Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm in charge!

It looks like I'm in charge of this site for the next two weeks. So yeah, Gentlemen of Leisure is on life support. First off, I would like to dispel the rumor that Teebore is actually in rehab after ODing on hookers, blow, and toilet bowl moonshine. I know for a fact that Teebore distills his moonshine in his bathtub, not his toilet.
Anyway, I got pretty drunk at Teebore's intervention last night so I'm pretty wiped. No update tonight but hopefully I'll get my version of the meme up tomorrow. But we should all be afraid. I'm in charge of a website for two weeks, we'll be lucky if I don't burn down the entire internet!

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Bid Adieu...

I say goodbye to two things this weekend: the 2007 baseball season and my bachelorhood. That's right, Teebore is taking the plunge this Saturday.

So you won't be seeing me around here for about two weeks, as I whoop it up with the new Mrs. Teebore and Mickey Mouse in Disneyworld. I leave the burden of entertaining the masses solely on the shoulders of Dr. Bitz for awhile.

I'd love to wax philosophical on the begining of this new chapter in my life, or at least leave you laughing with a good dick and fart joke, but frankly, I'm exhausted, and still need to use what little creative energy I have left to write my vows.

Be back in a bit, likely far more sunburned than I am now...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"10 Character" Meme

There's this meme that's been circulating through some of the blogs that I frequent, and while I haven't officially been tagged, it looked like fun. So I thought I'd give it a try, and challenge Dr. Bitz to try his hand at it as well.

First, select your ten fictional characters (from any medium) by whichever method you like best. Then answer the questions below.
1. Cyclops (Marvel Comics)
2. Captain Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Link (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
5. Indiana Jones
6. Sherlock Holmes
7. Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
8. She-Ra (She-Ra: Princess of Power)
9. Optimus Prime
10. Noah “HRG” Bennet (Heroes)

1. Divide the list up by even and odd. Which group of five would make a better Five Man Band (like a Power Rangers team)? Who would you slot in each position: Leader, Lancer (second-in-command), Big Guy, Smart Guy, The Chick? If you think the team would be improved by swapping one character between the even and odd groups, which ones would you switch?

Team A: Cyclops, Luke, Indiana Jones, Willow, Optimus Prime
Team B: Cpt. Sisko, Link, Sherlock Holmes, She-Ra, Bennet

Team A Roster:
Leader --- Cyclops
Lancer --- Optimus Prime (yes, I am saying both that Luke is more powerful than Optimus Prime, and that Cyclops is a better leader. Deal with it.)
Big Guy ---Luke Skywalker
Smart Guy ---Indiana Jones
Chick ---Willow (really don’t like this category. Just “chick”? Not tough chick, or crafty chick, or just a fifth non gender-specific category so the “chick” could go any place?)

Team B Roster:
Leader --- Captain Sisko
Lancer --- Bennet
Big Guy ---Link (not so much big as good with a sword, arrows, flute, etc. She-Ra can help make up for his lack of power, since as a chick, she apparently has little else to do but be a “chick”)
Smart Guy ---Sherlock Holmes
Chick ---She-Ra

Seems pretty evenly matched, all told. She-Ra makes up for Link’s lack of raw power, but Team A probably has more balanced power and better long range attack capabilites, between Cyclops’ blasts, Luke’s Jedi skills, Willow’s magic, and Optimus Prime being a big freakin’ robot. Plus, he can double as the group’s transportation.

But team B is definitely the smarter, sneakier team. Holmes trumps Indy in that department, and Sisko is definitely more of a crafty “gray area” leader than Boy Scout Cyclops. Toss Bennet in the mix and it’s surely the “black ops”, down and dirty, always has a back-up plan team.

2. Gender-swap 2 (Sisko), 8 (She-Ra) & 10 (Bennet). Which character would have the most change in their story arc? Which the least? Would any of these characters have to have a complete personality change to be believable as the opposite sex?

The most changed would probably Bennet, as he would no longer be a father protecting his daughter, but a mother. Now, that may not be a huge change (and really, not a lot different from Niki’s bit on the show) but it would subtly change the dynamic of the relationship and the way he goes about protecting his daughter, I think.

A female Sisko? Big whoop; a hard-assed female captain isn’t all that different from a hard-assed male one in the Star Trek universe.

And a male She-Ra? That’s called He-Man.

3. Compare the matchups of 1 (Cyclops) & 8 (She-Ra) and 5(Indiana Jones) & 9 Optimus Prime). (Ignore canon sexual preferences for the moment.) Which couple would be more compatible? Which couple would be more plausible to people from either principal's home culture?

Cyclops and She-Ra would probably be a good match up. Scott’s always had a thing for the tough, strong redheads (when he’s not ditching them for other tough, strong redheads or icy blonde headmistresses, of course) so in She-Ra he’d have a likeable combination in the tough, strong blonde. He would certainly be sympathetic towards her mission of overthrowing the oppressors of her people. She-Ra certainly appreciates Scott’s leadership and tactical skills.

