Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Great Scott!

It's decades on, but in some form, the DeLorean Motor Company still exists. They have a website where you can still order parts for their famous car, if you happen to own one and need to make repairs.

Or upgrades. Try a parts search for Part Number 1985. You won't be disappointed by the results.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Your Tardy Prison Break Update

My apologies to the Prison Break fans out there. The friend I try to watch each new episode with was sick yesterday, so we didn't get to this week's installment until tonight. Anyway, on with the show...

Recently, it has struck me that Prison Break has really reached a point where it has the storytelling format of a soap opera. I don't mean this in a bad way -- I'm just comparing the techniques. The typical daytime soap opera has about four or five plots running in any given episode, each featuring different characters, and all of them seldom (or never) interacting with one another. Each piece of the story is given about 10 minutes of screen time, each broken into a handful of 2- to 4-minute chunks, then shuffled together to create an episode.

Bellick, C-Note, Haywire, T-Bag, and Sucre all now seem nearly irrevocably disassociated from one another, and from Linc and Michael. They're each their own plotline in the "soap opera." In another show, all of these plots could be fairly interesting. But in this show, I find it harder and harder to stay invested in the stories other than Linc and Michael.

Well, sort of. T-Bag still commands my attention, and that has everything to do with the brilliant acting of Robert Knepper. But of course, he was taking a week off, presumably boarded up in the house with his former girlfriend and her children.

Perhaps surprisingly, I also find myself very interested in Haywire's story. Maybe it's because we're only seeing him sparingly. It's always been part of his backstory that he's not a killer in his blood -- it takes something to set him off. And I found it very interesting to see that play out on screen this week.

But I'm starting to lose interest in Bellick. He was interesting as an adversary for the heroes, but now they've built up Mahone to be that -- and a far more ruthless and cunning adversary than Bellick ever was. And I can't be at all sympathetic for Bellick's current plight. Perhaps their laying pipe for him to make his own attempt to escape from Fox River? If so, that could be entertaining, watching him try to follow in Michael's footsteps. But even still, I'm feeling like they need to bring his storyline to some sort of conclusion by the end of the season.

C-Note also took the week off, which leaves Sucre. I'm starting to lose interest in his storyline too, but in this case, I find myself really feeling bad about that. I liked him so much as Michael's friend and cellmate. I remember cheering out loud at the television back in season one during the episodes about two-thirds through the season where he had to jump in and take a really active role in the escape, crafting plans of his own. But now I feel like the writers are in the same dilemma as his character. For Sucre: "He was escaping to try to be with a girl? How did he think that was ever going to work out with people trying to chasing him down? Now what is he gonna do?" For the writers: "He's out, more or less free and clear, and away from the other characters. Now what are you gonna do with him?"

Even if I found a couple of the subplots this week a bit slow, the main thread delivered. I find it very interesting how badly Michael reacts to being "not in control" of a situation. In that respect, he and Linc really are brothers, and completely alike -- neither one can take feeling helpless without quickly trying to do something. Michael can achieve a cool focus and centeredness when he's working on one of his elaborate plans, but once Kellerman arrived on the scene and took control, Michael started doing crazy things just to get back in the driver's seat (such as calling the cops in Montana). As soon as he crafted his way of contacting Sara, he was right back in that cool and focused frame of mind. Interesting nuances in both the writing of the character and the portrayal of him there.

And finally, the President resurfaces in the plot. Only by way of a phone call, but hey -- it's something. There are entire episodes of Patricia Wettig's new show, Brothers & Sisters, that she's not even in. It's good to know they finally worked out a way to get some of her time for Prison Break.

In all, a mostly good episode. And we didn't have to see them attempt to fake a version of Denver that surely wasn't going to look anything like the real thing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

This week on 24, a realization even more startling than the identity of Jack's brother: that his name is spelled... Graem?

Tom wants to base things on soft intel? That bastard!

Don't try this at home, kids: Graem had to spend five minutes in that plastic bag while Karen and Tom bickered and Bill and Nadia discussed her security woes.

"Dammit!" shouts Jack. Everyone drink!

Fayed might still be hunkered down in the "perimeter." Everyone drink!

And Fayed will be moving in the opposite direction of the fallout if he is still in the "perimeter." Everyone drink! (Damn, this episode's gonna be a bender!)

Bill tells Jack they have teams standing by! But weren't we told they were all killed in the blast last week? This must be the second string. Imagine how effective they're gonna be.

The CIA guy that's been a pain in Sandra Palmer's ass for hours is no longer "that guy from Good Will Hunting that doesn't like dem apples," he's "Samuels." Just be careful you don't start to care about him too much, or he'll be dead within the hour.

Talking directly to suspected terrorists is "a big get." Kinda like when Bill Clinton goes on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I guess.

Tom really doesn't like Karen. Maybe she used his special toilet stall in the unisex bathroom. The man likes a fresh bowl.

Milo is letting Nadia use his log in. Because later on, he wants to get his log in.

Karen advises Wayne to listen to his inner David, and then asks for five hours (weeks) off so she can fly to LA (go do a short guest shot on another series).

That guy in the detainment facility sure isn't doing a very good job of hiding his cell phone, holding it out about two feet in front of him like it's a geiger counter or something.

Who's he calling anyway? "You reached 1-800-4-TERROR. Press 1 for jihads. Press 2 for fatwas..."

Walid can put the phone back now? They don't exactly cover that in pickpocket correspondence courses.

Chloe is finding out what was on the cell phone... and it's... the opening credits from Live and Let Die?

Darren McCarthy doesn't have any dry cleaning in his office, so Jack will just have to settle for cuffing Graem to the furniture.

I like James Cromwell. He doesn't look a thing like Donald Sutherland. But I still like him.

Daddy says he's just trying to keep his son out of prison. I guess that means the bald one, since Daddy wasn't around to help Jack in seasons 4 and 5.

Darren McCarthy's got a new line on a wizard of a nuke programmer who amazingly hasn't left town. Maybe because s/he works at CTU? (I mean, there has to be a mole there. There just has to be.)

See, look what happens when you send the second string CTU field teams?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Taking a Break From All Your Worries

I felt an interesting mix of opinions about tonight's installment of Battlestar Galactica.

On the one hand, I was very glad to see that after the big plot developments of the mid-season cliffhanger, the writers didn't just shove everything back in a box to hold in reserve until the season finale. (The episodes between the departure from New Caprica and the mid-season finale, while sometimes good and interesting, also felt often felt like they were marking time.)

On the other hand, I felt like the two particular plot threads that received focus in this episode didn't mesh well together at all. The "love rhombus" that is Lee-Dualla-Kara-Anders was not really peanut butter to "let's pump Gaius for information"'s chocolate.

