Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where the Wild Things Were

Mr. Mouse and I spent this past Memorial Day weekend at a wedding on Massachusetts’s Cape Ann. The wedding itself took place on Good Harbor Beach in Rockport; the reception was in Gloucester-proper, overlooking a stunning view of the harbor. Since it was a Sunday afternoon wedding, we had plenty of time Saturday and early Sunday to explore the area, which was nice since I don’t recall ever spending much time on the North Shore (despite living and working for three years in Boston in my mid-20s).

Gloucester is still very much a working town (three times we drove by the Crow’s Nest of The Perfect Storm fame notoriety, trying to work up the nerve to go in for a beer – never happened) but the surrounding beaches are great although with limited parking for most of them. We did find a very local and very friendly place for beer and lunch: the Rhumb Line.

Salem and Marblehead are much more visitor-oriented. Mr. Mouse and I spent a good deal of time walking around both of these towns. We opted not to visit the witch museums in Salem but did find time for a couple of beers (of course) at Salem Beer Works. Marblehead was my favorite: while the truly spectacular mansions rise above the ocean out on Marblehead Neck, I loved the jumble of lovely old (as in mid-1700s old) homes on the mainland.

The real excitement of the weekend, however, was back at our hotel as it was completely overrun by the Northeast Unschooling Conference … or as Mr. Mouse more aptly put it, the Society of Feral Children. These “unschoolers” are families who choose to home-school their children; a bumper sticker in the parking lot read, “Grades are for meat and eggs, not children.”

Evidently discipline is not for children either. They were everywhere: screaming and running barefoot through the corridors and hotel lobby; swarming the pool (which another hotel guest swore had turned yellow –eeeuuuuwww!); playing in the elevators. We watched several little girls being fed their dinner in the bar at 10:30 p.m.; one of them actually fell asleep with her face in her chicken fingers.

The hotel staff were saints, to say the least. The front desk manager repeatedly asked the children to stop running through the lobby – to no avail. The hotel corridors were filled with trays as room service valiantly attempted to keep up with demands for dessert five minutes before the kitchen was to close. The bartender had to ask a child not to lie on the floor in front of the doors into the hotel kitchen. Best (or worst) of all was when one of these children BIT a waitress and, at the young woman’s complaint, the parent just said, “Oh, he does that all the time.” Nice.

Hopefully these unschooled folks were not representative of the greater home-schooling community, because I really can’t see that these parents were doing their children any favors. Sure, encouraging creativity is great. But these kids seemed under-socialized, undisciplined and completely ill equipped to exist in a world other than their own home. I don’t know - it was all pretty much appalling but at least we got a story out of it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lost episode recap - "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2" (S4E13 and 14) airdate 05/29/08

We begin with a bunch of mini-flashbacks: the Oceanic Six press conference where Sayid confirms that they are the only survivors; druggy Jack visiting that unknown casket; druggy Jack meeting Kate out at the airport in the middle of the night; Jack shouting after Kate’s departing car, “We have to go back!” Then new stuff: Kate slams on the brakes and backs up. She yells at Jack: WTF? Jack waves that obituary at her and we get a name for the person in the mystery casket: Jeremy Bentham. This was also the guy who told them what to tell the rest of the world about their Island experience, apparently. Kate is righteously pissed off: “I’ve spent the last three years trying to forget all the horrible things that happened on the day that we left – how dare you ask me to go back!”

Island: Jack’s wound is still seeping and he’s staggering a little. He and Sawyer find Hurley in the jungle. “Where the hell is he?” growls Sawyer, meaning Ben. They approach the Orchid and Locke is there, poking around. No sign of Ben or Keamy’s commandos.

Boat: Desmond, Michael and Jin scratch their heads, staring at the giant stack of C4 explosives. They confirm that it’s radio-controlled; Jim wants to know if they can turn it off. It’s a complicated set-up and they probably can’t. Or, as Jin figures out, “Boom.” Damn, Desmond and Jin are pretty.

Island: Locke wants to speak to Jack alone; Jack just wants to go back to the chopper and get off the Island. Hurley informs him that Ben just surrendered to the commandos and so the chopper is probably not such a good option right now. “Why would he do that?” wonders Jack. Meanwhile, marching through the jungle, Keamy wonders why Widmore wants Ben back alive. Ben wants to know if Widmore told him to kill his daughter. They get to the helicopter and suddenly Kate bursts into the clearing, almost getting shot by the commandos. She says she’s being chased by Ben’s people. Keamy sends two commandos out to check the perimeter as Kate and Ben trade significant looks. A huge firefight breaks out and the commandos get their asses kicked by Richard’s Others.

Kate grabs Ben and they run off with Keamy in hot pursuit. Ben falls down a hill (his stunt double is not a good match). Sayid tackles Keamy and they fight – it’s awesome. They’re well-matched fighters despite Keamy’s height advantage. Finally Keamy gets the upper hand and almost smushes Sayid but bang-bang-bang, gorgeous Richard, eyeliner intact, shoots Keamy dead. “Thank you for coming, Richard,” says Ben. He asks what the arrangement is; Richard says, “They help us free you and we let them off the Island.” “We can go, off the Island? That’s it?” asks Kate, incredulous. “That’s it,” agrees Ben.

Flash-forward: Walt and his grandmother visit Hurley in his mental hospital. Walt has, ahem, grown up a bit. I think he’s practically got a mustache. Hurley is glad to see him. Walt says that he had hoped one of the Oceanic Six would have come to see him when they got back. Walt goes on to say that this Jeremy Bentham came to see him; he wants to know why the Six are lying. Hurley says they’re lying to protect everyone who didn’t come back. “Like my dad?” “Like your dad,” Hurley says sadly.

Island: Hurley thanks Sawyer for coming back for him. Meanwhile, Locke asks Jack to reconsider leaving the Island. Jack whines about all the bad stuff Locke has done; Locke reminds him that he put a gun to Locke’s head and maybe bygones should be bygones. Locke says that Jack has a purpose here, and that Jack knows it: “If you leave this place, that knowledge will eat you alive from the inside out until you decide to come back.” Jack turns away. Locke insists: “[If you go,] you’ll have to lie about everything that’s happened … to protect the Island” – this place of miracles. Jack snots that there’s no such thing as miracles, this is just an island. Just then, Ben returns! It’s a miracle! He and Locke head into the Orchid station, sending Jack on his way. Jack is bewildered. As Locke goes down a rickety elevator, he reminds Jack, “Lie to them, Jack. If you do half as well as you lie to yourself, they’ll believe you.”

