Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Aristocrats:
If you haven't seen this movie by Penn Jilette and Paul Provenza and you're a fan of dirty comedy, you're really missing out. It recently arrived from Netflix, and I watched it this weekend. And by that I don't mean I caught it on Saturday night, I mean I watched it this weekend. Thursday night I caught it by myself, and realized it would be a totally different experience with a group, so I brought it with me and watched it with friends on Friday. That spurred us telling a variety of bad or dirty jokes we all knew, which was a lot of fun, and allowed me to tell a joke that Jon Wachter once told me about a talking frog and a trip to Vegas, as well as my all-time favorite bad joke that my college roommate Bram Berrit told me about a mysterious island native group known as the Trids.

Saturday, after getting home from work, I watched most of the extras, and they're great. Extra jokes, extended takes on some of the comedians, etc. Tonight, I watched the commentary by Provenza and Jilette, and it was great too. The entire DVD is worth a look.

I have a fondness for comedy and the whole comedy world. It's why I loved Comedians of Comedy, why I loved the movie Comedian and definitely part of why I loved this. I actually won $100 at a campus comedy competition when I was a sophomore, and that spurred me to do a little bit of comedy in the shitty venues around town (Holiday Inn lounges, etc.). I enjoyed it, but just didn't think I could do it, and I still think that was the right decision... but I do have just a twinge of sadness that I never got to be part of the inside world of these comedians, which is bizarrely dark and twisted despite being the basis for so much laughter.

At any rate, The Aristocrats... well worth seeking out.
Blog Template Update for January
This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, listing my Favorite Comics of the Month, which is my counterpart to Current Favorite TV series, as well as my ten favorite graphic novel reads of the month. With my Fourth Rail commitments more or less gone, this is the closest thing I have anymore to regular "reviews."

A couple things of note in how I organize these things, for those who care. These listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. And each month, I'm recommending twenty things that I read in the month instead of 10 ongoing series and 5 first issues. It's less useful as a gauge of my overall tastes, but more useful as a "must-read" for the month. Oh, and graphic novels won't be listed in Favorite Comics... that's strictly for issues.

Some interesting patterns emerged for me in looking at the Top 20 for January. Despite my disdain for most of what Marvel and DC publishes right now, DC and Marvel made up 14 of the 20 titles I read (6 Marvel, 4 DC, 3 Vertigo and 1 Wildstorm). Only 1 of those DC books is actually in "Infinite Crisis" style continuity, though, and all of the Marvel books are on the lower end of the sales scale. I think this is a pretty good indicator of the market dominance that DC and Marvel have, that despite my disliking a good 90% of their output, more than 70% of my reading still comes from those two companies. However, my favorite book of the month was an Oni book, as Local #3 was the best issue of that exceptional series thus far.

The graphic novel pattern is more reflective of my tastes, and that probably has something to do with the graphic novel being my format of choice. On that list, one book is Marvel (and it's a reprint from the '80s) and one book is from DC's Vertigo imprint. If I had to pick my favorite of the month, I'd say it was probably Fables, although 99 Ways to Tell A Story is damned close.

Finally, the updates are for the month of January... February just barely started. So all my favorites will be anywhere from a week to a full month old, but these are meant to be sort of "standing" preferences anyway.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - February 1, 2006:

Batman And The Monster Men #4 (I'll say it again: Best Batman book running, hands down)
Exterminators #2 (Wow, I thought that first issue was fucked up. Outrageously disgusting, full of bizarre characters and weird conspiracy shit. Not sure I'm onboard yet, but I'm definitely intrigued)
I Heart Marvel My Mutant Heart (Three stories, one forgettable, one okay and one great, a story by Peter Milligan and Marcos Martin that reads like Human Target with a twist of X-Statix)
PVP #22 (Gay-owned comic shops, a band named Djork and more recent PVP strips... another solid issue)
Seven Soldiers Bulleteer #3 (Lost a lot of enthusiasm for 7 Soldiers overall, but kind of enjoying this series)
X-Factor #3 (Peter David is making good use of Decimation and Layla Miller, *and* telling a good detective/superhero story to boot. The best X-Men title around, which is damning with faint praise, but it's just a plain good comic as well)
Y The Last Man #42 (Spotlight on Ampersand the monkey... seriously)

