Movie Round-Up: January 15th, 2010

Now commencing, the week of “The” …

The Spy Next Door:

Our first “The” film is this little throwaway kid friendly family film starring Jackie Chan as a secret super spy who also babysits.  Or something like that.  Take the kids, sure, but don’t expect to be anything other than predictable.  Not worth my money, and I had the opportunity, three times, to see this for free and never did.

The Lovely Bones:

Our second “The” film is an adaptation of a very successful book.  I’ve actually wanted to read the book, however, I put that idea aside once I heard there was to be a film.  Films always have to excise content from the book, sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.  If the film is good, I’ll read the book in a couple of years.  Anyway, if you don’t know, its about a girl who is raped and murdered looking in on the world after her death.  She follows her family and the man who killed her and she watches her family fall apart and the murderer prepare to go after another girl.  I’m not sure I’ll make it to the theater for this one, mostly because dramas don’t really benefit from the big screen (and often are hurt by people who won’t shut the hell up), but if I head to the cinema, this will be on my list.

The Book of Eli:

Our last “The” film is this post-apocalyptic tale.  I was lucky enough to get into a screening of this last night, and let me tell you, in my opinion, this is one damn fine film.  The Hughes Brothers have taken Gary Whitta’s script and painted it beautifully on the screen with excellent use of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  I know some people in the theater were bored, because their shuffling and chatting occasionally distracted me, but I was enraptured.  Even having already seen it, I may pay to see it again.  Well done, gentlemen.  Well done.

And here ends the week of “The”.

Ptolemy’s Gate

Every once in a while, something you intend to do gets away from you.  Back in 2006, I picked up and read The Amulet of Samarkand and I really enjoyed it.  Like a grim and gritty version of other books about magic with a kid for a main character, it just felt more… real… than things like the Harry Potter books.  Later that year I did read the second book in the series, The Golem’s Eye, and I enjoyed it as well.  I even picked up the third book, but somehow, for some reason, I never got around to reading it.

Well, I finally did.  Ptolemy’s Gate is the final third of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.  In this tale we find ourselves back with Nathaniel, a few years older and stronger, but perhaps not wiser.  He’s kept poor Bartimaeus enslaved and trapped on Earth so that his essence has become quite weak.  Meanwhile, Kitty has gone into hiding and taken up learning magic because she desperately wants to talk to Bartimaeus and the only way she can think to do so is to learn to summon him herself.  War rages in the Americas and the commoners of England are beginning to get out of control.  The magicians are losing their grip…

And I won’t go any further, because it would spoil everything.  This book makes for a perfect end to the trilogy, wrapping everything up quite satisfactorily… for me as the reader, some of the characters don’t make out so well in the end.  The three books together make up 1500 pages of excellent storytelling.  I look forward to new works from Mr. Stroud in the future.

An MMO You Could Take To The Bank

This all begins over on Raph Koster’s blog, with his post about the RPG Piggy Bank.  Then David McDonough ran with it.  Now here are my thoughts which began over on Nerfbat

I think someone really needs to do this.  It could be a revolution on two levels.  First, it could actually interest more people into saving money.  Second, it would finally put a game with a huge real world impact out there and “people” couldn’t just say that games are for kids or are just for entertainment anymore.

I would start with two different games.  The first would be kid focused.  Build an MMO with puzzles and educational things, while also including an adventurous “hack and slash” type game.  Some times you would go out and fight monsters and save the world, and some times you’d stay in and play mini-games for various reasons.  And not just the Tetris-style mini-games from Puzzle Pirates, but steal games from Brain Age, games that might actually help with learning while also still being (for the most part) fun.  The money invested into the game, either by monthly fee or by a microtransactions model (one where you buy items, game cash or points for real dollars), goes into a trust fund style account for the child.  The trust would be set up so that nothing can be spent until the kid gets out of High School, and that drafts from the trust after that would have to be approved, mostly to ensure the money is going to a college or other educational program, and perhaps have a monthly stipend paid out to a checking account for the kid (college expenses and what not).  When the kid turns 25, the remainder of the trust is turned over to the kid.  (And of course, if something happened to the child, the trust would be released to the family.)

