Friday, June 30, 2006


A review of Superman Returns

The day before I saw this movie I managed to catch a Discovery Channel special called The Science of Superman.  In it various physicists and materials scientists discussed Superman’s abilities as if he were a real person. The directors and writers for the movie (who all looked about fifteen years old) also appeared to brag about how “realistic” they had made the film – they lavished special gratification on their research for a scene in which Superman rescues a commercial jet.  “We actually got the stress test data for the wing of a 777,” the director warbled, cutting right to the quick of what makes a good movie: accurate stress and tension characteristics faithful to the specs of real-world airframes.
     I still had a little hope for the movie thanks to Kevin Spacey and (especially) Parker Posey, but unsurprisingly the director sidelines Spacey’s surprisingly nuanced jailbird fop Lex Luthor and Posey’s delightful re-cap of her signature drunk-n-crazy character.  He focuses instead on Bland Turgidson, the new Superman, and pretty girl/occasional actress Kate Bosworth.  He also, for reasons which I pray came from focus groups in Wisconsin, includes an actual tow-headed moppet who performs, on seemingly innumerable occasions, Chopsticks.
     If the boring characters and bad acting have not warned you off, consider yourself on notice for the bombastic direction, oleaginous plot, and stale cinematography.  The film continually congratulates itself for referencing old, better Superman movies and the comic books. Not the point of a sequel/adaptation.  The last hour of the movie is one hideous cacodemonic roar of explosions and disasters; the first two hours suffer calamity equal in import but lesser in noise.  Superman is, by custom, a hard character to deepen: he’s basically a nice guy with none of the daddy issues of Batman or the psychotic rages of the Hulk, but this putrid film doesn’t even try. Awful beyond even the reach of humor (tMa and I kept up the wisecracks for about the first hour and a half, but then succumbed to an intense fatigue and depression).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Christmas Ape goes to Summer Camp

As most (or "both") of my readers may already know, my short story "The Narwhal" has been accepted for publication in the new San Francisco-based literary magazine Beeswax. I stumbled across Beeswax, and its call for submissions, through Chris Onstad's Achewood, a webcomic which most (or "both") of you know I admire. It's a very interesting, very new magazine, and the publishers have experience in printmaking, which resulted in a first issue which reflected an attention to detail usually manifested in the devotional works of anchorites, an especially impressive feat given that it contained both prose and graphic art. The second issue is on pre-order for $5, and I urge each and every one (or "both") of you to secure a copy for yourself. Leaving it casually on the coffee table will guarantee the success of any romantic assignation that you schedule, at least if you schedule it near the coffee table.

POSTSCRIPT: Some ("none") of you may have read my microfiction "The Narwhal" in the Nassau Literary Review of 2003; although this story shares the same basic plot and characters as the piece published in Beeswax, it's about one-eighth as long and does NOT feature the protagonist's fraught and tender relationship with his father. It is closer to the very old original microfiction, an email written at four in the morning in which Tower factotum Tim Skerpon forcefully couples with a narwhal. If you're out there reading this, Tim, you probably don't even vaguely remember who I am or understand why I would want to write fanfiction in which you outrage an endagered sea mammal. I'm not sure if I understand it any more either.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fixin' Towards a Bloody Outcome

Motor Trend
For those of you who have been following my car trouble saga (and I know very well that there are none of you), they appear to have finally fixed the Jetta.  Tomorrow I face the melancholy prospect of returning the lavender Kia Spectra loaner, a car that has fixed for itself a wide and spacious place in my heart, and has made itself indispensable both for trips to the video game store and in the purpose of pulling in major babes.

The Omen
Dreary, overlong remakes seem to be the highest new star in Hollywood’s firmament.  There are a few good points: Julia Stiles has just the right mixture of cheekbones and upper-class entitlement to play Damien’s disaffected mother, and the fact that she tries to deal with her son’s literally Satanic evil by seeking therapy is the movie’s only interesting point.  Stiles gets about half an hour of screen time, spending most of it in WASPy catatonia, failing to enjoy her colossal British mansion and focusing on her own (legitimate) misery.  So much for the good.  The director inexplicably gives most of the rest of the film to Liev Schrieber (AKA Liv Tyler), a dour flounder of a man who has practically no face at all.  Schrieber reacts to his wife’s death and the, again literal, revelation that his son is the Devil with the level of irritation you would expect from a business traveler who has been bumped off the concierge floor.  Pete Posthelwaite appears as himself yet again, and a bearded man plays a photographer who apparently also does some freelance crime scene investigation.  Honestly, the movie was so 3 out of 5 mediocre that I can barely write anything about it. If you didn’t get enough scary bible-themed conspiracy from The Da Vinci Code, by all means see The Omen.