Athena Voltaire Flight Of The Falcon #1 (Pulp adventure makes the transition from webcomics to print)
Concrete Vol 3 Fragile Creature TP (Still haven't gotten around to reading volume two, but I'm glad to see more reprints of Concrete)
Eden Vol 2 Its An Endless World (Enjoyed the first volume of this post-apocalyptic manga)
Flying Friar #1 (Rich Johnston's Speakeasy book hits shops)
Goon Vol 4 My Virtue & Grim Consequences TP (More Goon, always a good thing)
Gotham Central #40 (Probably should have ended when Brubaker and Lark left, as the entire original creative team is really what gave the book its spark, but the Rucka-only written issues have been pretty solid as well)
Hellboy Makoma #1 (Sooner than I expected, we get the new Hellboy, with Corben art. Looking forward to it)
Lucifer Vol 9 Crux TP (Like Losers, I started reading this one only in trades. Unlike Losers, I'm ready for this one to end)
Sable & Fortune #2 (First issue was a solid '80s style action book)

Monday, January 23, 2006

TV I Saw in 2005:
Part two of my irregular (and irrelevant) "Best of 2005" series here on the blog. I continued to co-run The Fourth Rail, one of the biggest comic review sites, throughout 2005, and one of the many, many reasons that I retired was that I realized that I was more interested in what was on TV than what was in comics, as a majority rule. It seemed like some of the more unusual and original projects were breaking through and surviving in a way that they usually don't in any entertainment medium, with the success of weird genre TV like Lost being a prime example.

So, below, my list of my top five shows that were on TV this year. Coming... well, later, is my top five TV DVD sets for the year and then the rest, stuff I rented or bought. I bought a lot more TV on DVD than I did movies on DVD.

My Top Five TV Shows:
Once again... I'm not judging on objective quality, but which TV I watched this year that I really enjoyed the most. There's one quality in common with all of them, and that's the ability to get better as they go along. There wasn't one new show this year that makes it to my top five list, but there are three from last year and two that were on their third and fourth seasons, respectively, and not one of them fell prey to the common season drift of quality.

1. Arrested Development (FOX) - If I had to choose only one show to watch, this would be it. Year three, and the show still gets funnier, more complex and more bizarre in its plots and character arcs. Tobias with hair implants that could kill him? Mr. F, and all that goes with it? George Bluth under house arrest, and using a surrogate to chime in at family meetings? This show is absolutely brilliant comedy, and quite possibly the funniest show ever put on the air. NBC generally rules the comedy roost, with Seinfeld, Cheers, Newsradio, and Scrubs all ranking in my favorites, but Arrested Development is my favorite of all time. Here's hoping Showtime picks it up.

2. The Shield (F/X) - I have to admit, I was worried. Glenn Close sounded suspiciously like stunt-casting. But she was amazing. She deserves an Emmy for best supporting actress. Her character was tough, smart, a perfect foil and ally for Vic Mackie by turns. And the story of Vic and the strike team continues to deepen, with Shane coming off as the bad guy for much of the early part of the season and the team coming back together after their disastrous explosion at the end of season three. That's not even mentioning Anthony Anderson in an Emmy-worthy role as Antwone Miller, probably the scariest and smartest bad guy the show has offered up yet. The Shield is a cop drama, but it's a cop drama that is so different from all the other cop shows out there that it doesn't deserve to be lumped in with them. Even the best of them, like Homicide or NYPD Blue (in its early years), can't hold a candle to The Shield.

3. Lost (ABC) - Complex mythology, plenty of mysteries and a terrific ensemble cast. That alone would make Lost a great show. But it's the writing that elevates the show beyond genre and into the realm of just plain great drama. The X-Files spectre looms above this show, with the worrying "can they possibly answer all the questions and mysteries in a satisfying way?" The great thing is, I'm so wrapped up in the characters and their week-to-week stories, that I ultimately don't even care if they drop the ball a little on this at the end. And season two, with the introduction of the hatch, the tailies and more of The Others, picks up nicely from where season one left off and continues to roll along.

4. Veronica Mars (UPN) - This is how great TV has been this season... this is the kind of show that could easily have been my number one choice, but I don't have a spot for it until number four. Veronica Mars turns for me on the smart father-daughter dynamic of Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni, but the key to making the show work in season two was to come up with a compelling central mystery equal to that of "Who killed Lily Kane?" from season one. And the writers managed it, with a multiple path story involving a crashed bus, the fallout of last year's Kane murder and the confrontation on the bridge that weaves in and out nicely, with plenty of room for further revelations. There were some missteps, like the introduction of bitchy girlfriend Jackie, and damn did I miss Wallace for the eternity it seemed like he was gone, but mostly, Veronica Mars is as good as it was during the first season.

