Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And Muthaf***ers Act Like They Forgot About Fey

If you're a fan of Community, Parks & Recreation, Friday Night Lights, Undeclared, Arrested Development or any other critically-acclaimed TV show past or present that's struggled in the ratings, you tend to go beyond just being a fan to taking on an active interest in the show's success.  A few extra Nielsen points are celebrated as much, if not moreso, than a quality episode since those extra ratings will get your show one step closer to staying on the air.  You're not just enjoying a show anymore, you're rooting for a loveable underdog.  

30 Rock has never seemed like an underdog.  Despite the fact that it's had as meagre ratings as anyone (what an odd bragging point) over its six seasons, the fact is that 30 Rock has always seemed like a bedrock show for NBC due to the pedigree of people like Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and the dozens of big-name guest stars involved with it.  30 Rock has also received a number of major Emmy awards, which undoubtedly helped keep it on the air as a so-called 'prestige show' for NBC.  In short, it's a lot harder to type 30 Rock as the little engine that could, when those other shows I mentioned received relatively little Emmy attention and whose casts and creators had much lesser Q-ratings than the likes of Fey or Baldwin. 

It was easy to jump on the bandwagon for, say, Undeclared since you could enjoy it as just a show populated by unknowns, whereas with 30 Rock, you probably weren't going to watch unless you already had a liking for the people involved.  My friend Mario, to this day, hasn't watched an episode of the program simply because he hates Tina Fey for "ruining" SNL during her last few years as head writer*, so he wasn't going to bother with her show. 

* = While I have openly criticized the fact that SNL was largely terrible from 2003-05, I can forgive Fey since a) I'm a huge Fey fan and/or apologist and b) she was both writing Mean Girls and developing 30 Rock on the side, and since they ended up being great, I can forgive a couple of weak-ass SNL seasons.  I'll just exonerate Fey and presume that all those SNL sketches would've been great had Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz not kept breaking.  It was all their fault!

So essentially, in a weird way, 30 Rock actually became an underdog simply because it wasn't a darling of Nielsen viewers nor was it overly a darling of internet fans (not because it wasn't good, but because there were simply hipper, younger-skewing shows that soaked up all the attention).  It also became an underdog in the sense that it's arguably the funniest show of the post-Arrested Development era and yet it already seems like it's been overlooked in favour of your Communitys, your P&Rs, your How I Met Your Mothers or, for the particularly easy-to-please, your Big Bang Theorys.

This is one big long preamble to get around the fact that 30 Rock was very possibly the funniest show on television this particular season, quite a mean feat considering this was its sixth season on the air.  Just last December I was all but ready to hand the Funny crown to It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but then 30 Rock came out of the box with arguably its best season yet, and 30 Rock's 22 funny episodes beats IASIP's  13 funny episodes (and, not to be overlooked, Archer's 13 funny episodes).  Sorry, math.

After three phenomenal years, 30 Rock dipped a bit in its fourth and fifth seasons and I too believed the show was running out of gas.  It was still funny but not top-drawer funny.  It lacked Community's sheer creativity, Parks & Rec's polish, the Office's ongoing ohmigod-I-just-can't-look away trainwreck of recent seasons or It's Always Sunny's gleeful nihilism. 

For the sixth season, however, 30 Rock rebounded to its classic levels and I'm not completely sure why.  While I enjoy the Liz Lemon/Criss relationship and having Liz in an actual sane relationship is a relative game-changer, it wasn't a driving force behind the season's story.  Jack's corporate machinations were still funny and removing Elizabeth Banks from the mix wasn't a net loss or net gain.  Tracy Jordan was still insane.  Jenna was still insane, albeit now with Will Forte as her cross-dressing huswife.  Kenneth left the page program for an amusing subplot as an NBC standards & practices guy, but by season's end had been busted down to janitor and was basically back in his old role.  Kristen Schaal joined the cast and did Kristen Schaal things. 

It was no shakeup to the formula, just better ingredients.  The jokes were sharper, the plots tighter, and everything just seemed about 30 percent funnier than it did in the previous season.  On the one hand, it gives some pause that they might not be able to keep the momentum going into their final season next year.  On the other hand, who am I to doubt this show's ability to end things on a high note?  Once 30 Rock does wrap up, expect a lot of retrospective "oh yeah, this show was actually really awesome" type of articles, which may or may not be buried under the inevitable mountain of criticisms about Community's fourth season.  How Liz Lemon.

It kills me that Blogger doesn't allow animated GIFs so I couldn't directly include Liz Lemon's make-it-rain dance.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot! Live! Music!

Walk Off The Earth, "Somebody That I Used To Know"
I think this officially makes me the three-millionth person to link to this video.  What do I win?  We're in about month four or five of the Gotye experience and I've gotta say, I'm enjoying it.  Even if STIUTK goes into history as a singular, uh, single and Gotye is a one-hit wonder, it's still a hell of a song.  And I'm still saying this after hearing this song literally every 10 minutes on one radio station or another.  Compare this to another song in heavy rotation ('We Are Young' by fun.) and it's a no-contest victory for Gotye.  In an unrelated story, holy crap am I ever sick of 'We Are Young.'  I now have two reasons to be irritated at fun., besides just their dopey use of punctuation in the band name.

Bono, "So Cruel"
Holy crap, Bono got through three minutes of solo guitar-playing without a wrong note!  What progress!  Of course, the album version of the song is about 5:30, but even still, baby steps.  I am, of course, totally in the tank for U2, but man, what does it say about a band's quality when a song this great is basically just a throw-away non-single that's barely even been played live?

The Raveonettes, "Heartbreak Stroll"
If you distilled 'garage rock' into one song, this would probably be it.  I guess that makes it somewhat derivative, but what the hell.  'Heartbreak Stroll' is one of the all-time great names for a song.  I first heard this track on the It Came From The Garage compilation, one of my all-time deserted island albums and boy, there's a list that might need some updating.  It's totally lacking in fun. records! 

Coldplay, "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)"
Part of me thinks it's vaguely self-parodic for Coldplay to "Coldplay up" a fast-paced rap/rock anthem, while another part of me thinks that having Coldplay actually try to perform this in the style of the Beastie Boys would be hilarious, if insensitive.  Most of me just thinks this is sweet.

