Steve Sansweet, Jedi Master Of Hyperbole

Lucasfilm held a Star Wars panel at the Wizardworld Chicago comic convention this last weekend, and Lucasfilm Director of Content Management & Head of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet* was on hand to fling hyperbole like so much monkey crap:

Re: the new Clone Wars CGI movie and series: "It's going to be more cinematic than any other show on television."

Re: The Force Unleashed video game: "It's the most exciting, dramatic Star Wars game to date."

Re: the Star Wars-themed episode of Robot Chicken: "one of the great Star Wars spoofs of all time."

Wow. Congratulations, Steve Sansweet, you're now officially the the Donald Trump of Star Wars fandom.


* Is it just me or does it look like he peed his pants in that Wiki shot? He probably got overly excited because he's holding "The single most impressive TIE Fighter pilot figure of all time in the history of the world! Ever!"

FYI, Kids

I am totally going to this show.

We Are The Champions, My Friends

Polls closed Friday. High Five! won. It'll be up tomorrow. Are you psyched? Not yet? Then how about if I show you the cover art? Will that help? Maybe? Okay, here.


Also, I started Twittering and added a little box to the sidebar. Are you on? Because I feel weird just Twittering at Chris.

And speaking of the Internet, would anybody be interested in participating in a forum related to the blog/pop culture/life in general, etc.? Lemme know below.


Sunday Comics: Badoom!

Is this the most awesome thing ever printed on paper, or should I keep looking? I mean, look at this:

That's right. That just happened. Your eyes = not deceiving you. It's the Thing straight cold-cocking Devil Dinosaur.

And while this is pretty awesome, I don't think I need to give up my search for the Most Awesome Thing Ever just yet. As rad as this is, this page has two strikes against it:

Strike #1: Um, who dressed the Thing? Has Ben Grimm been shopping the International Male catalog again? Because I thought the intervention in Fantastic Four issue #177 took care of that. I'll never forget Mister Fantastic saying, "Look, Ben, we love you, it's just that outfit makes you look a little, uh, well ... gay?" A classic.

Seriously, that Hawaiian shirt? Sorry, but not even the Blue-Eyed Idol Of Millions can pull that off. Folks, I'm gonna drop some fashion knowledge on you, free of charge: Never ever ever buy or wear a Hawaiian shirt. Never. Ever. Not even ironically. I know it's tempting, but just say "no." Buy a postcard or a snowglobe or something. Please. You will look like a total clown.

Also, Ben, what the heck is up with your sandals? Are they some souvenir from a time-travel adventure to ancient Rome that I haven't read yet? Because the rule for Hawaiian shirts applies to Roman sandals, lederhosen and dreadlocks/white people cornrows as well.

And while I'm ripping on my most beloved of comic book heroes, dude, your shorts are too short. I think I was some of your orange rocky junk on page 7. Not pleasant.

Strike #2: On the next page you find out that that isn't Devil Dinosaur. Not really. Which is a bummer and totally negates any amount of awesome promised by that page.

It also means I must get back to my Thing/Devil Dinosaur fanfic: Ben Grimm and Devil Dinosaur Team Up To Defeat Doctor Doom and His Evil Cadre Of Atomic-Powered Doombots With Jetpacks and Lasers and Also There Are A Lot Of Evil Dinosaur Robots That Get Like Totally Tore Up In the Process And It All Ends Up In Space Somehow And the Thing And Devil Dinosaur High Five After Defeating the Bad Guys and Then Eat Pizza.

Turns out Ben's lady-friend Sharon Ventura is starring in Devil Dinosaur: The Movie as Moon Boy's monkey girlfriend's stunt double (get all that?) and this is just a huge animatronic Devil Dino. Which nobody bothers to mention to Ben. And this sort of stuff keeps happening. For like the whole issue. But they just keep berating him for trying to help/save people who appear to be in danger rather than just cluing him in beforehand. Why? Because otherwise, you have no comic book, I guess? Also, it was written in 1986.

Basically, it's a bone-headed precursor to this (which is really some great comicbookery), only in the Concrete story, a giant green dinosaur doesn't come out of the sea, attack the special effects and then saunter off once the fake Devil Dinosaur starts shooting sparks because "I guess they didn't have sparking and fizzing dinosaurs back where he comes from! Whatta chicken!"

Only in comic books, folks.

(All of this boneheadedness/awesomeness can be found in The Thing issue 31, published January 1986, which was in a big box of random comics I got from a church member who I helped move.)


Honey From A Haunted Hive

We watched Bee Movie with the girls tonight and ... so, bees are basically Jewish? Is that the point of that movie? How far were we supposed to take the metaphor? Because they go to great lengths to equate Bee-ishness to Jewishness and then you start thinking about it and it starts to get weird and then you're very confused. Just don't start thinking about it; you'll end up with a nosebleed. And a stomachache. And a hangnail. You have been warned.

Alls I know is that Patrick Warburton was in that movie, and where Brock Samson goes, I go. Also, the humans in that movie were weird looking, weren't they?

POW! - Attack!



Personality Crisis

In case you were wondering, I bought the second issue of Final Crisis last night. And it rocked.

"But Dylan, just how much did it rock?" you ask?

