Sunday, September 7, 2008

2008 MTV Music Video Awards

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the first ever Ice Anvil-branded real-time recap! Tonight we'll be recapping and reviewing the 2008 MTV Video Awards as they happen.

Join us at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time as our recap launches along with Britney Spears' lip syncing return to relevance as the curtain rises on this year's failed abortion of an awards show.

As an added bonus we also are proud to announce the Crappy Commercial Face-Off! As a way to give the illusion of even the commercial breaks mattering, and a way to agonize my own bladder, we'll be keeping track of the number of times the following commercials air in two Texas Tornado death matches:

Taco Bell's White Guys Rapping vs's Annoying Yuppy Singer

An MTV Commercial Claiming They Still Show Music Videos
vs Commercials For Movies Not Coming Out Until 2009


Remember that big "opening performance" MTV has been promoting in the press for weeks with Britney Spears' big comeback? Prepare for a horribly written and unfunny comedy sketch! The VMAs are officially MadTV, folks, and that makes Britney Spears Ms. Swan. Just yesterday I thought Jonah Hill couldn't act... and there is the VMAs proving me right. We then get swept back to semi-live with Britney Spears walking from a tailer to the stage looking almost 100% uncrazy.

America loves a comeback story, and the fact that Britney's comeback here involves absolutely no dance skills or singing just proves what she was initially famous for, no? She then wishes the VMAs a happy birthday. The VMAs come out and mistakes its birthday cake for the Artist of the Millenium award.

Our first performance of the night! And it's Rihanna pretending she's Thriller, only with glowstick wands. So think Michael Jackson in a corset with a hundred Tacos putting on the ritz around her. Battle of the night: Rihanna against her backing track on the chorus of Disturbia. She can't even sing along with herself in key, folks. That's why Shia LaBouf banged her.

The only people showing off less actual human movement or talent than Britney Spears tonight? Rihanna's back-up band, pretending to actually play Disturbia live. I think the bass player officially quit and joined Pink's live band in the middle of the second verse.

Oh crap, the live band woke up! All it took was them performing a better song by a better artist! Then they went back to sleep just in time for Disturbia to come back. Take that, White Stripes.

And much like her live band mid-way through her performance, her back-up singers end the act with passing out. Dumb dumb dee dumb indeed.

Here's our host for the evening: the corpse of the lead singer of the Cure!

Wait, that guy's not dead yet?

Are you sure? Have you heard of the Cure doing anything important since the 90s?

Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree, because this British guy is yelling at us right now. He has now acknowledged that no one knows who he is. He's British, MTV! It's OK!

In the middle of this completely boring and meaningless monologue... Vote For Obama.

Emo British Amy Winehouse dude is bringing his A-game by calling Bush retarded, proving that he, much like 30 Seconds To Mars, is stuck in 2006. The audience of rich people aren't really accepting of his anti-Republican rants, however, since they love conservatism. Rihanna's performance proved that.

If this guy wasn't famous before tonight... he won't be famous tomorrow either.

Emo-Limey attacking the Jonas Brothers for not having premarital sex. The crowd goes awkwardly silence the second he mentions they have genitals. Hey, VMA Audience, here's a joke about Joe Jackson beating the Jackson 5 with a belt! We're cutting new comedic ground with Cure-Emo-Limey!

Ciera does not approve from the audience.

I think Emo-Limey just said only a baseball bat screwing will make Madonna feel like a virgin. The audience, not as medicated as I am, could not follow his accent or path of logic.

Here's our awkward transition into the first award: "I love the Jonas Brothers! And now... here's Jamie Fox!" Maybe the C-team from Britan's Whose Line should stay overseas...

Jamie Fox is here and he's tanked! He references Busta Rhymes' video from 10 years ago as he introduces the Female Artist of the night, which makes perfect sense if you are smoking something from the same dealer that he is. Somehow Jamie has turned his presentation into a second monologue and smokes Emo-Limey with pure cracked-out-edness!

Your nominees for Famewhore of the Year: Britney Spears, Rhianna, Jordan Sparks, Katy Perry, and Mariah Carey! Two of these people tried to slit their own wrists during the monologue.

And Jamie Fox forgets he's on TV!

Your winner: Britney Spears' video that was barely played on MTV, since they have to thank her for bringing them free publicity by cleaning herself up and opening the show. She thanks god, of course. Because really only god, or an MTV PR agent, could have pre-planned a comeback this epic.

At this point in the evening, it's obvious that the audience can't even understand Emo-Limey as he rambles at breakneck speeds.

Go get a soda now, there is no talent or comedy to be had with Pete Wentz and Heidi/Spencer.

Vote for best new artist! It's almost as vital as voting Obama!

Hey, remember that one Oasis song that sounded pretty decent and we all liked it for a summer? Let's cut to commercial with a DJ scratching it all to hell and the drummer from Blink 182 playing the one beat he knows over it.

Commercial Time! Remember our two Commercial Death Matches tonight!

MTV has decided to squish their commercials into part of the screen as they tell you what's coming up in 90 minutes on the rest. Brilliant! I did not expect Best Pop Video to be coming up. I thought after this commercial break we'll get figure skating or perhaps a rerun of Married... With Children. Thanks for setting me straight, on-screen graphic.

Much like Russell Brand's opening monologue, our death matches are off to a slow start:
White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 0 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Brand now attempts to tell us the last 20 minutes were important culturally while introducing Demi Moore. The audience obviously doesn't remember GI Jane and merely applauds politely for the AARP member Ashton is sleeping with.

Your nominees for best male video are: Chris Brown, Flo Rida, T.I., Usher featuring Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne featuring Static Major. Apparently this is the best R&B and Rap award, too. Do their autotune also get an award?

For the record, 3 out of 5 of the videos came out in the last month. Proving that MTV does not have any remaining long term memory.

Russell Bland really needs a sedative if anyone can understand him tonight.

Taylor Swift is here to remind us that even children beauty contest queens must grow up into awkward country pop stars. And here are the Jonas Brothers, proving the same thing somehow. Trying to get away from their childish former image, they are performing on Mr. Hooper's stoop, live from Sesame Street.

Much like Sesame Street: one of these Jonas is not like the other. One of them doesn't have any talent at all. if you guessed the ukulele playing one on the right, you are correct.

Mr. Hooper's Stoop is torn apart by something... perhaps Cloverfield, as 10,000 screaming morons sweep the Jonas. It's a gamble on MTV's part, flying every moron who would have watched this show on TV in to see it live. Their ratings will be me and Paris Hilton's publicist.

Did you know the Jonas Brothers are virgins? Well they are! And Katy Perry is here just to sing a horribly off-key virgin of Like a Virgin only as a commercial bumper. Way to be a trooper, one hit wonder faux-lesbian.

Commercial time again as I quickly come to terms with the fact that has only enough advertising budget to show commercials during the pre-show only. Our final death match counts are going to read like LA Galaxy soccer match scores.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Katy Perry is apparently still performing, reminding us all that she's not Rose McGowen, so we should probably zip up our pants. She apparently kissed a girl and now won't shut up about it.

Michael Phelps is here and wondering just which agent he should fire, as Russel Brand speed reads the telepompter about a chapstick-cock joke. Phelps brings us Wheezy with Leona Lewis, T-Pain, and T-Pain's autotune and seems to be just about as excited about it as we, the viewer, are.

Leona Lewis sings beautifully and then watches her song horribly remixed into Wheezy's belt failing in the one purpose a belt serves. This performance is brought to you by Fruit of the Loom Boxer Briefs.

This performance is not unlike watching your sister and your mother fight over the radio station on a long car trip. Uh oh, Wheezy's Milla back-up is apparently legally required to be at 20% volume tonight. It doesn't matter if we can hear the beat anyways, since every 3 seconds are muted for uses of naughty words we never heard before.

Here comes T-Pain! And it becomes painfully obvious that he cannot sing without autotune as they play his recorded vocal part off the pro-tools at a higher volume than his live mic. He knows they sell live autotune vocal processors, right? Surely the artist who owes more to a computer program that forces him to sing in tune knows about this revolution by now.

