TV Tuesday: She’s got the creampuffs.

If you’re not caught up on your TV: There will be SPOILERS.

Modern Family

First episode was hilarious even though I’d already seen a lot of it in one of those specials they run before the trailers at the movie theater. “She’s got the creampuffs” still makes me giggle.

Grey’s Anatomy

I think this would have been much more powerful had I not read the spoilers on what was going to happen and all the behind-the-scenes stuff about why it had to. That was my own fault, but it is what it is. I had a hard time grieving over George when I understood the frustration that led the actor playing him to want to leave the show.

Still, grief in all its varieties was brilliantly written and acted by everyone. I may not feel a personal loss, but I can certainly empathize with characters like Bailey, Izzie, Lexie, Meredith, Callie, and even the girl George saved as they’re struggling to cope. Powerful stuff, which is why I watch the show.

The merging hospital storyline feels forced, but I’ll reserve judgment for now. I’m concerned that some of my favorite characters are going to get even less screen time this season than usual as the show tries to figure out how to ensure that no character or actor is indispensable.

The Mentalist

Not 100% sure about the new character, but I think I’m going to like Jane’s having someone around that he can aggressively antagonize.

Cho continues to grow into one of my favorite characters. To think that I sort of hated him when the show first started.

House

So far, so good. I’m really nervous about this show because I like who House has become: still troubled, but coping and learning to make connections with people. It’s once again one of my favorite shows because we’re actually seeing some character growth in House. I’d pretty much written that off as impossible and my interest in the show was falling. What I’m afraid of is his regressing to the cranky drug-abuser he was before, but deep down I believe that the show-runners are way smart and won’t settle for the safe, easy, less fascinating choices.

Glee

Weird. I haven’t actually liked Rachel before now, even though she’s a major character and I feel like I’m supposed to. After last week’s episode though, I’m actively disliking her. Strange choice the writers are making there.

On the other hand, Quinn has been a villain up to this point and now we’re being given reasons to like her. I don’t really know what the show’s up to and I like that.

I also like that Kurt’s getting even more screen time, because he’s awesome. And how much did you want to hug his dad for turning out to be a good dad? “He’s so little” nearly broke my heart.

Glad to see more focus on Tina too. I was starting to think that she was going to be a glorified extra; padding to fill out the club while only two or three members got all the storylines. Apparently that’s not going to be the case and it gives me hope that Artie will eventually become more than the Kid in the Wheelchair.

Oh, and Kristin Chenoweth’s episode is this week. Hoping that turns into more.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs twice over the weekend.

The first time was on Thursday with my brother-in-law. We picked it out of a group of potential movies because it was the only one that would get us home at a decent hour on a school night. Neither of us was particularly excited to see it, but we figured that if nothing else we’d get to see a lot of hamburgers fall on people and that might be fun. Turns out it’s hilarious and we laughed harder than we had at a movie in a very long time.

So Saturday I took my wife and son and enjoyed it all over again. I didn’t laugh quite as hard the second time – the gags being the same as the first time around and all – but it was still a lot of fun. At my son’s request, we spent the entire ride home going over our favorite scenes and jokes.

Obviously, a great deal of the enjoyment the first time was the result of surprise after not being sure I was going to like it at all. If I’d known Mr. T was one of the voices, I’d forgotten about it. I’m pretty sure I had no idea that Bruce Campbell was going to be another. I’m glad of that too, because had I known/remembered that, my expectations would’ve been way up. Recognizing their voices let me know right away though that I was in good hands with this thing.

Mr. T is Earl Devereaux, the family-minded police officer in charge of keeping the peace in the little, island community of Swallow Falls. He has his hands full with Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a would-be inventor whose concoctions and contraptions are a constant source of amusement (like the time he tested spray-on shoes on himself and couldn’t get them to come off) and frustration (he created the ratbirds that now infest Swallow Falls) for the town’s inhabitants. Earl has plenty of opportunity to lecture Flint as only Mr. T can lecture a young ne’er-do-well and those are my favorite parts of the movie.

Bruce Campbell is – appropriately – the town’s sleazy, conniving mayor. His main goal is to turn sleepy, boring Swallow Falls into a tourist destination, so when Flint actually comes up with a working invention that converts air moisture into food, the mayor sees it as the opportunity he’s been looking for.

