Monday, January 28, 2008

Disney's Minutemen Reviewed

Last night, I watched Minutemen on the Disney Channel because Megan wanted to see it. The show was heavily hyped and aired three consecutive nights at the same time. They sure didn’t want anyone to miss it! The “bunch of nerds save the world” story, I believe, was meant to look intentionally familiar, like Ghostbusters for today’s young teens. Ah, but how much better Ghostbusters was!

There is some decent casting here, particularly in the three main characters. They are all outcasts for unusual and engaging reasons instead of the typical “just because they dress like nerds” excuse (though the cast is rife with bit players who rely wholly on that same prejudice, including one black nerd who is disturbingly buff when shirtless for a nerd). One is a child prodigy genius ala Jimmy Neutron, only not so bad. One is an outcast just for being a quiet loner. Now that is a hard role to pull off convincingly without simply under-acting, but the young man who did it seemed to make it work. The third outcast used to be one of the cool kids, but was rejected by them after a humiliating prank. There is some camaraderie between the three of them that does not come off as forced (the camaraderie was one of the best parts of Ghostbusters, though these boys are given none of the witty patter of the older movie). One of the best parts of the movie is the conflict in this third teen (note: I have no idea who any of these teen actors are, though they’re apparently heavily used on the Disney Channel, nor do I have much interest in learning more about them with even a simple Google search), who must choose whether to believe his old, cool friend was innocent or complicit in said prank. And then to choose between his old, cool friends and his new, nerdy friends.

And from there the movie spirals downward. Typical of anything from Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel these days (is there even a difference between them anymore?), every adult is treated like a moron who can’t function without the kids. There’s a scene where the principal is bumped into and knocked into the display he’s so proud of, causing him to wreck the source of his own pride, which was an old sight gag already 40 years ago. To inject suspense into the middle of the movie, the teens are followed by “men in black” government agents. The agents believe, for absolutely no good reason save to allow the kids to still wander freely, that they will learn more about the time travel machine by watching the kids than by, oh, say, confiscating it.

The science is astoundingly bad. Why would NASA be involved in a time travel project instead of a new agency? Simply so kids would have name recognition with the agency. How does time travel create a black hole again? Oh yeah, the movie doesn’t really want you to think about that too hard. Nor the fact that the black hole is simply a glorified sinkhole in a football field with a special FX light show coming out of it. Apparently, light can escape from this black hole, as can practically anything else, including a huge crowd of people standing mere feet from the “black hole” instead of running in panic. Actually, the thing in the movie -- a hole that is sucking the present back into the past – is more like a worm hole, but the producers must have decided that not enough kids would understand that term.

Okay, so the producers wanted a movie dumbed down so kids could understand it. I can follow that logic. But how does that explain the complete lack of intelligent female characters in the movie? Every female character in the movie is either a bully or a airhead (actually, the cheerleader might not have been intended to be just an airhead, given her central role in the sub-plots, but the young actress chosen was perhaps not up to projecting a complex personality). Given that the Disney Channel’s current cash cow is the Hannah Montana franchise (do they remember Mickey Mouse? Nah…), you would think that making such an un-friendly movie for girls would be a shot in the foot.

Or maybe I’m being too critical. I remember how good the Disney Channel used to be when they ACTUALLY showed movies that Walt Disney himself had a hand in making. Megan gave this movie a B. I gave it a C, and only that high based on the strength of the character-based subplots.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yet More Places to Find Me

Sites where I am or have been active in the past: - good for bashing local Republicans!

Games I am currently playing in or running:

Old games I was involved in that are still around:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Notice of Semi-Productivity

So far this month, my biggest accomplishment was finishing "Night of the Collector" at ( It came to 29 pages -- and that was after removing two scenes to make a leaner story. The original "Night of the Collector" was the Jan. 1974 story in Avengers #119, by Steve Englehart. I like to think he would have written the original even better than mine if he weren't saddled with a deadline (the nicest thing about fanfiction!).

I am 15 pages into "Ehlissa's Story", the "Castle Greyhawk" prolog. This story was necessary because Ehlissa was such a surprisingly popular character in the original story ( that there just had to be a prequel from her point of view.

