Monday, December 24, 2007

I Am Legend Review

This may come as a surprise, but I saw this movie opening night. As a working class citizen nowadays, I was unable to attend a midnight showing (largely since I'd gotten up at 5:30 am that Thursday and was really looking forward to sleeping all the way till 7:00 am on Friday, which would be less enjoyable if I didn't get to bed before 3). However, it's taken me awhile to get around to putting my thoughts down, even though my thoughts were pretty well formulated by the end of the movie.

So, what are my thoughts? Well, it was awesome. Seriously awesome. I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror. It was totally scary. And tense and well acted and thought provoking and cool and just plainly awesome (in case you weren't clear on the awesome part).

I'm surprised how it came out. It's really about being alone and scared all the time. It's about losing everything, right before your own eyes, and trying to deal with it in a damn scary world. A lot of people compare it to 28 Days Later, but I think that's kind of lazy. This is about existing after the world is taken over by monsters, rather than suddenly finding that the world has been taken over by monsters. Cillian Murphy's character wakes up in a horrible world and has to deal with it (which is scary and totally a cool concept). Will Smith's character was there when the world ended and he's still there now and dealing with that is no cakewalk either.

And we get to watch not only the way he attempts to deal with it, but the way it all falls apart around him. He's been existing on the precipice of losing it for so long, that when he does, it's a relief.

So, it's really a very sad movie. One of the only things keeping him going is his search for a cure. If he can only cure the monsters, then maybe things will get better. But, three years later he hasn't found that cure. And so he blames himself. He finally turns one of the only things keeping him going and focused and alive into something destructive.

And we, as the audience, have to watch that happen. It's really amazing. This captures the spirit of the book beautifully. No wonder they actually used the title.

But, there was one disappointment. I was hoping, praying really, that Francis Lawrence would have the balls to give this movie the ending it deserved. But, no, he didn't. Bastard. After going through this extended exercise in the loss of sanity and the fear of the unknown, we are forced to watch a happy, uplifting, hopeful ending. When I talk about this movie, I honestly have to just pretend that the ending didn't happen. Because it screws everything up. It takes the twisted and horrific meaning of the title and turns it into something happy. And happiness has no place in this movie.

Will Smith character isn't supposed to be a hero, he's just supposed to believe he's a hero. And, when things come crashing down, he realizes he isn't a hero, but that's all he can hold onto. And then the movie goes and actually makes him a hero. God damn it.

But, the ridiculous awesomeness of this movie is able to overcome all that. Thank God.

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brief Movie Reviews: Enchanted and The Mist

So, the theaters are finally starting to play movies I want to see again, so I thought I'd write a pair of reviews of two movies I saw recently.

First off, Enchanted. Now, it's probably fair to wonder why I wanted to see this movie at all, let alone be motivated to see it in theaters shortly after it opened. Well, I can certainly tell you that it had nothing to do with that first trailer they released for it. My God, I remember seeing that trailer and just being embarrassed for Disney. It's the one that brings up all their classic fairy tales, basically so that it can make fun of them for the sake of advertising this movie. Ouch, huh?

That ad made me not interested at all, but then all these reviews came in that suggested something very different from the idea of poking fun at Disney's storied tradition of classic animated films, many of which involved princesses and happily ever afters. Thankfully, they were right. The movie is not meant to make fun of those things at all. It's celebrating them the only way people are still willing to pay to see anymore (besides in CGI, of course...except I can't think of any CGI movies involving princesses except for Shrek, which actually WAS meant to poke fun at Disney's storied tradition of classic animated films, so it doesn't count).

So, anyways, we get to enjoy a live action fairy tale, with a princess. And, well, it's a success. Totally. They managed to recapture some of their Disney magic or whatever. For the first time since Kingdom Hearts, as far as I'm concerned. This film provided Disney with a transition from the classic animated fairy tales to what will hopefully one day be their classic live action fairy tales. Except for the evil stepmother, all of the live action characters just shined on screen. Our dear heroine, her prince, even the bumbling henchman were just as fun and lively and exciting as anything the animators have ever created (except maybe Genie). These characters came into the real world, but the actors still managed to be animated caricatures and that was how it should be.

Even better, they had one of the best catchy musical numbers of any Disney movie. I didn't particularly enjoy the "Happy Working Song" or whatever, but "That's How You Know" (I think) was absolutely perfectly done. It was totally cool to watch that sequence unfold. The way everyone introduced in the park slowly becomes caught up in the song and finds themselves joining the refrain made it feel absolutely like a Disney song. And, more importantly, it didn't feel stupid at all (silly, yes, but not stupid). That can't be easy.

Completely unrelated, Amy Adams looked pretty decently hot for the ball. I was impressed, at least.

For me, though, the fun was really in trying to contemplate what the final message of the movie actually was. The girl is obsessed with the romantic ideal of falling in love (especially at first sight) and the expectation that this can only lead to Happily Ever After. To her, any thing else is a tragedy to be prevented at all costs. The Grey's Anatomy dude, on the other hand, doesn't believe in any of that stuff and thinks that love can only be maintained if it is well planned and thought out. He's not interested in romance and thinks that love at first sight can only end in tragedy. this conflict of ideals is a huge part of the movie.

(assuming you have never seen a Disney movie and couldn't have predicted 90% of the movie from a 3 sentence description)

The interesting thing is that, in the end, she falls in love with him, not at first sight as she had always dreamed, but only by spending time with him and getting to know him for who he actually is. He falls in love with her as well, but I'm not totally clear on the why, there. I'll be nice and assume that it's because she shows him the joyful possibilities of living a romantics life or something (and not because she's a pretty safe bet, since she's basically promising to stay loyal and in love forever).

In any case, I guess they both learn something from each other and so complete each other or whatever. But, here's what I like: their happily ever after (which the ending assures us they got) did not fall into their laps. They earned it. They shared and learned from each other. I like that. I think that's a fair compromise from the stories of old and I was impressed to see Disney present it as such. Or, maybe I just like messages that lower girls' standards, if just a little bit.

Onto, Stephen King's The Mist.

First off, this movie pretty much had me won over the moment I heard about it. If it hadn't, then about the first 10 seconds would have done it again. To see it open with a guy painting a beautiful poster of Roland and the Doorway and the Rose and the Dark Tower, was just, amazing. I would have been happy with 90 minutes of just watching him adding little details to that poster. It was such an amazing way to start. With this story's gunslinger illustrating Stephen King's beloved gunslinger. I might have shouted my approval just a little bit.

But, so yeah. The movie was great. Just as good as I hoped. They made some changes to the story (including the ending) and I appreciated all of them. The tension was awesome and the creatures were scary. I also loved just how big the creatures got. I know a lot of reviewers didn't like Ms. Carmody, but I thought she was awesome. All good horror movies have both a mixture of fear of the unknown and a fear of those around you. Ms. Carmody supplied that second fear perfectly. The movie also didn't use very many known actors, so everyone was fair game and you really never knew who was going to get it next (or how).

I'm a little disappointed that basically no one is seeing this movie. It's really too bad. But, well, I'm betting Cloverfield manages to capture a lot of this too, and hopefully that'll do some good business.

But, yeah, all I can say is that it was awesome. Easily the best Stephen King horror adaption I've seen (no, The Shawshank Redemption doesn't count as horror, yes that movie is better, but whatever). So, go see it before it disappears from theaters, which I'm gonna go out on a limb and say will probably happen a week from Friday (okay, you might get an extra week if you're lucky).

That is all.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Takashi Shimizu

So, for Halloween, I've been watching some horror movies. I try to be fair and watch a decent variety of movies, but I have a slightly different definition of variety than most people.

So, in the spirit of variety, I checked out: 1 big budget zombie movie (28 Weeks Later), 1 low-budget, Australian (well, it's probably from New Zealand) zombie-sheep movie (Black Sheep), 1 low-budget Japanese ghost movie (Reincarnation), 1 low-budget American ghost movie (Unrest), 1 big-budget Japanese-American ghost movie (The Grudge 2), and 1 low budget '80s John Carpenter ghost movie (The Fog). Oh, I guess I also rewatched Blade II and saw 30 Days of Night in the theaters.

I think that's a pretty decent amount of variety. Admittedly, I still have 3 more horror movies coming in on my queue (a big-budget Japanese ghost movie, Ju-On 2, a low budget independent zombie movie, Fido, and the original zombie-comedy: "The Return of the Living Dead"). Once those come in, the variety level kind of sinks a little bit.

Anyways, if you were paying attention, you might have noticed three different Japanese ghost movies, of varying budget size. I picked these three for a very specific reason. The director is named Takashi Shimizu, and, well, I think he is something special, and so I keep watching his movies, typically against my better judgment.

It all started years ago. Back before I regularly watched Japanese horror movies. My brother and I had seen The Ring and had agreed that it was pretty much one of the scariest things we'd ever seen, bar none. However, being lazy, isolationist bigots, we never bothered to see Ringu (because we couldn't really imagine it being better than The Ring). Then, we heard about Ju-On. Apparently, this movie was even scarier than Ringu. And, well, in that case, we had to see it.

It was only playing on one screen in a theater way away from home and the earliest show we could make was pretty late (like 10-ish). So, we went and saw it. And it totally blew our minds.

We honestly weren't even sure if we liked it, when we got out. We agreed that it was crazy freaking scary (at least on par with The Ring). But, we had no clue what was going on through at least 60% of the movie. My complaint was that basically every single victim in the movie was either a pretty, young Japanese woman, or a Japanese Schoolgirl. So, they all pretty much looked the same (plus, many of them were supposed to be related, so they REALLY all looked the same). Plus, the movie skips around through time (without being kind enough to tell you), which can really play hell with the viewer, since then you're not really sure if the character you're seeing is a new one who looks just like another victim, or that previous victim in the past.