But I did like both of the two plots when each is looked at separately. On the one hand, they continue with the "love rhombus" to avoid taking easy or predicatable ways out. Lots of shows would have had Anders get killed off last episode to extricate the characters from their tangle. Other shows would now be playing the oh-so-predictable beat of "Kara's changed her mind and will really leave Anders now, but Lee's gone back with Dualla." (Well, they didn't do that this week, anyway. Kudos to them for that, and here's hoping they stick to it.)

The Baltar storyline had an interesting bunch of strange and sometimes creepy imagery. They've done "character floating alone in the water" before with Lee last season in his Blackbird accident, but here, alone in the dark with only a small light shining on his face, Baltar's vision had a completely different tone. The constant tight closeups in the real world of Baltar in his restraints were unsettling, and the burnt children crowded around his Cylon "reboot" tank were the worst (best? depends on your perspective) of all.

I'd say in all not one of Galactica's finest episodes -- but they can't all be 33, Pegasus, or Downloaded. It was a solid and enjoyable enough hour. Despite the goofy title.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tales from the Internets 2

Traffic on my modest little blog has been up a lot in the last few weeks, for whatever reason. Which means that the number of truly bizarre Google search results that somehow led here has been up too. Since I shared with you some of the last batch, I thought I'd bring you up to date with what's been on people's minds lately.

slapcastic - I don't know what that means. And I certainly don't know how a search for it led here, because this is the first time I've ever used the word.

missed the last episode of "the lost room" - Bummer, man. Then again, I wasn't crazy about the way it ended.

baby heimlich maneuver pictures - They're so cute at that age.

"my Wife thinks" Krasinski - My blog is not going to tell you what your wife thinks about anything. Least of all, Jim from The Office.

"New Monopoly sucks" - Yup. Rather like the old Monopoly that way.

How to do the heimlich movie - I'm willing to negotiate terms for a movie based on my life.

did anthony lapaglia play boner in growing pains - Um. No. Though I must say, 18 months later (hell, 20 years later), I still can't believe there was a character on a family sitcom named Boner.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just Take Those Old Records Off the Shelf...

Forbes.com recently ran an article identifying the 10 most risky businesses to start up. They have a silly slide show to step you through them, but in short, they've gone with ridiculously broad categories and generated this list:

Transportation
Apparel Stores
Restaurants And Bars
Communications
Travel Agencies And Tour Operators
Food Stores
Personal Services
Auto Repair
Trucking
Money Services Businesses

So... basically, they could have just written an article that said, "thinking of starting a business? Don't." Because I'm hard-pressed to think of anything that's not covered on that list.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gettin' Hitched

When I saw The Queen on Sunday, it was actually part of a back-to-back movie run with my friends. But the first film in our double feature could not possibly have been more different -- we saw the new remake of The Hitcher.

In my opinion, this movie is not as bad as the aggregate reviews make it sound. It's not particularly great, I'll readily admit, but it gives you a decent enough ride.

You get some good tense moments peppered throughout -- not all the scares are cheap, "cat dropping down off the refrigerator on the hero" type of jumpy scares. It moves through the plot quickly, without too much extraneous stuff. Sean Bean is fun to watch, as is Neal McDonough.

I can't comment too much on comparing this remake to the original version of the film, which I have not seen. The two people I went with had, and we talked a little about the comparisons at a lunch in between our two movies. To hear them tell it, the movie is very similar, with two key changes. One is in the relationship between the two "heroes" of the film -- in the original, they are strangers (one is a hitchhiker, just like the psycho of the title); in the remake, they are dating.

The other change, I can't detail without spoiling things for those who might want to see the film. But suffice it to say, we all agreed that the changes actually were a big improvement on the story of the original. It made more logical sense, and led to a more satisfying resolution for the movie.

All that said, is it worth seeing? Probably only if slasher films are your cup of tea. If you are, this one probably rates around a B- in the pantheon in slasher films. Maybe I'm being a little too forgiving, because honestly, I was expecting much, much worse... sort of the "movie I'd have to sit through" before we all went to The Queen, which is really the reason I was joining them on the "movie day." The Hitcher might really just be a C+.

Either way, just a touch above average. Nothing extraordinary.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Unhappy Medium

I was watching Medium tonight. It's a decent enough show. It's not my favorite thing on television, by any stretch. It's not a show I'd actively try to encourage people to watch. But I do watch it every week, and I find it fairly enjoyable.

Except that I'm often struck by just how much the show could better be titled The Patricia Arquette Show. She is a good actor, and is good on the show. I don't begrudge her the awards she's won playing this character of Allison DuBois. But everyone else on the show? They're all doing repetitive, thankless work. I mentioned this once in passing a long time back. But there's been a lot more episodes of Medium since then, and in this respect, the show hasn't really changed. The rest of the cast is doing thankless, repetitive work.

And none more so than her TV husband, played by Jake Weber. Week in, week out, this man does the same schtick. He probably works about two or three days of a seven-day shooting schedule. At least one full day of that, he spends in his underwear, filming the 98,000th "Allison and Joe in bed" scene (over 3/4s of which are "Allison waking up from a nightmare"). Most of the second day is spent filming "referee the bickering children" scenes.

The throughline of 9 out of 10 of his scenes is trying to convince his television wife that what she thinks is not necessarily what she should be thinking. And 9 out of those 10 times, his character is completely wrong.

Only about twice a season does he get to have a scene with an actor other than Patricia Arquette or one of his television daughters. Only about once a season does he actually get an episode that involves him in any kind of tangible way in the plot.

Added to all this, Michael Ausiello (TV Guide's main rumormonger) claims to have it on good authority that the on set atmosphere of this show is a disaster.

It's a shame. I really liked Jake Weber in the Dawn of the Dead remake, and in the one season that ran of American Gothic (before word was the network asked the creators to write him out... hmm, maybe this guy is cursed!). But this role is totally thankless work.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Royal Treatment

The Oscar nominations were released today, and I'm ahead of the game this year -- I've already seen three of the five Best Picture nominees. Two of them, I've already talked about: The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine. The third, I just caught this past Sunday: The Queen.

I find it very difficult to review this movie. On the one hand, it fails my main personal criteria for high enthusiasm: it fails to generate much of any emotion in me. On the other, it is a very well-crafted film on just about every level you can look at it.

The story is well-structed, with a tight unity of theme, centering around the royal family's bizarre behavior in the aftermath of Lady Diana's death. The realism in every aspect of the film is laudible. The performances don't feel like "performances," and the action and photography doesn't feel "staged," but rather captured by some invisible camera that might really have been there. Not that it has the rough edges of a documentary, but it certainly has a similar realism.

The feeling of class and manners is conveyed to perfection. You're transported into a place where nothing makes sense the way it would in the "real world," yet you can imagine how it makes sense to these characters.

