Monday, September 24, 2007

The Monster's not under your bed...he's in the White House

Ned Lamont told me I should blog more. So I'm gonna try. I'll talk more about that later, but there's gonna be some new stuff here soon, different that what my few readers are used to. For now, enjoy this rumination on the horror genre:

As October rolls around, I see more and more Halloween shops breaking out
the traditional skulls and capes to take advantage of the season. I enjoy
walking around those shops, playing with the theater masks and laughing at
the dog costumes on sale. I'm also a sucker for plastic toy weapons like
swords and spears, and often can't resist the temptation to take one out of
the bin and try it out in a spot where there aren't too many shoppers.

However, being a movie buff, I also wonder what sort of horror movies are
going to debut this month. So far, Saw IV is set to open right before
Halloween, the latest in a persistent strain of torture-themed films that
often top the box office but also have steadily received derision and scorn
from critics and pundits.

Some of this criticism is a bit disingenuous. After all, many of these
pundits lavished praise on The Passion of the Christ, even though I think
that gorefest could easily be re-released as "Saw 0: In the Beginning."
Still, I too am often put off by the torture films. Even in an aesthetic
sense, they often fail to do justice to their genre. Audiences squirm at the
gore, but there's nothing to really linger in your memory as you try to go
to sleep that night. Being revolted is not the same thing as being scared.

Still, it's a mistake to simply dismiss them as unworthy of some
examination. My own interest in horror movies over the years stems from
their ability to show what people are really afraid of, or were afraid of at
the time of their release. This applies to horror-themed literature as well.
Consider Dracula and other vampires. Conceived at a time when European
empires still held a great deal of power, Dracula was a foreign creature who
was able to make others in his image, a creature who could, if left
unchecked, turn an entire nation into vampires. In short, the colonizers
would become colonized. Vampire stories of that era showcase nations
insecure as to how long they would hold their grip on other parts of the

Over in Japan, Godzilla, a monster created by atomic experimentation, was
the brainchild of a nation still traumatized after being struck with two
A-bombs. The clash of culture that defines the 1960s (often emblemized by
Time Magazine's infamous "Is God Dead?" cover) gave rise to a series of
films dealing with the unholy and the Satanic. Rosemary's Baby, The
Exorcist, The Omen.
If people really were turning away from God, who knows
what evil might be able to take hold of society? These fears did not take
long to find their way onto the silver screen. In the 1980s, fear of AIDS
and other STDs spreading among youth created the "slasher" genre, in which
teen promiscuity brought down cosmic retribution from the likes of Freddy
Krueger and Jason.

So what can be deduce from the popularity of the Saw and Hostel films?
Unfortunately, it means torture is very much on America's mind. The grimy
settings of these films are eerily reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib photos, the
first major incident that revealed the dark underside of our current foreign
policy. The damage the Bush administration has done to the civil liberties
of Americans in the six years since 9/11 is substantial. They push for
torture, they have shut down habeas corpus, and they push for warrantless
wiretapping (and don't even try to convince me that following the laws would
somehow allow terrorists to communicate undetected. The existing FISA court
rules allow intelligence personnel to tap someone's line for up to 72 hours
before they need to get the warrant, allowing for any sort of emergency
situation to be taken care of without having to deal with paperwork right
away. I could write a whole other column about how that issue is always
purposefully misrepresented).

Thanks to all this, there's nothing to stop the Bush White House from
declaring you an "enemy combatant," throwing you into a black van, and
flying you off to some secret torture chamber in Eastern Europe. No warrant
needed, no access to a lawyer, and no means to challenge your own
imprisonment. That's scary. A lot scarier than Saw.

Friday, July 27, 2007

If It Bleeds.....I Don't Like It.

After a slow first couple of days, this week at work has become shockingly...and depressingly, violent.

Last night, some lunatic shot two people outside of a hotel in Southington apparently without any provocation. Then he shot himself. That's pretty upsetting, but it wouldn't have been as bad if it hadn't just come after the Cheshire murders.

Twenty minutes down the road from where I work, two guys broke into a home, killed a mother and two kids, and burnt the place to the ground. You would think we had stepped back into the Dark Ages. Something like that extends far beyond the community in which it happens. The mother was also a nurse at a prestigious private school in Cheshire which had several students in Southington. This gave me the agonizing task of talking to these kids who are still shell-shocked and trying to hold back tears.

The story I come up will be more about the fond memories these people had than about the gory details of the incident, but I learned vividly that other papers went about it very differently. The Hartford Courant is essentially the paper of record for our state, but their coverage utterly disgusted me. The writers delved into nauseating, unncessary detail and the whole thing reeked of sick sensationalism.

I seriously considered quitting this profession when I read those stories....but that said just as much about me as it did the Courant.

I've discovered that I prefer to write about good news...and of course, politics (I'll have a lot of fun with the local elections this year). I'm not the type of journalist who salivates at the thought of a grisly story breaking. It's the opposite really, I tend to get full of dread when I realize I have to cover something like that.

Guess I'll never work at the New York Post.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Many of my peers would probably avoid trying to place Michael Bay's update of the classic 80s cartoon Transformers in any kind of scholarly context, but I'm not always known for toeing the film critic party lines. In a sea of massive blockbusters, this one stands out as one that will be discussed in future years when the history of big-budget spectacle is revisited.

In terms of special effects, it's on par with the original Jurassic Park in terms of sheer grandeur. This is some of the finest CGI ever put on film. The movie also seems to highlight the disconnect between professional film critics and more casual movie buffs, a divide growing ever more pronounced and visible thanks to the internet…but more on that later.

Michael Bay may be an action maestro (the last 45 minutes of the movie is a protracted and massive brawl), but he's no Steven Spielberg. This is evident from the opening scene, in which a suspicious helicopter lands at a U.S. military base in the Middle East and proceeds to turn into a giant robot and destroy everything in sight. This is the first glimpse of a Transformer and I really hoped the sequence would be filled with awe. Unfortunately, Bay doesn't seem to have time for that. There's a lot of stuff around that needs to be blown up.

After that, we meet the high-strung young hero, Sam Witwicky (the charismatic Shia LeBeouf), an all-American lad about to get his first car. The beat up Camaro he drives home from the dealers turns out to be a Transformer itself, and Sam gets drawn into a galactic conflict of epic proportions. Set on destroying the Earth are the evil Deceptions, who turn into fearsome machines like tanks and fighter jets. Pitted against them are the autobots, which turn into more benevolent vehicles.

