Soon To Be Classics

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

X-Men 3: The Last Straw

We went to see X-Men 3 as an office function (nice perk, huh) today so I thought I'd share some thoughts. If you have not seen it, please stop now as I'm not responsible for spoilers from this point on.

The good news, is that I didn't hate it like I expected. I had pretty much heard that the film was rushed into production with a crappy director (Brett Ratner) just to beat out Superman Returns because has a bruised ego from Bryan Singer dumping the project to do The Man of Steel. The film did feel unfinished and rushed but it did have some appeal.

- Xavier was a little sinister in this one. Charlie in the comics has always had a bit of an edge and we lose the Picard influence finally. The Professor did a seemingly bad thing years before and now everyone's going to pay for it.
- Wolverine is still a great character. I like Jackman in the role and hope the spin-off works.
- Bobby Drake "icing up". Very cool to see them pull it off. Colossus also looked good but the effect seemed unfinished.
- Kitty Pryde. Very well done. True to character and very likeable. The scene where she takes out Juggernaut was priceless.
- The final scene with Magneto. Fitting and oh-so-NOT-final.
- Mystique betraying Magneto. Wonderfully fitting and so totally in character. And finally, someone on screen (Maddrox) noticed that she was naked. Only took three movies!

- Beast. Man, I'm not sure about this. When I saw his arms, all I could think of was Sully from Monsters Inc. He could have been a little less blue. Still, I think Kelsey Grammar did a good job. He has a wonderful voice.
- Phoenix / Dark Phoenix. This diverted from the comics even though they have described it three different ways now anyway. I suppose it makes sense, in the context of the film.

- Stupid moments. Like why would two mutants carry Worthington II up to the roof to kill him by dropping him? Oh yeah, to set up a frickin' obvious scene with Warren catching him. Yawn.
- Halle Berry. She wasn't as bad as I expected, but I had read several months ago that she demanded rewrites to give her the majority of lines. It didn't seem that way but she has NEVER been the Storm from the comics. Of all of the characters, she's never been true to the source.
- Cyclops is still a total puss. He couldn't even get killed on-screen. Of course, he probably didn't care as Marsden gets to nail Superman's girlfriend a month later.
- The fight between Pyro and Iceman. Could have been more than one punch.
- Flying. None of the flying scenes looked right. It was obviously rigged.
- Where was Nightcrawler? This was an obvious omission.
- A military squad approaches, guns drawn, in a full circle? Ok, everyone, DUCK!!

Was there an obvious missed opportunity? I was certain that they'd use Leech to cancel out the Phoenix power to give Logan the time to kill her. Everything seemed to be going that way and then nothing. I'm not going to go "...I could have written a better script..." angle, but it would have followed the Hitchcockian philosophy of "the gun you see in Act 1 gets fired in Act 3". (Thanks Shocho!)

The ending. Not the ending at the school. The ending AFTER the credits. Oh My God. If you didn't see it, avoid anyone who tries to tell it to you. Trust me.

They keep saying that there will be NO fourth movie. However, it's #2 for Memorial Day Weekend Box office. Someone will come along and make it if there's enough money involved.

I'd give X-Men 3: The Last Stand a solid B. I'll also guarantee we'll see a #4.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

Thanks to Google Earth, this is about as close as I can get to visiting my Dad on Memorial Day. He's buried here, just SW of Cleveland, OH. Dad served in the Naval Reserve and was attached to a Marine unit as a medic. In his last years, he suffered from Parkinson's Disease and (unknown to us at the time, cancer). He was about to board a plane for Desert Storm (which he was quite eager to do) when someone noticed his age (50+) and had him pulled. That was one of the biggest disappointments of his life. He loved this country and wanted nothing more than to serve it.

At his eulogy, there were many uniformed people I had never seen before. They told stories of a pratical joker, a guy who disrupted meetings with charm and wit, and a comrade they'll all miss very much. As do I.

