Saturday, February 02, 2008

Super Friends

Kinda sorta funny. Your mileage may vary.

Friday, February 01, 2008

YouTube Friday

Not work safe. It's Sarah Silverman, so what do you expect...?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mel looks like 10 Miles of Bad Road

Ho boy.

Well, the left half of Mel's face is shaved, as well as the left side of his neck, and some spots around his legs. His face is pretty badly bruised from the surgery, and his eye is sort of blackened, if a dog can get a black eye.

Jamie's got him pretty well tranq'd up, so he's resting, and seems perhaps... too happy when he does wake up. He has to eat tiny little scoops of his dog food which Jamie has turned into meatballs.

I know in a few days he'll be getting back to normal in spirits, but for now he looks a bit like Batman-villain Two Face.

Also, the cone... I have to put the cone on him again. Which I'm not looking forward to. But he should really wear it tonight.

It looks like the surgery went well. Jamie's doing a great job if taking care of Mel.

he just twitched in his sleep and kicked me in the butt.

Anyhow, he's doing okay. He just looks like a dog that just had serious surgery.

Comics You Should Be Reading: Captain America

America, @#$% YEAH!!!

So, you may have heard several months ago: They killed Captain America.

What they did not tell you is that the 24 issues leading up to the Death of Captain America and the subsequent issues following have been absolutely engaging reading.

I thought I'd post on this, thanks to this story which ran today on

Writer Ed Brubaker took over the reigns on the flagship title for the Sentinel of Liberty, relaunching the series with a new #1. I was familiar with Brubaker from his work, mostly, on Gotham Central (perhaps DC's most underrated title of the past six years), and had read a few other comics he'd penned, and had planned to follow him to Marvel. I did pick up issue #1 of Brubaker's run, enjoyed it, and planned to pick up the collections of the series... But somehow I never got around to doing so.

And then I heard they were bringing back Bucky.

Bucky was Captain America's youthful sidekick in the original comics sold during WWII, but he'd never been part of Captain America since Atlas/ Timely became Marvel. It had been explained that Bucky was killed during the final mission in which Cap, himself, fell into the sea to be frozen until found and thawed by the Avengers. Wacky stuff, but, you know... you grow up with an idea and it doesn't sound totally weird.

Anyhow, Bucky's death was canon, and for whatever reason I took exception to the idea that they'd bring back Bucky Barnes. His death was as fundamental to the mythos as the death of Jason Todd had become to the Bat-comics. Well, of course, we know what happened with Jason Todd, and so perhaps having Bucky around didn't seem that crazy.

Brubaker's take on Cap isn't so much superhero as super-soldier. Or, more specifically, super-anti-terrorist operative. World weary, but with a certain optimism and faith in what he's doing, it makes for a good, three dimensional character behind the shield.

The plot is not convoluted in the way so many comics can become, but rather feels novelistic. There's a lot going on that doesn't require punches to the head (although those happen, too), and there's a good story. Good enough that, in the telling, the return of Bucky feels less like a stunt to draw in readers, and more like one of the unfortunate side effects of the world Cap's been a part of since WWII.

The New Cap

I have to thank Nathan Cone for pointing me back towards the series. Part of why I picked up the Omnibus was that Nathan told me he was reading the series and was still very enthusiastic about it.

You may be aware that Cap was killed some time back, but that story is just as fascinating to watch unfold. Unlike the impenetrable and winding plots of the Death of Superman and World without a Superman stories, the post-Steve Rogers world feels organic, and as if the characters are acting from a real sense of loss and grieving (which, in superhero comics, rarely means sitting around crying).

Anyhow, pick up Brubaker's Captain America.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2 bizzeee 2 post

Here's something I swiped from Randy in order to share with the new parents in the League's readership. Denise, pay special attention to "Drying Baby".

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mel Report

Hey Leaguers. I know less about today than Jamie, but it sounds like Mel's surgery went well.

Jamie dropped him off at 7:00, and heard back from the vet about 2:45. It sounds like the surgery went as planned. As of 2:45, Mel was awake and resting.

Jamie called again at 5:30, and he'd already been up, gone wee, and was hopped up on goofballs.

