Real World Watcher: Las Vegas The Reunion

Maybe I’m looking back at these thing with rose colored glasses, but didn’t Real World Reunions used to be at least sort of fun? A regrouping of people who had gone through something strange and possibly important (to them at least) on the other side laughing about what had gone down? Sure, there was that time with Puck but…oh nevermind. This is all a long winded way of saying that most of last night’s Las Vegas Reunion was either painful or boring to watch as host Maria Menounos once again bumbled through awkward questions that were already extensively covered in the season itself. It seems though that this cast has gotten not only less friendly with one another (things seemed pretty happy during the season finale last week) but downright nasty. Mike’s reaming Dustin out for being ignorant, though I don’t remember Leroy or Adam or the girls exactly being geniuses either. Heather’s writing mean Tweets about Cooke instead of calling her and being a normal human being or just not saying anything. The only interesting part of the show is seeing what the cast members are up to now, which is all pretty boring (back to school, back to work, back home) so that’s not saying too much. I’m going to skip the play by play prose run down and just copy and paste my notes here because there’s just not enough of interest to weave into my usual charming gold.

Adam says Nany was just another girl. She wants nothing else to do with him or hear his name again. Later he says he went back to Vegas for her, not for the cameras. Everyone thinks Adam is a famewhore.

Leroy’s back home doing all his old stuff.

Cooke says she went into the show thinking it was just for TV, which is why she was so confrontational and bombastic. This was probably the most interesting Cooke has ever been allowed to be. She eventually realized it was real and chilled out.

Heather’s back at school but switched her major to behind the camera. She thinks her classmates don’t judge her based on the show. I call bullshit.

Naomi wants to be a TV journo. Her and Nany get together because they live an hour or so away from each other.

Now we’re just rehashing the Dustin web stuff. Boring.

Mike has such weird negative energy towards Dustin. I’m going with the “Dustin reminds him too much of his dad” theory for why Mike doesn’t aim this weird serial killer calmness at Leroy, Adam or anyone else.

Adam’s back living with his parents. He’s got a clothing line he’s working on that is lame. I will not link to it.

Cooke works in a nuclear power plant. Damn. She’s girly now.

The roomies also seem confused about why Mike hated Dustin. Some think it’s because he was jealous of Heather, but Mike says she’s not his type.

Nany’s back home working as a waitress.

Mike wants to go to grad school for plant science.

Naomi says friends with benefits with someone you live with is rough, especially when he’s bringing home girls all the time.

Mike & Leroy have friendship bracelets. Mike gets practically giddy when talking to or about Leroy, it’s a complete 180 degree shift from his attitude towards Dustin.

Don’t expect a post about the Shit They Should Have Shown episode. Those tend to be less interesting (otherwise they would have shown it the first time around) and just take up space until The Challenge starts.

Apparently Naomi, Nany and Heather have all sent nasty Tweets out about Cooke, but Heather said something that was the most hurtful. Neither get into detail but it sounds like Heather put something that Cooke had told her in confidence on Twitter. Maria actually calls her out for not just picking up the phone and hashing it out with Cooke, but Heather says she has no interest in being friends with her. Once again, Heather ducks out of the way of conflict by cleverly explaining it away when what she’s really saying is “I’m a child, I don’t want to deal with it.”

I get that at the end of an experience like this, everyone looks upon one another a little more fondly. It’s like graduation in that way. But I was still pretty surprised with the level of tension and animosity on stage. Part of the problem, I would imagine is that you’ve got to go through your problems the first time, while the show is taping, then go home, get back to your life and relive it again when the show comes on. Back in the day, you’d maybe call or email the person or see them at an MTV function, but now you can immediately put out there how you’re feeling via Twitter or whathaveyou which can easily open up old wounds all over the place. I still think this was the realest season in a while, made even more evident by the fact that these people who went through the shit together don’t want to talk to each other.

I just realized, I don’t remember if they said whether Dustin and Heather are still together. Anyone catch that?

Casting Internets

Sam Sarkar’s The Vault is a pretty interesting book, check out the story I did on it over at CBR. Same goes for All Nighter, Mysterious Ways and Shinku.