Boat: Sun wants to know what is going on below decks. Michael reassures her that they’re working on it. He takes a tank of liquid nitrogen down below, on the theory that if they freeze the battery, the charge won’t blow. The catch is that they only have one canister of nitrogen.

Beach: Daniel returns to the beach with the zodiac to get more people. When Juliet thanks him for helping, he smiles but his eyes are worried. He finds Miles and Charlotte. Daniel wants them both on the zodiac with him this time but Miles wants to stay. He says he’s surprised Charlotte wants to leave after all the time she spent to get back here. “What do you mean, get back here?” asks Charlotte. Miles is smug and walks off.

Orchid: Ben and Locke finally reach the bottom of the station. There’s a big control room and Ben starts flipping switches. It’s a good thing he came back as there’s no way Locke could have figured this out on his own. He gives Locke a video to watch while he gets down to whatever it is he’d doing. It’s “6 of 6 Orientation,” talking about the Island having a Kasimir effect (??) with which the Dharma Initiative is able to conduct experiments in both space and time. On the video, they put a live bunny in a vault, saying that you should never put metallic objects in the vault; meanwhile, Ben is busy loading up the same vault with all the metal objects he can carry. Locke sees this and gets worried. The video says that when they charge up the vault, the rabbit will seem to disappear … then the videotape goes wonky and won’t play. Locke: “Did he just say what I thought he said?” Ben: “Time-travelling bunnies? Yes.” Locke: WTF? Just then, someone calls the elevator up to the surface. “You expecting someone?” asks Locke. “May I have my weapon back?” asks Ben.

Island: Hurley, Sawyer and Jack get back to the helicopter where Sayid and Kate are trying to uncuff Frank. Kate is conflicted when she sees both her men, but she goes to check on Jack’s sutures (not a euphemism). Sawyer is sad but goes to help Frank. Once freed, the pilot fires up the chopper and they all climb aboard, ready to fly to the boat. Everyone is pretty damn giddy, but Hurley mentions that they should come back to look for Claire. Jack agrees.

Orchid: The elevator returns. It’s Keamy. So, not dead then. He is a little bloody though, so that’s good. Ben and Locke are hiding. Keamy points out that Richard should have shot him in the head, not the body-armor. You’d think Richard would know better than that. Then Keamy takes off said body-armor, expositioning about his heart-rate monitor that is connected to the radio transmitter that will set off the C4 on the boat. Locke comes out from where he’s been hiding. He asks Keamy to put down the knife so they can talk. Keamy says he’s never been one for talk … and then Ben hurtles out of his own hiding place, screaming “You killed my daughter!” and stabs Keamy in the neck. The commando goes down hard, gushing blood, and the monitor on his arm starts blinking. Locke is horrified, “You’ve killed every person on that boat.” Ben: “So?” Damn – that’s cold.

Beach: Charlotte tells Daniel that she’s going to stay on the Island, at least for now. Daniel says that there isn’t any “for now,” it could be “for ever.” Charlotte says she’s still looking for where she was born and gives little Daniel a hug. He is sad. Juliet also says she’s not going on this trip, having promised not to leave ‘til the last person is off the Island. Daniel, still thinking that Keamy will kill all the people on the Island, is sad some more.

Boat: The guys are still trying to deactivate the C4. Michael points out that if they can’t, they better get everybody the hell off this boat.

Helicopter: Frank notices that they’re losing fuel rapidly. Ah – a bullet hit the tank and there’s a leak. Frank wants to go back to the Island but Jack says they have to head straight to the boat since there’s no fuel on the Island. They throw out all the non-essential stuff, which helps, but Frank says he’d feel better if they were 200 pounds lighter. Sawyer looks pensive. He whispers something in Kate’s ear (“Why are you telling me this?”), gives her a HOT kiss (“Just do it, Freckles,”), and jumps out of the helicopter into the ocean. Everyone is just stunned. Sawyer’s got a long swim back, I’m afraid.

Flash-forward: Straight-haired Sayid shoots some guy who is sitting in a car outside Hurley’s mental hospital. He goes inside and finds Hurley musing over a chess board. “I think visiting hours are over, dude.” Sayid wants Hurley to come somewhere safe with him as circumstances have changed. He tells Hurley that Bentham is dead, they say it was suicide. “Suicide?” asks Hurley. And why is Sayid calling him “Bentham” when his name is – but Sayid cuts him off. People are watching the Six, says Sayid. Hurley: “I’ve been having detailed conversations with dead people – I don’t need paranoia too.” Sayid says that he just killed a guy who’d been watching the hospital for a week: “I find paranoia keeps me alive.” Hurley doesn’t want to go back to the Island; Sayid reassures him they’re just going to somewhere safe. Before they leave, Hurley makes a final move on the chessboard, saying “Checkmate, Mr. Eko.” FM: Awwww!

Helicopter: They can’t find the boat even though Frank swears he stayed on course. Jack tells Kate that they’ll go back for Sawyer as soon as they get to the boat. Just then, Hurley spots the freighter.

Orchid: Locke is unsuccessful in keeping Keamy alive, no thanks to Ben.

Boat: The detonator light turns red. Desmond runs off to try to evacuate the boat while Michael and Jin stay to try to stop the bomb. Desmond reaches the deck and sees the approaching chopper: “Oh, bloody hell!” He starts shouting at them not to land but Frank has no choice since he’s running on fumes. They scramble to patch the hole and refuel the helicopter. Sun wants to get Jin but Kate tells her to get Aaron on the chopper – she’ll go get Jin. Before she can go, however, Jack grabs her and shoves her onto the helicopter. Down below, Michael tells Jin to go be with his wife. But Jin is too late getting up on deck and the chopper takes off without him. There is much screaming and much tension. Down below, Christian Shepherd suddenly appears, much to Michael’s consternation. “You can go now, Michael,” says Christian. And then BOOM. The boat blows up. I can’t even describe Sun’s screams of grief and pain – it’s absolutely horrible.

After the commercial, Sun wants to go back to look for survivors but they don’t have enough fuel. Jack, despondent, tells Frank to go back to the Island.

Flash-forward: A sleek-looking Sun is in London. She finds Charles Widmore and introduces herself. Then, she says that she knows he knows who she is (an Oceanic Sixer). They have common interests, she says: “As you know, we’re not the only ones who left the Island.” Widmore is confused, asking why would she want to help him? Sun just walks off.

