Every one of your stupid complaints about the Ghostbusters reboot, shot down in flames

So, new Ghostbusters project is finally getting off the ground. It’s a reboot with a female cast, from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.

Naturally, the internet lost its shit.

I saw a lot of moaning, criticisms, and prejudgments, and conveniently, most are summed up pretty neatly in this GeekTyrant article by Joey Paur. I generally like GeekTyrant’s coverage, but this particular post is as selfish and misguided as it gets. Let me break it down:  Continue reading

The best TV shows you’ve probably never seen

I finally caught up on Mad Men and Dexter. I’m going to tackle Walking Dead S2 next, and then Breaking Bad from the start, and hopefully House of Cards. There are too many good shows and not enough time to watch them all. So allow me to make things worse by bringing up some of my favorites that I cannot recommend strongly enough. I’d like to go in order of difficulty to locate:  Continue reading

The Rock & Roll Jeopardy story

When I turned 30, I set out to do a number of things before I got too old. One of them was to audition for a game show. Thanks to a friend of a friend who had been on the show, I actually did get to audition for Rock & Roll Jeopardy, and I wrote down the whole story of my experience…then forgot where I put it. I just found it on a very old backup disc, so here it is for safe keeping in Google’s cache forevermore. Commence cut and paste!

Continue reading

PS3

I finally caved a few weeks ago. I was looking for an excuse to get one last year but could not find one, but the price drop and redesigned new unit were enough to push me over. Kat (who actually did go so far as to get one for me, but I returned it in price protest) has been a little resistant because she doesn’t want to support Blu-ray; the only reason it exists is because Sony forced a format war after the DVD Consortium had already chosen HD-DVD as a standard high-def format, and she hasn’t wanted to reward them for that shitty nightmare consumerist behavior — and I agree. But…both Firefly and Ghostbusters came out on Blu-ray. And there are a bunch of exclusive downloadable games I wanted to play. Also, the slimmer unit looks less like a Foreman grill. And besides, as a lifelong gamer, I hated not having one of the major systems.
Continue reading

Watchmen: The Review

It’s good. It’s not great but it’s certainly not the disaster that some reviews made it out to be. It was more or less what I expected it would be: respectful, glossy, and co-dependent.

Spoilers ahead.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the film can stand on its own, but I didn’t expect it to, so I was not disappointed. A lot of the negative reviews I’ve seen felt it was sterile, that the characters didn’t breathe, and basically didn’t work as a movie in its own right. I think that’s a valid criticism (though Slate’s review struck me as someone who came in biased against Snyder and got what they wanted). It was, in some regards, like a high school play, or one of those murder-mystery dinner parties: Here is the script; follow the stage direction, and it will all resolve by the end of the night. And that sounds like a negative criticism, but it really isn’t. It just felt like everybody had their marching orders, so those orders were followed. Maybe a better analogy is a collection of action figures suffocating in the packaging — they definitely look like you’d expect, but everybody involved is a little afraid to take them out of the packaging and play with them, for fear of them losing their value. And I’m not even angry about that, because I wanted them to stay as true as possible; I wanted to see the book’s characters, not someone’s interpretation of the characters.

After seeing the film I am not sure why anybody who is not into the book would want to see it; it’s like an accessory. I certainly was unable to take it as anything but a reflection and interpretation of the novel.This is not an independent statement; I don’t think it should be, nor was it designed to be. This is Zack Snyder holding the camera steady for Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

And for some reason I got really choked up through the whole thing. Seeing things unfold, watching these characters come to life, having my strings pulled with music cues…Kat pointed out that I have a lot more invested in all things Watchmen than I was aware of.

The good:

I think the story was pretty much intact. Yes, Black Freighter was missing (but I never really got it anyway); yes, the Bernies were basically there for a cameo. I was sad to see less about, say, Dr. Long, and we don’t see old Hollis Mason beyond one scene. But for the core story about the six main characters? Well done. Too talky, too slow, too plodding? Not for me. I wanted the details they offered.

