Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

For a change of pace, my wife and I went to the cheap movie theater this weekend, and we had a blast! Trish's choice was inspired, let me tell y'all about it...

I was really impressed with Rango, one of those classic old CG cartoon animal western comedies with fantasy adventure quest elements. Yahoo! (Yes, I'm a giant child, but don't call Manchild Protective Services just yet: go see this movie first!)

These are stunningly rendered critters, beautiful in their hyper-realistically detailed repugnance. They're so fugly they've gone round to adorable again! The film brings to mind the anarchistic spirit of the Muppets, with twitchy anthropomorphic oddities clutching desperately to their dreams in a dust bowl town on the edge of collapse.

The voice cast is very talented and the 'emotion capture' unit outdid themselves- you'd have to see it to believe in it. I cared a great deal about the characters throughout, riveted to the tried and true tale but surprised a fair number of times, too.

There's a particular chase sequence towards the middle so SATURATED with sheer elaborate creativity that it overloaded my sense of wonder and delight.

It was amazing! And that's kind of rare for me at the movies, nowadays.

It's a bit on the violent side for a kid's movie, but... well, it serves the story. This is not a nice, safe situation this world is in, and it's not a sane, qualified bunch of folks who need to save it. It's a swift-moving action tale with a rollicking spirit and a lot of heart. Yeah, I'd see this again and I reckon I'd most likely buy it, too, sure as shootin'.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ALPOCALYPSE: My Own Personal Rapture Is Here

Why take up your time with bandwidth hogging, virus-laden bloggery? I'll tell you. Every so often I get to rave about something I have ABSOLUTELY ADORED. And you get to come along for the tedious, never-ending jungle cruise ride!

'Weird' Al Yankovic is a pastiche maestro, foremost satirist in the land, indeed, a PARODY LORD if such a title exists. And it does, now.

To my great regret, I haven't bought a brand new CD for years, but spare no expense and get yourself the deluxe edition of 'Alpocalypse' with the 10 music video DVD included. LIKE ME! Or download it from itunes. Or, yes, borrow it from me and nod along politely.

You get 'Polka Face', which despite what you've heard is not a horrible disease! Make sweet love to a manatee with Charles Nelson Reilly. Torment others with 'Ringtone', maybe even use it against regimes you disapprove at a 'Party in the CIA'! You even get to writhe along to the almost-didn't-get-to-be-released 'Perform This Way' which was apparently saved by an outstanding Twitter response. Yay, tweeps!

I was already a huge fan of the previously digitally released 'Whatever You Like' for it's wise-acre approach to low-budget romance, and now I can't stop listening to 'If That Isn't Love'.

Mrs. 'Weird Al' is a SAINT, I tell you!
As usual, my favourite album is whatever one Al is currently promoting.

I give you my word- it's so beautiful it makes a glorious sunset look like a big, fat turd.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Comic Review: Freefall by Mark Stanley

Granted, you've never heard of it, and I haven't actually read all of it, either.

Still worth reviewing? Sure. I have nothing BUT spare time since becoming addicted to Twitter. Joke. Deadpan mode.

I recently spent an evening reading several years worth of the sci-fi webcomic Freefall, liked it fine, and thought I'd recommend it to those searching high and low for funny SF.

Freefall features (as of the last stuff I read) the mostly planet-locked crew of the not-yet-spaceworthy vessel Savage Chicken. They are the dodgy, chronically indolent merchant Captain Sam Starfall, his dogsbody robot Helix, and the new engineer (I should have saved the term dogsbody for her): an artificially created humanoid wolf called Florence. As you might imagine, the girl does all the actual work.
I'm no expert on REAL WORLD applications of artificial intelligence, or even how to use a computer beyond rudimentary nudity acquisition skills. So, if you're the sort of nerd who understands that technical stuff you'll probably get EVEN more out of this than I did.

I think my favourite gag so far was a pair of corporate stooge robots trying to find a way around the Asimov laws so that by their inaction they might get their terrible boss killed.

Wikipedia deleted Freefall's description page, citing lack of evidence that it exists. Well, it won a couple of something called the Web Cartoonists Choice awards, and the 2046th strip posted today, so, yeah, it exists. Worth checking out, too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favourite Characters: The Heretic Monkey

Justy Ueki Tylor (age 20) is a callow youth of uncertain ability in the distant year UC 6999.

As the animated series known as "The Most Irresponsible Man in Space" or "The Irresponsible Captain Tylor" begins, Justy abandons his life of vagrancy for a cushy job with the military. The United Planets Space Force is only too happy to have him, as they are at war with the Holy Raalgon Empire (brutish pointy-eared aliens up to no good).

Tylor speaks his mind (such as it is). He's far too laid back. He has no regard for rules or protocol, breaks the computer assigned to classify him, and is, in short, deeply unsuited to the military life. So he is rapidly promoted.