She's going to pick him up tomorrow afternoon (we're not really sure when). She has to get some serious pick up instructions.

Jason has Lucy tonight, and maybe tomorrow night, so Mel can rest when he gets home. Jeff the Cat will simply get punted if he interferes.

I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and prayers (thanks, Ma!). Mel seems to be on the road to recovery.


It seems we were misinformed. We can't pick up Mel today. Which means Lucy has been destroying Jason's house today for no good reason.

I'll leave it to Jamie and the commenst section to fill in more details.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Everyone Wish Mel Well

Mel is going off to have his surgery tomorrow morning. Jamie, being the good person she is, is getting in the car and driving him up to Round Rock at 6:45 in the morning.

I am convinced Mel will come through with flying colors. He has had a few surgeries before before, and he has always done well. There's also an 85% chance this will get rid of the problem altogether. So, you know, I think he's going to be fine.

The poor guy is going to have to wear one of this big, plastic cones for a while. I think he wore one for a short time quite a few years back, but I am anticipating he's going to be really, really unhappy for the duration. On the plus side, he will get to eat soft food for a few weeks, which he's not been able to do before. Hopefully he'll think he's getting a treat every meal for a while.

The worst thing for both Mel and Lucy will be that, because Mel's surgery is in his mouth, we're going to have to hide all the toys for a while. Mel and Lucy both love their toys, and associate them with playing and being good dogs. In fact, whenever you come back from even a run to Taco Cabana, Mel runs around with a toy in his mouth and cries. At night he walks around with a nylon bone in his mouth like a cigar, or one of his vaguely people-shaped toys that he moves from place to place around the downstairs.

Anyway, no toys for the dogs for a few weeks. And while some small aprt of me is looking forward to not having the clutter, I know that the dogs are going to be deeply unhappy without anything to play with.

So everyone wish Mel well. We'll give a report again tomorrow night.

The League ain't afraid of no ghost

You know which show I can't quit watching, but which is some oddly irresponsible television? A&E's new program Paranormal State features a team of college undergraduates who are true believers in the paranormal. Not UFO's, mind you, but they fancy themselves to be ghost hunters, but without any pesky skepticism.

Their goal is, ostensibly, "investigations" into the paranormal, but that's not really what seems to happen. Somehow the show has teamed up the undergrads with several other charlatans of the supernatural, and these folks are brought in to (a) assist in the investigations and (b) enjoy something of the limelight which they seem to be seeking.

The "director" of the Penn State Paranormal club is probably just a shade or two away from the sort of conviction in utter nonsense you really only find in con-men and people building compounds who don't let their flock speak to their families any more (for their own good). He leads the team with the charmless charisma that will one day make for low-level cult leader status as he rambles on about the presence of ghosts and demonic spirits, and plays the expert in mystical matters to not just his band of followers, but the people whose houses he invariably exorcises by the end of each episode. As an undergrad, I'm not sure exactly what his credentials are supposed to be (I've ruled out critical thinking as one of his strong suits), but his followers seem oddly devoted and willing to defer to him in all of the decisions for the group. No doubt, this guy is going to be asking them to sign over their worldly possessions in five years and buy matching purple jumpsuits.

What's really sort of out of whack is that the folks who the group comes to "help", are in fact, in need of real help. Generally these folks seem distraught by whatever it is they believe is living with them in their house. I admit that, in some twisted way, this means that the group of undergrads is helping the people in question. I just am not sure a seance and having some 20-year old kid semi-politely asking the "spirit" to leave is what these folks actually need. But, according to the show, whatever magic they work gets rid of what's ailing the subjects of each episode. Or, you know, the people just really don't want the nerds coming back.

Now, let me qualify this somewhat: I watch Ghost Hunters on Sci-Fi all the time. It's the only one of the basic-cable paranormal shows that I think applies basic logic to... uh... ghosts. At least there's some half-assed investigation put into it and not just "psychics" wandering about sensing angry feelings. And I give the show kudos for trying first and foremost to try to explain away the bumps and creaks in the night, and for understanding that sometimes people leap to bizarre conclusions. And sometimes people have really bad pipes and wiring in their homes.

