Monday, May 30, 2011

Five Stories That Have Cooler Titles as Books Than As Movies

Books are cool. Movies are cool. But movies based off of books are usually a hit or miss affair. And even though a great portion of the movie industry is built off of stories taken from books, very few of them do a great job of portraying the books that they're based off of.

But this article isn't about that. This article is about the TITLE of the book, which is ALWAYS better than the movie's that spawn from them. Here's a list of five movies that sounded better with their original titles. See how many you've read.

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1. The book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Wow. That's actually a really deep question, Mr. Philip K. Dick. I haven't even read the novel yet and you already have me thinking. That's how I originally felt when I first heard the title of the book, and I fell in love with it from that moment on. The story is just as deep as the title and it's a beautifully dark story. Much more beautiful than the movie.

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The movie: Blade Runner

To be honest with you, Blade Runner isn't a bad name for a movie. It's actually cool. But it just doesn't have the thought provoking qualities of its book's namesake. Also, when I start to think into it more, I begin to think it has something to do with running with scissors, and then it loses its cool factor, altogether. It makes me think of kindergarten, like, don't run with scissors, young man. And how is THAT cool? It isn't. Stick to the original title next time, dumbasses.

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2. The book: The Eagle of the Ninth

I never read the book, but it actually sounds like it MEANS something. I want to read a book with that title. The Ninth what? Ninth infantry? Ninth battalion? What? I know what an eagle is, but that ninth part is intriguing. It makes me what to find out why it's called that and that's what makes it a great title. The mystery that's involved. It's perfect.

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The movie: The Eagle

Huh? The Eagle? With Channing Tatum? You mean the guy from Step Up? And he's the eagle? No. He's a soldier? Wait, then what's the eagle then? What do you mean the Eagle is just symbolic? So it's not about the bird? The bird doesn't even have anything do with it? Then why is it called The Eagle then?! What a dumb title. Screw this flick. Screw this flick to hell.

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3. The book: Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's novella actually has a double-meaning. There's the literal one, of a heart actually being filled with the darkness of evil. And the more subtle, harsher one of calling the people of Africa the heart of darkness, their skin color being the center. Great novella, great title.

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The movie: Apocalypse Now

Don't get me wrong. Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie of all time. But the title is just silly. It's implying that every time you watch it, it's the apocalypse. It's like Harold Camping predicting the weather. There will be a slight overcast followed by the four horsemen in your evening commute. Silly title, great movie.

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4. The book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie is the protagonist, so it makes sense that it's called that. Charlie is the star and he's GOING to the Chocolate Factory. Makes sense, donut?

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The movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I know Willy Wonka is a funny name, but the studios had no right to take Charlie out of the title and replace it with the wacky one with the purple hat. It's like implying that the movie is all about Willy Wonka, and it's not. The title's deceiving.

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5. The book: The Lawnmower Man

I'll read anything by Stephen King. Anything. Even if it's called Old Man Poops His Trousers. I don't care. Stephen King can write and it doesn't matter what he titles his stories. They're going to be awesome, no question. Even something called, The Lawnmower Man

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The movie: The Lawnmower Man

Same title, but, man, does that sound dumb as a movie. The Lawnmower Man? You're joking, right? No? Well, jokes on me then, I guess.

What makes matters worse is when the trailer makes the movie look like a cross between Flowers For Algernon and a pornographic version of the show Reboot. What a bloody mess. I can't believe this was made.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Biutiful

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Inarritu’s 21 Grams and Babel were way too long. His latest film, Biutiful, is also too long, but at least it only follows one character so it’s easier to digest. I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as Babel, it’s just a little easier to follow. There’s still way too much going on, though, and it’s also way too depressing for its own good. Can Inarritu make anything other than melodramatic, existential think-pieces? After watching his last three pictures, I’m starting to think he can’t.

The Movie: Three and a half stars out of five

I’m not really sure if the title of this movie is meant to be ironic or not, as I didn’t see anything all that beautiful about it. Instead, I saw a lot of moping around and death. Is the single moment in the film where the family smiles at the dinner table while eating melted ice cream supposed to be beautiful? Or how about the time Javier Bardem hugs his mullet-topped son and kisses him on the forehead? I don’t know, maybe I’m just not built for these art house films. The one thing I do know, though, is that the acting throughout is impeccable. From Javier Bardem’s Oscar-nominated turn as a dying dad trying to make things right, to his bipolar wife, played by the strangely beautiful Maricel Alvarez, everybody in this film does a great job of portraying their characters. If only the movie could be as good as the actors then I think we’d have a modern-day masterpiece on our hands.