Anyways, it was crazy. And most of the credit goes to Takashi Shimizu. In researching this masterpiece, I learned that it all actually started out as two direct-to-video movies that were crazy freaking scary. The movie, in fact, is more like a sequel to those (which explains some things associated with the ridiculous amounts of confusion involved in watching the movie).

What I liked about the movie, though, was how it played with the viewers. It is clear from the beginning that entering the haunted house is sealing your own death. There is no escape. But, the ghost toys with the victims. A lot. Especially at the beginning, it acts like there are rules and if the characters had just made the right calls, they might have survived. Then, we do get to see later characters make the right calls. In fact, we see characters completely lose their minds, doing everything they can trying to avoid the ghost's wrath, but it's always all for naught. The slow erosion of hope over the course of the movie is totally cool.

Takashi Shimizu was also recruited to do the American version (and the sequel to the American version). These are both really disappointing. The American version is still set in Japan (which is a weird call, but it works since they use the same actors to play the ghosts), but the main character is a foreign exchange student or something. Yeah, it's already lame.

Anyways, my complaint with it was that they regurgitate the exact same scares, but got rid of anything resembling confusion or the sense of losing your mind or everything else that is key to Japanese horror. The result, not surprisingly, was just stupid.

I recently watched the American sequel (and the Japanese sequel is arriving soon). I actually liked this one more, than the previous American one. It did manage to capture a lot of what was best in Ju-On (while totally screwing some other stuff up, but beggars can't be choosy). It did play with the viewers sense of time a little bit. It did include characters going insane trying to keep themselves safe. It even included the people all around a marked person going crazy as the rage of the ghost just turns everyone around the target into murderous and suicidal psychopaths. That whole section was, really, an excellent addition to the story (as the ghost follows a victim back to America).

It was for scenes like that, that I bothered to watch it at all (hoping against hope for something half that awesome). Thankfully, Takashi Shimizu delivered. I wasn't too surprised, though, because he delivered in both his other low budget flings I've checked out as well (Marebito and Reincarnation). Marebito does a great job of following the main character's trip into insanity (although it doesn't do too much else right). Reincarnation doesn't have the scares of Ju-On, but it does a great job of playing with the audience's sense of reality and time (where we start to really wonder whether the stuff that's happening in reality or in her ghost-inspired dreams is the bigger threat to her life...the answer: both).

So, yeah, I'm going to keep checking out his movies, because I think they embody the best of Japanese horror. The good guys probably aren't going to win (and they might not even be the good guys). The scares are going to be simple, but effective thanks to the excellent mood he is able to generate (an example of excellent mood, but no scares would be the Japanese version of Pulse, not the one starring Veronica Mars and not directed by Takashi Shimizu). But, most importantly, I'll be challenged as a viewer. I'll be able to try to formulate rules that the ghost follows or explanations of what's going on and I'll know that there's more than one right answer, because he's toying with me just as the ghosts are toying with their victims. And I enjoy that.

That is all.


PS - I'm currently faced with a tough decision, since the one movie he's made that I haven't seen, is the third in a series called Tomie. Reviews say you really need to see the earlier ones if you want to be able to follow, but that his is the best by far (not surprising). On the other hand, the reviews also say you need to be Japanese to understand most of it anyways, so I could just ignore those recommendations (so maybe I can get away with just watching his... or maybe I should just rent the whole series... or maybe I should move to Japan and study the culture and then watch the whole series... or maybe not).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Serious Talk about Heroes

Well, it's time for a long, serious discussion of Heroes. Monday's episode was obviously meant to be the key episode to let everyone know that it's time to get back to business, and, well, we should respect that.

I would like to start by saying that, while I'm glad they finally got around to giving us Monday's episode, I still feel disappointed in them. For those first 6 episodes or so, they were stalling by keeping Peter, Hiro, and Sylar out of the picture. In the meantime, they were trying out having a variety of only vaguely related sub-plots as the various "special people" tried to deal with their abilities (amongst other things). As a concept, it's not a terrible way to stall. It should be interesting to watch them try to go about their lives after saving the world. Well, it could be interesting. But, it wasn't.

So, instead, we got Monday's episode. They gave up and just gave the audience want the audience was screaming for (which of course isn't really what the audience wanted at all). They're going to give us season one all over again. By the looks of it, almost exactly, too. Everyone is going to need to unite once again and work together to save the world and prevent a disaster, which has already been set in motion. Linderman has been replaced by Adam as the evil guy bringing this all together, and um, yeah, everything else is the same.

(Heavy, sad, sigh...)

What a disappointment. I remember, before the start of season 2, trying to imagine where they were going to go next with Heroes. I was hoping there would be some sort of reaction by the general public to the fact that a giant bomb had gone off in the sky. I had hoped that Nathan Patrelli had died, leaving Peter feeling guilty and borderline useless as he blames himself for Nathan's sacrifice (instead of the other way around, minus the dying). I had hoped the company would start doing something interesting now that their leader was dead. I was not really hoping for some new disaster for our Heroes to prevent.

But, whatever, that's what we got. Okay, fine, we'll make some lemonade and we'll like it, thank you very much.

First off, let's talk about Adam. Our new villain masterminding disaster. I have a confession to make. I totally misread his character when we were introduced to him in the past. As soon as we saw him healing, I was certain that he was a fellow time traveling mutant (oops, did I just say mutant out loud) and he was just leading Hiro on. There were a couple reason I thought this. The first one was the silly convenience of it all, that Hiro's hero was a "special person". It made more sense to me that someone with a variety of powers including healing and time traveling would potentially use them to go around being a dick throughout history (and therefore be a legend throughout history). Given all that time, I could totally imagine him learning Japanese so that he could be a hero there too (or an Englishman being Kensei could just be for the purpose of reducing the quantity of subtitles used in the show).

In my defense, there was one other reason I thought he was from the future. I assumed (and, yes, I know that assuming makes and ass out of you and Ming), that the mutations necessary to create the Heroes requires multiple generations of random mutations to occur. This was supported by the fact that we assume there has suddenly been an explosion of these people arising in the last two generations (as opposed to thinking that these people have been around throughout history). This is especially true because it is so clearly hereditary (unless Angela Patrelli has a power we don't know about, Nathan and Peter's father passed on the gift to both of them...although the chick whose dad was a former Hero didn't have any powers, so it's not guaranteed). So, considering these two details, it didn't occur to me that all the necessary mutations would have happened in one individual a long ass time before they occurred in anyone else, ever.

But, I was wrong (or the writers didn't care...they were too busy negotiating for higher percentages or something, I don't know...not that I don't support the strike or anything...of course). An alternative (and fun!) theory, considering that we currently now believe Adam has been around for a long time, is that all of the current Heroes are somehow related to him. That maybe he decided it was time to just start making babies and see how the investment would pan out. I kind of like that theory, if only because it's weird and random.

One more brief complaint (brief, huh?). I was really annoyed with how they used Peter's ability to move the plot forward. That was not at all how they did it last season. They're still being good with that series of 8 paintings or whatever, but Peter's was just a cop out. That power is supposed to show what happens in the future, not cause it. The closest we've ever seen it coming to causing the future (also happened when Peter painted), and that was when it provided enough information to get him to where he already wanted to go (Claire's high school). Admittedly, it showed him there, so you might be able to argue that it was causing the future, but he might have potentially figured out where to go anyways (since he was at least trying).

Compare this to his painting at Caitlin's (I don't remember the spelling, but that's my guess) house. They don't know where to go or what to do. So he paints them at some building in Montreal. Therefore, they go to this building at Montreal, not knowing what it is or why they're going there. It's just a stupid way to move the plot forward (also known as Dues Ex Machina, but whatever, it's not like we haven't seen plenty of that in Heroes already).

So, Heroes is moving into high gear. Hiro is back and ready to get revenge on the person who killed his father. Matt's dad is decommissioned for now, so our pseudo-evil filler villain is all done. Peter even has his memory back (admittedly, he's with Adam right now, but I think it's safe to say that Peter is probably not going to side with him for too long). Now we're just waiting on Sylar to get his powers back and start wreaking havoc on all sorts of innocent people (unless the show decides to go super, crazy, lame and makes him do something good, but I have faith that they'll keep him as the awesome psycho...assuming they let him have his powers back soon).

We're also starting to really wonder why Claire still counts as a main character (besides as fan service, of course). I mean, for goodness sake, she has the least helpful power ever. She can heal herself. Whoo! Until someone plates her skeleton with adamantium and gives her big ass claws for ripping into people, she's never going to do anything useful (except for give Peter her power, which she did last season). And, I'm serious here, why do we have to have another "Find the cheerleader!" mission? Do the writers really have that little imagination? It's totally pointless. Besides, why do they even think she'll be useful?

So, Jessica (or Nikki, I don't really care) has the virus that's going to destroy the world. Okay then, let's bring in a mutant that can regenerate. She'll totally be able to provide us with new antibodies to fight the virus and stop the end of the world. All I can say is: "NO!" That makes no sense at all. The virus takes away people's abilities. Therefore, it seems pretty likely that if Claire gets exposed to the virus, she won't be able to heal anymore and will therefore be even more useless. And, even if she was still able to regenerate and therefore not die, she still wouldn't have any antibodies. Her power would be keeping her alive by regenerating everything the virus destroys. So, in either case, you don't need her.

A better (read as equally terrible) plan would be to look for a new Hero who has the power to raise the dead (we could even magically say that the siblings from Mexico can use their powers together, or something, I don't know, to bring people back to life). This new Hero could then raise Linderman from the dead for us and then Linderman could heal Nikki (or Jessica, I don't care). I think that plan has better odds (if they wanted to cheat, they could try to find that guy on Pushing Daisies or whatever and just introduce him to Peter, and that would probably work too, plus you could keep a pretty tight leash on Linderman that way).

