Thursday, May 29, 2008


In the market for a new iPod Nano
Provenance: Ebay
Discovered by Dartanjal

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

FILMPHLEGM™: Indiana Jones and the Halfway Decent But Ultimately Disappointing Nineteen Year Wait

I'm not going to try to shelter you from spoilers, so if you don't want to know anything, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE.

I think Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than The Phantom Menace. That's not saying much; it's not terrible or anything, but Crystal Skull didn't come close to either Raiders of the Lost Ark or even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for me. It has its share of decent moments, but it also has a bumper crop of problems which make me kinda sad. It's not the all-out disappointment-fest that Phantom Menace was. But it certainly isn't all that great.

On the positive side, I thought Harrison Ford (and the script) did a decent job of bringing Indy into middle-to-old age and unexpected fatherhood. It was good to see Karen Allen back as Marion. Cate Blanchett, despite having a fake accent whose inconsistency rivaled Kevin Costner's in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves did a great job of bringing a one-dimensional stereotype to life. Jim Broadbent was a decent Denholm Elliott substitute. Shia Labeouf didn't make me want to punch him in the face much, if at all. And I really liked how Steven Spielberg wasn't afraid to make some of the special effects shots downright bad; the bluescreen work during the truck chase was especially spotty, and some shots practically oozed B-movie rear projection just like the original three movies did.

Now, on to the disappointments.

For a movie whose main theme is reunion/return, it's a bit of a disappointment that only two of the seven main characters have been seen and/or head of by the audience before. Making John Hurt's character a pseudo-grandfather figure from Indy's past who isn't Abner Ravenwood was a huge missed opportunity. Yes, Abner's supposedly dead, but that would be so easy to explain away; if you're going to go through the trouble of making a movie about a family reunion, why not take it as far as it can go? Granted, they did a decent job of including references to Marcus Brody and Henry Jones, Sr. (except for the publicity photos that Indy has of them on his desk -- seriously, they couldn't have Photoshopped Sean Connery's head onto a body that wasn't wearing his exact costume from Last Crusade? Please.) but all of the "old friend" characters who were brand new to the series were a bit too much to take. We're expected to be surprised by Mac's double-cross of Indy at the beginning just because of one line where the character tells us he's been traveling with Indy for years, and then we're expected to feel at least a twinge of sadness when he succumbs to his own greed at the end (ticking another box on the list of plot devices stolen from previous Indy movies). We're supposed to feel sad when we see how Oxley has lost his marbles, just because we saw tough-guy Mutt Williams crying about it earlier. Which brings me to another disappointment...

For an action/adventure film, there's a whole lot of telling rather than showing. We're told about Mutt's relationship with Oxley and his mother. We're told lots of things about the Crystal Skull. We're told lots of things about Spalko. We're told about Indy and Mac's war and post-war career together. Wouldn't it have been nice to spend some of the two hours (like, maybe, during the opening credits) having a little flashback adventure that shows us at least some of these things in action, rather than the unnecessary homage to American Graffiti we got instead?

A lot of the problems with the movie boil down to a lackluster script, and it's painfully obvious that this was not only written by committee but was also rewritten like fifty times. So many things happen without proper explanations (like why does the nuclear test go on anyway after the entire base's crew has been killed? Who are the South American kung fu warriors who wear skulls and prowl an abandoned archeological dig every night just waiting for someone to show up?) that it feels like important details were excised from an earlier draft and nobody noticed because they'd all been thinking about the story for so long that they just knew why things should happen anyway. And the script really falls apart in terms of character motivation. Why does Marion instantly fall back in love with Indy after he abandoned her at the altar, and after she made the choice to not even tell him they had a child together? And while Mutt's comment at the end about Jones abandoning them is a decent emotional moment and a real challenge to Indy as the father figure, what is the response? Indy and Marion smile and chuckle. Wow, that's...awkward. Oh, and David Koepp: if you ever get asked to write another Indiana Jones movie, please, please, PLEASE do not stick in another Star Wars quote during the climax. That's one more bit of Indy/Star Wars intertextuality the world does not need. Thanks.