Helen Mirren is probably deserving of her recent Golden Globe win (and her likely forthcoming Oscar win). She doesn't deliver histrionics or hysterics, but is so utterly convincing that it's hard to find a single moment in the film where it feels like she's acting.

And yet, the lack of emotion is where the film falls short for me. I find I'm not even left with a sense of sympathy or empathy after the tale is told. At most, I get a sort of distant intellectual shaking of my head in marveling how far Tony Blair fell after the events depicted in the film.

Now, repression of emotion is one of the central themes of the movie. And it's a reasonable statement that an Oscar-worthy movie is one that conveys its theme this thoroughly and utterly. But that's not the full sum of the equation for me personally. In the end, I give the film a B.

Monday, January 22, 2007

10:00AM - 11:00 AM

They're moving the President down to the bunker. I hope they got their money's worth out of the expensive old Oval Office set before moving down into the expensive new White House bunker set.

Every field team was too near the nuke and was killed? Damn, that sucks!

Karen's cell phone plan is as good as Jack Bauer's. She gets reception even down in the presumably lead-lined presidential bunker.

Chloe wonders why people she knows keep dying. Because she's on 24, not King of Queens.

Someday, when I own a house, I'm totally installing a helicopter sticking out of the roof. Cause it just looks totally sweet.

How many thousands of feet did that chopper fall out of the sky, yet crash relatively intact... yet when it drops like four feet down to the yard, it explodes?

Jack wants Bill to send someone to pick him up. On another type of show, that could have been a much funnier conversation. "Actually, I'm on a roof, so send a chopper." "Where do we send it?" "Look for the chopper on the corner." "If there's a chopper near you, why don't you just use that one?"

Daddy Bauer?! This is an interesting twist.

Sandra's worried about Walid: "How will you be putting a wire on him?" Tape, I'd imagine.

Don't worry? The agent's not going to hurt him? Try that explanation next time you haul off and deck someone.

Jack's brother? Bauers are popping up more than Palmers this seas-- holy crap! It's Evil Bald Mastermind from season five? I see the writers are trying to make me retroactively care about that go-nowhere plot from last year. And dammit, it just might work!

Though I do have to say, seeing them side by side on the split screen, Graham and Jack don't look anything like brothers. Maybe that somehow has something to do with why Graham was so pissed off he sold his brother out to the Chinese?

Call me crazy, but I see the blond-haired woman in the business suit that the "terrorist contractor" is stopping to pick up, and for like one-third of a second, I swear I thought it was Kim Bauer. Yikes.

Looks like "Dr. Julian" Assad is being shipped out of the plot after just four episodes. I suppose his four hours of 24 ended a hell of a lot better than this season's first four hours did for Ray... or Ahmed... or Curtis...

All these awkward glances between Jack and Marilyn and Josh... and the fact that Josh is at least six inches taller than Graham and has much thicker hair... I'm sensing Josh isn't Jack's nephew.

Jack's going to town on his brother. And Jack doesn't even know about the China thing yet. Maybe as children, Graham sat on his face and farted a lot or something, because there's clearly some pent-up rage here.

Would you like paper? Or PLASTIC?!

Back Breaking

24 had a really good episode tonight, but Prison Break had just as good. It was an episode chock so full of plot-advancing goodness, it was hard to believe this was an episode coming back from a mid-season break instead of going out on one.

Terrence Steadman, dead?! Mahone gone rogue?! Holy crap!

And along the way, a great story for T-Bag. He didn't want to carve up his ex-girlfriend, he wanted to get back together with her. And in a totally creepy, rather crazy way, but not crazy in an "I'm totally deluded" sort of way, but instead in the typical frightening, thoughtful T-Bag sort of way. Good stuff.

I actually found myself enjoying the "Bellick's plight in prison" plot more than I thought I would. As with most things on Prison Break, you just have to get over some hurdles of plausibility, and then the ride's a treat. And damn, I think they must have found the largest working actor on the face of the Earth to play his prison nemesis.

The C-Note plot was maybe a bit of a weak link in all this, but I think it didn't overstay its welcome. There were just enough scenes with him to convey his pain over his family falling apart (again), without slowing down the rest of the action too much.

Now what are poor Linc and Michael gonna do?!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rapture

Battlestar Galactica was back tonight after a month, with a mostly good, but somewhat rushed episode. Many of the individual pieces in the episode were great, but few of them seemed to have room to breathe. In just 40 minutes, here's everything that was crammed in:

The D'Anna Cylon storyline is now apparently completely finished, with the boxing of her entire model. Compared to the slow pace at which we'd been seeing more and more of Lucy Lawless on the show this year, the complete removal of her character seems a bit jarring to me. I suppose her character did get dramatic closure, having seen the faces of the "final five." But I guess I'm feeling a bit of deja vu thinking back to Billy's exit from the show in season two, or Kat's departure earlier this season -- a recurring character gets an unusually meaty storyline in an episode that then leads to his or her death.

There was some fairly good interplay between Dualla and Starbuck, but I found myself wanting to see a little more. The Starbuck/Apollo storyline this year has been interesting, but I find myself even more drawn in when we see not just their perspectives on it, but Dualla's and Anders'.

The Helo/Sharon storyline I found most compelling of all in the episode. Sharon's "assisted suicide" in the teaser was pretty shocking to me, despite the "immortality" of the Cylons. Helo's confrontation with Adama and Roslin was great, and Athena and Boomer's confrontation was even better (with Boomer's attitude downright unsettling). But once again, I just felt like things were cut short. I wanted more of this storyline, but Helo and Sharon basically vanished for the last half of the show.

If you listen to Ron Moore's podcasts, you know that Galactica is notorious for running long after principal photography, and having to make cuts in the editing room. I suspect a lot of good material got left in the cutting room on this one. Which is not to say that what remained wasn't also good -- I just believe the loss may have affected the whole.

Either way, though, there are plenty of interesting developments for the last half of the season -- Baltar's return to the fleet, Caprica Six now being aboard the Galactica, Hera being reclaimed by her parents. It all seems like the sort of meaty material that has led to some of Galactica's best past episodes.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Unexpected Turn

This afternoon, I went to see Pan's Labyrinth, the Spanish-language film that has in the last month been gathering a large amount of critical acclaim. I liked the film overall, but I didn't really get what I was expecting.

From all the advertisements of this movie, and most of the buzz, I was going in expecting the tale of a young girl's strange journey into a fantastical world. Something along the lines of The Neverending Story, perhaps. Instead, this movie is actually a wartime story centered around the resistance movement against a fascist military leader. Oh, and it happens that his wife's daughter (from a previous marriage) also happens to see fairies here and there.

