Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Phantom Hourglass

Last night, as Hillary accepted the zero delegates she won from Florida, I finished the latest entry in the Legend of Zelda series, Phantom Hourglass. I found it to be a fun, lightweight romp.

Phantom Hourglass is a sequel to the Gamecube game Wind Waker. It inherits cel-shaded rendering, a general character aesthetic, and an oceanic setting from its predecessor, while the terraced look of the islands (once you are on them) is more closely related to Zelda games from the SNES days (see left). Motion and combat are touch-driven, as are all of the tools—boomerang and bombchu routes are drawn on the screen. So too is your steamship's route through the seas (below, right). You can annotate the map (shown in these shots on the upper screen), circling important points or noting safe routes through treacherous areas. The controls generally work well and make most of the tools and weapons very intuitive, with a few hiccups.

Those minor issues aside, the gameplay is not very challenging, especially if you quickly catch on to how the various tools can be used. The eponymous hourglass serves as a time limit on one of the dungeons, in which a modest kind of stealth is required. This, not a serious challenge, is the most difficult part of the game except for one of the boss battles.

The gameplay fits the classic Zelda mold with the same additions as Wind Waker: you travel around the sea, visiting various islands and breaking into their dungeons. The dungeons themselves are pathfinding environmental puzzles—each dungeon contains a tool that is needed to traverse it and a bafmodad you are supposed to retrieve. Though the islands seem a little closer together than they were in Wind Waker you still spend a lot of time in transit, and the occasional appearances by enemies and pursuers are more annoying than entertaining. On the other hand, the addition of a minigame has much improved the dullest task in Wind Waker, i.e. the retrieval of sunken treasure.

Mini-games and sidequests are abundant, as is typical for these games. Seeking out all the various power-ups and perfecting your scores in these accessory games can add plenty of time to the game. However, your actual rewards are somewhat paltry, and mostly come in the form of parts used to customize your ship, which only really affects the aesthetics.

The role of guide and assistant is once more played by a fairy. Fortunately Ciela is much more helpful (and much less annoying) than Navi. She has a story, and it's somewhat interesting, but in general the story of Phantom Hourglass is very lightweight and silly. This and the easy gameplay make Phantom Hourglass seem like a slight little breeze of a game. It's easy to pick up and easy to forget once you put it down. The adventure sandwiched in between is fun, and retains much of the charm of its predecessor. Despite a few interesting variations on the way some items are used, however, it just doesn't leave much of an impression.

This article has been resized to better fit this blog. For full nerd force, read the original here.

Woot, One Hundred Posts for Love Camel.

So is Craig Venter an egomaniac or what? I was reading this article about how his group encoded "watermarks" into their artificially generated bacterial genome. So what were the secret messages? I was hoping it would contain all the answers to LOST, but alas, no dice.


Kind of reminds me of when I heard the story about the surgeon who was so proud of some of his work that he felt like it was necessary to engrave his initials onto the patient so all could stare and admire.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Aqua Teen Neko Case

I kind of gave up on Aqua Teen Hunger Force a while ago. Too many episodes and it had become pretty self-referential. But I had to check out this week's episode on because it stars Neko Case (among others), as reported a week or so ago on Pitchfork. ATHF has become even more disgusting than I remember, and didn't there used to be some sentient food products on this show?
The episode will be streaming on the website for a week, and it's vaguely amusing in a random/gross kind of way. I half-heartedly suggest checking it out. If you don't like it, you can always move on to Squidbillies.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mmm good

Is it crunchy? Is it juicy? It's both!

Mont de Sundua's Front Man

Just a little note... came across this article about Jim James from MMJ on another blog, Aquarium Drunkard. Being that Mr. James is one of my favorite indie rockers, just thought I'd put up a link to article. BTW, if you've never heard any of his early stuff from Mont De Sundua, I highly recommend listening to Skipping Song. Very catchy tune.

MMJ's new album is set to come out June 10th.

They are playing at Radio City Music Hall June 20th. Pre-sale tickets go on sale today. Give my left nut to see that show.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Hasn't This Been Done Before?

I loved it! The creepiest PG-13 movie I've ever seen. I'm glad monster movies are coming back.

Someone Missed Something

A certain Bostonian forgot to mention one of my favorite albums of 2007 on his list. Not that I expect him to know all of mine, but I do expect him to give his fellow Beantown denizens some creds for a fucking awesome album.

So since he didn't, I will:

Very fun punk album, worth buying just for the song "The State of Massachusetts."