My answer to that would be "It rocked most egregiously, my good friend. Most definitively, even."

But what is the rest of the Internet saying? At least the non-fanboy knuckle-dragging Newsarama trolls, that is. Well, the always-illuminating Jog has a review up, there's another by Graeme McMillan over at The Savage Critics, Douglas Wolk has his annotations up, as does Funnybook Babylon.

I'm still trying to understand the hate for the first issue. I mean, it's Grant Morrison, people. What were you expecting? Seriously, have you not read any of his other work? Because this is boiler-plate "first issue Morrison comicbookery" here. Glimpses of the big, epic threat. The feeling that you're almost understanding what's going on. Touching on all the threads that will come together before this is all through. An overture of sorts. This is not summer multiplex blockbuster comics. Leave that Michael Bay stuff to Marvel, this is epic Kubrick comics; a fairly cerebral affair with slow builds, layered symbolism and not a lot of explanation for the slow kids. You're going to need to pay attention and put some pieces together. There will be a quiz. We have a lot of time and not a lot to get through.


Scratch that. Reverse it.

This is Morrison's JLA genetically crossbred with Seven Soldiers in an underground laboratory while The Invisibles look on, reading New X-Men out loud to pass the time.

[ sigh ]

Too bad it will all be retconned in five years time so we can go back to how it was back in the day and we can all feel so warm and snuggly all wrapped up in our nostalgia, just like a comfort blanket, just like mommy's womb.

In the meantime, I would suggest we enjoy the ride and hope we get a crazy awesome Grant Morrison-scripted Fourth (Fifth?) World/New Gods comic out of this. However, I wouldn't recommend anyone hold their breath for such a comic, as I'm still waiting on a Frankenstein! (or anything, really, but a Frankenstein comic would be aces) comic to come out of the explosion of radness that was Seven Soldiers.


A Family Of Deer Were Happy That the Clearing Looked Like A Laundromat

For father's day I received a "Buy any Threadless tee you want" coupon from my beautiful ladies. After much deliberation and numerous consultations with the tea leaves and chicken entrails, I picked this baby. I picked this one because it matches this vintage cutie.

How'd I do? Did I choose wisely?

Lemme Tell You Something, Kids

There are many things in this world that I know. I'm not bragging, I'm just saying. You hang around this world long enough and keep your ears and mind open, you pick stuff up. Stuff like the fact that Empire is easily the best Star Wars movie. Or that music sounds better with headphones on. That baseball is best enjoyed at the stadium with a bag of peanuts, maybe a hot dog or two. That, despite your prayers, wishes and letters to Santa, maybe there will never be another Grandaddy album. That Grant Morrison stands bald head and shoulders above anybody else in the rapidly fading field of comicbookery. That maybe wrestling isn't entirely real. That there is nothing sadder/funnier/more annoying than a bunch of middle-aged drunk guys all dressed up for a night on the town singing "Who Let the Dogs Out" at the bar of an Italian restaurant and somehow managing to sing it wrong. That Jack Kirby was called "The King" for a reason. That "the Numbers" don't mean anything really, they're just mysterious numbers, so stop asking the producers what they mean.

Well, I can add this to my list of "Things I Know": Diet Dr. Pepper is freaking delicious.


Quote For the Day

"We'd lie to clubs and say we were a Top 40 band. It was rare if we got to play through the whole night. It incited people to want to get in fights with us. We'd go, 'Here's another song by Foghat, it's called "Mongoloid".'"


Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo
from Babylon's Burning: From Punk To Grunge
by Clinton Heylin


That Movie With Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper Was Not This Cool

Okay, that clinches it: I'm buying a Hummer and I'm going to hook it up to a gas pump and I'm just going to let it idle all day long every day and then I'm going to buy a buttload of flamethrowers and devote my life to melting some mamma-jammin' ice caps, just so I can live in one of these things sweet babies:

Who's with me? Let's do this thing.


Via the Veer: Ideas blog which is via something else, etc., etc. You know how the internet works.


Poll Position

I added a poll in the sidebar for the next mix votey thingy. I also consolidated some of the titles, whittling the running down from 5 to 7. If you've already voted via the comments section, or if you're getting this via reader, please pop over and cast your vote. Polls close next Friday. I pity the fool who doesn't let their voice be heard.


Haiku Friday's Here/This Week's Haiku Comes From Ben/He's My Cousin, Dude

Good morning and happy Haiku Friday (which I almost spelled "Firday", which is either the Norse god of horticulture or a holiday devoted to everybody's favorite conifer). Today's haiku is courtesy of my cousin, Ben, and helps to illustrate why his blog is so infrequently updated (Has it really been since March? Wow.):

Physics test today.
Work, school, work, school, back to work.
My head is asplode.


Beautiful. Get yours in for next week and vote for the the title/theme of July's BRR Monthly Mix. DO IT!


Mixtape = Love

Hi. So I haven't started on July's mix yet. But I'm going to. For reals. For really reals. But I need a starting point. Here's where you come in. I'm gonna give you some titles with a loose musical sketch. Which one would you like to hear?

* It Came From ... the Garage! - Soundtrack for a bar fight at a Stooges show in downtown Detroit, circa 1969.

* Fake Mustaches - No idea. I just like the title.