Other than that, I have artwork I plan to share, but lack a scanner at the moment and will have to share another day.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy Feet & Charlotte's Web Reviews

Around the holiday season, I had the opportunities to watch both the movies Happy Feet and Charlotte’s Web (the newer version). Both were pure delights. Does live action ever get this good anymore without animation added to it?

Happy Feet was the bigger surprise of the two, which is what the movie tried to be. It starts with such an innocent set-up, reminiscent of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but with a dancing penguin. It’s well into the movie that it turns into a quest-type adventure and that sneaks up on the viewer so subtly that you almost don’t see what’s coming. The environmental message of the movie is in stealth mode and even when it becomes clear, the message boils down to “love everyone” more than “save the Antarctic ecosystem.” At first I was confused by why so many characters were voiced by Robin Williams and by the chaotic assortment of pop songs running throughout the movie, but it all ties into the message and how we can all communicate with each other, or “sound alike,” no matter what our musical preference or species. Of course, being a huge Beatles fan, I loved how the song that was most important for expressing the movie’s true message at the end was “The End,” with the line, “the love you take/is equal to the love you make.” I was bawling like a baby at that point.

Speaking of being reduced to tears…my mother tells me that I did see the original animated version of Charlotte’s Web when I was little, but I had no memory of it. Nor did I ever get around to reading the book. You don’t get to be 36 years old, though, without picking up some serious spoilers about what happens to the spider. I still could not believe how much I was moved by it. For at least the last half-hour of the movie I was crying on and off. Actually, it was Wilbur saying, “I don’t want to die” that first set me off. Who hasn’t felt the same? Mortality and friendship and how the latter bridges the former are the themes of this movie. It is too big a stretch to say that the trip to the fair counts as a quest adventure, but there are other more obvious parallels, such as the use of animals as human metaphor and the importance of finding a way to communicate with humans. Who hasn’t felt the same about communicating with humans?

It’s almost frightening what can be done with computer animation these days, though I was heartened to learn in the Charlotte’s Web DVD extras how live action footage of animals was used as much as possible. I’m pretty sure that the humans in Happy Feet were all live action humans, though I haven’t confirmed that yet. The amazing thing is how easily the two synch together now. Remember how amazing this was when Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out?

A+ for all movies mentioned!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Timmy - pt. 2

[First half posted in December. Though written in 1991, I have done some tinkering with the ending and, I think, improved it.]

So fervent was my digging that I didn't notice right away that the ground was getting harder. Rather, the realization hit me all at once that I had reached some extraordinarily hard clay. Less and less was I removing with my shovel. I had only dug half as far as I needed to, but I had so much left to go! So, I thought, now the ground itself was trying to stop me. For a while, the ground was doing an excellent job, but then I felt a drop of water fall on my ear. Then a second fell on top of my head. The very clouds which obscured my vision were now my salvation in digging. I could hear the raindrops falling more steadily then. I bent down to feel the ground. It was moistening. More drops fell. For some time the rain fell and it fell harder every passing minute. Soon it was falling so hard it hurt, but I didn't care. I felt the clay at my feet. It felt wet. I threw down my shovel and raised my arms to God and shouted, "Thank you, God! Thank you for the rain! Thank you for the mud!" Yes, that evening I praised the Lord for mud. So ecstatic was I over my deliverance that I failed to think that my shouting might draw anyone's attention. Who would hear?

At long last I could scoop into the soft, malleable, wet clay and brought up a full shovel-full. I felt to make sure. I did the same again and again. I was as high as a kite. Suddenly, I sank very low. Very low. I hit the sloped floor of my put once more and the reverberation chilled my body more than the icy rain. On my hands and knees, I ran my hand over the ground, wiping away the loose dirt. I could not see this latest obstacle, but I knew from its texture I had hit stone. I had hit stone! What was a stone doing there? I couldn't be deep enough to hit bedrock. Someone had put a huge rock in the ground at that very spot just to thwart me. Quivering with anger, I looked up. I saw nothing, but I knew who to talk to. "You," I said. "You did this to me. First you took my mom and dad, then you took Timmy, and now...this rock!"

No one answered.