The story follows Uxbal (Bardem), a father of two who’s been diagnosed with cancer. He also works in the underbelly of the city, co-running a group of Africans and Asians in counterfeit street-sale rings. He also has a bipolar ex-wife who he’s still in love with and trying to help. Oh, and he can also talk to the dead. So yeah, there are way too many plots going on here. What makes matters worse is that each story on its own could make for a beautiful and moving picture, but Inarritu, in what seems to be his MO these days, overstuffs the story. It’s like watching all the cast members of Babel fit into Javier Bardem’s shoes. Surprisingly, he can actually pull it off, but the film doesn’t seem worthy of his talents. It doesn’t seem worthy of any of the actors' talents, for that matter, because as a cohesive and dramatic story, it falls on its face.

That’s not to say that it’s bad. In fact, I’d say that for a good portion of the first half, I loved it. I could truly feel the remorse in Uxbal’s eyes when he received the news from the doctor that he was going to die. And I grieved right along with him when thinking about everything that he still had to accomplish before he died, like providing a better life for his children than the one that his father left him. That part of the movie, I get. But the rest of it is just too damn much. It becomes a slog after awhile, and it’s too artsy for its own worth. For example, when I first started reading about the movie last year, I was interested to hear that there was a sort of Ghost Whisperer aspect to it where Uxbal could communicate with the dead. But when placed in the actual film itself, it just doesn’t fit. Or maybe it fits too well. I don’t know. The film is certainly a slow meditation, but with so much going on, it’s just hard to watch it with one specific narrative thread in mind. Again, I really want to know what the hell is supposed to be so beautiful in this movie, and why the picture is called that. Did I miss something here? I don’t think so, but with a story that doesn’t successfully bring itself together, it’s a little hard to say. Broken up for its parts, it’s an excellent film, but as a whole, it’s a long and drawn-out mess. Maybe you’ll like it, or maybe you’ll feel the same way I did, but one thing’s for certain. If you like watching great acting, then it’s going to be hard to find a better film than this. Few actors can play broken, dragging-their-feet men like Javier Bardem. So watch it for the acting. Just don’t expect the story to be as good.

The Disc: Three stars out of five

Biutiful is already too long, so thankfully, there’s no commentary on this disc. If you’re a fan of the film, though, you might miss that. So I’m telling you now, if you’re hoping for commentary, there isn’t any. Instead, we get “Behind Biutiful: Director’s Flip Notes.” Much like the film itself, it’s all too self-absorbed, and I’m pretty sure I like Inarritu even less now. He speaks in a poetic, the-world-is-filled-with-wonders and everything-is-important kind of way, and it’s annoying. No wonder his films are so maudlin.

“Beautiful Crew” is actually the only upbeat piece on the disc. It features pictures of everybody from the production team to the film’s caterers while catchy Spanish music plays in the background. I actually watched it twice it was spliced together so well. I seriously think it’s the best thing on the entire disc. It actually made me smile. I wish some of that positive energy could show up in the actual movie. There’s also the theatrical trailer on the disc and “Interviews with Cast and Crew.” This last feature again includes a few of the dour faces in the movie just talking about their roles, and it really makes you want to slit your wrists. Overall, the special features aren’t going to sway you to appreciate the film more. But if you already appreciate it, I guess they’re okay. They’re nothing worth buying the movie over, though.

Biutiful Details
Length: 147 min
Rated: R
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: 2011-05-31
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Produced by: Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro, Fernando Bovaira, Sandra Hermida, Jon Kilik, Ann Ruark
Written by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Armando Bo, Nicholas Giacobone
Visit the Biutiful Official Website

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I Will Never Watch ABDC Ever Again

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Harold Camping was wrong. The Apocalypse wasn't supposed to be for May 21st. It's supposed to be on June 5th, when the Iconic Boyz (Boys with a Z) will inevitably be crowned America's Best Dance Crew. This is besides the facts that they can't dance and the fat one ("T Money") looks like he's going to have a heart attack at any minute right on the stage.

What bugs me the most about these Jersey Shore, the middle school years, kids is that a lot of other great crews had to go because of them. And it's probably because, duh, they have PTA parents who can get entire schools (Entire schools!) to vote for them. That, and because LL (Ladies love) T Money.

As an example of a crew that was unjustly robbed, here's Phunk Phenomenon, one of the greatest crews ABDC has ever seen (Watch at the 1:20 mark).

Did you see Bebo (the short, breakdancing one)? That was insaaaaane. That was siiiiiiccck. (Why am I talking like thiiiiiiiis?)

And now, check out the Iconic Boyz. (Watch at the 2:18 mark...if you want).

Cute, right? Something that might be really clever and sweet at a middle school dance, right? But are they really America's best dance crew? Really? No. They're more like, America's best mob related parents holding people by their ankles and demanding that they vote for their kid, dance crew.

To show contrast, watch I.aM.mE's Justin Beiber performance. They're the crew that the Iconic Boyz are up against in the finale and are ultimately going to lose to the four horsemen of the Guido Apocalypse.