It's even gotten a lot of play on Sirius Punk, which makes me happy. And Irish rowdy, Beamish dry, and Bruins frenzied!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

First Impressions

Generally I don't put a music review (if you can call my prattling a "review") up here until I've given an album a number of listens, but I'm making an exception this time. I'm fairly familiar with these artists and these were the first few albums I was really anticipating for this month. My opinions may change with a few more listens, but these are my snap judgements based on the first go-around.

Distortion by The Magnetic Fields
Stephin Merritt is one of my favorite song writers, so I was really looking forward to this one. There are some great songs on here, with "Too Drunk to Dream" sticking out as one I particularly liked. Yet as the title of the album suggests, there's a lot of, um, distortion. I'm not a huge fan of distortion for distortion's sake, and what's the good of having clever lyrics if you can barely understand them? So, I can say right off the bat that this will rank fairly low among Magnetic Fields albums for me. That said, it's by no means terrible, and I look forward to listening to it again.

Unfamiliar Faces by Matt Costa
I touted Matt Costa's last album pretty heavily on this blog several months ago, so it should be no surprise that I was looking forward to his latest, which came out yesterday. I wasn't blown away from this first listen. The first song, the snappy "Mr. Pitiful" is quite good, but it kind of goes down hill from there until "Trying to Lose My Mind", which was also good. The penultimate song, "Heart of Stone" is pretty terrible, then things lurch back to up to almost great with the last song, "Miss Magnolia." The whole album's kind of like a sandwich made with really fresh tasty bread, one nice slice of cheese, and the rest is pretty much iceberg lettuce. I liked Songs We Sing pretty much from beginning to end, but it looks like I'll be cherry picking this new one.

Jukebox (deluxe edition) by Cat Power
I really hope my first impression of this album isn't my lasting impression, that impression being summed up as: Zzzzzzzzz....

Maybe Chan Marshall deserves to coast a bit after the popularity that The Greatest provided her, but I was really hoping she wouldn't phone this one in. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood when I listened to the CD this morning, but it all seemed kind of slow and repetitive. I actually really liked her Covers Record from 2000, but this effort doesn't have any standout covers like "Sea of Love" or "Satisfaction." Even the cover of her own song, "Metal Heart," doesn't hold up to her original version. Then there's the final song on the bonus CD in the deluxe addition: "She's Got You." This song was made famous by Patsy Cline, and say what you will about the types of songs Patsy Cline sang (they're all pretty much about being a poor girl who can't get no lovin'), once she did her rendition, it was hers. Chan Marshall has an amazing voice--or at the very least an interesting voice--but she's no Patsy Cline.

I'll listen to this album again in a different setting and/or if I'm in a different mood, and maybe it will grow on me. As it is, as far as these three first listens went, this one was the biggest let down.

'Peer-Reviewed' Christian Scientific Research Journal

OK, somebody's feelings are going to get hurt here... I definitely coffee-chortled when I read about this. So I'm perusing NatureNews and saw an article that there is actually a journal, Answers Research Journal, which is a free, online publication launched by a Christian ministry (which in my book translates into some high quality entertainment).

Being the curious, inquisitive scientist that I am, I mosied on over to the website and downloaded a free article. I really was somewhat curious to see how 'scientific' it would be. I downloaded 'Microbes and the Days of Creation.'


I would have to say that the paragraph entitled 'The Master Craftsman' takes the cake. I wonder if I could get away with using the word 'awesome' in my next discussion section of a manuscript?

Take an example from the paper:

"The Almighty did some of His most awesome work in the first six days of the planet’s existence."-ARJ, 2007, p. 10.

So maybe I should try something like
"The transcriptional E-box repressor, Snail, did some of its most awesome repression of E-cadherin in the earliest stages of cellular development."

OK, I know I'm going straight to hell now. I'm a bad, bad man. Good thing an asteroid is going to off the planet in a few days anyhow, or godzirra is coming for me (google it, I swear you can find this picture of godzirra).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


You know that movie, Armageddon, where there is this huge asteroid on a quasi-collision course with Earth... well in the real world there is this asteroid, TU24, and it'll be coming close to Earth on January 29th.

