Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Attention MST3K Fans!!!

The guys from RiffTrax (Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy) are presenting Reefer Madness live on Thursday, August 19th. There will be an encore on Tuesday, August 24th, for those that can't make it to the live show. Both shows are sponsored by Fathom Events and tickets can be purchased here for theaters nationwide.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Geek of the Week: Blair Butler

Blair Butler is a stand-up comic and comic book aficionado. She is the head writer for G4's video game centered "X-Play" and has her own segment on "Attack of the Show", titled "Fresh Ink", where she reviews comic books. At the moment, she's working as a G4 correspondant at the geek mecca ComicCon. Butler is a hero to geek girls everywhere!*

*On a more personal note, she's also on my husband's Top Five "free pass" list!

Sundays Just Got a Little Cooler

I'd say about 90% of the TV I watch is the "Forensic Files"/"Deadly Women"/"Cold Case Files" type. The other ten percent is nerdy sitcoms ("Big Bang Theory" and "The IT Crowd") and one of the coolest shows on TV right now - "Mad Men".

Season 4 starts tonight at 10 PM Eastern (8:00 PM for those of us in Mountain Time). Here are the Top 5 reasons you should watch it . . .

5. Juicy story lines - I was never a big soap opera fan and shows like "Desperate Housewives" aren't really my thing, but I love how the "Mad Men" writers combine historical events with the sordid every day lives of the characters. The show is smart and intriguing, which is a huge draw for me. I feel like I'm watching something salacious and learning at the same time!

4. The cast is amazing. Everyone, down to the most minor of characters, acts the crap out of their roles. Even little Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper) is awesome as the lead character's troubled young daughter. They feel like real people and stay true to the show's time period.

3. The style - including the clothing, set dressings, and the amazing music. The show's creators are completely devoted to recreating the early 60s down to the period correct underwear the cast is required to wear under their costumes. This attention to detail goes a long way to ensure a feeling of verisimilitude.

2. The attention to "hot-button" issues - the "Mad Men" writers don't shy away from showing that the "good old days" weren't always so good. Controversial issues, including race, sexual orientation, and gender, are dealt with on an almost constant basis within the construct of the show's storylines.

1. Jon Hamm - I know I already mentioned the cast, but Hamm is in a class by himself. He makes the show, both with his striking looks and his serious charisma. The fact that his likeability remains intact even with his constant marital dalliances is a testament to Hamm's talent and appeal.

If you haven't seen "Mad Men", you should. Of course, if you're like me, you probably don't like to start watching a show without seeing it from the beginning. GawkerTV is here to help:

Still not sure it's geeky enough for you? Check this out:

Image from Flavorwire

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Other News . . .

Besides failing miserably at blog design, not much else is going on. (Apologies to the readers who had seizures!) I went back to a black/gray/white color scheme because it seemed like the simplest option. After all, if you're a regular reader, you're not coming here for super cool backgrounds (hopefully). I would like an awesome logo, but I don't have enough skill to make one for myself. I'm offering a $25 ThinkGeek gift certificate to the reader who can come up with the coolest logo.* (I'm a huge fan of robots and zombies, so extra points if you include one or both of those elements!)

If you have suggestions for "Geek of the Week", "It Came From the $5 Bin", or really anything else, please comment. (Keep criticism somewhat constructive, please. If I suck, at least offer some advice on how to suck less.)

*If you submit a logo, please email me at That way, I will be able to send the gift certificate to you!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Escape Reality

Few movies live up to their hype. With all the accolades swirling around Christopher Nolan's latest film, Inception, I was a little worried that I would be disappointed by the end result. Of course, I shouldn't have been worried, considering the quality of Nolan's other work - films that include Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and one of my favorite flicks, Memento.

Inception is a reviewer's nightmare and a moviegoer's dream. The flick is so complex, revealing any of the plot would seem like a spoiler to the reader, but wouldn't even begin to explain what the film is about. There is serious potential for plot holes, but Nolan weaves a tight story that makes every plot shift and new surprise completely plausible within the world of the film. The cinematography is gorgeous, the special effects are amazing, and the acting is superb. I love Leonardo DiCaprio's latest work and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (of "3rd Rock From the Sun" fame) is an excellent supporting actor.