And then there's the entire concept that the movie is based around. While the crystal skulls are "real," and have been part of the archeological world's milieu for ages, they just don't have the widespread mystique that the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail had in the earlier films. Their level of cultural intrigue is much closer to the Shankara stones from Temple of Doom, which gives the movie the burden of having to prove to the audience that the quest for the skull really is significant -- no, really. Compare the lengthy, multiple scenes between Indy and Mutt where Indy has to explain why the skull is powerful to these two sentences of dialogue from Raiders: "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible." See the difference? Hitler wants the Ark, and the Ark can do this. There's your motivation. Here, we have Spalko, who's not even Russian, sort of looking for the skull in the name of the Soviets, and it might be able to do some stuff but all we've seen it do so far is act as a highly selective magnet. In Raiders we see an engraving of the Ark spewing "Lightning. Fire. Power of God, or something." In Crystal Skull we see nothing, no evidence of what it can do other than make CGI gunpowder fly through the air, and a couple of lines about psychic mumbo-jumbo. There are so many archeological artifacts or legends to have drawn from and still make a movie about space aliens if you want to, why choose this one?

Yes, this is the first sci-fi Indiana Jones movie. Lucas makes a good point that the earlier movies took place in the 1940s and therefore they were an homage to the action serials of the 1940s, whereas Crystal Skull takes place in the 1950s so making it a flying saucer movie is contextually consistent. That definitely works in theory. In practice, it leads to the most muddled conclusion of the four movies. The first three movies were about faith in the spiritual and the supernatural, whereas this one is about the viability of the SETI project. Like the Star Wars prequels and their transmogrification of The Force from a mystical energy field to a bunch of little space aliens living inside Jedi DNA, Crystal Skull's aliens change Indiana Jones from a man of science learning to live alongside religious faith to a man of science learning that the geeks were always right. It's a fundamentally different approach to the series, which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it's been nineteen years, after all. But whether that new approach suits your tastes is what really matters. I expect sci-fi elements to creep up in Indiana Jones video games, because they're meant to appeal to geeks like me. The movies have always seemed to aim just slightly higher, and this one doesn't; it's like Lucas wedged the sci-fi element into it just so he could force Spielberg to stick in more CGI than he wanted to.

Speaking of CGI: so many reviewers (and the filmmakers themselves) talk about how this movie has almost no CGI in it. Excuse me? You've got the CGI gophers (in a non sequiter ode to Caddyshack), CGI ants, CGI monkeys...oh, the monkeys. I'm not even gonna go there.

Crystal Skull's version of Last Crusade's ride off into the sunset is a wedding scene, which is not entirely unexpected but also comes a bit out of left field. And the closest thing to spirituality in this movie comes when what can only be appropriately referred to as the breath of God suddenly flings open the church doors and blows Indy's fedora over to Mutt. It's a very weird scene, and a very obtuse way to set up a "passing the baton" joke. Like the rest of the movie, it's got great intentions but its execution leaves a bit to be desired.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cats That Look Like Hitler

What could be more appropriate on Indiana Jones weekend than receiving an email from Michael Knight pointing me towards Cats That Look Like Hitler? Sure, Indy's fighting the Russians this time around, but dude, don't those cats look like Hitler??

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WHY GOD CREATED YOUTUBE™: Milli Vanilli Carefree Commercial

Eels is on a bit of a Fab Morvan kick lately, which set me off on a Milli Vanilli YouTube search, producing the above gem. Let's tick off the list:

• Milli Vanilli
• classical music
• self-referential parody of lipsynching
• record scratch sound effect

Jesus H, this is BRILLIANT!

Truly, this is why God created YouTube.

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Friday, May 23, 2008


Best Buy Dance Off - Watch more free videos
From the mighty email-typing hand of Dartanjal comes yet another viral video gem: a silent security camera video documenting one white man's attempt to impress the ladies with his mad skillz. In my mind I can hear everything on this soundtrack except the exact song that's playing...the shrieks from the girls as the dude gets down on the floor must have been ear-shattering.

Truly, this is why God created streaming Flash video.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

WHY GOD CREATED YOUTUBE™: Quincy Opening With Lyrics!

From the tipping talents of The Cheese Kurd comes this bold reinterpretation of the opening credits to Quincy, everyone's favorite TV show about one half of The Odd Couple.

Truly, this is why God created YouTube.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

WHY GOD CREATED TOUTUBE™: "Crazy" On The Theremin

I'm under the impression that Dartanjal has quit his job and is now sitting in a small room with nothing more than an endless supply of caramel macchiatos, some Riesen chocolate chews, and an internet connection to keep him company, since for the past week or so several of his friends and I have been treated to a non-stop barrage of emails containing links to eBay auctions, photos, and YouTube videos relating to synthesizers. Not that I mind, especially when he turns up gems like the above video which, even at a year old and over a million hits, must surely still be entertaining people worldwide. Well, it entertained me. Maybe it'll entertain you too.