The second game would be aimed at adults.  And I don’t mean that in a “blood and boobs” sort of way, but just that the game would need to appeal to more than just kids.  Only this time, instead of money invested going into a trust fund for college, the money goes into a retirement 401k or some other similar plan, the kind that begins payouts at 65.  Think of it as Social Security by way of an MMO.

If you really wanted to get crazy, you could allow people to set up any kind of saving fund they wanted and pay into it through game play.  Say you want to buy a new car and you need a minimum of a $3,000 down payment.  Set up a savings goal with the bank of $3,000, then direct your gaming account to desposit all funds into that savings goal.  Then a few months (or whatever) later while you are playing… “DING! Car Down Payment Achieved!”  What?  Oh!  Sweet!!  You could even set up multiple goals and split your payments into different funds, you want 30% to go into the new car fun, 30% to go into the vacation fund, 20% to go into the big screen TV fund, 10% to go into the house down payment fund and 10% into the retirement fund.

Of course, you’d need some way to fund the game… which could be done by advertisement partnerships and things like that, or even just shaving a tiny percentage off money deposited through the game as a service charge.  But seriously, I think this idea has merit.  I wonder what it would take to pull something like this off… hmm… where did I put those example business proposals? …


12 out of 13 nots
for Comedic Teenage Pregnancy, Cool Parents and Silly Songs.

Juno is about a sixteen year old girl who gets pregnant and what she does after that, and I wrote out this very long and in depth review for Juno, and then my Internet connection went down while I was trying to submit it, and for the first time in forever I didn’t select and copy my text before submitting. Well, you’ll get a truncated version after the break. The super short version is that you should go see this movie. Its fun and funny.

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The Fall Season Preview Review

Over at Laurel’s TV Picks, she’s gotten up her annual Fall Season Grid.

I’ve spent the last week taking a look at the various clips and plot summaries of all the new shows and returning shows… what follows is my opinion of the new fall season as it currently stands. Keep in mind, some schedule juggling and even show re-tooling happens, so take what I say with a grain of salt.


The returning shows worth watching are How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8pm), Two And A Half Men (CBS, 9pm), Rules of Engagement (CBS, 9:30pm), Prison Break (FOX, 8pm), and Heroes (NBC, 9pm). Gone are The Class, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and a couple shows that get canned early on. Of the 5 new shows on Monday, it goes like this: Sam I Am (ABC, 9:30pm) is about a girl with amnesia who wants to be a better person that she used to be, so basically My Name is Earl about a woman with head trauma, might be funny so I’ll give it a look see. The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:30pm), two nerds live next door to a hot chick, since I’m already watching the other 3 shows in CBS’s comedy block, I’ll give this a chance. Journeyman (NBC, 10pm) is about a journalist who travels in time… yeah, I thought it sounded stupid too until I watched the preview for it, now I figure its weird enough for me to like and to get canceled, I give it 6 episodes, max. K-Ville (FOX, 9pm) is about police in New Orleans working in a city still recovering from Katrina, pass. Aliens in America (CW, 8:30pm), something about a Pakistani Muslim exchange student, and like everything else on UPN.. I mean the CW’s Monday night comedies, I won’t be watching it.

Five shows from last season, three new ones… total of five and a half hours of TV.