At this point, T-Pain is not even attempting to hit any not, instead adding "Yeah" and "Uh" after every one of his pre-recording and autotuned lines.

This performance just might define current pop music at its finest, America. Aren't you proud? Buy Fruit of the Looms now!

Russell Brand is now talking so fast, even he can't understand himself. Someone is coming up next!

We opened our show with Britney looking great and coming back from the brink of self-destruction. Lindsey is now here to show that she's still on the downward spiral into being the next Tera Reid.

Here are your nominees for best dancing in a video: Neyo, Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Diddy's Make-a-Girl-Group-By-Numbers, and Pussycat Dolls. Which stripper will take home the moon man! The Pussycat Dolls win by default since they happen to be closest to the presenters in the audience. They would like to thank God for allowing them to shake their ass directly in front of the camera and showing us as much camel toe as humanly possible and getting it past standards and practices.

Troops in Iraq: The Pussycat Dolls didn't forget about you. Their Balley's commercial was just more important than enlisting themselves to help fight on the front lines.

Commercial break as I remember that I did, in fact, forget the troops.
White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Has MTV given up the act of claiming they actually care about music videos? So far the death matches prove yes.

Diddy's Create-A-Girl-Group-By-Numbers are our official best new artist vote counters. They have prior vote counting experience, as they worked in Florida back in 2000.

Yes, I stole that joke from Russell Brand's act.

Russell Brand is now just making noises, like a human muppet, to give the illusion of speech.

Welcome a bunch of people you never heard of kindly! People you never heard of are introducing Paramore, another band not actually performing at the VMAs itself, but on location at a place a thousand times cooler.

Live from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, rocking out on the very spot that Brett Michaels passed out dozens of times in a diabetic coma and Vince Neil threw up, Paramore proves that absolutely no one looks good in bright yellow pants. Those of you who might be watching this muted and thought they were watching Avril Lavinge: don't worry. I have the volume on and I keep confusing the two myself. Doesn't mean Avril/Paramore Hybrid Clone Thingy is not the most bangable female we've seen perform tonight by a long shot, though, since her competition is Rhianna and T-Pain's autotune.

Commercial time! Which is worse: pretending to be chosen as Tila Tequila's next love of her life or Paris Hilton's BFF? Both involve the same exchange of STDs.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn try valiantly to bring us our first commercial for a movie that comes out in 2009, but their crap romantic comedy that'll only bank 15-20 million opening weekend comes out November 29th. People with a fear of large crowds, see it opening day! I'll be holding a four-square tournament at my local theater as its playing, for all 6 people present.

Nothing is as it seems, according to Russell Brand. If you think about that hard enough, you can almost pretend Brand himself is someone interesting.

Slash and Shia LaBouf have taken a short break from drunk driving and destroying their hands with SUVs to present to us Best Rock video! Your nominees are: Paramore (keep in mind they just performed), Slipknot (with a video that just debuted last month), Linkin Park (who were in Shia's Transformer movie), Foo Fighters (who have no chance of winning), and Fall Out Boy with their preppiest cover of Beat It. Linkin Park wins as Slash laughs in amazement that LP is still relevant. They instantly call out the elephant in the room and proclaim Transformers awesome.

Linkin Park awkwardly thank only one person, and that person just happens to be one of two members of the band on the stage. And that person just may or may not be God.

Miley Cyrus killed Living on a Prayer in Rock Band, which is amazing, since I thought Bon Jovi did that when they released it.

Hey, remember Pink? Wasn't she great for that one CD where she was attempting to be a rocker chick? Well she's desperately trying to remind us that we used to like her still. Apparently mimicking terrorist attacks in her performance will equal many many sales when her CD drops. Someone call Homeland Security on the has-been leading the blue trenchcoat mafia while singing off-key.

In a surprising trend of the night, she rips off her pants and performs her song in her panties, too, just like Rihanna did while pretending to be Thriller. Because there's only one way to celebrate throwing a molotov cocktail through an innocent storefront window and that's pretending to be Joan Jett with no pants on.

Those of you with Eagle Eyes like Shia LaBouf, Pink would like to introduce you to her left nipple. Even with the nipple slip, she comes in behind Wheezy in the most bangable female performer list.

Commercial time, as I think about Pink's VMA performance of Just Like A Pill, that blew this performance of So What out of the water as if she herself threw it through a storefront window.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Did you know we've had 14 performances of "Like a Virgin" in VMA history? Not surprising since 14 is the number of minutes Katy Perry has burned through so far.

Ladies and gentlemen, the only performance I was looking forward to with the Ting-Tangs singing Shut Up And Let Me Go is reduced to a 20 second return from commercial bumper. Keep in mind that we've had a good 4 minutes of Pete Wentz so far that have been meaningless and easily replaceable. Apparently, he got Ashlee Simpson pregnant and we're already sick of the baby, too. If two brunettes have an offspring, they are likely to have a brunette baby. If two vapid, talentless famewhores have an offspring, will it have an MTV reality gameshow by 2012?

Best Hip Hop video is presented tonight by Slipknot, as a stark reminder that hip hop as a genre is about as dead as Slipknot's career. McLovin attempts to sneak into Slipknot with a homemade lucha mask. That's how Slipknot found their second drummer, keyboard player, and bassist.

Your nominees are: the same as best male video with Mary J Blige thrown in. And your winner? Lil' Wheezy's Autotune. He would like to thank pro-tools and God... and oddly that guy from Linkin Park. Unless he is God, then it's just redundant.

Jordan Sparks defends promise rings because she would rather ravage kraft services than be a slut. That's YOUR American Idol, America.

And performing live from some place that's not the VMA stage (continuing this fun trend of pissing off the live audience) is T.I. He walks through a bunch of back lot movie sets as the camera barely focuses on him, making him feel a bit more like Pink does every single day in the process. His performance features at least 3 really obvious pre-recorded filming cuts that are horribly obvious. Thankfully he was dared to sample the Numa Numa dance for a song, and Rihanna was desperate enough to sing over it. For singing this song's hook, Rihanna was able to afford a pair of pants, so we all win. Especially Numa Numa guy.

Commercial break as TJ Barker continues hitting away that one beat he knows, this time over A-Ha's Take On Me.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Sadly every commercial break has featured a spot for Transformers on Blu-Ray, so I might have been betting on the wrong horse with Free Credit Report. Well, that guy did marry his dream girl at least. Somehow had enough advertising funds to get on the VMAs, but Free Credit Report did not. Maybe that guy shouldn't have spent all his money on that crappy Schwinn.

The cast of High School Musical 3 welcome us back from commercial and sadly Hudgens is clothed so she's absolutely useless to all. They are here to introduce the new Christina Aguilera, back from repackaging because the flappy 30s singer act wasn't really catching on.

She starts off by performing what might be the most awesome remix of Genie In A Bottle ever dressed up as Catwoman, making this the best performance of the night. Did someone kidnap Soft Cell and lock them in a studio until she had the most awesome synthline ever?

Everything breaks apart as we morph into her new single and the song sounds like an interesting synthpop hit that would not be out of place on VH-1 Classic. Still horribly retro, but at least she has some excellent keyboards behind her. Is it sad that I'm one step away from jerking it over the keyboard lines and not Aguilera in a vinyl jumpsuit? Interestingly enough, it seems Christina is doing the performance drunk and/or stoned Britney attempted to do last year with Gimmie More, and she seems to be beating Britney at just about every facet, including actually singing live.

As a straight male in the coveted 24-35 year old demographic... Aguilera brought a performance that brought with it a hint of the VMA performances we used to see a decade ago. I will not purchase her new CD because of it, however, but I might find myself in a dark alley clicking a bittorrent for it.

Here are some people who think they are famous to give us the actual winner of Best New Artist. And your Best New Artist is... Obama!

Oh wait, it's Tokio Hotel. Proving that teenage emo goth girls can be persuaded to stop shopping at Hot Topic long enough to call MTV non-stop for a month to vote some Germans wearing more make-up than them into Moon Man bliss.

