Another post that Dave will be bummed about because it is not nerd specific, but I like to think of this blog as a commentary on American culture in general. I just read that Kiss, the band with the make up, is selling a new book for $3,500 pre sale and $4,300 if you don’t pre order.
As this deck of Kiss playing cards I found in Dave’s music t shirt collection clearly indicates Kiss is not a band that is afraid of merchandising itself. In fact, I think it could be fairly said that Kiss is not afraid to sell anything and everything in order to make a fast buck. I honestly think if there were a way Gene Simmons could get away with it he would take his Kiss Army fans and sell their organs on the black market.
I thought this tendency to whore themselves out had reached it’s climax when they came out with the Kiss coffin, but this book of theirs reaches a new low. It is huge, however, and seems to be almost exclusively pictures. I think this fair since anyone willing to cough up this much cash on something so worthless probably can’t read anyway.
I’m not saying the book isn’t cool. Just that you really have to ask yourself how much does Kiss really care for their fans if this is the level of fleecing they are willing to get to.
Actually this should be listed as Florence rather than Venice. I woke up in the morning and hopped on a train to Florence. I find it surreal how close everything is together. Living in California I always assume major cities are at least a few hours apart, but the train ride was only two hours.
If I were to pick a single element that was my favorite about my trip to Italy it is going to be hard to find something greater than riding on the trains. So far EVERY train trip I have taken has resulted in me interacting with one or more very attractive young ladies. The ride out was particularly nice as I met four very cute, very smart South African engineering students (hot engineers? What are they putting in the water down there). They didn’t have assaigned seats and I was kind of lost trying to find mine, so I spent the whole trip in between two cars chatting with them, mostly about the differences between America and South Africa. Most of their impressions about the USA comes from movies, so they sort of had it right and sort of really had it wrong. They were all very friendly and charming.
The trip home was less impressive. There was a drop dead gorgeous girl sitting next to me for a couple stops but either she didn’t speak any English or didn’t want to talk to me. Still, usually when I ride the train back home I get some creepy homeless guy telling me how the government is putting stuff in our food.
Next time I come to Europe I might have to get one of those train passes and just travel from country to country, chatting up all the people I meet since that is where I actually seem to be capable of talking to folks. I’m sure no one has ever thought of doing that in the history of European vacations.
Anyway, Florence was extremely nice. You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing another amazing cathedral or bank of statues (most of which were plagued with man-junk, if you know what I mean). I went into a couple and spent some time just sitting starring at the amazing stained glass windows and paintings. Truly moving.
The other thing Florence has going on is it is another shopping nightmare. The section I was in was a mashup of every mall, strip mall, and never ending swap meet I have ever been to. I saw a lot of US stores, a lot of international stores, and a lot of crappy t-shirt stands selling pretty much the same shirts as every other one.
That’s not necessarily true. I found one t-shirt shop that actually had a t-shirt I liked a lot. I bought one for me and one for my friend John. I think he will dig it. They also had an extensive selection of rock t-shirts. Mostly classic rock stuff like Dark Side of the Moon here from our music t-shirt category. While most of this doesn’t do anything for me (Ramones and Misfits is the limit) at least they had something cool for a change. There is a “LOL” shirt out here that is so awful that whenever I see it (at every place that sells t-shirts in Venice) I want to start punching every Italian I see in the face until I randomly get the guy responsible for it.
That’s not really true. I love the Italian people. If I could find that one guy, however, he might have a close encounter of the fist kind in his future.
Anyway, the Italians here are not especially friendly. Not unfriendly, just not that cool. I think my experience here and in Venice is pretty much what happens when locals have to deal with tourists too much. I grew up in a tourist town and we hated them. The friendliest people I have met were in Paduva, which doesn’t seem to get a lot of tourists. Next time I come here I will spend more time away from tourist areas.
Actually, the friendliest people I have met are tourists from other countries. I never tire to talking to anyone from any other country, and for the most part they seem interested in talking to me. I find that very refreshing. I have noticed something else weird here. Whenever two groups of Americans run into each other they seem to want to hang out, talk about what state and town they are from, and hang out in ways they would never do back home. I am honestly trying to avoid talking to Americans as much as possible. I talk to them all the time back home, and will again soon.