Some other great casting include James Caan as Flint’s awkward dad, Neil Patrick Harris as the electronic voice of Flint’s pet monkey Steve (he has a Monkey Thought Translator, but the thoughts mostly come out as “Steve!” and “Hungry!”), Andy Samburg as a local celebrity coasting on the fame he received as an infant in an advertising campaign, and Lauren Graham as Flint’s mom.

Though it’s revealed very early in the movie, the rest of this paragraph is sort of a spoiler, so skip ahead if you don’t want to know anything. I mention Lauren Graham partly because she’s Lauren Graham, but also because she does so much with a tiny role. The movie opens with Flint as a kid and he’s distraught over the failure of his spray-on shoes. As his mom comforts and supports him, you can’t help but fall in love with her a little bit and that’s all due to Graham’s voice. Later, when Flint’s an adult and he’s having a hard time communicating with his dad, you can feel Mom’s absence. It’s not just, “Why isn’t she in this scene?” It’s, “Uh oh. Where’s Flint’s Mom?” Then, a couple of seconds later, Flint and his dad reveal that Mom died several years ago and you’re as heartbroken about it as they seem to be.

I also liked Flint’s relationship with his dad, though it was sometimes painful to watch. Both of these guys clearly love each other; they just have nothing in common and neither is able to communicate adequately his feeling for the other. What I love is that neither is portrayed as the bad guy. They both fail at their relationship and – though it’s a frustrating situation for them to be in – as an audience member, it’s refreshing to see.

On top of the great acting and character work, the movie’s plot is awesome. It starts off ludicrous enough with food falling from the sky and just gets wilder as it progresses. The food starts getting bigger and dangerous and ultimately Flint and his friends have to figure out a way to stop it. By the end of the movie the heroes are battling flying pizza slices, evil Gummi bears, and man-eating roasted chickens.

I haven’t said anything yet about Anna Faris as weather reporter Sam Sparks. That’s not because she does a bad job or anything; she’s actually very charming. It’s just that the character doesn’t have much going for her outside of being Flint’s love interest. She’s in Swallow Falls because the mayor’s related to someone at her network and wanted some free publicity for his efforts to revitalize the town. When the food starts raining, she stays on to cover the story and eventually to fall in love with Flint. Outside of him, her story arc consists entirely of learning to put aside her conventionally attractive appearance and embrace the inner nerd she once knew as a child.

By “embrace her inner nerd” I mean that she quits acting dumber than she really is and starts wearing her glasses and a hair scrunchie again. Because apparently, conventionally attractive people can’t be smart, nor can girls in pony-tails and glasses be attractive. At least, they can’t to the general public. They can to other nerds like Flint though.

Still, as obnoxious a message as that is, Sam’s story is presented with a lot of cuteness and charm. I liked her quite a bit; I just wish that there was more to her. Fortunately, there was enough of everything else that I wasn’t thinking about the underlying social message in Sam’s character development. It’s worth mentioning, but I only really thought about it when I sat down to write this. During the movie, I was too busy laughing and enjoying myself.

Four out of five flying cars.

Music Meme: 2006

Continuing my list of favorite albums from every year I’ve been alive.

2006

Rock Kills Kid: Are You Nervous?

This album is like the ’80s all over again in the best way possible. I love albums that open strong and the first two songs on this one (“Paralyzed” and “Hideaway”) are a powerful combination. The rest of the album’s also very good, but man those two songs are awesome.

Singles:
Gnarls Barkley: “Crazy”
The Flaming Lips: “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)”
Pink: “Stupid Girls”
Snow Patrol: “Chasing Cars”
KT Tunstall: “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”
“Weird Al” Yankovic: “White and Nerdy”

Fall TV So Far: Some reviews

Glee

I’m on the fence about this show. It has it’s funny moments, but I’m not feeling most of the characters. Two episodes in and the kids in the Glee Club all still feel like stereotypes and clichés. The main character Will is supposed to be this nice guy, but he’s creepily flirting with another teacher who’s desperately in love with him even though he’s married and – as far as he knows – has a baby on the way.

I’ve got three reasons for sticking with it for a while though. Jane Lynch is as hilarious as she always is, Victor Garber plays Will’s dad, and Kristin Chenoweth is supposed to be in an upcoming episode or two. I’ll watch Victor Garber in anything and I’m still not over my crush on Kristin Chenoweth from Pushing Daisies. And it’s not like it’s an awful show or anything. I’m just not sure I’d stick with it if not for those three actors.