In other words, I have to say that the fantasy elements of this movie that make for the eye-popping commercials feel almost incidental to the film. I say almost because you could argue instead that the real theme of the movie revolves around the time in childhood where one loses innocence. There are a lot of themes at work in this movie. They don't quite blend completely, in my opinion, but neither do they clash. And certainly, the result is a layered, thought- and talk-provoking film.

It's just not the movie I was expecting to see.

Well directed, well acted (this is why subtitles are better than dubbing), I give this film a B+. Perhaps I'd mark it higher if I'd gone in with proper expectations, but it is also a heavy film to take, so I don't anticipate seeing it again soon with those expectations realigned.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brains!

Earlier this week, I finished reading World War Z, by Max Brooks. This book is a work of fiction presented as fact. The subtitle of the book says it all: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Yes, actual war with actual zombies. Classic, eat your flesh, shuffle along at a snail's pace, can't be stopped unless you destroy their brain zombies.

This book is simply outstanding.

It has a brilliant mix of fun and familiar "zombie lore" with some new concepts -- such as zombies dropped at sea who, not needing to breathe, eventually just walked their way back across the ocean floor to storm the coasts.

It has a very clever narrative conceit. The premise is that in preparing the official government report on the Zombie War, the author was asked to excise most of the personal interviews he conducted in favor of presenting only cold, hard facts. Consequently, he has published this book as a collection of those interviews, those personal tales of how individuals from all over the world and all walks of life survived the zombies.

It has dozens and dozens of very memorable characters in those interview subjects. Some interviews are presented all at one time; others are scattered in pieces throughout the book. Some are merely a few pages long; others are well over 20 pages. Particularly riveting and page-turn-inducing are accounts of a crashed airplane pilot trying to survive in the wilderness to be picked up, the stories of a ground-pounder soldier who fights in multiple skirmishes against the zombies, and a cold pragmatist with chilling solutions for the world leader that recruited his advice. (Though really, there are several other characters who are just as great.)

And as much as I recommend the book itself, I'm also eager to get my hands on the audiobook edition. Though abridged (which, I'd have to think, would be a pretty big loss), it features a cast of nearly two dozen famous voices portraying the different characters in their interviews, including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, John Turturro, and Rob and Carl Reiner.

In any case, the book gets a very enthusiastic A. I suppose if apocalyptic fiction is not your thing, then you've got a reason not to read it. But no other excuse will suffice.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Postal Traumatic Stress

I'm having a feud with my postal carrier right now. Well, feud isn't really the right word, because this is a completely one-sided battle. I'm getting worked, and I basically just have to sit back and take it.

On no particularly regular schedule, she has oftentimes for the past few weeks not arrived to deliver the day's mail until after 7:00 PM at night. I make it a point to check my mailbox upon arriving home from work, some time between 6:30 and 7:00. So recently, I've checked what turns out to be an empty mailbox, because the mail has not yet been delivered.

But here's the twist. The next day, she'll get there at some reasonable time before 6:00 pm, meaning she's been there to deliver the mail twice since I've been able to come by and check it once.

If you've already become bored with this story, you're thinking, "so what?" The what is, I've had several packages delivered lately. I have one of those "communal mailbox" situations, meaning there are only a limited number of larger boxes for big packages, and you get a key in your regular box to get at them when you have a package.

If you get a package, and you don't pick it up from the "big box" the day it's delivered, they take it out, and take it back to the post office to be held there.

So what has happened lately, more than once, is that my mail carrier will deliver a package to me some time after 7:00 PM one day, after I've checked my mail, then come by the next day before 6:00 PM, before I've checked my mail, and take my package away, back to the post office.

What am I supposed to do? Start bundling up in the January Colorado cold to check my mailbox at 11:00 at night? Leave a spring-snakes-in-a-fake-peanuts-can in my mailbox?

This is really frakking obnoxious.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

(Ice and) Fired Up

If you're a fan of George R.R. Martin's amazing fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, news broke today that'll give you a total geek-gasm. HBO has acquired the rights to turn the books into a television series.

HBO is the perfect place -- really, the only place -- the Martin books could have ended up. The story is simply too vast (and not yet finished) to be contained in any reasonable number of movies. The cast of characters is too large for conventional film executives to allow in a movie. The violence and sex portrayed in the series are too strong to air on broadcast television, and too crucial to the atmosphere of the books to be cut.

Perhaps best of all in this announcement is the pressure this will put on George R.R. Martin to actually finish the series. The television series plan is for each season to portray one book. At the pace Martin has been releasing them, the television series would overtake him before the story was done -- even if the series doesn't actually start up until 2008. So the man had better get cracking!

I must admit, there is a little trepidation in the back of my mind, though, that HBO might pull a Carnivale and cut down the series before the entire story is told. I'll just have to hope that there are lots of geeks like me who will put the ratings through the roof and keep the series going the full seven years. Which is not unreasonable -- the ratings standards are a bit lower on HBO than they are on the big networks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What Up? Dog!

Over the weekend, I caught Alpha Dog at the local theater. This is the much delayed (due to legal issues in the real-life case) movie based on the story of one of youngest criminals on the FBI's Most Wanted List. It has a cast full of actors that might well be dubbed the Brat Pack of this decade, including Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and yes, Justin Timberlake (who has no holiday gifts for anyone to unwrap).

There are a few flaws with the movie. Some of the scenes go on far too long -- in particular, the "ending" of the film (after its narrative climax), and various sequences meant to convey a "party atmosphere" among these teenage/early-twenty-something characters.

The movie is sometimes presented in a fake documentary manner, with specific characters being "interviewed some time later" after the events being portrayed. But this technique is not used consistently throughout the movie. Interviews pepper the opening half hour and the final fifteen minutes, but are completely absent from the rest of the film. (And the story is much more compelling without them.)

The tale also actually suffers a bit from the knowledge it's based on a true story. As a purely fictional account, one could imagine several different ways events could go. But knowing that it's a real story, you know it has to end up a certain way for it to have merited having a movie made about it in the first place.

But, all that said, there's a lot in this movie to count in the good column -- namely, the acting. The cast is really outstanding, in some cases, surprisingly so. Ben Foster (who had a great run on Six Feet Under and was completely wasted in X-Men III) is the absolute star of every one of the relatively few scenes he has. Anton Yelchin is so good in the role around which the story revolves that it makes me curious in checking out the Showtime series Huff, in which he starred. Emile Hirsch skillfully portrays a "tough guy" in a way that it's clear he's not really that tough. Sharon Stone actually works well in the movie, because she's playing a mostly unhinged character.

And yeah, you might not believe it unless you see it yourself, but Justin Timberlake is pretty damn good too. He's going to get more work in films because of this.