Orchid: Ben fires up the machinery, telling Locke to duck. All the metal objects in that vault explode. “I’d better change,” says Ben.

Beach: Juliet sits with a bottle of rum, staring at the ocean. Sawyer drags himself out of the brine (finally shirtless – yay!). He gestures to the bottle, asking what she’s celebrating. She points out the smoke from the exploded boat out there on the horizon: “I’m not celebrating.” Sawyer gets an “oh shit” expression on his face. She better share that rum. I think I could get behind a Juliet and Sawyer hook-up.

Orchid: Ben puts on a parka. “I’m going somewhere cold … and you’re not coming with me.” Locke doesn’t understand. Ben explains that whoever moves the Island can never come back, but it’s okay since Richard and the Others are waiting for Locke to lead them now. Ben apologizes for making Locke’s life so miserable and shakes his hand. Locke: “What do I tell them to do?” Ben tells him that he’ll find his way. A little later, Locke does find the Others’ camp in the jungle. Richard greets him, “Welcome home.”

Ben, meanwhile, is creeping through a tunnel that was blasted in that vault. This show is so fucking weird. He climbs down a ladder, breaks through some ice and then falls down another stretch of ladder into a frozen cave, cutting his arm in the process. There’s a big frozen gear that he turns, muttering, “I hope you’re happy now, Jacob.” This must be the actual moving of the Island. And yes, up above there’s a strange noise that makes everyone – the Others, the beached Losties, the zodiac raft Losties, the helicopter Losties – look around. Ben finishes turning the gear, tears streaming down his face, and the light goes nuclear. When the light fades, the Island is gone. As in, GONE.

Helicopter: Frank is hollering, “Where’s the Island? Where the hell am I going to land this thing?” But it’s too late – the chopper is out of fuel and ditches into the ocean as they all scramble for life preservers. Shit: is this where they kill off darling Desmond? There’s Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley, Sun and Aaron on the helicopter, and also Frank and Desmond. It doesn’t look promising for Des, does it?

Ocean: Bubbles. Jack swims to the surface. Hurley, Kate, Aaron, Jack, Sayid, Sun and Frank are all okay. Desmond is floating face down, however. They climb onto a life raft. Desmond has a cut on his forehead and doesn’t seem to be breathing. Jack gives him mouth-to-mouth (yee!) and he finally coughs up a chestful of water. Yay! Now that they’ve all survived, they realize they’re in the middle of the ocean in a life raft and no land in sight. Everyone is sad. Wait a minute, says FM – what happened to the people on Daniel’s zodiac? They hadn’t made it to the freighter yet and they saw the Island disappear too … wouldn’t the helicopter have gone down somewhere near them? Loose end!

Flash-forward: Kate wakes up in her fancy house moments before the phone rings. There’s a garbled voice on the other end that I can’t make out and then she hears her front door open. She lunges for a gun in her closet and runs to check on Aaron. It’s Claire, looking chubby. FM: WTF? She tells Kate “Don’t you bring him back – don’t you dare!” And then Kate wakes up and runs to check on Aaron.

Life raft: Hurley is incredulous that Locke actually moved the Island. “No, he didn’t,” grumps Jack, all sour grapes about it. “…[U]nless we overlooked it, it’s gone. If you’ve got another explanation, dude, I’d love to hear it.” Hurley is taking none of Jack’s shit tonight. Then, Frank sees a light – it’s a boat and they all start hollering at it. Locke’s words come crashing into Jack’s head and he tells him that they all have to lie about what happened to them, at the very least to protect themselves and the people they left behind from whomever faked the plane wreckage. Everyone else protests but Jack insists, saying just let him do the talking.

They come alongside the boat AND HOLY CRAP IT’S PENNY’S BOAT!!! I so did not see that coming. Desmond practically flies up the ladder and into her arms. They smooch and I get a little teary. Everyone else clambers up onto the ship and Desmond makes the introductions. Jack, ever the killjoy, says, “It’s nice to meet you, Penny, but we need to talk.”

Penny’s boat: The Oceanic Six, having been taken to just off-shore of Mumbata by Penny, load onto another life raft to lend credence to their cover story. They say their goodbyes to Frank and Desmond, Jack warning Desmond to be careful not to be found by the bad guys (who are Penny’s father so – oops). “All right, let’s go home,” says Captain Jack. Eventually they paddle ashore to the island where they are greeted by the locals.

Flash-forward: Druggy Jack drives up to the funeral home. It’s night, and I’m assuming it’s after Kate kicked his ass out at the airport. I still love his truck. He breaks into the funeral home and goes straight to “Jeremy Bentham’s” coffin. Are we going to get to see who it is? Jack opens the coffin and looks in. “Hello, Jack,” comes from behind him. It’s Ben. So, not in the coffin, then. “Did he tell you I was off the Island?” Jack: “Yes, he did … he told me that after I left the Island, some very bad things happened. And he told me that it was my fault for leaving. And he said that I had to come back.” Ben says that the Island won’t let Jack go back alone – all of them have to go back. Jack thinks this is impossible. WHO IS IN THE COFFIN? Ben thinks he can help and Jack resignedly agrees, turning to go. “Jack, I said all of you. We’ll have to bring him too,” says Ben, gesturing to the coffin. And the camera pans up and over the lid: it’s John Locke. Kudos to all of you who guessed that last year (me, I was certain it was Ben).

Next episode/previous episode

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Titles Nine - #2

Here is the second installment of What the Mouses Have on Their Bookshelves (the first one can be found here):
  • Fire on the Mountain – Edward Abbey
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
  • Contemporary Greek Women Poets – translated by Eleni Fourtouni (stolen from the library at my semester abroad on Crete)
  • Wicked – Gregory Maguire (the other side of Oz)
  • Adventures of Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi (1946 printing)
  • Enemies List – PJ O’Rourke (not mine)
  • Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire (because I do love fairy tales)
  • The Red Tent – Anita Diamant

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie mini-review: The Fly (1986)

It's probably been twenty years since I saw The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. My high school buddies and I had regular movie nights and I know I first saw this horrific movie at one of those, packed like sardines onto the couch, peeking between my fingers at the icky bits. I just rewatched it and while I had the couch to myself this time, I still had to watch from behind my fingers a couple of times.