Returning shows worth watching on Tuesday… The Unit (CBS, 9pm). Shows not returning: Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, Standoff and the Knights of Prosperity. Much hate for the networks for what they did to my Tuesdays. New show breakdown: Cavemen (ABC, 8pm), the Geico commercials are not funny and I predict this show will be no better, pass. Carpoolers (ABC, 8:30pm) is about businessmen who carpool together and I presume will tell stories about their lives… what better show to pair up with the suckfest Cavemen will be than another show that sounds like a suckfest, pass. Cane (CBS, 10pm) is the story about a Cuban American sugar and rum producing family, a plot which sounds like it would be a great daytime soap, but as a weekly nighttime drama, I’ll pass. Chuck (NBC, 9pm), about a guy who gets a government server downloaded to his head so suddenly they need to use him as an agent… reality check, they’d actually throw him in Gitmo and torture him until they got their info back, I predict this show will last just as long as most other robot/computerized human shows, less than a season, not worth my time. New Amsterdam (FOX, 8pm) is the name for Old New York, and this show is about a guy old enough to have lived there, he’s immortal, he’s a homicide detective, and only true love will make him mortal again, but it looks interesting enough to garner a viewing or two. Reaper (CW, 9pm) stars the kid from The Loop (another unfairly canceled show, but not from Tuesday) as a kid who winds up being the devil’s bounty hunter, now some of you may be old enough to remember Brimstone, this doesn’t look at good, but might be funny, so I’ll watch it.

One returning show and two new shows… three hours.


Returning shows worth watching: ‘Til Death (FOX, 8:30pm) and Bones (FOX, 9pm). New shows: Pushing Daisies (ABC, 8pm) about a guy who can bring people back to life, some more permanent than others, I don’t really understand, I might watch it, I might not. Private Practice (ABC, 9pm), where Dr. Addison Montgomery from Grey’s Anatomy runs off to California, to be honest, a spin off hasn’t looked this good in ages, definitely a keeper. Dirty Sexy Money (ABC, 10pm) could be interesting and has a great cast, I might watch it, but I suspect the name, if kept, will be its downfall. Kid Nation (CBS, 8pm) has a bunch of kids living in a pioneer ghost town making their own rules… interesting sociology experiment, awful TV show idea, pass. Bionic Woman (NBC, 9pm), I am hoping this is great, but I’m worried it won’t be, I’ll be watching to see. Life (NBC, 10pm), a wrongly convicted cop is freed and returns to the job… totally unrealistic, in the real world he would sue for millions, win, and retire deservedly, but the show might still be okay. Back To You (FOX, 8pm), Kelsey Grammer returns to TV in front of the camera and it looks to be pretty funny, it will round out my two hours on FOX nicely. Gossip Girl (CW, 9pm)… my hatred for this show known no bounds, seriously, I hope it gets worse ratings than Veronica Mars ever did and they cancel it in under six episodes.

The round up… two returning shows, three definite new shows with two or three maybes… four to six hours.


Shows from last season worth watching: Ugly Betty (ABC, 8pm), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 9pm), My Name is Earl (NBC, 8pm), 30 Rock (NBC, 8:30pm), Scrubs (NBC, 9:30pm), Smallville (CW, 8pm), Supernatural (CW, 9pm). Gone are The O.C., Six Degrees and Happy Hour (the show so good they canceled it twice). New shows: Big shots (ABC, 10pm) just doesn’t look good. Kitchen Nightmares (FOX, 9pm), I didn’t watch Hell’s Kitchen, I won’t watch this.

Seven old shows and no new ones keeps me at five and a half hours for the night.


Returning shows: Men In Trees (ABC, 8pm), Ghost Whisperer (CBS, 8pm), Numb3rs (CBS, 10pm), Las Vegas (NBC, 9pm). Gone to the big schedule in the sky are… well… nothing I watched. New Shows: Women’s Murder Club (ABC, 9pm) is based on a series of books by James Patterson, I enjoyed the first book, the wife enjoyed them all, but what I’ve seen of the show so far was… unimpressive. Moonlight (CBS, 9pm), I really liked Forever Knight, but I’m not sure about this new telling of the (now tired) vampire trying to do good tale, may give it a shot though. The Singing Bee (NBC, 8pm), pass. Search for the Next Great American Band (FOX, 8pm), I’ll give it a chance since I always thought American Idol with groups instead of solo artists would be cool. Nashville (FOX, 9pm), pseudo-reality TV like Laguna Beach annoys me, pass.

So I keep four hours from last season and gain maybe three more… six or seven hours.