Alpha Dog is something of a genre hopper -- a "gangsta" film that actually appealed to me. All told, I give the movie a B.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 6 Continues

"Jack's been dark since he warned us about Fayed and we didn't listen." Bill, Jack's been "dark" since day one.

Interesting that "we don't negotiate with terrorists" never even comes up this season. Wayne Palmer is very much less stubborn than his brother.

Jack Bauer drives like a man who hasn't driven in two years.

They're setting up a perimeter! Everybody take a drink!

It took Ahmed and Scott about 25 minutes to cross the street.

Packages, Items, and Components! Oh my!

Millions of people know Chloe's character flaw.

I suspect Walid's "cavity search" will be taking place off camera.

Can a grenade set off C4? If no, then what was the second explosion? If yes, then why wasn't the second explosion about 47 times bigger?

Mr. "I've Got Your Component" just sliced through a bunch of bills in the top of that box.

Uh-oh. Ray's a desperate man, don't tell.... oh, what did you do, Ray?!

Of course, two years of not speaking has not helped Jack learn to pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly.

The introduction of nuclear weapons to the plot lets them re-use those fancy casualty projection graphics from season two.

"Visitor" is a code word. It refers to Siddig's ex-wife that he met while working on Deep Space Nine.

There's Something About Chloe.

Walid's so lucky. He managed to befriend one of maybe two or three actual terrorists in this "detention facility."

"On the face of it, the logic is compelling." Classic delivery. Pure MacNicol.

Wayne says he appreciates Tom Lennix's loyalty. Come on, man! On 24, that's like saying "what else could go wrong?"

If you thought Scott was going to take his hidden knife and kill Ahmed before he could give up useful information, SURPRISE! Some dumbshit agent did it instead!

Scott just promised Ahmed he wouldn't tell anyone what he knows! He's such a liar!

Curtis' shocking fate would have actually been a lot more shocking if they hadn't been listing Roger Cross as a "Guest Star" in these first four episodes instead of as the regular cast member he was for the last two seasons.

BOOM!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jack is Back!

A new season of 24 begins. Let's dive right in!

Kiefer Sutherland is missing from the opening credits as the first hour begins. I guess that means he's not going to be in this episode! (Yeah, right.)

Bus go boom! Always start the season with a massive explosion.

It took six years, but we're finally going to see a United States president on 24 actually working in the White House. Maybe they got a good deal on the old West Wing sets?

Welcome Peter MacNicol to the cast. Isn't he supposed to be solving math problems on the International Space Station? (If you don't watch Numb3rs, just smile and nod.)

I wonder what Milo has been doing for CTU since season one?

Majorly different new hair for Chloe. And you'd better like it, cause she's stuck with it all season now.

Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the original version of The Office, becomes the latest to turn up for a cameo in CTU.

Curtis is there to help turn Jack over to the bad guys. He totally thinks the show is going to be about him now.

Hey, look at that! Bill and Karen got married. Which of course means that one or both of them are going to end up dead by the end of the season.

Later on, this Scott's mother is going to just wander into the woods to die and never be heard from again. (If you didn't watch Millennium, just smile and nod.)

Okay, I'm going to just make the one obligatory reference to White Castle, and then move on.

So, CTU hired someone who once set up an illegal satellite for people in Uzbekistan? And then they're surprised when they find a mole in their office every year?

They can't torture Jack too badly here. He's still got 23 more hours to go! Still... that don't look like fun. And I'm fairly sure that's not how acupuncture works.

Jack takes a serious bite out of crime. And here I could have sworn I saw his reflection in a mirror earlier this episode.

Thank goodness for the recap. I'd already forgotten what happened in the last hour!

Milo asks about Chloe, "what's her problem?" Her problem is that saying insensitive remarks at the perfectly wrong moment is her job, and you're totally stealing it.

Wayne Palmer's expression when he hears Jack is still alive is awesome. He's all, "Kick ASS!" just like the rest of us.

Ahmed says he can't take the necklace. Because he's just going to kill Scott later and then take it off his corpse.

Jack is playing a first person shooter. He gets a log, dispatches an enemy, then quickly upgrades to a gun.

"Drop the coffee! I hate coffee!"

Julian Bashir is back on weekly television. But this time with a major touch of Garak.

Suddenly, members of the Palmer family are coming out of the woodwork. And this one is waving the "forfeiting freedoms for security" moral so overtly, I find myself wondering if all those extremist politicians and pundits who have been so vocally pro-24 are suddenly going to be muting their enthusiasm.

Everybody do a shot: it's our first "perimeter" of season six!

"Here. Let me tighten the strap on your suicide bomb for y---" BOOM! The terrorist leader blows up, and the season is over. Okay. Maybe not.

Bill is telling Chloe to hide new intel on Jack Bauer's whereabouts from Karen. Aw... just like old times.

Jack says he doesn't know how to do this anymore. Don't worry. It's just like shooting a bicycle in the thigh.

Arresting the president's sister? Yeah, I'm sure that's going to go over well.

It turns out this "package" that the terrorists have been talking about really is an actual package. Somehow, I thought it was some kind of secret code.

Ahmed's right through the center of the table! Two points! Nothing but glass!

Jack has discovered an awesome way to scam free subway rides. If Denver had a subway system, I'd totally use the "I'm a Federal agent stalking a terrorist on this train so move on before he sees me!" excuse. Well, except for the part where that would probably land me in jail afterward.

Unfortunately for the mall in Baltimore and the hotel in Chicago, there's only one Jack Bauer.

Speaking of the Chicago hotel, it looks like 47 died in the explosion. Can you tell that a former Star Trek writer now works on 24?

And that's it until tomorrow. Same Jack time, same Jack channel!

No, Actually, THIS Is the Story of the Last of the Babylon Stations

Late this year, a series of direct-to-DVD movies is scheduled to begin for Babylon 5.

I was a huge fan of this show. Before "Joss Whedon was my master now," I though J. Michael Straczynski and his creation, Babylon 5, were the bomb. And the stuff holds up. The epic five-year story of the series is a truly incredible feat of storytelling that has not been matched on television, and may never be. Sure, there are some great serialized series on the air right now, but do they know where they're heading five years in advance, and do they lay down threads in season one that get paid off in season five? No. We could only dream that Lost had this kind of foresight being put into it.

However, I can't say that I'm entirely enthusiastic about these new DVD movies. This is because it was that grand five-year arc of storytelling that made Babylon 5 so compelling. The acting was hit and miss. The writing of certain episodes was pretty terrible -- the whole being much, much greater than the sum of the parts.

Indeed, though Babylon 5 has not yet done direct-to-DVD movies, they did several television movies throughout the show's original run. And with only one exception (In the Beginning), they were all terrible. They didn't further the show's story arc. They were, ultimately, knockoffs of Star Trek -- sci-fi "problems of the week" in the form of glorified two-part episodes. You can watch the series, not watch those movies, and not have missed a thing. And since the series story arc was concluded, is there really much that these movies can hope to offer?

