The Bad Review Revue

Catwoman: “The director, whose name is Pitof, was probably issued with two names at birth and would be wise to use the other one on his next project.” — Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

A Cinderella Story: “They took the most famous tale in the world and broke it.” — Stephen Hunter, WASHINGTON POST

Thunderbirds: “Kids of all sizes and genders are going to be disappointed.” — Pete Vonder Haar, FILM THREAT

Little Black Book: “Aggressively unfunny.” — Carla Meyer, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

I, Robot: “If you see it, the sequel will be your fault.” — Michael Atkinson, THE VILLIAGE VOICE

Supermagnet

Speaking of superheroes …

We have an enormous and moderately ancient apple tree in our backyard that produces an astounding quantity of apples, all which drop over the course of a single months and none of which are fit for consumption. So once a week in July I have to go out and spend and hour or so picking up the damned things and throwing ’em into garbage bags.

Our vacation to D.C. fell right at the tail end of this year’s apple-dropping season, and I put off going to the dump until the last possible moment. (Apparently it’s called the “transfer station” now. I’m a little unclear on when we got so PC that we started coming up with euphemisms for landfills, but it’ll always be “the dump” to me.) Although I knew the tree would still be dropping its treasures in our absence, my goal was to collect as many apples as possible so we wouldn’t return a week later to a yard full of rotting fruit.

So Thursday evening I braved Seattle atypical 90 degree heat and picked up the last of the apples, throwing them on the side of the house with the moldering bags of apples I had collected previously and acquiring a pretty good sunburn in the process. And then, Friday morning, I got up bright and early, threw on my rattiest work clothes, heaved the bags of apples into my truck, and headed to the local dump a few hours before our flight was slated to leave.

On my way back I remembered a few more things we needed to pick up for our trip, so stopped at three places along the way: the grocery store, the drug store, and the pet store. Each cashier I interacted with was female, and each flirted with me as I completed my transaction.

Alas, having a cashier flirt with me is a rare enough event that I can state fairly definitively that this hat trick was no mere coincident, and can therefore only conclude that I have somehow inadvertently stumbled across The Secret To Attracting Women. Much as Barry Allen was a mild-mannered scientist until the night he was working alone in his lab and a bolt of lightening struck a nearby cabinet, dousing him with an melange of electrified chemicals and endowing him with the super speed that transformed him into The Flash, some unknown combination of grimy hands, unkempt clothing, disheveled hair, sunburned face, and pervasive odor comprised of sweat and half-fermented apples apparently made me irresistible to the opposite sex.

Were I not a married man I might well devote my free time to trying to suss out the exact recipe; instead I’ll post my findings here and leave it to some single, energetic go-getter of a reader to crack the code. Let me know if you figure it out, and godspeed.

Movies: Spider-Man II

Holy smokes, I went and saw a movie.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was primarily a DC man in my comic-book reading days. I liked my heroes simple and my stories uncomplicated by the angst and social commentary that Marvel employed. I read The Amazing Spider-Man of course, because, duh, you were practically required to read at least one Spider-Man title if you wanted to keep up your end of a conversation at a comic store. But I can’t say that I was ever a huge fan of Peter Parker and his woebegone adventures. It seemed like every issue his best friend would turn into a super villain and kill his girlfriend, or Aunt May would fall down a well, or whatever. And even when things went right, when Spidey defeated the bad guy and saved the day, he would invariably get pelted by garbage thrown by bystanders who had read the most recent Daily Bugle editorial. Sure, all this was to make a point — that with Spider-Man’s great power came great responsibility — but it often left me wondering why Peter Parker even bothered. More to the point, it left me wonder why I bothered to read it. Hell, I was living the life of a junior high school student, so it’s not like I needed any more grief. So perhaps it’s no surprise that I was a bit lukewarm on the first Spider-Man film.

Still, I was excited about the sequel, because my favorite villain in Spidey’s rogue’s gallery has always been Doctor Octopus. Possibly Spider-Man’s most lethal and powerful enemy, Dr. Oct was also a complete loser, an overweight schlub whose plans for world domination were as often thwarted by his own insecurities than by the efforts of the wall-crawler. Every match between the two was essentially “Guy Who Can’t Get A Break vs. Guy Who Can’t Get His Act Together,” and I looked forward to seeing this brawl on the big screen.