5. Entourage (HBO) - While the first short season of Entourage provided some great laughs and memorable moments, season two is where the show clicked and became a favorite. The long-running Aquaman story was great geek candy, but the meat of the show, as always, was the interactions of four lifelong friends surrounded by shocking numbers of hot girls. The Mandy Moore issue, the use of Malcolm McDowell as Ari's boss, James Cameron in a great guest acting role, the show had great standalone episodes and a great plot throughline as well. And while every actor on the show is great, it's Kevin Dillon in particular who steals the show, with a blend of pathetic has-been and prideful star that is just dead-on perfect.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Google Love:
I've long been a fan of Google. The image search feature is just great, their searches are pretty good at finding what I'm looking for and the little search toolbar thing they had for Internet Explorer (before I switched over to Firefox, which has one built in) was a godsend.

Now they've told the Bush Administration to go and stick their fishing subpoena looking for private search information where it belongs, and I love them all the more. Fight the power, Google.

Huh. That's just an odd sentence.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - January 25, 2006:

A Trip To Rundberg Gn (Nate Southard and Shawn Richter's zombie graphic novel makes its way to comics shops after showing up briefly at Wizard World Texas)
Bone Vol 3 Eyes Of The Storm Color Edition (I still haven't read volume two, but I'm still buying these color Bone editions because I want the whole saga in color)
Daredevil #81 (Bendis always has had a problem with endings. It's not a bad ending, but it's not what the series really needed, which was a great ending)
Exiles #76 (The World Tour continues to be a lot of old school style fun)
Godland #7 (Good timing on Image's part, releasing the trade and the newest issue on the same day so folks can catch up)
Godland Vol 1 Hello Cosmic Tp (This remains one of my favorite book, just over-the-top cosmic superhero action with a great sense of humor)
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #2 (Probably the best Spider-Man title running at the moment)
Thing #3 (Old school fun)

BPRD The Black Flame #6 (Very curious to see how this finally concludes)
Fallen Angel #2 (I miss the old artwork, and wasn't as taken with the new first issue as everybody else, but I'll hang in there out of memory of how much I loved the original series, if nothing else)
JLA Classified #16 (I think this finally starts the Gail Simone/Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez story)
Lady And The Tramp Cinemanga (Buying this for my daughter, who likes books and really likes Lady and the Tramp)
Local #3
Next Wave #1 (Based on Ellis's take on Captain Marvel and the general disdain for superheroes, I expect to hate this... but I'd be happy to be wrong)
Oversight Collected Short Stories 1990-2005 Tp (Phil Hester is a vastly underrated writer, and this is a collection of his stuff)
Polly & The Pirates #3
Previews Vol XVI #2
Sexy Chix Tp (All-female anthology from Dark Horse... I'll love it if it can live up to Autobiographix)
Spider-Man Black Cat Evil That Men Do #6 (Holy crap, it's actually finished. I never thought the day would come. And thank goodness, because more than anything else, what superhero comics need right now are more rape stories)
Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic #1 (With the Star Wars movies done, I think it's possible all the Star Wars tie-in stories will actually get better... which doesn't speak highly of the movies)
Surrogates #4 (The speculative sci-fi story closes in on its conclusion, and I'm dying to see where it goes)
Truth Serum Vol 1 Tp (Weird indy superhero book that I missed the first time, but I'm curious to check out the trade)
Usagi Yojimbo #90
Warren Ellis Black Gas #1 (Ellis writes zombies for Avatar... probably going to be B-movie at best, but it might be fun)
X-men Deadly Genesis #3 (More than a little pissed by Brubaker offing a perfectly good character for a lameass shock value conclusion in the last issue, and pretty sure I'm gonna wind up hating all the "everything you know is wrong" aspects of this story... but I'll check out this issue to see if I change my mind on that score)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Open Letter to Showtime:
It seems clear that the rumors of Showtime trying to pick up Arrested Development are pretty solid. In fact, the latest I've heard out of EW is that they're offering a two-season pickup, as opposed to ABC's one-season offer. (ABC has Lost now, but I haven't ever really forgiven them for offing Cupid and Karen Sisco so early, so I'd really rather the show go away from networks).

The day that Showtime announces they've signed Arrested Development is the day I call my cable company and order Showtime. I'm already a fan of Weeds and The L Word by way of DVD and friends' taped episodes, all it'll take to push me into a subscription is picking up my favorite comedy on the air (and quite possibly my favorite comedy ever).

I love HBO because they've got Curb, Deadwood, Entourage, Sopranos, etc. But if Showtime picks up Arrested Development, it will immediately become my favorite pay cable network.
Movies I Saw in 2005:
It's late January, so probably too late really to be compiling "Best Of" lists, but I felt like doing a sort of "Best Of" retrospective of some of my entertainment this year and really, it's my blog and who's gonna stop me?