This asteroid has sizable mass and is purported to be as big as the Sears Tower, which is pretty damn huge. I'm guessing that everything is supposed to be fine, which is why we haven't heard anything about it, but then again, if something like this were going to happen, do you think our government would go ahead and induce mass chaos amongst the population? (I just saw Cloverfield last night, so you know I'm sensitive to these things; What does that movie have to do with this? Nothing really other than I thought it was better than expected and Manhattan got flattened) Anyway... I don't know a ton about astrophysics, but I learned a few things from this like:

1AU = 93 million miles.
TU24 will be about 0.0037AU from Earth on Jan 29 = ~344,100 miles.
Our moon is 0.0026AU from Earth.
So basically this asteroid, generally speaking in terms of the vast nature of space, will be getting pretty damn close.

Then there is this whole issue of a potential plasma discharge if the asteroid has a negative charge... anyone care to enlighten my poor little brain?

If you are interested, here is a link to the NASA website tracking the course of TU24.

OK, I know the sky isn't falling, my stocks are though, just trying to put things in perspective. I guess if a huge rock was about to destroy the world, or some beast was destroying my city, I wouldn't really give a damn that my 401k is taking one for the team.

If you're really into more nerd speak, here you go, straight from the experts:

Update, cause I know you are all patiently waiting. New Link.
007 TU24 Interval of close approach predictibility
From Jon Giorgini, 2008 Jan. 18:

The 2007 TU24 sol #17 interval is now 1890 - 2008.
This is largely due to there not being other close approaches for the next
few decades after this very close approach in 2008 (0.0037 AU) and then a
somewhat close one in 2046 (0.019 AU).

Date (CT) Body CA Dist MinDist MaxDist Vrel TCA3Sg Nsigs P_i/p
----------------- ----- ------- ------- ------- ------ ------ ------ -------
1750 Nov 27.50180 Earth .089278 .081438 .136523 9.368 23142. 25317. .000000
1890 Dec 04.01632 Earth .084277 .079805 .089713 9.040 3754.7 22823. .000000
1911 Jan 03.56964 Earth .054638 .045672 .064380 8.072 10714. 11733. .000000
1930 Dec 06.90665 Earth .080687 .075038 .092864 8.939 10151. 23371. .000000
1960 Jan 24.70670 Vesta .054213 .019047 .090536 12.291 1567.5 1515.9 .000000
1999 Dec 30.34491 Vesta .083841 .074741 .092945 12.613 471.02 931.17 .000000
2008 Jan 29.35570 Earth .003704 .003702 .003706 9.248 7.52 7626.1 .000000
2029 Jan 07.16022 Vesta .088738 .068060 .109525 11.258 390.99 1924.1 .000000
2046 Jan 18.30808 Earth .019217 .004279 .059568 8.193 21570. 4936.4 .000000

Last update: 2008 January 18

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Everybody Knows

If you like Ryan Adams, when he is good... the man has got talent. He has released several YouTube videos. Man, if he'd just do some concerts like this, it'd be legendary.

But alas, sometimes he can be a total douche... and this is what you get (at least he makes me laugh):

Nerd Rant: Heroes

So I've been watching the first season of "Heroes" on DVD. I realize that if you like and watch this show, the first season probably feels like ancient history by now, but I'm going to rant anyway. If you haven't seen the show but are possibly interested in watching it some day, don't read this post as there are major spoilers involved.

I'll start off by saying I've really enjoyed the show, though the episode I watched this morning (The Bug woke up at 4:30 and I couldn't fall back asleep) took it down a notch for me. It was titled "The Hard Part" and it's the third to last episode of the 1st season. Not only was the episode itself clumsily written, but more importantly it highlighted the weakest parts of the entire series:

Issue #1: The science on the show is crummy. That may sound ridiculous referring to a show about people with superpowers, but there a few simple things they could have done better. For instance, a major premise of the show is that these heroes are being found using the human genome project. As in the genome of every individual human on earth. Ludicrous. I'm probably more annoyed that the vast majority of people watching the show don't realize that the science being portrayed is just plain silly.

Issue #2: The creators of this show really wrote themselves into a corner with the character of Peter Petrelli, and it was most obvious in this episode. He's been having nightmares that he's going to explode and wipe out NYC. Of course, he hasn't absorbed that power yet, but he's still freaked out that he's going to explode. He finds out there's a guy in the city who does have that power. So naturally, he should do whatever he can to stay away from that dude, right? Wrong--he actively looks for him, and tells Claire to shoot him in the head if he gets the power, which he knows he'll get if he finds him. Then there's this dilemma: you realize you are about to potentially explode, killing millions of people. Do you A) use the ability to fly at supersonic speeds that you happen to have to get as far away from the city as possible...say out over the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, or B) stare at your glowing hands? Apparently B is our answer. The dude just has too many powers, and even if you buy that he hasn't learned to control them all yet, it allows for too many plot discrepancies.