The Office

Bullet proof. Things are changing around Dunder Mifflin, but as long as I keep laughing like I have been, I’m not worried.

Community

I laughed once during the pilot episode, but that was because someone was quoting The Breakfast Club. I’ll always laugh at Breakfast Club references, if only out of fondness. And there’s a certain Breakfast Clubness to the concept too: a diverse group of students getting together to study and survive their community college experience. That could be interesting, right? I thought I should give it a second week to see if it got funnier.

Didn’t make it through ten minutes of the second episode. So not funny it hurt me.

House

Oh wow, did I love the season premiere. I only have one concern, but it’s a big one. I’m not sure how they can top it. It was so beautiful and perfect that it felt like a series finale, not a season opener. Honestly, that’s how I imagined the show should end and I’m seriously afraid to keep watching for fear of ruining the feeling I have about it right now.

On the other hand, I have a lot of faith in the people running the show and I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. I’m just looking forward with a great deal of fear and trembling.

Big Bang Theory

Also bullet proof. Just keep Sheldon the same and you can screw around with Leonard and Penny’s relationship all you want.

Castle

It’s come to my attention that some people don’t like this show. Those people are crazy. This is Nathan Fillion playing exactly the kind of character he was born to play, Stana Katic is a fantastic actress and – oh by the way – inconceivably beautiful, and the two are very funny together and have a ton of chemistry. The mysteries are also fun and interesting. It ain’t CSI, but that’s such a good thing.

My only gripe is that Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn don’t get enough to do as Castle’s mom and daughter. They’re around mostly to ground him and accidentally offer just the right piece of advice to help him crack the case and/or fix whatever’s wrong with his relationship with Detective Beckett this week. But I like the two actresses enough that I’ll happily take whatever I can get from them.

NCIS: Los Angeles

I’ve never watched an episode of NCIS, so I don’t know what the rest of the world loves about that show. I caught the last half of the pilot for NCIS: LA though and I liked Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J enough in it that I’ll be back for more. I really don’t think I need another mystery show, but we’ll see.

The Forgotten

TiVo insists on spelling it the forgotten like the show’s logo does, but I can’t make myself do that. The show’s pretentious enough as it is.

When I was looking for promos to embed in my Fall TV Premieres post I found an old promo of The Forgotten that had another actor in what’s now Christian Slater’s role. I can only imagine that ABC saw how ridiculous the show was and thought, “Well… maybe if we put a movie star in it, no one will notice.” It’s a shame too, because I like Christian Slater and I think he should get a good series. I want to watch him in one.

But the pilot for The Forgotten had a crappy mystery solved because of wild logic jumps and sheer coincidences by people speaking cheesy dialogue in order to deliver a sermon that absolutely no one needs to hear. Is anyone really enlightened by the message that unidentified corpses have loved ones somewhere who are worried about them? Did we not know that? Does anyone benefit by being pounded over the head with it for an hour?

Eastwick

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get into a really good chick show. I think this is going to be one. The plot’s intriguing, but what I really love is the cast. This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

FlashForward

I was very prepared not to like this. The next Lost you say, Ms. Network Marketing Person? I’ll be the judge of that.

Well, I don’t know if it’s the next Lost (or if it even wants to be), but it is really freaking good. The first episode was thrilling, suspenseful, creepy, funny, touching, and I liked all the characters. Easily my favorite new show so far.

Modern Family
Grey’s Anatomy
The Mentalist

Haven’t watched these yet. Got ’em TiVoed though, so I’ll let you know.

Friday Night Art Show: You’re Eating Poison by the Plateful!

That break in blogging yesterday? That was me catching my breath for this post. LOTS of cool art this week. So much so that I broke my rule about not snatching multiple images from a single post.

Galleon Attack

By Howard Pyle. I’m really glad there’s a Talk Like a Pirate Day, if only because it brings out stuff like this. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Treasure Cave

By NC Wyeth. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

A Pirate Page

By Jim Silke [Never Sea Land]

Pin-Up Pirate

Someone with a better knowledge of classic film will have to tell me who this is. [Never Sea Land]

Bonnie Bernie

Okay, I know who this one is. [Never Sea Land]

Devil Out of the Deep

Artist unknown. [Poulpe Pulps]

The Golden Octopus

By Small. [The FictionMags Index]

Caught Mermaid

Artist unknown [Never Sea Land]

Blue

By Jana Schirmer. [Never Sea Land]

Sea Stories

By Roy G Krenkel [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Julie Fishing, Painted

By Craig Harris. The finished version of one of the pieces in this post.

