Quick Movie Review: Catfish (2010)

Is it me or was Catfish hyped as more of a horror movie? Going in, I knew that it was about a guy meeting someone on Facebook, heading to her town and realizing she wasn’t exactly who she said she was. I’ve looked at a pair of different trailers on YouTube and both of them have kind of jaunty music and don’t go into full-on horror-baiting, but I probably focused on the scene of them driving down the driveway in the dark and the pull-quote about Hitchcock at the end of the trailer posted below. So, I went in expecting a scarier tale, but that’s not what Catfish is. SPOILERS ahead because it’s impossible to talk about this movie without giving things away.

The deal is that Nev’s two friends are making a documentary about his relationship with a girl named Abby who sends him paintings. He winds up talking to Abby’s mom Angela and her sister Megan, becoming friends with them on Facebook and even developing a romantic relationship with Megan. As things move  along Nev starts finding holes in Megan’s stories prompting he and his buddies to just show up in Michigan (where Megan, Abby and Angela live). As it turns out (and here’s the real SPOILER), Megan doesn’t exist and Abby’s not a painter, it’s all just Angela with several different profiles and a crush on Nev. Abby exists, she’s just a regular kid. Making everything even more complicated, Angela’s married to a guy whose two boys need to be taken care of all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the realization that the person you’ve been talking to is really someone else is scary, but I have no idea how anyone could find this movie Hitchcockian. It’s an interesting ride, but the end of it is less psychological thriller and more psychological revelations from a liar. There’s a huge difference there and it lies in the complete lack of dramatic tension. To me, the movie felt more like a show that would be on the Learning Channel or Discovery about weirdos who lie on the internet. Again, it’s not a bad movie, but it just wasn’t what I thought it was and what it actually was wasn’t super duper interesting for me as a film.

The other big mystery is whether it’s an actual documentary or not. The subjects all go by their own names and the filmmakers swear it’s all true, but I don’t buy it. I guess I’m just too skeptical. Plus, the filmmakers, including Nev, all seem way too cool about how much and how often they were lied to. And honestly, I don’t think knowing whether it’s real or not makes the movie more or less interesting. If it’s real, then I’ve seen elements of this on TV before, if it’s fake, it’s a well made one and I give the filmmakers props for that. Either way, it’s a good movie for anyone obsessed with Facebook or other social media should check out as kind of a “be careful, this happens” warning about the internet.

Will TV’s Loss Be Bootleggers’ Gain?

In the last few days word has gotten out that Fox did not pick up the Locke & Key pilot and NBC passed on Wonder Woman. Being a big fan of the first Locke & Key volume written by Joe Hill and produced by IDW and various incarnations of Wonder Woman, I’m bummed, but as someone who used to jones for bootlegs of unavailable comic book movies and shows, I’m kind of excited. When I was younger I got pretty jazzed whenever I heard about a show or movie that was never released. Whether we’re talking about the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie, the Justice League TV pilot, the animated Gen 13 movie or anything else, I was interested and on the hunt at conventions. As such, I have shitty VHS dupes of all the above as well as the original Buffy pilot and a few other things.

It’s been a while since something like this has happened though. The last one I can remember is the Aquaman/Mercy Reef WB pilot that I got to see when I was at Wizard and even that was released on iTunes, I think. I know these things are more likely to be downloaded now instead of picked up at comic cons for exorbitant prices, but it does give me a tiny thrill knowing that two more shows might be added to the list of “shows you’re not supposed to see.” Of course, it’s possible that these shows will get picked up by another network or legitimately put out on DVD/Blu-ray/Netflix/iTunes. I’m all in favor of that too, I just want to see them, even more so because I’m not supposed to.

Trade Post: Vimanarama

Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Philip Bond
Collects Vimanarama #1-3
I’ve become quite the Grant Morrison fan in the past few years, but it wasn’t always like that. Sure, I liked JLA when it launched, but I didn’t really have a concept of him as a writer, I just liked the big, crazy stories. Since then I’ve read a good chunk of Morrison’s work. Animal Man, All-Star Superman, Final Crisis, Seven Soldiers and his Batman stuff are favorites. I’ve heard good things about New X-Men, but every time I try to read it, I get stopped dead in my tracks by some truly terrible artwork. Invisibles baffles me on pretty much every level, so I’ve never made it through the first volume, but I haven’t completely counted it out.