* Travelogue - World music-y eclectica. Lots of songs in not- or not-quite- English.

* Heliopolis - Songs for the sun.

* Giant Robot vs. Angry Dinosaur - I just like the title on this one, too.

* Like A Knife Through the Night - Late-night driving soundtrack.

* High Fives! - Poppy, energetic stuff, like chasing pop rocks with an ice cold Coke.

Lemme know in the comments section which one you're rooting for. Come on, America needs you to vote! Do it!


Also, if you haven't checked it out recently, we have all the mixes for the year posted over at Mixtapery - the blog for our mixtape club - including Rose's masterpiece, Highly Personal Statement, available for download. That was a big, sloppy sentence. I apologize to every English teacher I have ever had for that one. May you all rest in peace. Or whatever. We're gearing up for the next season with even more slots available for mixtapers (we'd like to post 26 mixes this next cycle - one every two weeks), so if you're interested, lemme know. It's fun.

And as usual, you can download all the BRR Monthly Mixes in my sidebar. See them right there? Yeah. That's them. Go nuts. Let me know what you downloaded and what you liked, mmmkay?


The Beach Boys' Friends Is A Very Good Album

Chris Haley, of the reputable and recommended internet destinations Hip Today! and Destination: Blog! (and who apparently really likes exclamation marks in the titles of his blogs) has started a new blog for his new comic Let's Be Friends Again, written by the esteemed Curt Franklin with art by the aforementioned Mr. Haley.

You can check out their blog here. I designed the header. Start checking it out now so that you can look cooler than everybody else when it's made into a soulless blockbuster with dodgy special effects, a tacked-on love interest and a totally different origin story.


Have You Been Injured In A Car Wreck? You Need A Check.

"The [Review-Journal] thinks I’m a huckster. They’ll take any shots they can at me. I think I’ve done something that no other attorney has done: I’ve transcended being an attorney and am some quasi-celebrity, and that’s made me a target. When you’re part of Vegas culture and I am … Look, in all humility, I’m not even looked at as an attorney anymore. I’m like the white tiger that bit Roy to some people."

Glen Lerner, AKA "The Heavy Hitter", who will be familiar with anyone who has ever watched any sort of television in the daytime in Vegas. The quote is taken from an interview with the Las Vegas Weekly wherein he talks about his recent scandals (like failing to show up to defend his former pool guy for murder. Oops!) and his conversion to Christianity. (Check out his humongous cross - his Jewish mom has got to love that thing - and sweet blue blazer over on his site. He looks like some deranged Christian stand-up comic circa 1987. Or a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer circa 2008. Either way.)

It's always hard to explain to people who aren't from Vegas why it's such a surreal town. It's seriously like growing up in a fun house mirror version of Disneyland. The incongruous architecture, the minor local celebrities - Lerner, Fred from GMF Motors, Lonnie Hammargren, Ed Bernstein, Count Cool Rider and Fletcher "Adopt A Pet"/Fletcher Jr. (who seemed like a total sleazeball)/future mayor (!) Jan Laverty-Jones - wandering around (I remember I once saw Nate Tannenbaum in Waldenbooks in the Boulevard Mall and I totally flipped out. Ditto for the time I saw Gary Waddell in his sweats in a Wal-Mart. Or crooked-nosed Kevin Jamison at a dry cleaner with his kid. Why was it so weird to see these people who basically read the newspaper to you on television in real life? Can anyone explain this?), the omnipresent aura of sleaze, the bright bright bright sun, the total lack of history or culture. It's like some sort of bad science fiction dystopia. It's glorious and repugnant simultaneously.

Some days I flirt with the idea that I would like to live there again someday, in Vegas. Then I think about being stuck in traffic on I-15, my back all sweaty and sticky and shirt soaked through while the taxicab in front of me with the Crazy Girls advertisement on the top (the one with the bunch of butts on it) leers at me as the guy in the big construction truck cuts me off. Mmmyeah. Maybe not.

Anyway, it's a Glen Lerner interview. And it's fairly intelligible. I know, shocking, right? I'd argue his point about being the only attorney to transcend to semi-celebrity, though. Has he really never seen the Edward M. Bernstein Show on some random Sunday morning/afternoon? And if he hasn't, why hasn't he? That junk is required viewing.

And can somebody tell me why there aren't more Heavy Hitter commercials on YouTube? It's pathetic. I mean, this is what the Internet is for, people?


My Brain Is Bigger Now Than It Was Then

The following is a list of things I learned this weekend, in no particular order:

1. Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard is a lot skinnier than I thought he was. And poor Chris Walla, dude is the ever-lovin' backbone of that group but nobody knows who he is. And BTW, the Death Cab set freaking rocked! I was seriously expecting a much more mellow affair, but they pretty much tore the roof off the Plain Dealer Pavilion. Candace has a pretty awesome picture here. It was a great night.

2. There are two white tent performing arts amphitheaters in the Flats. One is the Time Warner Amphitheater and it's on the east side of the Cuyahoga River, near Tower City. The other is the Plain Dealer Pavilion and it's on the west side of the river in the Flats proper. If you mix them up, you're screwed and will miss the opening act of the concert (sorry, Rogue Wave) you are attending and you will be more than a little irritated because you thought you knew where you were going but in fact, you did not. Because you are stupid and didn't Google Map it first.