The Autobots are led by Optimus Prime, who is voiced by the tremendous Peter Cullen, who has been playing the character since the 80s. Recruiting him is the movie's ace in the hole; nobody else is qualified to play Prime and it's refreshing that the studio had enough sense to realize that. Cullen's distinctive characterization of the robot, both intimidating and full of warmth, is even more appreciated in such a sleek production. Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, is voiced by Hugo Weaving, so everyone start your Matrix jokes. ("You lead two lives, Mr. Prime. In one life, you are a mack truck….")

I've read interviews with the producers who describe Transformers as really just the story of "a boy and his car." Sounds nice, but I'm not sure I buy it. Not when that plotline is just one of numerous subplots contributing to the film's bulky running time. There's the British NSA agent (Rachel Taylor) and her goofy hacker friend (Anthony Anderson, going through his usual "loud doofus" motions), Pentagon officials screaming at each other, Agent Simmons (John Turturro) of "Sector 7," on-hand to offer some fun twists about the movie's backstory, and a small squad of U.S. soldiers (led by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson) who thought dealing with Iraqi insurgents was going to be the scariest thing they did out in the Middle East.

You get the feeling some of this fat on the script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman could have been trimmed, but at least the soldier subplot offers one of the movie's most thrilling battle sequences: a stunning clash between a small division of the military and a scorpion-like transformer amidst crumbling ruins in the desert.

What you make of all this depends greatly on expectations. Contrary to popular belief, only the most uptight critics are immune to simple pleasures. The movie is a heaping helping of fun. The action and effects are tremendous, and it's often very funny. However, there's plenty to pick apart as well. The script is messy and bogged down with subplots, there isn't quite enough pure wonder to go around, and character exposition is often incredibly forced.

The almost inevitable response to that is something to the effect of "Who cares? Stuff blows up!" The invective-filled internet communities filled with those who seem to look at a movie as nothing more than a two-hour distraction will point to the high grosses of critically eviscerated films like Norbit and Wild Hogs as evidence that film criticism is obsolete. Critics often react with the knee-jerk response that the success of those films only proves that American are all idiots, but that only plays into their hands.

I propose a compromise. I do recommend Transformers for those looking for a blast of old-fashioned movie-magic and fun. If we could appreciate that in itself without running around calling every new blockbuster the "best movie ever," I think we'll all get along better.

Monday, July 2, 2007


A few years ago, a woman told President Bush during a public hearing that she had to work three jobs to sustain her family. Bush smiled and replied, "Uniquely American, isn't it?" Maybe it is...but that's not something to be proud of.

That's one of only a few clips of Bush that appears in Sicko, his new documentary which has a much tighter focus than his last few films. He's taking on the health care system here in America, the costs and restrictions of which take a heavy toll on millions of Americans like that woman working three jobs.

Moore has already criticized Bush extensively (and before it was trendy, no less), and this time he lays the blame on just about everyone currently in Washington. He flashes back to the 90s, when Republicans and the Health Care lobby dismantled Hillary Clinton's proposal for Universal Health Care, and then turns around and blasts Hillary for the disgusting amount of contributions she has received from the same lobby in the years since.

However, the focus of Sicko is not really on polticians at all, but on average American folk. The opening minutes chronicle the struggles of a few people without any health insurance, like the man who lost two fingers but could only afford to get one replaced. Yet most of the stories come from people who do have health insurance and still can't get any treatment because the industry is entirely committed to making money instead of, you know, helping anyone.

There's the woman who drove into Canada because her insurance company refused to cover treatment for her cervical cancer. The widow of a man who was denied a bone-marrow transplant until it was too late. The old couple who lost their house to massive medical bills and had to move into their daughter's storage room. Moore wisely stays behind the camera during these sequences, only providing his signature sarcastic narration. In fact, he doesn't appear on screen until about 45 minutes in, when he's interviewing his own aunt and uncle.

The second half of the movie drags and is less strong. Moore goes to Canada and a few European countries and shows off their socalized health-care systems. It's not hard to make the point that most of the Western World has better health care than us, yet this section goes on for almost an hour. It's also hard to swallow that a world-famous filmmaker like him can still try and pass of the image of himself as a wandering, salt-of-the-earth John Q. Public.

The final sequence, in which Moore takes 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for medical treatment because they couldn't afford it in the USA, has already drawn considerable controversy. It's vintage Moore, which both helps and hurts. His showboating is often hilarious, but it also gives his critics ammunition. They tend to be selective in their attacks, and will no doubt dissect the admittedly fairy-tale quality of this whole segment.

They won't talk about the testimonials, however. What can anyone even say? It's the power of these stories alone that makes Sicko one of the finest films released this year so far. The movie has come at the right time, when a looming presidential election is getting candidates to discuss what they would do to help those manhandled by the current health care system. Most politicians propose adding a few band-aids to try and fix the current one, but Moore is advocating the socialized system of the other countires he visited. It's quite audacious, given that there's still a scary and disproportinate fear of socialism left over from the McCarthy era. Maybe that's the solution, and maybe it isn't. I'll venture this, however: Nobody can walk away from Sicko and think that the system is just fine the way it is.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mitt Romney's Dog Problem, Evil Ann Coulter, and a Summer Movie Gem

I haven't been following politics for all that long, but this is the wierdest little story I've ever seen masquerade as political news:

The reporter intended the anecdote that opened part four of the Boston Globe's profile of Mitt Romney to illustrate, as the story said, "emotion-free crisis management": Father deals with minor -- but gross -- incident during a 1983 family vacation, and saves the day. But the details of the event are more than unseemly -- they may, in fact, be illegal.

The incident: dog excrement found on the roof and windows of the Romney station wagon. How it got there: Romney strapped a dog carrier -- with the family dog Seamus, an Irish Setter, in it -- to the roof of the family station wagon for a twelve hour drive from Boston to Ontario, which the family apparently completed, despite Seamus's rather visceral protest.

Yep, they strapped the dog to the roof and he crapped himself. Anyone who has been reading this knows Mitt Romney annoys the hell out of me, but I will feel genuine sympathy (amidst my own howling laughter) if the poor sap winds up having to answer a question about this during a debate because of all this coverage.