The biggest downfall, of course, would be Cyclops’ incessant whining about how he can’t possibly love a woman when he’s cursed with the uncontrollable power of his optic blasts. But he’s gotten better about that lately. And She-Ra’s invulnerability might help shut him too.

Indiana Jones and Optimus Prime? Look, I can ignore ‘canon sexual preferences’ for a moment, but I have a harder time ignoring simple biology. Would Indy make it with a truck if such a thing was possible? Well, if it was a hot and sassy truck, probably. But Optimus isn’t sassy. So no dice.

4. Your team is 3(Luke Skywalker), 4(Link) & 9(Optimus Prime). The mission consists of a social challenge, a mental challenge and a physical challenge. Which team member do you assign to each challenge?

Social: Luke, assuming it’s post-Return of the Jedi, Jedi Master Luke, who has lots of experience running a Jedi Order and navigating tricky post-war (and war, and post-war again) politics. If it’s the damn whiny-ass Luke from New Hope, we’re all boned. Get the kid some power converters already!

Mental: Link. Dude solves puzzles and finds hidden stuff in almost all his adventures as is. He’ll do fine. As long as the challenge isn’t figuring out his own complicated continuity.

Physical: He’s a big robot that becomes a truck. It screams “physical” (although really, Optimus could probably ace all these challenges himself-he’s just that cool).

5. 7 (Willow) becomes 1's (Cyclops) boss for a week in some plausible fashion. How's their working relationship?


Three words: Hot. Powerful. Redhead. She’s already his boss, whether she knows it or not.
Cyclops is a man accustomed to giving orders, not taking them. Unless those orders come from:
A. Professor X
B. A hot, powerful redhead.

6. 2 (Captan Sisko) finds him/her/itself inserted into 6's (Holmes) continuity. As far as anyone other than 2 or 6 is concerned, they've always been there. What role would 2 be presumed to have had in 6's story, and could they fit in without going wonky?

Well, I could see Sisko as the captain of a Victorian-era sailing or exploration ship, maybe an old friend of Holmes or someone he goes to for help or advice, who shares Holmes’s wider worldview-certainly not one of the hapless characters that so often set Holmes off on his investigations.

7. 3 (Luke) and 5 (Indy) get three wishes. The catch is that they have to agree on all three wishes before they get the benefits of any of them. What three wishes would they make?

1. Knowledge of the past: For Luke, this would mean the history of the Jedi before him,for Indy,definitive answers regarding earth’s past civilizations.
2. Time for love: They’re busy guys, and as Short Round so aptly pointed out, “there’s no time for love, Dr. Jones.” I think both of them would love some down time for lovin’.
3. Man, I got nothing. World Peace? How about world peace...

8. 1 (Cyclops) and 2 (Sisko) are brainwashed by a one-time artifact that works even on people immune to mind control to attack and kill 4 (Link). They keep their normal personality, skills and competence level, except any Code vs. Killing has been turned off. Can 4 (Link) survive? How?

Link probably has at least one crystal (if not a whole suit of crystal armor or something) in his pouch that can mirror the effect of Ruby Quartz and thereby completely null Cyclops’ blast. Then it’s just one little pissed off dude with a freakin’ armory in his pocket against two regular guys.

But those regular guys are not accustomed to losing and are pretty good at developing tactics and strategies. It would be a dirty fight, and a long one, possibly lasting years as they work systematically to wear down and eliminate Link’s arsenal and resolve. But ultimately I think the tactics and strategies of Cyclops and Sisko would win out over the skill and resources of Link.

9. 6 (Holmes), 7 (Willow), 9 (Optimus) & 10 (Bennet) must help an orphanage full of small and depressed children have a merry Christmas. Who does what, knowing that at the very least the kids will be expecting a visit from Santa?

Bennet spends weeks carefully profiling all the orphans, building extensive case files determining what presents they most want. Then he and Optimus Prime begin acquiring the gifts.

When Bennet arrives at the orphanage, Willow casts a spell so that he appears to all the kids as Santa.

Holmes, meanwhile, has filled the orphanage will all kinds of ancillary evidence of Santa’s visit, so that long after they are gone and the spell wears off, the kids will still believe Santa was there: boot prints indicative of a grossly overweight man, reindeer droppings, half eaten cookies, bits of red fabric and a jingle bell or two.

10. 3 (Luke) and 8 (She-Ra) are challenged to circumnavigate the Earth in eighty days or less, using only forms of transportation invented before 1900. Can they do it, or will they be fatally distracted by sidequests or their own personality conflicts?

Does She-Ra’s flying horse count as “invented before 1900”? Pegasus, another flying horse, was around during Ancient Greece. And technically, Luke comes from a “long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” so maybe they could use his X-Wing?

I have a feeling She-Ra would question the whole point of the trip, and be somewhat irritated by Luke’s Jedi, zen-like acceptance of the whole thing. But they are both determined people, and are unlikely to get too sidetracked.