Commercial time as anyone who has never heard of Tokio Hotel wonder why that girl has such a deep voice.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

We have also heard about how Paris Hilton needs a new BFF about 2-3 times every commercial break. MTV apparently is more concerned about who Paris hangs out with than playing music videos at this point.

Jim Carrey does his best Russell Brand impersonation as he downs 40 Red Bulls and can't shut up in Yes Man, sadly coming out in 2008 and doesn't count for squat in our commercial death match. So close with December 19th, though. Sadly, no cigar.

LL Cool J welcomes us back from commercial, performing Going Back to Cali while Travis Barker continues that same drum beat he's been playing all night. He's like the energizer bunny with less talent.

On September 9th, we'll all pick out lingerie and wear it with LL Cool J and Russell Brand in one of many awkward segues for Brand tonight.

Hey, did you know Paris is looking for a new BFF? She's here to present something and remind us? She also is looking for a new BFF and only a reality show gameshow can find that someone, guys.

Your nominees for best pop video are: Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears (who apparently is having a comeback from crazy), Tokio Hotel (who still confuse everyone who has never heard of them), Diddy's Create-a-Girl-Group-By-Numbers, and Panic at the Disco (still looking for their lost exclamation point). Your winner is Britney Spears! MTV will hammer her successful comeback into your skull if it kills us all. She thanks God, yet again, for directing that great Linkin Park video that won earlier.

That guy who's not Kayne West and can never be Kayne West even if he has more talent performs us away for another commercial break, as Travis Barker somehow pretends to play the same drumbeat he's been playing all night over a drum machine. The guy is where percussion goes to die.

Commercial break as we all get time to digest just how far Britney has come in this predestined, publicist driven resurgence of MTV's doing.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Lava Sauce is apparently more important to Taco Bell than showing off the amazing lyrical skills of the two crackers ordering 89 cent burritos.

Drake and Josh are in the house! And they have a Christmas movie coming out. Josh has somehow become skinnier than Drake using voodoo or perhaps Scientology. They are here to introduce Kid Rock, who goes on to rant about not lip syncing and actually writing his own music... as he moves into his single All Summer Long, that is just him singing moderately worst lyrics over the already horrible Sweet Home Alabama. Way to prove a point, Mr. Rock. Perhaps creativity doesn't come easy for a man when he's on 24/7 Hep C watch after slipping his Joe C into Pamela Anderson.

Did you know Mitch Hedberg has a new CD coming out? Isn't that amazement? Well, it's way more interesting and entertaining to think about than actually watching Kid Rock attempt to be Bob Seger. Now, if a bunch of Koalas infest the stage, or perhaps a frog hopped along I can catch and put in a jar with a leaf to recreate the habitat it is used to, it would be worth my time.

Wheezy jumps onstage to add a rap breakdown to Sweet Home Alabama All Summer Long, hereby making it the final mathematic equation of Hell.

Remember that great new song Aguilera performed? Those with TiVos are probably re-watching that instead of watching Wheezy yeah "SAY YEAH" over Kid Rock at this point.

We cut to commercials as those who used Kid Rock's performance as a bathroom break (and god only knows I should have) are just returning to be reminded that Paris Hilton totally needs a new BFF. Vital information must be spread, people, along with many STDs. BFF is officially brought to you by Valtrex.

White Guy Rapping Taco Bell Commercials: 1 Lame Singing Commercials: 0
Commercials from MTV claiming they play music: 0
Commercials for movies not out until 2009: 0

Mr. Made Up of Different Stuff Guy proclaims this deathmatch officially over. Taco Bell rapping white guys win with a stunning... uh... one commercial aired.

Basketball Guy #29 is here to present video of the year. Your nominees are: Britney Spears (apparently making a comeback or something), the Jonas Brothers, Chris Brown, Pussycat Dolls, and Ting-Tangs. One of these things are not like the others, one of these things deserves to win but won't. Your winner is... Britney Spears, putting a nail in the coffin of all those naysayers who said she couldn't sing by showing that she... can't sing! This award is dedicated to all the mindless pop culture reporters who went apeshit when they heard she was on the show and gave MTV free press.

As Russell Brand is hauled out of the VMAs on the back of a golfcart he almost flies off of, Kan-yay West (as Brand pronounces it) breaks his long running VMA boycott by closing the show. Man, that boycott ran for... just about a year. He's a man of strength and morals, folks. Somehow he manages to use autotune to sing in such a way that you can't even tell he's using it, hereby doing T-Pain's shtick better than T-Pain did. At least he broke the boycott with a pretty subdued but captivating performance as he actually sings the entire time in front of what appeared to be a Jawa drum corp.

Russell Brand ends the show as he began it: by talking really fast to the point of being incoherent about love and piece and god and infinity. And so ends 2 hours and 15 minutes of our lives we can never get back. Maybe, just maybe, we can all be Paris' BFF and it'll all be worth it.

I hereby announce I am boycotting the MTV VMAs, just like Kanye did.

In that case, see you next year.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Super Sweet Sixteen: Exiled

For years, MTV has had a steady decline into a fluffy cushion of teenage decadence of almost biblical levels. Not since dwarfs fought lesbians in the Ancient Greek coliseums has the citizens of a failed society been able to partake in such hedonism.

Of course, I'm talking about a show that features idiots wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on a one night event, so perhaps America has lost long before My Super Sweet Sixteen.

With MTV cameras rolling, My Super Sweet Sixteen featured a lot of teenagers (or 20-somethings pretending to be teenagers) as they purportedly put on the birthday party to end all birthday parties. In reality, they were spending wads of other people's cash in order to gain publicity on MTV's dime to attempt to get an acting gig or a singing contract, as evident by every birthday girl "performing" for their guests... and the video cameras rolling... and the millions of teenage girls who are watching simply because the show is in between reruns of the Hills. It's the modern day chicken vs. egg situation: can people get famous for doing nothing simply because they follow a show about people who already got famous for doing nothing?

I'm sure when Billy Idol died at gunpoint during the Korean War to protect our right to demand our MTV, he never pictured it turning to this. Surely the worst he thought it'd come to was A-Ha's Take On Me.

A few years and a couple thousand My Super Sweet Sixteen marathons later, MTV is slowly realizing that they are just plum out of drop-in-the-pan, up and coming yet one hit wonder rappers to feature performing in front of a throng of screaming upper class white teenagers. What's a music video channel to do? Resort to playing music videos? Have you seen the last Paramore music video? That's not an option, that's terrorism.

So Music Television, desperate to find something to run along with episodes of the Hills, has gone back to their former Sweet Sixteeners two-to-three years later to see where they are today. Surely after being featured on a television show broadcast across the universe showing oneself to the highest of bitches, they have re-evaluated their lives and done time in the peace corp or taken up a higher purpose in their studies, right?

Not in the Myspace generation, folks.

My Super Sweet Sixteen represents the ultimate in YouTube culture where someone is famous just because other people have seen them. Even years (and a few plastic surgeries for some of them) later, these girls still consider themselves the height of popularity long even if that BMWer they were gifted on their episode was a rental and the people invited to their party only pretended to like them for the cameras. The only Sixteener to actually have a career after throwing her party was already signed to N.E.R.D.'s record label before her episode, and since then she's only known for creating a dance that urges America to "chicken noodle soup with soda on the side."

So with this daunting outlook on the future of our Sweet Sixteen Feted America becoming grossly apparent, we now have the fun term of "Exile" coming into place. Often times it is considered customary for well off teenagers to spend a summer abroad after high school to really find themselves. Let's use this tradition to humiliate teenage girls that much more!

With MTV's cameras rolling on them again with presumably no clue why, the girls (and one gay guy, of course) arrive home one afternoon to find their entire family sternly sitting in the living room quiet. Surely an every day occurrence, MTV, nothing to be concerned about. It's not like the idea of the Family Meeting died out around the time of the Cold War and Duck and Cover. So MTV is there to capture a unique phenomenon: they want the girl's honest reaction to being bombarded intervention style, but sadly they are more dumbfounded as to why their just as greedy and messed up family are sitting in one room when there's HD TVs with digital cable, computers with Wi-Fi, and XBox games that won't play themselves in other rooms. It could be a microcosm for society if MTV were allowed to be symbolic.