First up, I went through my Netflix queue and my Quicken to see what movies I'd watched on DVD and in theatres this year. There might be some others I re-watched from my collection and some that I got as gifts, but this is a pretty good indication of what movies I watched this year. So I hope you're all good and bored at work, because that's about the level of distraction I can offer here. Y'all will quickly notice that I have very "pop" tastes in what I pay to see in theatres. I generally want to see loud, over-the-top blockbusters, and prefer to watch the actual films with dialogue, plot, etc. in my home on DVD where I'll enjoy them more.

My Top Five (Counting Theatres and DVD):
I should preface by saying I'm not judging on objective quality, but which movies I saw for the first time this year that I really enjoyed the most.

1. Crash - Great flick. I've been a fan of Paul Haggis since his TV show "EZ Streets," and the buzz on this one, his writer-director debut, was absolutely right. Everyone in the cast was great, the dialogue is terrific, the story weaves nicely... it's a little heavy-handed at times, but not so much as to be annoying. The only reason I didn't buy it is because I don't know how much I'd actually re-watch something this serious, I tend to go more for popcorn style flicks when re-watching.

2. Million Dollar Baby - Love when Clint Eastwood does the actor-director thing. This is a terrific movie, although again, I won't buy it because I can't imagine re-watching it that often.

3. Serenity - Everything I'd hoped for, and probably my favorite movie that I saw in the theatre this year. Gutsy choices by Joss Whedon and a great swansong for a great show. In an ideal world, we'd all be watching season three or four of Firefly right now, as it was a setting and cast that had plenty of room for the long-term, but actually getting a major motion picture coda for the series is more than any fan really could have wished for. The cinderella story of the year, and hopefully Arrested Development will be the cinderella story of next year, rescued from cancellation by ABC or Showtime.

4. Closer - Fantastic. Great dialogue, great actors, a real character piece with a dark streak to it.

5. Garden State - Loved this movie, and have since watched it when it was on HBO and loved it again. Good cast, nice quiet vibe and some real humor. I haven't bought it yet, but I can see buying it at some point.

In Theatres:
Batman Begins - Overrated. Dull. Sorry, folks, I can't get on board the bandwagon with this one. In retrospect, the flaws in Burton's Batman are more than evident, but it's a better movie than this one.

Chronicles of Narnia - Pretty great high fantasy, nice spectacle, very watchable. It's not Lord of the Rings, but it's probably the next best thing.

Fantastic Four - Better than Batman Begins, at least in terms of capturing the spirit of the comics. Oh, at least half the cast is mediocre, the script is laughable, and the music is distracting and vapid... but the action sequences are solid, Michael Chiklis shined as The Thing and Chris Evans nailed the Human Torch part. Plus, it was fun, something lacking in both superhero movies and superhero comics a lot these days.

King Kong - Saw this one twice, once with friends and again with family. Both times, the people who went with me were underwhelmed. I actually quite liked it. It's over-indulgent in its length, and definitely flawed, but the high points won me over. Naomi Watts did incredible work, Andy Serkis and the CGI team deserve a lot of credit for making Kong a character instead of a special effect and the pulp action and wonder quotient was very high.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith - This one I liked in the theatre and when I recently re-watched it on DVD. Saw it with my wife on our anniversary. Doug Liman is a director I really like (Bourne Identity and Go are two of my favorite re-watchable DVD flicks), I like Brad Pitt (ever since Snatch, Fight Club and Ocean's 11, I've decided he's my kind of pretty-boy actor, the kind who can actually act), love Angelina Jolie (dislike most of her movies, but when she's in the right one, I like her a lot, and she's super-hot) and I thought there was some fun, goofy action in this one.

Sin City (twice, once at a free screening and once at the Paramount theatre premiere) - I really enjoyed this both times, although when I got a chance to revisit it on DVD recently, I started to see some of the cheesiness that others picked up on in early viewings. That might be because the luster is off Frank Miller's comically over-the-top noir stylings after seeing it applied to the wretched All-Star Batman and Robin. Still glad to have the DVD, though, and Rodriguez's 10-minute cooking school had me craving breakfast tacos, even though it's a food I don't like all that much.

Star Wars Episode III - Good lord. The buzz, from critics and fanboys alike, was that this was the film, the one that actually lived up to the original trilogy in some respects. And it was just godawful, just like the other two prequels. The ancillary stuff derived from the ideas in these movies, from Star Wars Battlefront to Gentle Giant's Bust-Ups to Tartakovsky's Clone Wars cartoons to the Ostrander/Duursema comics, ranges from good to great, but the source material, the movies, are just dreck. George Lucas, you are dead to me.

