Friday, April 26, 2013

Greatish Performances: Bill Paxton in Weird Science

John Hughes was a master. In the mid 80s he really knew how to tap into the teenage zeitgeist and make it seem exactly like he knew what they were going through. He made some of the greatest comedies of our time, and a fantastic Comedy Drama in The Breakfast Club. 16 Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were two great comedies with heart, but one that gets overlooked is a straight up comedy called Weird Science.
The cast was filled with great young actors like Anthony Michael Hall who was in Hughes previous two films 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club, as well as co starring in National Lampoon's Vacation which Hughes wrote but did not direct. Kelly leBrock was an attractive, sexy model who was perfect in the role of Lisa. You also have some young kid by the name of Robert Downey Jr. who showed up as well as one of the "bad guys".  But the actor who stole the show was Bill Paxton who has become quite the character actor as well, by his role as Chet, the brother of Wyatt played by Ilan Mitchell-Smith.

A quick synopsis of the film, two nerds during a wild weekend create a woman with their computer who they hope will do whatever they tell her to do, but the tables are turned as she tries to help them become accepted in who they are. I told you it was a crazy film. Bill Paxton as Chet is the abusive older brother of Wyatt who extorts money from his brother, gives him wedgies, beats him up, almost as an extreme older brother. And Paxton plays the biggest jerk in the world.

Paxton's Chet has a close shave military esqe haircut, acts like he is in the military, likes guns and hunting, and is a creepy abusive bully. When he catches Wyatt doing things he is not supposed to Chet extorts money from him so as not to tell their parents what he did. This partricular weekend their parents are going away for a weekend and leave Chet in charge. He decides to spend all day on Saturday hunting leaving Wyatt and Gary(Hall's character) to have their big party, and their time with Lisa. So Chet may not be in the film all that much, but when he is, you are drawn to him and you laugh at how big of a dick he is. From hurling insults at his brother, to walking around in a towel, to freaking out when he sees what his brother did to their house, then his sleaziness really comes through when he is hitting on Lisa, In the end though he gets his comeuppence in a huge way, and in a way that is perfect for Chet.

Paxton is able to create such a sleezeball, that no matter how over the top he gets, you think to yourself, yeah I can see someone being just like him. Paxton appears to be having a blast playing this role, because he can go way overboard and everything he does makes us laugh and hate him, but you kind of can't hate him because he is just so crazy insane. And he makes everyone laugh.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


On April 18th, 1938 The very first issue of Action Comics came out. In it was a strange person in a red and blue uniform with a cape crashing a car. This strange beings name was Superman and no one had ever seen anything like it before. Created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel Superman began a new wave of superheroes and a new art form called comic books. Soon other characters started to appear like the mysterious Batman and the lovely Wonder Woman. Now 75 years later they are all still around and still very popular.

I know it says June on the cover but for some reasons comics to this day have a two month window but this comic did first come out on April 18th 1938.  To me Superman has never really been one of my favorite characters. It's not that I am against his Truth, Justice, and the American Way, I just never really found him interesting. Until 1986. Around that time I was starting to get into DC Comics. After years of being a Marvel Zombie, 1986 was when DC revamped their universe and I got my first real tastes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comics. I also started reading the Flash, and Justice League. And that in turn made me branch out into more DC books. In 1986 John Byrne was one of my most favorite writer Artists, and he was taking over Superman and revamping him and updating him to the future (1986). And it was amazing. After the initial Man of Steel mini-series. I started collecting Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics. Devoured them and loved them. Read them for a few years, then new creative teams came on and I was beginning to feel as if maybe I should stop, but their stories were just as good. Soon a fourth book Superman Man of Steel appeared and all four Superman comics, with different creative teams, soon started becoming one. After you read Superman you had to read Adventures of Superman because the story continued there, then you had to go to Man of Steel, then Action then back to Superman. It sounds annoying, but to have have four different creative teams so in-synch that you had to collect all 4 of them, more power to them. They were telling good stories and I was fine with buying them all. But soon I got to college and my money started drying up a little bit and I had to make cuts, so I soon stopped reading comics. I kept an eye on them, but I missed a lot of stories. Then when I got back into comics I started reading them again. But soon I started to drift away from Superman as I had to scale back, and for some reason I was not as excited about it as before.

I've always liked Superman in the movies. 2 really good movies in Superman and Superman 2, 1 ok film in Superman Returns, and 2 crappy films in Superman 3 and Superman 4. The cartoon was excellent. Done by the same creators as the successful Batman animated Series, they brought a great series in the Superman animated series. I also enjoyed Lois and Clark when it was on TV with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, though it was more romantic comedy then comic book show. Never got into Smallville though heard some good things about that. Something else I like is that Superman is one of the only heroes out there that has an iconic movie theme, created by the great John Williams.

The new 52 Superman though is really not doing it for me. I read the first issues and did not like where they were going. Making him more alien then human, and also kind of more like a douchebag. Dating Wonder Woman, his parents are dead. This is not my Superman, the one I read for so long. So I no longer have any interest in reading Superman. However being the comic guy I am, I did not want his 75th birthday to go by without my acknowledging it. He was really good to read for a long time. And the new Man of Steel movie may have some promise. For now I will wait and see. There is a new Superman title coming out in advance of the film called Superman Unchained and it has a great creative team in Scott Snyder who is tearing it up in Batman, and classic comic artist Jim Lee. So I may pick that one up just to see what Snyder will do with him. I also have a ton of Superman Action figures, but for some reason he really is not one of more favorite characters. But Superman is still an icon and I do have some good memories of reading some Superman stories, but there is just something about him...Oh well doesn't matter. Happy Birthday Superman! You started this all, and for that I salute you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defiance: Sci-Fi Comfort Food

For about a year now the Syfy network has been pushing their new original Science Fiction show Defiance. It's a first for the network as they are also connected to a computer game as well. So you have both the Show and the game. So for almost a year we have been seeing ads for it, sneak peeks, going to conventions to push the show so that everyone is aware that the show is coming out. And it finally has this past Monday the 15th of April. And it was OK. Nothing stellar. To me it underperformed, but I know a lot of my fellow Snarkalecs disagree with me. They loved the show. Now for me it was just the first 2 hours and it underwhelmed me. But again that's just me.