What a great movie. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum (who became a couple after making this movie) have terrific chemistry together. Goldblum in particular is wonderful as he transforms from the eccentric and awkwardly charming scientist to the insane and terrifyingly pathetic Brundlefly. Cronenberg does a great job of building tension, letting us think that okay, that last bit was as awful as it's going to get - before ratcheting up the horror. And boy, did I forget how gruesome this movie is: the inside-out baboon; the fingernail peeling; the giant maggot-fetus; Brundlefly regurgitating on poor Stathis's extremities ... eek. Na-sty!

My good friend D sent me a link to the new movie, The Strangers, that her husband is probably going to drag her to see*. I won't be seeing that. I've come to realize that if I'm going to see a horror flick (and yes, I admit that I do see more of them than I thought I did), I'm most likely going to see a monster movie. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, carnivorous jungle plants, carnivorous sheep, aliens, insane bug-human hybrids - those are obviously all fiction, there for entertainment and then gone once the lights come up. The scary movies where the bad guys are people, that's too possible to be entertaining.

* D - if you do have to see The Strangers you should write me a review and be a guest-blogger - TPQ could write something too and we could have point/counterpoint!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Harbingers of Spring

I think spring has finally arrived in Maine. You can tell by the advent of blackflies, turnpike traffic, blooming forsythia, the sound of lawnmowers sputtering to life and formerly fuzzy dogs now flaunting their sleek summer-cuts. Case in point:

Becky last night

Becky this afternoon

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book review: The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber

The Forgery of Venus is New York Times best-selling author Michael Gruber’s latest opus and it is a humdinger. Intelligent, exciting and scholarly without being pedantic, this novel examines the fine and often blurry line between true genius and true madness.

This is the story of Charles “Chaz” Wilmot, a modern painter of some talent who may or may not also be Diego Velazquez, the famous painter and portraitist who died in 1660. Rather than truly explore his art, Wilmot makes his living doing commercial art; he has a gift for copying and can reproduce nearly any of the Old Masters that his commercial clients might request. When an old college friend lets him know about a drug trial that studies the effect of an experimental drug on creativity, Wilmot signs up. The effects are instantaneous and amazing: not only does he manage to tap into skill and imagination long-dormant, he also starts to hallucinate that he is Velazquez, re-living the painter’s private life in details that could not be known by modern folk.

Things get complicated quickly. Wilmot’s hallucinations come more frequently and at one point he loses track of three full months of his life, coming back to what he used to refer to as “reality” with no recollection of what he’d been doing – except for a painting he thought he did in the 1600s but which is resting on the easel before him. He is approached by a sinister and possibly connected figure, Werner Krebs, who appreciates Wilmot’s redoubtable skill and uncanny knowledge of Don Diego’s life: Krebs wants Wilmot to forge a lost painting so that he can sell it as a true Velazquez. Before long, Wilmot has created masterpieces that turn out to be indistinguishable from their purported origins – paintings that would be masterpieces even if it was ever learned that he painted them and not Velazquez or Tiepolo. But Wilmot has lost his family, lost his mind, and lost his hold on who and when he’s supposed to be.

In addition to being exciting and paranoiac, The Forgery of Venus is smart, providing nearly an art history elective’s worth of insight into Velazquez and his contemporaries. While knowledge of art history is not at all necessary to enjoy the story, it would certainly add to the experience; I ended up marking a number of pages so that I could later go online and see the art the characters were discussing. The reader is also treated to a seminar on how to forge an Old Master, reminiscent of What’s Bred in the Bone by the under-appreciated Robertson Davies. Gruber is not as witty as Davies but still entertains while educating – an accomplishment not easily attained.

I enjoyed The Forgery of Venus immensely. It starts a little slowly, in a possibly unnecessary story-within-a-story framework, before launching headlong into the first person narration by Chaz Wilmot that makes up the bulk of the novel – great, strange stuff. I’d never read anything by Gruber before but after this introduction I will make it a point to track down his earlier novels.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie review (mini-): The Iron Giant

Since I recently became so enamored of Iron Man I thought that it would behoove me to see one of its cherished predecessors and when The Iron Giant popped up on my cable box, I hopped to. Although it started off a little slowly, I was trying not to sniffle audibly by the movie's end. Um, that means it was good!

First of all of what TIG has going for it is that it is, I believe, Brad Bird's first movie as director/writer. I loved The Incredibles and am quite annoyed with myself for not having seen Ratatouille in the theaters. While TIG does not have the Pixar-sophistication that the latter movies have, it definitely has the heart.

Secondly, the story. Set on the coast of Maine (yay!) in 1957, it's a familiar tale: boy meets gigantic alien robot; boy befriends gigantic alien robot; boy and gigantic alien robot befriend outcast beatnic; paranoid government agent tries to destroy gigantic alien robot; gigantic alien robot proves that he's a better man than all of us by sacrificing himself to save the townspeople from an unwarranted atomic bomb. Total tear-jerker, I'm telling you: I had to slouch down in my seat so Mr. Mouse didn't catch me wiping my eyes over the presumed demise of a CARTOON GIGANTIC ALIEN ROBOT FROM OUTER SPACE. I am such a sap.

Finally, the characters in Iron Giant just have so much fun. I was laughing and grinning as much during this movie as I was at Iron Man although, to be honest, IM seems to owe quite a bit to its animated forefather (because now that I think about it, the IM comics certainly came before the 1999 Iron Giant). The scene where the gigantic alien robot realizes he can fly - from booster rockets shooting out of his feet - and then does so, joyously - is paid serious homage to by Iron Man. In fact, unless I am misremembering IM, the scene in which Tony Stark is being chased by the fighter jets and then puts on a full-stop, thus allowing the jets to rocket past him while he pulls a hard reverse, is practically a shot-for-shot duplication of the same scene in Iron Giant. (At which point Mr. Mouse shouted out that that Iron Giant scene was a complete rip-off of the same scene in Top Gun; I had no idea he was such a Tom Cruise fan ... and to be honest, I'm sort of stunned.) Regardless of which chicken came before what egg and who is paying homage to whom, Brad Bird does a fantastic job of imbuing these cartoon characters with personality, feeling and life.

Post script w/r/t Iron Man: here is a very interesting review of the movie from the perspective of a computer-security geek. Thanks to Kevin C. for the link.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spring cleaning hits the Mouse house

Gosh - way behind here, aren't I? Here are the excuses reasons for not having posted much lately - the house has been in shambles since last Sunday night and we didn't even get the television hooked up until moments before The Office started on Thursday. We've been busy, you see.

