Thursday, May 21, 2009

"It's Funny because he's fat!" A Review of "The Hangover"

Picture this; you've gone to Las Vegas with a small group of friends for your buddy's bachelor party. When you wake up the next morning to find your hotel suite thrashed, a chicken on the bar, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, your soon-to-be-wed friend missing, and you have absolutely no memory of what happened. This is the premise of the new film, “The Hangover”.

Doug (Justin Bartha: “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”) is getting married in two days, so he is off to Vegas for one last night of freedom with his friends, Stu (Ed Helms: “The Daily Show”, “The Office”) and Phil (Bradley Cooper: “Yes Man”), and his fiance's pudgy maladjusted brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis: “Tru Calling”). Things start off well enough with a Jagermeister toast, but when they all wake in the morning Doug's friends find Doug missing, and themselves faced with trying to piece together their lost night, find their missing buddy, and getting him to his wedding on time.

I went into this film expecting either a bromedy , or perhaps a really dark comedy like “Very Bad Things”, but it is neither of those. If I were to compare this movie to something else, it would have to be a cross between “Vegas Vacation” and “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”. The guys are led from one location to the next as they trace their steps, running into a number of interesting characters, including a sadistic cop (Rob Riggle), an escort (Heather Graham), a pissed off boxer (Mike Tyson, as himself), a wedding chapel proprietor (Bryan Callen), and a flamboyant Chinese mobster (Ken Jeong).

Physical and visual humour are combined to great effect. The cast has great chemistry with each other, and the film frequently walks a fine line between barely believable and the utterly absurd. It never quite broke my suspension of disbelief regardless of the unbelievability of any particular situation, and this is a diret result of everyone involved with the film really making everything work.

This film is very coarse and very funny, frequently going out of its way to try and shock you with its humour, making it very much an adult oriented film. Foul language, sexual content, drugs, drinking, violence, unpleasant nudity, and Mike Tyson singing make this a movie that you do not want to take the kids to; in fact you may not want to take your wife/girlfriend either, as this is a movie that is definitely aimed at guys.

If you enjoy guy-oriented comedies like “I Love You, Man”, and you enjoy gross-out humour, then I cannot recommend this film enough. If you are of the more sensitive sort that doesn't find a baby being hit with a car door to be particularly funny, then you might want to go check out “The Proposal” instead. “The Hangover” demonstrates why what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas in theaters nationwide starting June 5th.

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who Are The People In My Twitterhood? @PixelVixen707

I've been on Twitter for about six months now, and unlike a lot of people who drop off after their first month, I have no plans to stop tweeting anytime soon. I've met a lot of interesting people on Twitter; writers, artists, podcasters, bloggers, and just everyday working stiffs like myself, and I thought “Wouldn't it be neat to try and introduce some of these people to the people who read my work?” So here you have it, the first in what may be a whole series of posts about the people I follow.

I honestly don't know if @Pixelvixen707 followed me first, or if I followed her, but I do know that I followed her because she seemed both interesting and all about games; I am a gamer, and since interesting people are what I am interested in following (@JackBox aside), I followed her.

Pixelvixen707 gives her real name as Rachael Webster (I take the idea of “real names” on the interwebs with a grain of salt), and runs her own blog which is equal parts surprisingly refreshing video game analysis and personal blog. She has also just started writing for Suicide Girls (WARNING: Suicide Girls is very much not safe for work) alongside other geeky idols of mine like Mur Lafferty and Wil Wheaton, where her first article discusses Violette Szabo, the woman who was the inspiration for the heroine of (the apparently lackluster) Velvet Assassin.

Now when I say that her views are refreshing, I am not being patronizing, nor am I saying it because she's a female (there are actually plenty of female video game bloggers out there), but because her articles are so totally different than what I see on the other sites I read, like Joystiq or Kotaku. I'm not slagging off Kotaku or Joystiq mind you, it's just that a lot of their posts seem very rushed and are often almost like reprints of press releases. It's as if they are trying to meet a quota of how many articles should be posted a day (which they very likely are). PixelVixen707's stuff never seems like that, it seems more like a normal gamer with good writing skills talking about her hobby.