Artosaurus

I’m not sure which dino art recently captured by Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs I like better. This one?

Or this one

Yummy

By Roy G Krenkel. That sauropod looks awfully happy about having his tail munched on by a T-Rex, doesn’t he? [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Zeppelin Tour

Another by Roy G Krenkel. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Black Widow

By Gene Gonzales.

Black Canary

Photo by Jason Dorough. Costume by Perry.

The Sleeping Lorelei

Artist unknown. [Pulp of the Day]

Wonder Girl

By Colleen Coover.

Mirage & Brightwind

By Gene Gonzales. There’s not much cooler than a Native American Valkyrie.

Kali

By Leftyjoe.

C is for Cowboy Crocodile

By Patri Balanovsky.

M is for Mouse King

By Patri Balanovsky.

Padme for Marla Bea

By Grant Gould for the Marla Bea Benefit auction to fight breast cancer.

Shadow Lass

By Robert Ullman.

Space Ape

By Patri Balanovsky.

A Thing of the Past

By Ferrari. [American Pulps and Magazines]

Strange Creatures from Outer Space

Artist unknown. [Jon Knutson]

Cursed Pirate Girl

This week’s Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs is all about Jeremy Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl.

On the back cover of Cursed Pirate Girl #1, Mike Mignola calls Jeremy Bastian a genius and declares, “I almost never see work this original.” If pirates and Bastian’s whimsical and detailed style aren’t enough to make you curious, praise from Mike Mignola – who knows a thing or two about originality – concerning the book’s uniqueness ought to. I mean, that’s like hearing David Petersen call it “stuff that makes other artists jealous and comic readers drool.” Oh, wait. That’s on the back cover too.

I promise I’ll get to the book itself in a second, but there’s another remarkable quote on the back of the second issue. Painter Gail Potocki calls the series, “our generation’s Alice in Wonderland.” Which is interesting because one of the first things you notice when you open it is the influence of classic Alice illustrator John Tenniel with his opulent linework and exaggerated body types. Another way of describing Bastian’s style might be, “Jeff Smith as inked by Gary Gianni.”

But there’s much more to Potocki’s Alice comparison than just the art. Lewis Carroll’s stories were joyous celebrations of childhood and imagination. And while Bastian’s book isn’t as nonsensical as Carroll’s, there’s certainly that sense that anything can happen. And often will.

Read the rest at Robot 6.

What’s All This Then?: The Freddy Krueger Saga, Part One

A couple of years ago I started a feature around Halloween called “What’s All This Then?” The idea behind it was to try to catch up on bits of popular culture that I’ve been lax about visiting and see if I think it’s worthy of all the fuss. The first (and until now, only) subject was the Halloween movies (parts one, two, and three). Since it’s getting to be Halloween again, I thought I’d bring WATT? back from the grave and take a look at another classic horror-series that I’m not all that familiar with.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Before this project, I’d seen three of the Nightmare films: the odd-numbered ones, for some reason. Like the Halloween series, what attracts me to the Nightmare movies is the desire to see how it works as a complete story. I enjoyed the Halloween series a lot more than I thought I would, but it didn’t end up working well as a continuing story. Important elements kept getting added and dropped depending on the whims of whoever had the most power over the latest flick. I’m curious to see if Nightmare is handled any better.

SPOILERS BELOW

Just in case you’re even less up on Nightmare on Elm Street than I am (though I don’t know how that’s possible), the story’s about a group of Elm Street teenagers who are all having similar dreams about a horribly scarred man with a clawed, metal glove. When one of them – Tina – is murdered by an invisible attacker while in bed with her boyfriend Rod, her other two friends Nancy and Glen (Johnny Depp’s first role) start to realize that there’s something more going on than just dreams. Nancy quickly becomes the focal point of the film as she uncovers the story of a child-murderer named Fred Krueger who was himself killed by the Elm Street parents.

It’s been years since I last saw the movie and I was surprised by how few deaths there really are and how – relatively speaking – tame they are. Only four people die. Tina’s the worst, getting carved up in her bed as she sleeps. Glen’s death features a geyser of blood, but his body goes off-camera before that happens. Rod’s is tamest of all. He’s in jail under suspicion for Tina’s death when Krueger ties a sheet around his neck and fakes a suicidal hanging. I’ll get to the last death in a minute.

