J27 - NET - Acting With James Franco - Franco’s on an incredibly interesting career trajectory. From “Freaks and Geeks” to “Spider-Man” to “Milk” and “Pineapple Express” to “Saturday Night Live”, “General Hospital” and a killer appearance on “30 Rock”, the man has his own way about him. His “Funny Or Die” series on acting (with his brother Dave seemingly played by Natalie Portman) is hilarious… lots of respect for him.
J27 - COMIC - Blackest Night: Catwoman #83 - not a bad extension of the Catwoman series art and story wise, but it’s just not Will Pfeifer and David Lopez.
COMIC - Blackest Night: Starman #81 - Some fond memories stirred up of Opal City of yore, but James Robinson’s dialogue is rough, and for some reason I just don’t believe the romance between Hope O’Dare and The Shade. At. All.
COMIC - The Shield #5 - With my regular tights-n-capes reads dwindling, I find I’m getting more and more excited every month for this one. It’s not *that* different, but it just feels fresh and much more exciting than most spandex on the stand. Credit goes to Eric Trautmann for developing a different-headed character, and more credit goes to penciler Marco Rudy and embellisher Mick Gray (who’s got an equally good thing going as he did with JH Williams III). Just great stuff. The Inferno back-up by Jerwa and Scott isn’t half bad either.
COMIC - Batgirl #6 - “Smallville”’s Brian Q. Miller is actually really good at getting great characterization out of mundane situations, so this read is for fans of the character, not fans of action. It doesn’t help that Lee Garbett’s art is often difficult to read. His figures are clear but his sequencing and blocking are rough and sometimes hard to follow.
COMIC - Unwritten #9 - I didn’t like what happened at the end of this issue. I see the purpose, but I don’t like it. But then, I suspect, I’m not supposed to. This issue seemed to be missing all the subtle peripherals that previous issues had (like the page of media commentary).
J27 - Podcasts - Doug Loves Movies with Sarah Silverman and Steve Agee - not much exciting to report but noting weak either.
Comedy Death Ray Radio #37 - Todd Glass, Sarah Silverman and Hannibal Buress in the studio. A rather weak comedy-wise and unprepared episode, but I like it for the fact that it was really just a group of friends talking about whatever and being somewhat funny at it. Aukerman likes to say “let’s get real” and Glass tells as sweet (earnest) story of the death of his dog. I also like Glass and Gary Goldman’s Dangerfield routine. Brilliant.
Exploding Head Movies ep.2 (Radio Free GAK #100) - EXHM takes on DJ Shadow and the soundtrack to Black Dynamite. Quality abounds.
J26 - DVD - Taken - Liam Neeson kills some fuckers. There’s no grey area here. They are fuckers and you’re glad when they get killed. Liam Neeson as Hannibal in the A*Team movie? Okay.
J26 - DVD - JCVD - What a quirky little movie. It’s like the actor Jean-Claude Van Damme steps into the plot of one of his own films, only it wouldn’t be one of his films but more like a Denzel Washington heist drama. The hostage situation juxtaposed with the dramatic elements satirizing his own life make for a decidedly unique viewing experience. The revelation is that, at least when speaking French, JCVD can actually act and act well. Almost better than he can fake-fight.
J22 - PODCASTS - Comedy Death Ray:
Episode 35 - Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon (as Little Gary), and Brett Gelman appear. Gelman, more than a little perturbed by his 11th place finish in the “Comedy Death Ray Radio best of 2009 top 10″ has quit comedy in favour of short story writing. He reads his new story called “iBrain” which segues into a hilariously vile, graphically sexual encounter. Plus Conan vs Leno talk. Thomas Lennon’s Little Gary a little harder to decipher, but his song, with the chorus “I Did It Before, But Never Again, Never Never Never in two thousand and ten” is rather catchy.
Episode 36 - Cyberthug takes over once again, but the largely racist-based “Kanye East” makes it almost unlistenable. Plus more Conan/Leno talk.