3. Barbecue pork sandwiches are delicious.

4. I love being a dad. I love my wife and I love my girls. They're the bestest ever.

5. There's a band that sounds so much like late 60's-early 70's Beach Boys that it is freaking spooky. Their debut album is this week's AOK!: The Explorers Club's Freedom Wind.

I'd love to label them all a bunch of unoriginal hacks, but they're too dang good and obviously reverential to the ghost of Brian Wilson to be dismissed. If you love the Beach Boys like I do (And you really should. Seriously, go find a copy of Wild Honey, Pet Sounds or Smile and prepare for a solid mind-blowing), go check them out. It's eerie. It's like seeing someone who looks like someone you know but you know it's not that person and you keep trying to tell yourself "Well, it can't be that person because the eyes are the wrong color but dang! They look exactly like that other person I know! This is so eerie!"

It's like that.

6. This whole blog phenomenon is really taking off. Seriously, folks, it's going to be HUGE! I predict that in five years, everyone in the whole world will have a blog. Everyone. And not just those Early Adopters John, Ben and Brandt. Ehv. Ree. Wun. Get on this fad now before it's not cool anymore.

7. Also going to be huge: Hypercolor shirts. You heard it here first.

8. And speaking of Early Adopters, I learned how to use the torrents this weekend. I am now the Torrent Master™. The Internets has no idea what is about to hit it.

9. That new Mike Myers movie looks really terrible, doesn't it? Like "I think that trailer gave me eye herpes," terrible.

10. Who watches the Tony awards? Seriously? Anybody wanna cop to it? I promise I won't make too much fun of you. I watched roughly 2.5 seconds of it as I was flipping through and it gave me gas. Me + Musicals = Not A Good Scene.

11. So, how awesome is Burn After Reading looking? Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, George Clooney, that creepy albino lady Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand (of course), plus the always reliable J.K. Simmons and ... (wait for it) ... the dude who played Sledge Hammer!, quite possibly my favorite show on television, ever. There's a "red band" trailer (with some swearing - you have been warned!) here. Oh man, I so love the Coen brothers.

12. TV sure does suck this summer, doesn't it? Is there anything worth watching that isn't a repeat? And if you say American Gladiators I swear I will punch you in the throat as hard as humanly possible. That's right, I will punch you THROUGH THE INTERNET! It's my mutant power and it's more useful than you'd think.

13. Looks like I won't be bothering with M. Night Shammalammading-dong's The Happening. Poor guy. He's like the cool guy in high school who peaked way too early and you see him like ten years later at the grocery store or something and he's all bald and unkempt and smelly and just generally depressing but totally unaware that he's not cool anymore. Poor guy. I feel for him, really I do.

14. Cleveland had a pretty happening proto-punk scene in the 70's. I actually knew this but had forgotten until I was reading about teh US proto-punk scene in Clinton Heylin's (so far) excellent Babylon's Burning: From Punk To Grunge. I'd recommend his From the Velvets To the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock and Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry to any aspiring rock and roll history student. Seriously, if I could read about rock and roll for the rest of my life, I'd be happy. Is that weird?

15. Nobody loves Haiku Friday. This makes me sad. Please won't you love it? Please?

16. I love my dad. A lot. He probably can't beat up your dad, but he'd give it his best shot. Because that's how he rolls.

What did you learn this weekend? Please share with the class.


Death Cab For A Cutie (& Me)

I'm excited. We're going to see Rogue Wave and Death Cab For Cutie tonight. Is there a whiter sentence than that? I guess I could have said "and we're going out for tapas beforehand and then I think we'll go shopping for some new Tevas at that organic cotton outerwear store." Yeah, that's better.

I'm fully expecting to be rocked/bummed out simultaneously by the awesome power of Ben Gibbard & Co.'s sad-sack indie poppery. Which would be a great name if this whole rock thing doesn't pan out and they decide to open up an old timey popcorn stand at some farmer's market in like Portland or something. Portland seems like a popcorn town, doesn't it? Portlanders like popcorn. I read that somewhere. Maybe in the Bible. But only if it's like organic, free-range, cruelty-free popcorn. Portland was founded by Hippies, you know. It's true. Look it up on Wikipedia. Totally true.

Here's a video from Death Cab's last album, Plans. It's sad. Oh so sad. But also pretty (the song and the video, that is):

So yeah, Death Cab tonight. If you haven't, pick up their newest, Narrow Stairs. It's goooood, hence it's two weeks as BRR Album Of the Week. (This/last week's selection, Mates Of State's Rearrange Us, is also pretty awesome. Very recommended.)

Oh, and by the way, what the heck are tapas? I seriously don't get it. It's like you just eat a bunch of appetizers for dinner? Really?

Uh, we already have that here in the USA. It's called Chili's. Freaking tricky Spaniards - you are not fooling me. Not for one second.


An Honest Good Time

Remember that list I posted with the "TOP SECRET" stamp over part of it? Well, here was what was so secret. For some reason, the idea popped into my head and I couldn't still giggling as I sketched it in my notebook.

It's a Do-It-Yourself Abraham Lincoln kit. DIY ABE for short.