What really cracks me up about this, though, is that picture, which I saw on the Huffington Post. The split-photo gimmick usually implies an adverserial relationship. It's used for things like Harry Reid vs. President Bush, Tom Cruise vs. Brooke Shields, Rosie O'Donnell vs. Other Obnoxious Blonde Chick with Squeaky Voice on "The View."

Here it's Mitt Romney vs. The Dog. Not his actual dog, of course, which makes it funnier. You can type in "Irish Settle" in Google Images and find that same photo. Probably only took 10 seconds in photoshop to produce that...but the laughs are priceless.

Now to switch gears into something that is decidedly not funny. Ann Coulter is making the rounds again....and again I'm perplexed that she can get away with breathtakingly bigoted and hateful comments; comments far worse than the ones that destroyed Don Imus, for example.

She was on Fox News talking about a speech by Barack Obama in Hartford last weekend. At that event (which I attended), Obama said that the right-wing had "hijacked" religion...specifically Christianity. This was the rare instance where I would have preferred to listen to someone like Pat Robertson. He probably would have at least tried to aruge Obama's actual point. Here's Coulter's thoughtful response:

"I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using ‘hijack’ and ‘religion’ in the same sentence.”

Get it? Cause Obama's actually a Islamist terrorist cause his middle name is Hussein? Remember King Hussein of Jordan? Everyone loved him...but that's beside the point. Is this the insightful analysis we're going to see on the news these days?

What's really obnoxious about Coulter, and why I use the word "evil" to describe her, is that I'm not even sure she means this crap. O'Reilly does...and though he's an idiot, he can be ironically charismatic in a cartoon supervillain sort of way. Even Sean Hannity seems to at least believe his own bullshit, which strikes me as a little more respectable than just saying whatever bilge will sell books to those who need their prejudices reaffirmed in print.

I mean, why else would you call John Edwards a "faggot?" Or say that the death of his son is "a bumper sticker?" Now she's on Fox responding to Obama's comments on religion? You expect me to believe she's actually a representative from the Christian Right? If she supports them, it's only because it meets expectations of the "typical" right-winger. She's the kind of person who will rail against depictions of drug use in the media and then go home and snort some cocaine.

I'm usually reluctant to use the word "evil" to describe someone. When talking about bloggers in my book about the CT Senate Race, I take a moment to criticize those who referred to Joe Lieberman as evil. Obnoxious? Sure. Totally self-centered? You better believe it. But not evil. Ann Coulter believes in nothing but herself, and has made a fortune by exploiting the worst ignorance in American society. That is evil.

To try and end this mish-mash on a positive note, I'll say that anyone looking for a randomly terrific movie in the middle of an uneven summer should check out 1408. To say too much about the plot would spoil a lot of the fun, but anyone who has seen commercials knows it's about a haunted hotel room. I'll just say quickly that the movie has a tremendous build-up to the fateful night in the haunted room, and it meets those high expectations. Really awesome horror film that's actually scary at points. More movies like this might get us out of the already played out torture movement dominating the genre right now.

Coming Soon: Reviews of Michael Moore's Sicko and Pixar's Ratatouille

Thursday, June 21, 2007

No Place is Safe

So I'm pumping gas this morning and I see a strange little speaker mounted onto the front of the pump station I'm at. As I pull on the lever to start the flow of gas, a loud voice suddenly comes over it. It didn't take me long to realize that this was an advertisement. I got annoyed and looked at the speaker to see if there was a way I could turn it off. I saw a Mute button and thought to myself, "That's a nice courtesy at least." I pressed didn't work.

At this point, I got really mad. I began to repeatedly shout "Shut up!" at the speaker, unwittingly sounding like Bill O'Reilly whenever he's losing an argument. As other drivers gave me strange looks, I finally opted to press my hand over the speaker itself, effectively drowning out all the sound. When my hand stopped vibrating, I knew I had won. The ad was over, and I had not retained any of it.

I stopped to wonder why this had pissed me off so much. There's a simple reason and a broader reason. The simple reason is that normally pumping gas is a quiet experience. If you're alone, it allows for a few minutes of relaxed thought. When you're already dropping 40 frickin' dollars to fill up the gas tank of a little Cavalier that once only required 20-25, the last thing you want is for a loud annoyance invading what little personal space we have left in our lives.

And that leads into my larger point: Throughout my twenty-three and a half years of life, I've seen advertising becoming more and more invasive. It used to be that commericals were the price you paid for watching TV or listening to the radio. These sponsors paid for the programming, and so you have to hear their two cents. That's at least fair. Now it's almost the reverse: ads are shoving their way into entertainment that we pay for. A $10 movie ticket now means you have to sit through fifteen minutes of commericals. The internet service you pay for every month is now constantly interrupted by insipid ads popping up in your face....and apparently, you can't even pump gas without having something pitched at you.

Several months ago, Matt and I put on a DVD of Full Metal Alchemist episodes during a lazy afternoon at my house. There were previews at the beginning of the DVD, so my finger went for the "Menu" button. Didn't work this time. Neither did the button that skips to the next scene. Not even the damn fast-forward button was working. The same "This operation is not currently permitted by disc" or whatever that message is kept popping up. We were essentially being forced to watch this commerical.

I wouldn't stand for it. I muted the TV and stared at the ceiling for several minutes until I knew it was over. I won't have my arm twisted into watching/hearing more corporate bullshit when I paid for entertainment....and the next time that speaker starts going while I'm pumping gas, I won't shout at it, but I will again firmly place my hand over it.

I hope others do the same.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Knocked Up

Welcome to Rob's House of Delayed Movie Reviews. If you're still wondering if a movie is any good two weeks after it comes out, this is the place for you.

Knocked Up has hundreds of curse words, numerous scenes featuring drug use, and even a shot of a baby's head coming out of its mother. Definitely an adult comedy, and yet it's still careful not to offend anyone when discussing the possibility of terminating a pregnancy.

Everyone knows the premise by now: Up and coming TV personality Allison (Katharine Heigl) unexpectedly becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with goofy slacker Ben (Seth Rogen). We all know she will choose to have the baby; the movie would be about 20 minutes if she didn't. Yet there's still something amiss in the way the script avoids ever actually saying the word "abortion." Some of Ben's stoner friends make jokes about "the big A" or "rhymes with shashsmorshion." Allison's mother advises her to "take care of it."