Add to that the fact that two of the cast members of Babylon 5 have died since the conclusion of the series. While I suppose a new movie can get by without Dr. Stephen Franklin, it will be a shame not to have G'Kar.

I hope I'm wrong, and that JMS has come up with a neat new chapter of the story to tell. I guess I will see... I'm enough of the fan of the series to probably check it out anyway, despite my reservations.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pencils Down

I've been a fan of the comic strip Fox Trot for many, many years. I can almost even say decades. (Yikes!) Unlike other comic strips I thought were funny when I was a kid that I look at today and scratch my head in "what was I thinking?" confusion (I'm looking at you, Garfield), Fox Trot has stayed just as funny over its long life.

As 2007 has rolled around, Fox Trot's creator, Bill Amend, has decided to sort of pull up stakes. He's not doing a full-on Bill Watterson (sniff, Calvin and Hobbes) and ending the strip completely. But he's cut back to only doing one strip a week, on Sundays.

Part of me wants to resent it. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to come up with one four-panel comic strip every weekday? But then, I suppose to maintain a good level of quality, it can't be entirely easy. I mean, I make a blog post every day, but let's face it -- some of them are crap.

Then again, I don't get paid to blog as a career.

I suppose, though, since it is a career for Bill Amend, if the man wants to semi-retire from it, he's entitled.

Still, we're only a few weeks into this new schedule, and I'm already feeling Fox Trot withdraw.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Office Gossip

It's starting to look as though the trendiest gig in Hollywood, if you're a director, is to do an episode of the American version of The Office. Last month, an episode directed by Harold Ramis aired, and at the time it seemed like a pretty big deal, given the great comedy movies he's made in his career.

But that was only the beginning of the procession. J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost, is going to direct an episode later this season. And this week, it was announced that Joss Whedon will also direct an episode.

You might expect the fanboy geek in me to be ecstatic about this. But the truth is, I find I'm not very excited.

First of all, The Office has a very set style to it. It's filmed in a very specific way that doesn't really change. There's nothing that J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon... or hell, Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese... could do with it to put their imprint on it. Not in keeping with it being an episode of The Office. It's unlikely we're going to see any big Abrams or Whedon greatness here.

Secondly, whatever strengths Abrams and Whedon have as directors is in my opinion a distant second to their strengths as writers. If it had been announced that either of these two were writing an episode of The Office, I'd be pretty stoked. That would be a way they really could make a mark on the show.

Thirdly, Abrams and Whedon have other projects they really ought to be working on. Lost really wasn't up to snuff in the six episode mini-arc that began season three, and I think maybe that show could really benefit from another shot of the directorial genius displayed in the pilot episode by J.J. Abrams. And Joss Whedon has two movies in the works that he says are keeping him too busy to create another television series of his own. And that man should never not have a series on the air. I mean, unless he'd rather make movies, then okay... but if so, he should be making those movies!

I guess if it gets more eyeballs on the screen to be watching The Office, it's a good thing in the long run. The American version was definitely a slow starter, not an embarrassment to the British original, but no real winner. But over time, it's grown by leaps and bounds, and certainly now deserves a bigger audience than it gets.

If some of those are disaffected Lost fans or listless Joss fans, I guess that's okay.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Go Away Clown! You Scare Me!"

That's an Animaniacs quote, for those of you who don't know. But no, today's topic is not television. (I know, some of you are shocked.)

No, instead, I'm recounting a story of my friend who has a touch of coulrophobia. That's fear of clowns, for those of you who didn't know. (Cause, hey -- they've got a name for the fear of anything.) She also had a birthday last month. And has a diabolically evil sister.

This evil woman solicited everyone in her e-mail address book to send a birthday card to her sister with a scary clown picture. My friend must have received two dozen of them at least, and I swear each one was more unsettling than the last.

Well, it all culminated in a package sent by the evil sister herself, which contained this "present":



My friend has promised that retribution will be mighty. And I can't say I blame her. That thing creeps me out, and I've frankly never understood the whole "fear of clowns" thing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Second 'Verse, Same As the First

For a television series that didn't even make it one full season, Firefly continues to have an astonishing life. A feature film, a short comic mini-series...

And now, official companion books. Okay, granted, it's not exactly new Firefly, but it is a new way to enjoy the existing Firefly. Published in two volumes (with the second not actually out until later this year), these companions feature a number of interviews with folks involved with the show, and complete scripts for all the episodes.

If you've never actually read a Joss Whedon script, then you don't know how cool this last bit really is. The same type of fun wit that actually makes it on screen also appears in the stage directions. Some examples:

INT. BLOWN OUT SHIP - NIGHT
It's 'night' because it's space, so it's always night.

Floating nearby is JAYNE: a hulking, wary mercenary who keeps watch as the other two work. His face says "thug." His face don't lie.

One of the goons knocks on a door and it is opened. Standing behind it is CROW. He is as mean and large a tattooed motherfucker as ever stood behind a door.

All the color drains from Inara's face. (Okay, not all the color, she's from Future-Brazil so she still has a hue, but she's upset, okay?)

Loads more where that came from. I finished volume one the other night (with all scripts up through Our Mrs. Reynolds), and I'm looking forward to the release of volume two. If you're at all a fan of Firefly, I highly recommend these books.

And if you're not a fan of Firefly, what the hell is wrong with you?

Monday, January 08, 2007

You Bastard!

Dear Jackass Traveling Westbound on 8th Avenue at Speer Boulevard Around 6:20PM This Evening,

What the hell were you thinking?!

The light turns green. The cars in the lanes to the left and right of you go. You wait. Then you decide to go...

And then you decide to slam on your brakes again?!

I was paying close enough attention to stop in time. But the guy behind me? He didn't have the benefit of seeing your brake lights and witnessing what a total mental defective you are. So he plowed into me.

Of course, in these split seconds, you had decided, "oh now, yes now I'll go," and thus conveniently rolled away before my car could be pushed into the back of yours.

And before I could get your license plate, or a digital photo, or any lasting monument to your complete dickitude.

Fortunately, the guy behind me was probably going something under 10 miles an hour. I had only a bunch of white paint to wipe off my bumper, a few unfortunate scratches, and two lovely bolt-head-shaped puncture-like indentations on the left side of my bumper.

But then, where does this leave me but totally screwed? What, am I supposed to make a stink out of this and fight forever to try to get this other poor sap's insurance to pay for completely cosmetic damage when you're that jerk that's really responsible? Am I supposed to risk the ramifications of higher insurance rates when I actually did everything to avoid an accident, and you're the moron blissfully (or worse, knowingly) speeding away?