In short, unlike most of these shows, I don't think Jay and Grant, of Ghost Hunters are crazy. Well, I do think spending your evenings running around some stranger's house with a video camera is a bit... odd. But their first inclination is not to believe every hiss in a tape is an attempt by the dead to communicate. But I also don't think they're outright fibbing in order to get exposure and money.

Sadly, I don't really believe in ghosts. But, I would like to make a buck off of other people's paranoid fears. Jason and I have often spoken of what we might charge for capturing and containing one of the departed in true Ghostbusters fashion.

"We're ready to believe you!"

Ryan Goes America

For reasons I cannot explain and upon which I do not wish to elaborate, I can empathize with Charlie in this clip.

Really, Jason and Jamie are, at all times, about ten seconds from hearing me burst out into similar song.

Zero Effect Tenth Anniversary

Join Chronological Snobbery for a 10 Year anniversary investigation of the 90's-era detective movie "The Zero Effect".

Read here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Zero Effect - 10 Years Later

The League has been asked by the powers that be at Chronological Snobbery to participate in a bit of a movie review round-robin for "The Zero Effect". It seems that the movie, Zero Effect came out ten years ago. I saw it on DVD within a year or so of its release on home video.

Rather than try to remember a movie I hadn't seen in about 9 years, I picked it up from Netflix.

I admit that I wasn't a huge fan of "Zero Effect" when I saw the movie the first time. I definitely got that the movie was a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, with Bill Pullman in the role of Daryl Zero/ Holmes and Ben Stiller in the role of Steve Arlo/ Watson. While working, Daryl Zero has superhuman abilities of deduction and intuition. Off the case, he's a drug-addled lunatic who plays the guitar. Badly. Just as Holmes was supposed to play the violin and partake in a bit of, if memory serves, cocaine, the analog is pretty straightforward. And just as Watson was supposed to declare "by jove! How the deuce did you deduce that, Holmes?", so is Stiller put the position of being both impressed by his employer's abilities, as well as assisting him and representing him to the public.

And while I certainly wouldn't want a "modern day Holmes" movie, I wasn't sure what, exactly, Kasdan was trying to create. Was this Holmes through the eyes of the modern day detective movie? Or was it Holmes through the eyes of the son of a successful Hollywood producer?

The plot/ mystery of the movie is an excuse for the audience to meet Daryl Zero and Steve Arlo, and to challenge the status quo we're to understand they share when the movie begins. Should Steve Arlo give up his working relationship with Zero for the way it interferes with his personal life? Can Zero find love?

What starts off as an amusing premise never really works. The movie isn't funny, and I don't think it's intended to be so. So I'm not really sure what Kasdan was intending. Too much time is spent concerned with the quirky relationship of Zero and Arlo, and the mystery plot isn't necessarily engaging enough on its own to work as a feature film. Perhaps this would be a great pilot leading into a television series. Long story short, its tough to ever know what is supposed to be the A-plot of the movie, and what is intended to the B-Plot. Are we watching a movie about Zero and Arlo or the blackmail case they're supposed to be uncovering? Is this a standard case for them, or is this one particularly unusual?

Part of the problem is that Pullman is only occasionally convincing as an unhinged eccentric genius. Too much of the time, perhaps, he's on the case, and so seems together. Other shows, such as Monk or Psyche feature quirky detectives (Monk, most specifically comes to mind as an example of a detective program which is completely dedicated to the protagonist's psychoses). Prior to that, Columbo and others had been pretty wacky detectives working through convoluted plots. There's nothing here in "Zero Effect" to defy expectations. Instead, not a whole lot seems to happen. Character bits that are revealed skew towards the depressing, but with so little time to get to know Arlo and Zero, its tough to get invested. Pullman has never struck me as an actor of great range, and Zero Effect does nothing to erase that notion.

TV and movies are full of such characters, and drug-addled mood swings may look good on paper, but in a movie where we're given little room to feel sympathy for our leading man to begin with, profanity-laced binges don't really draw you in. Honestly, the idea seems like something lifted out of a completely different movie, as does the intentionally awkward "Zero plays the guitar" scene.

