Sunday, August 31, 2008

Farewell, Sweet 24

No, I haven't forgotten. I'll be writing about the 2-part Venture Bros. season finale shortly. I'm still pretty shook up. That was right up there with the last shot of Lost Season Four. I screamed.

Anyway, if you enjoy when I write about Venture Bros., check out my post-mortem of Season Three over at spunkybean.

Hot dogs are ready. I go now.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fan Entitlement

Did you guys see The Clone Wars? If not, don't. I beg of you.

I hated it. Now, it'll help if you read my review over on spunkybean. It's pretty funny, if I say so myself. But my point here is that the movie made me angry. I see crappy things all the time that don't make me angry, so that's not a reaction with which I'm totally comfortable.

A lot of the reviews, because America hates this movie, have a sense of entitlement about them. You know, like George Lucas owes us a decent movie. (Not like he's given us one in 25 years, but let's not get into that.) That kind of thinking pops up a lot in the Nerd Community. We've very protective of the licensed characters with whom we spend so much of out lives. That said, I don't usually get behind that. I don't want to be one of those "Bendis raped my childhood" guys. (PS: I totally heart Bendis.) A lot of people get all Drama Student about things, claiming that a bad issue of Green Lantern ruined their childhood memories, or that they have been actively wronged by a subpar season of 24.

One thing I've learned is that almost all creative people try to do something good that people will like. Even the worst movies have at least one person at the heart of it who thought it would be good. Whether the process itself ruins their intentions or whether they just have a skewed idea of what people will find enjoyable, people generally don't set out to make crap.

I said in the review that Clone Wars actually damaged the existing Star Wars movies, but it's not just because it's lousy. It's because it was made with such a complete lack of care. Nobody ever thought it was going to be good. It drips with contempt for the audience, and that's what offends me. George Lucas owes me absolutely nothing. But as a creative person, particularly an influential one, he should feel obligated not to squeeze out crap. The prequels sucked, but at least they felt passionate. The people who made them tried to make good movies that they cared about. That didn't happen here.

I'm angry because I cared about Star Wars for a very long time, and George Lucas and company think I'm an asshole for doing so.

I don't know why I'm writing about this for the second time in a week. I guess I don't want to be one of those crazy people who gets angry about bad entertainment. I get angry about people who willfully do a crappy job. I get angry at people who are openly contemptuous of their audience.

You know what? It's hard to make a movie. Just getting something put together in halfway viewable condition takes a lot of work. When somebody with infinite manpower and resources does only the bare minimum to get a movie completed, it's an insult. No, George Lucas doesn't owe us anything at all. But there's a big difference between being a one-trick pony with a tin ear for dialogue (and who stole an absolutely horrifying amount of the cornerstones of his empire from Jack Kirby's work) and being a dick.

Stupid Lucas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Danny McBride and Billy Quizboy -- Together at Last

--I would just like everybody to know that I am the #5 Google Result when you look up "Billy Quizboy". This is the kind of think that makes me very proud. Considering that two of the sites ranking higher than me are Billy's wikipedia entry and Billy's MySpace page, I think that's pretty awesome.

--I am officially inking Danny McBride's name into my list of People Who Are Awesome. I've been kind of fascinated with him since he appeared as Fred Simmons on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In the last three weeks, I've seen him in The Foot Fist Way, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder. He was awesome in all three. Foot Fist was painfully funny, and he absolutely stole Pineapple Express. His role in Tropic Thunder was small, but every single one of his lines was funny. "I almost blinded Jamie Lee Curtis on the set of Freaky Friday..." And he's got an HBO series on tap. Yeah, that's right. I am this close to not being able to talk about how much HBO sucks these days. Get Milch's new show on the schedule, and you'll have me back full-time. So get on it, Home Box Office!

Anyway, Danny McBride? Awesome. Seriously, if you're in a movie with Seth Rogen, Gary Cole, and Craig Robinson, and you can steal the movie, you're a force to be reckoned with. Check it out -- he's even getting his own tag!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Venture Bros. 3-11 -- ORB

Wow.

There was lot to this episode. This season, they've expanded the Venture Universe into a bona-fide mythology. It's reaching Lost levels, with the introduction of the Orb and the early incarnation of the Guild. We're only starting to learn just how much we don't know about the structure of their world, and I love it.