War of the Worlds - I actually liked this one in the theatre, but quickly realized that I have no real desire to ever see it again. So call it three stars at best, more like two and a half. If I want to watch a Cruise/Spielberg sci-fi movie, I'll turn to the very watchable action flick Minority Report.

DVDs I bought:
Beverly Hills Cop - Finally added this bit of '80s action-comedy to my shelf. It holds up pretty well, still funny and well-done.

Get Shorty - Waited for the special edition that I knew would hit eventually, got it and it turns out that the only feature I really care about is the movie anyway. Ah, well. Lots of fun, a good adaptation of Elmore Leonard, one of my favorite re-watchable flicks. Which only makes the crapulence that was Be Cool all the more disappointing.

Heat - I love this one more every time I watch it. Great crime flick by Michael Mann, and an incredible cast

Incredibles - Great Pixar flick, great superhero flick. Although surprisingly, I haven't re-watched this one as much as Finding Nemo, Toy Story or Monsters Inc, possibly because my daughter is too young to really be a fan of this one. She does love Iron Giant, also by Brad Bird, though, so I suspect when she gets a little older she'll love it

DVDs I rented:
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy - Love Will Ferrell, still waiting for him to get the right movie that really captures everything he's capable of. But this one had some really fun stuff, and a great cast, including Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and a memorable turn from Vince Vaughn. Won't make my comedy best of lists, but if it was on cable, I'd probably watch it.

The Aviator - Solid movie from Martin Scorsese, but I've realized two things: 1) I just don't care about Leonardo Di Caprio, no matter what the role and 2) I really just want to see Scorsese's gangster movies

Battle Royale - I was actually expecting something more outrageous and funny given what I've heard, but the movie is a relatively serious horror flick. I enjoyed it.

Be Cool - Just awful. Mind-bendingly bad. I love Get Shorty, I enjoyed the book of Be Cool, how did this all go so very wrong?

Blade: Trinity - Not as bad as I'd heard, but certainly not good. Their version of Dracula was laughably bad (whoever designed that costume should be staked) and most of the cast were obviously phoning it in, but there were some fun action moments. I'd put it on par with Blade 2... but then again, I didn't really like Blade 2.

The Center of the World - Moody little character piece with Peter Saarsgard and Molly Parker (of Deadwood) that was a little slow, but had some memorable moments and a nice guest turn from Carla Gugino. Very "indy."

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Good. Not great, but good. Nice production values, and of course Burton gives it a quirky look and feel and Depp is great... but I can't really see watching it again, unlike Big Fish, which is probably my favorite Burton movie ever.

The Comedians of Comedy: The Movie - Dark, funny look at what comedians do when they're not making people laugh on stage. Watched this and the TV series version of it, and both are excellent and fun.

Constantine - Mostly what I expected, dull even when it's trying to be action-packed, not at all true to the comic (that ending with the chewing gum is a complete betrayal) and Keanu Reeves was just not the right guy for the role. Not wretched, but not really good either.

Criminal - Good, quiet movie about a con man and his protege starring John C. Reilly, who is always great, Maggie Gyllenhall (ditto) and Diego Luna (whose work I don't know).

Donnie Darko: Director's Cut - Finally saw this one, and really liked it. It's deliberately confusing, but not so hard to follow that I couldn't enjoy it, and I really liked the cast, especially Jake Gyllenhall, Mary McDonnell and Jena Malone.

Dude, Where's My Car? - This was surprisingly funny. Rented on the strength of some positive word-of-mouth from friends and the strength of Harold and Kumar. The lead actors are weak, and as a result it's not as strong as Harold and Kumar, but it was still funny and worth watching.

Family Guy Presents: Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story - Fun, bizarre, not as good as the current season of Family Guy. Have not yet bought it, but I own all the other Family Guy DVDs, so it's probably just a matter of time (and bargain pricing).

Green Day: Bullet in a Bible - Great concert film, makes me really sad I missed them in San Antonio.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle - So much funnier than I expected, and so completely bizarre. Neil Patrick Harris has an amazingly funny cameo, the two leads are great, Anthony Anderson has a memorable guest turn... I'm going to add this to my Amazon Wish List right now.

Infernal Affairs - Really great, tense foreign movie about a cop undercover in the mob and a mobster undercover with the cops, both trying to ferret out the traitor in their home organizations. Due to be remade in the States, as I understand it, and will probably be screwed up. See the original.

I, Robot - More fun than I expected, a solid sci-fi actioner probably just a notch or two below Minority Report in my estimation.

