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Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Secret Shame

Paul Blart: Mall Cop ~ Often when I’m writing I will have the TV on as background noise. For fiction I usually require a soundtrack or a playlist, but non-fiction I just need background noise. In the afternoons I set the channel and just leave it run – turns out by cosmic design or just dumb luck I have involuntarily absorbed quite a lot of “The King of Queens.” It seemed like the show was always on, too, whether it was TBS or the CW, its programming was almost endless. The scary part, and this is confession time here, folks, I started to like the show. Yes, it’s true, Kevin James grew on me like a fungus.

So when I started seeing ads and previews for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, aired conveniently during the show that’s always on, “The King of Queens,” my interest was more than piqued. Yeah, as bad as it looked, I wanted to see it. This is my secret shame. I waited until it hit DVD so I wouldn’t feel so dirty.

It’s not bad, one might even say it’s good. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Citizen Kane here, folks. We’re not even talking Mothra Vs. Godzilla, but it’s a matter of expectations. Mall Cop has that warning label on it, you know, the one that says this is a Happy Madison film, indicating that Adam Sandler was involved – always a bad sign.

As far as expectations go, I was fairly correct in my assessment as the movie started. It’s so formulaic and almost painful to watch – until – until it becomes Die Hard in a mall. And I’m not saying “Die Hard in a mall” the way those pitchmen in Hollywood would try to get a flick made – but I mean it in a literal way. Paul Blart: Mall Cop truly is Die Hard in a mall. And I just don’t mean if the bad guys were acrobats on X-bikes and Bruce Willis is a fat guy on a segueway.

Mall Cop follows its inspiration in plot and theme and at moments in duplicating shots. It’s really something to behold. It’s like watching Mel Brooks pay tribute to old movies, there’s a respect that is truly sincere. Again, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is not a great film, but as far as expectations go, it’s a good film. Check it out if there’s nothing else on.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feast

Feast ~ Despite the horror stories and rumors from the set that plagued the production during HBO’s “Project: Greenlight,” I liked this a lot. This is brilliant creative self-aware horror of the sort we haven’t seen since maybe Scream.

I love the sarcastic and sardonic captions that introduce the characters, much fun. The bomb shelter setting in a bar surrounded by hungry (and horny) mutant killing machines only lends to the suspense and terror. Henry Rollins is great as a motivational speaker, just when I thought undertaking of ironic roles was getting clich├ęd. And look quick or you’ll miss Jason Mewes as himself.

Also for fans of the genre, don’t worry, it’s bloody, gory and violent. And funny. When Bloody-Disgusting said this flick pulls no punches, they were sooo not kidding. Must see for horror folks, otherwise, not for everyone.




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Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego Comic-Con Wrap-Up

It’s Monday and Comic-Con is over. So what happened? To be perfectly honest, not much, at least not comic-related. When San Diego began, it was a comic book event, but now and in recent years it has become more of a Hollywood event – more about promoting upcoming movies and television series than about comics. Lucky thing that many comics are becoming films and TV shows.

There were screenings and sneak peeks at projects like District 9, Where the Wild Things Are, Legion, “Hero Up,” and amazing new video games from both Marvel and DC Comics. There were panels and buzz about “24,” the final season of “Lost,” “ Caprica” and “Smallville” the last of which promises Metallo, Zod and the Justice Society of America in its next season.

In comics news, Marvel made the intriguing announcement that they have secured the rights to Marvelman. On the other side, DC has similarly announced that they now have the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. We truly live in interesting times.



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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are - Sneak Peek



Spike Jonze's big screen adaptation of the classic children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak comes to theatres on October 16th, 2009.


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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jonah Hex on the Big Screen

For those folks who think comic books are just about people who wear their underwear on the outside of their pants and strike dynamic poses as they punch bad guys, you obviously haven't heard of Jonah Hex.