Elvis Costello & Beastie Boys, "Radio Radio"
Most Beastie Boys stuff!  For Saturday Night Live's 25th anniversary show, Elvis and the Beasties recreate one of the more famous musical performances in SNL history.  Very cool of the Beasties to act as Costello's backup band here.  Much less cool is Ad-Rock's keyboard style --- he looks like a child trying to finger-paint.  Dailymotion isn't letting me embed, so just click the song title to see it. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

(More) Community Outtakes

So, I posted links to Community's second season bloopers all the way back in October, and yet totally blanked on posting bloopers from S1 until now.  What a mistake.  Come on Mark, get your life together.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I guess I should comment on the situation with Dan Harmon being booted from the show.  It sucks.  End comment.  Community may still a funny show in its fourth season but I can't see it being AS funny or original as its first three years, which will make watching next year vaguely disappointing.  I keep flashing back to the West Wing after Aaron Sorkin left --- their fifth season was terrible, and it wasn't until the show basically got refocused on a new premise (the election that covered the sixth and seventh seasons) that things got back on track, though things weren't as good as the Sorkin years.  I have enough faith in the new showrunners that they're smart enough to know what makes the show tick and won't drastically alter things, but without Harmon behind the scenes, Community just isn't Community.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your One-Stop Weird Al Video Database

Well, technically, Splitsider are the ones who have collected every Weird Al video in one helpful page, to prevent several minutes (valuable minutes!) of YouTube searching.  So this post is basically just a link to a link to several links.  We're through the looking glass, people.

I, for one, had no idea that Weird Al's been doing mostly animated videos for the last several years, maybe a necessary move given that Yankovic is getting into his 50's.  Then again, who keeps up on music videos anymore?  Yes, that's right, this is a blog post written by a 30-year-old complaining that back in his day, they played nothing but music videos on MTV/MuchMusic and we LIKED IT, consarnit!

Here are two of the selections, one of Weird Al's new parodies and one of his classics.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wiig Splits

 Some Saturday Night Live stars are an acquired taste.  I wasn't impressed by Chevy Chase as a Weekend Update anchor.  Dana Carvey always mugged way too much for my liking and far too many of his recurring characters were irritating as hell (more on this in a moment).  A lot of Adam Sandler's SNL stuff was just flat-out stupid.  I seem to be the only person on earth who didn't like Amy Poehler on SNL.

And then there's Kristen Wiig.  The weird thing is, whereas those other folks are almost universally-regarded as SNL legends, I'm far from alone in not being a particularly big Kristen Wiig fan.  The general consensus amongst fans is that she probably could've/should've left at least two seasons ago before everyone became completely sick to death of "her."

I use the quote marks since, like Carvey, Wiig was a victim of her recurring characters.  As just a general sketch performer, Wiig was very good to borderline great in basically everything.  One-off Weekend Update correspondents, impressions (Bjork!), straight-woman roles, or just variations on her 'increasingly unhinged' stage persona, Wiig could do it with ease.  But holy god, look at this fucking motley crew --- Gilly, Dooneese the tiny-armed performer on the Lawrence Welk Show, Target Lady, Shanna the sexy/disgusting woman, Aunt Linda the movie critic, the Broadway star on Secret Word, Garth & Kat, the woman who's always overexcited about a surprise party.  The list goes on and on.  

(Three exceptions: Judy "justkiddingjustkidding" Grimes always also a one-joke character but it always made me laugh….same with Penelope the "oh, yeah, well I did this" topper….and the Two A-Holes sketch with Jason Sudeikis was legitimately really funny and different each time, except they retired those characters about three years ago and kept all of Wiig's lesser ones.  Poor choice.)

Nothing is worse than the feeling of seeing a bad character-centric skit and realizing, "Oh fuck, this going to be recurring and we'll see it 10 more times."  As ever with recurring SNL sketches, the trick is to add variations with each instalment.  With more or less all of Wiig's regular characters, it was 95% the same thing every time.  I don't know if that's her fault or the writers' fault for being lazy, but still, throw a curveball into the mix at least once.  The other issue is at least one of these characters showed up in every episode since Wiig has been pushed as the star of the show for around the last five years, so there was no respite. 

So yeah, that's my beef with Kristen Wiig's SNL tenure.  Again I reiterate, in general I enjoyed her time on the show and outside of SNL, I actually really like her --- Bridesmaids was amazing and Wiig has knocked out a number of very good little roles in a number of  good films like Adventureland, Knocked Up, and Friends With Kids.  Hell, I even liked her pre-SNL, back when she was just "Dr. Pat" on the sadly forgotten but brilliant Joe Schmoe Show.

With that out of the way, I have WAY MORE BEEFS with the odd deification of Wiig (and others) within the show itself.  I think it began when Lorne Michaels referred to her as a "top-three all-time" cast member in an interview last year, a quote that nearly made me fall out of my chair in a Comic Book Guy-esque sputter of incredulity.  Top THREE?  EVER?  Let me again state that I like Wiig but come on Lorne, what the hell?  Part of me hopes that Michaels was just playing the hype game given that Bridesmaids was so huge since man, Wiig as an all-timer isn't even close to being accurate.  "Ranked list of all-time SNL cast members" is one of the items on my blog's to-do list, so I'll save my full rant for that post, but of all the incredible talents in the show's history, Lorne seriously thinks that Wiig is better than all but maybe two of them?!  Wiig hasn't even been the funniest person in her own casts --- I'd put Forte and Sudeikis ahead of her, and you could probably talk me into Bill Hader too.

If you saw the episode last weekend, Wiig got a big and rare "sendoff" sketch marking her last show.  Usually when notable SNL cast members leave, they get a couple of their recurring sketches for their final show and that's that.  With Wiig, they had her dancing with the entire cast and even Lorne Michaels to celebrate her so-called graduation while none other than Mick Jagger serenaded her with "She's A Rainbow."  It was baffling just how far over the top it went.  It's even odder when you consider that apparently Sudeikis and Andy Samberg are also leaving the show before next season.  Samberg got two nice goodbyes in the form of the final two SNL Digital Short sketches* but Sudeikis got jack.  Maybe it just means he isn't leaving the cast, since it makes sense that he would stick around to play Mitt Romney through the election or (oh god no) beyond if Romney (oh god no) becomes president.