At one point I started playing a game I like. You see I have an unusual body proportion. I am very tall, but most of my height comes from my torso. I also have very broad shoulders but am otherwise of normal size for my height. What this does is makes it almost impossible to find jackets that actually fit. I started looking around for a leather jacket. I frustrated two shopkeepers (they do this weird thing where they set up a swap meet booth for leather 10 feet outside their store door) but then the third guy actually had a nice sheepskin jacket that fit me. I had the remainder of my bonus burning a hole in my pocket (plus have managed to do this trip nicely under the budget I set for myself) so after talking him down to 1/3 of his asking price (I’m pretty sure I still got ripped off) have a nice new jacket for when I get home.
Train back, dinner in Venice. I am really getting comfortable with both the area I am staying in and ordering food in something resembling Italiano. It’s fun. I’ve also stopped looking for a plate to put oil and vinegar on to soak my bread in. That is something they don’t really do here, and after the three days with the rest of the sales force I have been trying to not look like an ugly American.
That’s it for now. Today looks to be a very lazy Sunday. I am going to wander around a little looking for some nice gifts for my friends. By the way, I picked up the book the Hunger Games and am already hooked. Really well done.
Thanks for reading. One more post, probably while I am killing time at the airport, and then a wrap up one. If I get bored tonight I will finally get that last movie review done. By the way, I was extremely gratified to see that horrible movie Rock of Ages failed miserably. The trailers not only made me want to not see that movie (which I will, unfortunately) but never see another movie again. It’s moments like this that I love you, America.
Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Have a comment about Italy or anything in this post? Feel free to comment below. Have a specific off topic question or suggestion? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again. Talk to you soon.
I was mistaken on this movie. I thought it was a remake of the 1982 film that freaked me the hell out back in the day. It is, in fact, a prequel to that great Kurt Russel movie (one of his best. It is only superseded by Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China. Pork Chop Express image from Big Trouble courtesy of the nerd t shirts). Not only that, but it is one of the best prequel’s I have seen. It is easily the best of the year, even better than X-Men First Class, and might be one of the best movies this year as well.
To say I was pleasantly surprised is a bit of an understatement. The director, Norwegian Matthijs van Heijningen, has not a single film credit prior to this and is a complete unknown. The main actress, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has a somewhat limited filmography, although she did play the hot girlfriend in Scott Pilgrim verses the World (most of my friends loved that movie, but I had mixed feelings). She was also in Live Free or Die Hard, Death Proof, and Final Destination 3. Nothing to imply something great. The main guy is a guy I have talked about a lot this year, Joel Edgerton. He was in Warrior and played young Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels, but other than that kind of a limited history. Overall nobody that makes you think you are about to see a great film.
For those of you unfortunate enough to have not seen the Thing 1982, it is basically the story of an American camp in Antarctica that comes across a dog being shot at by a Norwegian helicopter. The dog turns out to be an alien polymorph who kills people and then imitates them. It is as creepy and horrible as puppets in 1982 can be, and ends with a massive question mark in the air. They investigate the Norwegian camp and discover it in complete ruins, with dead bodies and burned aliens all over the place. There is an implied complete story here that we only get catch pieces of and have to fill in with our imagination.
This movie tells that story, and does it brilliantly. The thing I love is that Matthijs, unlike other, more established but in many ways lamer directors (J.J. Abrams), did not feel the need to re-imagine the whole story to suit his own ego. Instead, he makes things as close to the original as possible. The Norwegian camp is exactly as it was in the original, and all the wreckage and things they found in the later film are present and explained (even the burned two headed alien corpse).
In addition to being true to the 1982 film, this movie is great as a stand alone film. The story makes sense, the tension is built up over time, and there is a terrible sense of mystery and an inability to trust anyone. The original story was based on a 1951 film, the Thing from Another World, which was in turn inspired by a novella by Who Goes There? by John W. Campell, Jr. The underlying theme in the novella is massive paranoia (I have also read the novella) and both movies manage to carry that through.