Mysterious scarred bounty hunter of the old west, Hex was created a few decades back by John Albano and Tony Dezuniga, and has become one of DC Comics most celebrated western anti-heroes. Jonah Hex has even met the Justice League, and visited Earth's apocalyptic future, but for the majority of his history he remains closer in tone to Clint Eastwood's man with no name than any costumed clown. The character's most recent comic series by writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti is simply one of the best on the shelves consistently.

Next year, director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who, sigh) will bring Jonah Hex to the big screen. With Josh Brolin in the title role and co-starring Megan Fox and John Malkovich, it should be very interesting. I know I can't wait.

Jonah Hex will be released June 18th, 2010.



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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Boy Meets Turtle


Gamera the Brave ~ Boy meets turtle. Boy feeds turtle. Turtle grows. No, really, turtle really freakin’ grows. Monster attacks Japan. Turtle fights monster, saves Japan. Boy (and Japan) happy. That could be it, but there’s a lot more to it.

Gamera the Brave, or Chiisaki yusha-tachi: Gamera as it is known in its native land, is not your average Gamera movie despite the above description. It was marketed as a children’s film, which it most certainly is – like the original Gamera film series of the 1960s but unlike the more violent and dark 1990s flicks. Except for the opening few moments which harken back a vague memory of Gamera fighting several Gaos, this is pretty much all kids fare – and it’s delightful stuff.

The little boy Toru finds his pet turtle Toto is a little more interesting than most other turtles, flying and spitting fireballs. This secret he shares with his best friend, little girl next store Mai. It’s just fun. And it’s not annoying. As any Kaiju fan will tell you when they hear a kid is involved in the plot of the movie, he’s going to be annoying – especially if it’s a Gamera flick. Not the case here at all.

This could easily be an afterschool special with a bit of kaiju eiga nudge-nudge thrown in. It does eventually turn into a Gamera movie though, so take heart, fans of the spinning flame-spitting turtle – you won’t be disappointed. There’s even a Guiron reference that is in there just to make the fanboys grin. Fun is what the kids’ part of this flick, as well as the adults’ part, is all about.

When bad monster Jidas shows up, we see that the special effects are cutting edge, at least as far as the genre goes. Toto plays Gamera (although I wish they would have kept his original roar) and takes on Jidas, a prehistoric spiked iguana-like kaiju with a mutant tongue – don’t ask. The fights that ensue are spectacular, and that is the reason I like kaiju eiga, but I gotta tell you – as engaging as the monster battles are, the relationship between little Toru and little Toto is moreso.

I waited months for this on NetFlix, and it was worth the wait. Fun for the kids, fun for the monster fans, fun for the adults, just fun.



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Walter Cronkite 1916-2009

Walter Cronkite's was probably the first face and name from television I knew that wasn't Speed Racer or Batman, and he was trusted just as much.

He visited my living room or kitchen every night at dinner time to explain the events in strange lands like Viet Nam, Cambodia, Watergate and the Moon.

Today the most trusted man in America, still even decades after he retired from giving us the news, passed away.

We have lost probably one of the greatest journalists of our time. He will be missed.



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Friday, July 17, 2009

All Things Fun! Podcast - Live!

All Things Fun!
Podcast LIVE! at the Franklin Institute

Join the All Things Fun! Podcast team of Ed Evans and Wes Hitchins as they host a very special LIVE episode of the All Things Fun! Podcast from the Grand Attrium of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, July 25 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM!

They will be talking about the Star Trek exhibit, giving away prizes and will have a sneak peek of the new game Arcane Legions from Wells Expeditions!

And don't worry if you can't make it to the Franklin for the LIVE show! The show will be posted on the website later that day!

All Things Fun! Podcast LIVE at The Franklin Institute
Saturday, 7/25 11 AM - 1 PM FREE!



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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emmy Noms and Predictions


Just the highlights…

Outstanding Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC •
Entourage • HBO •
Family Guy • FOX •
Flight Of The Conchords • HBO •
How I Met Your Mother • CBS •
The Office • NBC •
Weeds • Showtime •

I’m at a handicap here, only having seen a few. I love “Entourage” but I think “Family Guy” takes this one.