Happy Memorial Day, Dad.

Look, Up In The Sky!

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago and now the documentary "Look, Up In The Sky" has officially released.

To be honest, this is mostly a paid promo piece for the upcoming "Superman Returns" but it does contain some great retrospective on the past Supermen of film and TV. The cover features (clockwise) Brandon Routh, Christopher Reeve, the animated Superman from the 40's, George Reeve, and Dean Cain. Notably missing is (at least on the cover) Kirk Alyn but since his Superman was only black and white, it probably would have thrown off the presentation.

The preview trailer that was released look
ed very nice and it seems to be a must have for Superman fans. Amazon is selling this for under $10 but wait!! Best Buy is selling a limited edition version for $19.99 that contains a bonus disc, 5 frameable art prints of all 5 Superman movie posters (yes, even the Richard Pryor one) and a "cool, retro sleeve packaging". How you do retro on a DVD is beyond me.

By the way, once I watch this, I'll post my retrospective on the men who played Superman to bookend my piece on Lois Lane. If you missed it, check it out here.


Two unrelated but notable passings to share.

The first is Alex Toth, best known for his animation work on the Hanna Barbara cartoons such as Superfriends. He literally died at his art table, doing what he loved to do.

The second, is actor Paul Gleason. A name you probably don't know but he was one of the best dickheads on the big and small screen. Gleason played the angry principal in "The Breakfast Club", the idiot LA Police Lt. in "Die Hard" and had a wide range of appearances on TV in probably just about every show in the 90's. However, most frighteningly, he starred in the 1985 made-for-TV movie, "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor". He died of lung cancer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Terrorists Are Dirty Bastards

As Robert De Niro tells us here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Evil Kenieval

So the Ghost Rider trailer from the upcoming film starting Nicolas Cage just hit the net. Gotta say, it looks interesting. See for yourself here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Time To Vote

After avoiding it for several seasons, I finally somewhat got into American Idol this year. I've watched the last couple of episodes although tonight was the first I watched straight through. Since it first premiered, I thought Idol was "idiot TV" and considered it beneath me. I'm not sure exactly what hooked me this year, but I suspect it was the lack of anything else to watch on TV.

So tonight, I'm watching the show and it's down to Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks. Both are very talented but I think Hicks will probably win after tonight's voting.

What really got me though, was the one time Paula Abdul said something that wasn't moronic. I was watching McPhee do a *beautiful* rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and they kept showing her father who was in the audience. He's got tears running down his face. After a moment, I realize that I'm bawling too. At the end of the song, Abdul noted that everyone was crying, "including every father in America who imagines his daughter being in Katharine McPhee's place". That is PRECISELY what was going through my mind as I was watching that. She totally nailed me.

So tonight, I'm going to place my vote and join the millions of Americans (and beyond?) that spend a buck on a call to make someone's dream come true. Who am I voting for? At the moment, I honestly haven't made up my mind. Maybe someday it'll be my baby.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Observations from the road

I just got back from a 5-day trip on the East Coast, filling in for our sales guy on some distributor visits. I hit Baltimore, Atlanta, and Orlando in roughly 3 days, bookended by 2 full flying days. Here are some observations, in no particular order:

I met a lot of nice people:
I don't know what it was, but it just seemed that everyone I met were really great people. I'm not talking about my sales contacts (who are all great) but rather the incidental people you meet along the way. Notables were the lovely woman on the Atlanta airport tram, Mark and Mike from the Downtown Disney magic shop, the spunky girl who sat next to me flying from Seattle to Atlanta who I dubbed a "pharmaceutical flyer", the owner of Original Georgio's Pizzaria in Baltimore, and the Northwest Flight Attendant from Memphis to Seattle. Travelling alone really sucks and nice people really make all the difference.