The Jerk - Hadn't watched this one in ages, but is indeed Steve Martin bringing the funny, as remembered. Very stuck in its '70s period, but still a very funny movie.

Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 - Decided to revisit these while waiting for that rumored special edition. Enjoyed them both again.

Layer Cake - I found this convoluted and unsatisfying in a lot of ways, after hearing so much good about it. Not a bad movie, just kind of OK.

National Lampoon's Van Wilder - I really like Ryan Reynolds, and coming off of his memorable guest turn in Harold and Kumar, I decided to finally give this a rent, since people said it was funny, in the spirit of good National Lampoon movies like Animal House and Vacation. Nope. Predictable, mostly not funny... I actually watched it all the way through, but I'm not sure that was the right call.

Ocean's Twelve - A notable drop in quality from Ocean's 11, but I still really dig this flick. If there's an edition put out with some extras, I'll definitely buy it.

Reefer Madness: The Musical - Got about 10 minutes in when I realized that despite how much I like Kristen Bell, I'm generally not a huge fan of campy musicals.

Scrooged - My holiday tradition is to rent this and watch it every year, along with Elf (which I own). If they ever do a special edition or something with extras, I'll buy it.

Secretary - Twisted and engaging flick about S&M with Maggie Gyllenhall (she was on The Daily Show around this time, and I got on a Maggie Gyllenhall kick, as you can see by the follow up of Criminal and Donnie Darko) and James Spader.

Shaolin Soccer - After seeing Kung-Fu Hustle, I had to see Shaolin Soccer. Hustle is the better movie, but this one is a lot of fun in the same spirit.

Sideways - Found it to be watchable, but not as highly rated as everybody said it was. Still love Paul Giamatti, though.

Sky High - A little too goofy for me, and after hearing a lot of folks at the comic shop tell me how good it was, my expectations were maybe a little too high. Still kind of fun, but too cheesy and too Disney to make it to my "buy it" list.

Sneakers - The tech stuff seemed obsolete and silly, and the ensemble didn't come together as I'd hoped it would. I found this to be disappointing and not what I was looking for. Watchable, but not really that memorable.

Team America: World Police - Not as funny as everyone said, a letdown after how much I loved South Park... but there were indeed some very funny parts, and these guys do outrageous musical comedy better than anyone

Troy - Better than I'd heard, but too long and compares badly to the more scholarly take of Age of Bronze. Still, with Rome on the horizon and a recommendation from my friend Dave, I was in the right mood, and it worked alright.
Hey Visa:
Actually, this goes for all customer service. I know that you're frustrated that you're not allowed to as much easy telemarketing anymore. The no-call lists and such have really put a krimp in calling your customers and getting them to sign up for services that cost them more money that they probably don't need.

But when I call your customer service hotline to deal with an issue, your customer service person should not then turn around and try to sell me something after dealing with the issue. It's annoying.

That is all.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - January 18, 2006:

Ex Machina #17 (Starting to wish this one was a bit more compressed in terms of storytelling, but I always enjoy it when I read it)
Testament #2 (Might be a bit too trippy for my tastes... but still intrigued)

7 Days To Fame #2 (Liked the first issue... seemed like a bit of wait for this second one)
All Star Superman #2 (First issue was better than All-Star Batman, but overall, the All-Star line is still a disappointment given the caliber of talent)
Birds Of Prey #90
Conan #24
Girls #9
Green Lantern #7 (Love Simone Bianchi's art... didn't think it worked on Green Lantern, and last issue bored me)
Infinite Crisis #4 (Yeah, yeah, I'm reading it... but only because my job allows me to do so for free)
Little Star #6
Manhunter #18
Noble Causes #16
Planetary #24
PS 238 #14
Runaways #12
Sentinel Squad One #1 (John Layman writes, so I'll read... though my interest in the X-Universe is about zero right now)
Sgt Rock The Prophecy #1 (Not quite sure if I'll read this... it's in First Look, and I haven't read it yet, which isn't a good sign of interest)
Star Wars Republic #82
Transformers Infiltration #1
Walking Dead #25
Warren Ellis Apparat Vol 1 TP (It's late, but I'm glad it's finally here)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TV Thoughts:
I know I haven't been posting here a whole lot... I'll try to get better.

At any rate, this post is mostly going to be about TV, because, well, I've been watching plenty of TV and DVD lately. And TV is about to get really, really good again. Battlestar Galactica started up on Friday, Scrubs is running two eps every Tuesday, The Shield started last night and Lost returned tonight... and not one of them has disappointed me.