* = If SNL is handing out big goodbye ceremonies, where was Samberg's?  While he was only an okay sketch performer, you can make a case that Samberg is one of the 10 most important cast members in SNL history.  The Digital Shorts have been the most consistently funny part of the show for seven years and certainly the hippest regular sketch in terms of making SNL relevant in the age of viral video.  Yes, I realize that there's nothing less hip than using the word 'hip.'  Deal with it.  Hey, look at how I cleverly incorporated that meme, I'm so hip!

Now, I realize that criticizing SNL for giving a beloved cast member a big sendoff is pretty picky, given that the easy rejoinder is, "Hey Mark, maybe they just wanted to do something special since Kristen Wiig is the apparently phenomenal to work with and is the nicest person in the world."  Fair enough.  Poehler, Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph are also legendarily nice folks, and their hosting gigs from the past two seasons featured a number of cameos from their old co-stars and were basically a celebration of their time on the show.  

The problem is, however, that their time on the show (roughly 2000-07) wasn't very good.  Things turned downhill after Will Ferrell left the cast, bottoming out in the 2004-05 season (one of SNL's three worst ever) and the barely-better 2005-06 season.  As I stated earlier, I hated Poehler on SNL.  Rudolph was a bit better, though she and Poehler shared the same trait of irritating characters and mannerisms.  Fallon is either the most overrated cast member in history or one of the bigger wastes of talent in SNL history, I can't decide which.  If SNL wants to celebrate these individuals, that's fine, and frankly it's very cool that most of that cast are genuine friends who will help each other out at the drop of a hat.  Just don't constantly put their cast reunions on my TV screen and try to whitewash history by claiming that those seasons were great.  Trust me, they weren't.  When Robert Downey Jr. hosted, for instance, you suddenly didn't see Anthony Michael Hall and Randy Quaid drop by for cameos as the episode became a tribute to the 85-86 season.

I extend this same feeling to Wiig's sendoff.  If you want to take a moment to celebrate Kristen Wiig the person, sure, go for it.  If you devote a whole segment to giving her an elaborate goodbye that seemingly elevates her as the best cast member ever, that's not fine, since that's simply not true.  Few, if any, shows on television possess the rich history of Saturday Night Live but it seems like SNL itself doesn't fully appreciate that history beyond the last decade or so.  It's like an old rock star who made a bunch of legendary albums in the past but insists that his newest record is his best work, as his fans just roll their eyes and indulge the new songs while waiting for hear the hits in the encore. 

With a nod to Mick Jagger, Wiig is literally like "She's A Rainbow" --- a very good Stones track, but if Mick & Keith told everyone it was their best song and played it at every concert, you'd think they were going overboard.  You might even start to consciously dislike the song since the band was pushing it down your throats to this extent.  I like Kristen Wiig, SNL, but just 'like,' not love.  It's only Kristen Wiig but I like her, to paraphrase Jagger again.  SNL, don't give me reason to look back on her tenure with Aunt Linda-esque eye-rolling rather than good memories.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Best Of The SNL Digital Shorts

Warming Glow counts down the 10 best songs from the SNL Digital Shorts (a.k.a. essentially by Lonely Island).  I cannot whole-heartedly endorse this list since it doesn't include Jizz In My Pants,* but even still, it's pretty solid.  I do love the inclusion of the underrated "Space Olympics," which didn't totally land as an actual comedy bit, but the song is really catchy.  "We can't really enforce the curfew/As there is no light or sound" is a great-ass line.

* = "I cannot whole-heartedly endorse this list since it doesn't include jizz in my pants" is an incredible out-of-context sentence.

My personal top 15, with extra points given to the actual quality of song over the humour of the sketch….

15. I Ran
14. Like A Boss
13. Three-Way (The Golden Rule)…Am I wrong in thinking that Lady Gaga has never looked better than she does in this video?  Note: this is not the same as saying Lady Gaga is actually attractive, as that is decidedly not the case.
12. Phonies (Threw It On The Ground)
11. Lazy Sunday….The original classic.  Chris Parnell rapping is the funniest thing in the world.
10. The Creep
9. Stumblin'….Sung by Vanessa Bayer!
8. Ras Trent
7. Space Olympics
6. Dick In A Box
5. Boombox
4. Motherlover
3. Jack Sparrow
2. I Just Had Sex
1. Jizz In My Pants

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Survivor Ratings: Kim

Survivor was in need of a good season.  After the terrible Nicaragua season and the back-to-back mediocrity of the two seasons with the Redemption Island gimmick, the show went back to basics with NO Redemption Island, NO returning cast members and an old-fashioned Survivor gimmick of all men vs. all women to start the game.  The only new twist was having both tribes share "one world," i.e. both camps were on the same beach.  While this twist was abandoned after the first four episodes, it definitely had an impact on the final result, which I'll explore later.

And, finally, the show was in need of a good winner.  Fabio was one of the worst winners ever, Boston Rob's dominating win in the first Redemption Island season was undermined by the fact that it was his fourth time and he was playing against starstruck newbies, and while I was a big fan of Sophie's win from last season, I seem to be in the minority.  (Attention to all the Sophie-haters: when you say Sophie was undeserving, what you're really saying is that Coach was the rightful winner.  Think about that for a second…do you really want to put yourself in the position of arguing that friggin' COACH was a worthy Survivor champion?  Come off it.)

In Kim Spradlin, Survivor got not just a good winner, but one of its best-ever winners.  She joins Earl and Yul in the pantheon of Survivor winners who weren't just dominant winners, but also universally-liked in their victory.  (Tom and JT aren't on this list since Tom got some flack for brow-beating Ian and JT's stock dropped after his clown shoes performance in Heroes vs. Villains.) 

How She Won: As Survivor casts more and more people who aren't true fans and don't appear to have even seen many/any past seasons, the show has definitely reverted back to the old pattern of players getting in an alliance and more or less sticking with it all the way to the end.  It's a tried-and-true strategy of victory and while it's sometimes not terribly interesting to the viewer to watch, the vast majority of winners won because they were in some sort of an alliance.  Also, "Pagongings" are only dull if the ones you like are being picked off.  In this case, I was rooting for the Kim/Sabrina/Chelsea alliance to hold, so seeing them pick off the men and the dead weight in their alliance was quite entertaining in my eyes. 