Then the grim news is handed out to our death row patron: you have been greedy, we (as your parents and legal guardians) haven't taught you how to appreciate your wealth and good fortune as we ourselves revel in it, and, for the sake of human growth and extra promotion on television, we're letting MTV solve all the problems 18 years of crappy parenting has caused by sending you to a remote part of the world for a week. Because that can solve anything. Yes, even AIDS.

The girls are given an afternoon to pack for their trip to what White People can only envision as hell on earth, which gives us the delightful montage of deciding just which Coach bag will look cutest as you are running from tigers way down in Kenya. Surely you are going on an expenses paid trip to be scared straight the African way, you need at least 3 or 4 pairs of 500 dollar sunglasses to take with you. Then with their family crying and hugging them as they push them closer to their gate, our poor spoiled princesses hop on the red eye to realization.

9 times out of 10, an episode of Exiled follows a story arc so rigid you would think the story editors were using a photoshop template hacked into their Avid. Girl lands in place they know nothing about. People who live there welcome girl with open arms and very poor English skills. Girl is grossed out by everything... absolutely everything. Everything smells of dung and poor people to these girls which instantly triggers their gag reflex. You'd think they'd have learned to suppress that by now.

Right before the second commercial break and the end of act 2, the girls use a satellite cell phone (which I'm sure every denizen in Africa also had access to so they could order valuable medicine or get some phone sex or other crucial activities) to cry to their mommy or daddy about how absolutely horrible it is. Re-read that sentence. No where did I say "The girls confess that others have it way harder than themselves and voe to change for the better." That part never comes, children.

After our last commercial break, the story editors decide to throw us a curveball as our Sixteener suddenly realizes that where she's at is pretty cool and is accepted into the society with a smile on her face. Was there a whole two more days of the girl not acting like an Ugly American that unfortunately had to be cut? The editors cleverly found a plot device in this, however, as the girls room and work with a girl of their age from their exiled place of choice. So even if the Sixteener doesn't change or comes to terms with having to work for a living, we can manufacture a sisterly relationship between the two of them that bridges the gap between our cultures.

This show has the foreign policy knowledge of George W. Bush.

The girls, after having to endure an entire week in this other locale, then get to go home to their plush mansion, parents waiting to spoil them, housekeepers, and BMWs they invariable have dented and dinged in fender benders because, yes, the real world does take after Clueless. My Super Sweet Sixteen: Exiled attempts a stab at social consciousness but, in the end, it's just as vapid and pointless as the parties they featured 2 years ago. No one really learns anything other than editors can make it appear they have and the girls who come back from their exile invariably go right back to doing everything wrong they've done their whole life. There's a strong case to be made that sending the children is the wrong route in Exile. The problem doesn't stem from spoiled kids continuing to want to be spoiled. The problem lies with the parents who spoil them to begin with.

So perhaps MTV will gift us with a spin-off of this spin-off, a transcontinental parent swap where the lousy parents must go to an African village and walk miles for water, slaughter a goat to find their children, and make the tough choice of which fruit of their loins get the TB medicine and lives and which one dies. Maybe then we'll see some problems solved as the parents learn that money and designer labels can't cure epidemics and tribal class systems in warring nations.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Batman: Gotham Knight

On the eve of The Dark Knight, a hotly-anticipated film guaranteed to bring in more money than several small countries, a few cash-ins were to be expected. The most heavily advertised of these was Batman: Gotham Knight, a series of short films animated by some of the most acclaimed/popular anime directors and studios. What should result is the best of east and west combined into the most kickass Batman cartoons ever. This is not what we got.

Batman is a pretty difficult concept to screw up. You've got an ordinary guy who dresses like a complete lunatic, armed with smarts, martial arts skills and enough money to purchase some seriously cool nonlethal weapons and tools. Once you have that, you can take it pretty much anywhere and it'll probably be enjoyable.

What we have are six cartoons that sort of try to link up with each other and the Batman film franchise, but don't really succeed very well at either of these. The idea of having it all directed by anime hotshots is clearly and blatantly ripped off of The Animatrix, which had far more input from the feature filmmakers and was probably better than the sequels it was created to serve. This comes across like somebody read twenty pages of the Dark Knight script and decided that was good enough. Sticking them inseparably together doesn't do them any favors, either.

On a side note, Target's packaging had a sticker that referred to this as the "first-ever PG-13 animated Batman movie," which is true as long as you ignore that other PG-13 animated Batman movie, and that other one that probably should have been PG-13.

Let's begin. Since the film doesn't bother to identify who's responsible for each segment until the end credits, neither will I.

Have I Got A Story For You opens up with what all true Batman fans were clamoring for: kids skateboarding. Said kids have gathered around a couple empty pools in the graffiti part of town and start sharing tales of Batman trying to stop some utterly generic dude in a wetsuit with a jetpack and goggles, and no other features whatsoever. What follows was clearly intended as an exercise in showing how different people interpret Batman's methods and what the citizens think of him, which arguably could have been really cool.

They didn't have time to make that, so instead they went with a first-grade approach. "What if Batman was a zombie?!" "What if Batman was a real giant bat-man?!" "What if Batman was a robot?!" None of the fights last longer than about 90 seconds, and then it's back to annoying kids sitting around and babbling.

Finally the real Batman and jetpack wetsuit dude show up. Batman is battered and bruised from the day's fighting (and really paunchy for some reason), barely able to stand up, and the only kid that didn't share a tale gets to whack the totally unnamed, totally uninteresting villain in the head with his skateboard. This knocks him out instantly, since they were only allotted twelve minutes. The other kids run up, wanting to know what just happened. "Man, have I got a story for you guys!" In this story, Batman was probably a pirate.

Crossfire begins with Batman apparently turning the guy from the first short into the police, but the fact that Batman is totally fine tends to contradict that. We're introduced to Detective Anna Ramirez, from The Dark Knight, and Detective Cris Allen, who might have been in the film but damned if I can remember. Allen doesn't trust Batman, but Ramirez does, and the two discuss this and establish the state of Gotham following Batman Begins while they take the villain to Arkham.

Apparently deciding that Two People Sit In A Car And Talk: The Movie wasn't exciting enough, after their errand is complete, Ramirez drives them dead center into a gang/mob turf war. The gang on one side, the mob on the other. That's when things go from boring to stupid.

Instead of making any attempt to drive off, the detectives crouch in the car and wait for the inevitable. Sure enough, the gang (led by "The Russian," a devilishly clever alias) and the mob start shooting at each other. They stand in a straight line, point their guns in a straight line, and fire, as if they were fighting a war in the 1600s. Sure enough, most of them die, as the budget apparently didn't allow for anybody to take cover behind cars. The head mobster, Maroni from The Dark Knight, is the only one budgeted to do anything, and in turn apparently becomes the first to notice the detectives' car in the middle. He runs to it for shelter.

The gang members blow up said car with a handy rocket launcher, allowing Batman to heroically save Allen from seriously about five stories up and perhaps change his mind in the process. Batman flies down, then runs around beating the crap out of all the gang members and seemingly absorbing bullets. Maroni attempts to hold Ramirez hostage, but is unprepared for the sight of Batman walking calmly through enormous flames. That's right, Batman is completely fireproof. Including that completely exposed portion of his face.

Allen, not wanting to get upstaged, jumps down three stories onto concrete and is totally fine, pointing his gun at Maroni. Batman, sick of standing in the middle of a goddamned fire, takes Maroni out with absolutely no effort and then grapple-hooks away straight up into the air somehow, noting that Gordon is "a good judge of character." That's where the short ends, with virtually no resolution or emotional conclusion. Needless to say, I did not get caught up in it.