Now you can realize your dream of being the President of the United States of America. The 16th President, to be exact. Just download the kit and follow the directions. Once you have transformed yourself into Honest Abe, take a picture and e-mail it to me. The crazier the picture, the better. I'll post it here and, if I get enough of them, I'll start a Flickr set for them.

I promise not to do a DIY John Wilkes Booth, so you won't have to worry about assassination. You can relax and enjoy that play, Our American Cousin, with your mentally unstable wife who sometimes beats you up. Long live the Union!


I Am Not A Numbah!

This could be very promising. One of these days, I'll actually get around to finishing the original series, but it makes my head hurt with its layers of meaning, its refusal to dumb itself down or explain itself plainly and its incredible dream logic. Seriously, I don't think I'm smart enough to watch The Prisoner, but I know it's awesome.

Via the Underwire

Something To Consider

Who would win in a fight:

A Robot Bear

{ or }

A Bear Robot?

I expect a robust discussion in the comments section.


Indiana Jones And the Forever Long Rant About How Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull Made Me Feel

First off, this is a SPOILER-laden review of Indiana Jones & the Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull. There are SPOILERS. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. If you haven't seen it but plan on seeing it, you should probably go now because I'm going to be dishing out some SPOILERS and if you haven't seen it, you will be SPOILED by my SPOILERS. Did I make my point re: there being SPOILERS in this post? Because there are. SPOILERS, that is. This post is thick with them. I don't have time for your precious fanboy feelings. I'm going to review this movie and I'm not going to worry if I let a SPOILER or twenty slip. Got it, boyo?

Also, it's hecka long.

You have been warned.

Okay, with that out of the way, a little context. I've already admitted to my blind obeisance to the Indy franchise. Like the Star Wars franchise (whose luster has diminished in the wake of the Lucas-helmed prequels ... but we'll touch on that later), it's one of the building blocks of who I am as a person. Those movies, more than any others I saw at the time (and the 80's, while being a rough period for fashion and popular music, was a great time for "kids" movies, mainly due to the popularity of those franchises, come to think of it), captured my imagination and made me the creative person I am today. A little hyperbolic, but true nonetheless. It's all George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's fault.

That said, I didn't go into this movie blind. I'd skimmed the lukewarm reviews, had minimal conversations with co-workers and family who had seen it. All signs pointed to it being a little disappointing, but not Phantom Menace/midichlorians disappointing. So I braced myself for the worst. I mean, it's pretty obvious that whatever spring Mr. Lucas was dipping from that gave us the could city of Bespin, the Temple Of Doom and the Jedi Knights has long since dried up. I'm not expecting much from him, as sad as that is. And even with the lowered expectations of dealing with crazy old Uncle George who I thought was so cool and hip and funny when I was a kid but is now just sort of goofy and simple, I sat staring at the credits going "What?"

I really wish I could say it was the CGI prairie dog reaction shot(s) or the unconvincing special effects that sucked every ounce of danger or peril out of some pretty elaborate set pieces or the or the "skull of an extra-dimensional being" MacGuffin or the freaking CGI The LaBeouf swinging like freaking Tarzan with freaking CGI monkeys. I mean, yeah, those things are stupid (well, I dunno, I think the skulls sort of worked as the de rigueur mystical MacGuffin , especially considering that this installment is set in the McCarthy/Atomic/Cold War era), but to be honest, I was expecting that stuff. I sat through the Prequels. And still sort of like large portions of them. Slightly stupid stuff that you immediately block from your memory/edit from your recollection of the film is par for the course when you're dealing with Old Uncle George these days.

No, I took heart in the fact that, no matter how crazy Old Uncle George might get, at least he has Steven Spielberg there to keep him on task. I mean, he's Steven Spielberg. You know, Steven Spielberg? Greatest living director and all that? Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan and E.T. and Jaws and Close Encounters and like a million other modern masterpieces? He'll make sure that the not-crazy parts work, right? I mean, he's made some of the best movies of the 20th century, right? He'll keep the keel even here, right?

Wrong. Well, not entirely. There are interviews online where Old Uncle George mentions that he wanted Indy 4 to be a lot more ridiculous, so Spielberg did his job. But what no one counted on was someone having to restrain Old Uncle Steve.

In fact, if Lucas' lack of restraint is in flagrante delicto in Crystal Skull (and it is, but nowhere near the CGI/ADHD eye-assault of the Prequels), Spielberg's penchant for schmaltz is turned to 11. If you thought AI was muddled and syrupy and The Terminal was overly sentimental, well, this is like both of those movies. Put together. In the middle of act two, we're treated to an appearance from Marion Ravenwood from Raiders who just sort of shows up (when everybody's standing around in the Russians base camp trading exposition FOR. EV. ER., but more on that later) and all of the sudden, they're all gooey-eyed over each other. It's all very abrupt and syrupy (that line about how the one problem with the other women was that "They weren't you," is delivered so tiredly that I stifled an eye roll for fear of missing something awesome. I should have just rolled my eyes.) and not at all convincing.