I can see why audiences took to Krueger right away. Even though he’s a horrible, sadistic killer, he’s way more interesting – at least on a surface level – than the silent, personality-less Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Krueger’s jokes aren’t really funny, but that he’s cracking them at all is pretty revolutionary for a slasher film. He’s also a lot quicker and more active than at least Michael Myers. (Next year I’ll have to catch up on Jason’s story; I don’t know much about how he operates yet.) He was such a different horror villain that Wes Craven didn’t need a particularly high body count to spice up the movie.

More important than Krueger’s personality though is Craven’s genius in making something as essential as sleep an object of fear. Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t harrowing to watch because of gory deaths. It’s exhausting because everyone can relate to the need for sleep and everyone can imagine how frustrating and maddening it would be if falling asleep meant death. Much scarier than kids getting chased through dark basements by a wise-cracking serial killer are the scenes of kids terrified to fall asleep because they know what’s waiting for them there.

Still, even though Craven tapped into something real and primal for the movie, it’s always been hard for me to like it because of a couple of things that happen at the end. Before he dies, Glen shares with Nancy something he read about our nightmares’ being powered by fear. That’s not exactly a revelation, but what he extrapolates from that is that if you stop being afraid, the nightmare goes away. And that ends up being how Nancy beats Krueger: she turns her back on him and he disappears. I always thought that was really easy and stupid, and it is, but what bothered me even more was the final scene.

After Nancy beats Krueger, we get a scene of her leaving the house for school. Glen, Tina, and Rod are all still alive and pick her up in a convertible. Then the roof goes up on the car and it’s the same pattern as Krueger’s iconic sweater. Nancy and her friends scream in terror as the Krueger-mobile drives them down the street, presumably to their deaths, while Nancy’s mom waves from the front door of the house. Then Krueger’s arm reaches from inside the house and yanks Mom back inside. The End.

I was never able to figure that out, because I always assumed that it was Nancy’s dream. And that doesn’t make any sense because Nancy’s supposedly defeated Krueger. His invading her dreams again in the very next scene completely destroys the point of the climax. I was quite ready to give the movie two out of five bathtub drownings, but then I saw the second movie and figured out that the last scene in this one wasn’t Nancy’s dream at all.

Four out of five bathtub drownings.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

It was Nancy’s mom’s dream.

This movie picks up a few years later (though it came out only a year after the first). Nancy’s old house has been vacant until the Walshes recently moved in. Teen-aged son Jesse starts having nightmares immediately.

He soon learns from friends at school about Nancy Thompson and her mom. The public story is that Nancy’s mom killed herself in the living room and Nancy went crazy, which totally explains the final scene of the first movie. Nancy did defeat Krueger, so he just went and killed her mom instead.

What’s different about Nightmare 2 – and the reason it doesn’t work as well as the first one – is that it’s not about dying when you fall asleep. Krueger’s not trying to kill Jesse; he’s trying to possess him. It’s a clever angle and leads to some potentially interesting dilemmas for Jesse as he goes around slaughtering people in his sleep, but it’s never explored very well. Outside of personal guilt over what he’s doing and fear of what he’s becoming, there aren’t any real consequences for his involuntary actions. He flees murder scenes – presumably leaving all kinds of evidence behind – but the police never so much as question him. When he talks to his girlfriend Lisa about it, the conversations are all about Jesse’s resisting Krueger’s influence and Lisa’s belief that he can do it. There’s never any talk about turning himself in or getting some help.

More damning than the lack of consequences though is that Jesse’s only real danger is metaphysical. His body’s being taken over by Krueger, so that’s a kind of death I guess, but it’s way less dramatic than being sliced apart by the boogie man. And way less scary.

There’s also another final scene that seems to come out of nowhere. Jesse and his friends – those who’ve survived the slaughter anyway – are on the school bus and Krueger attacks them. It’s obviously meant to remind us of the last scene from the first movie, but unfortunately it also does that by making as little sense as that one did. Krueger hasn’t been attacking people through their dreams in Nightmare 2, so how does he pull this off? Has he possessed someone else? I’ve got no idea and my vague memory of Nightmare 3 isn’t helping. I may adjust this rating after I’ve seen more if it makes sense, but for now…

Two out of five pool party massacres. (And one of those is simply because Kim Myers is absolutely gorgeous as Lisa.)