Unlike, say, Indy and Link, who would never make it in 80 days, since they’d have to have an adventure every place they stopped, all in the process of reclaiming some lost artifact or weapon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Abstain from Abstinence Only Teachings

Alright, let's start with showing you a few snippets from the article found here:

"Last year in Mobile County, 4,629 new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported -- enough instances of the sexually transmitted diseases to account for one out of every 87 people, according to a Press-Register review of state and federal statistics.
That was about three times the rate in New York City and more than twice as high as Washington, D.C."

"A lack of education weighs heavily on a county's rate, health officials said.
In Alabama public schools, students are taught abstinence-based sex education as part of a half credit of health education in high school. Students learn that "abstinence is the only protection against pregnancy, HIV/AIDs and STDs," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Edith Parten."

OK...where to begin? Well, this article is simply more proof of something I already know. Abstinence-only education does not work. Before I go further please don't say that teaching kids about safe sex will simply mean all the high school kids will go around having sex.
I went to a high school that taught me about safe sex. Let it be known that I had no success in getting laid. It wasn't for lack of trying, either. Girls simply weren't interested in what I had to offer. So saying that teaching safe sex simply means all the teens of the world will be knocking boots only makes geeky losers like I was cry.
That said, people still say that safe sex simply encourages kids to have sex. But I had an archery class and at its conclusion its not like I started roaming the halls playing William Tell. It's not like archery class created an epidemic of arrow related injuries throughout the school. So why would teaching kids about sex create an epidemic of teens getting into each others' cheddar business?
Let's put it another way. If you take Home Ec you're not expected to immediately take over the household and start doing all the cooking and cleaning. It's simply a class that teaches you skills that may aid in the future. Can't sex education classes that teach safe sex be viewed in the same light?
If you teach kids that abstinence is the only way to keep you safe from STDs, what you're really teaching them is that they only have two options, unsafe sex or no sex. So if a teen chooses to have sex they've already decided, from what they've been taught, that sex is just as dangerous with a condom than without. So why should they even bother with the condom? Abstinence-only education doesn't reduce the number of kids having sex, it simply reduces the number of kids having SAFE sex.
But the truth of the matter is that the choice to have sex is a deeply personal one. And I would urge younglings out there to hold off on sex at least until college. (Oh, and watch out for Anakin Skywalker, he's a bastard.) But kids are going to make their own decisions in life whether you, I, or the religious right like it or not. I'm not saying that a person can't abstain till marriage, I'm just saying that a person has probably made up their own decisions about abstinence by the time they reach high school. I know I did. It didn't matter if the school taught abstinence or encouraged me to have sex, I knew how I felt about sex and that was that.
That's my point. Teaching safe sex or teaching abstinence will, in most cases, have no effect on whether a high schooler has sex or not. They've already decided whether they're going to abstain. The only thing the school can do is give a child knowledge about sex and what sex means and how to keep yourself safe if having sex. If, in addition to teaching ways to keep sex safe, the school also wants to note that the only "fool proof" way of avoiding STDs is to simply abstain from sex then I would endorse that message.
In the end you'll never hear me saying that high schoolers having sex is a good thing. Teen pregnancies can be quite a burden and can even ruin lives. STDs are also a nasty business. I think sex should wait until a person is physically, emotionally, and intellectually mature enough to handle having sex in a safe and respectful manner. But knowledge is power and adolescents should have the knowledge of how to have sex safely.
Remember when Galileo began preaching that the Earth revolved around the Sun? The Catholic Church opposed him at every turn for fear that if people believed that then they would stop believing in God. Well, these days almost everyone knows the Earth revolves around the Sun and many of them still believe in God. So if you think teaching kids how to have sex safely is going have a massive impact on their ideals about sex before marriage then you're fooling yourself. I will never say that teenagers have it all figured out. But I'll be damned if they don't THINK they have it all figured out.
So, to me, the formula is simple. Have the schools impartially teach kids about sex, its dangers, ways to keep it safe, and the benefits to abstinence. At that point, hopefully involved parents will give their input to the child. After that, we have to let the kids decide.

PS Hopefully my next blog will be more humorous than this one. But then again, when have they ever been?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Few Things I Learned About Baseball Playing Fantasy Baseball

So my fantasy baseball season has ended. I finished sixth in the regular season, fifth in the playoffs. Kinda disappointing, but not too bad considering this was my first real season playing and I didn't really get into a groove until shortly before the All Star Break. It's unfortunate that my season ended when it did though; my team was in the midst of a nice little offensive hot streak.

  • Catchers suck (except for Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez. And Brian McCann. Seems like the guy hit a home run every game he played against my team. He must have upwards of 90 on the year, I swear). Not only do they not play every day, but when they do, they are consistently outperformed offensively by players at every other position.

  • Except second basemen. They suck too. Unless they’re named Chase Utley. Beyond that, it seems like even the best second basemen are average, at best.