Outstanding Drama Series

Big Love • HBO •
Breaking Bad • AMC •
Dexter • Showtime •
House • FOX •
Lost • ABC •
Mad Men • AMC •

Again, I love “Dexter” but “Mad Men” is simply one of the best series on television, period.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC • Alec Baldwin, as Jack Donaghy
Flight Of The Conchords • HBO • Jemaine Clement, as Jemaine
Monk • USA • Tony Shalhoub, as Adrian Monk
The Big Bang Theory • CBS • Jim Parsons, as Sheldon Cooper
The Office • NBC • Steve Carell, as Michael Scott
Two And A Half Men • CBS • Charlie Sheen, as Charlie Harper

Geeks stick together. Go, Sheldon.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Breaking Bad • AMC • Bryan Cranston, as Walter White
Dexter • Showtime • Michael C. Hall, as Dexter Morgan
House • FOX • Hugh Laurie, as Dr. Gregory House
In Treatment • HBO • Gabriel Byrne, as Paul
Mad Men • AMC • Jon Hamm, as Don Draper
The Mentalist • CBS • Simon Baker, as Patrick Jane

Tough one, but again, “Mad Men” takes it.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC • Tina Fey, as Liz Lemon
Samantha Who? • ABC • Christina Applegate, as Samantha Newly
The New Adventures Of Old Christine • CBS • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Christine
The Sarah Silverman Program • Comedy Central • Sarah Silverman, as Sarah Silverman
United States Of Tara • Showtime • Toni Collette, as Tara Gregson
Weeds • Showtime • Mary-Louise Parker, as Nancy Botwin

Anyone who’s seen “United States of Tara” knows that Toni Collette blows the competition away.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Brothers & Sisters • ABC • Sally Field, as Nora Walker
Damages • FX Networks • Glenn Close, as Patty Hewes
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit • NBC • Mariska Hargitay, as Detective Olivia Benson
Mad Men • AMC • Elisabeth Moss, as Peggy Olson
Saving Grace • TNT • Holly Hunter, as Grace Hanadarko
The Closer • TNT • Kyra Sedgwick, as Brenda Leigh Johnson

Peggy from “Mad Men” obviously.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Accidental Friendship • Hallmark Channel • Chandra Wilson, as Yvonne
Coco Chanel • Lifetime • Shirley MacLaine, as Coco Chanel
Grey Gardens • HBO • Drew Barrymore, as Little Edie
Grey Gardens • HBO • Jessica Lange, as Big Edie
Prayers For Bobby • Lifetime • Sigourney Weaver, as Mary Griffith

One of the two actresses from Grey Gardens, which will take several awards this season. Yeah, it’s just that good.

Outstanding Reality - Competition Program

American Idol • FOX •
Dancing With The Stars • ABC •
Project Runway • Bravo •
The Amazing Race • CBS •
Top Chef • Bravo •

I love me some “Idol” and “Race” but for pure entertainment value (both intentional and unintentional), I gotta go with “Runway.”

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow • PBS •
Dirty Jobs • Discovery Channel •
Dog Whisperer • NGC •
Intervention • A&E •
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List • Bravo •
MythBusters • Discovery Channel •

Just give it to Kathy.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series

Late Show With David Letterman • CBS •
Real Time With Bill Maher • HBO •
Saturday Night Live • NBC •
The Colbert Report • Comedy Central •
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central •

Ahem. That’s right, folks - Stewart, Colbert and Maher are not news, it’s at best comedy opinion – not news. That said, “SNL” will get the Emmy.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special

Chris Rock - Kill The Messenger • HBO •
Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut A Bitch • Bravo •
Ricky Gervais: Out Of England -- The Stand-Up Special • HBO •
The Kennedy Center Honors • CBS •
Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush • HBO •

Chris Rock deserves it, but just to get even for my comments in the last category, Will Ferrell will get it, because America hates Bush, but loves laughing at him.

My favorite nomination? Justin Timberlake for original composition… of "Motherlover." Love it.