Battlestar Galactica: The cliffhanger on episode 2.10 was just evil, leaving us to wait months to see the resolution of a gigantic epic action sequence. The resolution did seem to hit detente a little bit easier than I expected, with Adama and Cain actually sitting in a room together shortly after almost starting a deadly shooting war... but the tension that remained was nice. One of the really nice things about Galactica returning was that the podcasts by executive producer Ronald D. Moore also returned. This is the coolest thing in the world for a commentary junkie like myself, getting "DVD" commentary that I can listen to in my car on my iPod, and Moore's commentaries are always entertaining and full of intelligence that indicates how much thought goes into the writing on the show.

Lost: Which is also going on with the Lost podcasts. I'd love it if we got these for Arrested Development (sort of irrelevant now, I guess), The Shield, Veronica Mars, hell most of the shows I watch. Lost is kicking much ass in season two, in my opinion. The introduction of the Tailies, the revelations about the bunker, the building creep factor of the Others, not to mention further developments between already-existing characters, it's fantastic. Lost has a quality of writing and characterization that puts it notches above what you usually get with genre stuff. And the cast is amazing as well.

Scrubs: It's no Arrested Development, but Scrubs is innovative on its own terms, and certainly deserves more of a profile than it has. This is easily NBC's best show running at the moment, and probably their best comedy since Seinfeld ended. The character arcs move forward and develop, but the creators have not let themselves get caught up in the trap of many "Must See" sitcoms of thinking their dramas first. The show is always laugh out loud funny, and the "fantasy" element allows for some great pop culture riffing and outrageous humor. The "kung fu fighting" sequence with surgeons Turk and Todd in a recent episode was a definite highlight. I've just come off watching the Scrubs Season Two DVD set, and I'm struck by how solid this show has been, and continues to be.

The Shield: Best for last. If you're super-sensitive about spoilers (like, you don't even want to know who the new characters are) and haven't watched the first ep of season five, steer clear of this for now. The Shield has really never faltered for me, aside from what I thought were stylistic weaknesses in the David Mamet episode. Last season, with an Emmy-worthy turn by Glenn Close, was probably as good as the show has ever been. This season starts out strong as well. Tons of potential plots and subplots put into motion. A storyline which promises to pay off a subplot from all the way back in the first season. A fantastic new adversary in the cheerful, intelligent and clearly dangerous (to Vic Mackie) IAD detective played by Forest Whitaker. Interesting new character in Tina, Julian's new partner. A hilarious choice for new captain. Racial tensions making for a tough job on the street. And holy shit, I did not see Danni's new development coming!

I've heard that this is 22 episodes, which worries me a little (I'm a big proponent of the limited 13-ep seasons, as I think it helps avoid padding), but I've also heard that this might be the last season. I've gotta say, I'd be OK with that, because I'd rather the show go out on top, and if they can deliver the equivalent of almost two seasons worth of episodes with this level of quality, that's definitely going out on top. If not for my love of Arrested Development, I'd say this was the best show on TV.

Next week, guilty pleasure and action fest 24 starts up... which means I'm just wondering when we'll see new episodes of Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, Celebrity Poker Showdown and the HBO shows. I'm especially curious about when we'll get more Entourage, but it'll probably be a longer wait than I'll like.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - January 11, 2006:

Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol 2 #4 (Jim Mahfood, Dave Crosland and possibly the funniest AJB story yet with "Mars Needs Kittens" So far, my favorite read of stuff coming out next week... and that includes Fables)
Daughters Of The Dragon #1 (Quirky, fun, nice art... except for the incongruous dark tone of the last four pages, I thought this was a great first issue. With this and Jonah Hex, Palmiotti and Gray are moving up my "must read" list again)
DMZ #3 (First arc seems a bit abrupt, but the general vibe of the book is still one I really like, and the art is terrific)
Exiles #75 (Recently read the last year or so of this book, and Bedard is doing great stuff with the characters, reminding me why I liked the book in the first place. This starts the tour of the 2099 universe. Old school Marvel fun with a touch of the fun "failures" of the '80s and '90s like the New Universe and 2099)
Fables #45 (Concludes the Arabian Fables story, and is, as always, great. One of the top five series being produced in comics today)
She-Hulk 2 #4 (Also old school Marvel fun, with a flashback that explores Geoff Johns's kinda lame "Search for She-Hulk" story and makes it fit into Slott's lighter toned She-Hulk series. The Avenger brought back at the end is not the one I'd hoped, but it's still a good one)
X-men The 198 #1 (Well-written, but I think it points up a lot of the problems with only having 198 mutants. Morrison's direction for these books seemed so much more interesting and full of potential)

