Saturday, February 26, 2005

AVP -- Way better than you'd think

One of the movies I watched during the weekend of six movies was Alien vs. Predator, which got pretty much universally panned when it was released last August. It had all the hallmarks of a bad sci-fi flick--over reliance on not one, but two proven characters, no-name actors and a late summer release date. I never made it to the movie in the theaters when it was in wide release (I think it was in theaters all of a few minutes) and entertained thoughts of going when it came to the dollar theater here in Ames (figured I wouldn't pay 8.75 to see Alien vs. Predator, but I would pay $1.50) but never managed to squeeze it into my schedule.

So finally, it comes out on DVD and I Netflix that sucker faster than you can say "chestburster." And you know what? It wasn't half bad and was probably the best movie of all the movies I watched that weekend. It had a plausible (for sci-fi) set-up and, while it wasn't very respectful of the history of either creature, especially the alien, it understood that it was playing with characters that are pretty much beloved by sci-fi fans. Personally, I never got all that into the Predator movies--I did see Predator 2 in the theater when I was in high school, but I remember not being incredibly impressed with it. But the Alien movies are pretty near and dear to my heart. So there were several times during the movie that I got frustrated with the lack of continuity with the rest of the alien timeline. But when I was able to forget about that, it was a heck of a lot of fun.

The basic plot (without giving anything away): Aliens and Predators fight it out in an underground pyramid in Antarctica. Said pyramid is stumbled across by the Weyland-Yutani corporation ("The Company" in the Alien movies) and a team is sent down to investigate. Much carnage ensues. Surprisingly, there was relatively little blood, unless you count the fluorescent green blood of the Predators or the acid blood of the Alien. And dang, if those CG aliens didn't look good. I remember how crappy they looked in Alien: Resurrection and when I heard that the lion's share of the aliens in this movie were CG, I was prepared to be disappointed. But their movement was very natural and they were able to do things that you wouldn't have been able to do with that man in the alien suit. And of course, the queen alien makes an appearance (who do you think was laying the eggs?) which is quite cool. Some scenes with the queen alien reminded me a lot of the T. rex scene in Jurassic Park, but all in all it was just so darn cool.

My dad said he would have liked to have seen a little romance in the movie, and I'm like "Dad, the movie is called Alien vs. Predator!!! There's no room for romance!" And I'd say something similar to all those damn critics that apparently went into a film called Alien vs. Predator expecting fine cinema--no wonder they were disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the movie's not going to win any Oscars, but it was good escapist fun and definitely a keeper.

P.S. Trying really hard to figure out why this picture came up when I did a Google search for "Alien vs. Predator."
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Tuesday, February 22, 2005


After a year on the market with not so much as a laughably low offer, someone is about to make an offer on our Washington house. And while I'm excited, I'm also trying very hard to not get too excited, as I know how these real estate things can go. Everything can be going along just fine and then all of a sudden, the bottom drops out and you're back where you started. The trouble is we're having a terrible time getting any realtor to call and give us a status report.

Heidi doesn't quite believe it's going to happen. And truth be told, neither do I. I would love nothing more than for this house to be sold and our last financial connection to Washington will finally be severed. We can close our bank accounts there, we won't ever have to pay Washington county property taxes again and we'll finally be able to start looking forward financially. The last year has been trying because this job pays so much more than my last one did and it's been nothing but squeaking by all year long. How wrong is that? It's times like those that I try not to focus on the problems and think about all the little things that are so right. We live in a great town now, we're all much happier. I have a happy, healthy 3 year old who is so comfortable in her surroundings. It's not about things--it's about those intangibles.

Still, I'd love for the house to sell so that we can get our financial act together again. After a year of keeping the plates spinning, I'm ready for a break--if only for a minute.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Global climate change

These are some pretty fascinating pictures I found via While there is probably more to this than just the simple answer "global warming" and almost assuredly some confounding factors, it is still a wake-up call.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

iPod update

My iPod works again! Yay! I ended up having to buy a new Firewire card (just as I figured) but I managed to talk my father into springing for it--it was only 40 bucks but still, I thought that was awfully nice of him to do that. Although I do have a feeling I'll probably have to help him with some project around either his or my house to work off the 40 dollars.