The story. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate Lloyd, a paleontology who is recruited by a Norwegian scientist to examine a mystery body they found encased in ice in Antarctica. They find the corpse is that of an alien, as well as a massive alien space ship buried in the ice. They pull the alien corpse up in a giant block of ice and bring it back to their base. Naturally it escapes (remember the giant hollowed out block of ice from the first movie too?) and starts killing and/or taking over humans. Flamethrower hijinks ensues. Paranoia runs rampant, most of the camp gets burned, and the movie more or less ends with another big question mark and ends where the first one picked up.
Honestly there isn’t a lot more than that in the story. However, I am not trying to imply it is not a full and eventful. It is super cool, especially the scenes where they are trying to figure out who the aliens are. One of the Norweigans, Lars (Jorgen Langhelle) is really cool and you get to like him a lot. He does not speak any English, but his tone and actions combined with subtitles really delivers a good performance.
The stars. A prequel that didn’t destroy the original. One star. Excellent story. One star. Shape changing, horrific alien. One star. Great acting. One star. None of the characters did any of the typical horror movie stupidity stuff. You don’t find yourself saying “Don’t go in there!” just before they go in there and get their face torn off. One star. The Norwegians did not hesitate to grab guns and get armed. One star. Good acting all around. One star. The story managed to tie in all the elements from the first movie and didn’t go off the rails more than a couple minor things. One star. CGI was decent, and managed to meld with the human actors really well. One star. The alien is horrible in all regards, and unlike other movies where you see too much of it and it loses it’s horror, this one gets more terrible as time goes on. One star. Great characters you find it easy to identify with. One star. Overall great movie experience. One star. Total: twelve big stars.
The black holes. Pacing seemed rushed. I strongly suspect a lot of good stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. Feels like about 20-30 minutes might be missing (run time is only 103 minutes, so I am willing to bet this is true). Hopefully the extended DVD will reinsert them. One black hole. Logically, if I were to discover an alien corpse and a massive alien space craft I think I would probably let the alien chill (haw!) while I looted the spacecraft like Viking. One black hole. If you had never seen the 1982 the Thing the ending might have left you a little flat. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
Grand total of nine stars. If you are a fan of sci fi, horror, or paranoid whodunits see this film. Try to see it in the theater is my recommendation. Not a good date film, IMO.
Thanks for reading. If I get a chance I will try to see Ides of March this week. This upcoming weekend looks a little grim, with the Three Musketeers 3D and the Return of Johnny English topping the incoming suck-o-meter. Oh, well. I guess I have to pay the price of a great movie like the Thing at some point. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Talk to you soon.
…Or, Transforming a Franchise that Sucks into Something Moderately Tolerable
Do any of you remember a couple weeks ago when I reviewed Super 8 and said the train explosion was so big it would have embarrassed Micheal Bey? I rescind that statement. There isn’t an explosion big enough for Micheal Bey. If he could figure out a way to have an explosion explode he would. I am totally convinced that if he weren’t a movie director he would be a serial arsonist.
Before I get into this review, let me reiterate this point. In Transformers Dark of the Moon EVERYTHING blows up. A snake like Decepticon punches through a corrugated steel warehouse wall. The wall blows up. An Autobot punches a concrete wall. The concrete blows up. A ship filled with giant robots who have no need whatsoever for any kind of atmosphere crashes on the airless moon and in spite of the fact that there is no oxygen present and never will be still manages to blow up in flames. In the world in Micheal Beys head everything is made of plastique, TNT, and nitroglycerin.
Anyway, the movie. Was it better than Revenge of the Fallen? Yes, but that is like asking if losing one testicle in a tragic lawn mower accident is better than two. Better does not equal good. Is it exciting and fun? Yeah, kinda. Are there any problems? Oh, yeah.
The major problem the movie suffers from is the same problem the other two suffer from: too much of the humans and not enough of the Transformers. In my mind the scenes with humans are like the “acting” scenes that clutters up otherwise perfectly good porn. You are there for one thing. I liken the scenes like Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) getting bitched out by his parents for not having a job to the scene expositions you get in video games while the next stage is loading. It can be good if you are into the story, but if not it’s a great chance to use the restroom, get a snack, and return some phone calls. This movie actually has a little more Autobot character development, but like another 30 minutes of goofy Sam-trying-to-make-his-way-in-the-world crap.