Seeing the Gunga Diner and the news vendor…awesome. The fact that I could say many lines before they were spoken made me happy. This film was fan service, and I was served.

The new ending worked. I didn’t think it would, but it turned out that Veidt solved the problems of not just US and Russia, but Dr. Manhattan as well — gave him a reason to be in exile and stay gone. And as a fan, I appreciated seeing it called SQUID.

Rorschach was pitch-perfect. Brooding, terrifying, pathological. You could empathize (I could anyway) but not sympathize. Jackie Earle Haley needed to do a fantastic job or the fanboys would kill him on opening day. I believed it, and the prison scenes were brilliant.

Ditto Dr. Manhattan. I expected a different vocal treatment — booming and otherworldly — but the soft tones simply underscored his emotional detachment. Very well played. I bought the action figure. (I am part of the problem.)

The bad:

Veidt was an embarassment. Wrong actor (too young and slight), wrong look (bad costume), wrong voice (what’s with the vaguely Eastern European lisp?), wrong interpretation overall. No charisma. Veidt is supposed to be George Clooney and Brad Pitt in one, a beloved but cunning public figure. He so loved the world he had to destroy part of it. But the love was missing. I got no sense that he felt any emotion about his plan; it played out with all the passion of a mathematics problem. Remember the triumphant “I did it!” page at the end of the comic? It was conspicuously absent from the film, and I think it was because this Veidt simply didn’t have emotions. Psst — that’s Dr. Manhattan’s job.

To go along with fake Veidt, we got fake Bubastis. I wish they had started with an actual cat and then added CGI.

Sally Jupiter was not old or world-weary or alcoholic enough. I could tell I was watching a young actress in old makeup trying to play someone else’s mom. They should have simply gotten two actresses; I missed the gravity.

The sex scene in the Owlship came off like a porn comedy. It was supposed to be arty and steamy but with the Leonard Cohen song and the too-obviously-built-up flamethrower bit, it just didn’t belong. Could have shown less and said more.

“Desolation Row” by My Chemical Romance? Maybe it’s fine, but it does not belong as the end credits song. You get this tidy end shot on the crank file journal, knowing it contains the extremely intense story you’ve just seen, and then a fucking frat party breaks out. Go back to Dylan or something with emotional resonance. Even that Smashing Pumpkins track from the trailer would have been better.

Ultimately it neither enhanced nor detracted from what the book was, is, and will be. Alan Moore is right: the book did and does awesome and subtle narrative things that a movie can never do. Things like the supplementary material and the symmetrical visuals and the seemingly superfluous TV chatter filling you in on key backstory plot points as if they were throwaway words in the panel — that stuff was never going to be achieved on film. If you are seeing the film without reading the book, I’m going to tell you to read the book. If you have not seen the film, I’m going to tell you the read the book. If you’ve done both, we can have a very long conversation wherein I bore you to tears with my full-frontal nerdity.

But I have no fanboy rage about the movie, It is what it is, it knows what it is, and for all that, it’s pretty darn good.

At midnight, all the agents…

So Watchmen opens tonight at midnight. I’m not sure when I’ll get to see it this weekend, as the film’s opening unfortunately coincides with shipping the magazine. Early reviews are split between “perfect” and “dreadful.” Seems the folks who don’t like it feels it fails as a film, but since I’m actually expecting little more than a retelling of the book, maybe I won’t be disappointed.

I’ve entertained myself in the meantime with some of the more creative fan creations:

The Saturday morning cartoon version of Watchmen is the best blasphemy I’ve ever seen.

Maybe the film won’t be the best, but this student-made fan film is hard to watch and will make Snyder’s film look good by comparison, at least.

