or just want to watch a fun movie you can forget about in an hour or two then this one’s for you. I’m actually surprised with how much of the movie I remember considering I watched it over a month ago at this point, but I am a big fan of surprisingly unusual movies.

I’m also a big fan of John Cusack, but not for his 80s movies. I’ve seen Better Off Dead and Say Anything, but only after discovering him as the charismatic lead in two of my favorite movies from the 90s High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank. Of course, I enjoyed his more youthful movies as well, so I was pretty excited when I saw One Crazy Summer on Netflix Instant. The fact that the film also features Demi Moore, Bobcat Goldthwait, Jeremy Piven, Joel Murray, Joe Flaherty, Rich Little and Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) also have mostly prominent roles made the movie a lot of fun from a “hey, it’s that guy” perspective.

The plot follows Cusack’s Hoops as he goes on vacation with his buddy Murray on a place that looks an awful lot like the island from Jaws. While there he mopes around, pines after Moore’s free spirit rocker and meets a wacky cast of characters. The conflict of the movie comes from some rich jerk trying to buy Moore’s grandma’s house out from under her, so our heroes try to figure out how to get their hands on the money to help her out.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the plot from One Crazy Summer. I know there’s a boat race at the end that I assume helped the kids get the money to stick it to the jerky adults, but can’t be certain. I also vaguely remember Goldthwait wearing the Godzilla suit seen in the poster (I love this poster by the way) and Moore not doing a very good job of acting like she can play the guitar and one of Murray’s relatives winning a radio contest and his sister being called squid. But, those are just bits and pieces. Overall? It’s not a very memorable movie.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeF0Waa1Blw]

Actually, maybe I’m being too hard on the movie. I was probably working on something when I watched it, so it didn’t have my undivided attention. Sure it’s another movie about a boy trying to get the girl while at the beach, but had I paid more attention, I might have found something interesting in there, like I did with Hunk. There is one very memorable aspect to the film that surprised me: the animation. Cusack wants to be a cartoonist, so we see animated versions of his characters throughout the movie.

So that’s pretty cool and unique. Maybe One Crazy Summer is a movie I need to revisit if I do something like John Cusack month (that actually sounds like a pretty cool idea, hmmm….).

Books Of Justice: JLA Deluxe Volume 1

JLA DELUXE EDITION VOL. 1 (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison with Mark Millar, drawn by Howard Porter with Oscar Jimenez
Collects JLA #1-9, JLA Secret Files #1
It might seem like I’ve decided to read through my Grant Morrison trade collection since I’m talking about the first two JLA Deluxe Edition books after talking about his Vertigo mini Vimanarama last week. It’s actually a coincidence that has spawned from a different reading project I’ve been doing over the past month or so. Before Lucy was born, I decided to dig out parts of my post-Crisis Justice League collection and give it a read. I decided not to go all the way back to the beginning, but instead picked up right after Breakdowns, which ended the classic Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run. I had already recently read Justice League Task Force and Extreme Justice, so I just stuck with Justice League America and Justice League Europe/International, reading JLA first up until the Judgement Day storyline, then hopping over to Europe and then reading all the way through to the end of JLA. It was a really interesting experience, especially because I hadn’t read these comics in order when they came out. At some point in my collecting past, I decided to collect all the post-Crisis Justice League books and I’m only an issue or two off by now (a pair of annuals are keeping me from a full run). I’m sure I read most of the issues as I got them, but they were mostly out of order, so the stories were like puzzle pieces in a massive picture of the League in my head put together over several years. It was a lot of fun and I’m planning on getting all the books bound, but after reading through the final issues of Justice League America, I was really curious how Morrison picked up the threads left behind by that and the A Midsummer’s Nightmare. It was pretty great.

Before jumping into my review (this is one helluva long intro, sorry) I want to give a brief history of my relationship with Morrison’s JLA. I remember the exact situation in which I found out about this comic. It wasn’t online or at a comic shop, but in my local mall’s Walden Books. I’d been reading comics for a while, but mostly just stuck with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and a few others. I got my comic news from the ads in comics, the occasional talk in comics shops and free hand outs. But, at Walden Books, I found this magazine called Wizard. It was issue #57, the Captain America/Iron Man cover by Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. I was blown away by this thing. Not only was it telling me that Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman were all being put on the same Justice League team, but also explained to me this thing that would be called Heroes Reborn and something else called Kingdom Come. Thus started my long-time readership of Wizard that eventually turned into a career. But, my point is that, a half-page (I believe) news graphic in the front of the mag about the new JLA line-up is what drew my attention and captured my imagination. I HAD to read this book.