Nolan has gathered a superb ensemble cast, including Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Ellen Page (Juno), Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), and Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules). One of my favorite actors, Pete Postlethwaite (Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet), has a small role, as does Lukas Haas (Mars Attacks). Tom Hardy, relatively unknown in the US, is extremely charming in his role as a "forger" - hopefully he will see more mainstream roles after the success of this film.

The best performance of the film by far is that of Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose). She is an amazing actress and steals every scene she is in, both with her impeccable beauty and her depth and breadth of emotion. (Is it too early for Oscar predictions?)

The ending is powerful, but what I loved most was how it can be interpreted in multiple ways. I highly reccommend seeing this film, even if you are not usually a sci-fi fan. The film spans across several genres - thriller, film noir, love story, and futuristic sci-fi - this flick has it all. It is truly meant to be seen on a big screen, so don't hesitate to see it in theaters. (It won't be the same on a TV screen in your living room, trust me.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Geek of the Week: Forrest J. Ackerman

Called "Forry" or "the Ackermonster" by loving fans, Forrest J. Ackerman was a sci-fi god. He purchased his first science fiction magazine (Amazing Stories) in 1926. Ackerman attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 and was the first to appear in costume, inspiring other fan costuming, including the most recent incarnation - cosplay. He attended every Worldcon except for two during his lifetime. Ackerman also coined the phrase "sci-fi".

He was an avid sci-fi and horror collector, housing his massive collection in the 18-room "Ackermansion" (or my idea of heaven on Earth). He frequently held open houses to allow fans (over 50,000 from 1951-2002) a chance to view his collection of more than 300,000 pieces of science fiction memorobilia. In 2002, he gave much of his collection to the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame and moved to the "Acker-mini-mansion" when his health began to fail.

Ackerman died on December 4, 2008 at the age of 92. He will be sorely missed by sci-fi fans all over the globe.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It Came From the $5 Bin: Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark
OnDemand - Free (Thank God!)

Directed by Uwe Boll

Starring: Christian Slater (What happened to you, man?)
Tara Reid (Kiss of death)
Stephen Dorff (Really, dude?)

This film is a (very) loose adaptation of the video game of the same name. The game was a reboot of the popular Alone in the Dark series from the early 90s, and was a solid hit amongst gamers. Since the film version was directed by Uwe Boll, however, it doesn't stand a chance. Boll is a frequent director of video game adaptations and three of his films are rated on the "100 Worst Films of the 2000s" - BloodRayne, House of the Dead, and . . . this film.

I wanted this film to be good. I have a soft spot for Christian Slater (mostly because of Heathers and Pump Up the Volume), and I've been hoping that he would be able to make some semblance of a comeback, despite his problems over the years (drug and alcohol issues and a few domestic violence claims). Instead, he's done a string of bad movies and a few failed TV shows.

The flick also stars Stephen Dorff, who I've always found to be a fairly underrated actor. He was in one of my favorite Lifetime movies: I Know My First Name is Steven (check out the book if you can't find the film - it's a true story and very heartbreaking). He rocked as Stuart Sutcliffe in Backbeat. He was awesome as Deacon Frost in Blade (probably his best known role). He even got some pretty good reviews for his performance in the understated thriller Cold Creek Manor. All of these points make me wonder, why is he in this suckfest?

I should have known how bad the suckage was going to be when I saw Tara Reid's name. Casting her in a movie is like slapping a big sticker on the poster that says, "Don't See this Film". She hasn't done a good flick since Van Wilder (and I'm being generous because I like Ryan Reynolds). I'm pretty sure whatever brain cells she hasn't killed off with booze, she's nixed with her repeated plastic surgeries.

Mechanical dinosaurs I can buy, but Tara Reid, Archaeologist? Give me a break, movie!

The plot is ridiculous. Slater stars as Edward Carnby, an agent for Bureau 713, a government run paranormal unit that conducted top-secret experiments on him as a child. Carnby is sent to investigate something paranormal at a museum. He meets up with his archaeologist ex-girlfriend (Reid), they have sex, and then do battle with mechanical dinosaurs. Dorff plays the commander of the 713 unit, who, for some reason, dress in SWAT gear all the time.

Christian Slater in . . . Future War 2!

This flick looks like a Sci-Fi Channel movie, which is a scary thought, considering it cost $20,000,000 to make. I honestly tried to do an in depth plot description, but the film was so lame, I couldn't force myself to reccount the whole thing. (Besides, you don't want to waste your time reading it, believe me.)