Speaking of annoying humans, Megan Fox completely flushed her own career by bitching out Michael Bey and has been replaced by the slightly less hot (I really do like brunettes) but less slutty Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays Sam’s love interest. It first I thought she was a slightly better actor, but then I realized I was being sucked in by her English accent. The sad fact that anyone with an English non-Cockney accent always sounds better in movies than an American. As the movie progressed I thought she might actually be another human form Transformer like in the last movie as she had a really robotic delivery. Also, her character and motivations to do anything (especially date a whiny loser like Sam Witwicky) are horribly two dimensional, and Micheal Bey might as well be shooting porn with the inventive ways he finds to linger on her body in every scene. I will be the first to admit a little eye candy can add a lot to a movie, but it seems pretty obvious to me that if Micheal Bey were not a movie director or serial arsonist he would be a stalker with a laundry list of restraining orders against him.
Anyway, the story, for lack of a better term. I won’t throw in too many spoilers, but this plot (ah ha ha ha) is so dumb you won’t miss much. Autobots have joined the CIA and are doing covert missions for the USA, or as covert as a 100 foot robot painted bright yellow or red can be. Sam has graduated college and is such a spazmo he can’t find a job (here’s a tip, kids. If you are going to a job interview with a major corporation wearing jeans and a sports coat is a bad idea, even when the job market was good). Somehow he has the hottest girl on the planet in love with him who not only gives him sex but pays all his bills. Over the last couple years of collage he did a transformation of his own, from a kind of cool kid with a cool car into a uptight, whiny bitch with a self important attitude and a tendency to occasionally turn into a loud mouth jerk who thinks yelling will do more than calling ahead. He discovers that the only job an Ivy League graduate can get is in the mail room of an accounting firm (I guess he should have done more internships) in the worst go nowhere sub plot in cinima history. In the second worst go nowhere sub plot in cinema history a fellow coworker (Ken Jeong, Mr. Chow from The Hangover) stalks him and passes on some crotch notes (no joke) about humans being killed all over the world in a homophobic scene that just drags on forever. Anyway, turns out an Autobot ship crashed on the moon and the government knew about it all along. They go to the moon and find Sentinel Prime (voiced by the great Leanard Nimoy. Spock image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirts category), Optimus’s predecessor. Robot battle hijinks ensues. Most of the world blows up. Sam’s super hot girlfriend manages to avoid the advances of her boss after he gives her a $200,000 car (isn’t love grand?). Between the Autobots, Decepticons, and human military about 14 of the all time worst battle plans are devised.
The stars. Transformers. One star. Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime. One star. Lots of action (the final battle seems to go for like an hour). Two stars. The action is generally great. Two stars. Great special effects and CGI. Two stars. Super hot girl on screen. One star. Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) as Dutch. One star. Megatron comes back from the dead a third time, looking cooler than ever. One star. Two of my favorite Transformers, Shockwave and Soundwave, show up, although only Shockwave gets what I consider a fair treatment. One star. As worthless as his sub plot was, I always enjoy seeing John Malcovich. One star. They didn’t pull back on the killing Transformers (or, for that matter, civilian humans) although as per usual none of the main good guys died. One star. One decent plot twist. One star. Buzz Aldrin makes a cameo. One star. Total: 16 stars.
