Archive for March, 2010

My take on Dead Snow

March 30, 2010

My take on Dead Snow

Dead Snow
Type: movie
Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola

Let’s get this out of the way first: Norwegian zombie-Nazi comedy movie.

Now, let’s get into a little more depth.

Picture a Friends crossover into the Evil Dead series.  The characters, a bunch of young medical students going up to a cabin for what appears to be the equivalent of Spring Break, have the sort of young folk snarkiness you might expect from Ross and Rachel (“and the rest”).  At one point, they even play Twister, and we get a scene right out of an early Friends ep.  In what may be a meta-moment, one character even asks why they play the game…um, so you’ll be more like Friends?

The writing is kind of fun, although I was watching it in Norwegian (which I don’t speak) with English subtitles.  One weird thing: fairly often, the characters will say something in English.  Even a whole sentence.  Is that something Norwegian young adults do?  Maybe…it didn’t seem ungenuine, and one presumes that the audience is expected to understand it (although there could have been Norwegian subtitles for that part).

I’m guessing the subtitles were done in England, though, even though they speak English with basically American accents.  Somebody can tell me: do Brits call what Americans call a “snowmobile” a “snow scooter”?  I think that’s a specific brand, but I’m not sure.

So, as you know, I’m careful about spoilers, so I don’t want to say too much about the plot.  The students are staying at a remote cabin, with no cell service.  They comment a lot about pop culture, and they are waiting for one of their group to join them.

Time to jump ahead: they end up fighting zombie Nazis.  This is where it gets gross, but silly at the same time.  It took guts for the moviemakers to get that violent in a comedy movie…no, no, not bravery, literally guts.  Intestines get more screen time than Chekov in a Star Trek movie.  😉 

However, it all (purposefully) seems unreal…like the Muppets meet Peckinpah.  It reminded me of the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It’s nowhere near that classic, but simiarly intended to be fun. 

You could certainly have a nice marathon of Dead Snow, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead.  Of the three, by the way, I like Shaun the best.  One of the interesting things about that one is you actually cared about the characters…that’s something that Dead Snow doesn’t quite manage.   You could certainly add Evil Dead into your screeners, but I was staying with a fairly recent list.  🙂

Bottom line: gory and silly…if you like both, it’s worth watching, even if it won’t be your favorite movie ever.  I saw it streaming from Netflix (via my Roku box), and that was about the right level of commitment.  🙂

This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

“Baby June” Havoc reported dead

March 29, 2010

“Baby June” Havoc reported dead

“Baby June” Havoc is probably best known (ironically) for the fictionalized version of her in the musical Gypsy.  Her sister was the famous ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee, although as children, “Baby June” had been the headliner.

As an adult, June worked extensively, but may be remembered by geeks for being stalked by killer tumbleweeds (yes, killer tumbleweeds) in the original The Outer Limits episode, Cry of Silence.

News Article

This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

A Wicked trip to the mall

March 29, 2010

A Wicked trip to the mall

“The story you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect the ignorant.”

So, my Significant Other and I were shopping at the mall.  Well, my SO was about to go to a store where I wasn’t going to go.  I have allergies, and just can’t hang out near the cosmetics counter.

The mall was celebrating the Broadway show, Wicked.  They had this huge display down in the waiting area.  You could go into a specially-built area, and see original costumes from the show (with big Don’t Touch signs), and watch videos about it.

I was watching the videos, and one of the people working there engaged me in a bit of conversation.  I explained that I was a big Oz fan…I have the original forty novels, for example.

The employee liked the show…although, like me, hadn’t seen it yet.

Here was the kicker.  The person asked me, “Which came first…the Wizard of Oz or Wicked?”

Yow!

I’m pretty sure it was a serious question.  Now, I know young people sometimes like to pretend ignorance, just to mess with your mind a bit.  I don’t think that was it, though…I think this person really didn’t know.

I’m a professional educator (and former actor), so I’m pretty good at keeping a straight face.

I calmly explained that The Wizard of Oz predated Wicked…by about ninety years.  I was talking about the novels, although I checked later, and it’s really ninety-five years.

Still…sigh.  If you don’t have the context of how it is different from the original, how does that affect your enjoyment of the show, I wonder?