I mean, seriously. Is there any question that the Iconic Boyz should have been kicked off weeks ago? They're this season's GOP Dance.

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Well, alright, they're not THAT bad, but still. If (When) Iconic Boyz take home the title of America's Best Dance Crew, that's when I'm signing off from the show forever. Randy Jackson can eat it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 50 Most Annoying Characters in Video Games

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I worked on this piece with a few other people. See if you can tell my writing from the rest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: The Manchurian Candidate [Blu-Ray]

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The original Manchurian Candidate, in hindsight, is actually a semi-prescient movie, what with the assassination of John F. Kennedy a year after its release. So, as an historical milestone, it’s definitely up there with films that you need to see if you’re into such things. But it’s also a masterful picture that deserves to be seen by anybody who loves cinema in general. That said, skip the decent 2004 remake with Denzel Washington and stick with this one, as it definitely holds up even today. Oh, and Frank Sinatra really can act. But he can’t do karate.

The Movie: Four and a half stars out of five

Brainwashing, McCarthyism, assassination, mommy drama, a love story…jeez, there are so many threads going on in The Manchurian Candidate you would think it would get lost in its own ambitious storytelling. Thankfully, this classic film from the 1960s, based on the book by Richard Condon, remains enthralling and intelligible throughout, making it one of the best, and most revelatory, films of that decade. It contains great acting, good pacing, and a masterful script that stays focused throughout and very rarely lets you down.

To describe the plot of The Manchurian Candidate would require several tangents, as there’s an interesting story for each of its characters throughout, so I’ll just give you the gist of it all. During the Korean War, a bunch of GIs are captured and forced to undergo brainwashing treatments by the Communist party. Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Lawrence Harvey) is the key member of this brainwashing procedure and is turned into an assassin who mentally goes AWOL whenever he sees the Queen of Diamonds. This is all because he was programmed to kill and forget after he sees this card. The story then introduces a web of deceit involving the man’s mother (played beautifully by Angela Lansbury), who seems to play a bigger role in all of this than you would suspect. Now, that’s a very, very poor retelling of the story, because it doesn’t even introduce the headliner of this film, Frank Sinatra, who plays the man who uncovers all the lies. But what I just told you was definitely the most interesting element of the film. Though The Manchurian Candidate is great throughout, there are definitely parts that are more fascinating than others, and the aspect of the brainwashing is the most interesting in the entire film. The uncovering of said brainwashing, though, is just not as good.

The brainwashing plotline opens up so many different avenues that it’s impressive that it all comes together so seamlessly. One thing I absolutely love about The Manchurian Candidate is that it’s a satire that takes itself seriously, but it doesn’t come off as forced or corny. This is mainly because of the McCarthy character, John Iselin (James Gregory), who has all of the bombast of Joe McCarthy himself. This part of the movie, the rising to power of a man set to destroy America, only works because similar events happened in American history. People were blacklisted all the time back then and were proclaimed to be Communists when they really weren’t. It’s a subplot that weaves in brilliantly with the main story, making it disturbingly humorous when situated inside the rest of the pitch-black plot.

Janet Leigh's character does drag The Manchurian Candidate down somewhat, as the love story is a bit slow. If there’s any part of the film that I’d chop out completely, it’s this one, as it doesn’t seem entirely necessary. Also, there’s a pivotal scene in the movie where Frank Sinatra does karate. It’s been said that it’s the first fight scene ever in American cinema to feature martial arts, and it shows, because it is as stiff and comical as a Captain Kirk battle on some alien planet. But besides those two nitpicks, The Manchurian Candidate is a phenomenal picture and I highly recommend it. It’s one of the movies that I’m happy to revisit every couple of years or so.

The Disc: Three stars out of five

It’s funny, with all the conversion of movies to Blu-ray these days, it almost doesn’t make sense for some of these older films to be converted. The two main purposes of Blu-ray, by my understanding, are to put more space on the disc and to improve the visual quality of the film. Older movies such as The Manchurian Candidate definitely don’t provide enough of the latter to make it worth the purchase if you already own it on DVD, or for that matter, VHS. I mean, it looks alright on Blu-ray, but it’s definitely not the kind of film that I would recommend you rush to get for the picture quality that you’re going to see on your high-def TV. It’s not Avatar, after all. Just a thought.

As for the special features, well, they’re really not all that special. There’s a commentary by director John Frankenheimer, but half the time he’s silent and admiring his own film. There are interesting tidbits, though, such as the fact that some of the scenes involving James Gregory’s McCarthy character included ad-libbed speeches. Other than that, it’s mostly just the director talking about camera shots and how much Sinatra wanted to be in the movie. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s the same commentary already used on the DVD edition of the film since Frankenheimer is now dead. Pass, it’s nothing special.