Okay, time for the actual review! I love JLA. Not only because of some nostalgic pull, but because it’s just a damn comic that burned itself into my memory as a kid. I remembered all the twists and turns, but I also had a really good time on the ride. I’m not sure what it is about some stories that still seem fun and interesting even when you know all the beats and others don’t. When re-reading Alan Moore’s Top 10, I was bored. I think it has something to do with there being enough meat on the bones of the ride to enjoy that keeps you distracted enough so you’re not just sitting there, waiting for the good parts.

Anyway, the most impressive aspect of Morrison’s JLA run, to me, is how fast-paced it is. These stories are all living somewhere in my mind, so stories like the Hyperclan one, or the Zauriel intro or the Connor Hawke fights alone one all seem like these huge, widespread epics, but in reality all of those stories take place over 9 issues. I’ve read the Hyperclan stuff the most, probably, but even so, I liked reading how Morrison handles the characters, how badass he made Batman and especially how he handles Kyle Rayner. I loved Kyle’s ongoing, so it was nice to see another writer treat the character with respect, but also understand that kind of “I’m in awe of all this” nature he had while hanging out with the Justice League. And, of course, Howard Porter has never been better than he was on JLA. Just as the stories themselves have been absorbed in my memory, so have his panels, pages and poses. There’s something so unique and yet iconic about the way he drew these heroes that it’s almost hard to move from one panel tot he next without trying to drink it all in.

From there we get the recruitment drive/Tomorrow Woman story which I kind of forgot about, but still liked it (I wish they would have included her one-shot even though I don’t believe it was written by Morrison, but ah well). That moment where Hitman says he only went there to use his x-ray vision on Wonder Woman is fantastic. After that it’s the Zauriel stuff, which was fascinating and really showed how tough this new League was: they’re fighting angels. Which reminds me, just as his run was kicking off, Morrison had to deal with Electric Superman and I’ve got to say, he retained the character’s general awesomeness, made him a little bit more vulnerable and unsure of himself, but really exploited the powers well. I know it might not be saying much to some people, but I bet these are the best Electric Blue Superman stories around. I mean, he grapples with a freaking angel, you guys. The angel stuff gets picked up again in a later volume which I’m looking forward to getting my hands on, but this was a great intro to Zauriel a character that has fallen to the wayside since Morrison left the book. And we close out the book with the wonderful tale of Connor Hawke fighting the Key and his robots in the Watchtower after the villain has already captured most of the League using only his father’s goofy trick arrows. My only problem with this story is that it’s another one of those “the superheroes are living fake lives with similar but different histories” stories. Having just read something very similar in the pages of A Midsummer’s Nightmare and this being one of the kinds of stories I’m generally getting sick of in comics, I just looked at the pretty pictures and moved on.

Then we get the weird Starro-ish story from JLA Secret Files co-written by Mark Millar back when he and Morrison used to be boys. I do not like this story, but mostly for fanboyish reasons. At least half of this team has experienced a Starro before, so I’m not sure why it all seems so new to them. That bothered me. And then–and I remember having this problem the first time I read the story–the Spectre (who showed the JLA what might happen if they attack this creature with super powers) makes a big deal of them getting their powers back at the end or something. At no point in the reading of this tale did I ever think “Wow, the JLA might lose their powers forever…in a Secret Files story…that’s set before the team even formed.” Stakes like that just don’t work in this kind of story, so that added element of melodrama just didn’t work for me. Plus, it muddied the transition from the previous Justice League America to JLA which was a bummer because I thought it was handled pretty well in those initial issues. Ah well, maybe I’ll just skip that one on my next read through.

Well, that proved to be a lot more involved than I had originally planned, so I’m going to review the second volume in another post. Stay tuned!