  • It is freakin’ hard for a starting pitcher to get a win (unless you’re Josh Beckett, who seems to get a W every damn time he pitches). Seriously, out of an average of 32 starts, a pitcher that gets 20 wins is considered phenomenal. And until this year, I didn’t truly realize just how hard it is to get 20 wins, even if you’re a good pitcher. There are roughly about 5,682 ways for a starter to not get a win, even if he pitches magnificently. Poor run support. Lousy defense. The bullpen biffs his lead. Rain delay. He leaves before his team pulls ahead. Seriously, it’s a wonder any pitcher gets more than 10 wins in a season. Wins are one of those stats that seem almost unfair in the way they are determined by so much more than just the abilities of the one player who accumulates them.

  • No player is ever healthy for an entire season. Which is not to say that every player goes on the DL at some point. But jeez, it seems like everyone, at one point or another, missed a few games, at least, due to some minor injury (or “flu-like symptoms”).

  • It is possible for a team to score 10+ runs and have one or two players contribute to the offense in no way, shape, or form. With nine guys on a team and, say, 15 runs scored, it’s gotta be statistically impossible for the one or two guys to not participate in some way, right? Especially if one of those guys is usually the driving offensive force on the team? Wrong. Nothing more frustrating than a team having an offensive blowout and someone on my fantasy roster go 0-4 in the process. I mean, you have to try pretty hard to suck that bad, don’t you? But it’s possible.

Yeah, I'm looking at you,Vlad

  • 30 home runs a season really aren’t that many. The accepted seasonal benchmark of a good home run hitter seems like a lot, until you play fantasy baseball and, while desperate for a home run, watch mystified as your 30+ homer guy goes weeks without one. You’re thinking, come on, this guy hit over 30 home runs last year. He’s a Home Run Guy. Why does he keep grounding out to the first baseman? Then I stopped and thought about it. Assuming someone only hits one home run a game, 30 homers in a season means 132 games without a home run. So they can, in an entire season, be expected to hit a home run in just under 19% of their games.

  • There are a lot of good players the media never talk about. Look, when I play against the fantasy team that has Alex Rodriguez, and I lose the offensive categories, it’s like, duh. It’s frickin’ A-Rod. What do I expect? When I lose out to teams because they have Garret Atkins or Brandon Phillips hitting ten RBIs in a game, I’m going, who? Brandon Phillips? Oh, he plays for the Reds. But the Reds Not Named Ken Griffey Jr. suck. A team that is notorious for sucking shouldn’t have a player on it that routinely wipes the floor with my team offensively. And if they do, then someone should damn well mention it so I can revise my expectations.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Yesterday's Emmys

I sort of half-assed watched the Emmys last night, caring enough to keep an eye towards the screen while doing other stuff but not enough to actually sit and pay full attention. I love me the Oscars and enjoy the Golden Globes but as far as awards ceremonies go, the Emmys rank just slightly above the Grammies (mainly because I don’t watch any of the shows that win, because I only recently had HBO on a regular basis). Anyways, here's a few observations:

  • Ryan Seacrest: How did he get picked to host? Everyone, even the Ogre That Calls Himself Brad Garrett was funnier than Seacrest. And he always seemed to be moving, ducking and weaving like he was dodging something only he could see. Or was on speed. Maybe the later led to the former. Seacrest out...
  • They did this “theatre in the round” approach to the stage. Works for dramatic plays with small casts in tiny spaces at artsy colleges, not so much for big time awards shows. I didn’t pay close enough attention to who was seated where to figure this out, but I wondered if they ranked the seating, so that the A-listers (the Sopranos cast, according to the Emmys) was seated directly in front of the presenters/winners, the B-listers to the sides and the D-listers stuck looking at the asses of the winners. Several of the presenters/winners thought the arrangement was odd too (or at least, I assume the numerous jokes cracked at its expense weren’t scripted). James Spader, accepting his award, spoke over his shoulder to his fellow cast members and said these were the worst concert seats he'd ever had.
  • The Sopranos: Look, I'm sure the Sopranos is an awesome show. Someday, I'd really like to see it. But I didn't have HBO until recently, and never had the $317 dollars they charge per season to get it on DVD. So I've never watched it, and couldn't care less. It's part of why I largely ignore the Emmys, because for the last ten years they've been one big tribute to the Sopranos. I look forward to next year, when some other show can be celebrated for a change.
  • When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced that Ricky Gervais won Best Actor, and Gervais wasn't present to accept it, they decided instead to give the award to their friend Steve Carell. Carell bounded down the aisle, jubilantly leaping onto stage and jumping up down, embracing his friends. I'd love to see that kind of glee come from a real winner sometime, instead of the stoic, reserved joy and demure respect for their competitors we usually see.
  • The evening was filled with non-sequitors. Like when Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close and Mary-Louise Parker came out and commended the recent slew of shows featuring strong women. Very true and worth recognition. The trio then proceeded to present the award for best miniseries or something. With that intro, couldn't they have had them present a best actress award of some kind?
  • I missed it on the broadcast, but it turns out Terry O'Quinn won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his portrayal of Locke on Lost. First of all, that's awesome. Locke kicks all kinds of butt. Glad he got recognized for his work. Secondly, I think that's the only award a show I watch won. Either I watch lame TV, or the Emmys award lame TV and ignore the good shows I watch. Probably a little of both.
  • I've never seen Roots. After their little tribute, I kind of want to see it. Good thing it's coming out on DVD soon. Too bad said DVDs look to cost an arm and a leg...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Barry Bonds Exposé