Mr. Mouse's parents were here all last week; Mr. Mouse took the week off and he and his dad accomplished the Herculean task of painting our bedroom, the upstairs hallway, the guest bedroom, the staircase and the mudroom - all in four days. And by "painting" I mean two coats on the walls and ceilings. Mr. M's mom was also not slacking off: she completely rehabilitated the yard by edging, weeding and cleaning out all the foundation plantings and flower gardens, pruning, raking, sweeping and even mowing the lawn. I suspect she may have even worked on the inside houseplants too, because some of them look better than ever. Our house has never looked so good as it does now, inside and out. Of course, now we need to paint the kitchen and downstairs bath just so everything looks nice but the bulk of it is done.

Yesterday, after his folks left, Mr. Mouse and I spent the day putting the painted rooms back together, reattaching switch plates, reshelving books, vacuuming, more vacuuming (note to self: next time - get a hairless dog). Today, capitalizing on the momentum we've built, Mr. Mouse and I attacked the basement, filling three garbage bags and two recycling tubs; we also took his beer-bottle collection to the redemption center and, along with our other empties, cashed in over 250 bottles. I think he's a little sad about having gotten rid of the bottles he so enjoyed imbibing collecting over the years but since they'd just been sitting dustily in the basement for the last ten years, it made sense. Plus: $12.80 into the fun-fund and that's all good.

So now Mr. Mouse is upstairs deciding on whether to go for a bike ride - and by "deciding" I mean napping - and I'm off to watch Iron Giant so I'll have something more thematically-cohesive to post for you next time. I'm also more than two-thirds done with a good book I'm reviewing (which will go up here after I get it onto and I've been thinking a lot about new summertime drink recipes since summer is just around the corner ... lots of FMS goodies in the works so please come back soon!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lost episode recap – “There's No Place Like Home, Part 1” (S4E12) airdate 05/15/08

Here it is - as hoped for/promised! It may be a little disjointed since I had to keep pausing the DVR to tell Mr. Mouse to stop snoring. He was noisy this evening - not sure where I'll be sleeping tonight.

We’re on a Coast Guard plane, and the pilot warns that there’ll be a little chop ahead. The co-pilot is nervous, considering the cargo they’re carrying. A Ms. Decker – scary, departed Admiral Cain from Battlestar Galactica – goes back to check on the cargo: she is the Oceanic rep who is transitioning Jack, Kate, Aaron, Sun, Hurley and Sayid from the Island to the mainland. They are all sitting in the cargo hold, looking like they’ve been poleaxed. Admiral Cain says there’ll be reporters who want to talk to them when they land. No one seems inclined to talk with the press but Jack speaks up, saying it’s okay, they’ve agreed - they just want to get it over with. Everyone else is pretty much dazed looking. Jack tells his little group that we all know the story and if we hey get any questions we don’t want to or can’t answer, we’ll just keep out mouths shut - they’ll think we’re in shock. Sun: “We are in shock, Jack.”

The plane lands in Hawaii and Jack stares at Aaron in Kate’s arms. Everyone still looks dazed. The Six disembark the plane to applause: various family members are there to greet their survivors. Sun looks gorgeous. No one is there for Kate or Sayid, but Hurley grabs Sayid and introduces him to his folks. Kate is all alone, except for Aaron whom she’s clutching to her chest.

Back to the Island: Rose thinks that Sayid and Desmond were on the chopper and dropped the sat-phone so the Losties would know what’s going on. Sun points out: “It’s a phone, right? Can’t we just call?” Daniel takes the phone and calls, but the phone is on monitor-mode and all they hear is Keamy giving orders: we’re still five minutes from deploying to the Orchid. Juliet doesn’t know where the Orchid is. She also didn’t hear Desmond or Sayid, which she thinks is a bad sign. Jack tells Kate to get some guns as they’re going after the chopper; Juliet protests – you just had surgery! Jack insists that he must do this since he promised to get the Losties off the Island. “Don’t bleed to death,” snarks Juliet, washing her hands of his thick headedness. Meanwhile, Daniel is wigging out. He tells Charlotte: “They’re using the secondary protocol – we have to get off this Island. Right now!”

A short time later, Kate and Jack storm through the jungle. Jack is holding up remarkably well for someone who, as Juliet pointed out, just had fairly major surgery in primitive conditions. Although he is bleeding through his shirt a bit. Soon, Miles, Sawyer and Aaron come upon them. Sawyer raggedly tells them that Claire just walked off into the jungle and they lost her. He asks why they’re out here. Jack says they’re going to meet Des and Sayid who are hopefully on the chopper. Sawyer: “You better hope it’s not Sayid – because if he’s with the animals that just blew up New Otherton, you do not want to tussle with ‘em.” Jack decides that now is the time to measure penises (not literally) with Sawyer and Aaron starts screaming until Kate breaks it up. Jack says that since he’s the one who put Sayid and Desmond on that chopper in the first place, he owes it to them to help them out. He sends Kate, with Aaron, back to the beach and walks off after the helicopter. Sawyer snarls, “That sumbitch is stubborn … hold up – you don’t get to die alone!” and heads after Jack, cocking his own gun (not a euphemism).

Flash-forward: At the Oceanic Airlines press conference, Admiral Cain says that the Oceanic Six survivors were carried by the ocean’s current to an uninhabited island, Membata, near Indonesia where they stayed until a life raft washed onshore. The story is outlandish and unbelievable at best, including the “fact” that Kate gave birth to Aaron while stranded. That’s a damn big three-month old baby – which makes it even more ridiculous when Kate says that he’s only five weeks old. Come on – no one’s going to believe that. The press are fairly skeptical, thinking the survivors look pretty healthy for being stranded for 100+ days. No shit. A Korean reporter asks, in Korean, if Sun’s husband was one who died on the island; Sun answers, in English, that no, he never made it off the plane. Jack gives her a look while she’s giving her answer like he doesn’t trust her to stick to the party line. Another reporter tries to bring up Kate’s outstanding arrest warrant but Admiral Cain shoots that down, saying it isn’t relevant. Someone asks if there might be other survivors yet to be found and Sayid answers emphatically: No, absolutely no one else survived but us. As the Six leave the press conference, Admiral Cain tells Sayid that a woman who wasn’t on the family list has asked to see him. It is Nadia and their reunion is heartbreaking and lovely.