This doesn't specifically relate to this episode, but I had thought recently. In the Venture universe, time travel is almost always portrayed as an invention of the past. Recently, Hank made a reference to "Time travel guys from the past showing up to yell at my dad". In Season Two, the cultists in "Escape to the House of Mummies, Part 2" had an ancient time machine, and Season One's "Are You There God? It's Me, Dean" featured Grover Cleveland's time machine. Other than Brainulo, we've never seen a time traveler from the future. That's weird, isn't it?

Now, to the episode:

--The opening scene from the Rusty Venture cartoon was fantastic. I loved the animation style they used, which perfectly evoked Hanna-Barbera animation, even considering it was a cartoon on a cartoon.

--Oh yeah, Billy Quizboy! Kind of cool that he uses a toilet paper roll to crack Jonas' code, considering that the injury that made him remember his past was caused by reaching for a toilet paper roll. Ah, symmetry.

--Did Jonas Venture invent the Internet? He hid a URL in a 70's cartoon, for Pete's sake.

--Brock's especially angry in this episode. Killing a henchman did not mellow him out, after all.

--Doc's Mocho-coolers sound like the worst drink ever, and I will have to serve them at a Venture Bros. party one day.

--Aw, Scamp. Between last week's reference to Speedy and now Scamp, we're getting a lot of early episode references lately.

--OK, we've got a flashback to the early days of the Guild. Now, it's pretty clear that this Guild evolved into the Guild of Calamitous Intent, but at this point, their intentions are seemingly more benevolent. Members include Colonel Venture (Presumably Rusty's grandfather, since he was also a super-scientist. His great-grandfather was a milliner.), Fantomas (A French villain from pre-WWI novels. Also apparently an ancestor of Phantom Limb), Eugen Sandow (Yes, Venture's bodyguard is a real person. He's the "father of modern bodybuilding.") Mark Twain, Aleister Crowley, Oscar Wilde, and a number of unidentifiable members.

Also, their enemy is Nikola Tesla. Hey, do you remember who played Tesla in The Prestige? None other than the modern day Guild's Sovereign, David Bowie!

--The promo for Rusty Venture cracks me up. Nothing more to say there. Oh, wait: "The Rusty Venture Show is brought to you by... smoking!"Ha!

--"Do they have a bedtime, or any dietary concerns? I've noticed Hank eats a lot of refined sugars." Pete White -- Babysitter Extraordinaire!

--Bizzy Bee is back! Everybody's favorite Walt Disney stand-in is all over those shots of Times Square. Doc and Billy in their costumes? Fantastic sight gag!

--Brock loves that car, you know. It should not be trying to murder him.

--Holy crap, Hunter Gathers is a stripper! With a fantastic body, too. And now we know why Brock was assigned to bodyguard Doc. It seems there's a schism between OSI proper and some of the old-school agents, and the OSI is willing to kill Brock to make sure that the Orb is used. So both the Guild and OSI have significantly strayed from their original mission statements. I wonder if we'll see how that happened.

--Kano can talk, and is apparently a Stern fan. Also, he's got something to atone for. (And both he and Brock watch Top Chef. Hee.)

--Yay, the Alchemeist! This is going to prove to be the first time he's ever been useful.

--The Orb is either a weapon or an engine, according to Colonel Venture. (Should I find it significant that he uses the word "alchemists" immediately after a scene featuring "the" Alchemist?) Sandow kills Venture, and draws the conclusion that Kano killed Jonas. Kano doesn't answer, but he doesn't deny it. And earlier he said he'd taken a great man from the world. Damn, I think we've got our answer as to how Jonas died. Anybody predict that one? Didn't think so.

--You know, they constructed a darn good riddle for this episode.

--I like seeing Doc actually feeling positive for once. "Rusty's back" indeed.

--I'm really stunned that Brock was ready to kill Doc. But I think he wouldn't even have considered it if OSI hadn't tried to kill him. If somebody wants to make sure the Orb is used that badly, Brock's going to make damn sure it isn't. But boy, did Brock look happy when Doc decided not to use it. He's got a heart.

--Finally, somebody called Jonas "a crappy father"! And isn't it weird to see Rusty making the right choice? Between this and rejecting Killinger's offer to turn to evil, Doc actually acted ethically a couple of times this season.

--Never thought Doc and Billy would do the "Go Team Venture", but I loved it.

--OK, not cool to end the episode with Brock in mortal danger -- OSI wants him dead, all right.