I also did some goodness for Marvel.com about the upcoming Black Panther Point 1 issue!

The hilarious and awesome Rob Bricken of Topless Robot fame did an excellent FAQ based on the never-to-air Wonder Woman pilot.

In the last year, I’ve discovered I’m a big fan of gin, so Esquire‘s Summer Gin Guide was quite informative.

I thought John C Abell’s post on Wired about how eBooks are falling short right now was a fun read.

Ed Brubaker’s Criminal has never really lit me up, but his recent interview with Tom Spurgeon definitely has me curious about this new mini.

I’m linking to my buddy Ben‘s post about Batman being the worst JLAer not only because he name checked me in it, but also because it’s a convincing argument.

This might be a little creepy, but I actually wished I had these kinds of video glasses when I worked in the city because, as David Cross said, when walking the streets of NYC you’re constantly deciding whether to look at the most beautiful woman in the world or the craziest guy in the world. I also would have settled for simple camera glasses. (via Wired)

Anyone interested in comics, regardless of what kind, should be reading Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s fascinating. Take the one about the origin of the Dark Phoenix Saga as an example. I love this kind of behind the scenes stuff.

Speaking of behind the scenes comic book stuff, check out Ron Marz’s latest CBR column where he discusses what went into his decision to leave Witchblade. If you just thought “Pfft, it’s Witchblade, who cares?” I recommend checking out the first trade, it’s good stuff.

Wow, Jimmy Page came out to reprise his role as session guitar player for Donovan’s Sunshine Superman in London. I hope someone recorded it. (via Rolling Stone)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will have a new album out on August 30th called I’m With You with new guitar player Josh Klinghoffer. Their most recent records have been musically amazing, but not necessarily the most interesting records. Hopefully this one brings back more of the funk. (via Rolling Stone)

I’ve never been so interested in a headline and then immediately worried by a subhed as I was with this Rolling Stone.com example: JACK WHITE MAY RECORD MUSIC FOR ‘SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE’ MOVIE Film version of Kings concept album is being developed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

Dig this crazy skate park designed like a pinball machine! (via Wired)

Kinect Star Wars looks exactly how I want it to. Can’t wait.

Speaking of lovely time wasting video games, Spider-Man: Edge of Time sounds pretty rad too. The fact that it’s written by Peter David is awesome. I’ve still got to get my hands on Shattered Dimension, but have plenty to keep me busy until the used price drops a little lower. (via CBR)

I’ve listened to and really enjoyed Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi records in the past (she’s an amazing vocalist), so I’m happy to see their new band Tedeschi Trucks Band got a good review for their first record on Rolling Stone.

Music Musings: MP3s, iPods and Clouds Oh My

I’m not what you’d call an early adopter. Of anything. That’s usually because I’m cheap and don’t want to spend my money on the latest, expensive gadget around. I’ve been around long enough to read about bugs in first round electronics and I’ve seen enough formats disappear (tapes, laser discs, minidiscs, VHS and HD DVD). I worry about buying the wrong thing and then getting stuck with it. So, I usually hang back in the cut. It was like that with the iPod. A lot of people had them when I was in college (2001-2005) though it took me a while to identify those now ubiquitous white cords protruding from hats and long hair actually were. They were new at the time and I didn’t really know about them or what they could do.

It wasn’t until I graduated and bought my first Apple computer that I realized the potential of iTunes and digital music. I know there’s a loss in quality when you rip a CD and compress the sound files down to an MP3, but I don’t think my ears are good enough to know the difference. Besides, the ability to have all my songs in one place in a kind of juke box was just so revelatory. I began the long process of ripping all my music which spilled out into my first real job where I spent all day at a computer and often had the disc drive whirring away as I worked. The problem, of course, was that I didn’t have any way to listen to this stuff when I wasn’t at my desk or in my room at home because I didn’t have an iPod. Sure I transferred files from work to home just to keep things complete, but it’s not really the same.