Alone in the Dark gets 0 out of a possible 5 Torgos.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Geek of the Week: A. Garret Lisi

A. Garret Lisi is a surfer, skier, and snowboarder. He also happens to be a theoretical phsyicist and the founder of a highly controversial mathematical theory, "The Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything". His theory suggests that everything is connected . . . and he can prove that connection through a mathematical equation. (I'm not a physicist, so I'm not going to even try to describe the specifics.)

Lisi was featured on the pilot episode of "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman" concerning the existence of a creator.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It Came From the $5 Bin: Catacombs

OnDemand - Free

Directed by Tom Coker and David Elliot

Starring: Shannyn Sossamon
Alecia Moore (birth name of pop singer Pink)
A bunch of random French actors

This movie had a ton of promise in the beginning. First of all, it's set in the underground catacombs of Paris, which are extremely creepy. There's uber-hip techno music and people are partying like it's 1999. The partying scenes are then cut with a girl running barefoot and screaming like a banshee with mascara streaked down her face (this is foreshadowing for later . . . in more ways than one). She lost, but more than that, there's something chasing after her. Just as she sees the party and runs toward it in relief, a monster comes out of the darkness and the scene cuts to a DJ breaking a record. Then, we see Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) wearing headphones and awkwardly repeating French phrases. The first line of the film is a voice over: "My sister Carolyn sent me a postcard. All it said was, 'Come to Paris. It will be good for you.' 48 hours after I arrived, she and everyone I'd met were dead." Like I said . . . promising.

WARNING . . . Spoilers for those who just want the gory details (If you're planning on seeing the movie, skip to the end.) . . .

Victoria's trip doesn't get off to a great start, so we can imagine it's all downhill from there. The customs people are . . . well, spiky and kind of French . . . and since she doesn't speak the language, they give her a hard time. We also see a number of pill bottles in her luggage (more foreshadowing), which she explains by saying, "I get nervous sometimes." When her sister (Alecia Moore) picks her up, it's clear there is tension between the two girls. From the beginning, Victoria is set up as the neurotic wet blanket sister, while Carolyn is the free-spirited fun-loving one.

To get her visiting sister to loosen up, Carolyn insists they go to a top-secret underground rave in the catacombs, which of course, necessitates a shopping trip . . . and apparently, a shopping trip montage (complete with obligatory shots of the city). They arrive at the rave and hang out with Carolyn's douchebag friends who get Victoria drunk on Absinthe and decide to go skinny dipping. Afer deciding that she's not quite French enough to handle the whole scene, she wanders away and almost gets lost in the catacombs. Luckily, her sister is there to berate her about how dangerous it is to go off alone. Unfortunately for her, that's the last thing Carolyn gets to do, because she is immediately killed by a hulking man wearing a goat mask.

Now, Victoria is left alone and being chased by Goat Mask Guy. She runs around for awhile and eventually makes her way back to the party by crawling over a wall of human skulls. She is hysterical, but safe . . . at least until the police break in to bust up the party. She tries to fight her way out against the crowds, but gets trampled and knocked out by the thundering horde. The next 45 minutes of the movie is pretty much dominated by our heroine running through dark tunnels and screaming her head off. She runs into another lost partygoer and they try to find their way out together, but every exit is blocked. Things get worse when he falls through some rotted floorboards and Victoria basically leaves him there to die, but not before taking his map.

Final Warning . . . I'm revealing the END . . .

She picks up a mining pick to defend herself against Goat Mask, striking the first person she encounters . . . which, of course, turns out to be her sister's friend who has come back to find her. Suddenly, her sister appears, alive and well, to tell her it was all a prank to make her less scared of everything. Carolyn and her friends have a good laugh at Victoria's expense - that is, until they see their friend dead with a pick axe in his head. Carolyn lashes out at her sister about how pathetic she is, which prompts Victoria to slaughter her and her friends, climb to the surface covered in blood, and calmly take a taxi back to the airport. The voice over from the beginning repeats as the taxi pulls away.