It’s sort of like the old joke, when the teenager says, “Oh, was Paul McCartney in a band before Wings?”

That one obviously goes back quite some time…decades, even.

Anyway, just had to share.  🙂

 This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

The week ahead: March 29-April 4 2010

March 28, 2010

The week ahead: March 29-April 4 2010

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline. 

Monday, March 29

On TV, Brandon Routh (Superman) guest stars on a new episode of Chuck (Tivo link); there’s a new episode of 24 (Tivo link)

Tuesday, March 30

On TV, you get a new episode of V (Lexa Doig of Andromeda, The 4400, and Stargate appears) (Tivo link); as the series winds down, we get a new episode of Lost (Tivo link); a new to BBC America episode of Survivors is broadcast…yes, they are on season (series) 2 already (Tivo link)

Tuesday’s books include a new Dark Hunter novel from Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bad Moon Rising; an new edition of  Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan; Escape from H*ll, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; He Walked Among Us  by Norman Spinrad; and The Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks (for the Kindle) by Greg Call and Dan Elish (I don’t know anything about it, but I like the title).  🙂

Wednesday, March 31

On TV, you get a new episode of Human Target (guest-starring Moon Bloodgood of Journeyman and Day Break) (Tivo link); Ghost Hunters has a new ep called Touched By Evil, and Destination Truth goes after the Jersey Devil and the Yeren; you also get a new South Park and a new Ugly Americans.

Thursday, April 1

On TV, FlashForward and The Vampire Diaries have new eps.  Fringe finally returns, and The Mentalist has a new episode. 

Friday, April 2

On TV, General Zod appears in a new episode of Smallville (Tivo link).  Batman teams up with the Big Red Cheese (Captain Marvel) on the Brave and the Bold.  You get a new Ghost Whisperer, a new Medium, a new episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the return of Stargate: Universe.  There’s also Merlin, Spartacus, and Most Haunted!  You’ll have a lot of DVR to watch…because, you know you may be going to the movies instead.

One of the most anticipated movies of the year opens: the remake of Clash of the Titans!  Wait a minute!  Seriously?  The Ray Harryhausen movie with that mechanical owl?  That can’t be right…checking…checking.  Yow!  😉 

If CotT is sold out, you could see Furry Vengeance, with Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields…you could so!

Both Woodlands, Texas and Seattle, Washington have Anime cons this weekend…clearly, it’s some kind of giant-eyed red panda school girl conspiracy.  (Sakura-Con in Seattle, Anime Matsuri in Woodlands).  They start on Friday, run through Sunday.

Saturday, April 3

Sunday, April 4

On TV, the Discovery Channel has two new eps of Life (Birds and Creatures of the Deep).

Adding the Tivo links is new for me: let me know if you think it’s worthwhile.

This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

I predict the American Idol top ten eliminations…in order

March 28, 2010

I predict the American Idol top ten eliminations…in order

First, let me say…I’m not that confident this year.  My record has been picking 9 out of the top 10 eliminations in order, but I doubt I’ll hit that this time. 

Why?

Well, there’s some real mushiness in the middle.  There are a couple that I think will go early, a couple I expect to see at the end, but the middle is kind of…middling.

The way this works is I’m going to map out the rest of the eliminations.

I’m not basing this on who I think should go, but who I think will go.

One of the key factors to me is who will get the votes of an eliminated contestant.  I assume that a large chunk of the voting public votes every week (in the beginning).  I think those tend to be younger people (and may be more female).  As the show gets closer to the end, I think you get people voting who haven’t been voting…and they may be older. 

In the beginning, if one person gets eliminated, I think their votes tend to shift to another contestant…in some cases, their fans may stop voting altogether, but I think that would be the minority of fervent watchers.

Of course, if I’m wrong on somebody, the whole remaining lists gets thrown off, so I may adjust the prediction. 

I’m also going to let you vote this time…we’ll see if the group is better at this than I am.  🙂

Week 3: I think Casey, Katie, Tim, and Didi are especially at risk this coming week.  I’m going to predict that Tim, Casey, and (in what will be a surprise to some) Didi) are in the bottom three.  My guess is that we’ll say good-bye to Tim Urban.  My suggestion for him after the show?  It sounds like his family would make a good reality show.  Ten homeschooled siblings, at least one cute singer in that group, and presumably, classic family values.  It might play well on Ion, for example.  Aaron picks up some of Tim’s fans.

