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Monthly Archives: September 2008

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Smallville 8×02 Plastique episode review

Smallville 8×02 Plastique kicks off with Clark Kent doing the reporter by day and Superman also by day thing as he holds down a desk at the Daily Planet after a quick more formal wardrobe makeover by Lois Lane and rescues injured people from a bus explosion. Along with those civilians is one Tess Mercer who also happens to to be running the Daily Planet and keeping her eye on Clark, which is about the only explanation for why a College dropout whose only work experience was on a wacky High School newspaper could have a job at the Daily Planet at all, that and his mother being a United States Senator, though oddly enough no one mentions that Clark Kent is a US Senator’s son.

In any case as it turns out Tess was on the bus chasing an escaped girl from the Montana facility who has the power to make things to boom. So naturally Lois and Clark go off and investigate the whole thing, Chloe even more naturally adopts the girl while filling Lana’s annoying do gooder shoes in between possibly being engaged to Jimmy Olson and meeting and flirting with a medic who may have some major issues. Of course the story ends the same way just about every meteor freak story on Smallville ends, with the girl on the way to Belle Reeve until she’s bailed out by Lex or in this case Tess trying to assemble a League of Injustice.

Meanwhile much of the cast, particularly Green Arrow remain absent, suggesting that the cast list is heavily padded out in the first place. Clark does get his first story, an orbit, and Chloe gets a new career as social worker to meteor freaks, which naturally jettisons 90 percent of what was interesting about her in the first place. Otherwise even relocated to Metropolis, aside from one obligatory visit to the Talon which is still not a coffee shop for some reason despite the death of Lex Luthor, Smallville ticks on much as always.

Microsoft’s 300 Million Dollar Waste of Money

You’ve probably seen the mildly surreal ad that has Jerry Seinfeld helping Bill Gates pick out shoes at an imaginary shoe outlet named Shoe Circus. It’s part of Microsoft’s pointless 300 million dollar campaign to try and get people to rethink Vista, the previous effort was the Mojave Project, a dead end if there ever was one. Naturally the commercial doesn’t actually mention Vista, besides the closing line about a cake computer, which is probably a great way to sell Vista until the lawsuits set in.

In advertising thinking, the concept is to push the idea of Bill Gates as a celebrity, give the commercials some Seinfeldian qualities, peak viewer interest with a pointless opening commercial which will lead in to more pointed pitches for Vista and along the way remake the Microsoft brand into something trendier and hipper. In other words it’s a waste of a whole lot of money.

As I’ve already said, it’s way too late to promote Vista. That should have been done right from the start when Vista was being launched. Few people are going to run off and embrace Vista at this late date. Rebranding Microsoft along the lines of Apple and Google is also hopeless, Google doesn’t need to run ads to have this image and couldn’t buy it with 300 million dollars. Neither can Microsoft. Apple has, but it’s gotten that image from a lot more than its annoying ads, but also from its designs and overall look and its ability to appeal to artists and creative people. Again while Apple and Google’s images may be artificial, they’re based on more than ads. A lot more than ads.

Yes using Bill Gates in the ads is not a bad idea, treating him as a kind of oddball Albert Einsteinesque geeky celebrity also works. But it only works as far as developing an image for Microsoft that’s a little better than the one they have now and that doesn’t stretch you very far.

The Office 5×01 Weight Loss

The Office returns for a fifth season opener that plays out a lot like the fourth season finale that should have been but never was. It’s almost as if The Office writers understood what a mess Goodbye Toby and much of the fourth season of The Office was and tried to avoid repeating it by getting back to the show’s roots.

It’s not that The Office 5×01 Weight Loss is a triumph by any means, but the concept of a season opener stretching across the summer months is a nice idea and provides some breathing room and the episode scales back some of the insanity of the fourth season to ground everyone’s behavior in the more real life emotions and human interactions that made the show work in the first place. Let’s face it The Office is on the average not all that funny compared to the top sitcoms of the past. What made it work was emotional realism coupled with absurdity and Weight Loss gets back to delivering some of that.

Some of the old jokes are still being hammered into the ground and Michael’s relationship triangle with Jan and Holly reminds you of everything that’s wrong with the show in the first place, but most of the episode from Ryan and Toby’s returns to the proposal to the weight loss preoccupation are more of a throwback to the way The Office used to be. Of course you can’t have a 40 minute plus Office without Michael donning a wacky costume and being politically incorrect, but it’s a short interlude that reminds us that Weight Loss isn’t Fun Run. It’s actually a pretty decent and funny start to a hopefully better season.

Gamespot’s Unfair Slam of Mount and Blade

As fans of RPG’s probably know, Mount and Blade is the Firefox of RPG’s, a slow simmering garage project released as a free limited Beta through succeeding generations and now actually in full release. And Gamespot gives it exactly the sort of sneering snide review you expect from a publication backed by corporate game company ad dollars.

