27 June 2010

Concert Review: Rain at Wolftrap 2010-06-26


I like The Beatles. I used to not like them very much, but now I do, so it was pretty cool to get to see the supposed best Beatles cover band in the world. They’ve been playing since around or before 1986, so they know what the heck they’re doing.

It’s a really neat show. They start out dressed in black suits like Brian Epstein made them wear when they first got out of obscurity, playing their hits from that era. Then they moved on to Sergeant Pepper outfits as seen in the picture, and all the other eras as well. Wigs and fake mustaches were worn, but I don’t think that took away from the authenticity of the performance; pretty much everyone’s voice was spot on (George was a bit off), and the playing was perfect. They had a guy playing keyboards and stuff for the later material so they wouldn’t have to rely on backing tracks.

The multimedia/video part that played on the big screen in the back and two on the side was pretty cool too; most of it was famous Beatles photos with the Rain members inserted into the same poses, and they were done admirably well. Some of the guys really looked the part. Between eras the curtain would go down, and clips from 60s commercials or hippie conventions would be shown with famous non-Beatles tracks like All Along the Watchtower in the background.

They played pretty much hits only, which is to be expected. I don’t think there was anything from the White album. Still it was a good representation of their discography, and the last encore was Hey Jude, which is a ton of fun with an audience of a few thousand people. I enjoyed it.

19 June 2010

Toy Story 3


Toy Story is one of the movies my generation looks to as the pinnacle of kid-oriented entertainment. It was Pixar’s first big film in 1995, when I was 9, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t see it in theaters. It was one of the things that got me very interested in computer-generated art, which then led me to programming. I guess you could say it’s had a pretty big impact on my life. The first sequel didn’t affect me as much but it was still pretty good. Now Pixar has stepped up its game, and after 11 years, created a wonderful close to the story of Woody, Buzz and company.

The plot this time is similar to the other two; the gang gets separated from their owner Andy and have a bunch of adventures getting back. This time it’s because Andy has aged along with us and is now going to college, and no longer needs our heroes. Through a series of mix-ups and foibles, the gang is sent to a Daycare center with a dark secret. This is where the movie begins to shine. There are a ton of new interesting characters who I won’t try to enumerate, as they are better introduced by watching the movie, which you should. Safe to say this beats Sid’s room and the Toybarn by a lot.

The thing that made me love this movie is the feeling that it’s not really a kids’ movie. It’s actually an amalgam of adult stories and homages to great films like The Shawshank Redemption, and possibly The Godfather, all dressed up in bright colors to make the kiddies happy. Sure there’s lots of humor and the like, but dang is it dark under the surface. I watched a video review the other day that stressed the idea that these movies are about death, and the inevitability of mortality, and I agree with that pretty strongly. Even though it doesn’t really end in that way, it definitely feels like it’s going to.

Because of this darkness and whatnot, there’s a good amount of emotional stuff. You’re probably going to cry a bit. Those Pixar writers have the engineering of tears down to a science. Good thing most of the movie is freakin’ hilarious.

13 June 2010

Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek

Hey look, it’s another movie with that fat guy in it. That was my first reaction. My second was, “hey, it’s that one dude from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which had Kristen Bell in it so it was pretty enjoyable!” Then I found out that he’s playing the exact same character, which is cool. Both movies are by the same guy so he can do stuff like that. There’s even a fun little nod to Sarah somewhere in the middle.

This is quite a different movie though. Sarah Marshall was pretty reserved really, a pretty cautious sort of touching comedy. Get Him to the Greek is both-barrels-blazing shocker full of laughs from start to finish. It’s at least partially music oriented too, so that’s pretty neat. The story is about this one fat guy Aaron who works for a record label, and they need to make some money. Aaron’s a fan of this rocker dude who used to be mega popular, but then released a real drug-fueled catastrophic stinker of an album and fell from glory. The fat kid figures since it’s been a decade since rocker dude’s seminal concert at the Greek Theater, they should put on an anniversary show. He’s eventually given the task of bringing the rocker over from England or somesuch place back to the US. Then the fun begins.

Aldous Snow (the rocker) does drugs and stuff. Aaron isn’t that kind of guy, but he’s been told by his boss to enable Aldous as much as possible so he’ll put on a good show. Aldous of course doesn’t care much about that part, more just doing crazy drug/women stuff and making Aaron take part. This is in rather violent opposition to Aaron’s lifestyle of quietly submitting to his girlfriend’s wishes. He doesn’t seem to resist all that much though once it gets going.