I was a big fan of the online comic PvP for a while until I got tired of Scott Kurtz’s arrogance; it was one of those cases where the creator overshadowed his creation and changed my feelings about it. He was also dismissively apathetic when I interviewed him for GamePro – which, as a fan trying to do what I could to get the word out to a mass audience about his cool project, hurt. However, his multi-part Ombudsmen tribute is brilliant.

And this alternate ending to the comic is a brilliant in-joke, but only if you know the book and recognize the protagonist here.

    If you have more, post ’em below. If not, go read the debate on GamesRadar where I was asked to defend the existence of the Watchmen XBLA game. I wish the game didn’t have to happen, but I at least see that someone tried to make it make sense, so I defend it on that level. That’s not an endorsement, and I still have’t paid my $20 to download it.

    The whole cultural even of Watchmen actually coming to theaters is still extremely surreal to me. This will be a weird weekend.

    Spinal Tap is back!

    My old pal Greg Mann sent me a news story about Spinal Tap getting back into the studio to record a new album. Seeing Tap live in 1992 is still one of my greatest thrills; I have one of Nigel’s picks. The world has been woefully without Tap, and this album will surely be one of the highlights of my year. With the Ghostbusters game shaping up so nicely and Van Halen also threatening to get back into the studio this fall, it’s a good year for 80s comebacks.

    The NME story in turn linked to a recent interview Nigel did with National Geographic, wherein he reveals that Stonehenge was not built by aliens, but by a very strong man named Duncan. He also uses an Ernie Ball Albert Lee model to transmute objects and speaks to a potato. Naturally, you must watch this.

    My Movies: Sneakers

    There are a handful of movies that I can watch any time or all the time. I realized that they’re the ones that have shaped my sense of humor, my personality, and my pop cultural references. As I realize and appreciate them for what they are, I’ll babble about them here.

    Sneakers stuck with me for two reasons. One, it was a great geek movie — white-hat hackers searching for a black box that can slice through any crypto in the world. It was also the first movie I ever reviewed. I remember being in Ithaca with a big pad of paper, writing very large notes in the dark. That, too, was unbreakable code.

    The characters are broad but not stereotypes; with actors like Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, and Sidney Poitier leading the way (not to mention a pre-Battlestar Galactica Mary McDonnell and a still-alive River Phoenix), the performances are subtle. It helps that the plausibly geeky script is by Lawrence Lasker (the co-writer for WarGames) and the whole film has a very human feel thanks to Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams).  Also, there’s a big audio angle to it, and it takes place in the Bay Area. The movie holds up; I still think this is wildly underappreciated, especially when I hear friends speak warmly of dreck like Hackers.

    My wireless network is called Setec Astronomy.

    Watchmen: The Old Script

    I had a copy of this Watchmen movie script in the mid-90s. Actually, I still do. It was written by then-hot screenwriter San Hamm, who’d written the first Batman movie. It is the reason I have been dreading a film adaptation for so long.

    At the time, several names were thrown around — Robin Williams at Rorschach, William Hurt as Ozymandias, Kenneth Branagh as Nite Owl. (My vote for Dan Dreiberg at the time: Dan Aykroyd.) Thankfully this never got made. This is the script that appeared before Terry Gilliam tried to make it, and then Gilliam’s idea died again because Terry and Alan Moore concluded that it couldn’t and shouldn’t be made. Also, Warner wouldn’t let them stick to the book as closely as they wanted to.

    While I strongly believe that a 12-part HBO miniseries is the ultimate way to tell this story on film, I am still optomistic about Zack Snyder’s version. But I urge you to grab your most plentiful alcoholic beverage — it does not have to be your favorite, there just has to be a lot of it — and read the old, long-dead script this weekend. If possible, invite friends over and each take a part. If you don’t have the time, read the beginning and the end. The middle bits are actually not that bad, considering the time, the Batman influence, and the fact that they were trying to make it into a 90-minute rollercoaster. They actually tried to stick to one of the main plots, so I give them credit there. But the first scene and the final scene are unforgiveable.