Issue #3: The amount of exposition coming out this late in the season is insulting. DL and Nikki (or Jessica...whatever) break into Linderman's and discover that he knows all about them, and then proceed to explain to each other how he knows all about them and how terrible it is. I guess I'm used to better written shows that either explain just enough (BSG) or not enough (Lost). To have characters explaining major plot points after nearly 20 episodes is just kind of lame.

Issue #4: Does Eric Roberts have a facial expression other than "smarmy grin"?

I've got my eye on Aron Eli Coleite, the writer of this episode. Even if the last two episodes of the season are great, this episode stuck out like a sore thumb as not great. I still have high hopes for this show, unless someone tells me that the second season (what they were able to complete of it) sucks. But it has Kristen Bell in it, so it can't be that bad, right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Food for Your Ear Holes

Poor Evelyn Is Not Real wants to hear some good music (according to the most recent post on his blog). As you wish, my friend.

I'm going to try not to rave about this album too much, but it did fall into the rare category of albums that I liked from beginning to end on the very first listen. The group is The Dodos, the album is Beware of the Maniacs. And it is good. Very good.

What's that you say? A drummer and a guitarist? It's been done. The White Stripes have done it. The Black Keys have done it. All to acclaim. But this is different. If I could turn off the guitar tracks and just listen to the percussion, it would still be good, even great. This is heart pounding drumming, not just bang bang on the snare drum. The guitar, though not as unique as the drumming, is still excellent.

And to top it all off, the song writing is top notch. The song "Neighbors" easily describes my neighbors, and though songs called "Horny Hippies" and "Nerds" may sound like novelty items, I assure you they're perfectly legit. But start off with "Trades & Tariffs", which you can hear on the group's MySpace page. If you don't like this song--if it doesn't leave you wanting to hear more--then by all means, go back to your Britney Spears album. No, please don't. Just listen to this album. You can thank me later.

Oh, and this is actually a 2006 album that I just discovered recently. They're coming out with a new album in a few months and I'll be the first in line for it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Joined the Club

I just looked at Juno's Rotten Tomatoes score and it's got a 93%. It deserves it. I went into this movie kind of incredulous that it could be as good as the reviews said, but now I'm a believer.

Since there has been so much positive buzz about this film, all I can do here is reiterate a few things. The performances by every member of the cast are spot on, and if Ellen Page doesn't get an Oscar nod, then...well, I've never thought much of the Oscars anyway. The art direction is Wes Anderson quality. The writing is arguably better than Anderson's in parts. These characters are quirky, but not so over-the-top quirky that you roll your eyes and become overly aware of the quirkiness (OK, I'll concede that the names of the characters--Juno McDuff, Paulie Bleeker--are rather Dickensian). The soundtrack is precious. Probably one out of five people will find it overly precious, but any movie that introduces the world to Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches is alright by me.

I could go on, but the bottom line is this may have been my favorite movie of 2007, even if technically I saw it in 2008. I laughed out loud several times, and towards the end I'll confess that I was tearing up a bit. And perhaps the most amazing thing is that the audience with whom I saw this movie ranged in age from about 10-years-old to about 60, and virtually everyone appeared to enjoy it as much as I did. So, yeah, go see it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"You may have left me before / but you can't leave me behind..."

Hello everyone! I'm cross-posting here from my own blog. I'm not exactly sure how I'll do this in the future; if posting twice becomes too much hassle for me I might switch to posting culture stuff here and just linking to it from Discount Thoughts via ticker.

Anyway, Eric's post yesterday about Blankets reminded me of one of my favorite graphic novels, and so even though it was a little early for me to hit it on the decadal rotation I went home last night and re-read Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse. Although it's a work of fiction, Cruse admits that it is heavily influenced by his time in Birmingham in the sixties, and this shows through in much of the plot and also in some of the characters. The inspiration for Sutton Chopper, for instance, will be immediately obvious to anyone who remembers any part of their Black History Month lessons. But Stuck Rubber Baby is not about the Civil Rights Movement, except to the degree that the characters' reactions to it help define their relationships with each other. This story is about a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality in an extraordinary and difficult time, and the mistakes he and others make in the course of that effort.