The “Exclusive interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod, and John Frankenheimer” is also from the DVD edition, so it’s nothing new. Nor is it too interesting. Frank Sinatra was very good in this film, but I don’t think he deserves the praise that the writer and the director bestow upon him in this featurette. The “Queen of Diamonds Featurette” has Angela Lansbury, who doesn’t look a day over 65, talking about her role as the mother in this film. It’s probably the most interesting special feature on here, and it’s fascinating to learn just why she took the now iconic role. “A Little Solitaire Featurette” is another feature that’s not all that special, but it does talk about the relevance of the film as a historical document of what was to come with Kennedy’s assassination. “How to Get Shot” is a few minutes of Lansbury talking about exactly that -- how to act like you’re getting shot. The “Phone Call” feature is -- I’m not even joking -- a phone ringing during an interview and George Axelrod making a joke about it. Little wonder that it isn’t even mentioned on the back of the box. The original trailer is also on here, and it’s pretty ridiculous in that you-gotta-love it, '60s style of trailers. “If you miss the first five minutes…”

Overall, the special features are okay, but nothing worth splurging over for the Blu-ray edition if you already have The Machurian Candidate on DVD.

The Manchurian Candidate [Blu-ray] Details
Length: 126 min
Rated: PG-13
Distributor: MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2011-04-14
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Produced by: George Axelrod
Written by: George Axelrod

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ten MORE Movies That I've Seen That You Likely Haven't (But Shouldn't!)

So, like I said before in a previous blog post, I've seen a lot of movies in my short lifetime. A lot of them, you've seen, too, and some of them, you've loved (the first Pirates of the Caribbean) while others, you've hated (the second Pirates of the Caribbean). A lot of the movies that you loved, I was probably on the fence on because apparently, I have awful taste in films. But the films that I put below I can honestly tell you are beyond awful and you would hate them, too. That is, if you had seen them, of course. Now, some of these movies might be hard to find but none of them are outright obscure, so if you're a cinephile like myself, then you might have actually watched some of these. But most likely, you haven't. So these are ten more movies that I've seen that you likely haven't, but shouldn't. Take that as a fair warning. These movies are truly awful.

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10. Reefer Madness

Sure, you've heard a lot about this film, like how it's sooooo funny and such an extremely gross representation of what marijuana really isn't. But let me set the record straight. Reefer Madness sucks. It's funny for about four minutes and then, it's one boring slog that you're going to wish that you had been drunk for rather than high when watching it. It's criminal that the film has become so popular over the years, and everything great about the film can be seen in this short 1 minute and 39 second trailer. There, I just saved you a good hour of your life.

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9. Dog Soldiers

When I saw the box cover for this movie at Blockbuster a few years ago, I seriously told my friends that we had to watch it. And this is yet another reason why my friends think that I have terrible taste in films. Now, I don't think that's fair, because I hated this movie, too, since it takes about a full hour to actually get to the werewolves, and when you do, they look like shit. But I can see why they'd think that my picks suck after this, because this sucks. A lot. Still, I usually do pick up movies that are compared to other movies that I like. Doesn't everybody?

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8. Battle Royale

Now, don't get me wrong. Battle Royale isn't a bad film at all. But I implore you, please don't watch the movie and read the book instead. Most times, if not all, the book is always better than the film that it inspires. But in this regard, it's not even worth discussing, as the book is just world's better the movie. It's not even close to compare the two. Both are a perverse and a provocative take on Lord of the Flies, but the movie doesn't even come close to capturing the electricity of the novel. If you just don't read at all, then watch the movie. It's pretty good. But if you do read, then skip the movie entirely and read the book. Your bottom lip will drop at how good it is.

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7. Straw Dogs

There's a remake of this Sam Peckinpah film coming soon, so it might actually incline you to watch the original. But don't, as Straw Dogs is soooo boring. There's a pretty explicit rape scene in it, which must have been huge at the time but looks pretty tame today, and Dustin Hoffman traps some dude in a bear trap. But other than that, this film drags like no other. If you must watch it, just skip to the end. All the build-up of Dustin Hoffman's character going off the deep end isn't worth watching. For a similar, but better film that's sort of like this, watch, Falling Down instead with Michael Douglas. Now, that's a modern classic that we can both agree on.

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6. Queen of the Damned

Okay, so maybe you've seen this piece of garbage starring Aaliyah. Even if you have, I think it's worth nothing again just how awful it is. A semi-follow-up to the BRILLIANT Interview With a Vampire, this hunk a junk just seemed to have gotten everything wrong. The story has something to do with a musician, and I know the lead singer of KoRn makes an appearance in it somewhere. But other than that, it's beyond terrible. I don't remember anything else about the entire picture and I'm glad for it. Anne Rice's career had a similar fall, I believe, which is good because females just shouldn't handle vampires. They always make them look too damn sexy.