In Field Test, we get our first look at Bruce Wayne himself, in this case rendered with as generic an "anime" look as they could muster. It starts with him and Lucius Fox (from the films, don'tcha know) as Fox introduces him to his newest toy, an electromagnetic bullet deflector that activates on sound. Not seeing any potential downside to this, Bruce decides to try it out.

Bruce then attends to his day-to-day business, such as attending a homeless shelter unveiling and basically accusing a guy of murder to his face in the middle of a golf course. After magnetically deflecting said dude's golf club halfway across the county, Bruce moves on to his other Field Test. Batman kicks it off by crashing Maroni's boat into The Russian's boat. He then flies in and starts beating the crap out of people. They shoot him, bullets reflect, he pummels them until the point of paralysis, as per his usual.

Finally he holds The Russian and Maroni up by their necks until they agree to stick to their own turf for a while. This is the cue for one of the mob members to shoot Batman, and the bullet inevitably bounces into some random gang member's shoulder. A brief trip to the hospital later, Batman decides it's just too dangerous to have something that ricochets bullets into other people. Nobody else can die because of him -- villains spending two years in traction is A-OK, though.

Truth be told, that was one of the better shorts in the collection. The same can't be said for the next one, In Darkness Dwells. It begins with a swoopy camera through the skyline to show just how intense this is going to be. You see, a large crocodile-man (Killer Croc for the unacquainted) attacked a church, stealing a cardinal or somesuch, and everyone inside said church went super-crazy. Gordon wanders into some seemingly unrelated, unbelievably decrepit catacomb hallway inside (seriously, the thing looks straight out of Eternal Darkness). After sending Ramirez and Allen away, he tells the story of what happened in the church to Batman, who is hanging from the ceiling. Because he is a bat. -man.

After coming to the incredibly obvious conclusion that the Scarecrow had to be behind this on some level, Batman follows the trail of the maybe-lizardman. Diving through a teensy hole in the floor, he gets on his way. A tedious trip through the sewer system and a discussion with some completely unnecessary underground people later, Batman finds the Croc and gets bit about twelve seconds into the fight, getting infected with FEAR TOXIN in the process. Always the pacifist, Batman responds to this by sticking a live bomb in Croc's mouth.

With Croc wandering off to vomit out his intestines or something, Batman moves on and just so happens to run into the Scarecrow and a bunch of crazy sewer people/asylum inmates. They're about to execute the stolen cardinal, so Batman beats the living crap out of all of them and then brings the whole sewer down, surely killing like a dozen people in the process. He and the cardinal ride the waves to the safety of a dam. Sure, whatever.

Gordon is already there with a helicopter, somehow, and tries to get Batman to come along, but Batman is just too cool for that, so he glides away. So in the end, none of the characters have any motivation or logical reason to do anything they're doing, the settings and fight scenes are barely linked together as if 12 minutes was just too damn long, Bruce is injected with fear toxin and absolutely nothing whatsoever comes from it, and Batman is completely impervious to entire sewer systems crashing down upon his head. Brilliant.

Working Through Pain begins with a terrified crazy guy pulling his own "Have I Got A Story For You" featuring Batman as a giant collection of bats; he fires into it and runs away. Batman, actually present, has been shot. After sticking his finger inside the wound to make sure it hurts or something, he uses a magical cauterizing iron and goes into flashback mode.

Think visions of bloodied African war veterans being operated on without anesthetic is a bit graphic and pretentious for this movie? Think again. Bruce's flashbacks begin there, after which in real life he falls down something like thirty stories of mine shaft and crashes on a pipe. But it's okay -- he's working through the pain.

The rest of the flashbacks center in India, where he meets up with "Cassandra" to learn how to work through his pain. Cassandra is a bit of an outcast from some unidentified sect because they don't teach icky girls the secrets of coalwalking and lying on beds of nails enlightenment. She's constantly berated by the townsfolk, but refuses to leave because "this is where [she] belong[s]." She tries to make the analogy to what Bruce is trying to do in Gotham, but since he's working to better the city and she seems to be doing nothing but sitting on her ass, it doesn't quite work.

One night, an angry mob comes by Cassandra's house to attack her for having cooties. Bruce steps in, since Cassandra makes absolutely no effort to defend herself, and fends them off in his usual way -- beating them until their internal bleeding makes it too hard to stand up. This leads Cassandra to kick him out of town, apparently for having dared to lift a finger against dudes with knives. As he walks away, she tells Bruce not to thank her -- after all, his pain is too great for her to teach him to deal with. Not that this really makes any sense, but nothing she says ever really does anyway.

Also, in real life, Bruce limped his way right into a stash of guns, to be dealt with in the next part of the film. This short didn't really make any sense at all and was pretty slow, but it was fairly engaging, and you didn't have to warp your mind to connect one scene to another, so I'm gonna give it a pass.

The final short is Deadshot, focusing on the DC villain so named. The animation style is immediately very offputting, as the characters themselves are extremely detailed and barely move. It starts with Bruce and Alfred talking about what to do with the guns found in Working Through Pain. This allows Bruce to talk about how totally awesome guns would be if he could use them, overlaying a sequence where Deadshot himself snipes a single dude in a party through a champagne glass from a ferris wheel halfway across Gotham. This is not the most implausible event in this cartoon.

Turns out that Deadshot's next target is everyone's favorite punching bag, Jim Gordon. Gordon hops in a huge cop caravan for his safety while Batman watches from up above. Alfred chimes in from home to let Batman know that the handy satellite surveillance he suddenly has access to reveals no rooftop snipers in the vicinity.

But there's trouble! The caravan is passing under a bridge at the same time a train passes over it! Since shooting a target with a rifle from one moving target into another is unspeakably flashy, Batman figures that's just what will happen, so he flies by. Seriously, he glides right next to the train, as he totally can do all the time. Deadshot takes aim and fires ...

... and Batman flies in and punches the bullet away. He doesn't knock the rifle into another direction. He doesn't knock Deadshot over. He punches a bullet. While flying. Deadshot is unimpressed by this for some reason, and pulls out some sort of wrist machine gun because Batman is of course the true target. Batman avoids every bullet, or his nonexistent body armor reflects some of them or something, and hops on the train just before it enters a tunnel.

Completely forgetting about the insane powers he just had, Batman attempts to get closer to Deadshot by means of running straight at him across like six train cars. Unsurprisingly, he gets shot. He's okay, though; no limping around and flashbacking this time. Deadshot wanders in closer while Batman hides between train cars, and just as unsurprisingly, Batman gets the jump on him and destroys the wrist gun with his gauntlets. He then holds Deadshot's face millimeters below a series of outcroppings in the train tunnels until Deadshot spills the beans on who hired him and, presumably, shits his pants. Convinced, Batman punches him square in the nose at full force.

Later, Deadshot's all arrested, and Bruce is getting his bullet wound patched. Since this is the final short, he takes a moment to compare everything that just happened to his parents' murder. He wanders over to the window and sees the Bat-signal, shining on Gotham's everpresent cloud cover. No, a bat's work is never done!

And with that, the spastic, incoherent thing is finally at an end. How this is supposed to link to The Dark Knight is beyond me; it barely works with itself. We've got six shorts in various degrees of awful, with Batman at six different looks, six different ability levels, and working in six different Gothams. The only remote consistency with itself or anything else is the savage brutality Batman unleashes upon hapless criminals -- and that's just not enough.

Root Beer Tapper: X-Box Live Edition

As most readers can see via our "Pathetic Gaming With Us" sidebar, the X-Box 360 is a harsh mistress to us Ice Anvil writers. It's a console that brings me great joy whenever I play a game like Crackdown or even Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. But it's also a bane on the existence of my wallet whenever I wake up one morning in a post-gaming stupor and realize I just spent X-Box points like they were monopoly money on Arcade titles like Root Beer Tapper.

Now, the rational me realizes what the half-asleep-with-a-console-that-has-my-credit-card-info-on-file bad idea me might have been going for. Yes, readers, I have a history with the game Tapper.

That last sentence might be a first for the English language but true it is nonetheless.