For a full rundown of this year’s Emmy nominations, click here.


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Stung






To the right, one of the first images of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff - The Black Widow.

Iron Man 2 opens May 7th, 2010. I know I'm there.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter 90210


The sixth film in the Harry Potter series, unlike the previous ones, is only loosely based on the book “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, just a departure from previous entries. I think perhaps it is a wise choice seeing how the last two films have noticeably suffered by leaving elements from the books out. Half-Blood Prince services its source material well, telling the integral story and also keeping the crucial character elements. Anything that was jettisoned is forgivable here.

Daniel Radcliffe shows off his acting chops well, except for being a bit goofy (although it works) while under the influence of liquid luck, and is amazing to watch. All of the teen leads, especially Rupert Gint and Emma Watson (the latter sadly having little to really do this time out), also show their improvement over the years. I’ve never been a fan of Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, and Jim Broadbent also disappoints but the rest of the regular cast turns in great performances no matter how small or large their parts are in this one. I like Tom Felton a lot but his Draco Malfoy feels flat to me except for when he actually physically confronts Harry. Their chemistry is hot, when they’re apart – not so much.

Speaking of hot, most of the film is thriving and thrumming with sexual energy and tension along with a good portion of teen angst. The character interplay in Half-Blood Prince is a fun game of who likes who and who should be with who. Throw in a charm potion or two and hilarity ensues. There were lots of little winks at the audience who have already read the books and knows who ends up with whom. It makes the film fun, especially good when the world it happens in is so dark and on the brink.

The fun doesn’t last forever as the final two acts take a turn into sudden horror and then melodrama. The same voices in that packed midnight theatre audience that were giggling over the young romance games are also the ones sobbing toward the end. It’s a powerful emotional rollercoaster. I enjoyed the film a lot, and didn’t mind one bit the deviation from the print version. And I’m looking forward to the final two installments, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will be split into two segments, to be released some time in the next two years.




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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dial C for Chardonna


The Dumpsta Players return!

Wednesday, July 15th
10 PM doors, 11 PM showtime -- sharp!

@ Bob and Barbara's
1509 South Street
Philadelphia, PA
Info: (215) 545-4511
$1.99 cover

ROCCO RIGATONI STALKS CHARDONNA
LADY CACCA VS. NORMAN BATES
THUG KANO GETS GANGSTA

Chardonna Jenkins returns to the Dumpsta stage, although this time-she's being stalked! Hot-tempered, possessive boyfriend, Rocco Rigatoni, catches Chardonna making naughty with new gangsta ruffneck, Kano.

When Rocco makes a deal with Psycho's Norman Bates to kill each other's girls, Chardonna isn't safe! And neither is reigning pop princess, Lady Cacca!

In this homage to Hitchcock, Chardonna must fight for her right to be independent - and show the men that the Ladies are in charge!

But look out… one should always beware in the shower… and the birds are gathering to stalk their prey… call for backup, phone home - but never…

"DIAL C FOR CHARDONNA"!!


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Silver Screen Monday


I went to Silver Screen Classics yesterday to catch a film that I have been told several times I need to see - Scarlet Street. Granted, I would have gotten around to getting the disc on my Netflix queue eventually, but trust me, it's always better to see anything, especially a classic film, on the big screen. For those of you not in the know, every Monday at the Showcase at the Ritz in Voorhees NJ, film historian Lou DiCrescenzo presents a classic film from years gone by along with a short subject, all on the big screen.

Scarlet Street is a classic film noir from master director Fritz Lang, starring tough guy Edward G. Robinson playing completely against type. He's a cashier and wannabe artist caught in a web of deceit with femme fatale Joan Bennett and her abusive con artist boyfriend Dan Duryea. Some of us might remember an older Joan Bennett as the matronly Elizabeth Stoddard on "Dark Shadows." Her role here shows she was once very hot stuff. Moody atmospheric and what every film noir should be, I really enjoyed this, and probably more than I would have had I simply seen it on a television screen.