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5. Manos: The Hands of Fate

I love so bad, they're good movies and think Troll 2 should have won best picture. That said, Manos: The Hands of Fate, which literally translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate if you know anything about espanol is so bad that it's just bad. It's not even funny how awful it is. The Mystery Theater guys had fun riffing on it, but if you watch it without their jokes, it's just plain unwatchable. Don't see this film. No matter what you may hear about it.

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4. Zardoz

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--Zardoz has one of the best stories with the worst executions I've ever seen. It truly deserves to be remade. It has a floating head that praises the gun and loathe the penis, and then, some other out there shit with Sean Connery running from telepaths who fear growing old. It doesn't make any sense. The ending is absolutely beautiful, though and feels like it belongs in an entirely other film. Most...disappointing movie...ever.

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3. Dune

I LOVE David Lynch, but he has seriously made two of the worst movies I've ever seen with this flick and the next one. And the reason that this one is so bad is because it strays SO far away from the source material. I'm told there's a director's cut that is closer to the book, but I don't see how anything about that cut could make it better when the sets and characters seem so off in the original version. It should be noted that some people actually like this film, but for me, it's a total disaster. Thankfully, Lynch never attempted anything of this magnitude again, but the next movie, he had no excuse for.

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2. Inland Empire

Inland Empire doesn't make any damn sense at all. Now, as a Lynchian film, that's fine as next to none of his films make any sense on the surface level. But this movie goes waaay beyond that to the sense that it becomes unwatchable. And it's also really boring. I had to continuously rewind certain moments because I kept falling asleep during it. It's not cohesive in the slightest and frustratingly obfuscating. And the ending is just plain bonkers, but unjustifiably so. Avoid this film like the plague. Lynchian fans who liked this be damned.

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1. Rollerball

The 2002, Rollerball, remake is without question the worst film I've ever seen in my entire life. And I've seen a LOT of movies, so that's no small feat. While the original movie might be silly and dated, at least it's watchable. But this piece of garbage...this...abomination to life, isn't even that. I felt like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, watching this film, as I felt strapped down to the chair and forced to watch it because I paid for it and refused to leave until I got my money's worth. And oh, boy, if nightmares are what I inadvertently paid for, then I certainly got my money's worth with this piece of shit, as I can't think of a single other film in my mind that has absolutely NO redeeming qualities whatsoever. And I mean none. The philosopher/writer Sartre once wrote that "Hell is other people," in his play, No Exit. But I think he might have been a bit off. Hell is watching the Rollerball remake all alone. It's a far worse punishment and definitely the more depressing. Never watch this movie. Ever.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Love Authors Who Reference Their Other Work in Their Other Books

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So, I'm reading the Dark Tower saga (And I'm on the penultimate book, Song Of Susannah, in case you were wondering), and man, Stephen King just references the HELL out of his other books in this series. From The Stand to Salem's Lot to even referencing HIMSELF in these books, if you're a fan of his work, then it's an absolute pleasure to see some of his other characters make a appearance in this series. It's almost like a reward for reading his other titles, and I love that about the man. I love getting that reward. It makes it all the more awesome to read his work, and also, that much more unexpected. I keep wondering if Pennywise from It will make an appearance here. I mean, the turtle already has, so really, anything can happen with the Dark Tower. Anything.

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As a reader, and, as a writer, I dig that. It's showcasing that for an author, the books aren't just separate galaxies, but rather, one enormous universe where all of their ideas circulate into one. It's a bold approach to crafting novels, and I adore it. Hopefully, after my first book gets published (And it will get will), I'll do a similar thing. I just hope that it will all make sense.

In the end though, it's a great way to build a fan base from being just plain dedicated, to being utterly obsessed to read everything that that author has written. And I can tell you one thing, if Chuck Palahniuk had done it, I'd probably still be reading his books.

Then again though, not many authors do do it, and the only other two who I can actually think of off hand are Kurt Vonnegut, mainly with Kilgore Trout, and Sinclair Lewis, who delightfully placed Babbitt in his novel Elmer Gantry for a brief, cameo appearance. Can you think of any others? If you can, please put them in the comments box below. I'd love to hear a few.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fine Literature From My Childhood

If you clicked on the link above, you'll hear the Masterpiece Theater music, and what more appropriate tunes to listen to while you read this blog post on the literature that I used to read as a child? All of it still holds up today, and I'd put it up there with anything Shakespeare has ever written. Yes, even Titus Andronicus. So sit back and enjoy, and maybe even pick up one of these books today. They're all classics. Now, where's my pipe?

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Worlds of Power: Blaster Master

Sure, Blaster Master was a great game and all, but you know what was even better? The novelization of said game. I remember reading this on the bus one morning, bumping up and down and almost barfing all over my L.A. Lights sneakers, and being totally enthralled about a boy's quest to save his frog. Riveting. When I finished it (Which was probably still on that very same bus ride since it was pretty short) I totally wanted to play the game when I got home, only to realize that I would never look at it the same again. And thus opened my life to the world of reading.