After an unorthodox defusing of a hostage crisis, Tylor sort of earns his way, sort of falls upward into command of the aging battleship 'Gentle Breeze'. His command crew are rule-bound types who find him baffling, maddening, or amazing (in straight-laced female Commander Star's case, all three). Tylor's band of cut-throat marines, high-strung pilots, and drunken ship's surgeon quickly galvanize into an unstoppable force beneath his total lack of discipline. Tylor's superiors grow to despise him as much as the enemy, and arrange for his certain death in space battle. And that's before the spoiled teen empress of the Raalgon sets her sights on him...
I got quite a fair few chuckles out of this show. It's a space opera in the style of Star Trek, but with more than a hint of irreverence. Tylor is virtually impossible to dislike: he treats EVERYBODY fairly. He's relaxed to a degree I cannot achieve personally without chemical assistance. He MIGHT be defined as irresponsible, but it may also be right to call him carefree. Tylor has a live-and-let-live outlook, it's such a delight to me when retired old Admiral Hanner takes a liking to the guy.

For his was a genius no rule could contain!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde

'Shades of Grey' is the first book in a yet-to-be written trilogy set 600 (or maybe 1600) years in the future, in Jade-Under-Lime, a small community in what was once Wales.

The inhabitants are trapped under an expanding collection of stifling and nonsensical rules which (seemingly by the intention of Munsell the founder) hold back all advancement and enforce a strict caste system based on the ability to perceive colour.

Colour has become a cultural obsession. Firmly entrenched in his backward society mild Eddie Russett quietly questions some of the wherefores of the world and attempts romance with volatile Jane, a servant girl from the Grey underclass.

Possibly unique in my reading experience, I did not know what to think. Ever.

At first, I DESPISED it. Every ten minutes I was groaning aloud with abject confusion and frustration. "What the hell is this insufferable twee gibberish? Spoons? Swans? You're TRYING to prevent me from understanding a lick of this, aren't you, Fforde?"

Look at you, lording it over me with your brilliant ability to leave me out of the joke.

I DREADED going back to it every time I put it down. I thought the story was going to continue to throw up irrelevancies, kill the leads, and never make the slightest sense. On purpose. To taunt me.

In the downhill end of things, I think it started to be easier. I had MANY questions left unanswered, but I had grown curious for more. In fact, I LIKED Eddie. And Jane.

I enjoyed the humor (rare for a dystopia), though I always expected it to turn on me.

What a weird experience! I flip flopped so completely that I think in time I'll probably think back on it fondly.

Thanks, Ron, for bringing it to book club. I never would have read this on my own- and for once I think that's a compliment.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thorsday 2011

(Thorsday Night Fever by john taylor christopher of deviantart.)

All right, I'll admit it. I'm not the biggest Thor booster. I did read the Stan, Larry & Jack stuff from the sixties as reprints, and some modern stuff, too. But mostly I know Thor from the Avengers and other guest appearances where his biggest problem is: he's a god.

He doesn't fit in. He's too powerful. How do you have a compelling story if the god of lightning with the all-powerful magic hammer can saunter in and solve all your problems at once? With a hammer, I might add.

Well, surprise! Thor is a good flick.

My wife, generally, enjoys action and shirtless guys.
Chris Hemsworth fits the bill. Oh, my!
I, myself, enjoy an apparatus that hurtles one across space to distant worlds and robots with death ray faces. To each his/her own.

Good story, top-notch performances, and a writing credit for my idol J. Michael Straczynski. Go see it if ya got the time. 3D is all very well, but not essential. In fact, as my buddy Wayne said: why not charge the same or LESS if you're putting that crap on everything? (I'm paraphrasing.) Also, stay to the end of the credits. It's a MARVEL movie, True Believers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Strummin' Sitter

Everybody who's ANYBODY knows that Greg Garcia makes a funny sitcom. Yeah, the 'My Name is Earl' guy!

My lovely wife and I just finished catching up to the latest in low-low-low middle class Americans making an honest effort to better themselves: season one of Raising Hope.

It's so good, you guys, that picking a favourite character is a study in nonsense... they're ALL great!

Hope of the title is the baby of an executed serial murderess and her hapless one-time hook-up, well-intentioned 23 year old Jimmy Chance of Natesville. Jimmy's tired young folks don't let menial jobs and lack of education stand in the way of a 'do-over' for (another mistake) baby, simultaneously riding herd on a rarely lucid Maw Maw. Meanwhile, Jimmy only has eyes for sarcastic (and engaged) grocery clerk Sabrina Collins.
Which brings me to Sabrina's cousin Shelly, the guest character rather similar to Stephanie Gooch, a ukulele player who appeared on Scrubs. Or perhaps it's better to say both are strikingly like famed musical performer/songwriter Kate Micucci. Which is not to say that Kate Micucci has a dead tooth or OCD, or that Kate Micucci's house should be considered a location for you to drop off your infants, elders, or dogs for day care. But she just might be the source of many delightful short ditties such as those my wife bought on itunes, and which I enjoyed all day today.

In a roundabout way, what I mean to get across about Shelley, is that she's remarkably upbeat, and most vitally, optimistic. From the world's most awkward second break-up with Jimmy to the put-upon world of an overburdened day care worker, she channels her uncomfortable feelings into brilliant song, and what's not to like about that?