Alright, that's all I have to say about Heroes for now. I'm glad that they've decided to move the plot forward. I'm proud of them for that. I guess.

That is all.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

I Am Legend, Trailer 2

So, maybe I'm a little obsessive. It's not my fault. Anyways, a day or two after I wrote about 30 Days of Night and proceeded to pin all of my hopes for the future of awesome vampires movies on I Am Legend, they released a new trailer for it. This trailer was a little unusual in that it basically gave the entire plot of the movie from start to finish. For this reason, I'm not going to link it in case you didn't want to know what was going to happen.

Besides, it's like the second hit on Google, so if you want to, you can find it easily enough (although you have to click an additional link if you want to watch it in HD instead of crappy Flash Player).

Anyways, this trailer surprised me. A lot. It took me more than a week to organize my thoughts about all this.

So, before I go any further, I want to just throw out one of those SPOILER WARNINGS things (although you ought to be pretty well warned, considering I'm talking about something I've already described as full of spoilers). However, you should probably take these spoilers with a grain of salt, since I haven't seen the movie yet (I've only read the book). But then again, I've seen the trailer, and you might not have yet.

So, if you haven't bothered to go watch the trailer, now would probably be a good time, since that's what I'm going to be talking about. But if you want to go into the movie fresh, stop reading this post and don't go find the trailer on Google and don't go see any upcoming Warner Brothers movies or horror movies in general because you might be exposed to the spoiler filled trailer against your will. Upcoming Warner Brothers movies are: Fred Claus, August Rush and One Missed Call (which is also a horror movie, so that one's almost certain to have the trailer ahead of it). Current Warner Brothers movies that might have the trailer on it are Michael Clayton and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Also, probably don't accidentally read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, which can be found new at Amazon for 7.99.

So, now I'm actually getting to the post.

First of all, the trailer is kind enough to finally show us the vampires. This is a good thing, since we all really wanted to know how they were going to turn out. Personally, I had been ever-so-secretly hoping for the vampires to all be wearing white make up, like in The Omega Man, just so that it would be the last black against a world taken over by whites. I would have found that awesome. I'm not sure what anyone else would think.

But, well, these vampires aren't just people wearing white make up, which is probably actually a good thing. These babies are definitely scary looking. I appreciate the naked, hairless, veiny, but-still-wearing-pants look. I also like that they all seem to look well over 6 feet tall in the trailer. That's totally cool. The sheer massive number of them that we see is nice as well.

On a side note, at Comic Con this past summer, Warner Brothers was distributing a free little comic book collection of short events leading up to the events of I Am Legend (primarily during the society crashing down part). One of them was even written by Richard Matheson. Anyways, I guess that gave me my first glimpse of what the vampires were going to look like, so their reveal wasn't as big to me as it possibly could have been.

On a barely even related side note, if you didn't happen to go to Comic Con and pick up this free little collection, Apple Trailers has animated versions of at least one of them (listed as I Am Legend: The Awakening). This is done in that same cheap, flash animated style as a pseudo-internet sensation that nobody's ever heard of called Broken Saints. Personally, I hate that style, because it's incredibly boring. You can literally read the entire little free comic book in about the same amount of time it takes them to do the single selection they picked. This isn't surprising because reading the comic books doesn't take very long, but slowly moving little paper cut-out looking characters and narrating it apparently takes forever. But, whatever. Feel free to check it out and agree with me. In either case, the original little free comic book was actually pretty good. Broken Saints and stuff that's done in the same style pretty much isn't.

Okay, back on track. So, they show us the vampires. Awesome. And we like, them. Cool. But, really, did they have to show us the dog dying? I mean, really, that's totally unnecessary. Obviously, we knew the dog was going to die (what else is going to get him to start changing his pattern after three years? Unless, they're actually keeping the girl he meets in the book, and they've just been keeping it a surprise). But, why show it? It's not going to make me want to see it more (like that's possible). It'll probably even turn some people off because some people like watching people die more than watching animals die (but at least the animal is getting well-mourned). So, yeah, unnecessary.

Lastly, and I'm serious on this one, why show him captured by the vampires? I mean, we're talking last 5-10 pages of the book here. It really feels like they decided to just give me the entire movie in that trailer. I mean, I totally still want to see it, but that was still too much. Just the scene of the mass of vampires in the distance coming at his car would have been good enough to make me start thinking about it all the time and planning my December schedule around the release date.

So, instead, now I'm in a similar situation as I was in a couple of summers ago as War of the Worlds was approaching. I was excited and stuff and I thought it would totally be cool. But, I got even more excited when I read an interview saying that they were really excited about the ending because it was totally different from the book and blah, blah, blah. So, I came into the movie really excited because I wanted to see just how it would end (the end of the book was totally cool and clever back when HG Wells wrote it, but that was a while ago, and it needed a fresh perspective). And, well, apparently quoting the end of the book as you use the same ending is considered a totally different ending than the book (I mean, the book can't quote itself, that would be way too meta to even contemplate). So, yeah, I was disappointed with the end. I thought the movie was pretty good, but the end really let me down.

So, flash forward to I Am Legend. Technically, I don't know how the movie is going to end. But here's the situation, the trailer is basically yelling out: "We're following the book!" The title is also shouting to everyone who can read: "This one is going to be like the book!" But then the question becomes: do they have the balls to follow through with that promise? And, well, I'm not sure they do.

I mean, Francis Lawrence is directing it. And, well, I'm willing to put a fair amount of faith in his first name, but not everything. And I actually liked Constantine, but he totally wussed out of letting Constantine die (admittedly, that's at least probably because he was hoping to turn that into a franchise, and franchises don't usually work when the title character dies...Pirates of the Caribbean doesn't count because Jack Sparrow's name isn't in the title and, besides, Jack can do whatever he wants in my book). So, that's what we've got. I'm pinning my hopes on the balls of a former music video director named Francis (admittedly, things could be worse, but they're definitely not good enough).

I've also been more than a little confused by selection of the release date. It's kind of hard to make sense of that choice. Less than two weeks before Christmas, they're releasing a "Will Smith against the vampires" movie, and it's not supposed to end well. I guess they want it to be this year's King Kong, but that doesn't seem like the best goal (I was always under the impression that it under-performed...and was just okay anyways). But, I guess December might give it better odds of not taking the easy, and by easy, I mean stupid, crowd-pleasing, ridiculous, way out compared to being released in July (where humanity is required to win, no matter the odds, and it better be at least as patriotic and uplifting as Independence Day). But, whatever, I just want it to come out sooner (I hear October is a good month for horror movies, even ones whose titles don't start with Saw and end with a number...and well, November probably isn't too shabby either).

So, yeah, I'm excited and so I'm thinking about this way too much. That is all.


PS - SPOILER WARNING: I didn't want to go into the ending in case you hadn't finished accidentally reading I Am Legend over the course of the post, but by this point, I've probably gone on long enough for you to catch up, assuming it was accidentally purchased with one-day shipping. The question I can't help but ask is whether, after being captured by the vampires, Will Smith is going to find out that they have started building their own society and that they consider themselves to be the humans and him to be the monster. Every morning, they go to sleep afraid that he might find and kill them, even as he goes to sleep each night afraid that they will do the same. Equally important, is the question of how he is going to come to this realization and bravely face them and their execution, knowing that he will be immortalized in their fear and loathing of him (the book concludes with this realization and the very last line is, in fact, "I am legend", which is why I'm excited they're actually using the title).

Unlike with War of the Worlds, I don't want this ending to be modernized. I would love it if it finishes by quoting the book.

Okay, that really is all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NBC Online

So, a couple months ago, NBC announced that Apple sucks and that they were going to be doing their own thing with digital media, specifically movies and TV shows. I thought this was a little stupid at the time, because NBC shows have been a huge success on iTunes and I would assume that NBC would want to at least keep that in place until they already had an alternative in place that was doing well. But, well, apparently they weren't happy with the money they were making from selling shows on iTunes and so just wrote it all off while working out their own online strategy.

Their new strategy has two key parts, of which I've only used one (the other is in a private beta right now). The part I haven't used is called Hulu and it's a joint venture with Fox to create a YouTube competitor. This seems pretty inherently stupid and I assume it will suck in a major way (largely because I can't really imagine it being any good). Obviously, the plan is to give it a leg up on Youtube by populating it with much of their own original content, which they are working hard to keep off of YouTube. They'll make lots of money by populating their original content with ads (and I'm sure they'll be plenty of other ads on the webspace as well). They'll even try to create an online community and allow users to share videos, and it'll probably be quite interesting to see how they decide to protect their content (as well as other IP owners content) within that ecosystem. But, so yeah, there doesn't look to be any real reason for Hulu to ever become relevant. Also, it's called Hulu for goodness sake. I don't even want to know how or why they picked that name.

The second part of their strategy is to allow the viewing of recent episodes on their official, webspace, via an ad-supported Flash player. Due to the fires in southern California, I missed much of my recent NBC watching, so I've been using that to catch up. The experience is...interesting. When it's working, it's not a terrible way to watch a TV episode. They break the episode up into bits at the same points where there would be ads if you were watching it on TV anyways (which I think is fair). The main difference, and the only thing I like, is that during these ads there's a countdown letting me know when the show is going to come back on. This is really convenient, because it means you can be working on a blog entry and just be checking the countdown until it's time to come back. Very nice. It would be awesome if they were able to implement something like that on general television as well.

The rest of the experience, however, pretty much sucks. Well, actually, I should be nicer than that. It's hardly the worst way to watch TV. I imagine that watching TV in black and white on a 6" screen would be worse. I'm sure watching TV when the power is out is worse (because then you can't even be working on a blog entry).