Back when Morrison took a break from big-time superhero comics to put out three miniseries’ through Vertigo, it seemed like a strange choice to me, but now that I’ve read more about him, it all makes sense. It was 2004 when We3, Seaguy and Vinamarama came out and each one got different levels of praise with We3 becoming the hands-down favorite. I read it in trade form a year or so later, but it didn’t really land with me and I haven’t gotten my hands on Seaguy yet, but I did just read Vinamarama and found it to be pretty interesting.

The story follows a young man who finds a secret city underground named Ali. His little brother accidentally brings about the return of some ancient baddies and it’s up to him to wake up the god-like heroes from a bygone era. But, at it’s core, the book is really a love story as Ali finds himself instantly attracted to Sofia, the young woman he’s supposed to betroth through an arranged marriage. As it happens, she’s a copy of the Ultrahadeen’s head god’s long lost love, so the real question is whether she will chose the god who can give her limitless power or the boy she just met, but kinda has a thing for.

In true Morrison fashion, Vimanarama doesn’t hold your hand as it zips between locations, philosophical ideas and trains of thought. I actually found a lot of thematic similarities between this book and Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Final Crisis/Superman Beyond stuff. The main god, who goes by the name Ben Rama, has a very Superman-esque love for a human. Unlike the Lois/Superman relationship, though, our heroine Sofia has no real interest in hanging out with a god because their lives are so different. It’s kind of like watching the Lois/Clark/Superman dynamic played out but with Superman and Clark split in two. There’s also a lot of esoteric and philosophical stuff about life and death and the space between that seems ripe for some real literary critique, but I have a baby now, so that won’t be coming from me.

I absolutely love Philip Bond’s art in this book. I think this might be the first work of his I’ve actually read (as opposed to marveling at the covers he’s done for The Exterminators and the like), but I love his mix of stylized characters that remind me of some random homemade comics I’ve seen in my day and the clear Jack Kirby influence when it came to the Ultrahadeen and the bad guys. I almost didn’t like how Kirby-esque the art was, but it seemed like more of a tribute than a rip, so I dug it. Kind of “What if Jack Kirby designed heroes and villains based on Pakistani/Indian/Islamic mythology.” It’s pretty rad. Plus, he does a killer job when it comes to those wild Morrison panels where images are made up of words and gods are floating around on trippy backgrounds.

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 10 “Who’s Your Daddy?”

I was thinking about writing something about this episode of Real World Las Vegas being filler, but that’s not really the case. I’ve been trained to think that only episodes will people fighting or big time conflict between roommates are important, but that’s not how the real world works. Tonight’s episode dealt with one cast member trying to find their father, another falling for someone, two talking about their feelings for each other and two possibly getting over their conflicts. That’s some pretty real behavior. Hit the jump to read the whole sorted affair. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 10 “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Ambitious Reading List: The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

I know Hunter S. Thompson is a pretty big deal for a lot of people, but not me. I don’t mean that to be disparaging to the author by any means, I have just never read any of his works or seen the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which a lot of folks adore. Of course, I’ve always been curious, even after a giant of a man in a stained purple T-shirt told me he was Thompson’s nephew one evening at a gas station in Delaware, Ohio (where I went to college). That’s a story for another time. Anyway, when I walked by the old free table at Wizard a few years back and saw Thompson’s The Rum Diary, a book I had never heard of, I was intrigued, but not enough to dive right in. Even though I generally gave up on my Ambitious Reading List, I did go back to this one recently because I was interested.

The irony of me finding a book about a man moving for a job in publishing only to find himself wondering if he did the right thing, drinking a lot and watching his workplace crumble around him, is not lost on me. To get into a little more detail, our main character Paul Kemp leaves New York to work in San Juan Puerto Rico in the late 50s. He’s a newspaperman and finds himself surrounded by fellow newspapermen who either don’t care, care too much or drink too much as he explores his new home. Paul becomes friendly with some folks like photographer and short time roommate Sala who is good at what he does, but seems to hate everything and Yeamon a man with a short temper and a girlfriend named Chenault.

Here’s the thing about The Rum Diary, it seems to be less about an arc in a character and more about a period of time for a character. Sure, he goes through some things and thinks about some things–specifically whether he’s already washed up at a pretty young age and if he wants to continue on working and drinking his way throughout the world–but the story ends because his job does and it’s time for him to move on. There’s also some potential problems with the law that forced him out, but that’s another matter. It actually took me a while to get invested in the book and even when I did, it was because I could relate to the ideas even if I didn’t really like the characters I was reading about.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I enjoyed this book a lot. But, I think it’s more because I can relate to a lot of the sentiments expressed therein. I imagine anyone whose ever wondered about their place at their job or their station in life can relate, but, seriously, if you’ve ever worked for a magazine, website or newspaper that crumbled before your eyes or flat out shut down, then you absolutely need to read this book.