Which brings me to the what I call the Mutt Paradox. The filmmakers invest a lot of time in "Mutt" Williams (Shaia LeBeouf in Brando's The Wild One drag). He's sort of a Mary Sue character, (he likes knives/swords instead of whips! He's a greaser! He's just like Indiana Jones only younger! And with a motorcycles! He's EXTREME!) and in fact I thought the positioning of him as the successor to the fedora (if not literally, then figuratively) was going to be a lot more overt, when in fact Mutt spends the first act and a half of the film as the "screaming girl"/Watson part normally relegated to Karen Allen's Marion or Kate Caphshaw's Shrilly McScreamerton or whatever her name was or the hot Nazi girl from The Last Crusade and then abruptly fades into the background once Marion steps out of nowhere in act 2, only to reappear for the aforementioned lamentable CGI monkey vine swing scene and then to get nailed repeatedly in the balls by CGI shrubbery.

No joke, people.

I have a feeling that the story initially went like this: Marion seeks out Jones because some thugs have kidnapped her son and Oxley (although I'll argue the importance of Oxley here in a second). This gives their romance a little more time to acclimate and grow instead of rushing in sometime before the second act closes and demanding we acknowledge it. Ah, but here's the problem, while the "Marion comes to Indy" story works a lot better, you are short-changing Spielberg's new man-crush, theLeBeouf and sacrificing the tween dollar. I mean, what right-minded teenager is going to plop $10 to see some old people engage in some Bogey-Bacall banter before going off to explore some South American graveyard? It's like On Golden Pond with car chases.

So you're left with two options: play down Mutt and risk not getting the audience to like him if you decide to build an X-Files in the 50's franchise around him (which might actually be cool if it's handled right), or have some old people look longingly into each others' eyes while punching crazy skull people. Which leaves us with a weird compromise: Mutt is introduced, sort of developed (through talking, a technique that mars this picture more than anything else) and promptly disposed of once Marion shows up halfway and plays out her story in fast-forward. Why? I have a feeling Old Uncle Steve wanted to shoot that soft-lensed wedding scene because he's a sentimental old codger. There, I said it. AND he wanted to set up the possibility of a Mutt franchise. So we're left with neither story or character given a fair shake and both end up feeling rushed and/or not fleshed out. Sucks, huh? What's that saying about having cake and eating it, too?

So if you can't tell, I didn't mind The LeBeouf. He's not a terrible actor, he does what he needs to without flourish. He's like a Ron Howard film, very workmanlike. Not at all charismatic or flashy or groundbreaking. His performance isn't going to cure cancer, but it moves the story along and doesn't screw anything up. He's like a plumber, not an actor: reliable, efficient and competent. Maybe he'll get awesome and I'll be eating my words. Who knows?

Oh well, we have Cate Blanchett to look forward to as the villain, right? Hmmm, not so much. I think Crystal Skull sort of killed the Cate Blanchett crush I was nurturing (No, it didn't). Thanks a lot, Uncles Steve and George. Her character, a Soviet psychic hunting for mystical artifacts for Mother Russia (and this isn't all that far-fetched, the Soviets are known to have experimented with psychics during the Cold War), begs to chew scenery, and, whether this is one of those moments where Spielberg toned down Lucas' bonkers or if it's just that Blanchett phoned this in for that sweet, sweet Burger King money (doubtful that, this woman is an acting machine), her character never seems to make sense or do anything but spout exposition and follow Indy around. She's total boiler plate villain, nothing special, nothing particularly menacing, even.

A hero is only as good as their villain and there's nothing to hate here, nothing to understand, even. I mean, it's Cate Blanchett playing Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle with psychic powers, give her something to work with. It's! Cate!! Blanchett!!! I'm red in the face from screaming it here, people. It's a total wasted opportunity. I mean, Belloq in Raiders, "Om Sheba" guy from Temple Of Doom, the British guy in the white suit in Last Crusade, all classy (Well, except for "Om Sheba" guy, though that headdress was pretty stylin'), slightly crazy and duplicitous. Here you have a world-class actor and you give her ... nothing. It's like having LeBron ref your kid's basketball game. I mean, if you're going to introduce psychics and aliens into the mythos, go whole hog. Am I right? Am I crazy? I don't think anybody would have minded if she were a total psychopath who blew people's brains up with her mind. And by "anybody" I mean "me." And I'm all that counts.

And speaking of wasted characters, WTH?!? was up with Mac and Ox (which, if you factor in Mutt, the prairie dogs, the monkeys and the killer ants and there's a serious animal fetish going on here)? I mean, okay, you need Mac for the opening scene, sure. But he's totally unnecessary everywhere else. And Ox is important as a vehicle to get to the city, but he's totally just thrown in there and seems to serve no purpose beyond mumbling poetry and looking stinky. It just felt cluttered, character-wise, especially by the end when you don't know or care whose side Mac is on and you're wondering why Indy's so desperate to save this guy who's shown what a self-centered douche he is at every turn. I don't care if the dude was Beowulf, let him die, Indy.

(An interesting caveat: I recently watched the bloody Australian western The Proposition which starred both Winstone and Jon Hurt where Hurt plays pretty much the same character, a poetry-spouting madman who's been out in the bush too long. Coincidence? Probably, yes. And while we're at it, this was the third film in the last two weeks that I saw that starred Cate Blanchett: her skittish Dylan imitation in I'm Not There, dual roles in Jim Jarmusch's excellent Coffee & Cigarettes and then, well, this.)