Thanks for jacking up my car, asshole.

Annoyedly,
Dr. Heimlich

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Children Are Our Future

This afternoon, I went to see the movie Children of Men. It seems like the first time I caught a trailer for this film was well over six months ago. Usually, that big a lead time is an indicator either of a major summer blockbuster a studio is trying to cram down your throat, or of a troubled movie that has its release date delayed a few times. Obviously, this movie was not the former. Fortunately, it also turned out not to be the latter.

Visually speaking, Children of Men is the strongest entry in "dystopian science fiction" in many, many years. Every frame is calculated for maximum visual and emotional impact, and it delivers. The environment seems all too plausible, given just a slight societal nudge in the wrong direction. (And of course, the premise of the film is a great big nudge -- that the entire human race becomes unable to have children.)

The acting is first rate. Clive Owen is the perfect model of the "reulctant hero" caught up in the unfolding story. Julianne Moore really commands your attention in what is actually a very short time on screen. Michael Caine provides excellent comic relief. And the rest of the cast, from newcomers to actors only a major geek would recognize (Chiwetel Ejiofor from Serenity and Inside Man, for example), are all fantastic.

The direction from Alfonso CuarĂ³n is even better. Much of the film comes off very effectively like "documentary footage" from a warfront. Two very powerful and key sequences in the film (one near the beginning, one near the end) are delivered in long single takes that manage to be both technically mind-blowing while not in any way intrusive to the narrative. They're a thing to behold.

However -- and this is where I'll separate a bit from the critical mainstream a bit -- I found the script just a bit lacking. I appreciate the nature of the social commentary being made, but (and some will find this funny) I don't find myself cynical enough to accept the plausibility of it. There's a quick bit of lip service here and there to explaining why people are doing the things they're doing in this movie, but ultimately you just have to basically accept that it's the way it is.

Although really, even this can be construed as a point in the movie's favor -- its story is compelling enough to spark a deep conversation among those who see about just whether the behavior of the people (and more to the point, the groups and factions) in the movie is realistic. I'm certain there are many, many people who would feel it is, and they could easily find good support for that argument.

I give the film a B+, and the recommendation that anyone who likes their movies deep and thought-provoking ought to see it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Horror, The Horror!

Fans of horror and subscribers to Showtime may be familiar with the series Masters of Horror. The idea is simple: recruit as many of the most famous names in the horror industry to each do their own one-hour episodes of this anthology series. In practice, I have heard that the actual episodes have not on average lived up to their pedigree -- but without a Showtime subscription, I can't really say for sure.

Of particular interest, though, is one installment from the show's first season. It was directed by an acclaimed filmmaker from Japan, Takashi Miike. It was intended to have an Eastern influence, and represent a different approach to horror. For his episode, he directed an adaptation of a short story called Imprint.

When he was finished, he had made something that even Showtime -- a pay cable station -- refused to air, saying it was too controversial for them. Ultimately, it was over half a year before US audiences were able to see the episode, when it was finally released on DVD.

Friends of mine recently got the DVD for Christmas. Last weekend, when I was over at their place, I was convinced to see what all the hubbub was about.

In America, we've come to view the "horror" genre as one that inspires scares and/or tension. Imprint is horror in the strictest definition of the word. This film inflicts truly awful, horrific imagery upon you, challenging you continue to watch, or look away, or cope in some way.

It made my brain feel like it needed a hot shower.

Now, I've said before that my top criteria in giving a good review to a movie or television series is that it evoke some kind of emotional response in me. By that criteria, Imprint couldn't get higher marks.

But this is not the only criteria. The story isn't structured very well. A lot of the acting is terrible, as the decision was made to film in English instead of using Japanese with English subtitles -- even though a large portion of the cast spoke no English and thus could only learn their lines phonetically. And some flourishes in the plot at the end are honestly rather incoherent.

Then, of course, there's the question of if you even want to watch something that evokes this particular kind of emotional response in you. For a true masterpiece, I might be compelled to say yes. But for this? I say no. Stay away.

Stay far, far away.

Friday, January 05, 2007

V Is For Variety

At a party tonight, I played "Do You Worship Cthulhu?", which is basically just a re-theme of the game Werewolf that you can play using cards from a standard deck.

For anyone unfamiliar with the game, in a nutshell, this is a party game for a large group. Players each draw a secret identity. They then close their eyes, and one or two people with a particular secret identity re-open their eyes to select one of the other players to "kill." Then ALL players re-open their eyes, learn which of the "villagers" has been killed, and then form a mob to kill the person they think is responsible. The process then repeats as players get "killed off." If the villagers successfully identify the culprits before the one or two bad guys have dwindled the villagers down to the same number, the villagers win. Otherwise, the evil-doers win.

I have encountered difficulties playing this game with cards drawn from a standard deck before, with players forgetting which card is supposed to stand for which identity. (There being one other special role inherent in the game.) So, the thinking would be that by buying the Cthulhu-themed cards, you'd have the roles printed right on them. Plus, some neat art to boot. Problem solved, right?

Not quite. On the plus side, the game's publishers realized they ought to add a little something more to a public domain game in order to get people to buy it, and invented two more "special roles" that players can have during the game.

Unfortunately, they named one of them "vigilante."

Which looks far too similar to "villager."

Which takes us right back to the original problem -- players sometimes confusing their identities. They couldn't have gone for "crusader" or "sentinel" or something else? Disappointing.

Regardless of the theme, though, I still like the game. For every once in a while, with a large group of players (ten or more), anyway.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year in Review -- Movies

Since keeping stats on the games I'd played in 2005 had proven somewhat interesting (to me, anyway), I decided in 2006 to also track the movies I watched. After all, I know I see a lot of movies, but I wanted to find out how much was "a lot."

I didn't count movies made originally for television or DVD. I didn't count any movies I didn't actually sit down and watch; for example, I'll often turn on the commentary track to a DVD and leave it running as I do other stuff about the apartment.

I was a little surprised to find out I didn't see as many movies in a year as I might have guessed. At 54 total, I barely topped a one-a-week average. I won't inflict the list itself on you, since it turns out you could nearly build that list yourself -- I reviewed most of the movies I saw right here on my blog. But there were a few interesting stats I uncovered.

I didn't see a single movie more than once all year long. Every one of the 54 was a one-time-only affair.

I go out to the movie theater far more than I watch movies on DVD at home (or at other people's homes) -- all but 10 of the films were out at the theater. From this, I conclude two things: 1) I'm apparently not really as pissed-off at the rudeness of other people and the general movie-going experience as I claim to be; 2) When I watch DVDs at home, I'm usually watching TV shows on DVD, not movies.