Kim took it a step further by not just being in an alliance, but by running the alliance, being the unquestioned strategic head* of the group and yet still didn't just win the game, she didn't even appear to be in any real trouble.  Troy, for all his own stupidity, at least figured out that Kim was the biggest threat and tried to rally everyone to vote her out and improve their own chances of victory.  It was a perfectly logical argument but it failed because Kim had everyone in her alliance convinced they were going to the end with her.  (And because nobody wanted to go to the end with Troy because he was an asshat.)  It's rare that the alpha of the group actually wins Survivor and even rarer that they do so without even taking a few hits. 

* = sorry Alicia, you weren't the mastermind.  The Survivor editors got some great comedic mileage out of showing Alicia's boastful interviews immediately next to her being easily manipulated by Kim.  Alicia was so worried about being "Tarzaned" that she didn't even notice she was "Kimmed."

Between making deals with everyone, winning individual immunity and having the bonus of the hidden idol, Kim covered her bases masterfully.  Heck, the HII didn't even come into play since Kim was so dominant; she didn't bother using it at the final five when it was her last chance to do so.  It was really a superlative all-around performance.

Kim, it should be said, enjoyed two big strokes of luck within the game.  I'm not knocking her for these since luck is a huge element of any Survivor victory, but they should at least be acknowledged.  Firstly, Kim benefited from the male tribe's all-time idiotic decision to give up the immunity they had ALREADY WON in order to go to tribal council and vote out Bill.  Baffling.  There's no other way to spin it than the guys were simply cowed into doing it by Colton, since he had an idol and actually knew something about the show, so all the guys shamefully went along with both killing themselves in the game and, to boot, abetting some thinly-veiled racism.  That was the moment when the male tribe was dead to me and I started rooting for the women full-on, by the way.  Interestingly, I would say that this move was completely derived from the "one world" concept.  I think the guys were confident in giving up immunity since they still felt they could beat the women after seeing them up-close with their half-assed camp, freezing, starving and literally begging the guys for palm fronds and fire.  Had the women been on a separate beach and still been something of an unknown quantity, I doubt the guys would've been so cavalier about giving their advantage in the game.  Had the women gone to TC that night, Christina likely would've been voted out, which would've obviously changed the whole complexion of the game given how far Christina ended up going. 

The other big stroke of luck was that virtually all of Kim's alliance stayed together in the tribal swap.  Had Kim found herself in Monica's position (with dead-weight Christina and easily-swayed Alicia) on the other tribe with four guys, she would've been in trouble, though she did have the HII to still help/save her.  While the favourable tribe swap helped Kim, she took it a step further by aligning with Jay and Troy, convincing them that they were in a new alliance with her and Chelsea and ultimately getting Jay/Troy to vote off the other men.  If the tribal swap was a winning lottery ticket for Kim, getting Jay/Troy to flip was like taking those lottery winnings and investing them in Apple stock circa 1985.  You could argue that Colton's medical evacuation was also a stroke of luck for Kim but I doubt she would've had much difficulty in getting that prejudiced dipshit out of the game.

Skillset: Basically everything.  Kim didn't just win challenges, she won a wide variety of challenges --- puzzles, willpower, hand-eye, or just straight athleticism, it didn't matter, Kim could compete and win.  On top of everything else, Kim was well-liked, treated everyone with respect and had what Sabrina described as the magic ability to make everyone believe her.  Admittedly, this was kind of funny to hear from one of Kim's allies since, y'know, you'd think it would occur to Sabrina that this was an awfully dangerous quality in an opponent, but Sabrina ended up in the finals anyway, so no worries.  Kim was well-liked, well-respected AND a tough competitor in every way.  If you had to draw up a perfect Survivor player, it might well be her.  I'm hard-pressed to think of one mistake Kim made in the game.  I guess maybe taking Chelsea and Alicia on the reward challenge instead of Kat, though that ultimately didn't really seem to harm her, and it could be argued that Kat's bratty response to being left out helped turn the tide against her and made it easier for Kim to get her voted out down the road. 

As if this wasn't enough, Kim also gave the best possible answer to why she didn't employ the 'goat strategy' and take Christina to the end over Sabrina.  Kim's answer was, essentially, "I think I played the best game of anyone so it shouldn't matter who I'm sitting with here at the end."  Boom!  I wish Probst had handed Kim a microphone so she could've dropped it.  Out of context, that's quite the cocky answer, and yet in Kim's case, it was just matter-of-fact confidence. 

Could She Do It Again?: Citing the precedent of Tom in the Heroes vs. Villains season, one would think that Kim's incredible performance in S24 would immediately make her a target in any return season.  That said, in a vacuum, if you turned back time and put Kim into another season of Survivor with a new cast, I still think she'd do very well since there's reason why WOULDN'T do well.  Her athleticism would definitely keep her safe in the early rounds of voting, and then post-merge, she could more than hold her own in individual challenges and no doubt also shift some votes with her manipulative abilities.  If the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist, Kim's greatest trick was being right out there front and centre, existing as a massive and obvious threat to win Survivor and yet she was never in trouble.  What small problems that did arise for her, she dealt with them creatively and efficiently, i.e. instantly turning Troy against Mike or instantly convincing Alicia that Tarzan was trying to play her. 

So where does Kim rank all-time?  Going back to my original list, I'll place her fourth.  Sandra and Parvati have an advantage in that they've played multiple seasons and been successful multiple times, and Brian Heidik…

…well, this is an interesting debate, so let's give it its own paragraph.  Essentially, I still rank Heidik slightly ahead of Kim because I think it's harder to win the game if you're an asshole.  Brian had to work harder to hide his natural douchebaggery and, as well as he played, he would've lost had he not perfectly arranged to be at the end with the only guy in the cast (Clay) more unlikeable than he.  Now, some might argue that it's tougher to be a GOOD person and win Survivor, since other players are more inclined to vote you out if they think you'll impress a jury.  Yet, knowing jury dynamics, it's clearly easier for a nice person to win a vote --- at the end of the day, a juror on the fence can stomach voting for a "hero" more easily than they can vote for a "villain."  Then again, there's no way Brian would succeed in a return appearance on Survivor, whereas Kim has a pretty good shot.  I'd love to hear any more takes on the subject, since Kim vs. Brian is a real tossup in my mind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Dark Knight Animated

It's very possible that of all the comics, movies, TV shows and other media over the years, Batman has never been better represented than he was in "Batman: The Animated Series," which should be on anyone's short list of the greatest cartoons of all time.  So, as awesome as the Christopher Nolan Batman films have been and will no doubt continue to be with 'Dark Knight Rises,' if you told me that Paul Dini and Bruce Timm were taking over the film franchise after Nolan leaves, I would be as equally fired up.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Summer Movie Preview (part two)

We covered the first two months of the summer season already, so let's see what July and August have to bring, besides me sweating like a hog.