After discovering that two-time Cy Young Winning Twins Pitcher Johan Santana had actually been replaced with the Super Skrull, it was questioned whether Barry Bonds truly took steroids or if he actually obtained the Power Cosmic from a Mr. Galactus. I decided to take a picture of Bonds early in his career and compare it to the Barry Bonds of today.

The old Bonds is on the left and the new Bonds is on the right:

Nope. Definitely looks like steroids to me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Movie Review: Stardust

Stardust Shines!

I heard mixed things about Stardust: several friends saw it and were pleased, but the critical reception was mixed and lukewarm. And of course, the bookstore nerds were crying foul over changes made to the story during its transition from novel to film. I am sad that I stayed away as long as I did.

Stardust, directed by Mathew Vaughn and adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name*, tells the story of Tristan (Charlie Cox), who lives in the village of Wall, so named because of its proximity to the wall that separates England from the fantasy realm of Stronghold. Tristan, sighting a fallen star, vows to retrieve it for his shallow beloved, Victoria (Sienna Miller). He enters Stronghold and finds, instead of a lump of smoldering ore, Yvaine (Claire Danes), the star-made-human. Tristan persuades Yvaine to journey back to Wall with him. Unfortunately, Tristan isn’t the only one who desires the star, and they are pursued, for various reasons, by witches and princes alike.

Stardust, like most fantasy stories, is all about the quest, what the characters encounter that delay, propel or detour that quest, and how they grow and change along the way. The quest also serves to introduce the audience to the fantasy world of the story. Stardust does an excellent job of creating a fantasy world that seems larger than what we’re shown; there is a sense of a greater world, with a history and laws and politics that are hinted at both by dialogue and design; things such as the invocation of an oath between witches that doesn’t have direct bearing on the story, but helps engender that “larger world” feeling so vital to good fantasy.

Tristan’s role throughout the story, amongst other things, is to serve as the point of view character, standing in for the audience as he encounters this strange new world. Many fantasy and sci fi stories succeed or fail by their POV characters, and Stardust succeeds because Tristan is a good one. Nothing is more irritating than a POV character that spends the entire course of the story reacting to the fantastical world they find themselves in with disbelief and scorn. Throughout the film, Tristan remains wide eyed and wary, but accepting of the world he finds himself in. Despite the danger he faces, he’s having some degree of fun, so the audience is too.

In his dismissive review, Roger Ebert said of the film “I liked it, but "The Princess Bride" it's not.”Which is funny, because as I was watching it, I thought to myself, “gee, this is a lot like The Princess Bride.” Plenty of fantasy films, good and bad, have come and gone between The Princess Bride and Stardust, but those two are by and large unique for the way they mix fantasy with so many other things: drama, romance, pirates, suspense, bit parts for well known comedians, action, and humor (though Stardust severely lacks rhyming giants). Ebert’s review also references the Derek Malcolm Test: "A great movie is a movie I cannot bear the thought of never seeing again." Life will certainly go on if I never see Stardust again, but I think it will be just as good, if not better, upon the second (and third, and fourth…) viewing. I certainly want to see it again, and above many other things, for me, that’s the mark of a good movie. And Dr. Doom agrees.

This film pleases Doom!

*I have read neither Neil Gamain's novel nor the graphic novel illustrated by Charles Vess, and cannot speak to the merits of either or how they compare to the film. I do plan to read the book at some point.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Movie Review: Stardust