Before the feature, Mr. DiCrescenzo presented a two-reel Mack Sennett comedy starring W.C. Fields called The Barber Shop. Great gags, and he was notably upstaged by both a kid and a dog. Terrific stuff.


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Dollhouse - Epitaph One




Here's a sneak peek at the unaired episode "Epitaph One" guest-starring Felicia Day from Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse." It will be available on the Season One DVD that drops on July 28th.


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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wednesday Comics Are Here


I love comics. Anyone who knows me knows that. We all have our hobbies, our obsessions, our passions. But how often does something happen within that interest that you are just compelled to tell everyone about it? And I mean everyone. For me, and for comics, that happened this week.

It’s called Wednesday Comics, and it came out on, duh, Wednesday. You might remember me talking about this before, a few weeks back. Then it was just an item of interest that I had not personally seen yet, only heard about and seen a few previews of. Now that I have it in my hands, I am stunned. This is the coolest thing to happen in comics (and maybe in print) in years.

This is not just the return of Sunday color adventure comics, it’s not even just the return of comics on newsprint. DC Comics has done both of those things, but they filled it with the best work they had to offer. This is amazing.

Kyle Baker’s Hawkman is stunning. Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred have recreated the Silver Age Metamorpho perfectly. The Flash is the peak of sequential storytelling. Great to see a jet age Green Lantern, it’s the era he was created for. Father and son Kuberts do Sgt. Rock, just as husband and wife Palmiotti and Conner give us a delightful take on Supergirl, Krypto and Streaky. Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook pay homage to Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant with Jack Kirby’s Kamandi just as Paul Pope does the same for Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon with his Adam Strange. It’s just beautiful.

And for those of you for whom that last paragraph means nothing, don’t worry. The best thing about Wednesday Comics is that it’s non-continuity. In English, that means it’s mainstream – it’s accessible to any readers new or old. If you’ve been reading these things forever or if you wouldn’t know a Teen Titan from Tony the Tiger, you’ll still enjoy this.


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Ryan Reynolds Is Green Lantern


Ryan Reynolds has been cast as Hal Jordan, the title character in Martin Campbell's newest film project, Green Lantern. Reynolds, no stranger to comic book based films after this year's X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he got to play one of his favorite characters, Deadpool, has been a fan favorite for the role of GL since the film was announced.


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Big Brother: Jocks on Top

The Clique rampage continues. With the Athletes on top, it is just like high school in the Big Brother House. I’m surprised that wedgies haven’t been part of everyday life as opposed to just being a competition. Jessie and the Athletes however have chosen their nominees for eviction: Chima and Lydia. Toldja. And with the power of veto going to fellow jock on top Russell, don't expect those names to change...

After one episode of the regular network “Big Brother” on CBS and two of Showtime’s three hour “Big Brother: After Dark,” we’re getting a better grip on who’s who in the house. Jessie still seems much the same chucklehead he was in season ten. Kevin continues to be my favorite housemate. Casey, while making a few connections, seems to be doing everything he can to alienate folks with his overloud voice and oversharing...

And Lydia, tsk tsk tsk, poor Lydia has just dropped completely off my fave scale in trying to seduce Jessie into letting her stay in the house. Damn shame, I liked her a lot. I hope she goes. The eviction is coming up. Can’t wait...


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Friday, July 10, 2009

Fairytale - The Official Music Video



Been long enough, but they've finally released the 'official' music video for Norway's winning entry into this year's Eurovision Song Contest - "Fairytale" by Alexander Rybak. Enjoy.


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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Never Going Back to My Old School...

The eleventh season of the American "Big Brother" premiered tonight on CBS. The reality TV series focuses on a number of individuals living together in one house for an extended amount of time, isolated from the outside world, participating in competitions and voting each other out until only one remains to collect a huge cash prize.

I've been a fan since the first season. Notably the American edition is slightly different from the dozens of versions done in countries across the globe. You see, Americans are stupid and have shorter attention spans. That's apparently why the show seems to attract such idiots - or at least that's my theory. Basically, if I like a contestant, either America, or the rest of the idiot housemates, won't - and they'll get voted off. It's such a sure thing, I should bet money.