Aside from the raucous happenings, there are several relationship threads that come up, providing a little relief from the insanity, but often weaving into it as well. We’ve got daddy issues, girlfriend/ex troubles, is-he-the-daddy-or-not fun, and awkward sexual encounters among friends. Many funs.

I had the most fun with all the barely concealed innuendo in all of the songs, and Puff Diddy/Daddy’s dialog was often hilarious. There’s a pretty fun cameo or two here and there which were pretty cool too. Gotta say though I’m not the biggest fan of Jonah Hill, AKA that one fat guy. It might not be because of his acting skills or anything though. I dunno. Anyway the movie’s hilarious. I laughed a bunch.

06 June 2010



Unfortunately I’ve already read a fair number of reviews of this movie, and as such my brain is all full of things that other people said about it. The usual massive and ingenious originality that I’m sure all you excited readers are hoping for probably isn’t going to be here this time. I’ll do my best though.

So Splice is about a couple so-called nerds who are really good at genetic engineering. They’re working on a weird slug-mole thing that excretes a possibly marketable material, and their backers like this. However, what they’re really excited about is putting some human DNA into the mix; this would possibly make their research more beneficial to humanity. Understandably, the higher-ups are not too keen on this idea. Messing with human genetic material is often frowned upon by pretty much everybody. Nevertheless, the female half of the couple is blinded by the motherly need to create and persuades her lover to help her make a weirdo baby.

The product of this abominable act is Dren, who goes from a stabby seed-pod thing to a chicken-rat, and then starts looking a bit more human aside from three-fingered hands and backwards legs. She also develops some other neat features later on. She doesn’t say words much at all, instead favoring rather bird-like screeches and twitters. This doesn’t keep her from being the object of affection of her mother/creator, who at first seems to be trying to raise her as a human daughter. This motherly treatment becomes a major theme of the movie.

I forgot to specify that Dren grows really fast. She goes from that seed-pod thing to apparent maturity in what looks like a couple weeks. This maturity brings what you might expect from an R-rated sci-fi movie made by nerds. Can’t say I mind. Then everything goes nuts.

So the previews of course market the film as a horror flick. There are some horror bits, especially around the end, but as a whole it’s more of a relationship movie with a healthy discussion of moral dilemmas. If you don’t mind a bit of blood, nudity, and scientific nerdery, then you should see this movie. It’s mostly quite good.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever


I think I started reading this first trilogy about three to four years ago. My transition to a more technologically focused life has made my reading habits become very drawn out. I’ll often put a book down for months at a time, especially if it bores me at all. Unfortunately these books are in the old style of very heavy description, and thus are quite often a bit of a chore to get through. However, they are not bad books, and not your average fantasy series.

The main difference from every other fantasy story I’ve ever read is that the protagonist is a bit of an antihero. An unwilling, angry, self-hating guy with leprosy. He’s transported from his miserable life as a writer whose career has been ended by his disease, to your average fantasy world full of very Tolkein-esque creatures and lore. In the first book, he establishes his disbelief of this reality very strongly, even though it feels exactly like real life; as a leper though his concept of reality has become a dismal one, and he takes this land of health and vigor as a threat to his mental self-preservation. He ends of doing some kind of nasty stuff in this world he claims to be false, and can’t help but hate himself even more. The people of The Land somehow painfully look past his misdeeds, as he is of course supposed to be the fabled savior of legend, reincarnation of Berek the Half-hand (he lost two fingers to his leprosy), bearing the white-gold ring of wild magic, which happens to be his wedding ring from our world.

Then there’s a lot of arguing, Covenant saying “Hellfire!” about 357 times, a bunch of walking and riding horses, and battles of good vs. evil. Most of the story is filled with tragedy at least in part brought into play by Covenants refusal to accept his place as the savior. He goes back and forth between worlds a few times, and each time the real world becomes more and more dismal while The Land follows suit. It’s a pretty difficult read really; not a lot of happy stuff happens. There’s a jovial giant character, but as the story goes on his mirth diminishes, understandably considering his situation of being the last of his kind, for which whose demise he blames himself somewhat unjustly. Of course the end results in a kind of victory for good, although Covenant’s take on the whole thing is still largely one of dismissal, even in the face of death. He’s a pretty frustrating guy.