Before seeing Stardust I was standing in line at the understaffed concession stand for quite a long time. In my boredom I looked at the numerous movie posters around me. I was amazed to see how many movies that, unfairly or not, appeared to be cookie cutter replicas of the Harry Potter franchise.
You have The Seekers, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Golden Compass, etc. I thought back to my childhood. I loved fantasy stories then. I longed for more movies like Willow and the Neverending Story. I would've loved to have grown up with the plethora of fantasy cinema that is coming out these days. However, despite me still loving fantasy, I don't think I'll be able to enjoy these new movies.
Regardless of whether the original text for these movies came before or after Harry Potter, all these movies will FEEL like Harry Potter rip-offs. I think that will hinder my enjoyment of those movies much like how I couldn't enjoy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe because I felt like it was trying to copy The Lord of the Rings movies.
So, while waiting in line for my carbonated liquid sugar and popcorned butter, I began to long for a fantasy movie that was fresh, original, and entertaining. I then entered the theater and immediately found what I was looking for.
Stardust takes place in England circa 1900s in a small town called Wall. Ironically, there is a large wall in Wall. This wall separates Jolly Old England from the magical land of Stormhold. Our hero, Tristan (Charlie Cox), sees a shooting star in the night sky fall over the wall. He vows to his sweetheart that he will retrieve the fallen star as a birthday present for her and proof of his love. With this Tristan is off on an epic 10 day journey into the land of Stormhold.
I would rather not ruin too much of the plot because that would ruin too much of the fun. Let's just say that the star turns out to be Yvaine (Claire Danes) and Tristan must convince this fair lass to come with him back to England and help him win the heart of his beloved. The duo travels through Stromhold meeting a cast of wacky characters most of whom have some sort of ulterior motive.
The acting in this movie is good. The actors never take themselves too seriously and there's a lightheartedness that keeps the movie the fairy tale it's supposed to be. Charlie Cox plays Tristan well enough and the progression of his character is both believable and pretty cool. Claire Daines does well with a character who could have easily been portrayed as uber annoying. Daines walks a fine line but the character of Yvaine comes across as sympathetic and likable instead of bitchy and whiny. Oh, and being hot doesn't hurt anything either. Robert De Niro plays a pirate with...multiple layers. Robert De Niro's Robert De Niro, so there's not more to say. Michelle Pfeiffer is also good as a witch but she becomes less hot as the movie goes along, which is sad.
Stardust's plot comes straight out of a book by the same name written by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has written a whole bunch of other fantasy books all of which I have not read. But in watching this movie I can see why he has such a cult following. Of course, his annual virgin sacrifice helps with increase his cult following too.
Anyway, the plot has quite a few threads that all intertwine. It comes together simply enough, though, so it's not too hard to follow. The love story doesn't drag on with as much bickering and misunderstandings that if could have. Smallville, you could learn a lesson that needed learning years ago. At the end of the day Stardust is fun, whimsical, fast moving, and entertaining. And as far as I'm concern, every movie should have it's own peanut gallery cheering and jeering the action.
This is my second review on this blog and it happens to also be my second positive review. Which pretty much means I'm losing my touch. I generally consider myself hard to please yet the last two movies I saw I've enjoyed. I would love to really savage a terrible movie, but unfortunately for me (and fortunately for anyone who goes sees this movie) I can't savage this movie. Stardust is just plain good.

The Good: This is a fun, lighthearted, fairytale love story that is anchored by good acting. If you enjoy movies like The Princess Bride then you'll probably enjoy Stardust. If you don't enjoy movies like The Princess Bride then there's probably something wrong with you.

The Bad: No Nudity. Although there are scenes where the gals are nude, you never actually get to sneak a peak. Sad. However, there is a scene at an inn that I'm pretty sure has been used as a setup to many a softcore porn...

The Disappointing: The movie's called Stardust, yet everyone's favorite star-brained mutant (who is really Magneto in disguise accept really not Magneto in disguise) did not make an appearance! As far as I'm concerned, a cameo by Xorn was a must.

My origin is so convoluted I can't even keep it straight. Hell, for all I know I also was a star that fell from the sky into the magical land of Stormhold!

Drink to best accompany this movie:

Lemon Drop
1½ cups Vodka
1½ cups Limoncello
1½ cups Grapefruit Juice
1 cup Lemon Juice

Sure, it's sweet. Maybe even a little too sweet. If you're male, they may say you're unmanly for drinking it. But it's good. And let's face it, after you've had enough you won't even understand WHAT they're saying let alone care. I say you should be comfortable enough in your masculinity to drink a lemon drop while watching this enjoyable escape from reality.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Teebore's Summer Movie Report Card

Stealing an idea from John Seavey’s excellent blog, Fraggmented, I thought I’d issue a report card for the theatrical movies I saw during the recently completed summer blockbuster season. Please note, I consider “summer”, in terms of movies, to start with the first weekend of May and end Labor Day weekend. Also, for the most part I only saw these movies once, and am doing this from memory. Bear that in mind.

Spider-Man 3: I didn’t think this was as bad as some did, but it certainly wasn’t without its flaws. Both Sandman and Venom translated well, though the conclusion of Sandman’s story and the origin of Venom’s “alien costume” were both poorly developed and plot hammered, as was their team-up (Wanna fight Spider-Man together? Uh, okay!). And there was entirely too much of goofy looking Kirsten Dunst (but there usually is). But Gwen Stacy was spot on. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom, on the whole, and Harry’s amnesia was a nice shout out to those of who read the comics enough to know that Goblins’ real super power is convenient amnesia. If nothing else, there were plenty of cool effects and fight scenes. B-

Shrek 3: Easily the worst movie I saw this summer. Weak and flimsy, this movie just didn’t do…anything. The bit with the various princesses was funny, I guess, but there really wasn’t enough time for them to save the movie. I really enjoyed the first Shrek movie for the way it subverted the conventions of the fairy tale, exploiting the humor therein: hideous ogre instead of handsome prince, annoying donkey instead of faithful stead, the princess is fairly capable of rescuing herself. The second one seemed to favor more contemporary humor that dates terribly but this one just went off the rails entirely. Shrek 4? Can’t wait… D-