Back when I was a wee lad of 12 I came across a few cryptic websites talking about a video game program called MAME. I knew not what this could mean, of course, because I was 12 years old and actively collecting issues of X-Force at the time... so in most states, by all means I was clinically retarded. But clicked on I did as I found page after page extolling great gaming fortunes for all who partake in MAME-y goodness. Eventually, after realizing that text on websites isn't just there for decoration and should be read, I found an actual link to download the emulator and some random MAME roms.

These early roms weren't the cream of the crop that rose to the top, either. I have a feeling that most of these sites hosting early roms picked the ones that had the least choice of receiving cease and desist letters. Let's be candid here: if you actually worked on 3 Stooges arcade game, were sober enough to remember programming it, and still alive today, would you put yourself through the shame of confessing this prior sin to a lawyer? I think not. So many early MAME sites were full of games of this ilk, some of them having decent playability, most of them being novelties that many people never heard of. One such rom was Tapper, which is a title I still to this day confuse for another activity altogether.

Tapper is a product of its generation. At the time, a video game could be made about just about any subject, which is why we received games about a gorilla in a greenhouse, jousting on ostriches, kissing girls in study hall, and Tron. Eventually game developers started programming games based on their own real life interests, so naturally a game based entirely on drinking had to come up sooner or later. With Tapper, you played the part of a bartender on the go, forced to work in a dystopian future where watering holes have 5 bars and only one member of staff.

Let's dissect that last sentence for a moment, shall we? The game takes place in a reality where there are so many alcoholics that bars necessitate not one but 5 different bar situations. And it is to be assumed that Tapper himself is only bartender because he is not an alcoholic. So that would mean this once lighthearted game about getting people sauced is actually a cautionary tale of how horrible a life you might lead if you don't get drunk now. Would you want to be stuck the lone rider on the sober train, having to grease the wheels of an entire society of inebriated yokels with pocket change? I thought not, Mayor Moonshine, so get chugging.

With the outlook on our world's eventual drunken demise out of the way, let's talk about the fundamentals of the game as if it really merits it. The game is essentially a sideways shoot'em up, except what you are firing is frosty mugs of beer and what you are shooting at are drunks. The drunks happily grab their chalice of tard drink and chug like it's their job (which, as previously denoted, might very well be true). The sheer force of you feeding their addiction is enough to physically move them back a few feet, also... either that or you are slinging suds at the speed of sound. When they have consumed all that is to be consumed, a good 90% of them reasonably decide to leave your establishment and drive home, which could theoretically tie the actions of the game Bump 'N' Jump to Tapper, making it a spiritual successor. First you have to stupid the alcoholics up, then they think they can make their car jump on the drive home.

The ones that do not take notice tend to stick around, often not tipping, until you throw another frothy cup of nice-nice their way. Then, and only then, has their gripping addiction been sated and they can leave your game to star in their own version of City Connection. Side note: whichever city Tapper takes place in no longer has any cats.

There are two critical things to remember about Tapper before we go any further: Firstly, the game was made to be the lone arcade set-up in your neighborhood bar. The game was simple and short, easily beaten on a single quarter if you Jackie Chan drunk kung-fu it. Some versions of the game even bare the Budweiser logo to make no bones about who this game was targeted towards. And the topper to Tapper: the game included a handy drink holder to caress your bottle of fresh Budweiser or drink of choice while you show off to your equally shitfaced friends just how wicked awesome you are at the ol' Tap after a few tequila shots.

The second, and most crucial, part of Tapper lore lies in the developers wanting their cake and eating it, too. The 80s were a heady time, America. We had conflicted images of Phoebe Cates alone from Gremlins and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We were a nation divide. Among that divide were arcades set up in bars (which numbers in the tens of... uh... tens) and the number of arcades set up in pizza joints, malls, and assorted places marketed towards children (essentially all of them). A night at Chuck E Cheese's is less fun if daddy has to explain why the people in the Tapper game are impersonating what he does every night as he cries after work to his children.

So the game suddenly become Root Beer Tapper, as we've hit the Prohibition Age of Gaming. Surely you remember the great rush of root beer joints in the 80s, right? Man, you could barely throw a dead cat (most likely killed by one of Tapper's customers) without hitting a root beer jerk just being torn to pieces with job offers to work in yet another hip young root beer upstart opening down town.

What was once a glorified drinking simulator suddenly became a questionable piece of early video game censorship. The once happy faces of Tapper players full of amusement were replaced with faces of bemusement at what Root Beer Tapper represented. This one stroke of parental advisory killed any chance of video games creeping into your local bar for good, leaving a market wide open for Golden Tee. Ironically, you look like slightly less of an idiot playing Root Beer Tapper than you do playing Golden Tee.

So of course we get a port of the game on X-Box Live Arcade, surely a big seller to the dozens of people who fondly remember the time they got so hammered and played all the way to the Sports Bar level on a single token.

Every story comes with an inconvenient truth: there are currently 177,012 people who own Root Beer Tapper on their X-Box Live. That's 177,012 people crying out for help.

And yes, that includes myself as well. Help me protect myself from drunk Arcade purchases.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


On the eve of the opening day of the Dark Knight, a movie projected to make over $100 million dollars in just a weekend, it seems that superhero movies are all over the place. Just this summer alone we've seen Iron Men, Raging Hulks, Superman as played by Will Smith, and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. So with the Caped Crusader and a Joker hopped up on prescription drugs looming in the shadows, it's sometimes easy to overlook the smaller films.

With a smaller profile, indie budget, and cast of relative unknowns, Sidekick is easily able to present a closer-to-true-life experience than any big budget superhero movie. The sheer fact that it doesn't have to curtail big name actor demands and market research means we get an uncorrupted story without a tacked on third act like Hancock.

In Sidekick, we meet up with Norman, the kind of comic book geek you only really see on TV or in movies. Let's face it, readers: us Ice Anvil writers are geeks, too. But one of the very qualities of geekdom is to seek out other geeks to geek around with. Surely a geek is not worth his salt unless he finds a group of like minded social misfits to debate the logistics of time travel or clones with. In movies, however, the geek is a lonely creature who somehow manages to live completely alone, devoid except for one other person who tolerates him.

That person who happens to tolerate Norman this time around? None other than Celebrity Rehab-star Daniel Baldwin, obviously appearing because he needed beer money and they could film all his scenes in a day. So Baldwin plays Chuck, owner of the local comic book store no one but Norman seems to go to. They sit around apparently for hours debating what superpower they'd have if they had a superpower. Once again, the movie steers clear of the one true geek answer to that question: empathy. The power to have every power trumps x-ray vision or super strength any day.

Norman works for the local finance firm where he spends all day sitting in the storage closet with the lights turned off, staring into a laptop that apparently denotes him maintaining the company's internal servers. Every once in a while he'll leave his dank supply cave to get a brisk mug of tea to give him the energy he needs to continue to sit upright staring at almost nothing.

It's at just such an excursion that Norman meets Victor for the first time. Victory is the big man at the firm if high school stereotypes are to be believed. He can drink anyone under the table and is willing to sexually harass a woman to win a bet. A real man's man is what we call that. While grabbing his coffee cup over Norman's head, even an all-around great guy like Victor slips up, and quickly loses grip on the fine ceramic mug. Luckily for him, he has the power of telekinesis and quickly grabs it with his mind, in plain sight of Norman. Norman, of course, being the last possible person in the world you'd want to expose secret superhuman abilities to.

Predictably, Norman quickly drops everything else in his life (it didn't take long) to stalk Victor around trying to witness his powers in use again. At the company's softball game that weekend, he notices that Victor never misses a pitch. Yet when he tries to videotape it, the use of Victor's powers apparently EM pulse the tape, distorting it just as they are being used.

Done admiring his new mancrush from afar, Norman tries to subtle approach and offers to train Victor. Somehow reading comic books will give Norman that skill he needs to teach someone with an actual skill on how to use them. Victor quickly gives Norman the brush off since he likes just being the office dick and would rather not be the office dick who also prances around in tights at night.