This isn't a subject that everyone wants to read about, and I'll forgive you if it turns you off, while warning you that you are missing out on a wonderful story. On the other hand, both civil rights and gay coming-of-age are hardly topics lightly served by literature; it's tempting to dismiss this book (if you haven't read it) as a retread of overdone themes. Yet Cruse manages to avoid the all-too-easy trap of populating this kind of story with saints and sinners. Despite the enormous cast, almost every character who appears on more than one page comes across as realistically mixed. You will find something to criticize in every protagonist (especially the main character), and also something to like, or at least a basis for forgiveness, in the villains. The saintly black preacher unleashes a sarcastic, acid tongue, and the obese bigot who commits one of the book's worst acts comes across as genuinely remorseful and ashamed at the end.

The black-and-white art reflects this sensibility. The characters are highly detailed, and the lines used to draw them are very curvy. This style allows Cruse to create very expressive faces, and yet at the same time it seems to highlight physical imperfections. These characters are not supermen, nor are they ostentatiously ugly. They simply seem real—not in the trivial way one associates with photorealistic artwork, but rather the deeper reality of memory and emotion. Even the sexual content works, a rare example of art avoiding pitfalls I have mentioned before.

Who knows how much of this tale is drawn from Cruse's experience and how much is entirely made up? The strength of Stuck Rubber Baby is that you simply can't tell. This story, though it is fiction, feels real, almost frighteningly so. It has no perfect heroes, no perfect villains, and the last page holds no happy ending... only the impression that someone else's memories, with all their joy and sorrow, have been made your own.

Read Any Good Stories Lately?

Short stories are an underrated literary form. Short stories are like hors d'oeuvres. Some are kind of crappy, like a slice of Cracker Barrel cheese on a Ritz cracker, but you have them anyway because they're easy and filling. Some can be a bit on the pretentious side, like...I don't know, a hard-boiled humming bird egg nestled in steamed Peruvian orchid leaves. Some writers are fancy for the sake of being fancy and it just doesn't work. The story is lost in the way the story is told. But a really good short story can take just the write combination of great-but-simple ingredients and become something memorable. Like my famous brie/cranberry/pecan pizza! Always a hit at our holiday parties.

OK, I'm stretching that metaphor a bit, but the point is I like short stories and I'm suggesting a few anthologies that I've read in the past year or so. Incidentally, on a practical level, these books are great if a)you're a slow reader, like me and b)you don't always have much time to read, like me. I'd recommend all three of these books, but I'm putting then in order from 1 (recommend) to 3 (highly recommend).

1) Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
I actually read this about two years ago, so it's not exactly fresh in my mind. But I know I liked it, and I liked it enough to read some of Lethem's other work (like the novel Motherless Brooklyn, which is excellent). Some of the stories are pure fantasy, some are quite realistic, and some are a blurry smudge between the two. One story did stick with me, and that's "This Shape We're In" (not available in the hardcover edition, apparently). This story could have easily been a Twilight Zone fact I'd be surprised if there isn't a film student rewriting it as a script right now.

2) Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Man, these are some creepy stories. Well, not all of them, but a few are creepy to the max. A few are light fantasy, like the first story called "The Faery Handbag", about a village of people who, um, live in a handbag. The title story is, as the kids say these days, very meta. It's the kind of story-within-a-story story that makes you want to re-read the story. Then there's "Catskin", which is like something the Brothers Grimm might write, if they were on crack. And then there's "Some Zombie Contingency Plans", which was easily one of the more disturbing stories I've read in quite some time. It reminded me of one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories, "Pig." (While I'm thinking of it, I'd recommend pretty much any Raold Dahl anthology, as well). As I write this post, it reminds me that I've been meaning to get Link's other short story anthology, Stranger Things Happen, for a while now.

3) St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
This is the book that prompted this post, being the anthology that I finished most recently. I have to shake my head in disbelief that this is Russell's first book, and she's only 26 years old. These stories represent some of the best prose I've read in ages. There was a time, in my English major days, when I often felt envious of good writers. As I've gotten older, I suppose I've become a bit jaded, or perhaps just a more mature reader, and I can usually just appreciate a book for what it is. But I caught myself thinking, "Man, I wish I'd written this," several times as I devoured these stories.

Russell pulls off a neat trick. At first, these stories appear to take place in the real world, often on an unnamed island that one gets the impression is somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Then there's usually some element of fantasy, but the stories are never about that element of fantasy. When two young brothers happen upon a pair of magic goggles that allow them to see ghosts underwater, they don't seem all that surprised. In "Haunting Olivia," the goggles merely become a tool for them to search for their sister, who was lost at sea after floating away on a giant crab shell (of course). And again, the prose is good enough to eat. Take these first few sentences from the story "Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers":

Emma and I are curled together in the basket of the Thomas Edison Insomnia
Balloon, our breath coming in soft quick bursts. I am stroking Emma's cheek.
I am spooning amber gobs of soporific dough into Emma's mouth, cadged from
Zorba's medicinal larder in anticipation of just such an occasion.