If you’re interested, the history behind The Rum Diary is actually kind of interesting. See Thompson went down to San Juan himself and started writing this book after talking to a bunch of journalists in the area. That was in 1959. No one wanted to print the book. Fast forward about ten years and Hunter started to make a name for himself. The book didn’t actually get published until 1998, though. Pretty interesting stuff.

Dad Stuff: Birthing At Home

“Dad Stuff” will be a recurring column I’ve had in my mind for quite a while. As I’m sure you can surmise, it’ll be about my experiences as a dad. I’m thinking it’ll include stories, anecdotes and maybe even some dad related reviews. I figured the best place to start would be at the beginning. About nine months back after realizing we were expecting, the missus came to me and said she really wanted to do a natural birth. Her mom had had her and her brother at a birthing center with a midwife, but that apparently isn’t an option in our area. So, the only way to do a birth with a midwife was at home. The concept spooked me to be sure. What if there were complications? What kind of training do midwives have? What happens if I pass out from all the blood and whatnot? What if it was messy? I had my questions and concerns, but it was clearly something important to her, so I went along with it.

From there we talked to a few different midwife groups and decided on one that fit really well called River and Mountain Midwives. The missus watched a few documentaries about birth like The Business of Being Born (on Netflix Instant) and I saw one or two myself like The Orgasmic Birth, and I was convinced. See, I haven’t been around babies much. I’m an only child and my younger cousins were all born in hospitals. I figured the normal way to give birth was to head to a hospital, get some shots, have the baby and go home. But it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than that. I don’t want to get into the horror stories, but I bet if you started asking your friends and family how their hospital births went, you probably won’t get 100% positive responses. The main point that talking to the missus, the midwives and watching the movies made for me, though, was that birth is natural and should be handled as such unless there are circumstances that present themselves that require medical attention. People have been doing this for millions of years right?

From there we had regular meetings with the midwives where I learned more and more and saw my baby grow and grow. We also went to a birth class with three other couples in our general area who were also having home births, so I really got a crash course in all this stuff and met other like-minded folks that gave me a pretty good feeling going into the birth.

As I’m sure everyone is aware, word got out on Sunday May 1st that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. We were pretty fascinated by this and even though the details wouldn’t be made prominent for a couple days (and even longer for us), we staid up to watch the news. The missus had planned to go on pre-maternity leave starting the previous Friday, so she staid up later than usual. Eventually we turned the TV off and I did some reading. Not much further into the evening I heard a pop and thought “Oh man, I bet that was her water breaking,” but she didn’t say anything and it’s good to sleep through some of your labor, so I didn’t say anything. A few moments later, she was up and said “I think my water just broke…yeah, it broke.” That’s when I kicked into stereotypical dad mode and started pacing, playing with my hair and wondering what I needed to do. That was at 1:23AM.

I got control of myself, got her a towel and then called the midwife. She said to try and get some sleep, but it soon became evident that it was very uncomfortable for her to try and go through a contraction while lying down. We also noticed–thanks to an app on her iPod Touch–that the contractions were coming closer together than we expected, but not alarmingly so, so we waited to call the midwife again. Around 4AM, after finding a good laboring place in our hallway bathroom, things were starting to move faster, so I called the midwife again and then called our parents. The original plan was to have her mom there for the birth with her dad waiting in a hotel, but that wasn’t in the cards. I called the midwife again at 4:30AM and she said she’s be there in a half hour to forty five minutes. Right before she did get here, the missus went through one helluva contraction that brought out a whole different sound than the others. Thankfully, the midwife got there and everything was moving along just as it should have been.

The hardest thing for me during the home birth was seeing my wife in such pain. She says now that the contractions and pushing weren’t super painful, but that’s not how it looked or sounded to me. I completely understand why the time-saving birthing procedures were created and why people schedule C-sections after all this because there really is no schedule to go by and I am a fan of such things.