What my issue is, is that they were pushing this show as being a game changer. And to me it was an amalgam of other sci-fi cliches and story ideas, I did not find it all that original. The characters are all ones you've seen before, the lovable rogue, the hooker with a heart of gold, the outsider, the Romeo and Juliet couple, the fresh faced mayor following a beloved mayor, a, at first glance, a kind person who turns out to be the main bad guy of the show, the rivals, the love triangle, a town filled with different species living together under one town happily,The outnumbered and outgunned people taking on an unstoppable army have been done before. The story was a set up for the series which is fine since it is a pilot, but to me it did not seem all that interesting. Calling me cynical but that is what the first 2 hours were. What I like to call Sci-Fi Comfort Food.

Did I like anything about it? Sure, the effects were good, the sets were good, the aliens were interesting looking and a lot appear to be aliens made up with make-up and not CGI. Plus it is just the first episode, I will keep watching, but even the previews for upcoming episodes seem to be following other storylines as well that we have seen before.

The acting was ok, though some of it was really wooden. The main hero Nolan played by Grant Bowler seemed very wooden as was Julie Benz as Amanda the new mayor. So that sort of took me out of the show. But we did have some good acting especially from the veterans such as Graham Greene as Rafe, and Fionnula Flannagan as former Mayor Nicky. Again not all actors can be great, but add that to the list of all the issues I have had with the show.

Again I will give it a few more episodes to try to get into it's groove but for me I was disappointed. I was expecting a new kind of sci-fi show that would bring about some new ideas that if mixed in with some of the stories that were in the show, I could overlook the cliches because I was seeing something new. I also know that there are only so many story ideas out there but the good writers can breath fresh air into a stale story idea and here is hoping that maybe Defiance can do it down the line. But for now it did what it was supposed to do, it got people to watch, it showed them stuff that they were familliar with and maybe they are hoping that the familiarity will keep the viewers around because this is a big deal for SYFY so they want to succeed. And they did, in creating Sci-Fi Comfort Food.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Feel a Case of Road Rage Coming

One of the very first Blogs I ever wrote was about my pet peeves about traffic. Nothing has really changed since then. It still pisses me off and I need to bitch again.

My job moved to a new warehouse almost a year and a half ago. The commute has gotten a lot worse since then. It is actually shorter then where we used to work, but it was easier to get to and quicker. This new commute puts me smack dab on 695 with every other car in the world heading to either downtown Batltimore, or Washington DC. So on a commute that during weekends takes about 30 minutes, the sheer amount of traffic on the highways has pushed my average drive time to about 44 minutes. OK, 14 minutes more is not too bad. However that is the average. Yes I did an experiment. For a year I kept track of how long it took me to get to work, every day I was at work. I did not count days I was sick, or vacation days, or holidays we were closed. I did include the few Saturday days I had to work. Then I averaged what it was for the whole month. Then at the end of the year I took the average of all those times per month to get my 44 minutes. During the summer my commute is not bad, mostly due to schools being closed or people on vacation, but then I would get the really bad days. Like the hour long commutes, or the 90 minute commutes. To put that into perspective. I could drive to visit my sister in Woodbridge, Virginia, in 90 minutes. I could drive to Virginia which is far away in the time it sometimes takes me to go 25 miles to work. Why? Accidents. Weather. Just lots of cars leaving at the same time. Your choice. And now for the past 4 months, at least one day a month I have a 90 minute commute. The majority of time it is in the 40-50 minute range. It should not be this long. But it is. People are to busy talking on their cell phones, or they do not know what Yield is, or they do not feel getting into the turn lane,or get out of the lane that we will be losing soon and expect everyone to let you over because you are superior. NO you are just trying to get ahead of everyone who is paying attention to driving, and if you get a little to ornery accidents occur. But mostly it is people not paying attention. In some cases yeah it could be weather, icy roads, fog, heavy rain or snow. But drive safer in those type of conditions. I can all ready predict tomorrow's commute will be at least an hour since it will be raining in the morning. But that is not all that I want to bitch about.

SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES. I would love to, and to be fair there are some really good motorcyclists out there. But the pure assholes on motorcycles outweigh the good ones. They have no respect for other drivers, so why should I share the road with them. Just because your vehicle is smaller then mine, does not allow you the right to break the laws of the road. Let's see, they speed, moreso then some of the asshats who go 20 + over the speed limit. Some of these motorcyclists go in the 80s-90s. They weave in between cars, hey asshole what if you misjudge and hit my car with my kids in it, you damage my car, we have an accident and you may die. Today, we were all stuck in traffic all the same. What did one motorcycle guy do? Drive 80 MPH on the shoulder, which is illegal. They sometimes drive on the lines between cars, they do tricks while driving. Really guys? You want me to share the road with people who break the law so obviously? No I don't think so. This is not an indictment about the many motorcyclists who obey the laws of the road, I have no problem sharing the road with them. But these little shits who think they are better than every once else, that they are above the law. Buddy, you are dangerous and I really don't want to be on the same road as you.

Enough bitching. Just wanted to get it off my chest. Back to work. Please pay attention to the road, to the laws of the road, drive carefully, because you are all causing me insane cases of Road Rage and one day You better watch out. I may not be so friendly.