Orlando is cheaper than Baltimore:
Go figure. My hotel in Baltimore was $137 per nigt and my car rental (ended up) over $100 per night. In Orlando, I stayed at a frickin RESORT hotel right outside Disney and paid $87 per night and $50 per day (ended up) for car rental. Guess which was nicer? The Holiday Inn in Baltimore smelled like wet feet. In Orlando, I was overlooking the pool. :)

Carrying a bag of toys gets you noticed:
I had too much stuff for my luggage leaving Baltimore so I had to carry a plastic (see-through) bag of my toy samples. These consisted of sererate polybagged Superman figures. People all over the Atlanta airport were stopping me and asking what was in the bag. I passed out a dozen or so samples. In fact, my flight from Atlanta to Orlando was sold out and since I booked late, I didn't have a seat. The reservations clerk (a very nice woman) was asking me about the bag and said that her son likes to play a game where you build pirate ships out of styrene cards. I told her that was my company's game and that if he emailed me, I'd hook him up with some free stuff. She was thrilled and said "...let me get you a seat on that plane...". She gave me an aisle seat, no less! (Note: I suspect someone got bumped so my plan to become evil is coming along nicely.)

Travelling Salesmen don't sleep:
Wednesday and Friday morning, I had to get up at 3am to make flights. Both times included car rental drop offs which takes at least an hour and a half. Tuesday night I got (literally) an hour and a half of sleep. I hope I wasn't too big of an idiot at my lone Atlanta stop because I sure was tired.

Northwest Airlines is starting to suck:
Due to their impending bankruptcy, they have discontinued snack service (you have to buy them now), no longer have pillows or blankets, and had one counter person covering 8 windows in Orlando. It was insane. I better use my miles while I can.

What do you do with an armadillo when you catch it?
I watched 3 stupid rednecks chasing an armadillo (which I had never seen in the wild before now) through the resort while I was having dinner on Thursday night. What the hell were they going to do with it? Maybe I don't want to know.

The East Coast and the West Coast "feel" different:
I can't describe it, but you can sure tell the difference between the East Coast and West Coast. Orlando was beautiful. I really enjoyed driving around there. I doubt I'd want to live there, but I sure want to go back soon.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Well I Gotta Get A Mac Now

Well, I just have to have a Mac now.

The latest Mac commercial implies that if you own a Mac, a hot young Japanese girl will appear and be able to actually pull your digital photos out of her ass!

I mean seriously, how much would YOU pay for service like that? Well worth the price if you ask me. I wonder where she pulls digital movies from?

These commercials really are pretty funny, mostly in an unintentional way. What's great is that the comparisons are usually based on Mac's latest OS and a Windows OS that's probably 4 years old. The spot where they compare Mac's media center to PC's Calculator is priceless. That's just intellectual dishonesty right there folks.

Sure, the PC is the doofy guy in the suit and Mac is the hip young kid. I get that. But if we truly wanted a comparison, here are some thoughts for future spots.

1) Assuming that the PC guy represents market share, the Mac guy should be about 97% smaller.
2) The PC guy should be sitting on a pile of software about a mile high. The Mac guy should have about 14 titles in his hand.
3) Have the PC guy playing WoW and running through Ironforge. Then have the Mac guy try...the...same...thing...and...see...see...see...see...

From a marketing standpoint, they're great ads if not dishonest. By the way, check out The Girard's post on this Very funny stuff!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm Considering Turning Evil

Yep. You read that right. I seriously considering the alternative. As near as I can tell, the pay is better, the benefits rock, and who's to say how awful the afterlife would really be?

I think I have always been on the side of good. I have given up seats on the bus for old women. I've returned found money. I always lecture the bad guy about virtue after foiling their latest scheme.

But you know, I'm just tired of it all. And it's all my stupid lawn's fault.

When we moved to the upper Northwest, I must have been bitten by the "tree hugger" bug. I have a VERY small lawn, and I decided that I probably didn't need a big lawn mower. A small one should have been sufficient. So I looked around and found one of those "non-powered" whirling blade of death grass cutters like they used in the 50's before modern inventions like pretty much anything that makes men lazy.