However, the most amazing thing about the whole process was how my wife seemed to instinctively know the perfect way to move her body to not only get through the contraction, but also to arrange herself in the perfect way to maximize the efficiency of every movement. She said afterwards that she honestly could not have imagined giving birth in one of the more uptight hospitals that make you lie on your back during labor (a fairly unnatural practice when you think of how everything’s laid out) because the very thought of doing anything different than what she did was not working for her.

So, all in all, it was a great experience. I saw things I never thought I’d see and didn’t even pass out. The missus went through everything like a champ and wound up tired but felt great about what she had done. Plus, our baby got to be born in her own house without all those crazy lights and noise. It was just the three of us in a tiny bathroom. She also didn’t come out feeling the effects of any drugs and got to see things pretty clearly right away. Big ups to both of them and our midwife Susan for doing such a great job.

Casting Internets

I was away from the internet for most of last week thanks to the birth of our darling daughter. So, there will be quite a bit of catching up in today’s Casting Internets.

This is the first thing I’ve written since the birth of our lovely daughter Lucy. It’s an interview with Frank Cho and Doug Murray about Image’s 50 Girls 50 for CBR.

Speaking of the birth, I don’t know if it was already planned or just coincidence, but my buddy Rob Bricken posted my list of the 20 Coolest Roger Corman Posters over on Topless Robot on May 2nd, Lucy’s birthday!

I really liked talking to Jim Starlin about Breed III for CBR, great interview.

My buddy Jesse Thompson does it again over at Topless Robot. This time around, the list is about 10 Celebrity Action Figures We’ll Have to Make Do With. I’m a big fan of Scott C’s Showdown blog where he linked to this post of some of his themed pieces. I really love the apes, vampires and werewolves images.

Wired‘s story about AOL trying to get free writers hits close to home as I have occasionally found myself in a place where doing work for free seems like a good idea. It’s an interesting read for sure.

I’m psyched to see the movies Jay Baruchel is writing. (/Film)Only The Young Die Young posted this wonderful picture of Vincent Price dancing with a skeleton. One of the greatest actors of all time and a sense of humor? Well played Vincent.

I don’t know how long it would have taken me to find out about all these Marvel cartoons either being on or making their way to Netflix Instant, so I’m glad Robot 6 told me the other day. Silver Surfer and Incredible Hulk are now in the ol’ queue.

I went to the very first Bonnaroo, so reading this interview with co-founder Ashley Capps on Rolling Stone was pretty fun. However, them noting that this is the tenth anniversary of the Tennessee music festival makes me feel OLD.

I had no idea that Chicago–one of the most underrated bands of the 70s–toured with and played with The Beach Boys. Thanks to Rolling Stone, I know that and also that there’s a new live Chicago record coming out. Good to know!

I also didn’t know Gallery1988 is doing a Wet Hot American Summer art show to celebrate the decade anniversary? I didn’t either, but Jude Buffum told me, so now I do!

Another Rolling Stone piece told me that Steven Tyler declined a gig singing for a group consisting of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. Wow…Jim Steranko’s working on a new comic called Red Tide for Dark Horse?!!!! (via CBR)

Ad It Up: Karate Kid Playset

I don’t know about you guys, but I had a lot of toys as a kid that I couldn’t identify past “Ninja” or “Robot With Baseball Mit.” They all got put in a big tub or box that I would haul out and have huge battles with. The names weren’t super important so I would make some up or not even bother. In that same vein, I had the Karate Kid playset for years and never knew where it came from. A year or two ago, I was flipping through a comic and saw this ad for the Karate Kid toys from Remco and it all made sense. This playset is a fantastic one, with ninjas popping out from sliding doors and plenty of break-away parts for Daniel, Miyagi and the rest to crash through. I’ve got a few figures from this line as well, but if memory serves, they are of the generic ninja variety. If you’re interested in what I thought of re-watching Karate Kid recently, head over here. (Scanned from 1986’s Hex #17)

Yesterday Was My Three Year Blog-O-Versary

Well, I would have done a timelier post on this, but I didn’t see the note on my iCal that yesterday marked my three year anniversary yammering about movies, TV and other stuff on the internets. I’m sure I’ve talked about this here and there, but I first got the idea to do a blog while working at Wizard. I even remember the specific day I asked about doing my own for the then-relaunched WizardUniverse.com site. A bunch of us were walking to the New York Comic-Con and I asked then Wizard web guru and current Dark Horse duder Jim Gibbons if I could do a blog. He asked me what the hook would be and on the spot I came up with the idea for Kicking It Old School. The idea would be that, while the other guys doing blogs for the site would be about newer comics, movies and shows, mine would be about older stuff. He liked the idea and I don’t remember how long it took to set up, but by May 9th, 2009 I had joined the blogging world.