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 11 “Oh Yeah, Mexico, Yeah”

I’ve said a few times that I’m impressed with how real this season of Real World has been and I still stand by that, but the problem with getting so invested in these people and their lives is when they wind up disappointing you. Mike really let me down this episode. He seems to be harboring some deep, deep anger towards Dustin and it finally explodes in this episode. He tosses out a few possible reasons for this, but you didn’t think I’d give them away in the intro did you? Hit the jump to see what happened. This episode was a doozy. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 11 “Oh Yeah, Mexico, Yeah”

Ad It Up: Marvel Trading Cards

Like a lot of my fellow collectors, comics weren’t my first addiction. Before comics, I was WAY into trading cards. I started off with sports cards, going so far as to buy packs, sets and boxes of sports I didn’t even care about. Back in the late 80s and early 90s it was a boom time for trading cards and those of us who were kids back then were inundated with options. Every big, kid-oriented blockbuster movie had a card series. All the cartoons had them. And then, there were the comic book cards. I remember going over to a friend’s house who had the entire set of Marvel Universe Trading Cards and being insanely jealous and curious. Who were all these strange characters? Sure, I knew the biggies, but who the heck is Prowler? (He might not be one of the actual cards, but you get the idea). These cards segued nicely into my burgeoning comic addiction, especially as the worlds of comic and card shows were still joined at the hip when it came to small shows at the Knights Of Columbus Hall or local churches in Toledo, Ohio.

I’ve talked to a lot of my friends and fellow collectors and a surprising number of us got our first in depth look at the Marvel and DC comic book universes through card sets. The Marvel ones were very popular, but I also have fond memories of a similar DC set with gray borders and another one called Cosmic Teams or somesuch. I’ve got full sets of both of those.

I love this ad, but at the same time it’s kinda weird, right? Why would they have their trading cards fanned out light playing cards? Any time I traded cards with my friends, we just grabbed the other persons extra/doubles pile and just flipped through. Better yet, why are some of the cards flipped over? Maybe to show off the card backs, but they’re not very well showcased. Finally, who does the hairy ape-like hand at the top belong to? I’m guessing the human hand is supposed to be “You, the consumer!” and the others are Spidey, Doctor Doom and the Lizard (what are they doing hanging out?!) but that top one is either super obscure or an extra fake arm the prop company had lying around for the photo shoot. Man, I’ve thought about this WAY too much. Back to work!

Cancelled TV Cavalcade: Kitchen Confidential (2005)

Back in 2005, I had no idea who Anthony Bourdain was, so he wasn’t the draw for me when it came to watching Fox’s Kitchen Confidential. It was all about the cast for me. I had seen Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, one of my all time favorite movies. Sure he played a heel, but you could tell there was a ton of charisma under that douchey role. In addition to Cooper, the show also featured Nicholas Brendon, better known as Xander from Buffy (another favorite series) and John Frances Daley who I first dug in the amazing Freaks & Geeks and later in Waiting… where he played pretty much the same part (kitchen newbie). The cast also included John Cho who I probably wasn’t familiar with yet, Frank Langella (yeah, Skeletor), the lovely Jamie King and Sam Pancake who played Barry Zuckerkorn’s assistant on Arrested Development (another favorite). That’s a lot of goodness all in one package.

After getting really into Bourdain’s show No Reservations and remembering liking the few episodes I saw, I suggested to the missus that we watch the show. It was only two discs through traditional Netflix, but we still burned through them pretty quickly. The title of the show is based on Bourdain’s 2000 memoir and Cooper’s character share’s the famous chef’s name. The plot of the show revolves around Cooper’s washed up rock star chef getting another shot at running a restaurant thanks to Langella’s good faith. Cooper then puts together a team that includes Brendon, Cho and a few others. The key, though, is that Cooper needs to do everything on the up and up because he sees this as his last chance at this kind of opportunity. Another aspect of the show I really enjoyed aside from the performances and comedy, of which there’s a great deal, was it’s various philosophical points about food and cooking. Cooper’s voiceover often reminded me of those scenes in Ratatouille where Remy describes how two different foods taste together. There’s lots of insight from the point of view of cook which I find really interesting. I’m not sure if these things are taken straight from the book (I’ve got my eye out for a copy) or if they were written for the show, but I liked the insight. As my role in our kitchen has gotten more prominent, I find myself drawn towards the world of cooking and restaurants a lot more than ever before, so a kind of insider look at the biz was a lot of fun for me.

We really enjoyed watching the series’ 13 episodes and I highly recommend checking it out. By combining a few well worn elements like a workplace drama and a guy looking to make up for past indiscretions, Kitchen Confidential wound up being something unique and fun. I’m pretty surprised the show didn’t do well, but considering Fox’s past with shows like Firefly and Arrested Development, it should come as no surprise that something with so much potential got the axe so early.