It reeks of focus group-induced cowardice, so Knocked Up is lucky to be funny and charming enough that it didn't bother me until a few hours after I had seen it. The film is written and directed by Judd Apatow, who hit box-office paydirt and made Steve Carell a star with The 40 Year Old Virgin. Knocked Up has the same combination of crude humor and romance that gives this director's work such a wide appeal.

Apatow's dialogue is solid: it's full of ingenious and hilarious pop-culture references and rarely feels contrived. A lot of credit also has to go to the two leads. Heigl's character displays a full spectrum of emotion throughout the movie, and she doesn't miss a beat. Rogen, who played one of Carell's rambunctious friends in Virgin, is suberb as well. In several scenes, Ben acts like a complete idiot, but Rogen is always able to keep him likeable and show the character's inner decency.

There's also an excellent subplot about the marriage between Allison's neurotic sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her caustic husband Pete (Paul Rudd). Their marital woes are so detailed and interesting that you could almost write a whole movie about them.

Like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up , which runs over two hours, is much longer than it has to be. Apatow's pacing has improved, (Virgin didn't really have much of a story until the second half) but it does begin to drag as it goes on. But if Pirates III can go on for three hours and still not have much actual substance, I think we can give this genial, timely, and yes romantic, comedy some extra time.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

This and That

A little behind on the movies lately. Knocked Up and Ocean's Thirteen are still in the pipeline....meaning I haven't seen them yet basically. I do plan to, though, I've just been pretty busy with work and such. And during the time I'm home, I usually just want to relax. The new job is a lot to take in. Some of the stuff I do is the same basic stuff I've always events, library programs, etc. But keeping track of endless Town Council/Planning & Zoning/Conservation Commission meetings is proving to be a new challenge. Especially when they don't get out until 11:30 pm on some nights. People have a lot to say about proposed condominium developments when you ask them, as it turns out.

There's some comfort in knowing that on days after meetings like that, I tend to only spend about four hours in the office...and that's not my idea either. I'm often told to go home by the editor...because if I didn't I might rack up overtime hours. It's incredible the lengths the company will go to to make sure I don't go over my forty hours. It's like they would rather die than have to pay the extra $15 or whatever it would be if I went a little over. But hey, whatever. I'm not exactly looking for less free time at this point.

Plenty of side projects grab my attention while I'm home as well. The biggest is, of course, Master of the Wind. Closing in on Arc IV now....and I'll have more to say when it's complete. However, I did see today that Mark uploaded the trailer we made to Arc III on YouTube. When I decided to post it here, it suddenly occurred to me that with the song selected...this would technically qualify as a Power Metal Music Video. Two birds with one stone, I guess. Enjoy this homemade PMMV.

Friday, June 8, 2007

If I Found the Hidden Fountain

Continuing with Sonata, and this is a surprisingly good pairing. I've got some clips from the animated film Balto to go along with this song. I remember the commercials used to say it was "Based on a true story," which I guess it was, since there was a dog named Balto who led a team of sled-dogs through Alaskan wilderness to transport some diptheria vaccine....but I doubt he talked much or fought a bear. Oh well. I'll have a more substantial entry very soon.

Sonata Arctica - Graven Image

Thursday, May 31, 2007

C'est Moi

You've got to see this:
Sonata Arctica - The End of This Chapter

Unfortunately this YouTube user has disabled the option that lets me embed the video right into a blog post...but this one is worth the extra click.

Normally I find music videos which play a song set to a bunch of scenes from an anime/movie that the person likes, but this one is way different. Using footage from The Sims, "Bandallach" creates a music-video designed for this song. I can't believe the detail in the faces and movements that you can get with that game. Here's the song's lyrics in case Tony Kakko's Finnish accent proves to be too thick.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

This movie's a mess. Some who have been following my reviews for a long time will understandably take that statement with a grain of salt, as my feelings towards this series have always been lukewarm at best. I liked the first one, though not as much as many others. The second one showed many signs of weakness, but still was generally enjoyable. Though this final (for now, at least) chapter has its share of epic spectacle, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's script is incredibly corny and convoluted. The "Trivia" section on the IMDB entry for the movie says that filming began before the screenplay was finished. For some reason, that doesn't surprise me.

Johnny Depp doesn't show up for about forty minutes, and the recently resurrected Captain Barbossa(Geoffrey Rush) ably steps in to fill the void. Rush is brilliant, and with the help of numerous comedic supporting cast members as well as that little undead monkey, he keeps the early sequences surprisingly buoyant.

As for our favorite pirate, Jack Sparrow is stuck in the limbo known as "Davy Jones's locker" after having been swallowed by the monstrous Kraken last time. These scenes allow director Gore Verbinski a lot of room for experimentation, and he crafts some arresting and genuinely bizarre scenes that you might not expect in a big commercial film. As for the squid-faced Jones himself (Bill Nighy), he's joined forces with the British diplomats to try and stamp out piracy altogether.

Captain Jack, Barbossa and Davy Jones form the "upper tier" of the major characters (as well as Bootstrap Bill, a doomed pirate on Davy Jones's ship. Stellan Skarsgaard manages to bring an amazing amount of pathos to a role that requires him to have a starfish stuck to his face); all are interesting to watch and are brought to vivid life by the actors playing them. On the "lower teir," we have Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who have to be the two of the blandest lead characters to ever show up in three movies in a row. Their "romance" is almost a parody of this type of fantasy love story, complete with eye-roll inducing expressions of love in the midst of battle. Add the Asian pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) to this lower tier as well. This character's debut in the series was announced in the trailers and ads with great fanfare, but he turns out to be almost completely inconsequential.

Once Jack is rescued, the movie slowly builds towards the final battle between the pirates and the English/Davy Jones. Viewers will get a close look at the humorous kingergarten-esque politics that govern the pirate world, as our heroes go before a council of pirate lords to debate options for the coming showdown. I fear I'm making it sound much more coherent than it actually is...most of this "build-up" is just a seemingly endless sucession of double-crossings. One scene in particular has so many reversals in a row it comes off like a "Family Guy" joke. Don't these two writers realize there are other options available for plot twists?