Gamespot complains that Mount and Blade is too sandbox oriented and it lacks a plot. True Mount and Blade isn’t oriented around having annoying characters send you on silly quests as in Oblivion, there is some of that but clearly not enough to suit the reviewer, who admits that M&B has a great combat system, but not much else.

Now admittedly Mount and Blade is not your usual fantasy RPG. There’s no magic in it. It’s more of a medieval RPG that’s low on fantasy. It isn’t up to Oblivion’s visual standards, though neither is it as ugly as the Gamespot review claims.

There is something positive to be said for wide-open RPGs that leave the storytelling up to you, but this game is so incomplete that it’ll feel as if you’re being asked to script a heroic saga without the benefit of pen and paper.

And how dare a game expect players to use their imagination, instead of sticking them in a cookie cutter plot that names them as the “Chosen One” to stop the rise of evil.

Villagers only respond to a canned set of questions about local rumors and what sort of goods are produced locally. Answers are generic listings of local features, so it feels more like you’re consulting a travel guidebook for Calradia than actually speaking to a human being.

Seriously has the reviewer played Oblivion or any other RPG? Does he really want to pretend that this is at all unusual? The Gamespot review fails to note what M&B really is, while castigating it for problems common in Oblivion and most RPG’s. Except that M&B doesn’t dumb it down the way Oblivion did and treats the player as if he has a brain. Clearly not the Gamespot way.

Mid-September Box Office Roundup

Surprisingly enough Lakeview Terrace, Neil LaBute’s latest has opened in the top spot with 15.5 million dollars. I’m sure that Samuel L. Jackson’s role helped make it happen, but it’s still impressive numbers for a controversial movie from a controversial filmmaker.

Burn After Reading dropped to the second spot in its second week with 11 million for a 36 million dollar total. Any weekend box office dominated by Neil LaBute and the Coen Brothers is pretty strange indeed.

Dane Cook in My Best Friend’s Girl opened in a weak 3rd with 8 million. Igor opened 4th with a weak 8 million as well. Of these 4 movies Igor was the only one with a real shot, but a kiddie movie opening too close to Back to School is an obvious formula for a disaster, and a seemingly creepy main character would not have helped.

Righteous Kill continues to fall hard and fast, to 5th place now with only 7 million and a 25 million total, despite it having presence in more theaters than any movies above it. Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys begins its long slide to oblivion with a 6th place drop from 3rd and a 7 million dollar total.

The Women hold down the 7th spot with 5.3 million and Ghost Town, which should have done better, has a terrible opening in 8th place with 5.1 million. A major culprit of the poor showing, despite the Paramount release, is the lack of theaters. Righteous Kill is playing in twice as many theaters despite only having the Overture Films bg while Ghost Town is doing better per theater but is in only half as many theaters total.

The Dark Knight fades to black falling from 5th to 7th with 2.5 million for a grand total of 522 million dollars. In former winners turned losers, Tropic Thunder also falls out of the top 10, dropping from 5th to 11th. The House Bunny drops to 10th from 6th with the door hitting its fluffy tail on the way out. Good bye.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Mousetrap 2×03 review

Ever since Cromartie’s head bounced out of the temporal event and into the future, he’s been an unspoken threat and a menace lurking in the background, a threat that exploded in the first season finale wiping out an FBI SWAT team and tearing holes in the lives of Charlie and Agent Ellison. In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Mousetrap 2×03, Cromartie brings the threat home by creating an elaborate mousetrap to catch John Connor.

Cromartie is Mousetrap’s strong suit, less the conventional T-800 Terminator and something closer to the T-1000, S2E03 Mousetrap demonstrates his ingenious ability to set a trap, operating at an inhuman level that makes him an eerie match for Cameron. Unfortunately his ingeniousness comes at the cost of rendering Sarah and John Connor into idiots playing out an idiot plot.

John Connor has gotten ridiculously whiny lately and Sarah Connor’s actions in this episode are completely out of character. Putting her son at risk twice in order to save Charlie’s wife would be bad enough, but going into a building with a Terminator inside backed by two humans, one of them holding a 9MM pistol is just laughable. Cromartie vandalizing their car instead of blowing them to hell is also a little dubious though justifiable as part of an overly complicated plot.

While Mousetrap is an appropriately dark episode, the heart of the series as of the original Terminator is the humans rather than the machines. And while the second season of Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles is doing a great job with the Terminators, it needs to step up its game when it comes to John and Sarah Connor.

Getting Rid of GoogleUpdate.exe for Good

Those of you who like me joined the mob and installed Google Chrome over the weekend, or if you’ve installed one of a number of pieces of Google software, you might have noticed a little surprise on your computer in your taskbar named GoogleUpdate.exe.