So yeah, there's some problems, but to be honest, these are the least of the worries. As I've outlined, these can be remedied or are symptoms of a larger problem. No, the biggest problem is that this movie is DUMB. It treats obvious plot points like revelations (The skulls are from aliens! Mutt is Indy's kid!) and expositions itself to death. At its heart, the Indiana Jones franchise is pulp done smart. It's sort of goofy and fun, but in the end, it's smart. Even the least successful film of the first three, Temple Of Doom, manages to delve into psychological horror (and actual horror, too. Hearts ripped from chests still beating which burst into flames? FREAKY! Also: AWESOME!) between all of the Scooby-Doo room running and Kate Capshaw screaming bloody murder. Indy is an exercise in taking genre conventions and tweaking them to work in the here and now. It's pulp done right. And one of the "rules of good pulp", according to Mr. Cunningham over at Pulp 2.0 is that "characters ... learn things that will come in handy later while in the midst of danger and daring-do" and not by talking about them. The first three movies gave you barely enough time to remember where you were, Crystal Skull's second act is composed mainly of people sitting around talking about stuff you already figured out.

"Dude, these skulls are from aliens!"
"No way!"
"Yes way!"
"You mean that corpse you took from Area 51 at the beginning of the film, the one where afterward I was questioned by FBI guys about what I saw in New Mexico, that was an alien corpse?!"
"And this thing that looks like an alien skull is not crystal as I had earlier surmised, but is, in very fact, an actual ALIEN SKULL!"
"Yes. And it has powers and stuff."
"Dude! I never would have believed that!"
"Yeah, I know! And now I'm going to make you STARE at it! For like a whole minute!"

Yeesh. And they don't even have the guts to call them aliens. They're "extra-dimensional beings" which is like calling comic books graphic novels so people don't make fun of you. If there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's that sometimes you have to commit to the ridiculous, right comic book about a billionaire who dresses up in bat-themed pajamas to beat up on circus people and the deformed?

"Right, Dylan. To the Batcave!"

I really wish I could say that I loved this film. I really do. But maybe I'm just too old to have fun in a movie? There's a contingency of Lucas apologists who say things like "Well, it's just as ridiculous as the other Indy movies," and maybe that's right, but I "bought" that ridiculous and whether it was the fact that I was three/six/twelve years old, those movies were hecka fun. And for whatever reason, most likely a potent cocktail of the things I've laid out in this way-too-long autopsy of my childhood, I had no fun at all. In fact, I was bored and sad for a large chunk of this movie. I didn't "buy" it. Like, at all. And as much as I'd love to believe it was my fault, I think the filmmakers, whose job it is to warp my reality and make me buy into the fiction they're selling once those house lights go off, hold at very least some of the blame.

[ sigh ]

Who knows, maybe I'll catch it on TV five years from now and it'll be a hoot. I mean, I caught The Phantom (not The Phantom Menace. The Phantom. With Billy Zane as the 1930's pulp hero. The purple guy? "Smash evil!" That one.) on the SciFi Channel one Saturday afternoon and had a blast. Maybe I'll watch it with my daughter in a few years and she'll get a thrill from the killer ant scene similar to the thrill I got when I watched Indy get pummeled by a gigantic Nazi who was outdone by Indy's brains.

Well, Indy's brains and an airplane propeller.

Till next time, kids.

While You Wait

I'm still composing my thoughts on Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull. It's a doozy. It's roughly 100 kajillion pages long. Reading it will take you longer than it would take to watch the movie. So while I finish up, enjoy this video of Beck doing the (presumptive) title track from his new, Danger Mouse-produced album, Modern Guilt:


I spent a long weekend in Vegas for family stuff. Sorry for the no posting. Well, not really. I had a fun (busy) time. I saw Indy 4. I'll post my thoughts once I have a chance to properly confront my feelings. And I still owe you comics reviews, don't I? We'll see how that goes. Anyway, I'm back. How much did you miss me?


Let's Do This Thing

So we clinched it last night. Obama is the nominee. I'm not going to say much more, except that I'm excited. It's time to take on Old Man McCain and then on to the White House. I wonder if Michelle's started picking out drapes for the Lincoln Bedroom yet? Cuz if she hasn't she should probably start looking now. January's going to be here before we know it. Here's a piece of the speech from last night:

RSWTH!?! Part 2

So here's the second part, the biggest part, of stuff that made me go insane while flipping through Rolling Stone.

There are some match-ups that you just don't understand, some people that just don't jive when you put them together. And no, I'm not talking about Woody Allen and Bono, though that is a little surreal:

No, I'm talking about this match-up:

WTH!?! Seriously, there is a lot to freak out about in that photo. I will focus on three main points:

1. Ryan Adams' female companions
2. Ryan Adams' appearance
and finally,
3. Mandy Moore? WTH!?!

Let's begin:

1. Ryan Adams' Female Companions

Let's go down the list of Adams' previous partners: Winona Ryder, Beth Orton, Parker Posey, apparently Alanis Morissette's somewhere in there, a prehab (and yes, I made that word up) Lindsey Lohan (!?!) and now, uh, Mandy Moore. Does anybody else see a trend in age here? As in, "they're getting exponentially younger"? At this rate, by this time next year Ryan Adams will be spotted "canoodling" (oh, I loath/love that word) with a fetus.