Last Night’s Shows, Today: How I Met Your Mother Season Finale, Off Limits Premiere & Castle Season Finale

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER “Challenge Accepted” (8:00PM, CBS)How I Met Your Mother‘s sixth season finale snuck up on me this year. Part of the reason for that is because my lovely daughter was born on a Monday, we missed the previous week’s episode and our TV watching schedule has been interrupted by busts of crying every now and then. Anyway, this season has been an interesting one as it focused mainly on the non-Ted characters. Sure Ted was around with his doomed-from-the-start relationship with Zoey and the will-he-or-won’t-he plot regarding the GNB building project, but this season belonged to Marshall and Lilly dealing with Marshall’s dad’s death and Barney finding a girl who he might be able to settle down with. A lot’s been going on to widen this group’s horizons with the season premiere’s tease of a wedding in the somewhat near future. It seemed pretty clear from the beginning that it would be Barney’s wedding, but the real question was, “To who?”

This episode itself was a little disappointing, but not completely so. As always, the plot was well put together and the episode amazingly acted, but the blunder, as far as I was concerned, was the Lilly/Marshall sickness plot. The second Lilly got sick the missus and I were like “She’s totally pregnant.” The writers did an okay job masking the obviousness of this with all the grossout humor as far as Lilly’s sickness, but it feels ridiculous that no one in the episode thought “Hey, she might be pregnant.” The smokescreen didn’t work for a second on us and even though all of Marshall’s preparation for his interview was funny, it was ultimately pointless because we knew how this gag would ultimately end. It was a rare misstep as far as I’m concerned and they did an okay job of covering their tracks, but it just seemed so obvious.

Like this season as a whole, Ted took a back seat in the episode. While Lilly and Marshall dealt with their sickness, Barney and Robin were trying to stop Ted from getting back together with Zoey. It was some great stuff and those two characters and actors just murder everything when they’re together. Then, we almost end with Barney seeing that girl he had a thing for and after that the obvious reveal we’ve been waiting for: that it’s his wedding we’ve been seeing this year. I think this new girl is just a trick and that he’ll end up with Robin. Oh, also, I totally bought into the “And that was your mother” gag. All in all, it was a great season, with some Ted stuff that seemed like filler, but enough fantastic work by everyone else to really solidify this as a great season of television. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

OFF LIMITS “Las Angeles” (9:00PM, Travel Channel)I fully intended to tune into Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations last night, but Travel Channel had other plans for me. Instead, their new show Off Limits was on which was an okay replacement, but not really what I wanted to watch. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve really grown to like No Reservations and was excited about the new season, but after a few new episodes they went right back into reruns. Now they’re messing with me again by changing the time. Not cool Travel Channel, not cool. To make matters worse, my cable guide is all weird and doesn’t have information for the Travel Channel even though we definitely it, so I can’t tell ahead of time when things are on (without looking it up online, but that’s just SO much work). Anyway, this new show Off Limits follows host Don Wildman as he basically goes places that normal people can’t go. The premiere episode focused on Las Angeles and wound up being pretty interesting. He went into the hundred year old aqueducts that no cameras have ever been inside and also included tools that were just left there when the job was done as well as a tour through a Nazi compound in the Hills. While all that stuff was cool, the most interesting bit of info I learned from the series is that LA is on top of one of the biggest oil fields around which has resulted in oil rigs all over the place, many of which are hidden, especially in the fancier parts of town. Shows like these are fun to watch on a weekend when nothing else is on, but are not the kind of thing I will make a point to watch on a weekly basis, unless nothing else is on.

CASTLE “Knockout” (10:00PM, ABC)I was pretty disappointed with Castle‘s season finale last night. I had my problems with the show in the early parts of this season with it’s over-use of gimmicky plots, but I found tonight’s season finale far more insulting on a creative level. The season had gotten better as far as I was concerned and I was looking forward to this episode because it looked like we’d get a few more pieces to the puzzle of what happened to Beckett’s mom. Those episodes tend to be pretty epic with a fast pace and lots of action, but instead “Knockout” seemed to meander. Worse than that they threw in some hackneyed plot stuff that gets my goat. First off, SPOILER out of nowhere it was revealed that their boss Captain Montgomery was involved with the guys that were connected with Beckett’s mom’s death (the plot has gotten so complicated that I had to have the missus explain it all to me during a commercial break). I tend not to like these twists, not because I feel betrayed, but because they seem to come out of nowhere. I’d have to go back and watch previous episodes to see if there were any hints, but I didn’t catch any. Did Montgomery get shifty when the case came up? Or possibly sweaty? It wouldn’t have to be obviously telegraphed, but something should have been there. I felt very similarly when SPOILER Zach turned out to be a bad guy on Bones. It just felt tacked on and out-of-nowhere. Once they find out that Montgomery was somehow involved with the bad guys, Ryan and Esposito have a by-the-numbers fight where one believes it’s true and the other believes it but JUST CAN’T ADMIT IT TO HIMSELF. Blech.