Here's what it was like, for me. I find NBC's website. No problem. I struggle to navigate this busy and complicated website, but find the link for watching full episodes of Chuck, so I click it. This instead takes me to their Chuck website, which is also busy and complicated. There's many different things that say "Watch a full episode of Chuck online!", but I'm struggling to actually find that precious link that takes me to these full episodes. Soon, though, I figure it out and I'm watching Chuck. I quickly notice that the video quality sucks. This is not especially hard to notice, unless you're not looking at the screen. But, hey, the load time was pretty much nonexistent, so it would hardly be fair to complain (this is kind of the mindset you need going in: I will make excuses for all the things that suck about this because it's free).

Then we get to an action sequence. Now, the frame rate drops to nonexistent. Luckily the dialogue is still going, except this action sequence featured characters speaking Chinese, which I'm not capable of understanding without the aid of subtitles, which, as it happens, tend to be more viewable when you're seeing each frame you're supposed to see, instead of every 24th. But, whatever, the action ends and things get back to normal (and I don't even complain because action sequences in Chuck are stupid anyways...see more excuses). Now, though, I'm onto a new problem. The newest episode seems to crash at the same point every time I try to watch it. This is disappointing, because I don't really appreciate having my browser crash, over and over again.

Another complaint would be that the ads must be significantly larger files, because they basically start and stop and junk around a lot (which means that watching ads is actually more painful than normal, even when they're happening in the background while I'm writing a blog entry).

And, well, the list of complaints goes on. Maybe it's just slow today, but I finally gave up on watching the newest Heroes online (crashing starts to get old after a little while). I know someone who lives about 25 minutes away and TiVos Heroes. I think it'll be faster to just drive over there and watch it with them (in HD, by the way).

So, yeah, we'll just have to wait and see when I get around to doing another NBC Mondays post, but catching up is apparently harder than I would have liked.

That is all.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guitar Hero III

So, Guitar Hero III came out today. And, um, I bought it. A couple weeks ago, I bought numbers 1 and 2 as well. I intend to never touch the "Rocks the 80s" collection. And, well, I have to admit, my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, it's more songs. And, well, more songs are always good (except in the aforementioned "Rocks the 80s" case). On the other hand, this is the first Guitar Hero that didn't involve Harmonix. And, well, it shows.

Let's start with what I like. I like that many of the songs are original recordings, although it is significantly less than I had initially expected (almost everything before 1990 is covered, it feels like). I like that it brings Cream and Stevie Ray Vaughn back (my favorite artists from number 1). I like that the final performance location is Hell. I kind of wish they called it that, though. Or, well, anything besides Lou's Inferno. I mean, seriously, how is preceding the word Inferno with Lou even kind of okay (unless it's an incredibly vague reference to Lou's Records, which is a popular record store in southern California, but I kind of doubt it). They should have just called it The Underworld, or something. I really liked that they gave the year the song originally came out. I think that's one of the only really classy additions. It really gives you a feeling of history when you can kind of see who was playing when, and I totally appreciate that.

Hmm, I think that's almost everything I can come up with. I guess I kind of like the Japanese Schoolgirl guitarist, Midori, except she doesn't really look like a Japanese Schoolgirl, which seems to defeat the whole purpose of having a Japanese Schoolgirl guitarist. Oh, I also think it's totally awesome that we can equip our characters with Guitar Hero guitars (I think it's cool to have my character playing with the same thing I'm playing, but maybe I'm weird).

There, that was a decent amount of stuff to like, right? Oh, wait, I also liked the quote "Real guitarists don't sit on the couch". That was pretty awesome.

Anyways, the dislikes. The new art style is pretty high up there in the dislikes. Guitar Hero typically is pretty cartoony, but this one seems to take itself a lot more seriously. This starts to come across kind of weird when you look at the completely ridiculously over-the-top costumes available. I think they had to do this so that the boss characters (REAL guitarists that battle you during incredibly boring sets that they wrote specifically for the game) wouldn't look completely out of place, so the result is that everyone looks like a normal proportioned person and the boss characters look really boring (since they don't have costumes of the same level of ridiculousness as the main characters). Also, the audience comes across as incredibly monotonous and boring. I mean, they're just there to make you feel awesome, but when they all look like skaters from the Tony Hawk series, you can't really bring yourself to care about them.

Next, I really don't like how this feels a lot more like a rhythm game. Guitar Hero is supposed to be targeting the people who thought that DDR was lame, right? It's supposed to make you feel like a rockstar, right? So, why should a rockstar give a crap about the length of his current string of notes?! I really don't need to be informed every time I hit 50 notes in a row. Normally, the only time you see words over the main area is when you get star power. That was invasive, but okay because it made you feel accomplished and ready to really ROCK. Getting 50 notes in a row means nothing to me.

I imagine this nuisance as a little nerdy guy backstage keeping a tally and then running onstage to let me know about it in the middle of the song. Plus, he takes so long to get onstage that by the time he reaches me and starts bugging me, it's not relevant anymore (seriously, I swear it takes like 5 seconds for the letters to appear, I know this because I've screwed up the 51st note before and then, a brief moment later it told me I had a 50 note streak going). That whole mechanic of streaks is a rhythm game construct that isn't relevant or necessary for this game. And it's annoying.

Obviously, I didn't really like the boss battle very much either. It just seemed, pointless. It's a total gimme, to get you excited about it in multiplayer, but I can't imagine it being all that much fun with another person either. Face off in Guitar Hero has been about showing that you're the better guitarist. That you can pull off the crazy solo that the other guy can't. Battle mode proves nothing. It's not about rocking out, and so it just doesn't feel right in Guitar Hero (I mean, that's a classic puzzle game mechanic, for goodness sake, and I don't really associate Guitar Hero with Tetris).

But, really, my main dislike is just where Guitar Hero is going. The box didn't even advertise the presence of Cream or Stevie Ray Vaughn (it was just a pleasant surprise for me). There was also a lot more...metal, which is not really a fun genre to listen to (although it's probably because it has such crazy solos). Also, there was a lot of songs from 2005-2007. I thought it was funny that one of the little loading quotes was "Let's start with our new single so we can get that piece of shit out of the way". But then, you play the latest singles from Muse and The Killers and Queens of the Stone Age and you're just like, "Wait, I though we agreed those were crap, so why are you making me play them?" It's just, frustrating.

Why is Matchbook Romance in this game, but not Led Zeppelin? Where is Jimi Hendrix? Why is there so little of the great guitarists from the last generation? How about some blues? You know, maybe B.B. King? Or someone a little less renowned like Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy? They're still alive and kicking. B.B. King would be an incredibly awesome boss battle. Have him play something and dare the player to try to play it back at him.

I know that the argument is: That's what the downloadable content is for. And, yes, I understand. But, it's just, not exciting when everything is super fast punk that tests your rhythm or grating metal guitars that test your sanity (sprinkled with the occasional classic pop song, so your mom can play too). I don't know, I'm just not that into it.

Also, did they really have to make hammer-ons and pull-offs even easier? I'll be the first to admit that the first Guitar Hero made hammer-ons and pull-offs very tough, almost to the point of not fun (you have to seriously practice them to be any good at them at all, which I'm not, yet). Guitar Hero II made them easier by saying, push at the right time. I thought this was a fair compromise. Number 3 just says, be holding it when the note comes. I'm serious. That's all you have to do. It has this whole feeling of completely unreality about it (like this note magically plays). It's honestly, really stupid.

I swear I'm not being a purist here. I just feel that a large part of Guitar Hero has always been about feeling like you're playing the guitar and rocking out. We know it's just a simulation, but playing the Guitar shouldn't be easy. It should test your timing, and this doesn't. What's worse, though, is how this changes the mechanics. They literally just throw hammer-ons in the middle of anywhere, because they've completely abandoned reality and it doesn't matter anymore.

Hmm, I think my bitching is starting to go a little long. Most reviews seem to be pretty positive in a "it doesn't disappoint" sort of way. One of the common complaints is the presence of totally inane in-game advertisements (there's an AXE body spray branded guitar). Which is a fair complaint, to be honest, but pretty expected from the dudes behind most of the Tony Hawk series.

In summary, I didn't think it was as fun as the earlier ones, which is too bad. It kept most of what the others did right, but lost some things and didn't bring anything new that was fun. So, yeah.

That is all.


Friday, October 19, 2007

On Zombies and Vampires

Well, I was initially planning on titling this post "In Loving Memory of Zombies". But, well, I'm happy to report that I don't think zombies are dead yet (on a completely unrelated note, I take no responsibility for any and all of the stupid, entirely intentional puns contained in this post).

For the past couple of months, I've been telling anyone who'll listen that vampires are going to be the new zombies (not surprisingly, no one has listened yet). I've been predicting this because the number of really cool upcoming zombie movies has dropped to zero (Resident Evil: Extinction doesn't count, trust me, I saw it). At the same time, there are/were two cool upcoming vampire movies (30 Days of Night and I Am Legend). Now, admittedly, it's a well known fact that it actually takes 3 movies to call it a trend, and there are some cool zombie-ish movies coming in the distant future (the independent movie The Signal and Eli Roth's next project, Cell, would be two examples).

However, what is further contributing to my belief that vampires are the new zombies is that 30 Days of Night is very similar to the movie that started the whole zombie craze, 28 Days Later (I'm going to call the similarity of the names a coincidence, though).

28 Days Later was directed by popular indie film maker Danny Boyle, who had directed the popular Trainspotting. He created an extremely cool, very atmospheric zombie movie that redefined what a zombie could be. For one, he made them fast. Equally important, though, he made turning into a zombie really fast. In exchange, he got rid of that whole "Shoot them in the head!" thing. The result was a very different kind of fear where you didn't have time to say goodbye to your loved ones once they were bitten. Also, thankfully, this got rid of the stupid requirement for close quarters with lots of doors, because that's the only way a zombie can take someone by surprise (since zombies are fast now, they don't need to be conveniently hiding where the camera can't see them).