And now we just have the two-part season finale. I'm a little worried. Relationships are fraying all over the place, and with all the references to immortality, I can't help but think that somebody in the main cast is going to die before all is said and done. Frankly, that idea horrifies me. I just don't think the season finale is going to end on a happy note.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Something I Realized About Two-Face

OK, it's taken three viewings, but I just realized that Two-Face in The Dark Knight does not have multiple personality disorder. I think it's the first time I've seen the character in more than 15 years where he didn't. I don't remember if that portrayal began with the animated series, or if Matt Wagner did it first in Faces. Regardless, it stuck. Other than Batman Forever, where he was poorly thought-out and just used as a gimmick (Tommy Lee Jones kept flipping the coin until he got the answer he wanted), Harvey Dent has been consistently portrayed with MPD.

It worked beautifully in the animated series, but the MPD has been a crutch too often. He can do anything, he's crazy! And, you know, what luck that the guy with a second personality gets half his face scarred. The movie showed us a Harvey Dent with a dark side who, when pushed, can't hold it back the way he used to. Harvey doesn't have a separate personality talking to him -- he's an intense guy who lost everything and is willing to trust people's fate to the flip of a coin. (And, you know, Harvey had that gimmick decades before Anton Chigur game around.)

It's weird that I didn't think about that instantly, but I guess that's just a testament to how carefully written the characters were in The Dark Knight. It felt correct, instead of feeling like a divergence. So really, this is just me taking a minute to point out once again that Dark Knight is awesome.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Venture Bros. 3-10 -- "The Lepidopterists"

Another episode without the boys or Doc. On the other hand, they did prove I was right last week -- last week's episode did indeed take place in between the episode proper and the tag of "Tears of a Sea Cow". Yeah, me. I'm awesome!

I know I cite a lot of favorite characters, but everytime there's a Monarch episode, I'm a happy man. That said, let's see what entertanined me this week.

--Wow, a Voltron parody! I have thought about Voltron exactly zero times in the last twenty years, but that was hilarious. And of course, Ned has a clown head to fly around in. JJ is pretty good to him, really. Man, that's a good parody, though. Right down to the speed lines.

--OK, when I predicted the Monarch could take JJ, I didn't know there was a giant robot involved.

--Hee. "No-no word." Damn, that was funny. Is it wrong that Ned cracks me up so consistently.

--Henchman Number One? Well, he's dead. I love that 21 and 24 are "that rare blend of expendable and invulnerable". Although, this is the second time that's been referenced in a couple of weeks, so now I'm worried about my favorite henchmen.

--In the heat of battle, Monarch calls his wife "Dr. Girlfriend". Somebody's going to sleep on the couch tonight....

--Hey, here we see the tension between JJ and the Captain building. You may remember that as a key plot point last week.

--Mr. Doe and Mr. Cardholder are awesome. "If he had a reality show, I'd watch it." "I'd watch it twice. Even if Flava Flav was in it."

--21 and 24 are getting all meta on us. And that henchman named Speedy that they reference? He's the one Brock killed in the first episode!

--The OSI bring Brock in on a mission -- that's pretty unusual that they pull him off bodyguard duty. I'm kind of surprised Brock's so willing to kill the Monarch, as I thought they'd developed an uneasy peace. Well, the guy's a professional, I guess. I like Brock defending the system, by the way. He's the smartest guy on the show.

--Of course the Monarch can make this all about Rusty. Man, he'll be arching Doc full-time before the end of the season.

--21 and 24 are right -- it is pretty freaky when Lara Croft drowns in the Tomb Raider games.

--I love that the Monarch is mildly surprised that the henchmen succeeded. He's been paying attention.

--Aww, Brock just wants to fire the death ray.

--The more 21 and 24 talk up their knack for survival, the more I worry about them. In the meantime, they're cracking me up.

--"It's like getting sucked off by an angel!" Wow.

--It's been a long time since Brock killed one of the Monarch's henchmen. I hope he enjoyed it. Frankly, he deserves a little fun.

--And that was actually a really good plan the Monarch had with the fake cocoon. Now he's free to arch Venture again.

And hey, that was an ad for next week's episode there. I don't know why Billy Quizboy is digging a hole, but I don't question the ways of Quizboy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Heart "Mad Men"

Here is a partial list of things that were awesome about Sunday's episode of Mad Men.