My only warning would be that if you need your stories tied up neatly at the end, this is definitely not the anthology for you. Most of these stories throw you right into the narrative and you have to fill in a lot of gaps yourself. You might actually have to use a little imagination (gasp!). The lack of closure may get on some people's nerves, but I think part of the reason these stories have stuck in my head is because I kept thinking about them afterwards, creating my own endings.

For a more professional (though incomplete in the online version) look at this book, here's The Believer review that got me interested in the first place.

Monday, January 7, 2008


For anyone who actually made it through my list of top ten albums of 2007, I mentioned that the packaging for the Menomena was pretty cool. The artwork was done by Craig Thompson, and I was interested enough in his work that I learned more about other things he's done. A few years ago, before I'd gotten seriously back into comics again (and I'm only partially seriously back into them now), he wrote a graphic memoir called Blankets. It received a lot of critical praise at the time, and after finishing it last night, I can say that the praise was justified. It's an incredibly personal tale of siblings, teen alienation, religious skepticism, first love, sexuality, and more. I don't know how this story could have been told in another format. Frankly, I never would have read it if it had been a regular book, or watched it had it been a movie.

Surely one reason I enjoyed it so much was because I could identify quite closely with the author. The primary story arc of Craig meeting the first girl he would ever get close to at a summer program hit very, very close to home. So it's certainly possible that this book won't do it for everyone, but if you've ever been that person who was two or three steps (or miles) outside the mainstream, you'll find something to appreciate here. Considering this was my first graphic novel/memoir outside the realm of fantasy or sci-fi, I enjoyed it immensely.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

In Case You Missed It...

I'm on a roll with watching movies lately! Last night the wife and I watched Ratatouille. I won't go into a lot of details, especially since this movie came out half a year ago. It should suffice to say that it was awesome, and if I could only watch animated movies directed by Brad Bird for the rest of my life, I'd be OK with that. I think what really struck me about this film was how adult it was. It was G-rated, but some of the themes and concepts would be pretty difficult for a lot of kids to grasp. The way Remy the rat describes food and flavors, and how these descriptions are depicted graphically, is remarkable. And despite having read books about and by chefs, I learned some things about how a gourmet kitchen works. There was plenty of slapsticky humor for the kiddies (and OK, I laughed a lot at that, too), but this as much a movie for grown-ups as children.

On a personal note to Clyde Squid, I can't imagine you haven't seen this movie yet, but if not, why not? Pixar, Brad Bird, Patton Oswalt, and gourmet cooking? This movie was practically made for you!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bender's Big...Bore?

Being a humongous Futurama fan, I was pretty psyched when I heard they were making 4 direct-to-DVD movies of the show. I watched the first of these movies, Bender's Big Score, on New Year's Eve with friends who are even huger fans (they named their son after the lead character: Filip Jay). It was good, but not great. The good news, if you're a fan of the show, is that the movie was definitely made for fans. There are multiple, multiple references to old episodes, so there was a lot of "Oh, so that's what happened." For me, these constitute the funniest parts of the movie. The bad news is that overall, it just wasn't as funny as your average Futurama episode, and since it lasts almost an hour and a half, the lack of laughs is even more evident.

I think there were two main problems. One is that the plot, such as it is, is based on time travel. And there's a LOT of time travel. I'm sure the confusion that ensues is supposed to be part of the humor, but after a while it stopped being amusing and just got a bit annoying. Another problem for me is that one major side story focuses on Hermes, by far my least favorite character. I can only assume (and hope) that one of the next movies will have a Zoidberg side story.

So bottom line, it's worth checking out if you're a fan and have seen all or most of the regular episodes. Also, apparently Comedy Central is chopping the movie up into 4 episodes and airing them like that, so maybe it would be a little easier to swallow that way. As for the next three movies, all have different writers, so I'm hoping these improve as they go along.

One last thing. The DVD includes a full episode of "Everybody Loves Hypnotoad." And it's true. After watching it, I love Hypnotoad very, very much.

Addendum: After reading this post, my wife wanted me to mention that she guessed the major plot twist approximately 1/3 of the way through the movie. And again, I use the word "plot" very loosely.