So all is well with the world again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A sextet of movies, part 1

Last weekend I did nothing but watch movies, or at least it seemed like that. By the time I went to bed on Sunday night, I’d watched six movies in 72 hours which isn’t by itself all that big of a deal, but when you consider how much we had going on + a toddler in the house is always a hindrance to that kind of stuff, it actually is quite a big deal.

Friday night we drove to Carroll and left Anna with my folks while we went to The Phantom of the Opera. I was kind of surprised that Heidi actually wanted to see it because she has historically hated musicals with a passion—it’s a huge testament of her love for me that she went to Evita with me not once but twice while we were dating. But she’s working on a manuscript that has some of the same themes as Phantom, so she really wanted to go see it. I’ll see just about anything in the theater, especially when it’s free like it always is when we go to the movie in Carroll as my folks always give us passes that they buy for some phenomenally low price.

Anyway, the movie. I have to say that I think it is one of the most hysterical bad movies ever made—and I that’s a compliment. Over the top, garish, shlocky, not particularly well acted or sung, but OMG it’s an instant (albeit unintentional) camp classic. It was kind of like Glitter in the respect that as I watched it, I found myself liking it in spite of myself.

Heidi, of course, hated it. Most of the problems didn’t come from the movie itself, but rather from the source material. I’ve always read that Phantom of the Opera the show was a little bit of an unlikely success. I turned to Heidi during the movie and said “This music is a little bit schlocky” to which she replied “You think? Just a little bit?” And apparently the show is the same way. So plot problems and lack of character development weren’t necessarily the problem of the filmmakers, but Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Heidi hated Christine and has still not tired of calling her a spineless twit (her exact words.) And in her defense, yeah, Christine is pretty spineless. Oh, I’m mesmerized by the Phantom. Oh wait, I suddenly love the closeted gay Mormon from “Angels in America” even though I have no reason to. On second thought, maybe the Phantom ain’t so bad after all. Decisions, decisions. The best part of the whole movie was Minnie Driver as Carlotta, and she was just a cliché. But she was chewing the scenery and having a blast.

At any rate, I simply must own the movie when it comes out on DVD—it was that gloriously bad. In the meantime, there's Phantom in 15 minutes.


(more on the other movies I saw in later posts...)

Monday, February 14, 2005

CD Spotlight -- 2/14/2005

Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters (2004)

I decided that I’d better make the Scissor Sisters’ eponymous debut the CD I write about because it’s virtually impossible to be in a cranky mood when you’re listening to the Scissor Sisters. I think I probably owe my interest in SS to my friend Scott (who has inexplicably stopped updating his great SaltwaterPizza blog—come on Scott! You’re killing me!) I noticed SS cropping up on his Audioscrobbler profile more and more often, but it wasn’t until I heard the Kylie Minogue song “I Believe In You” that was written by the Scissor Sisters that I really sat up and took notice. It seems to me that they take a lot of inspiration from Elton John, because a lot of songs sound like they could have been performed by Elton in his prime.

They’re probably best known for their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” I think life as a dance floor song by a gender-bending group is a suitable legacy for that song, although I wonder what Pink Floyd thinks about it. It’s just one of those songs that you can’t help but break into your falsetto voice and sing along. I’m not fond at all of the original “Comfortably Numb”—probably too much association with stupid guys on my college dorm floors blasting it at 5,000,000 decibels after their final exams were over. Come to think of it, I wonder what some of those guys think of the Scissor Sisters’ version.

But it’s great because it’s not just that one song that’s good—they’re all pretty good, although there is the varying degree of good that you’d expect. Some of the songs miss the mark some, but they’re still fun—something that seems to be missing from a lot of music these days. “Music Is The Victim” is my current favorite. How can you go wrong with lyrics like this?