I asked some friends about it (they claimed to have one) and said they worked great. They highly recommended it on their personal honor. (fuckers) That right proves that I was on the wrong side of the "good vs. evil" equation. So I spent $70 on this thing. I worked pretty well, and I even made a blog entry about it because I felt good having done the GOOD thing. I only had to mow a couple of times and it worked ok, even though it required going over the same spot roughly a dozen times. "I'm saving trees," I thought even though I was still killing grass.

This year, I haul out the death chopper and try to cut the high grass. This is roughly akin to shaving your 3-day old beard with a slice of bologna. It actually isn't, but that's all I got. Anyway, it sucked. And continued to suck. Neighbors came out and patted me on the back asking how work was going. Someone dropped off a bag of clothes for the kids. PBS called and offered ME money. It was embarassing.

Finally, my wife said "just go buy a mower". "But...the trees....". BUY A GODDAMN MOWER!! Evil was definitely getting the upper hand.

So I go to Home Depot looking for this $169 mower. It's not self-propelled but does have a bagger which means I can't leave clippings on the yard. The cheapest was $139 with no bag and about .5 horsepower which means it can comb your hair. Sort of. Anyway, of course there's a huge hole in the shelf where this mower should be. There are lots of "death choppers" I should point out. Evil is winning. The sales guy, we'll call him "Brad" which works because his name was "Brad" says they have 20 of those mowers and he'll go find them. In the meantime, I end up selling FOR HOME DEPOT 2 $100 Black and Decker Grasshog trimmers by recommending them to guys who were staring blankly at the display. See, I told you I was on the side of good.

Then I noticed something. Home Depot is running a special. If I spend $199 on a mower, I get a $25 gift certificate. The next highest model from the $169 is $199. That means with the rebate, I get $25 back so I get a mower with 2 more HP for only $5 more. Not bad. Brad comes back with no mower in hand and I say "hey...I changed my mind on that...if I just". Brad interrupts. "Here, I'll just give you the $199 mower for $169. I'll deal with the boss tomorrow. I can't get to those 20 right now and it's not worth my time.

So now here's the dilemma. Do I follow the path of honesty and righteousness and tell him how he SHOULD be trying to upsell me to the higher model for the rebate? They'd get a couple more bucks but great customer satisfaction. Or, do I take the higher priced mower for the $169 and score the additional $$? What would Chuck Norris do???

I took my new $199 mower home and was $169 lighter in the wallet. Brad was none the wiser. I took the path most taken, that being of raging, horrible evil. I expect empires to crumble now that I have taken the first step. Once I have an evil lair (with nicely cut grass and nary a tree in sight) you'll all bow down before me.

By the way, the above book is an excellent way to start. It's printed on paper. Bwahahahahaha!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You're Not Getting Away That Easy

Today reminded me a lot of the Normandy landing scene from "Saving Private Ryan". I liken doing my job to storming the beach, rifle in hand. Bombs are falling all around me and my colleagues are falling one by one. It seemed like everyone was having a really, really bad day. Me? Things were going pretty well. I got some stuff done including a complicated itinerary for an upcoming trip.

I manage to steer clear of the falling ordinance until 4:30pm, which is my usual "get the Hell out of there" time. I straighten up my desk just in time to see our CPA standing next to my desk holding several files, all of them with protruding wicks, lit and sparking onto my desk.

"The numbers are all wrong, can we review these"? is what he should say. Instead, he says "Hi. I have a large bomb in my hands that I need to shove into a convenient orafice. Could you bend over please?"

In retrospect, I might have mixed those two statements up.

So I spend 30 minutes in an impromptu meeting that completely treetops me for the day. Does it get any better when I get home? Nope, not a bit.