BONUS Episode 2 - Following up Doug Loves Movies at Sketchfest in San Fran, Scott is joined by Doug Benson, Michael Ian Black, with stand-up from Dana Gould and “bandleader” Reggie Watts, but Paul F. Thompkins steals the entire show with a violently hilarious caricature of Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Doug Loves Movies
Jan 9 - Aziz Ansari and Maria Bamford guest, but auction winner Larry Zerner is special guest and what could have been painfully unfunny interjections from a non- or wanna-be comedian was actually the highlight, as Zerner is both an entertainment lawyer and star from Friday the 13th, Part 3, leading to some really funny stories and call-back jokes.
Jan 18 - At Sketchfest in San Fran, Doug is joined by Scott Auckerman, Dana Gould and Michael Ian Black for some film discussion and tomfoolery. Good times, especially MIB’s german officer impression.
J22 - MOVIE - Up In The Air - *SPOILERS* Jason Reitman has made two and 2/3 great movies. There’s Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and the first two acts of Up In The Air. Up In The Air builds a very intriguing, if quite depressing, character in George Clooney’s Ryan, a man proud of having no strings attached, living 320+ days a year on the road (or rather, in the air) and very adept at dealing with people, handy for a job in which he’s a for-hire ax-man (he fires people for a living). He makes no apologies for his life but as things change around him he finds it hard to adapt, his focus being on achieving some would say a meaningless goal of earning 10 million air miles. He meets a woman, make that two women, who start to change his perspective, if only slightly. But the third act instead makes it seem that these women have given him cause for an abrupt about-face, wherein he no longer cares about doing what had, until days before, really mattered to him, to the point where he ditches his high-profile seminar MID-SPEECH, to race to the airport to go profess his crush on some woman. Bullshit Hollywoodized tripe. Of course she turns out to be married and she gives him the most patronizing line “I’m an adult” which made me want to gouge my eyes out and stick them in my ears. Ryan achieves his goal but is too distracted by rethinking his own philosophies to enjoy it, as Sam Elliott revisits his “Stranger” role from Big Lebowski to provide some unnecessary vague pontifications. I don’t object to where the movie wound up, just to the un-subtle and brutally out-of-character(s) way in which it was handled. Not the worst 2009 movie I saw (Adventureland), just the most frustrating because it so easily could have been great.
J22 - TV - Kids in the Hall: Death Comes To Town (episodes 1 and 2 of 8) - I haven’t been this excited for a TV show in a long time, and at the same time I have also kept my expectations quite reserved… I mean, the Kids aren’t kids anymore and comedians don’t generally get funnier as they age. DCTT is a smart departure, more in line with Brain Candy than their sketch comedy of yore, maintaining a consistent story and tone, and allowing the members of the troupe to each develop at least three distinct characters over the 8-episode span. World building is a large part of the show, and they succeed at making Shuckton a distinctive and interesting place, populated with curious individuals. The comedy isn’t in peak form, as some of the gags fall flat or are too obvious, but the strength lies in the near-brilliant characters and the chameleonic way in which they inhabit them. I like, not love, which is better than both hate or disappointed.
J22 - COMIC - Green Lantern Corps: Sins of the Star Sapphire tpb - developing the “emotional spectrum” of lantern corps, expanding the roster of creepy-ass yellow lanterns, and initiating the sapphire lanterns, it’s entertaining, but the character moments (Guy’s date with Ice, the reaction to the “eyeball sequence”) were very ham-handed.
J9 - COMIC - X-Factor: Nation X - apparently there’s this thing going on in the rest of the X-titles that where all the remaining mutants have moved to a floating island and become an independent nation or some such. This book explains why the X-Factor crew isn’t there, as the team visits the island to meet up with old friends and to check out the environment. It’s 24 pages of random scenes of dialogue with a very minimal undercurrent of “history repeats itself” and some ties to previous X-Factor events. If you’re a regular reader of most X-books then this is probably essential for satiating curiousity, but if you only read X-Factor, wholly skippable.
J9 - BLU-RAY- Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs - Rewatchable? Yes. Am I less enamored with it than when I first watched it. I don’t think so. The cast of characters is great from Mr. T’s Earl Devereaux to Andy Samberg’s Baby Brent to Neil Patrick Harris’ Steve to even Will Forte’s City Guy the background character with a beard.