There are some contestants introduced tonight that I genuinely liked - Ronnie the gamer, Lydia the girl with the ink, and especially Kevin the graphic designer. But they are immediately doomed when this season's surprise premise is announced. We are always told to 'expect the unexpected' when it comes to the seasonly themes, and this season's - well, it instantly put my initial faves in the bullseye.

The theme for "Big Brother 11" is high school, as the housemates are separated by clique - just like high school. The cliques are: the Athletes, the Popular, the Brains, and the Offbeat. For the last two, please feel free to substitute the words geek, dork, nerd, or whatever works for you - the kids that the first two groups would beat on, call names, shove in lockers and give wedgies to. Hell, even the first competition included, guess what, wedgies.

When it was said the theme was high school, guess which group said they would never go back to high school, and guess which group said they loooved high school, and guess which group had looks of utter horror on their faces? And gee, I wonder who's going to win? I know I hated high school and I know I would never want to go back to high school, even for money and national television exposure.

Probably the biggest kick in the teeth is that the winners of the wedgie competition got an extra member to their clique who would become the Head of Household for the week. For beginners, the HoH is the one who chooses who gets voted out each week. That extra member (for the Athletes, because who else would be best at the art of wedgie?) was a cast member from last season - the king of idiots in my opinion, Jessie, whose muscles seem to have overwhelmed his small brain.

Hmmm... I wonder who's going home this week? I should make my cash money bet now. it'll be folks from the Brains or the Offbeat, and probably at least one of my favorites. Just like every other season of "Big Brother," and even more just like high school. I wonder if the next competition will involve being stuffed in a locker or swirlies?


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Juliette Lickless

In most cases when a celebrity actor or actress chooses to move into the music field, it ends in disaster. Witness Russell Crowe and Billy Bob Thornton for recent examples. It's true. For each mildly successful John Tesh and Shaun Cassidy there are more than two dozen William Shatners, Steven Seagals and Don Johnsons. Bad voodoo. Just don't do it.

However, after watching the film Blueberry, known in the States unfortunately as Renegade, a friend turned me on to the singing talents of Juliette Lewis who sings momentarily in the flick. For me, I thought she was a one note (pun unintended) actress, but was impressed with her here. Hearing she had a couple albums out, I checked into them, and I was very surprised.

Juliette is a rocker, hardcore old school rocker, the likes of which we really haven't heard on the music scene since Queens of the Stone Age. Her three albums as Juliette & The Licks are awesome. Juliette's energy is frenetic and reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger, or Candy Slice come to life. Yeah, remember Gilda Radner's Patti Smith-esque punk rocker from the classic "Saturday Night Live?" This is her in the flesh.

So impressed with this energy I hunted down the tunage immediately and now look forward to many hours of rockin' enjoyment with my iPod Shuffle. The problem of course is that nothing lasts forever, especially if it's good. At the start of the new year Juliette announced a new band, the New Romantiques, a new tour, a new (and unsatisfying) sound, an album to drop in September and even a new website.

The good news is that she'll be returning to the States on this tour and be opening for old favorites The Pretenders and new favorite Cat Power. Maybe she'll do some of her old stuff. If so, guaranteed to be quite a show.




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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Price of Satellite Radio

I love my satellite radio. I love it so much that I rarely listen to terrestrial radio any more. Maybe some WXPN and maybe some NJ 101.5 FM, but let’s face it, my favorite terrestrial programs like Coast to Coast AM and some of the NPR stuff are all on satellite now. Not much reason to turn on the old fashioned radio any more.

Just got a notice from XM (yeah, they merged with Sirius, but they’ll always be XM to me) that my subscription rates are going up. The reasons cited are as follows:

”Music royalty rights were established by the U.S. Congress as part of the Copyright Act. This Act requires payment of copyright music royalties to recording artists, musicians and recording companies who hold copyrights in sound recordings.