Even worse was the near-the-end scene between Beckett and Montgomery where he explains what he did and what he’s going to do. Of COURSE he plans on taking on the bad guys solo and of COURSE he’s got Castle there to take Beckett away from the danger, which Castle does literally picking her up and dragging her away. Now, aside from not buying the very basis of this premise and not appreciating the melodramatic nature of the performances, I don’t buy for a damn second that bad ass cop Kate Beckett couldn’t free herself from a bear hug by an out of shape mystery writer. After that, he holds her against a car while she cries and Montgomery shoots the entire group of bad guys EXCEPT the main bad guy who somehow teleports behind him. Ugh. Thinking about it this morning just makes me more upset, because the show is absolutely better than this kind of writing. By the time we got to the final scene where SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Beckett gets shot by a sniper while speaking at Montgomery’s funeral (he died of course). They make it look like she died, but I don’t really care much anymore. They’re either faking her death to draw this assassin guy out, which might get rid of some of the hokey gimmicks they relied on earlier this season for the upcoming one, or she’s just going to be fine. Her death wouldn’t just kill the romantic chemistry between the two leads (Castle told the “dying” Beckett he loved her, so we’ll see how this works out next season, I’m guessing she won’t remember and he won’t say anything about it) but also make the proceedings just too sad to stick around for. Castle relies on Nathan Fillion’s charm and him mourning for episodes on end would destroy that charm. Boring. Yawn. When does the summer season start?

Casting Internets

My CBR gig has been keeping me pretty busy. I’ve written about Screamland and Samurai’s Blood. I also took a look at all of Hank Pym’s comics for Marvel.com.

Tim Barklay has the coolest Shelf Porn in a while, possibly ever. Not only does he have a converted garage dedicated to his geekdom, but he’s hand-built an NES controller coffee table AND a digital pinball machine (I think he could probably make some good coin selling these things).

I finally got around to reading Rolling Stone‘s 1994 cover story about the death of Kurt Cobain by Neil Strauss. Sad stuff. Kind of makes me want to watch Kurt and Courtney again.
ABC and Marvel are doing a Castle graphic novel written by Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue Deconnick and drawn by Lan Medina. Hey, they even showed the cover on the mostly disappointing season finale last night! (via CBR)

Former co-worker Brett White did a killer job putting together the 9 Extremely Impractical Marvel Illustrated Swimsuits list for Topless Robot.

I can’t wait to see Rutger Hauer’s Hobo With A Shotgun. I’m even more excited after seeing these images on Wired.com.
Scott C did a Zapped Showdown!

Dad Stuff: The Kinect Is Great For Dads, But Could Be Better

The Kinect for Xbox 360 isn’t the kind of thing I would have bought for myself. But, my lovely wife liked the idea of it and we wound up getting it for Christmas. We played and enjoyed the game that came with it and Dance Central, but the pregnancy kind of deterred her from playing. I could write that it’s not the kind of game I would play on my own, but to be honest, there were a few days where I’d shake my booty before she got home and I had to start making dinner. It’s actually a pretty good way to work up a sweat. Anyway, I was most interested in seeing how the Kinect would change the way I use the Xbox overall. While I do play my fair share of video games–usually at night after everyone’s gone to sleep–I mostly use the ‘Box as an entertainment center to play Netflix Instant movies and shows. Initially, there was no Netflix capability for the Kinect which was kind of disappointing because I had visions of flipping through my queue like something out of Minority Report. Recently, Netflix got updated and can now be used with the Kinect, but it’s far from perfect. Now that my hands and arms are quite literally full with our darling daughter, I was hoping to be able to wave my hand, take control of the Instant menu, flip through my queue and find something I wanted to watch. Instead, the Kinect-enable Netflix menu shows me things it thinks I want to see and, unless I’m just completely clueless, does not give you access to your actual queue which is annoying. And even if it did, flipping through the list isn’t nearly as smooth as I would like. You’ve got to hold your hand up on an arrow and wait for it to move on to the next four or five selections. Someone get Steven Spielberg on a redesign! But, it’s not all bad. The Kinect allows for voice commands, which I didn’t even know were available. The missus and I were watching Veronica Mars, one of us said something and we saw a tiny microphone graphic show up on the TV. That’s when I remembered reading somewhere about voice commands. All you’ve got to do is say “Xbox” and then any number of commands and it does what you want. Blammo! Now this is excellent. While I can’t flip through my queue using my dulcet tones, I can tell my Xbox to pause, play, fast forward and whathaveyou, which is incredibly helpful when holding a sleeping baby. The only risk is talking so loudly that you wake the kid up, but thankfully Lucy doesn’t seem to mind. So, while the Netflix/Kinect combination isn’t quite as good as I would like, it has offered me hands free control of my Netflix account to some extent. I’d like there to be more, either through voice activation or hand waving. Even so, it’s a pretty good trade off for having my TV look like Johnny Number 5’s fatter cousin.