2. Ryan Adams' Appearance

What happened here? He looks like a homeless guy who decided to dress in drag but changed his mind at the last minute. Ryan, I love you and all, but you look retarded. That said, I loved Easy Tiger and "Pearls On A String" is a gorgeous song. Also, please buy a full length mirror and use it before leaving your house.

Thank you.

3. Mandy Moore? WTH!?!

Now I'm sure she's a nice girl and all and seems moderately intelligent (she was pretty excellent in American Dreamz as a narcissistic, manipulative pop wannabe) and wholesome and even though her music is just terrible, she has a decent enough voice and seems (seemed?) to have her head screwed on straight, but how did this happen? It's like some Random Semi-Celebrity Relationship Generator went haywire and started pairing up two diametrically opposed persons. What's next? Rob Zombie and Tori Spelling? Screech from Saved By the Bell and Heidi Klum? Burt Reynolds and Chewbacca? Seriously, people, WTH!?!

And while this pairing makes my head spin, I will say this, if it turns out this manages to go "big time" gossip-wise, you heard the nickname "Ryandy" here first. I'm just saying...

RSWTH!?!, Part 1

Okay, so I'm flipping through this (last?) week's issue of Rolling Stone and, well, I'm gettign ahead of myself. Maybe I should preface this by saying that with every new issue of Rolling Stone, I am guaranteed at least one moment of mind-boggling insanity that makes me stop and say "WTH was that?".

This / possibly last week's issue is no exception. Let's start with the Raconteurs. There' a write-up about their new album (which is really good), Consolers Of the Lonely. The Raconteurs are a supergroup with only one superstar, Jack White of the White Stripes. The band is rounded out by fellow Detroiter, singer-songwriter Brendan Benson and the the rhythm section from garage revivalists the Greenhornes. Here's a picture of Jack White who, as usual, is the coolest guy in the room:

Then there's the Greenhornes Dude 1 (whose outfit I really like. You can't see the jeans/shoes, but he's dressed pretty nicely. Oh man, I sound like a total girl, don't I?):

Greenhornes Dude 2, who looks more than a little like Crispin Hellion Glover, (who has creeped me out ever since my buddy Frank played me his album):

And speaking of "creeping me out", here's Brendan Benson, looking like the physical manifestation of the gaping maw of hell:

I used super-top-secret technology to figure out what Benson's thinking here. Check it out:

Isn't technology wunnerfull?

"Okay," I thought, "maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe that picture was the only one where the other guys looked good and Brendan, being a swell guy and not at all the Spawn Of Satan said 'Oh, what the heck, just run it. I look like some sort of escaped mental patient who would like to murder you, but I'll take one for the team.' Yeah, that's it." I thought.

Well, let's see, here's a shot of the band for a quarter-page ad later in the issue:

Jack White:

Greenhornes Dude 1:

Greenhornes Dude 2 / Crispin Glover's lovechild:

Aaaand Brendan Benson:

Look! The eyes follow you! Freaky!

Well, I'll be sleeping rotten tonight for fear of Brendan Benson crawling out from under my bed all Twin Peaks-like where it's backwards, but forwards, y'know what I mean? [shivers] Ewwww.

Anyway, as WTH!?!-tastic as this little jaunt was, it's not even the WTH!?!-iest. I'll post Part 2 later while this percolates in yr brains.


More Comics Humor

There are roughly three of you who will get this, but I'll throw it out there just because.

Kneel Before Zod

It's official, I'm going to start saying "OMZ!" and will not stop until it catches on as a fad and then I'm gonna cash in on the OMZ!fever with like t-shirts and stuff and retire at 32 a gazillionaire and buy an island and then hunt men for sport, starting with Ashton "Cougar Bait" Kutcher. Who's with me?


All These Mysteries Are Just More Needles In the Camel's Eye

Well, it's June. Time for the monthly mix to drop. Here you go.

Here's the tracklist:

01. Brian Eno - "Needles In The Camel's Eye"
02. Guided By Voices - "My Impression Now"
03. Talking Heads - "Paper"
04. Mercury Rev - "Coney Island Cyclone"
05. Grandaddy - "El Caminos In The West"
06. Pavement - "AT&T"
07. Sloan - "I Hate My Generation"
08. The Beta Band - "Al Sharp"
09. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Is This Love?"
10. Built Like Alaska - "Does Your Mother Feel Sick"
11. The Promise Ring - "A Broken Tenor"
12. Hot Chip - "Bendable Poseable"
13. Devo - "Red Eye"
14. Art Brut - "My Little Brother"
15. The Modern Lovers - "Modern World"
16. Enon - "Power Of Yawning"
17. Ratatat - "Kennedy"
18. Dungen - "Tyst Minut"
19. Sonic Youth - "White Cross"
20. Sebadoh - "Drama Mine"

This is very much the work of a grown-up version of 18-year-old Dylan. Very eclectic stuff. You have been warned.

Let me know how you like it, what works, what doesn't, what's new to you, etc. Thanks.