July 6
The Amazing Spider-Man
Chance Of Being Good: 60%
Chance I'll See It: 100%
Errrrk.  Ok, well, I'll obviously go see it, simply because Spider-Man is a childhood hero.  And, on paper, if the original Spidey trilogy has never existed and this was the first we were hearing of a Spider-Man movie, I'd be pretty fired up about a creative team of Marc Webb directing, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, blonde Emma Stone (lord have mercy) as Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as the Lizard.  That's all good on paper.  Unfortunately, everything about this film seems like an afterthought.  Avengers and Dark Knight Rises are both taking up so much air in the room that there's been little buzz about ASM, and what buzz there is has been hesitant.  For instance, apparently there's some big subplot about how Peter doesn't get his powers directly from the spider bite but rather it somehow involves his missing parents and….geez.  It's bad enough that we have to get the Spidey origin story rehashed again, but now they're going to alter it?  Changing major parts of the canon is not a good way to get on a fanboy audience's good side.  The seeming impetus behind this film is that Sony would've lost the rights to Spider-Man unless the character was featured in a new movie by 2012, and that kind of money-over-creative spark decision almost never pays off.  I hope I'm wrong about everything I've written in this paragraph.  Maybe ASM will end up being really good; I mean, at least there's no chance this film will feature a half-evil/half-emo Andrew Garfield dancing in a jazz bar, so that's a positive.

Chance Of Being Good: 25%
Chance I'll See It: 14%
I can't tell if Oliver Stone is the best bad director in the world or the worst good director.  I think it's the former.  Stone hasn't made an outright good movie in 18 years (I'm not counting Any Given Sunday, which was mediocre apart from Pacino's locker room speech) and I'd doubt this one breaks the streak.  Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch play high-end pot dealers who run afoul of a drug cartel, the cartel kidnaps their co-girlfriend Blake Lively and….hold up, co-girlfriend?  In what world does Blake Lively have to settle for being passed around like a human joint?  Keep trying, Stone.

July 13
Chance Of Being Good: 67%
Chance I'll See It: 78%
Continuing Seth MacFarlane's trademark "human and talking animal/inanimate object" gimmick, we now have Ted, a movie about Mark Wahlberg and his living, breathing, swearing, smoking, etc. childhood teddy bear, who's now middle-aged and sounding oddly like Peter Griffin.  Essentially, if you like Family Guy, you'll probably be all over this movie.  I dropped off the FG train years ago (American Dad is the best of the MacFarlane cartoons and, perhaps not coincidentally, it's the one MacFarlane reportedly has the least to do with creatively) so while 'Ted' probably has more than a few laughs, it probably won't be anything special.

Ice Age: Continental Drift
Chance Of Being Good: 50%
Chance I'll See It: 0%
Here's another picture I'll skip unless I'm suddenly thrust into fatherhood between now and July.  I guess there's always a chance that a wealthy dowager dies and makes me the ward of her two precocious grandchildren as a condition of her will, but those kind of wacky antics only happen in the movies or in the screenplay I'm writing that will one day be a movie.  Hint hint.  My working title is 'Child Endangerment.'  Anyway, yeah, there's another Ice Age movie.  If you ever found yourself trying to guess the highest-grossing franchises in film history, by the way, the Ice Age films are surprisingly high on the list.

July 20
The Dark Knight Rises
Chance Of Being Good: 180%
Chance I'll See It: 194%
AHHHHHHHHHHH!  TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN!  I won't lie, I will have this expression on my face for the entirety of the movie.

Odd that I used that graphic for this film and not the one actually involving Seth MacFarlane but whatever.  Maybe MacFarlane makes a quick cameo in TDKR as, say, King Tut.

July 27
The (Neighborhood) Watch
Chance Of Being Good: 65%
Chance I'll See It: 65%
Two strikes against this one already.  The Trayvon Martin tragedy really cast a pall over this comedy's entire idea of an overly-aggressive neighborhood watch team, and I don't think a title change will erase that memory.  Secondly, it's out the week after Dark Knight Rises so everyone will just be going to see that one for the third or fourth time, muting The Watch's box office.  The third strike could come simply because Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are pretty hit-and-miss, so while there's a chance this could be the next Dodgeball, it could also be the next Tower Heist or Couples Retreat.  

Step Up Revolution
Chance Of Being Good: 1%
Chance I'll See It: 0%
Here's an odd one, it's the story of the Communist revolution in the Soviet Union, as told through high-impact hip-hop dancing.  The casting of Usher as Rasputin just seems odd but what the heck, as long as it's a way of teaching history to the kids, it might…..I'm sorry, what?  Oh, it's just another Step Up movie with an unrelated subtitle?  Damn.  I was looking forward to seeing Usher be theatrically "killed" by about fifty different objects before finally being impaled on (ironically) a chair.

August 3
Total Recall
Chance Of Being Good: 64%
Chance I'll See It: 78%
Yeah, I don't know why they bothered with a Total Recall remake either.  It just makes me feel old that so many Schwarzenegger properties are being redone --- Predator, Terminator with Christian Bale, Conan and now this.  I am 100 percent certain that we'll see Kindergarten Cop remade starring, I dunno, Channing Tatum within the next five years.  On the bright side, any film featuring Bryan Cranston as the villain is probably worth seeing.  Director Len Wiseman did the fourth Die Hard movie, which wasn't terrible, so I have….reasonable hopes?  The man is married to Kate Beckinsale so it's very possible he's living his life under some sort of gypsy charm, so you figure that will extend to one of his movies sooner or later.  Fun story: Total Recall was shot in Toronto, and a sportswriter buddy of mine chatted up an attractive woman at a pub who it turned out was Kate Beckinsale's body double.  Yowza.