80s Odyssey: Private Lessons (1981) & My Tutor (1983)

Of all the 80s movies I’ve watched, Private Lessons has to be the strangest and most awkward. The premise starts off as you might think for this kind of thing: a rich guy goes on a business trip and leaves his son Phillip in the care of his sexy(ish) French nanny Nicole (played by Sylvia Kristel) and chauffeur Lester (WKRP In Cincinnati and That 70s Show‘s Howard Hesseman). While dad’s gone, Phillip falls for Nicole and a romance blossoms. Here’s the creepy thing though. Phillip is played by a kid who actually looks 15 instead of the usual 20-year-old-playing-high-school thing we’re used to. So, when it comes to the sex scene, it’s a little weird.

To make matters worse–and to damage this kid even more–SPOILER Nicole and Lester are in on a plot to steal a bunch of money from pops. To go about getting it, Nicole fakes her death while boning Phillip. Phillip freaks out, gets Lester and they bury her in the yard (but not really). Lester then fakes a blackmail note to get the money. Eventually, Nicole reveals herself to Phillip and they enlist a tennis instructor (played by a young Ed Bagley Jr.) to act as a cop and scare Lester.

Usually, with these kinds of movies, the director will cut away as the real down and dirty stuff approaches, but this time around they stay in the room and you get to see all the gory details. It’s the kind of thing I would have probably been blown away by had I seen it in my younger days, but it creeps me out now. Then, to make matters worse, she fakes her death. This poor kid is going to be scarred for a lifetime. Sure, he finds out it’s all a scam, but still. A lack of wacky music during some of the scenes makes everything seem a lot more real and creepy too. Sure, there’s a lot of music by pretty big deal artists like Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart, but they don’t do that usual movie trick of using music to tell us how to feel. Without it, you just feel however you feel and I felt a little creeped out.


My Tutor didn’t make any of the mistakes that Private Lessons did. They got a t00-old-for-high-school actor to play a recently graduated senior, they use music to tell us this is all in good fun and things never veer into creepy territory. This time around, Bobby has failed French, so his rich dad hires Terry a hot young thing who likes to go skinny dipping at night who also happens to be a French expert after studying there to tutor Bobby in the language so he can go to Yale or one of those other Ivy League schools. Meanwhile, Bobby doesn’t want to go there and has a real jones for astronomy. Oh, and his friends are obsessed with having sex, but Bobby’s not too worried about it (though he does go with them to a whore house). One of the great treats of this movie is watching Cripsin Glover as Jack, Bobby’s horny yet supremely weird and geeky friend. He threw in so many quirks to the performance that really elevated what would normally be a basic role.

Anyway, like I said, as far as tutor student fantasies go, this one’s got the goods, but I’m sure didn’t make any “best of” lists for the decade. There were some fun moments and aspects that I want to mention. That whole music thing I was talking about above? There’s a scene where Bobby chases off Terry’s ex with a gun and fires it in the air. Instead of letting what could be a fairly tense scene lie there like the Private Lessons folks would, they throw in some old timey piano rag to lighten the mood. This isn’t Heat, we need to keep things light, you know? Also, even though Bobby looks older, his voice comes off way younger than it should which is kind of funny. Finally, I got kind of a young Amy Poehler vibe from Terry in some of her looks and even her voice.

Aside from the obvious, there were some interesting similarities between the movies. For one thing, people could easily tell after the young men had had sex and it was mentioned that they looked older or different or what not. There were also lines in both movies about the boy offering the older woman a great reference for future tutoring jobs. I bet. Anyway, these are movies aimed at dudes, so my recommendation to the dudes out there is to skip Private Lessons and go for My Tutor, but if you’re intersted in both, I think they’re both still available on Netflix Instant.