No matter, as I wasn't done yet anyway. I clambered out of my pit to get closer to Him and shook my fists skyward. "And you made it rain just to get my hopes up so you could crush me with this! Why couldn't you just leave us alone? What did Timmy do to you? He clawed up my couch, not yours! I didn't even care! I loved Timmy! You hated him, though. You were jealous of Timmy, weren't you?"

No one answered. Well, maybe that's not true. I definitely heard something. It wasn't coming from Heaven, though. It was coming from the west. Figuratively speaking, the noise brought me back down to Earth. I even heard it again. It was the creaking of leather. Was it the caretaker's boots? This time I chose not to hide. One more obstacle was not going to bother me in the least. "Who's there?" I asked. I heard no reply. I expected to hear something like, "What are you doing here?" or, "Get out, now!" but I didn't. Something else was wrong too, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

The rain was just about over and I was sure that was not raindrops I heard. The clouds overhead parted ever so slightly and I could see again. I was amazed at the progress I had made on my hole. It was looking much more like a grave. I could see no sign of the caretaker. Then I realized what had been wrong before. Why would the caretaker stumble in the dark like I did when he could use a flashlight? I heard the noise again to the north. "Who are you?" I asked again. "Timmy, is that you?" No, it couldn't be Timmy. Timmy was in the bag. The bag was exactly where I had put it. Wasn't it? I had to look and make sure. I was hesitant, but I went to the bag and lifted the corner of it. Timmy was laying there, as peaceful as ever, with his tail curled up around him. I heard the same sound again. That couldn't be Timmy in the bag. I heard him.

I could see much more as the sky continued to clear. "Come here, Timmy. Where are you? Did you catch something? Here, Timmy, Timmy, Timmy." I couldn't understand why he didn't come. Then I saw something was moving by the old Palmer tombstone. "Is that you, Timmy?" I asked. I started to walk towards him when I choked on a horrible, horrible smell. I heard the creaking again. That smell was so repugnant and nauseating that I wanted to run away from it, but I kept going forward. The creaking became louder. I had followed the sound and the smell all the way back to the entrance and could see the gate swinging back and forth in the breeze. That was the source of the squeaking. It wasn't leather boots at all. Or was it coming from my boots? I couldn't be sure. But then I saw where the smell was coming from. A pair of eyes were watching me from behind a bush and I knew who it was.

"Timmy!" I called out to him. "I'm so glad you're still here." And I went to him, no longer afraid of the caretaker. I remembered then that I was the caretaker and that Timmy would never let anything happen to me. Or let me leave.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Memory Almost Full Reviewed

I was lucky enough to receive Paul McCartney's new album Memory Almost Full for Christmas. "Dance Tonight" is a wonderful song. The gentle acoustic of a mandolin sounds so fresh and original in any contemporary music and is nicely offset by the beat of stamping feet, a beat equally novel and highly appropriate. It's a deceptively simple song from an artist who excels at deceptively simple songs. The instrumentation grows more modern (read, electric) as the song progresses, as if following the history of dance music. "Ever Present Past" is a fast-paced rocker with soft vocals; a pleasant number with one of those deceptively simple refrains that stays in your head because of the melody. "See Your Sunshine" is one of those songs that sneaks up on you. Unimpressed with it at first, I recently found a melody stuck in my head and tracked it back down to this song. The background vocals, at first annoying, are now equally catchy to me. "Only Mama Knows" is a gorgeous, bittersweet song and the deepest on the album. McCartney howling "I never knew!" is moving. The violins at beginning and end recall some of his violin-laced classics from his Beatles' days.

But from there the album quickly goes downhill. "You Tell Me" and "Mr. Bellamy" are utterly forgettable. "Gratitude" is best at its ending, with its refrain of "loving you," but instead of deceptively simple achieves only simple. "Vintage Clothes" is pretty forgettable, but "That Was Me" is back up to "Ever Present Past"'s standard. "Feet in the Clouds," "House of Wax," "End of the End," and "Nod Your Head," get louder and more raucous, but ultimately go nowhere and end the album on a loud, raucous whimper.

It is nearly as strong an album as Flaming Pie merely by the strength of the first four songs.