Week 4:  people are again surprised when Lee is in the bottom three.  Casey and Katie join him.  Casey is eliminated. 

Week 5: Casey’s fans go largely to Lee.  Aaron, Andrew, and Didi are in the bottom 3.  Didi goes home: her fans partly blame Siobhan, and partly blame Katie.

Week 6: Katie, Andrew, and shockingly, Big Mike are in the bottom three.  Katie gets eliminated.  Katie shows up on the Disney Channel and in parades, and eventually does a Broadway show.

Week 7: Andrew, Aaron, and Siobhan are in the bottom three.  Andrew’s story finally fails him, and he is sent home. 

Week 8: Aaron, Crystal, Lee, Siobhan, and Big Mike are left.  It’s Aaron, Lee, and Siobhan in the bottom three, and fans are surprised when Siobhan is sent home.  She seems to be essentially okay with it, though.  Aaron and Lee are warned to step up their games by Simon.

Week 9: Crystal is the only one not in the bottom three.  Aaron goes home.

Week 10: Lee, Crystal, and Big Mike give us a good mix for the duets.  They are all commercial, all have different sounding voices (and audiences).  Lee has finally been really connecting with the audience, after a particularly emotional performance that has a deep personal meaning for him (related to something with his family, most likely).  Crystal has been remaining true to herself, but has broadened her range a bit.  Big Mike continues to switch up the genres.

The rest (I’m not sure how they’ll do the last few competitions): I’m torn between people being blown away with Crystal going home at number three, or Lee going home.  Lee and Big Mike would make a very interesting finale, and Lee has more mainstream appeal than Crystal, I think.  I”m going to reluctantly say Crystal goes home.  Then, it is Big Mike and Lee.  Lee is clearly seen as the underdog in this match-up.  Lee has a great performance in the last competition, but it is Big Mike who wins.

Like I said, I’m not that confident.  Lee could win it all, even though I don’t personally like him as much as some of the others.  I think his voice is good, but I don’t see the audience connection.   I probably like Crystal the best, in terms of the singer to whom I would listen, but I don’t think she’s as mainstream (which hurts at the end).  She’ll have a career as a singer, though.  I do like quirky, but I’m not a Siobhan fan.  I think she sees herself as an outsider, and that can alienate people.  I’m also not a fan of the shouting, which is not like Adam Lambert, despite what some people may say.

Okay, here comes the poll (remember, you are predicting who goes home, not saying who you like the best or worst):

Step right in, folks…here we go.  🙂

This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

2009 Diagram Prize for oddest book title announced

March 28, 2010

The Bookseller awards an annual prize for the oddest book title. They’ve just announced the winner for 2009:

You can see the complete list of nominees

here

The winner is Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina. 

Now, I have to say, this isn’t just an odd title, it’s an odd book.  Those don’t always go together.  The author literally uses crochet to explain non-Euclidean geometry and hyperbolic planes.

It defeated titles such as Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter and Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots.

Congratulations!

Do you have a favorite odd title?  Feel free to let me know…

This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

My take on The Crater Lake Monster

March 27, 2010

My take on The Crater Lake Monster

The Crater Lake Monster

Type: movie
Written and directed by William R. Stromberg
Also written by Richard Cardella
Release date: March 1977

Is this a cheap monster movie?  Yup.

Does the acting look like a bunch of friends getting together to make a movie on the weekends?  Yup.

Is there anything to make it stand out?  Yup. 

The monster, when it isn’t a puppet, is done in stop motion by Dave Allen.  Allen worked both with Charles Band and George Lucas’ ILM.

He may be best known for a commercial he did for Volkswagen, in which he lovingly recreated King Kong.

Outside of that, the story is pretty simple.  Some researchers find cave paintings that show human beings with a dinosaur.  A meteor smashes the cave and, incidentally, apparently causes an egg from the same type of dinosaur to hatch in the lake.   The creature eats all the fish in the lake, and by the time six months have gone by or so, starts eating people.