Veronica Mars Update Watch 2K6
The first season of Veronica Mars was totally sublime, but was so television-y that it can only be described as a chimera of other shows: Twin Peaks plus The O.C. with, as the box copy says, a dash of Buffy.  Charming, funny, and with a full-season plot so convoluted that it would fill almost a quarter episode of The Wire.  Thoroughly worthwhile.

Deadwood season premiere
Since it generally takes me four to five viewings to make sense of any given episode, I’ll confine myself to remarking that it looks just about as good as always, and seeing Bullock and Swearengen come together against Hearst is going to be amazing.  The New York Times recently reported that HBO has killed the show after this season, which is disappointing but perhaps timely, since Deadwood’s vertiginous forward motion is one of its signal virtues, and nothing can kill original plot like a few unnecessary seasons.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Killer Cars + Capsule Reviews

Well, let's see. On my way back from Princeton last Tuesday some witches hexed my brand new VW Jetta turbodiesel, souring all the milk I had in the trunk and causing the car to start driving itself, speeding up a slowing down with great and terrifying whimsy. I got to spend a fun couple of hours waiting on the shoulder of I-87, reading Suttree and looking up every 0.01 seconds to see if the tow truck had arrived. Now I have the ultimate Volkswagen loaner car: a 2002 Volvo S-40. We'll see if the ol' TDI ever actually returns from the tender mercies of the Wappinger's Fall VW Repertory Automobile Mechanics, who have not so much as glanced at it in three days. This is the first car that I have actually leased and paid for entirely on my own, so it breaks my little heart to see it brung so low.

ALSO, see this post by tMa, which points out a horrifying truth about the Bush adminstration that I hadn't yet heard about and been enraged by.

Also, does anyone watch Veronica Mars? I know that Veronica herself had a wacky guest spot on Deadwood in which she runs afoul of Cy Tolliver, who hits her on the head so hard that she gets brain damage, then has her and her brother killed and fed to pigs. I suppose that kind of thing doesn't happen on Veronica Mars since it's on UPN or something.


Stick It
Really, this movie was 100% delightful, actually much better than its older clone sibling Bring it On. Star Missy Peregrym (coincidentally, also the name of her LARP character) has some charisma and is legitimately super hot. She also has the over six foot height so much in demand in the world of professional gymnastics. Jeff Bridges, the grizzled coach, puts in exactly the same performance he does in every movie, which is fine, and the supporting cast of weird preteen mutants actually seem like they might really be bizarrely sheltered gymnast types. Not much on plot or character or anything else for the serious, Apollonian viewer, but very fun for those of us who see several movies a week with their sarcastic friend.

X-Men III: Wolverine and the X-Me-Do
This movie gave me exactly what I wanted from it, but would have been improved if Magneto (Ian McKellen) had been more frank about his titanically stupid outfit. Also watch for some girl who can walk through walls and is clearly puttin' the spurs to Anna Paquin's boyfriend, and who spends the entire climactic battle scene looking either stoned or comically disinterested in the Brotherhood of Mutants' ultimate weapon: exploding mid-priced family sedans.

On Demand Crap Roundup

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
Not as good as the original, in case you had not used your detective skills to figure that out. Grosser and less nice - when the she-johns actually have horrible deformities, it's just not funny.

The Incredibles
More like the incredibly overrateds.

Sky High
More like the incredibly good.

King Kong
It was like looking in a living, whimsical mirror whenver Jack Black was on the screen, but after only two hours and forty five minutes it got a little stale.

If you see one chilling historical drama about the Wannsee conference, origin of the Final Solution, see this one. The best and only, but mostly the best.