As a whole I enjoyed the story, it just took a really long time to read it. I think if it had compressed the descriptive stuff and made the characters a little fuller, I would have sped through it much quicker and had a better grasp of the message. As it is though I don’t think I’ll be reading the second trilogy. It’s just too much of a task. Still, it’s an interesting look into the mind of a man who cannot accept that his life can change from a state of decay, and yet pushes away any hope of health in order to continue his painful existence. Remind me never to get leprosy.

03 June 2010


This show tried really really hard to be Lost. I think a lot of shows will be doing that for a while now. They even brought in one of the main Losties, a hobbit known as Meriadoc Brandybuck. Too bad they didn’t get the writers. I guess that might be a bad assumption, I’m not sure whether they got any of them or not. I think it would have been a better show if they did though, since it wouldn’t be that big of a feat to make it more entertaining.

The premise kind of kills the show in the first episode. You pretty much know how the series is going to end, because every person on the planet (almost everyone that is) gets to see about 2 minutes of their lives a few months in their futures. These futures are revisited seemingly ad infinitum throughout the 22 episode run, so we don’t even have the chance to forget what’s going to happen and be all surprised. Of course, one question the show asks repeatedly is whether this future can be changed, and it seems it can. However, the stuff at the end changes very little and thus makes for a pretty dull finale.

The future gimmick isn’t really the reason the show fails though; In and of itself it’s a pretty interesting trope. The real failure is the characters. Much like the other ABC POS, V, there isn’t a single really likeable character in the whole thing. The main guy, seen lovingly manhandling the asian dude in the picture I chose, is a highly annoying, serious, stupid, and repetitive pile of emotional trainwrecks. His angry buddy there is equally stupid if a little less annoying. The rest of the cast varies in its blandness but never gets anywhere near its target of say Hurley or Sawyer. Even Jack is better than these cutouts.

The setting is often boring too. It’s a big ol’ sterile FBI center for the most part. I will admit it was all miles better than V’s pathetic CGI sets though. There were even a few kinda nifty sets once in a while, like some weird place in the middle-east and stuff. Meh.

Anyway the show got cancelled. The end of the finale seemed to be setting up for another season, but now those threads will never be woven. I’m okay with that, really, because I almost give a small crap about where it could go, and would therefore probably have to watch season 2 if it had been approved. Thanks TV studio executives, you finally did something right.

01 June 2010

Fringe – Season 1

I saw the pilot quite a while before the show went on air. I didn’t really like it. Dunno why. I didn’t start watching again until somewhere around midway through the second season which just wrapped up recently, when I suppose I was bored or something. As it happens, that episode would turn out to be one of the highlights of the season, in which a whole bunch of crazy whatsit happens. Kinda made me wish I’d been keeping up with the show. So, a few episodes later, I made myself buy the first season on Blu-Ray, and got watching. It’s been a good ride.

Fringe is very similar in premise to the much-loved X-Files of yore. However, it has much higher production values, and according to the bits of X-Files that I’ve seen, it seems to have a bit more of story-arc setup although it definitely has monster-of-the-week thing going on. Also Anna Torv is way hotter than Gillian Anderson ever was. Another difference, as far as I can see, is that Fringe is much more science-based than its predecessor, which often got into very mystical thingamajiggers. Still, the “science” is only just based in reality and relies on pretty nutso extrapolation to make it entertaining; and entertaining it often is.

The cast is quality. Anna Torv is of course the resident hottie FBI agent, and does a great job of communicating her emotions despite her somewhat immovable face. Walter Bishop (John Noble) is an old slightly bonkers mad scientist turned good guy with a mission to right the seemingly endless wrongs he’s committed in his forgotten past, and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) is his reluctant caretaker and generally badass smart dude. His character as a whole is a bit blander than the rest of them though, I think. In a slightly lesser role we have an alumnus of The Wire, which is almost always a good sign; Lance Reddick plays a prominent Homeland Security agent who tells the main group what to do in his wonderfully commanding voice. There’s also a cow.

This first season’s main story arc has been quite slow and hasn’t really gotten very far. The episodes that I’ve seen from the second season seem to suggest that it keeps going at about the same pace. Still, it’s an interesting progression that could eventually become really frakking cool. It’s a bit of shame that I’ll have to wait several months to see more of it, but I’m committed to buying Season 2 when it’s available.