Truly, this is why God created YouTube.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

ADVENTURES IN THE DESIGN WORLD™: 50 Of The Worst Album Covers In The World

Bad album covers never cease to entertain, and Anonymous A just pointed me towards yet another online collection of the best of the worst. There are some real gems in here, and I've only seen a couple of them before, like the Joyce album which I think has been included in every online collection of bad album covers I've ever seen -- and yet that doesn't seem to detract from its overall awfulness. Enjoy.

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Friday, May 09, 2008


This morning I received the above graphic (which originated at Ironic Sans) from The Dancing Machine. And while I was impressed by the incredible cleverness of it, I couldn't help but be inspired to come up with something typographically snarky in response (see below).

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Thursday, May 08, 2008


Sizzlin' meat. Thumpin' techno. Mazola.

This is the new gold standard by which all home videos about two guys cookin' pork will be judged.

[Thanks, Dartanjal!]

Truly, this is why God created YouTube.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

ENTERTAINMENT DROPPINGS: Isn't It About Time We Checked Back In With Our Favorite Asshole With An Ascot?

Jeremy Piven's Passion For Life Misinterpreted As Violent Temper (courtesy of Defamer)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ADVENTURES IN THE DESIGN WORLD™: "We Have An Unusual Situation Here."

There's nothing worse in the web design world of 2008 than someone who still insists on designing their site so it can only be used with one browser.

Oh, wait, did I say there was nothing worse? How about someone who insists on designing their site so it can only be used with one browser and then acts smug about how lazy they are?

That's exactly the attitude you get when you visit with "one of 59 other browsers" than Internet Explorer. But who can blame them, really? I mean, it's a well-known fact that no one in America who uses a Mac (or Firefox on their PC) gives a shit about literacy.

Oh, and while you're at it -- if you're going to presume to be so learned as to know which browser is best for me -- please learn the keyboard shortcut to actually make a proper elevated trademark symbol (like this ™) instead of the "oh snap, how do you do this?" method of sticking it in lower case inside parentheses. That's what The Google is for, people.


(tipped by Anonymous A)

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Friday, May 02, 2008


#30: Ryan Phillippe

While I'm on the subject of celebrity Ryans who give me the heebie-jeebies, how about that Ryan Phillippe guy, huh? Not only does he look like somebody who you should keep away from small children but he has so many double consonants in his name that nobody knows how to fucking pronounce it right. Is it "FILL-ip"? "Fill-i-PEE"? "Fill-EE-pey"? Who knows! But what I do know is that whenever I look at a picture of him and his spray-on blond five o'clock shadow I feel like hitting myself in the head with one of those giant wiffle ball bats at least thirty five times in a row then trying to walk out into oncoming traffic. And is that so wrong?

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#31: Ryan Gosling

Okay, enough of that whole "liking" thing, back to things that make me grind my teeth in my sleep without me even knowing it. And honestly, I've never walked around thinking "You know who irritates the fuck out of me? Ryan Fucking Gosling!"...I mean, I barely even know who he is or any movies or TV shows he's been in, but every time I look at a picture of him I just feel like I've been sprayed with asshole germs. I'm sure somebody's gonna tell me "Obviously you've never seen Half Nelson and you know nothing of the power of cinema" and I'd say right back to them "You know, I don't give a shit, all I know is that looking at this guy makes me feel like spreading a bunch of thumbtacks out on top of a bench in front of a nursing home." Jesus.

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ACCEPTS TOKENS ONLY™: You Have To Burn The Rope

Yes, I know, for a blogger who can't seem to find the time to post more than like three times a month anymore, coming back from yet another week-long hiatus to create yet another new topic category might seem a little overly ambitious. But I couldn't find any other category to fit in a post about video games, so welcome to the inaugural post of Accepts Tokens Only™. And here's a rarity, I'm actually writing this because I like something. Yeah, you read it right. Like. Drop what you're doing right now and clicky-clicky over to You Have To Burn The Rope, the Flash game of the century. In terms of gameplay it's crazy easy - all you need is a decent command of the arrow keys and you'll be having fun in no time. And honestly, beating this game will take you no time, and you have to beat the game in order to experience its best feature, which is its end credits song. They even provide karaoke-like lyrics on the screen so you can sing along, and chances are it'll be stuck in your head for at least an hour or two after you hear it. I've never heard of Henrik Nåmark before, but I hope Spike gets wise and gives him a Video Game Award this year for composing.

• Play You Have To Burn The Rope

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