J9 - COMIC - Stumptown #1 & 2 - Greg Rucka’s new detective series is sharp and engaging, expertly rendered by Matthew Southworth. I actually thankful for the online advertising that Oni did for this otherwise I wouldn’t have even been aware. Rucka constructs yet another wonderful and distinctive female character for the medium (his latest from Tara Chase, to Renee Montoya, to Batwoman… it’s the man’s forte), in fact I’m more sold on Dex than I am with the mystery she’s found herself investigating.
J9 - DVD - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Seven - I really, really liked this season, as it gave a concerted effort to defining and redefining the core cast whilst also building an epic confrontation that actually has some scale to it. Buffy’s always been limited by budget to small-scale confrontations, but with the ever growing gaggle of potential slayers and the climactic vampire battle and Sunnydale implosion effects sequence it effectively built to a satisfying conclusion to the season and the series. Even my discomfort with the Buffy/Spike relationship actually played out rather well. That’s not to say that the characterization wasn’t frequently heavy handed, oft repetitive and at times the season dragged under by redundancy, but, especially knowing where it picked up in the Season 8 comics, it had direction and purpose.
J7 - WEB - The Onion interviews Gallagher - this is some, literally, crazy shit. Just don’t read the comments, or it will drive you crazy too.
J7 - COMIC - Suicide Squad #67 - If I were a casual comics reader, I’d be pretty annoyed with this whole “resurrected series” of Blackest Night tie-ins coming out this January. Were I a Secret Six reader, I’d be pissed since there’s no mention in the last Six issue or on the cover that this is the first part of the Six’s next storyline. If I were a casual reader enjoying Blackest Night I’d be kind of annoyed at the total lack of self-contained-ness of this issue. Were I an old-school Suicide Squad reader, well, I’d be more annoyed that this is a Secret Six story than a Suicide Squad one. To top it off, it’s wildly disjointed (likely due to split writing between Gail Simone and John Ostrander) with far too much happening and little sense of why we should care.
J7 - COMIC - Gigantic #5 - It’s been a bit of time between issue 4 and issue 5 and I don’t recall what happened previously and even the “previously” recap didn’t help out so much and this all just kind of went bonkers in the end. A bit disappointing actually.
J7 - COMIC - Doom Patrol #6 - Keith Giffen explains Larry Traynor/Negative Man who is also every other iteration of the Negative Man persona from Valeria Vostok to Rebis. It’s starts off being cleverly erratic, but persists in being erratic over 22 pages and loses its clever, becoming a bit of a muddle, like pretty much the entire series has been. I’m trying hard to like this series, but six issues in and it’s still not working for me. I think if Giffen reigned it in, took away the drama, and made it a contained, fun book about a team that takes on the mad-scientist-experiments-that-got-out-of-hand on Oolong Island it would be a really fun, accessible book. Still like the contained wackiness of the Metal Men back-up though. DP,you’ve got one more issue before drop city.
J5 - YOUTUBE - KG’s Top 40 for ‘09 - Phonogram’s Keiron Gillen lays down his erratic list of his, possibly, favourite 40 tracks from the past year. KG describes them in more detail here. I liked some of the videos more than the tracks themselves.
Interesting listening, with some standouts:
J5 - PDCAST - CBC Radio 3 Podcast #229 - Best of 2009 Grant Laurence’s list of best 10 songs of ‘09 was a bit more of an eclectic affair, mercifully, than the R330 top 10, and much easier to listen to. But still, there was very little within that really grabbed, despite Grant’s emphatic introductions. The Mountains and the Trees track was about the only one that really clicked for me.
J5 - MOVIE - Adventureland - While I was forewarned that this wasn’t a comedy, I wasn’t forewarned about how numbingly dull and boring it would be. The fatal flaw of the film lies in its casting, with two thoroughly uncharismatic leads in Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart playing two thoroughly unenjoyable characters, and a supporting cast of talent absolutely wasted. This film, labeled as a comedy, could have desperately used some humour.
J4 - PODCAST - CBC R330 Top 10 for 2009 - I realized now why I stopped regularly listening to the R330 over a year ago… the songs are of the generic, expected “indie” stylings and host Craig Norris is a little too full of bull and bluster for the rather boring lineup that’s typically laid out before him (I suppose that does make him good at his job). Top tens include AC Newman, Joe Plaskett and Metric. Yawn. I like indie music and think it needs support, but the R330 generally only represents a narrow section of what’s available (popularity contests are, naturally, governed by the masses and their generic sensibilities always seems to gravitate towards a mean). Bleh, need to wash this off.