But the first hour of Spider-Man II was a veritable primer on everything I disliked about the comic book, with Peter losing his job, behind on his rent, bummed about his non-existent love life, and agonizing over Aunt May’s penury. And yet, for some reason, I found myself sympathetic towards Peter rather than simply annoyed by him. I’d love to cite my newfound appreciation for complex character studies as proof that I have matured in the 15 years since I stopped reading comic books, but since I know for a fact that that hasn’t happened, there must be something else at work here.

If I had to guess, I’d say that “something else” is Michael Chabon, author of my favorite book of 2002 and one of three Spider-Man II story writers. Chabon has a gift for writing about both heroes (The Escapist in Kavalier and Clay) and regular down-on-the-luck schmoes (the professor in Wonder Boys), so it seems like he’d be a natural for tackling the Peter Parker / Spider-Man dichotomy. Chabon or no, I bought into the whole “tortured teen as superhero” backstory this go-round, where, in the previous installment, it left me unmoved. And it’s a good thing, too, since the story was more “Spider-Man vs. Peter Parker” than “Spider-Man vs. supervillian”.

And when it got around to those “Spider-Man vs. supervillian” scenes, the film did not disappoint. Okay, maybe there was a little disappointment, plotwise. For one thing, I like my Bad Guys bad, not just conflicted. And there were certain aspects of Doctor Octopus origins and motivation that were introduced in the unmistakable style of “well this doesn’t really make much sense but HEY LOOK OVER HERE!!” But once the two superdudes started pounding the tar out of each other, all was forgiven. I wouldn’t call the special effects in S-MII a vast improvement over those in the first film, but they had at least advanced enough that I wasn’t sitting in the theater wondering why I’d paid $9 to watch an X-Box game. And at least one sequence, a lengthy brawl upon a train, ranks among the best fight scenes in recent memory.

(Better still, Doctor Octopus’s tentacles look a lot like the “squids” the Neo and Morpheus fought. So if you squint your eyes just right while during Spider-Man II you can kind of pretend like you’re watching a sequel to The Matrix that doesn’t totally suck.)

Spider-Man II has been hailed by some as the best superhero film since Superman. I dunno if I’d go that far, but between this film and X-Men United I’d definitely say the superhero genre is hitting its stride. S-MII not only reminded me of everything I liked about The Amazing Spider-Man back when I was a reader, but even made me retroactively appreciate that those things that I disliked at the time. It’s a rare superhero movie that actually makes me wish I’d spend more time during my formatives years holed up in my bedroom and wasting away the days with a stack of comic books.

P.s. See, this is the kind of meticulous backstory that makes Spider-Man such an intriguing character.

Ridge Raises Terror Level After Watching Cujo

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge authorized the elevation of the terror alert level to "high" Monday morning after watching Cujo on NBC's Fright Nite Theater. "Mr. Ridge contacted the President at 4:05 AM and said he was 'pretty freaked out,'" confirmed White House spokesman Scott McClellan in a press conference yesterday. "He couldn't provide specifics about an impending attack, but asked that we go to code orange and send some secret service guys to his house to spend the night." Speaking with reporters earlier today, Ridge admitted to being "jumpy" after watching the edited-for-television version of Stephen King's 1983 thriller, but nonetheless defended his decision as "completely justified." He urged Americans to remain vigilant and be on the lookout for suspicious activities or St. Bernards.

Bad Review Revue: Ebert On The Village

The Bad Review Revue usually appears on Fridays, but I just read Roger Ebert’s one-star review of The Village and his closing paragraph merits an exception:

“Eventually the secret of [the movie] is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

Return Of The yeti

I bought one of those George Foreman Grills. It works pretty well, but I hate the way it makes everything taste like George Foreman.

Yeah, so, my plan to post while on vacation didn’t really pan out, although you’ll notice that my plan to not post the week before vacation succeeded marvelously. I’m back now, though, so get ready for me to, um, post, uh, several things … that I’ve never posted .. before. Or, whatever.