For my birthday that year (this would be early 2006 I think) my parents surprised me with a brand new, shiny 30 GB black iPod.  That seemed like almost limitless space and I was finally able to have all of my music in one place! I transferred everything from my personal computer and my work computer to it and that little device’s potential really blew me away. With more space you could theoretically put whole band catalogs or even movies and TV on these things, though why would you want to watch something on such small screen?

But, as these things go and my music collection increased (I buy a lot of used CDs at flea markets, garage sales and even comic shows, plus those Amazon $5 digital album deals) and about a year ago, I realized my iPod was full. I went through and deleted some things I didn’t really listen to anymore and most of the free compilations I got from my now-closed local record store, but it wasn’t enough. It’s not too big of a deal because I’m almost always near my computer (now a MacBook laptop), which holds the music not on my iPod. So, if I’m working at the coffee shop and want to listen to something, I can because I’ve got my computer and iPod. But, that means I don’t have access to a lot of the music I’ve purchased in the last few years to listen to if I’m out and about or in my car. I had an FM transmitter that was always kind of crappy that finally junked out recently. That’s what I get for only paying $15 for it though.

So, I’d been thinking about getting a new iPod lately, one with over twice the memory as the one I’ve got. That should hold me for another few years right? Then I started hearing about the cloud and was intrigued. If all my music could live in the internet (or more accurately be copied there) I wouldn’t need to go with the clunkier 80 GB, I could even go for something sleek and sexy (and app-friendly) like an iPod Touch or possibly an iPhone now that they’re on Verizon. My complaint with both those pieces of equipment was how little memory they had, but if I can just download an app that takes up hardly any space and have access to all my music? That’s a brand new revelation. I don’t even mind paying a yearly fee just for that. I don’t care about pictures or files or any of the other cloud stuff. For me it’s all about the tunes.

Of course, then it comes down to access. There’s no problem when using a computer obviously because most of the places I go have WIFI. I’m nowhere near an expert on smart phones or the WIFI-enabled iPod Touch (our Verizon “smart phones” are close to stupid and failing as I type), but my concern would be their ability to stay in contact with the servers so I can listen to my music in the car or while hiking or what not. I don’t really hike, but it’s a good example, let’s say more realistically that I’m in some comic shop’s dingy basement looking through books. Phones seem to have this nailed for the most part, which might actually play into our upcoming phone plan decisions (Verizon’s getting expensive and taking away a lot of the perks they used to have). But I don’t know how it would work with an iPod Touch say, in the car. Something to think about.

Regardless, I’m excited. I still like to purchase physical CDs when possible, but have moved into the digital world a little more thanks to those can’t-be-beat $5 Amazon deals. I know some people decry the digital revolution, but the truth of the matter is that physical carriers of information and entertainment (CDs, DVDs, books, comics) are most likely on their way out to join laser and mini discs in the great media graveyard in the sky (and landfills). It’s sad for some, a non-issue for others and frankly it doesn’t matter unless the next generation decides to go old school and collect dusty old books and VHS tapes for some reason. For me, as long as the quality is maintained, I don’t generally care. If I can transfer all my DVDs to some cloud and not have to keep huge binders or shelves in my house, I think I’d be cool with that. I’d probably still keep them in storage just in case, and maybe visit them for old time’s sake, but they won’t be my main source of music or movie entertainment. Books are a different story, but that’s a whole separate post.

Ad It Up: Secret Wars

Damn, how could you NOT want to buy this comic back in the day? That looks like just about the most epic gathering of heroes ever. It’s interesting that, for the most part, this is the exact same image used for the cover, except that it looks like Kitty Pryde was included in the ad and not in the comic cover (is that here right over Cyclops’ right shoulder?). Anyway, I’ve never read Secret Wars, because I don’t want to ruin the illusion. Scanned from 1984’s Jack Of Hearts #2.

Veronica Mars Is Awesome (2004-2007)

Man, you guys, I love when I wind up really liking a show I didn’t think I could even get through. I had heard good things about Veronica Mars, but thanks to a general dislike of things other people get SUPER excited about and a growing dislike of Kristen Bell, I wasn’t super interested. But, pretty much anything showing up on Netflix Instant gains my attention. One day I was feeling curious and the missus and I were in need of a new show to watch, so we jumped in and wound up devouring most of the series in a pretty short amount of time (we started right before she gave birth to our daughter and wound up finishing the other day).