J4 - MOVIE - Inglourious Basterds - Most good directors tend to focus on telling a story. Some good directors prefer to focus on style instead. Other less-good directors have agendas, like pushing the audience’s buttons through coarse language and/or grotesque visuals, or trying to get a ham-fisted message across. Some directors, good and bad, like to play within the trappings of a genre, others like to completely defy genre expectations. Some directors have their own style, some do not, and some borrow liberally (or flagrantly) from others. Quentin Tarantino I admire because he’s not any one of these directors, but instead all of them at once, a result of consuming and disseminating a steady diet of the good and the bad films for decades. What impresses me about Inglorious Basterds is how QT tells his WWII-set story using everything in his toolkit. His cinephilia comes through loud and clear, his influences coming from war films from every decade in cinema’s past, from different countries around the world. The subgenre of grindhouse still permeates his work, and his penchant for precision-paced, culturally referential dialogue is readily apparent. The fact that he could limit himself to referring to pop-culture that predates 1944 shows just how capable he is, though the soundtrack, I should note, is anachronistic, but pointedly so. QT doesn’t just stick to cinema, but the wartime comics of the 1940’s, the cartoonish Hitler draped in a swasitka cape is one of the few broad strokes in the film (the Basterds being the other). On the one hand, Basterds felt like a departure from QT’s previous films, perhaps because it was primarily subtitled (in German, French and, occasionally, Italian) and the dialogue was (comparatively) expletive-free. Structurally the story somewhat simpler too in comparison to past works, and yet, it’s more secure, more assured, more mature. Even though the events of the films are constantly being foreshadowed, every scene percolates with intensity as the masks of pretense are slowly shucked and their true purpose is revealed (this may be tedious for some, while others will revel in it). A Quentin Tarantino movie is a spectacle, it’s a carnival, it’s entertainment, but it does so on levels few (if any) other filmmakers dare… Do not just view it as a film, but as a part of, and commentary on, cinema and culture, past and present. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it… I felt strangely satiated after watching it… like I didn’t need to watch another film for a while (but did anyways and regretted it. See above)
J4 - MOVIE - Terminator: Salvation - After all the plentiful bad reviews, and even more plentiful negative fan reaction, I was expecting a crap-fest of “Rise of Cobra” proportions. Okay, maybe expectations weren’t *that* low, but they indeed were low. But, as it turns out, Salvation is a pretty decent film. There’s excitement and intensity, with some rather spectacular effects, and a nicely stylized world (if not always logical) for the characters to run around in. I’m not a Terminator franchise fan (in fact, my favourite Terminator to date was “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and even that stopped holding my interest), so I don’t really care about all the nuances of the series and my expectations for what a continuation should be are nil. The characters are flimsy, the story relatively non-existent, but the cold action of man vs. machine is probably ’09’s best “turn your mind off and enjoy the ride” blockbuster.
J4 - MOVIE - Adventures in Babysitting - A not-quite-classic from the mid-80’s Chris Colombus, I always thought this was a kids movie but with all the swearing and Playboy references it’s much rather a teen flick. I always remember it for the little girl’s Thor obsession (and Vincent D’Onofrio as a Thor-esque repairman), but what I watched it for this time was the Toronto-as-Chicago backdrop and a foxy 24-year-old Elizabeth Shue, playing 17, but so obviously not.
J4 - MOVIE - 2010: The Year We Make Contact - Yes, this was played by Turner Classic Movies on New Year’s Day. I don’t think 2010 ever really got its due. Yes, it doesn’t compare to Kubrick’s masterpiece in virtually any respect, and what’s more it demystifies the story of 2001 somewhat, but it’s all part of Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi vision, so it’s not disingenuous. 2010 is a mystery-in-space, as a co-Russian/American space crew try to understand what happened to Hal, Dave and their mission, only to discover something greater happening in the process, while the cold war back on Earth escalates. Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, and Bob Balaban fill in the meaty roles quite nicely. The effects are as stunning today as they were in 1984, in general it’s a very entertaining film, if now operating on a completely different timeline than our own (which is part of the fun, I enjoy predictive futures in SF that don’t come to pass).