Now the black holes. Agent Simmons is back, and twice as annoying as he ever was before. One black hole. A whole slew of unnecessary and ultimately worthless sub plots and minor characters. One black hole. I will award one black hole for every ten minutes I feel the audience was subjected to of worthless human interaction (cough cough filler cough cough). Three black holes. Alan Tudyks fake German accent and dialog made me want to stuff Junior Mints into my ears until I could either hear nothing or suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm. He really isn’t great as a straight man. One black hole. More small (even smaller) really annoying comic relief Autobots who may or may not be based on racist stereotypes. Two black holes (one each). As much as I love explosions, I have to award a hole for overuse of pyrotechnics (you know, there are some circumstances where a robot can punch something and not have it blow up). One black hole. Optimus Prime is less the wise sage and more the bloodthirsty jingoist, and at one point has a little hissy fit and sulks. One black hole. Plot holes you could transport Cybertron through (wouldn’t transporting another planet into orbit around our planet more or less destroy both planets? Why say the Autobots have no way of getting off the planet when just a few minutes ago they flew one of their own ships to the moon and found an even bigger ship? If the Decepticons have been working with humans secretly for decades why did they do nothing to help Megatron the last two times he tried to take over the planet and kill the Autobots? Could they really anticipate him coming back to life three times? If every Autobot is equipped with super advanced rockets and can assault with speed why do they need a human team to sneak in and shoot the big bad thing with a lame human rocket launcher? The list goes on). One black hole. They did that thing that annoyed me so much in Battle: LA where the aliens (or in this case, robots) are unstoppable killing machines at the start but by the end of the film are getting knocked over by human spitballs and bad breath (seriously, a few special forces guys were killing them off left and right. If their plan was to conquer the planet it would seem a well equipped army could really put a hurt in their plans. Also, why is it they can shoot down aircraft with practiced ease but are unable to do anything about a few Tomahawk missiles?). One black hole. If there is one the we all learned from 9/11 it’s that buildings with breaks in the middle have little to no structural stability whatsoever. Apparently Michael Bey and all of his writers have no idea how architecture works. One black hole. There is a decided lack of concern for Sam or his girlfriend, as it is painfully obvious that nothing bad is really going to ever happen to them. This sort of action-without-consequences writing really robs the action of any of it’s punch. I would be more excited by a less epic building collapse if I believed that there was a chance someone important or that I had identified with could die. One black hole. Total: 14 black holes.
In the irksome-but-not-black-hole-worth category I have quite a few. The main one has to do with the treatment of the Decepticon characters. One of the great things about the Transformers cartoon was it really was about the Transformers, not the Autobots with the Decepticons as only their enemies. I mean, each of the Decepticons had a distinct personality that was presented almost as much as the Autobots. Megatron as the ruthless general, Starscream as the cowardly and treacherous second-in-command, Soundwave as the loyal and worthwhile minion, etc. In the movie not only is there no attempt to present any of the Decepticons as more than just spear carriers, they all even look exactly the same (silver and spikes are in this season) and are portrayed as growling, animalistic primitives. Second, there was a pretty serious death that was never even mentioned by the good guys. In fact, there was a scene that could have really impacted the audience and eliminated a lot of the action-without-consequences issues had Michale Bey had the balls to shock the audience, but he wimped out. I’m trying to stay done bitching about 3D, but the 3D effects in this movie did not really add a lot IMO. The sound track was pretty amateurish, with all the subtlety of a frying pan to the face. Also, I should have given them a black hole for stupid title of the movie. Dark of the Moon? What the hell does that mean? It’s not even acceptable grammar. I guess they couldn’t call it Dark Side of the Moon without running into Pink Floyd, but if they had all it would have taken was a little money paid to the band. Might have even helped solved some of the soundtrack issues. Also, what is the deal with Transformers aging? Do they really grow crusty beards and wrinkles as they age or were some of them built looking twice as old as the rest of them? Finally, when did Sam’s chihuahua turn in to a St. Bernard? I guess since his character had turned into such a girly man they felt he needed a more manly pet. Either that or Michael Bey thinks we are all idiots.
So, a grand total of two stars. At least they stayed positive. Will you enjoy it when you see it? Yes, probably. The more you can turn off your thinking brain and just use the stem the more you will like it. See it in 3D on the biggest screen you can find. I just don’t see this thing doing much in repeat business. By the way, there is supposed to be something after the credits, but after 157 minutes of mass explosions I had reached my sensory saturation point and bailed. I’ll YouTube it in a month.
I promise I will be getting back to the dating advice soon, but I will be setting up a booth and hanging out all day tomorrow at a Vitamin Water DJ music event. If you are in the Bay Area and are looking for something to do come by and say hit.
This is the best shirt I can think of for a DJ event. It is in our rock t shirt category and pretty cool IMO. I have expressed some opinions on DJs, but in my experience a real good one (not just some poser with two turntables) can be a lot of fun to listen to. I am looking forward to this event. It should be really fun. Free Vitamin Water too!