Back to the Island: Sayid lands the zodiac on the beach. Juliet et al., run up. Sayid says that he has to start ferrying people to the boat immediately before the chopper gets back, since the men on the chopper intend to kill everyone on the Island. Juliet gets a pained look and tells him that Jack and Kate just went after the chopper. Oh - so what.

Ben, Locke and Hurley are trekking through the center of the Island, heading to the Orchid, which is a greenhouse of sorts according to Ben. They’re going there to move the Island, which is a dangerous and unpredictable thing to do and, consequently, something of last resort. Along the way, Ben uncovers a wooden chest containing, among other things, a mirror, fifteen-year old saltines (which Hurley tears into), and binoculars. Ben uses the mirror to flash at Jacob (?) up in a mountain; they get a flash in response. Locke wants to know what exactly Ben communicated but Ben ain’t saying.

On the beach, Daniel offers to start ferrying folks back to the boat so Sayid can go after Jack and Kate. Sayid trusts him and gets ready to head off while Daniel starts loading people onto the zodiac, six at a time. Juliet insists that Sun goes on the first trip. Just then, Kate, Aaron and Miles come onto the beach. Kate tells Sayid that he’ll never find Jack and Sawyer without her superior tracking skills, hands the baby to Sun and goes back into the jungle with Sayid. Charlotte and Daniel share a meaningful stare as he leaves. On the raft, Jin smugs that he told Sun he’d get her off the Island.

Flash-forward: a slightly more pregnant Sun drops in on her father at the office. She looks fabulous when she tells him that she knows he hated Jin. He gets outraged and insists that she show him respect. She points out that Oceanic Airlines paid her the enormous crash settlement in cash and she just bought a controlling interest in her father’s company this morning. So now he needs to show her some respect. Oh, snap!

Hurley drives up to a mansion in a beater car. It’s his mansion and the front door is wide open. Did I mention that Cheech Marin is back as Hurley’s dad? When Hurley goes inside, there’s a coconut on the foyer floor. This disconcerts the big guy slightly. He hears whispering and nervously … walks into a surprise birthday party with the unintentional ironic theme of "castaways!" Kate, Aaron, Sayid and Nadia are there – that’s nice that they’re keeping in touch at first. Cheech drags his son out to the garage to show him his birthday present: he’s fixed the car that they used to work on together. When they get in to take it for a drive, the odometer and the trip-meter are Hurley’s magic numbers and he FREAKS OUT.

Flashback to the Island: Hurley points out that if they manage to move the Island using Ben’s Orchid-greenhouse, doesn’t that mean they also move the dudes with the guns who are currently on the Island? Ben grits that he’s working on it. Hurley’s like, okay, but I still want to get off this Island; Locke says: “It’s a little late for that now, Hugo.” Hurley doesn’t like the sound of that. Suddenly, Ben hunkers down and asks for the binoculars, telling Locke and Hurley to get down as well. He tells them that Widmore knows about the Orchid and why they need to get there. Locke says that Ben told him that Widmore didn’t know about the Island; Ben says that he wasn’t being entirely truthful; Locke then wants to know when Ben is ever truthful. Um – never? Ben ignores this and hands Locke the binocs: Keamy’s men are already at the Orchid. Ben is not happy about this.

On the zodiac, Jin is all smiles about getting to the boat but Sun looks worried. Desmond runs to throw a ladder over the side of the freighter and starts helping Losties aboard. Daniel tells him that Sayid went after Jack, and then takes the zodiac back for the next group. Suddenly, everyone stops and stares: it’s Michael. He tells Desmond that they should try the engines – and they work! Desmond tells the pilot to head for the Island at an exact heading of 305 so they can pick up the rest of the Losties. The pilot is willing, but something on the freighter is interfering with their radar: he can’t see the reef. Des dashes off to find what’s fracking with the radar. It’s always something.

I just got hit by a sudden pang of missing Mr. Eko. Anyone else?

On the Island: Sawyer notices that Jack is bleeding; Jack cops to the recent appendectomy and Sawyer is impressed in spite of himself. They find the chopper and hail Frank who has been handcuffed to the bench so he can't take off without the mercenaries. Frank tells them that the safest place to be these days is on the freighter, seeing how Keamy’s guys are going to snatch Ben and then all hell will break loose. Sawyer wants to know what happens to the guys with Ben. “Nothing good,” dismals Frank. Sawyer tells Jack that Hurley is with Ben, neglecting to mention Locke. “Son of a bitch,” says Jack.

Cut to a photograph of another son of a bitch: Jack’s dad. It’s his funeral and there’s a decent turnout. The Oceanic Six is there, minus Sun but plus Nadia. Jack gives the eulogy and is not very eloquent. I’m bored. Afterwards, Kate has waited to talk to Jack, but a blonde woman with an Australian accent interrupts. It’s got to be Claire’s mum! She says the reason Christian was in Sydney was to see his daughter. Jack says Christian didn’t have a daughter. The woman insists and ends up being the one to tell Jack that Claire was his sister – which is cool, because I had assumed that he knew this before they left the Island. He didn’t, however, and this revelation hits Jack physically: he staggers back, stunned and overwhelmed. As Claire’s mum leaves, she pauses to tell Kate that “her son” is beautiful. So sad – that’s her own grandson and she doesn’t even know it! Jack turns to look at Kate … who is holding his nephew … and his expression is completely bereft. Good job, Matthew Fox. I mean that.

On the freighter: Sun confronts Michael, saying she doesn’t understand. He tells her that he and Walt managed to take Ben’s boat to an actual island and eventually made it home. “And now you work for Ben,” she says. Michael gets upset: “I do not work for Ben! I’m trying to make up for what I did – I’m trying to help you.” Just then, Desmond screams, “Michael! I need you now!” Yikes: he’s found a huge cache of wired explosives on the freighter. That can’t be good.

On the Island: Kate and Sayid have found tracks, but they’re not Jack or Sawyer and the people making said tracks have doubled back behind them. It’s Richard! He’s not worried about their guns because his Others have surrounded them: “I said drop your guns.” Richard looks good.

Ben gives Locke instructions on how to find the elevator to the actual Orchid station. He says that he’s got a plan and he will take care of the armed men. Montage of everyone walking: Ben defiantly walking towards the Orchid; Sun walking out onto the deck of the freighter, away from the explosives; Sawyer and Jack walking through the jungle; Richard and the Others marching Kate and Sayid through another part of the jungle. Ben’s got his hands raised when Keamy comes up to him. “My name is Benjamin Linus. I believe you’re looking for me.” By way of answer, Keamy whacks Ben between the eyes with his gun. Ouch.