Obviously, this was a huge hit and I swear it was barely a year later that we saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead, which continued the fast zombie tradition (but kept "Shoot them in the head!"). This was also a very decent hit and so the fast zombie tradition was born.

Now, skip to 2007. 30 Days of Night was directed by popular indie film make David Slade, who had directed the popular Hard Candy. He created an extremely cool, very atmospheric vampire movie that redefined what a vampire could be. For one, he made them really fast. Equally important, though, he made turning into a vampire fairly slow. In exchange, he added this whole "Chop off their heads!" thing. The result was a very different kind of fear, where vampires are actually kind of scary. Also, thankfully, this got rid of that whole seduction thing where the victims willingly give themselves to the vampires (since vampires are fast now, they don't need to be conveniently ridiculously good-looking for the camera).

Okay, so maybe they're not that similar, but there's definitely a lot of similarities (like the name). But seriously, this movie really intended to de-romanticize vampires and actually turn them into something scary. I swear, it often seems like the servants of the vampires are scarier than the vampires themselves in most vampire movies. Vampires only real source of scariness comes from their ageless wisdom and power. And the fact that they typically steal your cute girlfriend and send her to seduce you, which sucks. And so, their ageless wisdom and power makes them arrogant and so typically the scrappy group of heroes manages to defeat the vampire (in case your curious, that would pretty much be the plot of Dracula, the book).

Now, personally, I've never found that especially scary (which is a little weird, because in book form, it is pretty decently scary). Also, this is hardly the first attempt to de-romanticize vampires. The Blade Trilogy immediately comes to mind, but maybe that's just because I'm weird since those are stupid action movies and don't count for the same reason that Resident Evil doesn't count. On the other hand, Guillermo del Toro's work with vampires has attempted to redefine vampires, but in a very different way (he actually directed Blade II, which was easily the best, which obviously isn't saying much). In Blade II, he created super crazy awesome vampires that feed off other vampires and they were totally crazy cool (their mouths had multiple breaks so their mouths opened into multiple parts which could easily fit an entire head into the mouth...which is just a little bit cooler than might have to see it to understand). In Cronos, he reimagined vampirism as a way to achieve immortality, but at a terrible price (drinking blood).

Now, that I've actually seen 30 Days of Night, I can honestly say that I was really amazed at how heavily influenced it was by zombies. This honestly felt more like one of the new generation zombie movies, than a vampire movie. In fact, almost every complaint I might have about it, arises from the fact that we're dealing with vampires, when it feels like we should be dealing with zombies.

This movie portrays vampires, most of the time, as little more than unthinking, hungry animals that tear their prey apart as they consume the blood (which, obviously, spills a massive amount of blood, but apparently the vampires aren't too worried about that). They kill the vast majority of the town in the first night (of 30, remember, not 28), in a massive rampage. And, personally, I think that's a really interesting way to treat vampires. I thought that made them a lot scarier and more violent, and well, evil. I like them as hungry creatures that have found the perfect hunting grounds.

In fact, if I we're making this movie, I would have set the town as the formerly second northernmost town of Alaska, after a mysterious accident destroyed the farthest one last year. I mean, why not let the vampires be experienced in the cold? Have the movie start with news crews at the wreck of that town (and introduce Ben Foster as the only survivor). Boom! We've already got a better opening.

But, this theme of vampires as animals is only skin deep, because for some pointless reason the vampires have their own language and they use it to say pointless stuff and make fun of humans. I swear, every scene of the vampires talking would have been better without the subtitles (in fact, I wonder if we might be able to check that option in the DVD version, that would be cool). I like the vampires portrayed as animals, but, as a general rule, animals don't get to have their own language and make fun of humans, unless the movie is rated PG or below and is animated (this movie is disqualified on both counts). At the same time, I loved the things they said in English, which gets spoiled in the trailer, but whatever.

So, I'm disappointed to say that 30 Days of Night is no 28 Days Later. This treatment of vampires was really interesting (and very zombie like, which I like). But, the movie itself wasn't very good, which is too bad. On the other hand, I Am Legend will definitely be good (I don't think it will be possible for that movie to be bad). Also, Richard Matheson's vampires are another very interesting take on vampirism. I don't know how closely the movie is going to follow the book (considering The Omega Man, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer was: not very), but Mr. Matheson did not write an especially romantic last man on earth against the vampires book (which is, in all honesty, a very zombie like theme if you think about it). Of course, assuming they're keeping the title because they plan to follow his themes, then these vampires will be very human (a fun middle ground between the not scary vampires of the past and the vampires of 30 Days of Night).

So, yeah, vampires could still be working towards becoming the new zombies, but they're not there yet. But, I'm excited. 30 Days of Night was really fun...almost as much fun as 28 Days Later, and I've never encountered a vampire movie I thought was as fun as a good zombie movie.

That is all.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Persona 3

Okay, I've spent well over 70 recorded hours of my life on this game (which is a low estimate since it only counts the play time I kept, and this is the type of game that requires multiple save states). It's probably time to write some sort of reaction to it, if only to try to explain why a game like this can so thoroughly take over my entire life (not that this is all that hard).

Anyways, Persona 3. It's published by Atlus, who I trust because they also published Disgaea and Trauma Center. All these games have poor graphics that it made up for through very expressive hand drawn pictures that go along with the dialogue (not that this is an unusual strategy for RPGs). Also, the voice acting and writing quality is typically well above average (although I used the Japanese voices for Disgaea, but that's not important).

Persona 3 is actually included within the Shin Megami Tensei umbrella, which includes a variety of other RPGs as well, all of which stand out for a variety of reasons. The primary thing they all share is that they are typically a little disturbing compared to the average RPG. Topics like cannibalism and suicide are not unusual in these games.

So, what is the first thing Persona 3 shows you, during the opening video when you turn on the game? "Memento mori". And then a silhouette of a character holding a gun to their head and pulling the trigger (and the eyes suddenly opening in pain as the right side of the head explodes). All this is set to some random upbeat J-pop song. Hell of a first impression.

However, it's not the first impression that got me to continue allowing my life to waste away while my entire focus was on this game. It's the gameplay. And this game, in many ways, revolutionized the genres it borrows from, to make them more than capable of taking over my life.

There are two keys genres where the gameplay arises from: classic dungeon crawling RPGs and Japanese High School Sims. Intuitively, these genres are not related. Also, intuitively, neither of these genres is particularly fun or popular outside Japan (okay, dungeon crawlers are kind of popular, I guess).

To be clear, dungeon crawlers are the kind of RPG that use fighting and leveling purely for the sake of fighting and leveling. Diablo would be a classic example of a dungeon crawler, but it used the point-and-click gameplay mechanic (instead of separate battles). The point being, you are meant to simply continue playing through Diablo's randomly generated floors and leveling your characters, purely for the sake of getting stronger. There is little other reward for your troubles. This genre commands a fairly hardcore audience in Japan that is willing to dedicate significant amounts of time to a game, simply for the accomplishment involved with doing this (think of those people that have to create level 99 pokemon, or climb everest for that matter). I will admit to the fact that I do sometimes get addicted to this type of game...

Japanese High School sims are basically only popular in Japan, to my knowledge (note that this is different from dating sims, which are ever-so-slightly popular elsewhere). Really, the only "fun" involved with these games is in accessing the different stories and cut scenes. These games main appeal comes from the idea of simulating life, except that you're allowed to save and try a different response. I'm sure this is fulfilling lots of fantasies, but whatever (it reminds me of the ending cinematic for Ubisoft's Prince of Persia, where the Prince kisses the beautiful princess, gets slapped, then reverses time a little ways so it never happened and instead he says something clever and walks away into the sunset, all classy-like). Anyways, that's all these games typically have to offer (although they can get pretty complicated, so I'm not saying they're necessarily easy...think along the lines of, like, Myst-type puzzles, only with more Japanese schoolgirls). And, I'm going on the record saying I'm not really into this type of game, I swear. I don't care if you don't believe me, since I know it's true and that's good enough for me (don't ask why I know things like the above couple sentences, too).

So, Persona 3 did something amazing. It combined these genres into something way better than either one. Dungeon crawlers suffer from a severe amount of monotony. It's kind of inherent to the system. High School sims suffer from a lot of problems as well, such as: unreality, lame stories, the utter pointlessness of it all, the lowering of personal self-esteem for even getting close to the get the idea. Persona 3 eliminates almost all these problems (there is still a little monotony, but it's fairly optional).

Summed up simply, during the day, in game, your character goes to school and at night him and his friends slowly battle their way up a seemingly infinite tower. At school, you do things like go to class, hang out with friends, participate in clubs, and try to date girls. There's a limited amount of time to do most of this stuff, so you have to divide your time wisely. At night, you do things like fight bad guys (or stay home and study or stay home and sleep to recover from the previous long night).

Here's where it's cool, though. There are two ways to power up your spells and stats. By gaining experience, you can slowly increase your stats and learn new moves. Alternatively, the activities, friendships, and relationships that you nurture at school can be translated into very significant power ups to your character at night. In fact, there are far greater potential gains from a fully developed friendship than would be available without it.

This provides two keys answers. First, there is a reason to care about your friends and their problems. If you can say the right things and help them out, then it will make you more powerful at night. This makes the high school sim aspect of the game a lot more interesting because there's actual personal awards for your accomplishments. Similarly, because this is where you can reap significant awards, you don't have to waste massive amounts of time leveling your characters at night, which makes avoiding the monotony that plagues the dungeon crawler genre a lot more feasible.