Later that evening, after getting drunk at a local bar, Victor and his friend Chase are thrown out, probably after lifting a girl's skirt to see what kind of panties she's wearing on a dare. After peeing in an alley, Chase decides he's had his fill of drinking and peeing for the night and begins to head home. Victor, never tired of drinking and urinating in public, calls his friend a lightweight for giving in so early. Chase turns around and starts gaybashing his best friend, as a situation such as this warrants no doubt. However, Chase forgot about two vital things: 1. the upcoming curb and B. gravity. He quickly finds himself tumbling to the street in probably the movie's worst special effect. After the strain of slowly falling in the most safe position possible in front of a camera, Chase apparently decides to rest up and take a nap right there on 23rd street as a nearby car just happens to be driving by. Victor leaps out to use his mind bullets to stop the car only to miss by about 4 feet and completely screw up a street sign. Chase, as the red-colored corn syrup will attest, is dead meat.

So on comes the second act where Victor feels remorse for not being able to save Chase, gives into Norman's creepy man fantasies, and they start training up. What they are training for seems to be oblivious to Victor, though. That is until Norman, like the bipolar freak that he is, decides to throw himself in front of an oncoming car to prove to Victor that he has full control over his powers. Really, Sidekick is as much a movie about superpowers as it is crippling manic depression apparently.

With Norman saved and Victor feeling pretty confident that he won't let another friend die to the terrible social plague known as traffic, Norman whips out a freakishly mysterious box. Inside is a costume Norman has been slaving over for weeks for Victor to wear while they go around stopping the crime we know is sweeping the streets of Toronto. It's at this point that I believe even Victor can see through the superhero shenanigans and full comprehends just how creepy Norman's obsession with him could be, since he throws the box down and walks away.

But true love never really walks away. Within seconds Victor is back and willing to try patrolling the Canadian mean streets for evil if only for one night. Norman, so excited that he can no longer stand up without a book to cover said excitement, grabs his coat and it's off to the races. Sadly, the Canadian Mounted Police are just too effective as our superfriends find a serious lack of bank robberies or muggings to stop. They settle on a gang of adults who are apparently loitering on the street. The gang decides to strike the wasp nest with a stick and call Norman and Victor gay. This sends Victor into a passive aggressive rage as he uses his Jedi mind tricks to grab two of the thugs and make them make out with each other. That would probably be enough to prove his point thoroughly, but to totally prove to this guys he's not gay, Victor decides to force one guy to give the other oral festivities. Yes, Victor, way to prove to the scarred thugs you aren't homosexual by forcing them to perform gay porn for you. At this point, even Norman is a little creeped out and forced Victor to stop just before the climax.

Thus begins Victor's descent into madness as he realizes he is practically unstoppable. Thankfully for Victor, he has a moment at the office to prove how unstoppable he is, as there's a hostage situation at gunpoint. It seems the idiot office asshole we only really met once for about 3 seconds was embezzling money, so he kidnapped the CEO and is holding him in a conference room. Rather than call the police or actually do anything to pro-actively protect their boss' life, all the office workers scurry to the door of the room to listen in. Victor is able to mosey on in without a problem, get the asshole to let his boss go, and close the door behind the boss without anyone thinking twice. He then leaves the room 20 seconds later with the gun-welding maniac unconscious with his head smashed on the office table... again, without anyone thinking twice.

Now completely mad with power, Victor kidnaps the office receptionist and forces Norman to help him finish out the now-out-of-the-picture embezzler's plan. While hacking into the company's bank account online, Norman casually gets Victor drunk and passed out and is able to strap him to an office chair using scotch tape, throwing in even more homo-erotic overtones to their friend. Just as he's about to put Victor away for good by turning him into the cops, however, Victor wakes up and tries to push him down an open elevator shaft, apparently a growing epidemic in the fabled Canadas. Luckily for Norman, the receptionist is there to clobber Victor in the skull with a fire extinguisher, becoming the true hero of the story. We end our movie on the traditional To Be Continued note, however, as the cops don't believe in telekinesis as much as Norman does and Victor easily breaks out of the hospital room a lone cop is guarding wearing only an open-in-the-back hospital gown.

Sidekick, for as much as I give it guff in this review, is definitely a movie seething with love for comics and superheroes. It's obvious that the writer and director know their stuff and try to make the most out of a shoestring budget. The movie, though, suffers from horrible timing, coming out right before the start of the TV show Heroes. With a bigger budget and the ability to tell a larger story over greater time, Heroes has developed the villain with telekinesis into an antihero with almost as many fans as any do-gooder on the show. And with said bigger budget, Sylar is able to do way more on Heroes with his powers than Victor is able to do in Sidekick. Really, when you watch a man slice open someone's skull with his finger telekinetically, the same ol' "forcing people to punch themselves" routine just seems like old hat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


G4TV is desperate to prove to us that they are just as legitimate a cable channel as Spike TV, even if it ultimately kills us all. To be fair, they've done a pretty good job of it so far. Their reruns of Cops and Cheaters are certainly things you would see non-stop on Spike a few years back. Their original programming also stands head and shoulders above Spike's, with 90 minutes of live television every night to update their viewers on the latest in video games, movies, and geekery. It's almost enough to make G4's mothers proud.

That was until now...

With Hurl, G4TV incorrectly assumes that they can create a game show here in America every bit as entertaining as Japan's Ninja Warrior. Oh how wrong they were.

The rules of Hurl are pretty simple: if you are a famewhore and want an easy way to get 15 minutes of televised screen time, meet up with 4 other famewhores on their street tunnel set and prepare to throw up. Surely as a child your mother might have regaled you with tales of starving children in China or Africa. Fun update: they are still starving. So when a show like Hurl comes along, it's as if the American flag's stars and stripes have been replaced with a bald eagle flipping off poor people while eating a supersized Big Mac extra value meal.

The game show, if you can even call it that, starts off with an eating competition. For our debut episode, the contestants have 5 minutes to cram as much macaroni and cheese in their gullet as possible out of a 11 pound bucket. The contestant that "won" this round only polished off 5 pounds. That means there's 6 pounds of macaroni and cheese which was thrown out. That's enough to feed 3 or maybe even 4 hobos for a whole weekend. The hobos are crying, Hurl.

What's weird about the announcers at Hurl is they seem to be taking the whole game seriously. The producers have decided to deem every move or sound made by the contestant a "play," as if from a Playbook. Not only that, they gave the plays numbers, as if we're supposed to write them down and compile our own handbook to Hurl Supremacy. Tonight we were witness to many plays, some more effective than not, that included the Snowball, the Double Fisting, the Face Plant... wait a second, are all Hurl Plays also sexual maneuvers? No wonder these guys crammed down so much food then.

Another interesting fact that announcers seem to stress every other sentence is that the food the contestants are either forcing down their throat or covering their face and shirts with is organic. Really, after about pound 3 of macaroni and cheese, I don't think a human heart cares if the cholesterol is organic or processed.

So after 5 minutes of cheesy cheesy shame, the hurl-ers scurry into hamster balls right out of American Gladiators. While strapped down in a sitting position in these globes of pain, a group of men in gas masks and hazmat suits spin them right round, baby, right round, like a record baby, right round round round. Oddly enough, even after a creamy macaroni and cheese starter, none of the soon-to-be-pukers threw up, making the first half of this game show highly anti-climatic.

Determined to videotape every single person on this show throwing up including, but not limited to, the audience, the second round was another eating orgy of Greek proportions. This time our competitive eaters must down large sized pumpkin pies and wash the whole thing down with "organic" orange soda. Wouldn't "organic" orange soda just be orange juice, Hurl? Who knows, because we've got pies to shove our faces into! And eat they do, with the winner of this round downing over 3 pounds of pumpkin pie to go with the 5 pounds of cheesy macaroni he already ate.