That final battle is some well-staged mayhem, but becomes increasingly nonsensical. We're treated to shots of what must be a hundred British ships, and yet only one of them gets into combat. And after all the squabbling about whether the pirate lords would fight, why do only Barbossa and Captain Jack take part in the final battle? Your guess is as good as mine. This series has gotten so confident in the ability to overshadow poor writing with grandiose action that they don't even bother trying to tie up some of these loose ends....and yet, for all the dazzling fights that conclude this third film, there's nothing quite as fun as that zany waterwheel chase from Dead Man's Chest. Certainly at least one betrayal could have been removed from this three hour beast to allow for another scene like that.

Bon voyage, Pirates. Let's hope if number four materializes, the screenplay is at least done (and ideally, proofread) before they start making the movie.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Shrek the Third

The great moments in Shrek the Third are in the details: hilarious sight gags, slapstick moments and offhand comments from the supporting cast. After three films, this series's distinct sense of humor is recognizable immediately. It's a good thing there are so many laughs to be found here, because the story is so lightweight it's almost an afterthought. Very little of the heart that made the first Shrek so wonderful has survived two sequels.

Since the end of the second film, Harold the Frog King (John Cleese) has grown quite ill. In the interim, Shrek (Mike Myers) has been managing all the royal responsibilities, which he naturally finds incompatible with his perception of himself as a rude and uncivilized ogre. Circumstances soon force his hand, and he has to choose between taking the throne himself or turning it over to another possible heir: Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake). Maturity doesn't put up all that much of a fight; Shrek takes Donkey and Puss in Boots (the deft comedic team of Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas) on a road trip to find the young heir.

The Arthurian Legend is a perfect target for the Shrek-style subversive treatment of classic stories, and the writers (all seven of them) stage Camelot inside an angst-ridden high school, where Lancelot (John Krasinksi) is a jousting jock and Guinevere (Latifa Ouauo) is a gum-chewing airhead. Merlin (Eric Idle) also makes an appearance as a strange sort of hippie self-help guru.

Fiona (Cameron Diaz) has plenty to deal with back in Far Far Away. Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has returned to cause more trouble, this time amassing a small army of fairy tale villains. Classic characters like Captain Hook (Ian McShane)are included, though a few walking trees steal the show in those scenes with their thuggish banter. After being locked in a tower, Fiona and her mother (Julie Andrews) partner with an assortment of other fairy tale princesses to escape, all played by a veritable "Who's Who" of female comedians. Snow White is Amy Poehler, Rapunzel is Maya Rudolph, Sleeping Beauty is Cheri Oteri, Cinderella is Amy Sedaris, and Doris the ugly stepsister is Larry King.

Such a gigantic cast of characters makes for an incredibly talented pool of vocal performers, which makes me regret that the film's story ultimately had so little warmth. The Shrek films have always brought out the best in Dreamworks's animation, but traces of the same banality that pervade other unremarkable CG films from them (Shark Tale in particular) are starting to become visible.

At least the animation is only getting better. The detail in things like tree leaves and the hair of the human characters is nothing less than phenomenal. Shrek the Third doesn't feel substantial enough to be a full movie; it feels more like a very well-produced episode of a Shrek TV-show. Hmm...that might not be half bad.

--Yep, that's right. No grade. I've been thinking it over for some time, and I've decided to eschew that...for the near future, at least. I've found that the letter grade too often takes the focus on the actual content of the review...and I'm also just sick of having to decide what makes the difference between a B- or B and shit like that. It winds up feeling arbitrary once I decide. Pirates III is next...3 hours + storyline likely as meager as the last two = I don't know. Find out soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Everything Old is New Again....and Lame.

So I read my Entertainment Weekly today and there was a little news brief about a couple of upcoming sequel ideas. I thought I needed to share how terrible they all are.

Terminator 4 - With no Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The Incredible Hulk - Sequel to The Hulk, except replacing Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly with Edward Norton and Liv Tyler. Norton's one of my favorite actors, but something really stinks about this project. Ang Lee's not directing again, in his place is Louis Leterrier, known for edgy action movies like The Transporter. Seems like they're going for a much more straightforward Hulk movie this time around....but something about that really bugs me. Ang Lee's Hulk had a number of problems, to be sure: it was heavy-handed, that comic frame gimmick was irritating, and it bit off way more than it could chew...but it was different. It stands out still, for reasons good and bad, in an increasing sea of superhero movies. Now Marvel's coming along and saying "Sorry Ang made the last one so cerebral! We should know better than to challenge your expectations! We'll give you your derivative Hulk film now!" It's all very repellent.

And I've saved the "best" one for last:
The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon - A second sequel to a movie I thought was all-around shitty, but get this. It's not in Eygpt, it's in the Far East. Jet Li is going to play an Asian-style mummy. I swear I'm not making this up. If you're going to change the thing around that much, why don't you just start a new series...or better yet, just try to make a good action movie that can stand on it's own! Oh wait, we don't do that anymore. Even Bruce Almighty has to have a sequel nowadays.

If this is any indication, the next couple of summers are going to blow.

To end this on a better note, I've brought in our second Power Metal Music Video. This is an amusing compilation of clips from The Two Towers collected by a YouTube member with the handle "Crackerasscracka." Enjoy.

Rhapsody - Flames of Revenge

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I Wrote Spider-Man 4

Author's Note (2011): I'm a little embarrassed about this entry four years later...I feel like I've become a better writer since then and now I can find all sorts of flaws in my proposal here. And of course it never became a trilogy. Oops. I'm leaving it up here still, but go easy.

This is the first in a trilogy of entries that will outline how I would envision the next three Spider-Man films if I had any sort of power whatsoever within Hollywood. I'm aware that unless some Sony staffer miraculously stumbles upon this blog, this may be an exercise in futility. However, I know of what I speak, and I'll be immodest for a moment and claim that I know just as much about the vintage Spider-Man lore as Sam Raimi, and definitely more than your average money-grubbing producer.

Before that, some further recollections on Spider-Man 3. I think the backlash has been excessive, though I doubt that many people involved with a movie that has utterly smashed box-office records for the moment are too broken up about it. I still derived a great deal of enjoyment out of it, even with little puke teenagers making smart-ass comments throughout, but that may be because my expectations weren't especially high.

I smelled trouble when I first heard that Venom would be appearing in a film that was already going to include Harry Osborn's Green Goblin and Sandman. Too many villains spoils the least I thought that was the lesson learned from Batman and Robin , which included Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane. Bane's fate was actually similar to what happened to Venom. Huge villains with an enormous impact on the hero's world dumbed down into second tier antagonists on film. I still think that the alien costume arc should have been spread over two films, giving Venom the entirety of the fourth movie to kick some ass.