It's brilliant. The result is that over the course of the game, I can continue getting stronger and preparing to face tougher bad guys, without have to spend hours leveling up against the current guys. Once I've unlocked the way to the next area, I just have to hang out with the right people to improve whatever I need improved. Plus, the high school sim doesn't feel as arbitrary, because there's actually a strategy involved. As an example, let's just say I've dumped girls who were improving aspects that I didn't need.

Completely unrelated, I'm glad I didn't have to explain myself to her, I can imagine a conversion like that in real life being a little awkward: "The spells I'm learning from our relationship are weak and useless, so I'm dumping you for this nerdy chick who'll teach me crazy awesome instant kill spells. I hope you understand. It's nothing personal. We'll still be friends, right?"

So, yeah, that's what I've spent my life doing for the past couple weeks (don't read as dumping girls to find ones that give me more powerful spells). The game is really interesting and innovative, which is really what blows me away about it. I sincerely hope more games copy this type of mechanic, since it works so well.

That is all.


Monday, October 8, 2007

NBC Mondays, Week 3 Review

NBC Mondays, Week 3 Review

So, the shows have gotten a chance to finish warming up. I'm happy to report, I think it was a good thing. The stride has been hit, and they're all starting to get fun.

First off, Chuck.

Wow, this show is so amazing. So stupid, yet so amazing. This is what pointless comedy is all about. I still find the action parts to be just silly and vaguely annoying (although it kind of works when everyone is shooting in random directions and stuff is breaking, but only because that's more like comedy, anyways). But, man, I totally dig Chuck. He's so awesome. He's the perfect mixture of useless comic relief and charisma. You can't help but like him, even as he complains about always being in danger and being useless and having no free will and not truly dating the hot spy and the list goes on.

The girl is cool, too, I guess. It's hard to know what she sees in him, since intuitively it should be very much in her best interest not to get attached to him (but that might be thinking a little bit more than the show is prepared for, although it seems like any thinking would be more than this show is prepared for). But, well, what can you do, the show's whole concept is a twelve-year olds' wish fulfillment, and that wish requires the hot spy to mysteriously fall in love with the protagonist against all reason (especially against all reason, it's just more romantic that way, or something).

And, of course, the Buy More. I heart. His team of nerds, only slightly encumbered by the presence of his friend (who provides funny, but relatively unnecessary comic relief, considering that the main character is already our source of comic relief, but whatever), elevate everything about this show. Also, watching Jayne mistreat his fellow workers is an extra special level of awesome.

My highlight so far: Watching Chuck a follow.

Heroes Season 2

So, things are moving along. Mohinder is finally realizing that he's in over his head, which I'm pretty sure the entire audience knew from early last season, but it's nice to know that this really intelligent dude is finally catching up with us. DL is dead, which basically sucks major ass. Nicki is totally boring without her husband, so I'm back to not caring about her (Oh wait, did I ever care about her? Hmm, no, it's always been about DL and the kid). Although, I can't help but be intrigued by the old voodoo looking lady she dropped the kid off with (I'm still pulling for them to go to NYC, so that he can hang out with Molly, since we could totally see the sparks of young love flying).

Let's see, the pretty boy who can fly is going from kind of potentially cool, to totally lame. Not only does he repeat a power, but he repeats it with really weak special effects. I liked Claire's last boy toy a lot more. In other news, still no Kristen Bell. I just keep waiting...and waiting.

Hiro continues to allow himself to be distracted by a pretty face in the distant past, so that story doesn't seem to be progressing. I'm still waiting for Hiro to face down a dinosaur, since that would just be awesome. Otherwise, he's kind of disappointing me.

Which brings us to the two characters that matter. Peter Patrelli and Sylar. First off, I'm struggling to get over Peter's hair. It makes him look so militant. I liked it a lot more last season. Also, in all honesty, no one needs the most powerful mutant in existence right now, so he can go around helping Irish people rob each other and I don't mind. He'll get back to saving the world, I just know it.

And, Sylar. Poor Sylar. People really make a lot of effort to keep him alive. I'm always amazed by that. I swear, no one else gets nearly as much care (DL, would be a case in point, except that he's black so no one's really surprised they got rid of him). But, whatever, Sylar's okay. Now the question on all our minds can only be: is he still in the illusion? I think yes, which is why he still can't use his powers. Or, maybe he is on an isolated island for unknown reasons and also with really lazy special effects. Jeez, guys, what's the deal with the weak effects? I'm not asking for much, just for the trees not to look painted (poorly).

So, yeah, we're still waiting to really find out where they're going with this (the whole, who is hunting down the old heroes line is totally boring since the total number of living, likable old heroes is pretty darn close to zero, unless they want to start adding characters, which they probably do, now that I think about it). I'm all for killing off the useless old people who tried to cause all those problems last season, anyways. And bring back Christopher Eccleston, because he is awesome, and obviously he's hurting for work, since he was in that The Dark is Rising movie.

Highlight so far: Peter Patrelli. All the time.


So, I admit, I'm starting to warm up to it. Is it illogical? Probably. Is it intelligent? Not really. Is it challenging? Not yet. Are the characters particularly likable? No, definitely not. You know what other show I watch that fits those descriptions? That would be Battlestar Galactica. At least it thinks it's challenging. And it has Adama. On the other hand, Journeyman has Moon Bloodgood (possibly the most ridiculously awesome name for a female of all time). To which BSG would respond with Grace Park, and then Journeyman would bow down to the victor and commit seppuku, but that's not the point.

Now, I guess, we know that Moon (have I mentioned that name is awesome) has the same power as Dan (the protagonist), and so she did not die when everyone assumed she did. Instead, she's been going around through time for the last, long while. Now that he's traveling too, they can be buddies (right...buddies...yeah). I'm still waiting for her to be useful during one of the trips, but that's probably asking too much.

Anyways, I have one primary problem with the show. Dan thinks he can do it! He seriously thinks he can hold his life together and randomly disappear, for hours, days at a time. I mean, if that isn't a self delusion, I don't know what is. Luckily, he has the writers on his side, because if there wasn't that chain tying him to the present, then this show would be even more derivative than it already is.

Is it bad that I want him to just give up on the present? Become a hero and dedicate whatever is left of that hopeless life to helping the people that some mysterious higher power has decided are worth more than your own life (and, eventually become completely depressed by the futility of it all, and disappear into the ether or finish the tasks and be allowed to regain control of your destiny).

Personally, I have to say that easily the most interesting part of the show, now, is his interactions with Moon. Since this whole time traveling thing is the only reason she gets to be alive at all (if you want to be kind enough to call it living, which is generous considering that your life is really just making sure others live), I hope to find her outlook interesting.

So far, she's just disappointed that the woman he married instead of her is, like, an order of magnitude less hot and also more annoying. Although, I think I'd be kind of pissed about that too. It's like finding out that this person you were able to impress actually has no standards at all, and then wondering if maybe you were as bad as this new person and you just didn't know it (or maybe you were even worse).

So, yeah, I'm still watching. I'm not totally sure why. The longer he goes while still holding onto the life that is running through his fingers, the more frustrated I'll get, and maybe I'll finally give up, but not yet.

Highlight so far: Dan's wife finding the watch he give Moon in his jacket pocket. I couldn't help but smile (even though I had seen him forget his jacket where she could search it, and so knew she would find it). What can I say, I'm a terrible person.

That is all.


Monday, September 24, 2007

NBC Mondays

So, I watched all three of NBC's big shows this evening. That would be Chuck, Heroes, and Journeyman. Personally, I had very low expectations for Chuck, fairly high expectations for Heroes, and somewhere in between for Journeyman. So, my thoughts:

Chuck was at least a bit better than I expected. This might be because I am totally biased by the fact that the main character went to Stanford and actually manages to talk about his experience for a good three seconds or so, believably. I did not know this was actually possible. I'm going to assume that there is someone involved with the show who actually went to Stanford, and so made it possible. That is the only explanation I can come up with. So, I have to give the show extra points for employing someone from Stanford.

Oh, it also gets lots of extra points for employing a former member of the cast of Firefly (that would be Adam Baldwin, playing a slightly more evil, and possibly less stupid, version of Jayne).

Hmm, otherwise, there's not too much going for it. The girl is decently hot, I guess. She looks a lot like Christine Taylor (Ben Stiller's wife, who can be seen in Zoolander and Dodgeball).

I guess my main problem with the show is that I think it's better when there isn't violence. Chuck helping people while working at this take-off of Best Buy could probably be pretty funny all on its own, without pointless action with a hot babe (but, some could argue, what's the point if there isn't a hot babe?).

I can imagine some alternate version of Chuck, that's more like House, only for the geek audience. With people coming in with stupid problems while him and the rest of the Nerd Herd solve bigger problems, typically involving video games. Okay, fine that probably wouldn't be any better. But, hey, it probably wouldn't be worse either. Besides, poor customer service is totally funnier when it isn't coming from someone who's supposed to be saving your life.

In conclusion, yeah, I might watch it again next week. We'll see. It depends how much time they spend being stupid at work versus how much time they spend being stupid with violence. Also, completely unrelated, why is the current explanation for the story that the people from the NSA and the people from the CIA are on such poor terms that they're okay with killing and fighting each other? Couldn't they come up with a situation that doesn't just hurt my brain with the stupidity of it all?

I'm praying that there's going to be a twist mid-season where we find out that somebody' boss (either Jayne's or Christine Taylor look-alike's, or even both!) has actually gone rogue and so the former roommate that got Chuck into this mess was actually not turning against his country, but instead was thwarting said evil boss. On the other hand, if that doesn't happen, I probably won't mind because I'll have given up on the show by then.

Moving on to Heroes...