There’s a disbelieving sheriff, a big guy/little guy comedy relief pair, and some bad guy who shoots people.  I’m not quite sure how that last guy fits into the plot. 

Still, if you like low-budget monster movies, and enjoy stop-motion animation (even if the dinosaur seems a bit oddly shaped), it’s worth watching.  If not…um, I’m sure there’s something else on.  😉

 This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.

Flash! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open June 18

March 26, 2010

Flash!  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open June 18

I’ve been seeing a lot of TV commercials for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new theme park opening at Universal Orlando.

Up until today, though, I’ve only seen that it was coming in the Spring.

I’ve just gotten an e-mail from them that led me to a date:

June 18th, 2010

This is a theme park based on, of course, the Harry Potter books.

Official Site

They have a nice website talking about the ride and “lands” and such.

The existence of this park is interesting.  J.K. Rowling, the author, is the most notable hold-out on making her books available in e-book form.  Supposedly, it’s because she wants kids to experience them the way she experienced books when she was a kid.

You know, like going to the Wind in the Willows theme park.   😉

Actually, this is a pretty big issue for me.  For children (and adults) with print disabilities (vision issues, debilitating conditions), e-books are the best way for them to access books.  Harry Potter was a particular challenge for people who have difficulty holding and manipulating heavy objects.  While audiobooks were available, that isn’t the same thing as sight-reading.

Anyway, the park looks fun!

 This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.  

Has Simon been hanging out with his British friends?

March 25, 2010

Has Simon been hanging out with his British friends?

Simon Cowell’s usually pretty good at using words on American Idol that are, well, American.  🙂 

Or at least, they are words that you can understand without having grown up on bangers and mash.  😉

On Tuesday night’s performance show, though, he used three great Britishisms.

Fortunately, I haven’t read all that 19th Century English literature for nothing.  😉

Here, then, are your translations of Simon’s idioms from last night:

“Full stop”

Simon told Andrew Garcia that his highlight performance from weeks ago was just a cute version of a Paula Abdul song…full stop.

A “full stop” is a period, as in the punctuation. 

The implication is that there is no point in discussing it any further…the conversation is over.

American translation: “…just a cute version of a Paula song, period.”

“Interval”

Simon also told Didi Benami that her performance was like a musical, “…the bad part just before the interval.”  Americans would call that break in the show the “intermission”.   I don’t know that the pre-intermission song is typically bad, but it can be a bit cheesy.

American translation: “…the bad part just before the intermission.”

“Chalk and cheese”

Speaking of cheese…Simon told Katie Stevens that the way she was dressed was “…as compared to the past pageant horror outfits is chalk and cheese.”

Obviously, chalk and cheese are two very different things, and this particular expression goes back hundreds of years.  There is a suggestion that the two things might seem similar, but are obviously not.

Americans might say “apples and oranges”. 

American translation: “The way you look tonight as compared to the past pageant horror outfits is like apples and oranges.”

There…now you don’t have to read Oscar Wilde to understand next week’s American Idol…but you’d probably enjoy it.  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Robert Culp reported dead

March 24, 2010

Robert Culp reported dead

You will undoubtedly hear I Spy referenced in the reported death of 79 year old Robert Culp.

 I have no problem with that…it was a great 1960s spy series.  The bigger news at the time was the equality of the casting of Bill Cosby as equal spy, although their cover stories put Culp in the forefront (as a world-class tennis player) and Cosby as his trainer.  Their easy banter and wry attitudes were a big part of the show’s success.

TV watchers 15 years later knew him as Bill Maxwell, the no-nonsense FBI handler of The Greatest American Hero

For some of us, though, we think of him first from his appearances on the original The Outer Limits, especially the classic Demon with a Glass Hand episode (written by Harlan Ellison), and in The Architects of Fear.  In both of these we see the anguish but determination of a character in overwhelming circumstances. 

Culp continued to work throughout his life, including a recurring role as Warren on Everybody Loves Raymond. 

He has a movie yet to be released, The Assignment.

According to reports, he appears to have fallen and died from a head injury on Wednesday.  A passerby had reported the incident.

News Article

We’ll miss you, Robert…the world is a little less cool today.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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