Alas, we can't do anything about that. The only thing to do is move ahead and try to get the series back on track with Spider-Man 4. Only one villain this time, but he's a classic one.

After the usual Spider-Man swinging opening bit, we'd start things off with Parker doing what he wasn't able to do successfully last time: propose to Mary Jane in some comedic/romantic way. Maybe he could be hanging off the ceiling or something. She says yes and start spreading the good news. Aunt May hears the news, but that gets MJ thinking about her own family. Her Aunt Anna (a long-running character in the comics, but she's never appeared in the films) is the only relative she has nearby at the moment. They visit her and she makes some offhand comment about how MJ's relatives in Philadelphia aren't in very good shape. This gets Mary Jane in a contemplative mood, but Parker has to be at the Daily Bugle soon.

I guess if this is too much plot for that coveted teen demographic, we could have Spider-Man beat up some thugs on the way to the Bugle or something. But when he gets there, he meets the new big-shot reporter: Ned Leeds. (This three-film proposal of mine concludes with The Hobgoblin as the villain for Spider-Man 6. Ned's involved in all that, so we gotta start laying the foundation for that very complex plot line as soon as we can!)Parker notices that Ned also gets along extremely well with Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks).

Ned mentions that he's on his way to do a story about experiments being done at whatever university Parker has classes in. In the comics, it's a fictional place called Empire State University, I can't remember if they've ever named it in the films. When Parker hears that his professor, Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker), is involved, he decides to grab Mary Jane and meet Ned there to take a few photos. Unfortunately, Dr. Connors had a line in Spider-Man 3 that complicates this a bit. While talking about the alien symbiote, he said "I'm a physicist, not a biologist." *sigh* So it seems he would have to be working with another professor who is a biologist.

That role can go to Debra Whitman. She was one of Parker's fellow students in the comic, but it's no big deal to upgrade her to full professor to make this whole sequence a bit more cohesive. Peter, Mary Jane and Ned arrive at the university's lab and the two professors talk about their experiments: Using the genes of lizards, who can regenerate lost limbs, Connors and Whitman hope to devise some way to restore human arms and legs. While snapping photos, Parker talks with the two professors while Ned takes his notes. Meanwhile, Mary Jane befriends Martha and Billy Connors, the professor's wife and son, who are visiting. Mary Jane and Mrs. Connors can bond while sharing humorous dialogue about how in the dark they are about all this detailed science their significant others are so enamored with. Professor Whitman reveals she has already tested the formula on a rat who lost his leg....and lo and behold, the rat's leg has returned! This could be perhaps the greatest medical feat of all time....except we all know it's going to go bad.

Once that's done, Mary Jane returns home and feels very contemplative. She's about to get married, but she has a lot of unsettled business with her family. She asks Peter to accompany her on a trip to Philadelphia to try and make peace. As far as the movies go, we had glimpses of MJ's bad home life in the first one. However, there have only been brief mentions of it since. On the train ride there (unless they opt to make the trip on that goofy scooter Parker rides), she goes into more detail about her family problems. Her father, Phil Watson, wanted to be a great writer, but he was too much of a perfectionist to be happy with anything he wrote, and took it out on his wife and two daughters. Gayle, Mary Jane's sister, got married really young and has two kids, even though the husband ran out on her. Her mother, Madeline Watson, died of cancer. Once Mary Jane was old enough to live alone, she never looked back.

They arrive in Philadelphia and the situation is worse than they thought. Gayle Watson is in prison, but she's way too proud to accept MJ's help. After all, where was Mary Jane when she was raising two kids on her own? There's a pretty good line from the comic version of this story that could easily be transplanted here. "Mary Jane, go back to New York," she says, "Look after yourself. It's what you do best." Naturally, Peter begs to differ, but Gayle is already on her way back to her cell. Looking for more answers, they have a very awkward meeting with her father. It doesn't take long for MJ and him to get in an argument, and the father orders Parker to leave. Not wanting to cause trouble, he agrees.

When Mary Jane emerges, she's pretty shaken up. The two of them take a walk in some Philly park and she drops the bomb: Her father has been stealing rare manuscripts and selling them off to private collectors. His latest target was at a college where Gayle works as a career counselor. He talked her into using her access to swipe one (called the "Javistock Papers" in the comics), but after she hid it away to retrieve later, security cameras caught her in the act and she got pinched. Now Mr. Watson wants MJ to find it and bring it back to him. Parker of course protests, but MJ says she's got a plan.

Back in NYC, Dr. Connors can't contain his excitement about the lizard experiments. The rat has been doing well and Connors wants to be the first test subject of the formula. Whitman cautions him not to react so early, which gives him a chance to talk about how he lost his arm. I would like to be war-related as it was in the comics (to give an idea of just how long ago this character first appeared, Dr. Connors's injury originally came from the Korean War), but that would surely be a hard sell. Sony's been sure not to ruffle any political feathers with this series; they make sure Spidey poses in front of the American flag at least once each time. Still, I'm in charge for the moment, so I say Dr. Connors lost his arm in the first Gulf War. The goal of restoring lost limbs is very important to him, not just because of his own experience, but from others he knew in the war who suffered even worse injuries. That's why he began the research and secured Dr. Whitman's help, despite a background in physics and not biology (Someone needs to find whoever wrote that line and deliver to him a swift kick in the butt). He takes the serum, despite the objections of his colleague. There's no immediate effect (growing another arm right away would be cheesy), but he's optimistic.

That evening, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are sneaking into the nearby college to try and find that manuscript. Parker, sans costume, uses his powers to sneak by security guards and various other stealth things...all with MJ in tow. But wait: Is our hero really going to help a thief? That's the whole mystery for the moment, but anyone with some knowledge of how these plot ideas tend to work probably has some idea of what's going to happen. It would be a fun scene; infiltration is something Spidey's powers are perfect for and we haven't seen him have a chance to do it in any of the three films. They find the manuscript.

The next morning, Dr. Connors wakes up to find his lost arm has returned! He and his family are appropriately ecstatic. But in Philadelphia, Parker and Mary Jane return to her father's house and get him to talk about Gayle. When he admits he's the reason she's behind bars, the police enter the house. See? They did the right thing after all. MJ's sister is free to go, and is invited to be the maid of honor at the upcoming wedding. On the train back, MJ feels like a big weight has been lifted. Parker's role in this whole escapade has convinced her even more than they're gonna do well as husband and wife.