So, facing the classic problem of not really knowing what to do or where to go, the writers apparently have decided to use the classic "add more characters to an already bloated show" strategy to continue the story. Luckily, they backed this up with the equally classic strategy of "kill off popular, cameo type side-characters to reduce clutter". Admittedly, this combination doesn't work as well when you add like six characters and only kill one off, but, whatever. They've still got time to kill off the others.

I do have to admit, I'm glad to see everyone again. Mohinder is still mixing it up with the wrong people. Hiro is still a ridiculously awesome control freak. I think I'm going to enjoy watching him try to write (or would it be rewrite?) history so that things happen the way he was told they did, hundreds of years later. I'm sorry for Matt, that his marriage was unable to work out (it sucks that it didn't work out in either the bad timeline or the current timeline). And Peter... Oh, how I heart him. It's good to see him alive and kicking (well, telekinetically kicking, at least). Also, why is Nathan still alive? I was totally counting on him to die. But, whatever.

And, of course, we can't forget about Claire, can we? I swear she's cuter. Although, I liked last season's boy a lot more. Admittedly, at least this one's a special person (is it frustrating that they are basically doing X-Men, but refuse to call themselves Mutants, or use any other simple noun to define themselves?). On the other hand, this guy has the same power as Claire's father. Somehow, if they were to get together, that would seem really incestuous to me. But, whatever. Also, her new high school looks just like the high school in that movie Orange County (which also talked about Stanford, but not nearly as well as Chuck did).

So, yeah, they were quick to keep pushing this scary dude that young Molly's afraid of. I'm not sure how many lone wolf, evil guys with crazy powers the show really needs, but it looks like they're shooting for at least one more. Otherwise, it's hard to really tell where they're planning on going with this. I'm surprised that we don't see anything about people reacting to the fact that a nuclear bomb went off in the sky above the New York City. I was kind of expecting that to be a source of tension in this new timeline. But, whatever.

Also, I'm not passing judgement on the people traveling to find Mohinder just yet. Although, I can't help but be curious about what foreign language we'll have regular characters speaking in next.

Lastly, Journeyman.

Personally, I thought this could be good. I actually read that book, The Time Traveler's Wife, which is a semi-obvious inspiration for the show. Admittedly, I kind of regretted reading the book, but that's not the point. I didn't like it because it paid too much attention to the wife, instead of the time traveler (which it had given me fair warning about, considering the title). This show looked like it was going to be paying more attention to the time traveler, himself, so that should be a non-issue.

Anyways, it was kind of a letdown. I want to give it another chance. I really do. But, well, ouch. I'm not sure I really appreciate this whole idea that over the course of the episode, he figures out what he has to do when he goes back in time. It's just very contrived. I mean, I knew it was going to be contrived, but it was still very contrived. I think I like that word (contrived, I mean).

It is funny to see him interact with his former fiancee when he goes back in time. Although, it is REALLY weird to see him interact with a time traveling version of her to explain what the heck is going on. This just feels like really lazy writing. It's like the writers were like, "We need someone to tell him what's going on, because he's never going to figure out why we're doing this to him on his own. So, let's get his dead fiancee to do it, since he'll listen to her."

I mean, wow. It just feels lame. I think I'm going to try to force myself to give it another chance, because I was really hoping for the best for this thing. I mean, NBC put it after Heroes, so they must have high hopes, right?

So, yeah, that's the review. Too bad these are pretty much all the shows I wanted to check out. At least it was convenient.

That is all.


Nickelodeon's Current Crop of Tween Shows

So, recently, I've been watching Nickelodeon. To my surprise, and general amazement, they actually have some pretty awesomely hilarious live action TV shows right now. This is surprising to me, because I haven't really liked much of what they put on with living people in at least 8 years, and probably more. What was even more surprising to me, however, was that all these awesome shows are created by this random dude named Dan Schneider. When I realized this, I thought to myself, "Wow, this random dude must be some kind of genius. I need to learn more about him."

It turns out that this guy pretty much is the creative force behind all of Nickelodeon's good live action stuff, even from when I was watching Nick regularly, like 8 years ago (okay, not all of them, because he wasn't involved in Pete & Pete, but otherwise, everything). Suddenly, the reason why I liked these new TV shows made sense: They have the same humor I thought was funny 8 years ago.

My personal favorite show of his creation is called Drake and Josh. It's about a pair of step brothers who are in the same grade. One is the cool, heart-throb who I assume is popular with the 12-year-old girls this show probably targets. The other is the intelligent, but totally spastic, source of physical comedy (because every good kids show needs a large dose of physical comedy). The other main character is their little sister (who also played the evil, bitch girl in "School of Rock"). She's pretty much an awesome villainess who mercilessly tortures them (by being significantly smarter than either of them and taking advantage of it to play tricks on them and otherwise abuse them).

And, well, that pretty much sums up the show. The brothers screw around while Drake randomly hooks up with chicks and Josh waves his arms wildly and screams. What can I say, the show is brilliant.

His other current show that I appreciate actually stars the little sister from the previous show, and it's called iCarly. This isn't surprising since she was very nearly the best part of that show (just a hair behind Josh and his random screaming). I'm not actually sure that this show has a story (I don't think any of them do, really, since they're all basically sitcoms). It just has her, her best female friend, and some boy who's shorter than either of them and is supposed to have a crush on her (which she abuses by making him do tons of favors for her, which is pretty true to life, I think). Oh, and her older brother, who supplies the physical comedy that was reserved for Josh in the previous show.

In case you're curious, Dan's previous show catalog includes: All That, Kenan & Kel, and The Amanda Show. Oh, he's also got some show starring Britney Spears' little sister, which is not as awesome as the other two shows (Zoey 101).

Anyways, obviously all these shows are very similar. Firstly, it's a very small group of main characters. Drake and Josh officially have two, but the little sister adds a third, although she is seen far less than them. Zoey 101 actually has a much more diverse cast, with at least 4 main characters and a significant number of less relevant characters (I'm not as sure on this one, since I don't really watch it). iCarly also has four main characters, but it's really three with the older brother thrown in as a source of physical comedy.

Next, adults are not relevant in the lives of any of the main characters. It's quite impressive really, but his characters live in a fantasy world where adults don't really rule. Drake and Josh have parents, but they're basically only around to side with the little sister characters. The only adult we see regularly is Josh's boss (and she basically delegates everything onto Josh anyway). In Zoey 101, I think they're at some boarding high school or something, because they live in dorms. And, um, that's all I know (I haven't seen any adults there either). In iCarly, she shares a very nice loft, apartment with her older brother. The parents are nowhere to be found. And, considering that her brother is the source of physical comedy, it's safe to say he doesn't act very much like an adult.

To me, this is an interesting trend for kid's TV shows. There literally aren't adults in the world that these kids inhabit. All of the shows are very simple formulas, really just a set up for the kids to have snappy dialogue (and for cute boys and girls to try to impress each other, but that's just to satisfy the 12-year-old girl demographic). Obviously, it's not hard to imagine why kids enjoy this fantasy, and it allows for relatively simple plot allowances, since there's basically no one watching over the kids, so they can get into all sorts of hilarious, but perfectly safe, trouble.

The one disappointment to me, however, is that the shows don't even attempt to address any real issues. I think it could potentially be really interesting to push the boundaries of this fantasy world and call on the kids to help each other deal with problems that normally would be responded to by going to an adult. Without risking doing anything un-PC, I can imagine the shows still tackling things like managing time between friends and school and sports, or the loss of a pet or anything like that. These are simple topics that real kids face in the real world, and it would be interesting to tease the comedy and the solutions to those types of issues into this fantasy world as well.

I bring this up because I think many of Nickelodeon's animated TV shows do a great job of bringing in those kinds of episodes. "Hey Arnold" dealt with the struggles of the main characters in a variety of situations and often excelled when it was trying to address semi-serious issues. Same with "Doug". Even my current favorite Nickelodeon animated show, "Avatar" manages to bring in commentary about war and the effects it has on the innocent. So, in all honesty, the bar has been set quite high, and well, I'd like to see them try to rise to meet it.

In any situation, Dan Schneider is still doing some great work for Nickelodeon and I am most certainly a fan.

That is all.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Top 5 Albums Post

Well, here's the top five list of my top ten albums of all time, with commentary. Lots of commentary. And so, let us begin...

1. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Yes, I know, this is pretty much everyone's greatest album of all time, but that's totally not the point. The point is that it deserves it and anyone who doesn't give it to them is a dirty liar. They're pretty much the greatest band of all time and this is they're best work. And it is the best thing ever. There really is nothing else that can seriously be considered.

I think it's also important to point out that there is a significant number of people who haven't listened to this CD and have no idea what they've missed out on. I mean, hardly any radio stations actually play music off this CD, since it really doesn't have any of their famous songs on it (their greatest hits collection, "1" doesn't have a single track off this CD). The result is that unless someone forces other people to listen to the album, it's easy to completely pass it by. And, well, that's kind of depressing, really.

This album captures so much of what is right about music. Many of the songs are about such simple topics as growing old or leaving home and other aspects of life, but it really captures the core of those experiences. It's really not about drugs, even though it has Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on it. This is a beautiful, touching CD. And it really is the best CD of all time, and I sincerely doubt anything will ever dethrone it. I'm not even sure how something would go about doing so...

2. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Did I mention I'm a huge Wilco fan? Oh, I did. Good, that makes this choice a lot more obvious. I was actually tempted to make the top slot a tie between The Beatles and Wilco, but then I would be a dirty liar, and I decided I didn't really want that. Anyways, YHF.

I remember the first time I heard a track off this CD. I was driving home and the radio played "Heavy Metal Drummer". I swear I almost died, I was so in love with the song. Somehow, I found out the name of the band, went to Tower Records and bought the CD (it was even on sale as a recommended album). At that time, I listened to it, thought it was brilliant and moved on (I was in high school and there was lots of great music to be discovering). A couple years later I bought more Wilco CDs and fell in love with those too. They inspired me to listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot again, but this time I had been prepared for it.