1. I'm not a guy who actually says "Oh, snap", but I said it like four times this episode. "I didn't realize you were in your thirties." Ha! "One thing I wouldn't call Paul is open-minded." Damn, that's cold.
2. Paul's girlfriend? That was a surprise.
3. Pete's reaction to his father's death was so off-kilter and yet totally believeable. I think he comes from a family of robots.
4. That Duck guy is no good. You've got to think Don regrets giving him the job -- it's like he created his own archenemy. Like he built a Golem.
5. Peggy's baby hates her. And Peggy goes from sympathetic to awful so quickly, it's really amazing.
6. Betty's got some spine this year, doesn't she? I worry about where she's headed, but it's good to see her standing up. I really want to know what happened between her and Don during the missing 15 months.
7. When Don gets upset, he tends to slip into his natural rural accent. It's a clever touch that Jon Hamm pulls off without making it too obvious.
8. Don actually follows his conscience, and still gets called out for being a dirty liar. It's sort of Karmic payback, I guess, but he really did fight for Mohawk Air.
9. Along those same lines, putting Pete on the American Airlines account is just about the most manipulative thing I can imagine. I can't decide if his willing participation makes it better or much, much worse.
10. How cool is Don Draper? So cool that he's taught his children to mix drinks! Truly, we are in the presence of greatness.

So, if you're not watching Mad Men, you have made some wrong choices in your life.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Venture Bros. 3-9: "Now Museum, Now You Don't"

Man, Jonas was a dick!

That's right, it's another installment of the least timely Venture Bros. commentary around. And this episode was just full of delicious continuity goodness, and enough recurring characters to choke a horse. (By the way, I've decided that this week's episode happens between last week's episode proper and last week's tag, since there are no references to the Monarch attacking J.J.)

Sadly, for the first time, Professor Impossible was not voiced by Stephen Colbert (though Jackson did a good job faking it), but we did get Toby Huss as Scaramantula, so that's not too bad. Huss has been on Newsradio, King of the Hill, and Reno 911!, so you know he's awesome.

Well, let's get to the commentary!

--So, Spider Skull Island belonged to Scaramantula! Answering a question I didn't even know I had, really. Also, note that the villains make up the "Fraternity of Torment", suggesting that this predates the Guild. Manotaur, we've seen him before in the present (future?), when Phantom Limb shows up to kill him. And Doc Venture trying to look Japanese by pulling back his eyes is hilarious. Wrong, but hilarious.

--Aw, poor Rusty. Is it just me, or does Jonas not seem particularly concerned about his son's deathtrap? It's great to see the entire original Team Venture, including Humongoloid. We first met him a couple weeks back as the tiny Dr. Entmann. Nice touches include the overenthusiastic Action Man, and Otto Aquarius' telepathy using the same sound effect as Aquaman's used to. And then we get a young Professor Impossible as a junior member.

--"The Jonas Venture Jr. Museum of Jonas Venture"? Ha!

--I know Jackson and Doc are Marvel guys, but Entmann riding everywhere on Brock's shoulder makes me think of how Hawkman always used to carry the Atom around. As long as I've nerded it up, modern-day Brainulo seems to be a parody of Green Lantern's enemy, Hector Hammond.

--J.J.'s jetpack produces tiny little circles just like George Jetson's.

--Hey, Richard Impossible's airship looks exactly like the Fantasticar! Funny how that worked out....

--Ook Ook, from the flashback, is frozen in the ice block that Hank licks. Is this episode the first appearance of Ook Ook? I think it is...

--The picture on the wall shows Jonas and the Boys Brigade. Looks like in their younger days Prof. Impossible, Phantom Limb, and the Alchemist were members. There's a big guy in a sweater and Tom Landry's hat that I can't identify. He might be Bud Manstrong, though.

--You know, J.J.'s kind of a dick, too.

--There is never a time when Billy Quizboy doesn't make me laugh. Pantsless Ned? Also funny.

--I love Scaramantula's explanation of his name. Also, I just noticed he has eight fingers on his right hand. Hee.

--Clearly, Doc blames Team Venture for his father's death. However, that's secondary to the fact that Colonel Gentleman is alive and well! Gentleman also confirms that he's not Dr. Quymn's real father and drops an awesome He-Man reference, all in two lines. Nice job!

--J.J. leaves Doc out of the photo recreation because he "wasn't in the original" (possibly because nobody ever untied him...), but J.J. wasn't either. Man, I'm starting to hate that guy.

--I love Brainulo mainpulating everybody's dark sides, only to find out Mr. White doesn't have one. His inner self is just as sleazy and pathetic as his outer self.

--Hey, that's Dick Cavett's second appearance this season! Now, in the film, Dick ask Jonas for his greatest achievement and greatest invention, and Jonas says Rusty is both. Holy crap! Is that confirmation that Rusty is a clone? Or rather, that J.J. is a clone and Rusty was the genetic byproduct? Wow!

Four episodes left this season! How much more can Jonas crap on his legacy? I'm betting a lot.