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds’ End: A bit of an overstuffed mish mash, but fun and very enjoyable nonetheless. I saw this one twice, and it benefits greatly, for me at least, in a second viewing as I found it much easier to keep track of all the double and triple crossings. The score was excellent. The final battle sequence was pretty awesome, but still, I wish the whole pirate armada they assembled had actually ended up doing…anything, really. And the very end-let’s just say I can come up with about thirty-five loopholes to get them around their predicament, which kind of takes away whatever impact the filmmakers were going for. Also, remember when these movies were about Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, and not Keira Knightley? B-

Ocean’s Thirteen: A definite improvement over the meandering second film. Plus, no stupid Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta Jones. Just an all around fun caper flick. And it’s always fun to watch Pacino devour the scenery. B

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Like the first one, I went in with low expectations and left satisfied. The worst part remains Dr. Doom, entirely lacking in the nobility, cunning, and grandiose over-the-top-ness that makes DOOM so great (but that’s what happens when you cast the smarmy guy from Nip/Tuck, who then proceeds to phone it in). Let’s just say the real Doom would never, upon stepping onto the Silver Surfer’s board and achieving the power cosmic, non-chalantly utter the word “cool.” Doom would deliver a monologue detailing exactly how the world will tremble before his power. B-

Transformers: A heaping helping of awesome, a side of kick ass with a lingering aftertaste of plot holes. But still, no worse plot holes then the original, and even more awesome, Transformers movie. Yes, this one suffered from too many humans (the Secretary of Defense was way too central, and I’d have cut out the stupid hacker kids entirely) but Megan Fox was hot and Shia kicked all kinds of butt (I think I have a man-crush on him now). And, giant robots wailed on each other. A-

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Oddly enough, I think this movie, which cut out the most material from the book, fit together as a movie the best. There was plenty of things I liked in the book that were left out, but there was also some new stuff put in that added a lot. Luna was spot on and Raph Fiennes owns the role of Voldemort. Time, and repeat viewings, will ultimately tell how this one holds up (the third gets better each time I see it, the fourth one more disjointed). A-

The Simpsons: It worked for me. Funny; over the top in all the right places. I particularly enjoyed that they didn’t cram it full of celebrity guest stars (the two they had, worked well, especially Tom Hanks) and that the villain of the piece was played by a frequent guest star, instead of, I don’t know, Tom Hanks. Can’t really find much to complain about here. A

Bourne Ultimatum: Enjoyable enough it suffers mainly for the fact that it's part of series that doesn’t tie in to some other interest of mine. Well made, fun to watch, have no real desire to see it again. For me, I guess that’s the definition of an average film. C+

Superbad: Eh, read my review. Funny, excellent film. A

Stardust: I heard mixed things about this one but ended up thoroughly enjoying myself. The best kind of fantasy, in that it created a sense of a greater world, beyond what we encountered in the course of the story, and because it covered a lot of bases: it had touches of humor, and suspense, romantic bits and some good action scenes. The music was great. Loved the Shakespearean touches as well. A tremendously fun movie. A

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wanted: Cy Young Caliber Pitcher

There was a time that when being a Twins fan was easy. This ease partially came from that fact that you knew that 1 out of every 5 games you could watch the best pitcher in baseball.
Johan Santana was a pitcher who could dazzle you with a fastball and confuse his opponents with a devastatingly deceptive change up. There was seemingly no pitch this guy couldn't throw for a strike. Every time Santana came to the mound you knew there was a chance you'd witness history. Those days have seemingly come to end.
On August 9th Santana broke a Twins record with 17 strikeouts in a game. He only needed 8 innings to do so. Santana recorded a win against the Texas Rangers that day with a line of 8 innings pitched, 2 hits, no walks, and 17 strikeouts.
In Santana's next 3 starts he's given up 12 runs, 24 hits, and 5 walks all in 19 innings of work. For you non-Math majors out there, that's a 5.68 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Those numbers are pedestrian at best. Santana no longer looks to be the God of pitching I thought he'd be when I drafted him in the first round of my Fantasy Baseball League.
I've decided to look deeper into what Santana's pitching issues may be. I've uncovered some startling evidence. This is a photograph taken during Santana's remarkable pitching performance against the Texas Rangers on August 9th:

Now, let's compare that with a photograph from Santana's poor pitching performance earlier today:

Sure, at first glance it all looks the same, but take a closer look. Notice the orange, rocky right arm and the flaming left arm. Also notice the greenish tint in Santana's face. This may come as a shock to you, but I don't think that's Santana at all. The more I look at it the more I'm convinced that is actually the Super Skrull in Santana's garb!!!!!!
Suddenly everything makes sense. I'm sure we remember the fateful day the Skrull Empire challenged Earth to a game of baseball. The terms of the deal were simple. If the Skrull Empire won they'd take control of Earth. If Earth won the Skrull would promise to stop peeing in all of the Earth's office coffee pots.
The stakes were high, so only one man could be counted on to pitch in this epic game, Johan Santana. Johan pitched a gem that day, but the game became heartpoundingly intense during the top of the 9th inning. Earth, the home team, was up 3-1. The Skrull's cleanup hitter KI'rt (AKA Super Skrull) came to bat with a Skrull on first and second and two out. The pitch count was 2 balls and one strike. Johan pitched a 92 MPH fast ball high and tight to KI'rt. KI'rt somehow managed to turn on the ball. The baseball was bombed down the left field line. It appeared to be a home run that would give the Skrulls a 4-3 lead. However, the second base umpire called it foul.
This created quite an uproar from the Skrull bench. Not helping matters was the fact that the Second Base Umpire was a Kree, a race of aliens that have warred with the Skrull for centuries. The Skrull's team manager Tommy Lasorda argued the call stating that the umpire was biased. The umpires got together and decided that the final decision should come from the third base umpire. Now, why Daredevil was third base umpire for this game I will never know, but he was. And Daredevil had no choice but to believe what the Kree Umpire said.
So, the the hit was officially ruled foul and the at-bat with Super Skrull continued with a count of 2 balls and 2 strikes. Santana threw one of his patented 4 MPH change ups and KI'rt's swing was way in front and thus KI'rt struck out to end the game.
As the team boarded their spaceships to leave Earth and find an new place to store their urine many could hear the Super Skrull swear vengeance against Johan Santana.
Well it looks like KI'rt has found his revenge. It's apparent he has kidnapped Johan Santana and taken his place on the mound. Super Skrull is now purposely lobbing balls over the middle of the plate in order for opponents to launch moon shots into the upper deck. He does this all to besmirch the good name of Johan Santana.
So I urge everyone out there in cyberland to search their couch cushions and check all the late night clubs. Santana's out there somewhere and the Twins need him back. He's the only reason to watch this sorry team anymore.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Teebore's Ten Favorite Simpsons Characters: Mr. Burns

Look, we all knew he was coming eventually, so we may as well get him out of the way. Honestly, I was determined to leave Mr. Burns off the list because, well, everybody loves Mr. Burns. But I can't ignore the fact that for a long time, Mr. Burns was my favorite character, and remains one of them. Sometimes, everybody gets it right.

Charles Montgomery Burns (voiced by Harry Shearer) is Springfield's resident megalomaniac. Whether running for Governor, cheating on public health inspections ("the watchdog of public safety: is there any lower form of life?") polluting the...well everything, stealing Christmas from 1981-1985 or blotting out the sun, there is nothing Burnsy won't do if its in his own best interests.

Originally introduced as Homer's villainous one dimensional boss, Burns' popularity amongst the fans has led him to become, like the best villains, multidimensional. Despite his power, he is physically weak. Inept in his love, his desire for companionship and to be loved will sometimes trump his vile nature. And he is essentially honorable; after losing his fortune, Lisa helped him regain it, and as his adviser, he paid her the 10% of 120 million owed.

But at the end of the day, Burns is a favorite because he's a grandiose bad guy, woefully out of touch with the modern world and willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

Favorite Mr. Burns episode: It really comes down to three: Rosebud, a Citizen Kane pastiche from season four in which Mr. Burns yearns for his stuffed bear, Bobo, a symbol of his lost youth and innocence; Burns Heir, also from season four where in light of his inability to father an heir, he names Bart his successor; and The Old Man and the Lisa, from season eight, where Burns loses his fortune, then regains in by perverting Lisa's lessons in recycling. I went back and forth, leaning towards The Old Man and the Lisa, for the way it showcases both his evil and his honor, such as it is. But ultimately, it has to be Rosebud. One of the best Simpsons episodes, ever, it was the first time we saw Burns' softer side, and the lengths he'd go to get it back, and makes the grade for nothing else if not the sight of Burns and Smithers, in full ninja garb, hanging between the Simpsons and Flanders' homes after a failed nighttime attempt to retrieve the bear from Maggie, or when they are stuck on the kitchen ceiling as Homer spends the night slowly devouring 64 slices of American cheese.

Favorite Mr. Burns line: Who can pick just one?

"Compadres, it is imperative that we crush the freedom fighters before the start of the rainy season. And remember, a shiny new donkey for whoever brings me the head of Colonel Montoya."[Smithers whispers to him] Hmm? What? Oh, and by that I mean, of course, it's time for the "Worker of the Week Award"

Burns: Remember, your job and the future of your family hinges on our successful completion of Nuclear Physics 101. Oh, and one more thing: [ominously] you must find the jade monkey before the next full moon.
Smithers: Actually sir, we found the jade monkey; it was in your glove compartment.
Burns: And the road maps? And ice scraper?
Smithers: They were in there too, sir.
Burns: Ex-cellent! It's all falling into place.

"Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be driving to the maternity hospital or sitting in some phoney baloney church. Or synagogue."

"Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she's losing? Well, I say "hard cheese"!"