Much as I liked doing the blog for Wizard, I soon found the KIOS parameters a little confining. I also wanted to write about a few more personal things, so I eventually started my own blog over on Blogger and bought the UnitedMonkee.com domain name. Eventually, I abandoned KIOS, though I did copy over all posts by hand during one of the many times I worried about getting laid off along with my friends and coworkers long before actually getting laid off (you can read all of them under the Kicking It Old School category).

Eventually I moved from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve also gone from haphazard-at-best usage of images and videos to using them in a pretty uniform manner. I’m always trying something new and failing to come through just as often. I thought Friday Fisticuffs would be a great way to spend a Friday, but those posts have been less than consistent. I’d love to write about music more, but I’ve discovered that’s the hardest type of art for me to write about. I’m still trying though. The Photo Diary has gotten a lot of positive feedback and seems to be a pretty big hit. Just yesterday I started a new, somewhat recurring post called Last Night’s Shows, Today. I’ve even got a brand new series of posts I’m fine tuning right now called Dad Stuff, that will chronicle my experiences as a dad.

If you’re curious about the numbers, I have no idea what kind of hits I was getting while writing for WizardUniverse, though I believe they were pretty good and I lost a lot of them when I moved over to my own site. The old Blogger site had 11,506 hits when I closed up shop and I’ve got 185,614 as of this writing on the WordPress site which comes to 197,120. The most popular posts I write are the Jersey Shore and Real World ones, but the one I did about the Jersey Shore Halloween costumes skyrocketed around Halloween giving me my best day ever.

So, happy anniversary to me. I never thought I’d like blogging to the point where I would carry on with it after any work related obligations have disappeared. The best part for me, aside from attracting the occasional stranger to my little corner of the internet, is having a record of thing things I’ve watched and listened to over the past few years. It’s like a secondary memory which is very helpful considering I’m becoming an old man.

We Want Action: Salt (2010)

I completely forgot that the missus and I watched Salt the weekend before our daughter was born. I could have easily done it for last week’s Friday Fisticuffs instead of clunkily combining it with an 80s Odyssey. Ah well. I guess it’s not the best sign for the movie or this review that I forgot about it after watching it less than a week prior.

Well, I remember a few things. Basically Angelina Jolie plays the titular character who is a spy. She’s going to meet her husband one day when some Russian spy comes in to defect and drops a bomb: there’s a sleeper agent in their midst named Salt. Her former bosses try to interview her to see what’s happening, but the defector breaks away, which allows her to escape as well. From there it’s a race to see who can prove which side they’re on. The real meat of Salt, comes from the fact that you never really know which side she’s on. Is she really a sleeper agent? There are times when it seems like that’s the case and she certainly has some shady behavior.

I had two problems with the movie stemming from plot holes. First off, we don’t see how Salt gets out of the interrogation room she was stuck in when the defector breaks away. (I’m also not super sure how he gets out of a freaking government building filled with agents, but that’s a matter for another day.) I would assume the scenes of Salt escaping were cut for time because we get a lengthy view of the rest of her escape. The other plot hole is minor but still bugged me. Salt escapes wearing just her regular clothes and yet can somehow pay for the cab ride home. While the first one is kind of big, the second one is minor, but you really don’t want to be asking “Hey how did she do that?” so early in a movie (we’re talking first 15-20 minutes here for the most part).

Aside from that, though, the action was pretty solid and straight out of the Bourne Trilogy if that’s your thing. Plus, I like how they handled Salt’s possible double or triple agent status and even the big reveal in the end, because, I wasn’t thinking too hard about it and it sailed over my head until the reveal. Anyway, it’s not the most original of movies, but it’s a good little actioner and I’m always a fan of seeing females in these kinds of roles that usually go to men. I even enjoyed Jolie for the most part even though I find her real life escapades pretentious and generally douchey. It’s weird for me to write that about the girl from Hackers, a big favorite of mine, and freaking Lara Croft, but thems the breaks. She doesn’t seem like the sequel type anymore, but who knows, a Salt follow up could have her going after the other sleeper agents and stumble onto some fresh new crazy plot of international intrigue. I won’t be waiting inline at the theater to see it, but I’ll definitely give it a rental watch.