Maybe it's all of the personal stuff that helps set her apart. I know more about her than I do about any of the writers at Joystiq. I know her boyfriend is named Zach, and that he is an art therapist at a psychiatric hospital. I know she works for the New York Journal-Ledger when she's not blogging and tweeting (I'm sure she never tweets at work, I certainly don't *wink wink*). I know something about the relationship with her dad. I know that to celebrate her new column at Suicide Girls, she got a cake with nipples on it.

On the other hand, I know next to nothing about the home life of, say, Justin McElroy, other than that he is infatuated with Blueberry Muffin Tops (which he has gotten me hooked on too, dammit). Maybe if you blogged about your family, I would feel more of a connection to you too, McElroy.

PixelVixen707 seems like a rising star in the Twitterati (or Geekarati, or Technorati, or whatever cheesy term you want to use), so if you are on Twitter, and you're not already following her, I suggest you check her out. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more from her in months to come.

So there you have it, your first look at who I follow on Twitter, and why. What do you think? Should I continue this, or stick to writing movie reviews, posting stupid pictures, and writing Mallville? Let me know, and whether you liked or hated this article, check out PixelVixen707's blog, and tell her that VOID sent you (but don't make me sound all stalkery, okay?).

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Fire everything!" A Review of "Star Trek"

Okay, lets face it, Hollywood is pretty much creatively bankrupt. This is why we see so many remakes and reboots of old movie or television series. Remakes/Reboots are generally not all that great; some end up just being horrible parodies (“Starsky and Hutch”, “The Brady Bunch”), some just totally do not get what the original was about (“Lost in Space”), and even the ones that really try to be faithful often come up lacking (“Friday the 13th”).

I grew up watching “Star Trek”, so the idea of doing “Star Trek: The College Years” worried me, and the early trailers did little to make me confident. Still, I looked forward to seeing it, because even if it sucks it could be fun to pick apart. Well, lets just say that my fears were totally unfounded.

The film opens with the birth of James Tiberius Kirk, and follows both him and Spock briefly through their respective childhoods up to academy age. When Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood: “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”) finds a young Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) picking a fight with a group of Starfleet cadets, he suggests to him that he if he was half the man his father was, he could make officer in Starfleet in four years. After some soul searching, Kirk decides that he's going to do it in three.

As the film progresses we meet Spock (Zachary Quinto: “Heroes”), the extremely flirty Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the gruff cynical McCoy (Karl Urban), the willing, if slightly inept Sulu (John Cho: “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”), the extremely young Chekov (Anton Yelchin: “Charlie Bartlett”), and of course the engineering genius, Scotty (Simon Pegg: “Shaun of the Dead”). While the physical resemblances to the original actors are hit and miss, the mannerisms and characterizations or mostly spot on from Spock's dry even way of speaking, to McCoy's occasionally over dramatic moments. Even with new faces, it was a treat to see the old characters of my childhood on the big screen again.

One thing most of these types of movies try to do is shoehorn in every character cliché, and this movie is no exception. Sulu fences, Kirk has his thing for green women, Spock mind melds and neck pinches, Chekov cannot say his “v”s, McCoy is “A doctor, not a...”, and Scotty is “Givin' her all she's got”. In fact the only “Star Trek: TOS” clichés I missed were Kirk getting his shirt ripped, and McCoy saying “He's dead, Jim”. Unlike most remakes, it all works in this film; nothing ever feels too forced or too much like high budget fan fiction, and all of it was well received by the audience.

Some could criticize this film for having too many gags, from Scotty and the ship's water system, to McCoy chasing Kirk around in one scene and repeatedly injecting him in the neck with things that are causing comical problems, there is quite a bit of humour in the film. For those people, I would like to remind them of Kirk up to his shoulders in Tribbles; there are plenty of that kind of humour in the original series.