“These royalties have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings. Beginning on July 29, 2009, a “U.S. Music Royalty Fee” of $1.98/month* for primary subscriptions and $.97/month* for multi-receiver subscriptions will be effective upon your next renewal. This fee will be used directly to offset increased payments from XM to the recording industry.”


Now really, that’s fine. As a writer, I’m not someone who’s ever going to begrudge anyone royalties, that’s just how things work, and furthermore should work. I don’t have a real problem with the price hike, as long as my favorite stuff remains on the XM. What irked me was what I found when I went to the XM website and took a survey.

The survey was about my listening preferences, but seemed to mention little of what I actually listen to on XM. I stopped finding Howard Stern funny some time before he left terrestrial radio, so that’s not for me. I can count on one hand the number of times in three years I’ve listened to any of the nearly hundred sports channels, and Oprah barely amuses me even when she’s on TV. The big guns don’t interest me.

Most of what I listen to is talk radio. I’m addicted to Coast to Coast AM, which while occupying nearly eleven hours of programming per day, was not mentioned by the survey. Opie and Anthony get a brief mention, probably because they bitch on air about Sirius’ prejudice mercilessly. But nowhere did I see other things I listen to faithfully like the old time radio shows on Radio Classics and the wonderful audiobook variety at Book Radio. All there was in the survey was the rather vague description of ‘talk entertainment.’ That covers a lot of ground, and a lot of stuff I really don’t like. How can this survey really tell them anything?

The XM world has been getting smaller and smaller since the Sirius merge - mostly because it was more of a takeover than a merge. The mega-powered Sirius, with the ratings powerhouse (apparently) Stern behind it appeared to change everything on the XM dial as if they and they alone were calling the shots. We lost truly entertaining music stations in favor of the inferior Sirius versions of them.

My point is that for the price increase, how about some verification we’ll keep the programming we enjoy? How about it, XM? Sorry, I mean, how about it, Sirius?


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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Avengers Forever

Are you a fan of Marvel Comics’ Avengers? Then we need you at AVENGERS FOREVER! Avengers Forever is the website dedicated to all things Avengers and Avengers related.

On the website you will find:

Character Profiles - All the info and details you could ever want about every Avenger and Avengers-related character, literally Earth’s Mightiest Database.

Reviews of Current and Older Avengers Titles - The AF Staff reviews the comics as they are released and also looks back on issues of the past. One of the most comprehensive review sites on the ‘net.

Interviews - The AF Staff interviews the creative folks responsible for bringing us the Avengers today and the last four decades.

Fan Fiction - Earth’s Mightiest Fans continue the unofficial adventures of the Avengers in prose, in some of the best fan fiction on the ‘net.

Desktop Wallpaper and other free downloads like Avengers membership cards and computer icons and cursors.

Back Issue Database - Ever wonder what happened in Avengers #106? Find out here!

Articles Database - written by some of the Earth’s Mightiest Fans.

Even a Chatroom - talk live with Avengers fans from all over the world, as well as creators and other special guests.

...and most importantly, the Avengers Forever Forum. Not just a message board, but a unified community of lovers of the comic book artform and especially Marvel Comics’ Avengers. This worldwide community discusses the characters, stories and history of the team in a friendly and civil manner, all true fans and all united in their love for the Avengers. There are even polls, trivia, contests and much much more. What are you waiting for? Join the discussion today!

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!


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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Karl Malden Dies at 97

Actor Karl Malden passed away today of natural causes. He was 97.

Malden was probably best known for his sizable nose as much as starring in "The Streets of San Francisco" with Michael Douglas and being the pitchman for American Express, both in the 1970s.

He also won the Oscar for supporting actor for his role as Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire and was nominated again in 1954 with On the Waterfront. He also appeared in Patton, Nuts, Gypsy, Baby Doll, Pollyanna and one of my faves, the Matt Helm flick Murderers Row.

The man was an acting treasure, and he'll be missed.


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Squeakquel