Saturdays are a dead zone of repeats and encores, where they don’t even try to schedule new shows any more since people don’t watch… or maybe they would if anything worth watching, aimed at the people who don’t go out… I’m thinking Sci-Fi and Horror shows would do well here, but the networks obviously don’t want to change a good (bad) thing and aim to continue their rerun filled Saturdays.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Returning shows worth my time: Brothers & Sisters (ABC, 10pm), Shark (CBS, 10pm) and the Family Guy (FOX, 8pm). Nothing lost here for me… as for new shows: Viva Laughlin (CBS, 8pm) at first glance sounds uninspired, a guy going to run a casino loses his funding and has to turn to his enemy for help, especially once you know its a remake of a UK show, but with Hugh Jackman involved and the mention of the integral part music will play… my interest is piqued and I may give this a chance. Life is Wild (CW, 8pm), about a family that moves to Africa, can jump in a lake, pass. The CW’s other Sunday offerings, CW Now and Online Nation are going to get a pass from me as well.

Three shows kept, maybe one gained… two and a half or three and a half hours for the night.

Not On The Schedule:

You might have noticed that there are many shows I didn’t mention, like Lost, Medium, One Tree Hill, October Road, and Notes From the Underbelly, all shows that were not canceled, and yet they don’t appear on the schedule… it seems that the networks are hedging their bets, holding shows in reserve until they cancel some early failures or waiting until the schedule shakes out a bit to find a place for their shows to get good ratings. There are also new shows picked up but not on the schedule. I’m not going to touch any of the reality shows, most reality shows are crap and you people should stop watching them so they’ll stop making them, but there are no less than SIX new reality shows and game shows waiting in the wings, and each of them sounds worse than the canceled Thank God You’re Here. On the comedy side there are four: The IT Crowd (NBC) is a spin off of the Office, or so it seems, and like the Office it is an import from the UK. Miss Guided (ABC) looks funny, and its got Judy Greer in it and I want to see her on a show that doesn’t get canceled for once, but ABC doesn’t have a spot for it until Dancing with the Stars ends or if one of its new Tuesday shows fail… lucky for Judy, both Tuesday shows look like stinkers. FOX has two half hours waiting for a chance, The Return of Jezebel James comes from the people who brought you Gilmore Girls, and The Rules for Starting Over comes from the Farrelly brothers, both are proven good writing teams, but both shows seem a bit iffy, I’ll watch them if they ever make it to the big leagues. On the Drama front you’ve got all sorts of stuff… NBC is holding Lipstick Jungle, from the woman who gave us Sex in the City and starring Brooke Shields, I’ll pass on it, but the wife will probably want to watch it, so I expect it to come in and replace something I want to watch, like the Bionic Woman. CBS, the network that used to be for old people, has Swingtown in its bullpen, and it has to be the oddest show I’ve ever read about… set in the 1970’s, a couple moves to a new “swinging” neighborhood… and if you don’t know why “swinging” is in quotes, then this show is probably not for you, even if you do know, this show is probably not for you. ABC is holding on to Eli Stone and The Cashmere Mafia, the former, about a lawyer who begins hallucinating and doing good things, might be quirky enough to succeed if it gets a chance, the latter is basically the Lipstick Jungle but on a different network. And lastly, FOX is keeping two shows off the schedule for now… the first is Canterbury’s Law, and the best thing going for it is that its coming from the same team that does Rescue Me over on FX. The second show is The Sarah Connor Chronicles, yes, that Sarah Connor… taking place between Terminator’s 2 and 3, Sarah and John, with the help of a reprogrammed Terminator run for their lives and try to make sure the future is safe from the annihilation of humanity.

In there, you’ve probably got another four hours of shows I’d watch if given the chance.

All in all, the new fall season is looking to be about thirty hours of TV watching per week. Of course, if the networks repeat what they did this season, with all the delays, hiatuses and cancellations, I might not ever have more than twenty in a single week.

And there you have it… Enjoy.

All Hallow`s Eve

The Halloweens of my childhood are dead.