Next episode/previous episode

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lost warning

You don't know how much this pains me to say this, seeing how my Lost recaps are pretty much the lifeblood of this little blog these days, but I may not be able to get the recap for tomorrow's episode up in a timely fashion.

You see, the Mouse-in-laws have been visiting this week. And because the Mouse House is set up strangely, the television (and the DVR) is located in the guest room. And the in-laws go to bed EARLY.

We do have additional cable outlets and I am going to try with all my might to get a television set hooked up in time for tomorrow's episode. If I'm able, then you'll get your recap right on schedule, but perhaps with less detail than normal since I won't be able to pause the t.v. Luckily Lost doesn't tend to have overly complicated dialogue and I can usually capture the previous action during the commercial breaks. If I'm not able, I promise that I will get the recap up and running as soon as humanly possible (- and definitely before Television Without Pity does). Don't abandon all hope - or me!

Titles Nine - #1

A little while ago, I mentioned a new "feature" that I was going to "launch" here at the little blog. This is it: "Titles Nine" - only instead of being about women and sports, it's about books. You see, Mr. Mouse and I have really a lot of books. They're everywhere: all our bookcases are filled to overflowing and now we've started stacking tomes on any horizontal surface we can find, including all floors and the dining room table. And since I've already given y'all our DVD library* (to which we recently added The Big Lebowski - $8.00 at Borders), I thought maybe one of my multitudinous readers might be interested in our paper library as well.

What I did here was stand in front of a bookcase, close my eyes and run my finger back and forth until I stopped at a book. Then I wrote down that book, plus the four books on either side of it, thereby getting the nine titles. As you will notice, our bookcases are pretty much not organized by anything. For those keeping track, anything that is other than nonfiction, Fletch novels or James Michener is 99.9% certain to be one of my books.

- The Eyes of the Amaryllis – Natalie Babbitt (childhood book)
- The White Mountains: Names, Places and Legends – John T.B. Mudge
- 1967 Boy Scouts Field Book (not mine)
- Hotel Pastis – Peter Mayle (so-so fiction from the Year in Provence guy)
- 101 Essential Yoga Tips
- The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter (fairy tale retellings - some erotic)
- Pippa Mouse – Betty Boegehold (one of my mouse books - yay!)
- The Dream of a Common Language – Adrienne Rich (required for college)
- Unnatural Selections – Gary Larson (cows doing people things never gets old)

* In my this-is-our-DVD-collection post, I really only mentioned the movies. I've also got all seven seasons of Buffy, all five seasons of Angel, all three seasons of Veronica Mars and cute little Firefly. But I'm pretty sure you all figured that out by now.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Firefly episode recap - “War Stories” (E10)

This is one of my favorite episodes, icky torture notwithstanding, simply because Mal and Wash have such great timing. This is a very funny episode all things considered – I apologize for not being able to represent it better here.

In the infirmary, Shepherd Book is waxing poetical about the works of Shan-yu, a “warrior poet” who claimed that to truly know the measure of a man you have to see him under extreme duress. Simon is skeptical: “Sadistic crap legitimized by florid prose … tell me you’re not a fan.” Book is not, but wonders if the people who sliced into River’s brain might be. Simon believes that his sister’s brutalization had more of a point, however, and is working on managing River’s symptoms. She’s sleeping better but the progress is slow and sporadic.

Ooh – we haven’t been here for a while: Niska’s space station! He is torturing someone and is annoyed to be interrupted – until the lackey tells him it is Mal Reynolds’s ship. “Go, bring him to me!” He turns back to the bloody man in front of him. “Tell me, are you a fan of Shan-yu?” See how they did that? Circular!

Inara is trying to talk Mal into allowing her to entertain the Councilor, a very highly placed and private personage, on board Serenity. Mal says that’s fine, but he meets everyone who sets foot on his boat. He promises not to start any more sword fights, if that’ll make her feel better.

Kaylee chases River (who has stolen a fresh apple from her) to the galley and retrieves her apple: “No power in the ‘verse can stop me!” Everyone else is enjoying the apples – Jayne bought a crate, evidently as a guilt offering after Ariel – until Zoë tells a war story about booby-trapped apples that blew soldiers’ heads off. Later, Zoë and Wash have an argument because she didn’t support Wash’s suggestion to cut out the middlemen in distributing the drugs they stole on their last job. Wash is rather testy about Zoë and Mal’s relationship and feels like he’s being pushed aside. “I am a large, semi-muscular man – I can take it! … [w]hat this marriage needs is one less husband. It’s kind of crowded.”

Inara’s rendezvous with her client is imminent; Kaylee, Jayne and Book surreptitiously watch from another room. After a mislead whereby Mal thinks a bodyguard is the client, the Councilor, a lovely blonde woman, comes on board. Without a word, Inara leads her off. Mal just stares; Book murmurs, “Oh, my.” Kaylee remarks on how glamorous they look together while Jayne, staring, monotones: “I’ll be in my bunk,” and heads off. Heh.

A short while later, Zoë and Mal load the cargo for their own rendezvous with the drug-buyers. Wash has reconfigured the shuttle’s starting sequences, however, and lets them know that he will be accompanying Mal on this run instead. Mal does not like this at all, preferring to have his old war buddy at his back instead of her husband: “I’m lost, I’m angry and … I’m armed.” Wash is insistent and Zoë, disgusted, says fine, she’s happy to sit this one out – should be a milk run anyway.

Inara and the Councilor are barely dressed as Inara gives her client a back-rub, telling her that she rarely chooses to be with women, but sometimes it is a relief to be away from men. It’s quite lovely, all warmth and jewel-tones.

As Wash flies the shuttle, Mal sternly tells him that next time, and all the times after that, he’s taking Zoë, no matter what. “Hey!” protests the pilot, “I’ve been in a firefight! Well, I’ve been in a fire … actually, I was fired from a fry-cook opportunity.” Still annoyed, Mal makes Wash carrying the crate of drugs to the meet. Just as they get paid, shots ring out and their contacts are killed. Mal lunges at Wash, knocking him to the ground, as heavily armed and camouflaged men erupt from the landscape around them. Not so much a milk run, then.