I left my heart in San Fransisco
It's at some motherfucking disco
The people there where dancin' on it
And that's including Ms. Matronic

And that's even without mentioning the track "T*ts On The Radio."

So pick it up if you like your music with a little bit of camp and a whole lot of fun—it’s totally worth it. And if you buy it on iTunes, you get a bonus track. Have I mentioned how much I love iTunes?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Alfred E. .... Hitler?

I ran across this fascinating article on Metafilter (warning: link opens up a pdf file) that talks about the origin of Alfred E. Neuman, the face of MAD magazine. According to this author, his first encounter was on an anti-Semitic poster in Nazi annexed-Austria.

Wow. I never realized this. I read more MAD magazines growing up than you can shake a stick at (and I still have most of them, even though they're in pretty bad shape.) I even bought the CD-ROM set of the complete collection of MAD through the years back in 1999 or 2000. It was an integral part of my growing up--I even remember the very first one that I bought--the one with J.R. Ewing on it.

Of course, it's been years since I've actually purchased MAD, and for one thing, I can't get over how ungodly expensive it is now. What was 90 cents growing up is now a whopping $3.50! My how times change.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

The broccoloid empire

Anna is sick with a cold from hell tonight and she asked to watch "The Powerpuff Girls" in her bed tonight as she fell asleep. Well, I can hardly deny her that because it's just so well written and hell, I enjoy it probably at least as much as she does.

The DVD we were watching tonight has one of my favorite episodes on it -- "Beat Your Greens." You just can't start watching it without finishing it. The evil Broccoloid Empire infects all the broccoli in Townsville with alien mind control spores with designs on taking over Earth. Of course, all the adults eat it, but none of the kids do. So once the leader of the Broccoloids hits the hypnotransmithisizer and hypnotizes everyone into a vegetable state, it's the PPG and the kids of Townsville left to fend off the invasion. Breaking off their arms or tops just causes them to regenerate--in the words of Blossom, "Swallow your pride, girls, we gotta eat 'em to beat 'em!"

The Powerpuffs are so cute and they're probably passe by now, but I still like how it's an example of girls saving the day, rather than all this pathetic Disney Princess stuff that seems to be shoved down the throats of our daughters. You can try to pick and choose what your kids watch and what they're exposed to, but parts of it are beyond your control. We don't have cable and Anna very rarely watches commercials but she still responds to them when she sees them--asks for a cereal she's seen advertised on TV or wants a toy that's shown. But I think the worst lesson the Disney Princesses and their ilk are teaching our daughters is that it is the be-all and end-all to have a man come and save you from everything. Or even more generally, that anyone is ever going to come and save you. Really, only you can save you. And yeah, that sounds like psychobabble, and it probably is, but it doesn't make it any less true.

Anyway, the PPG may be a little bit violent, but at the end of the day, girl power triumphs. And I still think that Buttercup is a cross between Lucy Van Pelt and Shirley Feeney.

Attack of the broccoloids!
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The most asinine of holidays

Every year about this time, I'm astounded by the mere existence of Groundhog Day. For one day out of the year, we surrender all intelligence and education that we've accrued throughout the last couple centuries and turn to a rodent to tell us whether we're going to have more winter or an early spring. To me, it's simply ludicrous. We live in an educated society, and here we are talking about whether or not a dumb underground animal saw its shadow, and how the presence or absence of that shadow will somehow predict the weather for the rest of the winter.

I imagine a lot of people would argue that I'm missing the point. It's fun--it's lighthearted and not meant to be taken seriously. OK, so if this is indeed so, why is it on the front page of the evening paper? Why is it on the 5 o'clock news? It's ridculous.

I also imagine that in a lot of ways, the same thing could be said about religion. "You mean these educated people actually believe that a man was dead for three days and then came back to life?! Give me a break." But somehow, that's different. Granted, we're not talking about weather and rodents when we talk about religion. So who knows. Heidi says I just like being incensed about it, which is true. But I come by that naturally.