The Bourne Legacy
Chance Of Being Good: 88%
Chance I'll See It: 97%
Remember when Shia LeBouef was shoehorned into the last Indiana Jones movie and humanity reacted with a simultaneous retch?  Well, imagine if LeBouef was shoehorned into the Mission Impossible, Avengers and Bourne franchises, except instead of retching, audiences were happy.  That's basically what Jeremy Renner has done here, and while it's admittedly kind of odd that he's suddenly Johnny Franchise out of nowhere, nobody minds since Jeremy Renner is awesome.  Man, how great is this guy's career?  Three years ago he was a nobody, now he's got two Oscar nominations and is lined up to make gazillions as a part of all these major summer tentpoles.  I don't even mind the lack of Matt Damon or Paul Greengrass; the new director is Tony Gilroy, who wrote the original Bourne trilogy and directed "Michael Clayton," so he's got some chops.  I have full confidence that this instalment will live up to the high standards of the Bourne series, just as long as Gilroy leaves the shaki-cam at home.

August 10
Hope Springs
Chance Of Being Good: 53%
Chance I'll See It: 49%
A.K.A. one my mother will see in theatres this summer.  The trailer is very schmaltzy, but I dunno, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones being counselled by Steve Carell sounds pretty promising.  How bad could it possibly be?….wait, hang on a second.  "How bad could it possibly be" is essentially the motto of the summer movie season and I'm using it on THIS innocuous drama?  By Odin's beard.

The Campaign
Chance Of Being Good: 85%
Chance I'll See It: 95%
And hey, speaking of Will Ferrell lines, here's Will Ferrell.  It's him and Zach Galifianakis as southern politicians campaigning against each other and yeah, I'm totally sold.  Just having either of these two in a movie isn't an insta-pass (Due Date sadly comes to mind) but the two of them COMBINED?  It's like Smilex gas.  For the sake of my Will + Zach = :) formula, pretend the Tim & Eric movie never happened, which shouldn't be hard since it was likely a fever dream anyway.

August 17
The Expendables 2
Chance Of Being Good: 60%
Chance I'll See It: 80%
I'll be honest, the first Expendables was a bit of a letdown since it wasn't nearly as tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top as I'd hoped/expected.  Once the novelty of seeing all of these old lunkheads on screen together wore off, it was just like "welp, here's an action movie.  Eric Roberts ain't lasting long."  I must admit, however, I may have overlooked some of the comedy since I'm looking at the IMDB entry right now and didn't realize how stupid these character names were.  Jet Li's character is named Yin Yang!  Terry Crews is Hale Caesar!  Randy Couture is Toll Road!  Jean-Claude Van Damme is new to the cast for this one, and his villain character is literally named 'Jean Vilain'!  This is fucking ridiculous!  Plus, Novak Djokovic is in this movie, sadly not named Ace Fault.  I just can't quit you, shitty Stallone action movies.   

Chance Of Being Good: 3%
Chance I'll See It: 4%
Preview of the marketing campaign…."Hey, remember Whitney Houston?  Remember how, after ignoring her washed-up career for the last 15 years, you suddenly pretended to like her when she died?  Well, you can still see her in a movie!  Please come and see Sparkle!"  The fact that the plot of this film seems to be pretty blatantly ripping off Dreamgirls is probably also not a good sign.  I'll only see this if I'm wrong about the marketing campaign and all of its commercials are cribbed from this.

August 24
Hit and Run
Chance Of Being Good: 66%
Chance I'll See It: 70%
I'm torn about this one.  On the one hand, it's directed and written by Dax Shepard, who doesn't exactly jump out as a triple threat worth caring about.  On the other hand, it's co-starred Kristen Bell, who I always enjoy financially supporting through theatre tickets.  On the other other hand, seeing them in a movie together is a constant reminder that Bell is married to Shepard and not, like, to me, which will be a summer.  On the other other other hand, once Kristen Bell hears about my mutant four hands, she's BOUND to give me a call sometime.  And when she calls, I can answer the phone with ease, with one of my several hands.  Alright, I'm on board!  Go see "Hit & Run!"  (Note: I reserve the right to retract my endorsement if it turns out Shepard's character is named Johnny Hit and Bell's character is named Lisa Run.)

Premium Rush
Chance Of Being Good: 70%
Chance I'll See It: 70%
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon are both awesome actors, and hopefully have that Clooney-esque radar for only picking interesting projects and avoiding easy-paycheque garbage.  I bring this up because Premium Rush has the title and premise of the most generic action movie ever made.  From IMDB…."In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city"  Hopefully this thin concept will lead to some whipass chase sequences, at the very least.  Maybe it'll be a sleeper hit and become the film that even changes Rob Ford's mind about cyclists.

August 31
Chance Of Being Good: 80%
Chance I'll See It: 93%
A gang of Depression-era bootleggers get into a battle with the police, and if that wasn't rugged enough for you, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman are in the cast, John "The Road" Hillcoat is directing and it was co-written by friggin' Nick Cave, as in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  RUGGED.  The only drawback is that my arch-nemesis LaBeouf is in the cast and he's about the least rugged man alive.  I'm hoping he'll be a surprise death in the opening 10 minutes, killed off by simply one withering Oldman glare.  This is not to be confused with Clint Eastwood's equally withering old man glare, which is a step beyond even Oldman's capabilities.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Vimeo doesn't allow for embedding, but click this link to check out this fantastic commercial for the Paralympics.  There's also a bonus video that details how the ad was created, which is fascinating in itself.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Summer Movie Preview (part one)

The month of May isn't just an above-average Arcade Fire song, it's also what I consider the start of the summer movie season.  Here's a glance at some of the big films coming up over the next four months and whether or not you should see them….in most cases, probably not.