My dislike of Kristen Bell stems less from a dislike of her as a person and more so the characters she’s played in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat and Burlesque (where the young-looking 30 year old actress hilariously played a washed up veteran dancer, a role that should have gone to someone older or more broke looking than Ms. Bell). She was really good at playing assholes to the point where I couldn’t really see myself liking her in a different role (I must have forgotten her in Fanboys). Thankfully, it turns out she’s a pretty damn great actress and the role of Veronica Mars seems absolutely tailor made for her and suits her perfectly.

The general idea behind VM is that Veronica works for her dad’s private investigative firm. The cases she handles, though, usually involve students at her high school and later college asking her for help to figure something out while overarching mysteries play out over the whole season. The first season revolves around Veronica trying to figure out who killed her best friend Lilly (can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I discovered that the beautiful Amanda Seyfried was on the show, but playing a dead girl who spent a good deal of her on-screen time in weirdly lit dream sequences or with gaping head wounds). The second season focuses on the murder of several students who were on a bus that crashed into the ocean. The third actually finished up it’s overarching story early on, but most of it dealt with a serial rapist at the college Veronica (and many of her high school friends) wound up attending.

When I asked my buddy Ben Morse about the series–he was a big fan when it was actually on–he said that the first season was an incredibly tight season of television with a fantastic mystery and then the quality kind of went down from there. I actually really dug all the seasons. Some of the mysteries-of-the-week might not have been quite as interesting as the other, but I thought that overall the writing and acting were of a surprisingly excellent level.

I’d like to give whoever casted this show a hug because he or she did such an amazing job. Bell is perfect as Veronica, starting off hard and jaded thanks to her fall from grace, but eventually getting more comfortable. At the same time, she’s a real ass-kicker who doesn’t let anyone give her shit. That’s a great character and one you don’t see often, especially in such a likable package. You really want to hang out with her, but also stay on her good side. I also loved her dad, Keith Mars, played by Enrico Colantoni. He walks that tightrope between dad who lets his daughter work cases for him and bulldog. He doesn’t look like the most threatening dude in the world, but there are times where he really puts the screws to someone and you can’t help but cheer. Her friends Mac (Tina Majorino), Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Weevil (Francis Capra) are all pretty good at their roles. Her one time boyfriend Duncan (Teddy Dunn) was a bit wooden, but lowered expectations actually lead to some really surprising moments from him. Background character Dick (Ryan Hansen) is this amazing example of a rich kid who truly doesn’t seem to have a care, worry or thought in his head beyond getting laid or drunk…until the end. Most impressive, though, for me was Jason Dohring as Logan. He starts off as this total asshole, but has the biggest progression as far as character goes from the beginning of the series to the end becoming something of a tragic hero by the end. Dohring has a great skill for conveying a lot with a little look or nod and saying nothing. I was most impressed by him and think he should be a pretty big star.

The series also sported some great guest stars like Harry Hamlin as Logan’s dad, Charisma Carpenter as Dick’s step mom and Paul Rudd as a washed up 90s rocker, but they weren’t all gold. Lisa Rinna–who played Hamlin’s wife on the show and does the same in real life too–was absolutely atrocious. She couldn’t even convincingly act like she was listening to people in the same scene as her like a human does. Blech. Luckily, she’s not in the show for very wrong. To give you an idea of how bad she is, I’d rather Paris Hilton had stuck around for more than her two episodes as a high schooler (snicker) than watch Rinna on the screen. But, hey, no show is perfect and Hamlin wound up murdering his role, so it’s an okay tit for tat.

Another problem with the series is that it doesn’t have a real ending. There’s a last episode and lots of hints throughout the final season that might lead towards Veronica’s future with the FBI, but there’s not a real finale, even with a last episode filled with familiar faces. From what I’ve read, the show never really had a solid foundation with it’s network and didn’t really garner a huge number of viewers. As such, they didn’t know if they’d get renewed for a next season. Turns out they didn’t. Had VMars been one season and ended thusly, I think it could be off putting for future viewings, but with a solid three seasons, it’s less of a negative mark for me.