END of Spoilers

I had really high hopes for this movie. I actually like Shannyn Sossamon (or I did until she named her kid Audio Science) and it seemed like the movie had an interesting premise. It starts off strong, but as soon as we're left with only Sossamon to deal with, it turns into an endless, clumsy chase scene and ceaseless screaming, which gets really, really old. The twist ending is lame (forget what I said about Donnie Darko's ending - this is SO much worse.) and it's hard to care about any of the characters, let alone Victoria. You kind of want them all to die.

While the flick had potential and it's painfully obvious they tried their best to make it super cool, it doesn't really deliver. Ultimately, it's a trite, rehash of a bunch of better movies glossed over with a veneer of psuedo-hipster chic. I don't recommend watching it, but if you feel you must, do yourself a favor and just watch the beginning and the end (skip the middle!) to get the jist of the story. Trust me, you won't miss much.

Catacombs gets a 1.5 out of a possible 5 Torgos.

**Editor's Note: Sorry about the length of this post, but I decided to save you from wasting your time, I will give you the option of reading the plot of the film for anything rated less than two "Torgos".

Friday, July 9, 2010

This is AWESOME!

The GPS system TomTom has decided to delight geeks everywhere by providing beloved Star Wars character voices for their devices. To promote these new voice overs, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process.

(Is it wrong that Kris and I are seriously considering getting one of these for the Yoda voice alone?)

Stay tuned for tomorrow's "It Came From the $5 Bin" . . . Catacombs!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Attention Shoppers . . . We Need to Talk

Dear Crazy People Who Shop at My Work,

I don't want you to think that I'm writing this letter to hurt your feelings, because I'm not. (Okay, maybe calling you crazy isn't really reflective of that, but bear with me.) I really just want to help you . . . and you definitely need help. I think our other customers (ie: normal crafters) would agree. You're giving them a bad name. All they want to do is buy their scrapbooking/knitting/art supplies and now they have to worry about being stigmatized as "crazy" because you went shopping in your stained purple sweatpants and freaked out because we didn't have enough doll shorts to clothe all of your Build-A-Bear cats.

I realize that in your fervor to finish your latest project, you stayed up until 3 AM and watched an infomercial that featured the latest crafting technology that you must possess RIGHT NOW. However, describing it as "that thing that does scrapbooking stuff" does not help me identify what you're looking for. I need a name. And please don't start treating me like an idiot because I don't know what you're looking for from your incredibly vauge description. Let's work together on this and I'm sure we can figure it out.

I understand that matching dye lots is an important part of the knitting process. It is perfectly understandable that you would want your dog sweater to be all the same color. However, if we don't have the dye lot you are looking for, all the yelling and hair pulling in the world will not make it magically appear. Take a deep breath and I will call another store.

We all like saving money. Who wants to pay full price if they don't have to? That being said, are you sure you know how a coupon works? Normally, you would present the coupon to the cashier and they would deduct a percentage off of the designated item. The coupon is the key to getting that percentage off. That means you actually have to bring it in for me to apply it to your purchase. Telling me that you left the coupon on your kitchen table does not help you. It would be like me having a coupon for soup, but going to the grocery store without it and expecting to get the $.35 off any way. It's not going to happen. Besides, it's unfair to the people who actually take the time to bring in their coupon.

I don't make the rules. I wish I did. (I would start by making strict regulations about screaming children.) The back of the receipt outlines our return policy. If you fall outside this policy, you get store credit. End of story. I don't care how much money you spend here (It's way too much, by the way. Why are you buying this crap in the first place?) or that you paid full price and you think it's unfair that you're now getting the sale price back. No receipt, no dice.

I don't want us to be enemies. You, essentially, are the reason I have a job. We need to be friends and go on this journey together. I can't take that journey with you if you are a total nutball, though. Take your medicine, put on some decent pants, come in, and we'll talk.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Geek of the Week: Graham Linehan

Graham Linehan is the writer of several British sitcoms (including the beloved "Father Ted"), but most recently he is the writer and creator of "The IT Crowd". The show, which I've mentioned before, is a hilarious look at corporate office life, and more specifically, the trials and tribulations of the IT crew within that office. It is chock full of geek references, so if you're a geek (and why would you be reading this blog if you weren't?) add this series to your Netflix Instant queue right this second. Still not sure if you'll like it? Check this out!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I Was One Warped Little Kid

My cousin posted about her favorite Saturday morning cartoons, and I was like, "Oh man, I totally loved the "Tales From the Crypt" cartoon." That got me thinking . . . what kind of warped little kid loves "Tales From the Crypt"?