Not only does GoogleUpdate.exe run without telling you and not only is there no way to uninstall it, but it also takes up 1.5 meg, a ridiculous amount for an update program. Anyone who’s had to battle Apple’s QuickTime scheduler or RealPlayer’s Realsched knows how tough getting rid of these update pests can be, however looking in your startup files via CCleaner or Msconfig will do no good, because GoogleUpdate.exe doesn’t hang out there.

Instead go to your Scheduled Tasks by going to your programs folder and then Accessories and then System Tools and click on Scheduled Tasks, you should see GoogleUpdateTaskUser sitting snugly there, along with anything else that has wormed its way into your scheduled system tasks. If you don’t need it, time to kill it now. Simply delete or disable it by right clicking on it and unclick the check box on Enabled. This should disable GoogleUpdate.exe .

Spike After the Fall Issue 3 review

Well it’s back to Spike After the Fall, the part of Los Angeles that has gone to hell and revolves all around Spike or parts of him anyway. Spike is in a cellar with the rotting moaning corpses of the people he tried to save, being tortured, enslaved and otherwise abused for a month or so by female demon insectoids while Illyria is locked in a box. And if you have issues with lavishly illustrated pictures of corpses, this issue of Spike After the Fall #3 probably isn’t for you.

Meanwhile with the proliferation of Slayers, they’ve become ridiculously easy to kill. Even with minimal training Buffy was pretty tough. Meanwhile in this issue Non casually kills a slayer and Gunn takes on three slayers at a time. In Buffy Season 8 slayers do die, but they don’t die this uselessly or casually. Gunn does meet up with Non, for no real reason. Nor is there any real reason why Gunn is so formidable. Gunn the human was a decent fighter, but vampires seem to gain strength with time and Gunn is fresh. He certainly should not be able to take on three slayers at once or Non herself, who seems to be able to take on slayers, Illyria, Spike and anything else.

Overall Spike After the Fall Issue 3 has Spike hanging around with rotting corpses, Non meeting up with Gunn, Spike and Illyria taking on Non, only to have Connor show up to the rescue. Basically if we had skipped Issue 3 altogether, we would have virtually the same story at the end of Issue 2, except that this time Spike and Illyria won for some reason. It’s not that Spike isn’t entertaining, because he loosely is, but every issue of Spike After the Fall serves to remind you that it has no real reason for existing, except to serve as appetizers for the next issue of Angel After the Fall.

The Dark Knight vs Iron Man

Sure it’s just more fodder for the eternal DC vs Marvel debate, but with Summer 2008 fielding two strong superhero movies that blew audiences away, Iron Man and The Dark Knight (like most people we’re going to pretend that The Incredible Hulk never existed) and with The Dark Knight outperforming Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr responding with some Dark Knight bashing, the rivalry is going again.

Of course there’s really not much sense to the rivalry. Iron Man and The Dark Knight are both great movies and both very different movies. They’re both interpretations of comic book characters, but Iron Man wears its comic book heart on its sleeve, while The Dark Knight uses it in the service of more ambitious film making that draws on the same kind of noir films that helped inspire the reimagining of Batman in the first place, while Iron Man really doesn’t venture much beyond the source material.

Both are great but very different projects. Iron Man is a great popcorn movies, The Dark Knight is something more as a movie but less as a comic book movie. And the processes that produced both movies are very different. Marvel has been shoveling every property it can out the door and onto the screen and that has produced mostly crap, whether it’s Ghost Rider, two terrible Hulk movies and two terrible Fantastic Four movies. WB has put out two superhero movies very selectively and while Superman Returns failed, the Nolan version of Batman has now solidly taken off and easily outperformed everything Marvel threw at the screen.

Naked Gun 4 going Direct to DVD

Direct to DVD releases are hot now as sequels to movies are being sent direct to DVD in a high profile way, examples including The Scorpion King 2, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders, The Lost Boys 2 and now apparently The Naked Gun 4. While direct to DVD sequels are nothing new, they’re getting a lot more high profile and high quality. Direct to DVD sequels usually meant an embarrassing trip for the project to a discount bin, but today studios are actually bringing a new focus by monetizing them.

And it seems Naked Gun 4 will be the latest movie going that route. Personally I think it’s a bit of a shame since Naked Gun could stand on a sequel. Yes O.J. Simpson has basically tainted the franchise, man was that a bad piece of TV show to Movie recasting ever, and Naked Gun 33/5 was really weak, but in a time when Epic Movie and Date Movie deliver audiences, Naked Gun should be able to do it too. But it’s not in the cards.

The DVD is scheduled for release in early 2009. Meanwhile, Par Famous is developing more than a half-dozen other projects, based on such hit movies as “Road Trip,” “Bad News Bears,” “Naked Gun,” “Mean Girls” and “Grease.”

It’s not clear to what extent David Zucker will be involved. Leslie Nielsen probably will be.

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