May 4
The Avengers
Chance Of Being Good: 95%
Chance I'll See It: 100%

As both a general comic-movie fan, a specific fan of the Captain America/Thor/Iron Man (at least the first one) movies and a big Joss Whedon fan, SURELY this can't disappoint, right?  Needless to say, there's a bit of pressure on this film.  Marvel has essentially been putting all of its eggs into the Avengers basket for the last several years, so if it's a flop, it's not just this franchise, but several franchises that could be threatened.  Early buzz --- Avengers has already been released internationally --- has been terrific so let's hope this can live up to expectations.  I'm also on a renewed Whedon high thanks to Cabin In The Woods, and just from looking at the cast list, there will be at least a few familiar Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Dollhouse faces making cameos.  The downside of this picture finally coming out is that I'll have to end my long-running "oh, we've got to wait until the end of the credits so Sam Jackson can ask them to join the Avengers" joke that I've been saying for, oh, more or less every movie for the last three years.  Law of diminishing returns, sure, but it's still a good gag when it's for a movie like, A Separation.

May 11
Dark Shadows 
Chance Of Being Good: 70%
Chance I'll See It: 60%

Speaking of diminishing returns, Johnny Depp is starring in yet another Tim Burton film.  The film is based on an older TV series that I've personally barely heard of, but is apparently a cult favourite.  Looks like a lighter goth-comedy along the lines of Beetlejuice, but as fond of that film as I am, I can't ignore that it would've been pretty unmemorable were it not for Michael Keaton's ball of energy performance.  Can Depp or Eva Green deliver a performance of that ilk to carry this thing?  Meh. 

May 18
What To Expect When You're Expecting
Chance Of Being Good: 18%
Chance I'll See It: 0%

The marketing for this film is really pushing the "Dudes Club" aspect, i.e. the group of no-judging dads who've formed a clique and indoctrinate expectant fathers about what to, well, expect.  I think this marketing is known as Try To Get Some Guys Whatsoever Into The Theatres To See This Thing.  Chris Rock is one of the dads, which is already strike one since few movie stars have appeared in fewer good movies while still being respected than Chris Rock.  Unless I suddenly find myself in a relationship by May 18 or end up becoming an expectant father (anti-knock on wood), there is zero chance I see this unless Anna Kendrick personally invites me as her date to the premiere.  And that odds of that happening are really no better than 50-50.

Chance Of Being Good: 75%
Chance I'll See It: 69% (tee hee)

So yeah, it's about the invention of the vibrator.  Huh.  Since I'm mentally 10 years old, this won't stop me from giggling at everything about this film, including Maggie Gyllenhaal's expression on the poster.  This is definitely not your summer blockbuster type but rather the kind of pleasant British comedy you could take your mom to….er, possibly except for the fact that it's about vibrators.  Bit of a disappointment the film isn't called Hyzzzzzteria.

The Dictator
Chance Of Being Good: 78%
Chance I'll See It: 88%

I'm of two minds about this film.  The trailers look really weak, almost unusually weak.  Then again, Sasha Baron Cohen's trailers are somewhat handicapped by the fact that he can't really reveal several of the major jokes in his movies since they're too raunchy to be trailerable.  SBC has a strong enough track record that I'll presume this is still going to have a lot of laughs, even if the concept is a bit vaguely late-career Mike Myersish.   

Chance Of Being Good: 32%
Chance I'll See It: 19%

You may be curious about the very modest but still oddly high chance I'm giving this film of being good, and that's only as a nod to Peter Berg, who's a decent director.  That said, man, does this look like a generic piece of action junk.  Liam Neeson has signed up for some pretty weak projects in his attempt to emulate Harrison Ford's 1995-2005 career but c'mon Liam, you've sunk so low as to seriously have to deliver the line, "You've sunk my battleship"?  At least, I presume Neeson will be the one who says it.  I guess Rihanna could do it, no doubt in a delivery worth of Meryl Streep herself.  I may be giving Peter Berg too much credit, he ain't a miracle worker --- this movie will suck.  

May 25
Men In Black III
Chance Of Being Good: 67%
Chance I'll See It: 40%

THEY WERE WRITING THIS MOVIE AS THEY WERE FILMING IT!  Like, not just making rewrites during shooting like every film does, but shooting on MIB3 began before even an initial script was completed.  That is a straight-up terrible omen.  I'm sure the end result will be a decent sci-fi comedy like the other two MIB movies but really, is there anything here that you really feel the need to plunk down $12 for a ticket?   

Moonrise Kingdom
Chance Of Being Good: 100%*
Chance I'll See It: 95%

I'll get right to the asterisk on the 100%.  Notice, I'm just saying, "chances a film will be GOOD."  Not great, just good.  All of Wes Anderson's movies are good, so unless the man has underwent an unexpected drop in form, I'm going to be as entertained as I always am from an Anderson film.  Now, this being said, I've only found a couple of Anderson's movies -- Rushmore, Fantastic Mr. Fox -- to be anything more than just 'good,' so I'm certainly not predicting a masterpiece from Moonrise Kingdom or anything.  Basically, all we need to say here is that this is a Wes Anderson film and that's what you're going to get.  If it involves Bill Murray doing Bill Murray things, I'm sold.

June 1
Snow White and the Huntsman
Chance Of Being Good: 59%
Chance I'll See It: 33%

This year's version of the Armageddon/Deep Impact phenomenon is that we've somehow gotten two "action-packed versions of Snow White" hitting screens.  The first one (Mirror Mirror) has already bombed and now we're faced with this film, which may or may not have confused Snow White with Joan of Arc, judging from the trailer.  The fantastic casting of the dwarves -- Ian McShane!  Ray Winstone!  Toby Jones!  Eddie Marsan!  Nick Frost!  Bob Hoskins!  Johnny Harris!  I like all of these guys! -- has me on the fence about seeing this but geez, I dunno.  You're telling me that we're supposed to believe some mirror who says that Kristen Stewart is fairer than Charlize freakin' Theron?  Keep dreaming, mirror.   

Piranha 3DD
Chance Of Being Good: 1%
Chance I'll See It: 0%

Make no mistake, this movie will be very, very bad.  That said, you have to somewhat admire a film that releases a trailer as brazenly shameless as this.  And good lord, that title.  It'd be like if Hysteria had actually called itself Hyzzzzzteria.