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Say Cheese and Die!

Seriously, who DIDN'T read R.L. Stein's Goosebumps series back in the day? I'm putting this one on the list specifically because it was the first Goosebumps book that I ever read and I really dug the cover. The sequel, Say Cheese and Die...Again! didn't make any sense since it brought up the whole idea of being reborn, which was a pretty Catholic concept for a story involving a camera that could see dead people (That's what the story was about, right?). But it was great all the same. R.L. Stein is still the best living author that we have today. Since Kurt Vonnegut died, of course.

You think I'm joking.

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Prima Games Strategy Guides

I have no idea why, chalk it up to me being a nerd or something, but I seriously used to READ strategy guides when I was younger. And while, yes, a lot of people used to use strategy guides before the advent of the internet, let me restate what I mean. While yes, I used to USE strategy guides on occasion for games that I had, I actually bought and READ strategy guides for games that I didn't have, just because I liked reading about video games. So, yeah, like I said, I was a nerd. One of these strategy guides that I could distinctly remember reading was Sonic and Knuckles, which I hadn't gotten the game for a whole YEAR after I had read the guide cover to cover. I really liked video games a lot, you see.

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Where's Waldo

Would Where's Waldo really be considered literature? Well, whether it was or it wasn't, I still did an entire, one page book report on it back in third grade and took my F like a man. Where's Waldo was seriously EVERYWHERE when I was younger and it was one of the few series (Besides Goosebumps of course) that you would always see some young geeks pining over when the Scholastic Book Fair leaflets would come out. I had pretty much all of them, and the one where it was a whole PAGE full of Waldo impersonators made my eyes go cross. I'm pretty sure that my eyeglasses prescription had to go up that year (Sad face).

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Magic Eye books

Here's the truth, I never HAVE ever seen a 3D image with those damn posters. I'm like Ethan Suplee in the movie, Mallrats, forever tortured by them. His reaction in the movie was so true to my life. It was irritating beyond belief not being able to see anything when everybody else could.

But here was why the books were so great--The "answers" were always in the back of the book. So what I always used to do to impress my friend(s. Aww, who am I kidding? No plural, I only had one friend) was look in the back of the book and see all those strange, gray 3D figures and then, match them up with the page number. Then, I'd say, "Hey, Scott, you want to check out this Magic Eye book with me?" and he'd say yeah, only for me to stare at the page for about 30 seconds and say, "Hey, found it! It's a dolphin!" Yep, didn't I say before that I had no life? I didn't? Well, I'll say it now then, I had no life, which is why I'm so charming today. So says my mom.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

No, Timmy's First Gay Bar wasn't one of the books in this excellent series, but I definitely would have read it if it was. I read all of these. What I used to love to do with these books is always choose the worst outcome and then say out loud, "No, I didn't mean that!" and flip back to the page where I could make my decision so I didn't have to fall down a hole or drown. It was video games with multiple paths before there actually were video games with multiple paths. It was groundbreaking. I wonder if they still have them. I'd TOTALLY pick one up today. Totally.

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AOL Chat rooms

When AOL first came along, it totally dominated my life. I would spend hours upon hours upon hours going into chat rooms and talking about the latest episode of Dragonball Z or talking to older women who were probably older men looking to rape me. It was great!

So, that's what I used to read. What was your fine reading when you were younger? I'd like to hear it. Please leave it in the comments box below. Thanks. Bye. I miss you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Top Ten Things That Shaquille O'Neal Has Ever Done That Weren't Related to Bastketball

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Shaq might say that he wants to play another season, but just look at him on the court. He's done! But that's okay, because Shaq has proven time and again in his stellar career that he doesn't even need Basketball to get ahead. In fact, I'm pretty damn sure that Shaq could make a career doing pottery if he wanted to, as he's a regular Renaissance Man. And to prove it, here are the top ten things that Shaq has ever done that weren't even related to Basketball. Uh uh uh, Shaq DIESEL!

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10. Steel

Steel is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's cheesy and it's as brain rotting as they come. So why is it on this list then? Well, not EVERYBODY can play a superhero, and Shaq Diesel, as ridiculous as he looks with that stupid armor on, still fits that stupid armor quite well. The only more difficult role I could ever possibly imagine Shaq playing is him as a rapping genie. But he'd never do something like that, right? Not in a million yea...

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9. Kazaam

Whoops, spoke too soon. But the truth is, if you love Shaq, then you love him because he's a goofball, and Shaq has never been goofier than as a rapping genie in this travesty of a film. You might be reading this list and thinking, well, you're just making fun of Shaq, and yeah, you're right. But he's in on the joke, too, so it's all good. I mean, how couldn't he be? His genie lamp is a boom box. A boom box! That's just wonderful...a genie lamp that's a boombox. Shaq, thank you for being born.