The more I consider my childhood, the more convinced I am that I had (have?) some serious problems. My favorite show (other than "Tales From the Crypt") was "Unsolved Mysteries". I watched the crap out of that show. I also loved ghost stories. I couldn't get enough of them. I wanted to be a member of the Midnight Society more than anything in the world. My favorite authors were, get this, Lewis Carroll and Edgar Allan Poe. When I was four, my favorite board game was the "Adam Walsh: Child Awareness Game". I also spent 30 minutes a day for an entire summer reading Stephen King's It outside the bathroom door while my mom was in the shower. As soon as she turned off the water, I would run and put the book away.

The thing that weirds me out the most is that I wasn't actively trying to be dark. I just really liked weird stuff.

I think this picture says it all.

More specifically, Kris thinks this picture says, "We can't stop here; this is bat country!"

Friday, July 2, 2010

It Came From the $5 Bin . . . Sort of

So, the whole $5 bin thing is a little harder than I expected. Sadly, the $5 bin is a crapshoot and usually filled with sub-par movies that do not meet my bad sci-fi/horror qualifications. Luckily for me, however, OnDemand has FearNet. FearNet's sole purpose is to make horrible sci-fi and horror films available to the general public. The best part? They're free.

Our selections for today are Midnight Meat Train and The Children.

Midnight Meat Train
OnDemand - Free

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura

Starring: Bradley Cooper
Leslie Bibb
Vinnie Jones

There's a LOT of blood and/or guts in this movie. Admittedly, with a name like Midnight Meat Train, I definitely should have expected the high level of gore. Leon (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring photographer who has an in with edgy art gallery owner Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields). To get a place in her latest art show, Susan tells Leon he must get three pictures of the "true" New York. After following some thugs into a subway station, he sees them attacking a beautiful woman. He gallantly saves her, but only after snapping a few pictures of her plight. Immediately after the woman steps on to the train, she is brutally killed. Leon reads about her disappearance in the next morning's paper and becomes obsessed with returning to the subway. He notices that the same man exits the station each night and begins to follow him. His girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb), and his best friend, Jurgis, assist him, to their detriment.

This flick is stylish and cinematic. The Asian influence is obvious to those familiar with the genre and the film has a solid cast. The ending was bizarre, and I was a little confused . . . until, I read that the movie is based on a Clive Barker short story . . .then it all made sense.

Midnight Meat Train is a perfect film for gore lovers. Fans of films like Hostel and House of 1000 Corpses will appreciate the violence, as well as the excellent cinematography. The verdict: Watch with a strong stomach.

Midnight Meat Train gets a 3.5 out of a possible 5 Torgos.

The Children
OnDemand - Free

Directed by Manik

Starring: Eva Birthistle
Eva Sayer
Hanna Tointon

I'm not sure if I was particularly fond of this movie because of my hatred and fear of children*, or if it was really that good. (Disclaimer: I know "hate" is a strong word, and I mostly used it for dramatic effect. The fear is real, though.)

The Children begins as a yuppie family arrives at the home of relatives for the Christmas holiday. The youngest boy, Paulie, seems to have a case of car sickness. This seemingly innocuous event sets off a chain of horror. Paulie is a quiet, odd little boy and the viewer is unsure if the strange behavior he exhibits is ominous . . . until the other kids start acting weird, too. Only Casey, the rebel teenager, seems unaffected. The children's unusual behavior progresses from normal-seeming tantrums to outright savagery.

What's so brilliant about this film is that it creeps up on you. Until you are in the midst of the horror, you don't really see it coming. As hard as it is to imagine kids performing these horrific acts, it's equally difficult to rationalize using violence against them. The shock value is huge when compared to the level of gore. The director uses psychological trauma and social taboos to ramp up the terror. The verdict: Definitely worth it. Check it out before it disappears from the OnDemand queue.

The Children gets a 5 out of a possible 5 Torgos.

*I realize that there are some perfectly wonderful children out there. Example: My cousin Becca's children are adorable and extremely well-behaved, and if I could ensure that my kids would turn out exactly like hers, I might even have some. I definitely don't want to offend anyone and I want to make it clear - kids aren't for me, but that doesn't preclude anyone else from having them.