This may not seem like a great revelation considering that I’m 31, but it is sad to me to think it, to realize that it is really gone. First off, lets begin with the costumes. As a child, it was rare for a kid to have a 100% store bought packaged costume. You never did that. You bought pieces and parts, then you took some old clothes and made the rest. A vampire costume was some fake plastic teeth, some fake blood, maybe some white face paint and a cape… the rest of the outfit was made of dressy church clothes with hidden holes or that were a half size too small and were going to be tossed out or donated anyway. My personal favorite year was a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, and a pair of scissors… some fake blood, a little black face paint around the eyes and I was a pretty kickass zombie. Too many kids these days just go to the store and pick up a costume. Then one by one they come to door looking exactly alike, the same couple dozen or so popular costumes over and over.

Second… it’s 5pm right now, the sun is still shining quite brightly, and already I’ve seen kids out in costume. Its still daylight… trick-or-treating is supposed to happen after dark! As a kid, we never started until the sun had set. Not that there are many kids out, because most of them are going to be doing their trick-or-treating at the local mall, where its completely safe. Of course, to a degree I can’t argue… when I was young, my parents taught me pretty well about avoiding strangers and I was required to know all the local streets, how to get home, to trusted neighbor’s houses, and even to the nearest police or fire department should an emergency arrise. It was called parenting, and my parents did it. Most kids I’ve bothered to speak to these days can hardly find their front door from a half block away, let alone be trusted to actually think too much for themselves and reason out how to handle an unexpected situation. In my day, if a sicko tried to snatch a kid from a group, the other kids would run screaming, parents would be swarming the street in seconds… now, I suspect most kids would stand there and wonder if it was going to be on the news later, and it might dawn on one of them to tell a grown-up what happened if they knew they were going to be rewarded for it. Not that many of today’s parents would ask, or care, or even realize their child was gone until it came time to send them to school the next day… maybe.

Third, no one decorates anymore. I do, we put up monsters and spiderwebs and all that stuff in the front window. (Hey, I’d decorate my lawn but I live in an apartment and I don’t have one.) But one window out of a few hundred just ends up looking silly. The neighborhoods I grew up in, they had style. Frontyards became graveyards. Eerie music would poor out ever time a door opened. You actually approached each house with apprehension because you didn’t know if it was just going to be a person with a bowl of candy, or a monster to jump out at you and toss candy in your bag if you could manage not to run away. One year, when I started feeling a bit old to actually go out for candy, I worked the door at our house. I dressed up in some jeans and an old flannel shirt, I put on a mask and stuffed pine straw into my clothes so that it poked out at the ankles, wrists, neck and waist… then I sat on the front step with the bowl of candy in my lap and a little sign that said “Take One”. I stayed as motionless as I could, and some kids were scared to approach, but if they did I stayed still for them… but the ones who walked right up and tried to take a handful of candy instead of just one, them I grabbed, by the wrist, and held on as they tried to run away screaming. Once they’d wrench free and I’d get back up, these teens would stop crying and compose themselves and start laughing about who just got scared, and they’d resolved to find someone else and send them this way, and I’d assure them I’d be there.

And that leads into number Four… Haunted Houses. I love them… or I used to. The last few that I’ve been to though, they just sucked. Too crowded, we walked single file through the house, never more than five feet from the person in front or behind, and every scare was anticipated. If they jumped out at someone a few people ahead, they wouldn’t be reset to jump out at you, and if you watched seven people walk past corner or dark spot without a scare you could be pretty sure it was waiting for you. Thanks to the cry babies and sue happy idiots in our litigious world, they can’t touch you. Not that I want people in a haunted house to get man-handled, but part of what is frightening about a guy in a hockey mask coming at you is the idea that he’s going to get you! Of course, if he’s legally not allowed to come into contact with you in any way, it’s not too worrysome anymore. He may be running out you, but he’s going to stop… he has to or he’ll lose his job, and you can sue the haunted house right out of existance.

That about covers it… everything that I loved about Halloween has been eroded and what remains is this bizarre 100% safe commercial holiday that some people still oppose of religious grounds despite the fact that nearly everything one might oppose has been stripped.

Happy Halloween!