Note to self: Leave at 4:28pm everyday. If I hear ticking, don't look back.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hail To The (Master) Chief

I swear one of these days I'm going to go to E3. Everything that's good and cool in the world happens there. Today, Bill Gates introduced the 2 and a half minute clip from the anxiously awaited Halo 3. From what we see in the clip, Earth (or at least a good portion of it) has been conquered by the Covenant. Master Chief surveys the wreckage, assault rifle in hand. The clip ends with "Finish The Fight". Very nice. For sure, this will be a release on the Xbox 360 (which I have to get now). Not sure if the original Xbox will see a version or not. Seeing and playing this in hi-res will make the purchase worthwhile, I'm sure.

Now of course, at the mention of the name "Xbox", many of you bristle. I'm not sure if anyone that reads this blog (Chickey excepted) own an Xbox. That's fine, it's no skin off my nose. What's a shame is that the only reason a lot of people have given me for not getting an Xbox is because they hate Bill Gates. Some with foam at the mouth passion. It's too bad because you're missing out on a lot of good games. Halo and Halo 2 for sure, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II, and lots of others. I do wish there were a couple of PS2 titles for the Xbox such as Kingdom Hearts, Guitar Hero and a couple of others. I almost said Final Fantasy but even the stalwart PS2 title saw the light and jumped platform.

I have no problem with the PS2. I owned a PS1 and loved it. By the time I was ready to buy another system, the PS2 was already showing it's age and the Xbox was a better machine. The PS3 was just announced with a very similar scheme to the Xbox 360, including two different versions of hard drives (20 gig and 60 gig) but a much steeper price tag. Halo 3 really is enough to pull me into the 360 ring unless the PS3 can REALLY step up with some killer app.

So let the flaming begin. :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Communism Can Make You Rich

This is awesome. Morning news is reporting that Fidel Castro, the last great Communist idealogue has a net worth of $900 Million. Castro, of course, denies he has any wealth and is merely the "people's leader". It was also reported that the average yearly income of the "people" is about $3300 per year.

If Castro really wanted what we best for the Cuban people, he'd abolish Communisn, and sell the beach front property to land developers. Turn Cuba into a traveller's paradise and share the wealth with the people. Of course, that might cut into the $900 Million that Castro "doesn't have". Hell, if Castro played his cards right, maybe we'd give him an MLB team.

Instead, he remains a thug, who is also now a hypocrit. He has always insisted that he believes in the Communist ideal. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Well Now...

The second trailer for Superman Returns hit Quicktime today. The quick link is right here.

As far as trailers go, it worked for me if for no other reason than Kevin Spacey (whom I was lukewarm on as Lex Luthor) doing an excellent channelling of Gene Hackman.

At least I don't have to waste $10 to see MI:3 to see this.


Mayday! May Day!

So yesterday was the big "May Day" march when the nation's illegal immigrants and their supporters decided to show their support for the country they deeply love and respect by trying to shut down the businesses that keep it running. Ok, that could be a bit harsh, but you get the point. The point being that they consider themselves a valuable part of the economy and wanted to "show us" what would happen if we sent them all away. (To be truly effective though, what should have also happened on May Day was that the IRS showed up at my front door with a refund check for money that they "no longer needed".)

Ow. Bitter.

Anyway, we were sitting in the office yesterday trying to figure out what to do for lunch, and hearing the word "Mexican" about 1000 times on the news all morning made me hanker for a fajita. I suggested we go to "Azteca" a Mexican restaurant. We then bemused that maybe we wouldn't get service because no one showed up to work. Now we HAD TO GO.

So Rollie and I trudged down to a packed restaurant. The service was great and so was the food. It looked and tasted like everyone showed up for work.

When we returned to the office we heard some chatter from others who went out for lunch. Wendy's had to close their dining room because the staff didn't show. Chili's had horrible service because "half of their staff didn't show up".

It seemed a very strange turn of events. That's what I get for racial profiling.