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8. Blue Chips

Okay, enough with the garbage cinema. Shaq actually DID make a fairly decent film in Blue Chips, which was about, (Yes, I know I said I wouldn't talk about it, but it's inevitable) Basketball. Oh, well, Eminem had 8 Mile and Shaq had this, so while maybe he didn't stretch his massively long legs too far to play this role, at least he played it well. Not as well as a rapping genie or a Superman side-project, but well enough. It's not my favorite film by Shaq, but it's certainly the best he's ever done. Oh, and Nick Nolte is insane in this film, so yeah, he plays himself as well.

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7. Shaq the Cop

Believe it or not, but Shaq as a cop was no joke. According to Wikipedia, he actually arrested two men over some hate crimes in Miami, putting them in the slammer for good (Or at least until they got their forty three dollar bail money together). And while I can't find any clips of Shaq policing the streets of Miami, I do have this clip of him asking Kobe how his ass tastes, which I think is just as good. You be the judge.

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6. Shaq the rapper

Shaq has released five (!) studio albums and one compilation disc. His first album, Shaq Diesel went platinum, and he even rapped on a Michael Jackson song called "2 Bad." So yeah, while you were all laughing at Shaq's rap career, he was out raking in that dough and stealing your girlfriend. As I said before, I'll say it again: Shaquille O'Neal is a Renaissance Man. A modern day Leonardo da Vinci. And the sad thing is, you think I'm joking.

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5. Shaq getting on Wee Man's back and not killing him

Sure, it was probably just as fake as Kobe jumping over a speeding car, but the mere idea, the mere concept of Shaq getting on poor Wee Man's back without making him implode is frankly mind-blowing. I watch this every morning before I go to work. It inspires me.

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4. Shaq races against Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, and almost beats him

Yes, Michael Phelps was seriously disadvantaged against Shaq on the show, Shaq vs, having to do nearly double the laps that Shaq did. But so what? This is the greatest swimmer in the entire WORLD. And the fact that Shaq was even remotely close says something about what a dominant beast Shaq is in just about anything he does. And don't go and tell me that Michael Phelps was going easy on him. That man looked tired in the end. Shaq made him work.

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3. Shaq dancing with the Jabbawockeez

Uh, didn't know if you knew this, but the Jabbawockeez are America's Best Dance Crew. Well, at least for season one they were. That said, even with all of the main Jabbawockeez dancing next to him at the All-star game, Shaq STILL managed to have all eyes on him. Seriously, what CAN'T Shaq do?

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2. Shaq Fu

Some might see this as Shaq's worst moment, but I think those people are thinking about video games in general rather than Shaq's non-basketball career. And I say that because while yes, Shaq Fu is beyond belief terrible, how many other basketball players would even DARE make a fighting game, and not only that, but put the word "Fu" after their name to make it seem legit? Only one, and you're reading a blog post about him, baby. Shaq Fu will forever go down in history. Maybe not for all the best reasons, but history, nonetheless. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, eat your heart out.

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1. The Shaq Pack at Burger King

While having your own video game is cool as all hell, really, can anything be better than having your own meal named after you at Burger King? No, no it cannot. Not only was the sandwich pretty damn good, but the commercial, for no real reason whatsoever, even featured Shaq dressed as Shaft with an Issac Hayes sound-alike (At least, I THINK it was a sound-alike!) singing about how awesome Shaq is. Now that's pimp. Man...I wish they would bring it back...

Move Something: The 12 Most Acrobatic Characters in Video Games

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Check out the article here:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Blue Valentine [Blu-Ray]

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Blue Valentine is a movie you have to see twice to fully appreciate. The nuanced performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, which earned her a Best Actress nomination, I might add, are great, of course. But they’re all the better when you watch it a second time and realize that half the time, they weren’t even really acting at all. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were in love.

The Movie: Four and a half stars out of five

When I originally saw Blue Valentine in the theater last year, I wasn’t all that impressed. Sure, the movie was pretty good and slightly depressing, but some critics were hailing it as the best picture of the year, with others saying that Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling delivered the best performances of their lives. But to be completely honest with you, when I initially saw it, all I kept thinking was, "Is this the same movie that all the critics are raving about?" I thought the movie was just alright, nothing all that special, and that the critics were wrong yet again. But no, after a second viewing of the film, I realize that the critics weren’t wrong, after all. I was the one who was wrong. And I think the big misunderstanding was all because I bought into to the hype and believed what I wanted to believe the film was actually about. What I was expecting at the time was a loud and explosive film, full of screaming and arguing and graphic sex. And while some of that is actually in there, what I got instead was a very subtle film full of deep emotions and lingering scenes of a hopeful past that these two love birds once had. It’s really a beautiful film, made all the more tragic because it feels so real at the onset of their relationship. I didn’t get that out of the film the first time I saw it, but I do now. And damn, does it sting.