Which brings me to my last point, I really want to watch Veronica Mars again. Not in the near future, but I want to see how it holds up the second time around when I know all the big reveals and whether the hints and clues of the actual killers/criminals are there from the beginning. This is actually a lot different than most mystery-of-the-week type shows for me. I used to watch CSI all the time, but I don’t have a desire to go back and watch that again. Or even a show I like a lot like Bones. The overarching stuff there tends to be relationship-based, which Veronica definitely has, but those long-reaching season-long mysteries add an extra layer to the series that will probably bring me back to it somewhere in the future. Highly recommended!

Doc Review: Comic Book Confidential (1988)

I’ve been reading comics since 1992, when Superman died. In the ensuing nearly 20 years, I’ve watched a few documentaries and read a few books about the history of the medium, but nothing too in depth. Even so, most of these kinds of things go through the same general flow of information: the first comic consisted of newspaper comic strips put in one book, someone eventually started doing that with new material, Superman came along and exploded everything, comics sold in the millions, eventually though there was a downturn, superheroes fell out of favor, horror comics got big, Frederick Wertham, the death of EC, Barry Allen kicks off the Silver Age, underground comix, grim and gritty, Image, the bust, etc.

Going into Comic Book Confidential on Netflix Instant I was curious how much of the above would be included (well, not Image because the movie came out in ’88). As it turned out nearly all of it wound up in this doc, but what really makes CBC interesting is how it focuses not on Marvel and DC after a while, but on the underground and independent comics and their creators from the 60s, 70s and 80s. After a certain point in the doc, you’d think the Big Two were just putting out nonsense that no one cared about, which might not be completely representative of what was happening, but I did appreciate the focus. I personally don’t need to hear about how Green Lantern/Green Arrow pushed the borders of what could be talked about in a comic book or how epic Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men run was for the millionth time. In fact, I hadn’t heard about guys like Spain or Gilbert Shelton, so not only getting an idea of their work but how they created or thought of creation was a lot of fun.

The movie does something kind of interesting, but also slightly annoying after a while where they have the creators featured actually reading some of their comics as the panels and pages are shown on screen. It’s actually a better presentation than I’ve seen in most motion comics, but I also would probably have liked to have seen Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Stan Lee, Harvey Pekar, Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman or any of the others get more screen time. In fact, I would love to see some of the out takes and footage that didn’t make it into the finished product because the movie’s only 90 minutes long. Someone should talk to director Ron Mann about putting out a kick ass special edition DVD with all those extras.

The most interesting aspect of this film, for me, though is how it’s such a snapshot of the comic industry at the time, or more accurately a particular aspect of it. You’d think that, from the tone of the movie, that indie comics were going to take over the world and become this amazing art form that people all over would enjoy. It’s almost like doing a documentary about youth culture that you finished and put together right before the Vietnam War hit because soon after, everything changed. There’s no real indication of the grim and gritty movement (though they do talk to Frank Miller about his Batman comics), the boom, Image and the bust. So what happened? I dunno. I’d actually like to see director Ron Mann gather as many survivors from the original doc as he can and answer that question.

Quick Movie Review: The Hangover Part II (2011) & Bridesmaids (2011)

It’s weird to say this because I am a big Todd Phillips fan going back to Road Trip,   Old School and Starsky & Hutch, but I don’t remember much about The Hangover. I gave it a glowing review, but, honestly, I couldn’t tell you much about the plot aside from the basics and the reveal of where Justin Bartha’s character wound up really being. As such, I wasn’t super excited about seeing the movie when it wound up being on a double bill with Bridesmaids at our local drive-in. I was however excited about the latter movie and the idea of actually seeing a new movie with our baby in tow (the whole thing worked out quite well, actually).