Star Wars Republic #81 (Huh. I thought #80 was the last issue. At any rate, Dark Horse's Star Wars comics have been really good of late)
Super Bad James Dynomite #1 ('70s funk parody from the Wayans Brothers. Looks fun)
Ultimate X-men #66 (I could be wrong, but I think this is Robert Kirkman's first issue)
Vampirella Revelations #2 (I know, I'm shocked too, but I really enjoyed #0 and #1, so I want to see what happens next)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The New Year:
Typically, this is the time of year when folks make resolutions. My resolution this year is not to make any resolutions out loud. I have a number of things that are always on my mental "to do" list including cut down on drinking Cokes (not bloody likely), lose weight, get more exercise, find a better job, be more understanding and less angry in general, budget my time more effectively, etc. etc.

But there's only one resolution that I'm actually following through on, and that's because I actually went ahead and did it. I resolved that this would be the year to stop putting so much time into comics reviewing, step back and try to appreciate the medium as more of a fan and less of a pundit for a while. I've never lost my enthusiasm for comics, but the constant disappointments and analytical mindset required to regularly review comics means that I couldn't just enjoy comics on a simple level, and now I'll be able to do that.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, my semi-retirement column is here.

This should theoretically mean I'll have more time to write and update this blog, but that's sort of not the trade-off I'm going for. I'm going for more time to spend with the family, more time to waste on videogames and reading comics and watching TV. But I'll still be endeavoring to update weekly at least, and more than once a week in general.

And while I'm posting, a random LOST thought. LOST starts up again tonight, and I am loving the second season. Quite possibly even more than the first. My initial worry that these guys might "pull an X-Files" hasn't lessened, and comments made on podcasts and interviews that suggest that they may not resolve what the numbers mean leads me to believe that the resolution of the whole thing may be unsatisfying.

However... the quality of writing on LOST is so good that I just don't really care. If we never get resolution to the over-arcing plots, if some of the mysteries are left unsolved, I probably will be fine with that if the character arcs resolve. Because LOST goes beyond what we're used to seeing in "genre" writing, and I think that's why it has keyed into the mass consciousness so much more than cult hits like X-Files, Babylon 5, Buffy, etc. LOST is one of the best-written shows on TV, and it has a fantastic ensemble cast. The moment-to-moment stuff is as exciting and interesting as the suspense and supernatural elements, and that's the key.

I know some folks have been griping about Ana Lucia. And I don't get it. It seems like the same people who demand to know all the answers, now, and insist that the show is screwed up somehow if they're not giving it to us. Ana Lucia has her reasons for her personality and her actions, and that's one argument, but I thought from the start that she was a fascinating character. She's mean, she's violent, she's undeniably dangerous... she's a great character. She's just not someone you'd want to invite over for dinner. I think a lot of people want her killed off because they don't like her. I think that's missing the point. Characters don't have to be sympathetic, they don't have to be someone you like. In my mind, they should be either sympathetic, relatable (not always the same thing) or interesting. To my mind, Ana Lucia started out as interesting, became more relatable when we saw what she went through in the first 48 days and became sympathetic when we saw her flashback.

Seems to me like writing off Ana Lucia this early would be akin to writing off Sawyer as the villain of the piece based on the first few episodes of the first season. And as all LOST fans know by now, the first impression is rarely the whole picture.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blog Template Update for December
This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, listing my Favorite Comics of the Month, which is my counterpart to Current Favorite TV series, as well as my five favorite first issues of the month and my ten favorite graphic novel reads of the month.

A couple things of note in how I organize these things, for those who care. These listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. And thirdly, I decided to change thing from "Favorite Monthly Series" and "Favorite First Issues" to "Favorite Comics" so that I'm recommending twenty things that I read in the month instead of 10 ongoing series and 5 first issues. It's less useful as a gauge of my overall tastes, but more useful as a "must-read" for the month. Oh, and graphic novels won't be listed in Favorite Comics... that's strictly for issues.

Finally, the updates are for the month of December... January just barely started. So all my favorites will be anywhere from a week to a full month old, but these are meant to be sort of "standing" preferences anyway. I cheated in a few cases, notably TV, as I put Entourage on given that I've been watching reruns each week, despite there not being any new episodes. January will see no need to cheat again, as three of my favorite shows (Battlestar Galactica, The Shield and 24) all make their return in that month.

Also, on the links end of things, I've taken away links to some of the comics stuff (they might return eventually, but not at the moment) and added in links to some of the stuff on my regular online reading list, mostly in the form of RSS feeds. I'm still coding some of those links, so for this month it's Non-RSS links and RSS feeds of comics and art blogs that I read.