The story is about a married couple on the brink of divorce. Other stories have been told like that in the past, with Revolutionary Road being the first that comes to mind. But the difference between that movie and this one, or any movie and this one for that matter, is that Revolutionary Road felt very Hollywood, while this film doesn’t. This film feels genuine and real, and I think a huge reason for that is because it was genuine and real. Both Gosling and Williams spent years developing their characters and falling in love, and the early scenes of their relationship, which are definitely the most indelible and sweet in the entire picture, resonate the most because they remind us of what it first felt like to fall in adult love.

Adult love, of course, is very different from young love because there’s more at stake with adult love, what with a woman’s biological clock ticking and hopeless feelings that true love may never truly present itself. But then love does present itself, and it’s like nothing that you could have ever imagined as a kid, and that dangerous and wonderful spark is definitely here in this film. From the moment that Gosling meets Williams in an old folks' home and won’t let her leave without getting a date, to the moment that they first say they love each other on a bus. These scenes just feel so real and personal to me. I’ve never been a mack-daddy like Gosling, but that look in Michelle Williams’ eyes when you can see that she likes him, too, is just so wonderful to watch. It shows a connection that just can’t be faked or played up for Hollywood. This is as personal as it gets when it comes to filmmaking. This, my friends, is true art.

If there’s any complaint I have with the film, though, it’s that the break-up scenes don’t feel as real as the scenes when they’re falling in love. Maybe it’s because I’m not at that point in my relationship yet, and hopefully never will be, but it doesn’t seem as true to life as their initial pairing does. Yes, their crumbling marriage is often shown for ostensibly petty reasons, and that part feels genuine. But some of it just feels forced, like the scene at the end where there’s no turning back. Nowhere in the film did it look like they had it that bad, and so I can’t really believe that it couldn’t be patched up with a little more work and tolerance. Maybe I’m watching it wrong and it’s really a cautionary tale for young people not to get married so young, I don’t know. But any married couple that I’ve seen stick it out through some pretty hard times wouldn’t be so willing to split just because they didn’t feel the passion that they once had. They’d work it out and push on, possibly into a life of mediocrity, but they’d do it for the kid, and by God, they love their kid in this movie. Love her to freaking death.

Perhaps a true break-up movie can’t really be made unless a true break-up was actually occurring in those actors’ real lives. I’m not sure which would be sadder, though, the fact that it was happening in real life, or the fact that we were watching it for pleasure. Either way, I’m a little happy that their break-up didn’t feel as real as the love that they shared throughout the rest of the picture. That might have been too unbearable to watch. And thankfully, this film is quite watchable. A great movie all around that you should see and pick it up, even if parts of it will break your heart.

The Disc: Five stars out of five

A large part of the reason I appreciate the film so much now is actually because of the stellar commentary, where we learn from the director, Derek Cianfrance, and the co-editor, Jim Helton, just how real the performances really were. The two obvious friends talk about how this movie took forever to make (over a decade!), and in how many scenes Gosling and Williams were told to throw away the script and just act from the heart. From that point of view, it makes it all the more special and sentimental to me. The commentary alone is worth giving this disc five stars.

But wait, there’s more! The disc also includes deleted scenes that genuinely feel like a day in the life of Gosling and Williams. Sure, some of the scenes, such as Gosling driving around in a truck with a co-worker and talking about infidelity, wouldn’t fit at all in the film. But they definitely expand the world of these characters, and they’re just about as perfect a snapshot into people’s everyday lives as you can get. These deleted scenes are perfect if you truly loved the film.

There’s also “The Making of Blue Valentine,” which is okay but not great, because many of the things discussed in the commentary are touched on here as well. Gosling and Williams do make an appearance to talk about what it was like getting into their roles, so that’s interesting. These two sure do know how to method act. And finally, there are actual “Home Movies” by Gosling and Williams and the daughter in the film. And they seriously are actual home movies, as the house they lived in the film was rented out and they stayed there for a month, patching together a history and filming it. Special features don’t get much better than these. Great additions to an already great film. Pick it up. Now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Double Chins Are Glorious

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I don't know why I love morbidly obese people so much, but I just can't get enough of them. The way they sweat when they eat/take a dump/sleep. The way that they can breathe heavily, even when they're sitting down. Even the way they eat without coming up for air is just fascinating to me. I mean, seriously, fat people are okay, but morbidly obese people is where it's at. I just love everything about them. They're beautiful to me.

And when it comes to the morbidly obese, there's no better staple than the double chin. What could be better?

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I especially like it when sweat collects underneath the first chin. Oh, boy!

So, yes, while I've played this clip before, I have to play it again. Let's go, you big mamas, you. Shake that honey jar.