And one more thing I learned: reviewing one's personal top 100 movie list is a pretty serious proposition. Over the last year, as I've had occasions to work some new films onto the list (like The Prestige and Little Miss Sunshine), I've found a few areas on my Top 100 list where I've thought, "gee, that's not quite right." And for a while, I thought to myself, "you know, I'd really just like to watch every movie on this list again and get a fresh feel for if I've ranked it in the right place." But now I'm thinking, "damn, that's 100 movies. And I barely watched half that in all of 2006." So who knows if that project will get done any time soon?

But one thing's for sure. I now understand even less what people could be the target of that old slogan "If You See Only One Movie This Year..." Who the hell could that possibly be?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Shepherd's Lie

I started my new "year at the movies" bright and early, heading out to the theater on New Year's Day.

I only hope that the quality of the film did not set a tone for the rest of 2007.

I went to The Good Shepherd, the drama starring Matt Damon, directed by Robert De Niro. If you haven't seen the film yourself, but have seen the trailers or commercials, you might be of the belief that this film is a bit of a thriller about "the birth of the CIA." Wrong. This is a very long, very slow-paced character study. It's what Eddie Izzard would call a movie about "arranging matches."

It's not that I was expecting action, but I had been led to expect some degree of suspense from time to time. Not so. Anything regarding the CIA is really just incidental to the story, which focuses on the course the main character's life takes as he continually prioritizes the country over his family. And I do mean his life, because the tale spans around 35 years.

It doesn't actually feel that long, I suppose. But 2 hours and 40 minutes have seldom felt longer to me.

Along the way, a large parade of famous actors show up in three-minute character parts. It's an impressive list: Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci, John Turturro, De Niro himself, and more. Angelina Jolie's part is somewhat more substantial. Some of these other characters showed a bit of life's blood in them, and perhaps if the plot had dwelled on them a little more, there could have been a bit more interest generated.

But no, the film is relentlessly about the cold, distant, and by extension, rather boring main character. It's no real fault of Matt Damon's; he's saddled with a 160 minute performance made up of about 15 minutes' worth of material.

Hoodwinked by another trailer. You'd think I'd know how to recognize when trailers are lying to me every time by now, but nope... the radar still occasionally goes on the fritz.

I give this a D-.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Year in Review -- Games

As in 2005, I kept a list running all year (thanks to BoardGameGeek) of all the games I played during 2006.

I came up with a total of 233 games played, 7 games shy of where I fell in 2005. I would have expected more in 2006, actually -- during 2005, my moving back to Colorado caused a nearly one month gap where I hardly played anything at all. I can't explain how that all added up the way it did.

In any case, here's the 2006 list:

25 Words or Less (5)
Apples to Apples (11)
Apples to Apples Junior (1)
Attika (1)
Augsburg 1520 (1)
Blackjack (1)
Carcassonne (5)
Carcassonne - Hunters & Gatherers (1)
Carcassonne - The Discovery (1)
Cartagena (3)
Caylus (10)
Cribbage (1)
Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix (1)
Eurorails (1)
Fearsome Floors (2)
Finish Lines (1)
Goa (1)
Hearts (3)
Hunting Party (1)
Linie 1 (6)
Lost Cities (1)
Louis XIV (2)
Metro (3)
New England (1)
No Merci! (8)
Palazzo (6)
Perudo (5)
Poker (10)
Power Grid (1)
Pueblo (1)
Puerto Rico (6)
Ra (4)
Ricochet Robot (21)
RoboRally (1)
Rumis (1)
Samurai (1)
Scattergories (3)
Scene It? - TV (1)
Set (16)
The Settlers of Catan (5)
Sleuth (1)
Speed Scrabble (1)
Squint (1)
TAMSK (2)
Terra Nova (1)
Through the Desert (1)
Thurn and Taxis (6)
Ticket to Ride (4)
Ticket to Ride - Marklin Edition (12)
Ticket to Ride Europe (2)
Time's Up (10)
Titan the Arena (1)
Tongiaki (1)
Too Many Cooks (4)
TransAmerica (10)
Trivial Pursuit Totally 80s Edition (1)
Tsuro (2)
Der Untergang von Pompeji (2)
Up and Down (16)
Werewolf (1)

And here are a few things I find notable about this list:

No Blokus. Blokus is a great little abstract strategy game. And yet I didn't play it once all year. I think it's a victim of "number of player" squeeze. The box tells you 2 to 4 players. Which is a complete lie. It works great with 2 or 4. Try it with 3, and it's a complete joke. That's why they made the "Trigon" version of it.

Only 1 game of Goa. I like this quite a lot. It has enough of the general feeling of Puerto Rico to scratch that itch -- since the friends I most commonly play games with hate Puerto Rico but like Goa, it's a way for me to still enjoy that kind of game. (I know, I'm still disbelieving that there are people in the word who don't like Puerto Rico.)

Only 1 game of Attika.This is another game I quite like, and used to play all the time. I'm gonna have to drag it out more regularly in 2007.

No Princes of Florence. Before Puerto Rico came along (say, circa 2003), this was the game I played every week, at least once a week. I still love it. I just haven't ever pushed to try it out with the local game crowd. A shame.

Only 1 game of Sleuth. This is one of only 3 games I've rated a 10 over on BoardGameGeek. But compare it to how much I played the other two (Time's Up and Up and Down, or as some call it, Up and Down the River). That's just not right.

Short games always show up. I do like Ricochet Robot and Set. They're not among my absolutely favorites, but I do like them. Still, the fact you can play either in 20 minutes or less means they get played a hell of a lot.

Something we haven't played in a while. Some time around September or October, my most regular gaming friends and I decided that every week, we'd make an effort to pull out one board game we hadn't played in a long while. (Or, something completely new.) This led to a number of extra one-shot entries on my list, and I'm glad it did: Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, Eurorails, RoboRally, Samurai, and Through the Desert, among others. I want to keep that idea rolling in 2007. Especially because I compared 2006 to 2005, and found the variety of games I played in 2006 was a lot narrower -- 60 different titles in this past year, when I managed 80 the year before that.

But in all, a good year in games. And I'm hoping for even better in 2007.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Feeling Blue

No alcohol for me last night. It was a very last minute thing, but I did end up at somebody's New Year's Eve party. He had only shopped for supplies that day. Being Sunday. Which in Colorado means all the liquor stores are closed -- thank you blue law. Not that I was dying to drink or anything. (Most of you will know me better than that.) But still, it's a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb law.

But here's the part that upsets me. I woke up this morning with a pounding, throbbing, spike in the side of your forehead, purple-spotted, fist of Advil, lay in a dark room until you can see straight headache. Beyond debillitating.

So what the hell? If I'm going to feel that much like crap the next morning, I damn well deserve to have been completely plastered the night before.

Stupid blue law.