Debra Whitman is back in the lab checking over a few things. She's horrified to discover that the rat they gave the serum to has mutated. It now looks like some kind of lizard-rat hybrid!

Later that day, Dr. Connors holds a huge press conference to show off the big news. People are naturally totally stoked that he's grown his own arm back. Peter and MJ, one their way back from the train station, come across this and meet up with Ned, who has brought Betty along. After the interviews are over, Peter makes his way through the crowd and chats with the good doctor, but they're interrupted when Dr. Whitman rushes on the team and frantically tries to alert Connors about what could happen. He shushes her (can't say that stuff in front of the press!) and tells Parker he'll see him later. Our hero is a bit unnerved, but no time to worry too much. He's got a wedding to plan, after all.

After the inevitable humorous montage about working out the wedding details, Dr. Connors is at home with family. He flashes back to what happened after Peter and MJ left the press conference. Dr. Whitman had told him what happened to the rat and that he should be very concerned. Though he told her not to worry about it, he's certainly worrying about it now. He feels sick and runs to the the time he looks up at the mirror, he's looking a bit more green and scaly than usual. Martha Connors knocks on the door, and he's unsure of what to do. He doesn't say anything and that of course gets her worried. She eventually breaks the door down to see him in full Lizard form.

Unable to speak in anything except some kind of loud hiss/roar sound, The Lizard rushes out of the house, scaring the hell out of both his wife and son in the process. On the street, people run in terror as he rampages across town. At the same time, Peter and Mary Jane are sitting at some kind of outside restaurant having dinner and laughing about whatever wedding stuff they're dealing with. The sirens and shouts begin to get louder, and as they turn to see what's up, The Lizard rushes past. Time for Spider-Man to go into action. He follows Lizard into Central Park, setting the stage for a sweet wilderness-type battle. This fight will have to be especially awesome, because I've had about 45 minutes without much Spidey-action.

During their battle in Central Park, Spider-Man is unable to do much of anything against the Lizard. He lands a lot of blows, but they don't even slow the creature down. The Lizard manages to tear Spidey's webbing easily, which is something he doesn't see very often. Eventually the Lizard tosses him into the lake and runs off. Spider-Man emerges, soaked, dirty and just about exhausted. When he meets up with Mary Jane, she tells him that Dr. Connors's family was with the police and Peter learns what really happened. It all makes sense now, but he needs rest before he can hope to go up against The Lizard again.

At the scene of the destruction, Parker runs into Ned Leeds, who is writing up a story on The Lizard. It doesn't take long for the police to spot the creature again, who is now emerging from the park. The cops try to subdue Lizard...that doesn't go well. Peter rushes to get some of the cops away from the creature before they get too injured. To the shock of everyone there, The Lizard seems to calm down upon seeing Peter...and even speaks! Having been able to wrest some control over his reptile persona, Connors tells Peter he will find some way to reverse what's happened and asks him to keep an eye on his family in the meantime. A police helicopter arrives, surprising Connors and bringing him back into full Lizard mode. Peter tries to stop him, and is sent flying into a nearby building for his trouble. He struggles to get up, but he can barely move his left arm. It's broken...a first for Spider-Man. How strong is The Lizard? Can Spider-Man really hope to beat him?

At the hospital, Aunt May anguishes over Peter's injury and he has to make up some goofy excuse as to why it really happened (My favorite: In an early issue of the comic, Peter once "explained" that he sprained his arm during a volleyball game). When she leaves, Mary Jane expresses disbelief that The Lizard is strong enough to do this, and he tells her that he when Connors gained control briefly, he agreed to protect the doctor's wife and child. He also remembers other friends he could save under similar circumstances: Norman Osborn, Dr. Octavius....and Harry Osborn. He's determined to save Connors somehow. Wedding plans may have to be put on hold.

In the last movie, we saw Parker use a police scanner while he was after Sandman, so he brings that over to the Connors house. Billy Connors has a cover of some newspaper reporting on how Spider-Man failed to stop the Lizard the first time they met, and wonders if anyone else would be able to save his dad. Peter doesn't really have any answer. After a few tense minutes, Peter's cell phone rings. That's right, he got one. No more shitty phone in the apartment...he beat Eddie Brock for a full-time staff position at the Bugle last time, he can afford it. The police scanner is going off at the same time about Lizard being sighed near the university. Jonah tells Peter that Ned's already on his way and he wants pictures.

Parker is ready to leave, but Mary Jane can't believe that he would even think of going out with his broken arm. In front of the Connors family, they talk about whether he's in good enough shape to "take pictures," but we all know what's really going on. He responds that he has no choice. He leaves and it's Spider-Man time. Mary Jane returns inside the house and Martha Connors has finally broken down. She and MJ leave Billy alone for a few minutes. When they return, he's gone too.

Spider-Man sees The Lizard outside the university and they have a scuffle. However, fighting with one arm out of commission is no easy task, and the Lizard tosses our hero aside yet again. As Spider-Man gets up, Lizard goes inside the science lab. When Spidey catches up to him, he's shocked to see that the Lizard is calm again and working on various chemicals with Dr. Whitman. She's been hard at work on an antidote ever since she first saw what happened to the rat, and in the moments where Connors has managed to temporarily suppress the Lizard persona, he has helped as well. Connors apologizes for how much trouble he has caused, but both doctors are certain this antidote will do the trick.

However, The Lizard is not going to make it easy. Just as the antidote is about to be ingested, he drops it and Spidey makes a miraculous catch (well...probably not for him. That's child's play). Spider-Man doesn't really get what's going on, and Whitman responds that the Lizard persona likely sensed it was about to be permanently defused and isn't about to go down easily. The situation is grave. Spider-Man will have to force the Lizard to drink the antidote while he's in full berserk fury mode. And he can't drop the vial. And he has a broken arm.

The Lizard has beaten Connors's personality back and now is ready to fight. Spider-Man plugs the vial and webs it to his waist, hoping for the best. The battle rages all throughout the university. I'm talking walls being broken down, sinks getting destroyed and water shooting all over the place...just sweet-ass destruction. Ned Leeds shows up and Spidey has to work to get him out of harm's way. But that's not the worst of it. At some point in their brawl, Billy Connors arrives at the university (I'm thinking he rode a skateboard). The Lizard sees him, and seems to be hesitant. There's another battle going on for control...but Connors still can't break free. Spider-Man has to tackle the creature at the last possible second while MJ and Martha Connors catch up.