June 8
Chance Of Being Good: 84%
Chance I'll See It: 100%

Either Noomi Rapace or Charlize Theron (I guess whomever survives) are excellent, excellent choices to continue Sigourney Weaver's legacy in this Alien prequel.  No doubt this film will start a new Alien series if and when it becomes a hit, so we've got to be looking long-term here.  Of course, these new movies could zig where the originals zagged and, rather than a female protagonist, they could have Stringer Bell do it.  That would be fucking great.  Idris Elba needs a big movie franchise, STAT.  Ridley Scott isn't a *great* director but he is a competent, Peter Berg-ian type who is good for one really great movie per decade --- Alien in the 70's, Blade Runner in the 80's, Thelma & Louise in the 90's, Black Hawk Down in the 00's.  Let's hope Prometheus is his answer to the 2010's.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Chance Of Being Good: 83%
Chance I'll See It: 100%

A guy places a newspaper ad asking for someone to accompany him on a time-travel mission.  Some magazine writers investigate this, since it's so weird.  This has 'quirky indie comedy' written all over it, and since Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson play the magazine writers, I'm sold.

June 15
Rock Of Ages
Chance Of Being Good: 70%
Chance I'll See It: 64%

I'm admittedly a sucker for musicals, and a sucker for musicals that incorporate modern pop music in clever ways (Moulin Rouge, Across the Universe, etc.).  That said, I'm not really a fan of 80's pop rock, so Rock Of Ages will have to really crank up the clever factor to make it work for me.  This is a pure word-of-mouther for me; if it's getting good buzz, I'll check it out, but if not, it sounds like a picture I can easily skip.  Also, "word-of-mouther" sounds way dirtier than it has any right to be.

That's My Boy
Chance Of Being Good: 66%
Chance I'll See It: 66%

Okay, bear with me here.  It's an Adam Sandler comedy….wait, wait!  Don't run out of the room screaming, throwing salt over your shoulder so nothing can grow behind you.  It's a Sandler comedy BUT, it's not from the usual Sandler creative team.  In fact, the script is from David Caspe, the man behind "Happy Endings," one of my favourite sitcoms.  If Caspe can make Elisha Cuthbert legitimately funny, surely he can do the same with Sandler, right?  Right?  Should I be worried that on the IMDB page, after Sandler, Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester, the next highest-billed star is….Vanilla Ice?  Uh oh.  Come on Caspe, bail me out here!

June 22
Chance Of Being Good: 100%
Chance I'll See It: 100%

It's a Pixar film that doesn't involve talking cars.  Nuff said.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Chance Of Being Good: 85%
Chance I'll See It: 95%

Steve Carell and Keira Knightley go on a road trip as an asteroid is headed towards Earth.  Not to write off a movie without actually seeing it or even knowing much of anything about the story, but if this film ends with the asteroid missing Earth, it'll automatically be 15 percent worse.  Come on, filmmakers!  Have the balls for doomsday!

To Rome With Love
Chance Of Being Good: 70%
Chance I'll See It: 92%

It's Woody Allen's latest and it's set in (spoiler alert) Rome.  So, expect witty dialogue and an unquenchable desire to visit Rome if you see this one.  Woody's riding a high after Midnight In Paris but it's been a while since Allen has made back-to-back good movies.  I guess this depends on personal taste, of course, but the last time Allen made consecutive films that were generally regarded as really good was in 1993-94 (Manhattan Murder Mystery and Bullets Over Broadway).  So, if you're expecting another Midnight In Paris, lower your expectations.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Chance Of Being Good: 50%
Chance I'll See It: 25%

The IMDB description page refers to the original novel as "wildly revisionist."  Aw, I don't know.  I mean, do you know for a FACT that Lincoln didn't also slay a few vamps in his spare time?  Lincoln is already considered to be the greatest American president by several learned scholars but man, imagine if we discovered that not only were vampires real, but that Lincoln went all Giles on them back in the day?  I think the US would sandblast over Washington, Jefferson and Roosevelt's faces and just give Mount Rushmore to Abe all by himself.  Anyway, this movie is going to be some straight-up nonsense and, depending on how tongue-in-cheek things get, could be entertaining.  Remember how I cited the two Snow White films as another case of Hollywood releasing two films on the same topic within the same year?  Between ALVH and Lincoln, this is the loosest possible application of that rule.  If Benjamin Walker has a sense of humour, he should release a few "For Your Consideration" ads for himself around Oscar season and just totally slag off Day-Lewis.

June 29
Take This Waltz
Chance Of Being Good: 91%
Chance I'll See It: 89%

Sarah Polley movie!  A Sarah Polley-directed movie, I should specify.  Rising best-actress-in-the-world contender Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen fall in love yet it is NOT a comedy [/McBain voice].  Taking a page from Benjamin Walker's book, Christoph Waltz should release his own series of FYC ads promoting his performance in this movie, despite his having nothing to do with it. 

Magic Mike
Chance Of Being Good: 61%
Chance I'll See It: 50%

Steven Soderbergh has always been a pretty prolific filmmaker but man, he's taking it to a new level.  This is his third picture to be released within the span of a year, so, take that, Malick.  "Magic Mike" is a comedy about male stripping starring Channing Tatum, who, if you saw his SNL hosting appearance and the subsequent 52 jokes about it, used to actually be a male stripper.  I've got to say, Tatum is starting to get on my good side.  Whereas I'd just assumed he was a non-wrestling version of John Cena, Tatum was funny on SNL and in "21 Jump Street," playing his wooden personality as a deadpan.  Tatum is an amiable lunkhead of an actor; sort of a rich man's Chris Klein.  (As we speak, Webster's is updating its entry for the saying 'damning with faint praise.') 

GI Joe: Retaliation
Chance Of Being Good: 38%
Chance I'll See It: 19%

Hey, speaking of Tatum, he's one of the only survivors of the GI Joe bloodbath.  Here's an odd take on a sequel; apparently in "Retaliation," everyone from the first movie gets killed except for Duke (Tatum) and Snake Eyes (Ray "Darth Maul" Park).  Now joining the mix are more established action stars like the Rock and Bruce Willis, the latter of whom is playing the actual GI Joe himself.  If the producers had a sense of humour, they'd cast Demi Moore as Malibu Stacy.  Having not seen the original GI Joe movie, and still firm in my belief that nothing will ever top the old animated GI Joe movie that featured Cobra Commander turned into an actual snake, I think I'll be skipping this one too.