It totally blew me away. It captured everything, ever. I love melancholic music and YHF literally is melancholy. Every track contains beautiful explorations of hopelessness and powerlessness and longing, but also love and faith and hope. Once again, there can be no standout track on this album, simply because this album stands out. That's all there is to it, but it won't stop me from trying.

The opening track, "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" tells a story of the end of a relationship and captures the feelings involved, all through the drunken voice of the protagonist after spending one last evening with her. I'll skip to track three, "Radio Cure" which is should basically be the anthem for all long distance relationships for all time. The take home line is, "Distance has no way of making love understandable". Jeff Tweedy's delivery is perfect, as he is just barely even capable of completing the line, collapsing from the sadness of the song on the word making.

"Jesus, etc." presents an uncertain future and it's only answer is love. It's memorable melancholic line is, "You were right about the stars, every one is a setting sun". The last song I'll bring up is "Ashes of American Flags". This song captures the hopelessness and uncertainty of the artist in full form. It is easily the most beautiful song on the CD. It is also one entire melancholic line, which can be read here.

3. Nirvana - Nevermind
This CD defined the expectations for angry, grungy, punk music forever. Unlike the above CDs, you can actually still hear tracks from this CD on the radio. In fact, you can hear nearly every song on this CD on the radio (although you'll certainly hear some songs more than others). This CD and their Unplugged in New York CD are the only releases that are still heard regularly on the radio, and it's almost entirely because they're the most approachable (okay, you can hear a couple In Utero songs too, and the occasional song from Bleach). This does not make them bad. Of the two, though, only Nevermind is great (and not a live performance).

It's hard to talk about Nirvana without talking about Kurt's suicide, but there's another theme that gets regularly commented on about Nirvana: the fact that young people don't know anything about Nirvana anymore. Somehow Nirvana has become irrelevant to teenagers today, which simply boggles my mind. I can't even imagine my high school years without Nirvana.

All I can really say about this astounding CD is that my favorite track off it, for a long time, has actually been Lounge Act. Even though it's not really a radio track, it's just such a fun song through the voice of a controlling, paranoid freak, that I can't help but love it.

4. Neil Young - Harvest
Whoo! Hopefully this counts as the first thing even remotely like a surprising pick. Or maybe it's not, since the last pick was Nirvana and Neil Young is like the uncle of grunge or maybe the godfather or, well, something like that. You know what I mean, hopefully.

Anyways, this CD is amazing. I don't actually know all the much about Neil Young, but I know this CD has some sort of crazy story behind it. Interestingly, that's actually completely irrelevant to what makes this one of my top five greatest albums of all time. This choice is entirely about the music. And, wow, the music on this CD...

At this point, I would like to state that, in no way, shape or form, am I a fan of country music. But, I am a fan of amazingly great music, and that's what this album is. The fact that it pulled a lot of country artists in is irrelevant. Obviously, "Old Man" is a stunning song. So is "Alabama". And "A Man Needs a Maid".

But, the song that will remain stuck in my mind for all time is "The Needle and the Damage Done". I think that will remain as one of the most powerful songs ever written about any topic. I can barely even imagine what it would be like to write a song like that. If you want to hear the story behind the song, you can find it on wikipedia.

5. Radiohead - Kid A
This one was hard. I mean, how do you pick between OK Computer and Kid A? Seriously, it's like impossible. They're both amazing CDs, and in all honesty, OK Computer was probably more influential. But, there's just something about Kid A. Something intangible. Maybe it's the fact the it's more than a little scary to just listen to it.

One of Radiohead's big themes has always been about conforming and much of their most interesting music is a response to society's pressure on people to conform. My favorite song of theirs is actually from the album, "The Bends" and it's called "Fake Plastic Trees", and it really hits the ball out of the park in describing the frustrations of the pressure to conform. OK Computer explores those themes throughout the CD, especially in "Fitter, Happier", "No Surprises", and, well, much of the rest of the CD.

But, to be honest, the simple presentation of the songs on Kid A manage to capture that same feeling, just better, really. The title track makes "Fitter, Happier" sound silly and overbearing, while the entire CD is simply haunting. This CD doesn't question the idea of trying to conform, it simply ignores anything that might be like conforming and builds an entirely unique and incredible experience out of it.

While listening to this CD, you really can't help but question the world around you, because this album presents a completely different world. There is nothing like listening to this CD.

Alright, I'll try to get the bottom five up soon. This takes awhile since I'm listening to the music while typing this stuff, so give me a break.

That is all.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Top Ten Albums List Pre-post

I'm really bad at making lists. All sorts of lists, really. When asked to name my favorite albums, I tend to list about a dozen and say they're all in my top five. Typically, people are nice enough not to point out that twelve doesn't fit into five very well. Other times, I can only come up with two-ish and can only say they're in the top ten (and that I'm sure there's some other really good stuff in that list as well).

But, randomly, I decided that it's time to really flesh out my list of the best albums of all time. You know, decide what really is the best and work from there. But, before I do that, I decided to talk a little about what it means to be one of the best albums of all time and apologize to a couple artists that obviously should be on the list but aren't, largely because I'm lame.

So, my first rule was that no group gets to have more than one album in my greatest albums of all time list. It's just not fair to everyone else when you give The Beatles four of the top ten slots, it just takes away all the fun. I mean, yes, I know it's The Beatles, but still. Seriously, this is for fun, and who wants to just talk about The Beatles (don't answer that)?

Second, I'm nixing live albums and greatest hits collections as well. I'm kind of a purist and really believe in the idea of a cohesive, unified experience of an album. This makes me distrustful of greatest hits because there is no such unity. I also believe that albums should be carefully engineered and so I prefer the studio. I know, it's not fair to all the great live albums out there. Trust me, it hurts me just as much as it hurts you (except I can break my rules and bring up some great live albums if I so desire).

Third, anything that was so indie that the general public never really learned of its existence, is automatically disqualified. Sorry, but being one of the greatest albums of all time requires a fairly significant amount of success and/or recognition. That's just the way it goes. Also, obviously, I get to decide whether stuff qualifies. So, if you've never heard of the artist or CD, well, then it's probably your own fault, because plenty of other people certainly did (by my definition of plenty, of course).

Now, a couple apologies. Bob, I'm sorry. I know you're pretty much the greatest song writer of popular music history. I can't deny Blond on Blond and I know it deserves to be on the list. The problem is, well, it's not. I like you man, but I don't, you That's just the way it is. You're a hero and all, but, in the end, you're also Bob Dylan. And, well, that kind of works against you. No hard feelings, alright?

Same to you, Bruce. I know you just wanted to be like Bobby over there, and well, this is the result. It probably doesn't help that I'm too young to totally get your music from the eighties. It probably also doesn't help that your 9/11 CD was freaking boring and the best thing you did prior to singing bunches of 200 year old songs was 41 Shots (yeah, I know you call it American Skin, but whatever) but I'll go on record as saying that's definitely one of the most powerful songs I've heard to this day (but, darn, it's on a live album, and still definitely not enough to earn you a slot). Anyways, moving on...

To Led Zeppelin: Look, I know you guys are, like, up there with The Beatles in terms of relevance to today's music. I get that. And I admit that you're a lot better than a lot of the stuff you inspired, and your super bluesy rock is still something special and distinctive. But, you know what, I really just don't like your music. I mean, I can't even get behind Stairway for goodness sake. And I've tried, seriously, I've tried.

To The Rolling Stones: I'm not even sorry for this one. You guys are totally over-rated. I remember the first time I heard Exile on Main Street and I was like: "Dude, this music sucks." Yeah, that's pretty much how it goes. I will admit that your satisfaction song is pretty neat and I do like that children's choir version of You Can't Always Get What You Want that they play on House (and on the eighties TV show Moonlighting, as I recently discovered).

To Elton John: I'm sorry, but apparently, I'm homophobic or something. Obviously, there's at least, like, three of your CDs that deserve consideration for one of my top ten albums of all time, but instead I threw you into the apology section. I mean, seriously, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is awesome, and I'd totally respect Don't Shoot Me, I'm Just the Piano Player even if it didn't have Daniel on it. But, I think my personal favorite is Madman Across the Water. So, yeah, I'm sorry, because it should be up there. You seriously deserve the recognition, I'm just a terrible, terrible person.

To all female artists: I know I acted like I was joking about this in those other posts, but, apparently, I was only half joking when I said that I'm sexist. Yep, that's right. None of you were even considered. Honestly. I think the closest you get to even feeling like you're represented on the list is through Meg White of The White Stripes (and well, I think they're ending up in the honorable mentions section, although I'd like to think they would still end up there even if the group was all male, but we know that's not true, don't we?). What can I say, beyond pointing out that I've already made it clear that I'm sexist (and homophobic as well, now, I'm on a roll aren't I)?

To basically all non-white artists: Yeah, I'm sorry... but I swear I'm not racist. Unlike female artists and Elton John, I'm throwing you guys out just because I don't like your music. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or your ethnicity or whatever. I mean, I like Bob Marley's music, and he made it in (but I like Elton John's music and he didn't make it in, so, don't complain about being persecuted or anything, alright?). I'm glad we could reach an understanding.

Oh, I feel just like a founding father...

Hmm, those are the people who get singled out. Obviously, I can't help but admit that there's many other (Caucasian male) artists from long before I was born that made very good music that I will never really listen to simply because I'm a terrible person. It's not easy getting onto a top ten list when the author has only really paid attention to the last 10-15 years of music and is a fan of alternative rock.

Well, that's that. I've made my apologies. I'll actually get to the top ten list up tomorrow.

That is all.