Billy's safe for the moment, but Spider-Man still has to find a way to beat The Lizard while handicapped. The fight continues into a kitchen area with a large freezer. Spidey's knowledge of science comes into play...lizards are cold-blooded (or "ectotherms....according to wikipedia, that's the more appropriate term) and rely on warm temperatures to function best. Luring The Lizard into the freezer, the cold environment begins to sap his strength. Finally Spider-Man has the advantage, and manages to knock his foe to the ground. He's about to deliver the antidote when The Lizard springs to life one final time, sending him flying to the other side of the freezer. The antidote almost shatters, but Spider-Man makes another last-second catch. The Lizard is weakened, but not out. Martha and Billy Connors appear again. She's found her courage and tries to get through to her husband. It works....kind of. The Lizard is subdued enough for Spider-Man to finally force him to drink the antidote. Lizard staggers for a bit, then falls over.

Everyone's at the hospital waiting for word from the doctors. Finally they get to see Dr. Connors. His face is still kind of green, but he's clearly on the way back to being human again; his arm is gone again. Connors extends his deepest thanks to Peter and Mary Jane...and Spider-Man, of course.

Wedding time. Everyone's there. Aunt May, MJ's Aunt Anna, Gayle Watson and her kids, Jonah, Joe Robertson and the other Bugle guys, Betty Brant and Ned Leeds, that landlord and his awkward daughter, Debra Whitman, and of course the Connors family. A happy ending for Spider-Man 4.

...Wow. That one really ran away with me. I didn't expect it to be so long. looks long on the blog, but I think the movie I just proposed would probably come in at about an hour and forty-five minutes. Pretty trim compared to the others, but I do think that's what the series needs right now. A scaled back, one-villain approach. Two villains can be next time.

Judging from the very early rumors, if Spider-Man 4 does go forward, The Lizard will likely be one of the villains. They'll likely try to squeeze in one more, but I don't really like that idea. Still....I don't get to make decisions unless the right person reads this and likes it. So I guess if you did....tell your friends!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Confederacy of Dunces

There's another Republican presidential debate on TV tonight.....but I don't think I can make it through another one. I watched the first one all the way through, hoping to expand my horizons and see at least one guy who appealed to me. Ultimately, I could not. None of those ten old white guys left me thinking "Wow, that one might make a decent president."

You've got John McCain at his uber-pandering worst, though I guess I appreciate the occasional comments against lobbyist influence in Congress, which seems to be the only position left over from his glory days that hasn't been dumbed down or compromised. I feel nothing but pity for Giuliani as he awkwardly stutters though the abortion questions he's inevitably asked all the time. Poor moderate sap.

Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, says interesting things about Iraq. His plan is to divide up the country into about twenty smaller states and allow them each to elect officials. Not sure if it will work, but at least it's something concrete. Of course, then he had to go and say he's okay with people firing employees just cause they're gay. And then claim that he misheard the question cause his hearing aid malfunctioned. Right...and if you believe that, I have some yellow cake to sell you in Africa.

Tom Tancredo is a whiny little hatemonger, and Ron Paul is hardcore libertarian...good for him, but I don't really subscribe to that. The others are basically filler, except of course Mitt Romney. Check this tidbit out to see what a tool he is.

What a coward. God, that is so annoying!

Couldn't he have said something like "high gas prices" and then led into a discussion of energy ideas if he wanted to keep it positive? Couldn't he have at least been funny about it and said something mundane like "spam e-mails?" I guess not. Man, that's annoying. Honestly, being a Mormon is the least of his problems. Take out that second "m" and you get a better description of him.

I'm trying to be more open-minded.
Why must you all make it so difficult?

Fun with YouTube

All that fanfare and not much to show yet. I wish I could have been more active on this over the past week or so, but real life is kind of knocking me around a bit while I prepare for my new job. Reviews will start coming in soon...I'm hoping to see 28 Weeks Later sometime in the next few days and of course Shrek 3 is this weekend. For right now though, I'm going to debut a new feature which I want to become a regular occurrence at the lab. That's's Power Metal Music Video time!

The first song is in honor of the totally bitchin' concert I saw with Mark and Alex in New York City last weekend. And given how often I make jokes about Naruto YouTube videos (seriously, there is one set to every song in existence), I figured the first one couldn't be from anything else.

Within Temptation - Mother Earth

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Third Introduction

Blurty, Livejournal, now Blogspot. In some form or another, I've had a blog since 2003. I've had one since before the word "blog" even became popular. (lol hipster) I decided to begin this third generation with a brief little intro mostly aimed at anyone who doesn't know that much about me. Chances are most, if not all, of the people that read this won't need this information....but I am hoping to snare some new readers, so let's go for it.

I grew up in Durham, Connecticut and graduated from New York University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Cinema Studies and a minor in Journalism and Mass Communication. College was full of big and happy changes for me. I became part of "The Cartel," a group of guys (and one girl) who enjoyed playing Smash Brothers, going out for dinner, shooting the shit about various forms of entertainment, and generally communicating in a dialect composed of inside jokes and cultural references. Even the title of this blog is a tribute to one of the most enduring jokes from our social circle. If any non-cartel members can figure out what exactly it means, I'll be very impressed.

During college, I also met my girlfriend of five years. Katie has continually been a steady and essential part of my life during those NYU years and beyond. She instilled in me a wider awareness of current events, particularly politics. As I got obsessed with the Connecticut Senate race last year, she may have sat back and wondered to herself "What hath I wrought?"

Another project I have in the works in Master of the Wind. It's a seven-part superhero game made with RPG Maker XP. XP is only the newest evolution of the RM programs I've tooled around with for years, and this time around I collaborated with my old friend Mark, aka "ArtBane." Progress updates on the game should be frequent sights in this blog as well.

In terms of my post-college life, I've certainly used more of the Journalism than the Cinema Studies. is summer, and I do still write movie reviews for the Town Times. On May 21, I start my full-time reporter position at the Southington Observer (only took two years), but that won't keep me from weighing in on this summer's films...and during Oscar season, well, you'll see.

So welcome [back] to the lab.