Anyway, I had a good time with The Hangover Part II. My initial impression from the trailers was that it was basically the same movie in a different setting and it kind of is for the most part, even down to the reveal of where the missing person is. But, you know what? Sometimes it’s just fun to watch characters (archetypes even) doing the things you expect of them in increasingly hilarious–and even action packed–ways. Also, the scenes with the drug dealing monkey made me lose my shit.

My only complaint was that I wish Bartha had gotten in on the action some more. The sequel didn’t have to be exactly set up like the original. I think he’s a lot of fun to watch on screen, but still hasn’t really gotten the chance to shine through. Maybe in the third one they’re talking about.

Side note, I think I could watch Bradley Cooper in just about anything. Dude’s CRAZY charming.

Much like H2, Bridesmaids exceeded my expectations, which is impressive because I was really excited about the flick. I mean, how can you not be intrigued by this poster? There’s a lot of hot funniness bubbling below the surface there. The thing that surprised me about this movie, though, is how misrepresnted it was by its own ad campaign and even the many talk show appearances I saw of various cast members (the missus has a jones for watching Good Morning America, The Rachel Ray Show and The View so I’m seeing all kinds of stuff I never saw before). Even when Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph straight up said it wasn’t like The Hangover-but-with-women they didn’t really seem to nail what the movie is about. See, here’s the plot, contains some plot SPOILERS. Wiig and Rudolph are best friends and have been forever. Rudolph gets engaged to a guy who’s got a great job. She’s been palling around with Rose Byrne’s character because she’s married to the hubby’s boss. So, basically, Rudolph’s gaining access to this more afluent life style and it’s creating a rift between her and Wiig. At the same time, Wiig’s life is in the crapper because her bakery failed, she lives with British freaks and she’s hooking up with Jon Hamm in a role so outwardly skeezy that he might actually be a descendant of Don Draper. Rudolph makes Wiig her maid of honor, but there’s immediately static between her and Byrne.

The trailers made it seem like the story then focused on that rivalry as well as the exploits of the other ‘maids (Melissa McCarthy as the sister-in-law, The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as the co-worker and Reno 911‘s Wendi McLendon-Covey as the cousin) but most of what you see in the ads came from the movie’s first half hour or so as the rest of the flick revolves around Wiig’s slow descent towards rock bottom and madness as tensions rise with Byrne, Rudolph and her ill-fated relationship Chris O’Dowd’s police officer (love that dude’s voice).

So, while it’s not this raucous lady Hangover, Bridesmaids still packs in the laughs–including some amazing gross-out stuff that I had heard about, but didn’t expect to be quite so funny or graphic–but more importantly really gets into the difficulties of friendship and keeping them strong as things in life change. It reminded me of some dude-based movies I’ve seen, but I can’t quite put my finger on which ones. I’m hoping that it’s success will lead to more funny lady comedies that aren’t afraid to have some balls.

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 13 “Leaving Las Vegas”

I’ve said a few times in the last several posts about this season of The Real World that this season has been one of the realest in recent memory. This season had the usual drunken arguments, roommate hook-ups and roommates getting sent home, but it also had cast mates dealing with bad parents, the death of family members and friends, their dependence on the opposite sex, possible true love, long-secured lies coming to the surface, the search for missing parents, pregnancy scares, rekindling parental relationships and lots more. Characters rose and fell in my personal opinion, but never got to the point where I was so disgusted that I couldn’t tune back in. I’d hold this return to Las Vegas as a good example that reality TV can still be meaningful, debaucherous and fun all at the same time. Hit the jump to see what happened. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 13 “Leaving Las Vegas”

Ad It Up: Marvel Action Universe

The Marvel Action Universe was apparently a block of syndicated animated programming that sprung up in the late 80s. As you can surely tell by the ad here, some of the shows included were Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, Dino-Riders and Robocop: The Animated Series. I don’t have any specific memories of these cartoons necessarily but I do remember getting toys based on the latter two. Anyway, what struck me when I first saw this ad while flipping through Punisher #15 from 1988 was that I wish this was an actual team book. I’m sure, like many toon based books I’ve picked up over the years, it would not have been any good, but the art would sure be neat.