The only criticisms I have about this film are small ones, for the movie is not perfect, but it's pretty close. There is a romantic relationship between two characters (I'm not going to spoil it), that neither myself nor my wife (who is the far greater Trekkie of the two of us) can think of anything in canon for. Since when do Romulans have face tattoos? Why are there no ground based defenses in the future? If a ship parked in Earth's orbit today and started drilling a hole in San Francisco Bay we would at least lob a few missiles at it. That's pretty much it for criticisms though, as pretty much everything else in this movie works as close to perfect as you could possibly hope for.

There is really no reason to not go see this movie if you consider yourself any sort of geek, nerd, Trekkie, or just a fan of action sci-fi. The cast is great, the script is fantastic, and this is easily the best thing that J.J. Abrams has ever had his name attached to. This movie is two hours of 99% pure awesome, so turn off your computer and go see it now!

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Unboxing the Keurig Ultimate Coffee Brewing System

Back during the holidays I was first introduced to the Keurig Ultimate Coffee Brewing System (the term "Ultimate" is not hubris, it's the name of this particular model) at Costco. It truly awed me, and not just because the sample consisted of a full cup of coffee. You see, I've been a critic of pod-based single cup coffee makers ever since I first saw the Senseo; it's not because of the environmental impact, although that is an issue, it's the price.

I objected to having to only buy that particular manufacturer's coffee pods, not just because it limits my choice, but because I found the per cup price to be outrageous. The Costco version of the Keurig Ultimate takes care of that by including the "My K Cup", a little pod that allows me to put my own fresh ground coffee into it.

Still, the $120 price tag kept me hemming and hawwing about it until this past weekend, when we finally took the plunge and bought one.

Keurig 01 boxed

Here's the Keurig Ultimate fresh home from Costco. Coffee is only a few minutes away (It would have been less time had I not been taking pictures like a dork).

Keurig 02 bonus box contents

The bonus box contained four boxes of coffee plus the "My K Cup". As a note, the Sam's Club version comes with a water filter instead of the My K Cup, but that can be purchased at Target for $15 if you want to get one separately.

Keurig 03 welcome

Opening the lid reveals this happy couple, who have taken a break from appearing in Valtrex ads to let me know that brewing magic awaits me.

Keurig 04 inside the box

Even Craphead the cat is taking an interest now.

Open the other three flaps reveals the instructions and the sample box that normally comes with the Keurig Ultimate.

Keurig 05 fancy instructions folder

Osaka shows off the lovely folder full of instruction pamphlets.

keurig 06 lots of instructions

And my there are a lot of them.

Keurig 08 Craphead reads the instructions

Craphead tries to read the instructions. Too bad he can't read.

Keurig 07 inside the sample box

The sample box is a treasure trove of beverages; there's coffees, teas, and even some hot chocolates. No good quantities of anything (unlike the bonus box), but you can certainly try and find what you like.

Keurig 10 out of the foam

Wrapped in this thin shroud of plastic, brewing magic awaits.

Keurig 11 free of packaging

It is free of its bonds, and the chorus sounds as we behold its shiny glory. Bask in the glory of the Keurig, bask I say!

Keurig 12 new home

To reward the old coffee maker for its almost decade of acceptable service, I took it out back and shot it. Only now may the Keurig Ultimate Coffee Brewing System takes its rightful place in our kitchen.

Keurig 13 first coffee

After taking a few minutes to prime the system, we are ready to brew. I grabbed a cup of French Roast from the bonus box, and the trusty Taz mug I've been using since high school and get to brewing.


Keurig 14 first cocoa

Osaka decided she would rather try one of the hot cocoas. This also turned out quite well.

I have since tried the My K Cup with my normal Morningstar Blend coffee, and that came out at least as well as the old coffee maker ever managed, and with less coffee used, and no leftovers than end up going down the drain.

The coffee maker is dead, long live the Keurig Ultimate Coffee Brewing System!