Ben Stiller's portrayal of Steve Arlo is hampered by stilted dialog he delivers mostly through clenched teeth. This would have been a post-"Ben Stiller Show" Stiller, but pre-Super Stardom from "There's Something About Mary" and the schticky groove Stiller would carve out with films like "Meet the Fockers". Honestly, I'd forgotten he was the Watson-archetype in this film, and raised an eyebrow in the first frames when he appeared. He more or less disappears going into the third reel, with one scene which resolves his character arc and a tacked on wedding scene to give our character an out at the end of the film.

Readers may recall that the Sherlock Holmes stories were told from the perspective of Watson in order to give the reader the same surprise the audience might feel upon hearing Holmes spout out an amazing deduction. However, director/ writer Kasdan switched the POV from Arlo to Zero somewhat abruptly early on in the film, taking away the exasperated amazement that Arlo might feel working side by side with an unknowable genius. In many ways, this gives the feeling that the screenplay was cobbled together from various parts of various drafts and that there's never any solid, single point of view to the movie. No doubt this was done to accommodate the scenes with GLoria Sullivan, which, by necessity to the plot, could not include Arlo. Unfortunately, this makes Arlo semi-redundant within the structure of the story.

For someone with so much screentime and who is supposed to win over Daryl Zero, Kim Dickens' Gloria Sullivan is a surprisingly dull character and never feels like the foil she's described to be in the film's final moments (I literally paused and thought to myself... "oh, yeah... I guess she did do all of that..." as Zero re-capped why he admired her so.). Ryan O'Neal is really the only other player, and so in a mystery such as this, there just really isn't much mystery to go around. But he pretty much plays Ryan O'Neal, if you're wondering.

Director/ Writer/ etc... Jake Kasdan would have been about 23 at the time of the film's creation, and that may account for a lot of the problems with the film. Too young, perhaps, to really realize he was recycling material. Mistaking drudging, monotone dialog for moodiness, and Dennis Hopper-channeling mania for Zero as "quirkiness", whatever humor he finds in the inconsistent pill-popping of Zero simply doesn't work.

Perhaps these characters had lived in Kasdan's head too long as a writer, and as a director, he was unable to get the performances out of his seasoned cast. Fresh out of school and with a father like Lawrence Kasdan to call in favors, movies can get made. Perhaps had Kasdan waited a bit before bringing this movie to the screen, the movie would have found its footing.

I'm not familiar with the box office on Zero Effect, but I do not recall the movie doing well at the time of release, and only rented it originally at the suggestion of someone else.

Kasdan's follow up efforts haven't been as serious in tone. He directed the dispiriting, laughless "Orange County" (a movie which seemed as if it was written by the most entitled priviliged kid for other entitled privileged kids.). It is telling, I think, that I left the theater before "Orange County" was over. We had technical problems with the film in the final reel, and rather than wait for the theater to fix them, we demanded a refund and left.

Kasdan also directed this winter's musical/ comedy "Walk Hard", which was funny when relying on the improv talents of the players and otherwise awkward and clunky, and certainly stretched on about twenty minutes too long.

Perhaps Kasdan had originally intended to write a comedy with Zero Effect. Perhaps he even believed that's what he was shooting until he got back his footage. Who knows? The movie begins on a an absurd note, suggesting some dark comedy... and abandons any humorous aspects about twenty minutes in before giving up and plodding to a finish.

My guess is that I am missing something here that has kept the film alive with a certain group of fans. But on a second viewing, there's still not much to pull me in. For a movie that seems to think it has some great characters, they seem derivative. For a movie that ostensibly is about deduction and detecting a mystery, the plot just isn't really engaging enough to really feel like the greatest challenge of the career of Daryl Zero, which it must be, lest why would the movie exist?

As someone participating in a round-robin of "Zero Effect" reviews, I'll be curious to see what others say.

I was going to close the post with something dickish about how the movie had "zero effect" on me. And that's probably still true. But, mostly, I feel the movie is forgettable, and has been largely forgotten. It's never a good sign when you realize upon watching a movie again for the second time that you have no recollection of the plot or characters from the first viewing. It's a worse sign when you are dead-certain mid-viewing that your brain may be erasing the movie from your memory before you've even finished watching it, and that's not going to help when it comes time for the big reveal.