It's during this second eating round we actually bare witness to our first vomit of the game show as the mixture of lactose and "organic" pumpkin fixings proves to be too much. Before I describe the vomit in great detail, I must stress that this is a show that starts with a warning alerting us about the "Extreme footage of throwing up" we're about to see, probably because "Vomit" isn't part of the standard television rating system. Now that you've been suitably warned about the vomit to come, let's all revel in it, shall we?

Oh wait, we can't. Apparently, despite the warnings and the fact that the show is called Hurl, the producers have decided actually showing puke is just inappropriate. So instead of actually seeing hurl on Hurl, we see the puke covered up by cartoon buckets pulled straight from your nearest Clip Art collection CD. Just so we're on the same page: the entire reason for this show's existence is to show people throwing up, and then they censor that. We've been seeing people vomit without censorship on television for decades, moreso nowadays with shows like Fear Factor, A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila, or Real World/Road Rules Challenge. These are shows not even built on the premise of forcing people to throw up, yet they show us piles upon piles of human vomit with reckless abandon. Naming this show Hurl is a bit like watching Poison Ivy: the New Seduction edited for broadcast TV on a Sunday afternoon. They censor out the one reason for its being.

So in the end, one famewhore managed to keep from vomiting about two minutes longer than another and won himself $1,000 and a lifetime of shame. As a viewer, I won the feeling of regret that comes with just wasting a half hour watching boring, watered down television. While some might scoff at Hurl and consider it another rung down the ladder humanity is taken to the end times, it's not even worth that. It's just another half hour on G4th's schedule that would be better served airing another episode of Code Monkeys, where at least the pixelated, 8-bit vomit isn't censored.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lost: Lovers' Quarrels

Nobody will argue that Lost has had more than its fair share of problems through its run. Mysteries hyped up for months or years only to be explained in the vaguest possible sense, characters wandering off into the uncharted wilderness on a whim, and slews of new, uninteresting characters who generally only survive half a season or so. Much of this was rectified in the much-improved fourth season, which was fairly successful at trimming the fat and convincing viewers there really is a mythos behind all this.

But there's always something.

The main problematic subplot is the world's slowest-moving natural disaster, the love triangle between Jack, Kate and Sawyer. (Juliet should technically fit in there, but since the writers don't care about her, why should I?) The group, while being good actors for the most part, have absolutely no romantic chemistry whatsoever, yet the writers keep mashing their lips together like they have to share their oxygen supply. That it takes time that could be used watching a giant plume of smoke beat the living hell out of people makes it even harder to watch.

At the end of season 3, it looked like the whole mess had finally been resolved. Kate, finally tired of Jack's shit, had settled down for a nice, mutually abusive relationship with Sawyer. Jack had proven to have a thing for bland reproductive surgeons, shacking up with Juliet and driving Kate into the arms of another man. Or it might have been the other way around. Either way, everything was in its proper place.

Of course, this is Lost, where you can't assume a storyline is resolved even when every character involved is dead. On the island, things continued to look peachy -- Juliet stayed mostly off screen and Kate and Jack were too busy dealing with about twenty new characters to bemoan their imperfect love.

For the unaware, the first three seasons of Lost featured flashbacks in every episode about the characters' lives before the plane crash. These ranged from fascinating to completely worthless, but it was an interesting storytelling technique that generally helped keep the show from dragging everything out even further than they already were. For the fourth season, the creators mixed things up a bit by changing most of these into flashforwards, following seven characters that had found their way off the island under unexplained circumstances.

The flashforwards were the first sign that something was going horribly wrong. On the island, Jack and Kate were busy pretending they'd ever had a relationship, and it was great. But off the island, in the future, they were the most heartbrokenly estranged former lovers ever. Every other scene with the two of them involved him getting jealous over Sawyer, despite him having been left behind on the island years before, or him proudly declaring his love for her and wishing that they could get back together. When Jack got questioned in court over whether he loved Kate, they seemed to be pushing it a bit hard.

Sure enough, on the island, Kate and Juliet had a big tussle over his impromptu appendectomy and it was like nothing had changed, with one big difference. This time, we had been promised -- no, guaranteed -- that this would drag on for years to come. So come season 5, we can be treated to more scenes of them flipping out over their violently bland, passion-free relationship, knowing that it'll all end with Jack and Kate living happily ever after with lots of babies.

And the glacier slides on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rebuild of Evangelion 01: You Are (Not) Alone

Oh Evangelion, how we have missed you. It's so hard to remember how much of an impact this little series has left on the world of Japanese cartoons with robots sometimes... well, when ADV is not releasing another 3 or 4 season packs every few months.

A lot has changed in the world of otaku and anime since Eva cashed a blank check for cash money back in the 90s. The anime business in America is in a downturn, even with more airtime than ever on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Anime Network On Demand, and Funimation's Anime Channel. Evangelion's original American distributor, ADV Films, appears to be in the death throes, canceling future titles and discontinuing old ones as they coyly deflect requests for information like a violin player on the Titanic. All talks of a Weta-influenced Evangelion live action movie seem to have dried up, especially since ADV were the only ones really talking about it.

So what's Hideo Anno to do? He only made one of the most influential animes of all time during a period of extreme physical and mental exhaustion, leaving a body of work that's uneven and downright masochistic at times.

Well, you post a press release saying you're curing all of anime by remaking that same body of work. It's the only way to be sure.

And with that we get Rebuild of Evangelion. It's kind of like End of Evangelion, only it exists as a separate entity along with the original anime so they can eventually sell 3 complete series DVD boxsets. But is the entire project funded just to get even more money from a cash cow that's been practically milked dry for over a decade now?

Yes. And no. Much like Evangelion pretends to be, the answer is not obvious. What the first movie in a series of four that the Rebuild of Evangelion brings provides is an almost shot for shot remake of the original first 6 episodes. There's some fat cut, some new scenes added, and if you are a fan of hearing Japanese voice actors count backwards from 10, you are in for some fan service indeed.

If you watched the original Evangelion and liked it, warts and all, you will continue to enjoy it in movie form. Everything you could want is there: religious symbolism thrown about without any real meaning, cool robot fights, fan service, gravitas literally shoved down your throat every 7 minutes; fans of Evangelion know what they want. Like a loyal drug dealer, Anno and Rebuild of Evangelion dole it out in large, finely cut rows. The new CGI battles fill in the holes left by the original anime's budget, making the fights more visceral and entertaining down to the last 500 gallons of angel blood being carelessly splayed all over Tokyo-3. The fan service seems to have been heightened, too, as lonely Rei otaku can now take a gander at actual Second Child nipple.

While that might be enough of a selling point for roughly 99.9% of Evangelion's enduring fans, the stuff they cut out and adding in the first movie might actually enhance the narrative overall when it is all said and done. After the first battle of the anime in episodes 1 and 2 gets you interested and looking forward to more robot-on-alien? fighting, the original episodes 3 and 4 were almost like a cold shower daring you to stop caring. Shinji's continued "I'm quitting... no I'm not" act got old, like an ex-girlfriend threatening to leave you if you don't take out the trash. Luckily almost all of that has been cut in favor of a 3 minute montage of Shinji going to the red light district of Tokyo-3 then returning. The narrative is better off for it even if it leaves the door open for Shinji being annoying ten-fold in the future.

Also, unlike the original story, the first movie actually gives us a glimpse of the second angel, Lilith. Right away this sets the tone that there's more going on here than just giant robots and angst, though how this plays out over the next movie will be telling. In the anime, the next 6 or 7 episodes divulged wildly from the angst to the point of becoming an almost manic comedy with the introduction of Asuka. Will all the comedy that the red haired German brings be left on the cutting room floor with that huge chunk of Shinji's whining?

The preview at the end of the movie promises a lot for another 90 minute dose of retelling: we might actually get to see Eva-04 before it blows up due to shoddy American craftsmanship, the fourth child floats down from the moon in a storyline almost torn from's seedier Evangelion posts, things blow up, Eva-05 comes and goes, Asuka debuts, and more. Could it be too much or are they just giving us a 5 minute synopsis of episodes 7 through 13 and getting to the weirder stuff?

Only Anno knows. And sometimes even that can't be trusted.