A bit later on Serenity, Zoë tells Jayne to grab his weapon (heh): the boys are over an hour late. Book decides to go with them, saying three sets of eyes are better than two. They find the goods spilled on the sand and scorch-marks showing the path of the getaway vehicle. Zoë puts it all together: “I know who’s got them.”

Niska’s space station: Wash and Mal are put, tied and blindfolded into a room. “Are you okay? I think I’ve been kidnapped!” Wash is panicking a little, babbling while Mal cautiously feels his way around the room, trying to suss out the lay of the land. “What would Zoë do?” Wash wants to know. “Probably not talk so much,” grunts Mal.

Wash, panicking a little more, decides to get outraged that Mal puts his wife in such dangerous situations on a regular basis: “She’s my wife! I’m the one she swore to love, honor and obey!” Mal stops cold: “What? She swore to obey?” “Well, no, not … but that’s just my point! It’s you she obeys! There’s obeying going on right under my nose!” Hee. Mal retorts that while he and Zoë have a [military] history together, there are plenty of orders Mal gives her that she doesn’t obey. “Name one!” shouts Wash. Mal retorts, “She married you!”

Back on the ship, Zoë has collected cash from everyone. Her plan is to confront Niska, give him the money and reclaim the two men. Book wants to know why she thinks Niska won’t just grab the cash and kill her too but Zoë feels sure that Niska would not want to risk his reputation. She tells the crew to wait a reasonable amount of time then take off if she doesn’t come back– no sense sacrificing everyone.

Oh dear – torture time. Niska is electroshocking the bejeezus out of a bloodied, sweaty (and bare-chested - yay!) Mal. When the shocks subside, Mal grimaces: “I’m not … going to say it … again: shipboard romances complicate things.” Hee hee: he’s still talking to Wash, who wants to know, “Well, what about lov-…” and then there’s more electricity for both of them. “I’m not against it as a rule,” drools Mal. Niska is finding all this hilarious, zapping them again and again. They are both suffering badly and Wash is starting fade. Mal realizes this and ups the ante: How do you know I never slept with Zoë? We were together a long time before you ever came along. Wash’s eye is weeping blood: “Hell, I wish you had slept with her, Mal. Then she’d get over it.” After the next round of shocks, Mal insists to his pilot, “Listen to me, Wash! Listen to me! First thing I’m going to do when we get back is take your wife into my bed. I’m going to get me a piece of …” More shocks – Wash sags in his bonds. It’s horrible and brutal to watch, and yet funny as hell (I’m so not doing it justice - sorry).

Zoë comes onto the space station, unarmed and demanding an audience with Niska. She is brought to the torture chamber, gazing unflinchingly on Wash and Mal. “This should be enough to buy back my men,” she says. Niska says it is not enough for two but before he can ask her to choose, she points at Wash: “him.” Niska is slightly disappointed not to be able to rub it in her face so he asks her to wait just a bit. “The money is too much – you should have some small refund.” Niska cuts off Mal’s ear, handing it to her in a handkerchief. Um –ick.

Zoë grabs her husband and gently walks him to their shuttle as Mal’s screams echo behind them. “He’s insane,” mumbles Wash. “I know,” Zoë says, checking his injuries. No, Wash half-sobs: “[Mal]’s crazy. He wouldn’t break … he kept me from - I wouldn’t have made it. Niska’s going to kill him.” Zoë says, “He’s going to make it last as long as possible, days if he can.” Wash puts his resolve-face on: “Bastard’s not going to get days!” and fires up the shuttle.

Back on board Serenity, Zoë tells the crew that Niska wouldn’t let Mal go. “We’re going to get him back” she says and hands Simon the handkerchief: Inara and Kaylee reel away when the doctor opens it. “It’s his ear,” says Simon. Jayne pokes at it: “What are we gonna do – clone him?” I love Jayne. “It’s a clean cut,” Simon observes, “I can reattach it … assuming there’s a head.”

Mal does still have a head at this point; Niska is attempting to mess with it as well as wreaking havoc on the body, asking if Mal knows the works of Shan-yu. “Are we starting a book club?” gasps Mal, “What are you [strangled groan] what are you trying to torture me?” Niska brings out a new piece of equipment: it looks like a small, nasty grappling hook attached to a cable or thin hose. “And they say people don’t look like their pets,” Mal manages to grit out. Niska’s henchman plunges the grappling hook into Mal’s chest. It looks horribly painful. There is much screaming.

Zoë and Wash are gearing up – they look like Rambo. Jayne notes that it’s suicide to attack Niska. Wash turns, telling him that their kind of people have a creed – leave no man behind – and then cocks the tiniest little revolver you’ve ever seen. Heh. As Wash and Zoë head back to the shuttle, they come upon Book, Simon and Kaylee loading weapons, wanting to help rescue the captain. When Zoë asks Book if the Bible isn’t fairly explicit about not killing folk, he agrees but says that it’s less clear on kneecaps. Nice! Even nicer: Jayne is locked and loaded and ready to go too. “What?” he grunts when they all stare at him. “Let’s go get the captain,” says Zoë.

The captain is not looking so good at present; Niska’s henchman has to resuscitate him, in fact. As Mal revives, Niska tells him that he was dead for a bit. “Seemed the thing to do at the time,” mutters Mal. But Niska wants two days of pain out of Mal to use as an example so no one else will try to doublecross him in the future – he’s not about to let him die yet.

Wash sneaks Serenity up to the space station on cold engines. “Okay, people,” says Zoë, “If it moves, shoot it.” “Unless it’s the captain,” Kaylee reminds her. “Unless it’s the captain,” agrees Zoë. They fasten onto the station and then the action starts fast and furious: bullets, grenades and bodies flying. Jayne, Zoë and Wash head off after Mal; Book, Simon and Kaylee cover their retreat, guarding the airlock where Serenity is docked.

In the torture chamber, Niska hears the station’s warning sirens. While he and the henchman are thus distracted, Mal lurches up and slams the grappling hook into the henchman’s back. The henchman goes down, screaming. Fear in his eyes, Niska turns and Mal belts him across the face, knocking him down. The captain staggers towards his tormenter – eyes blazing in a haggard face - “You want to meet the real me now?”

Back at the airlock, Book is kneecapping Niska’s men left and right until Jayne calls him forward to cover their backs. Simon does his best to hold the line but the bad guys manage to advance. Kaylee is terrified, paralyzed. River comes up to where Kaylee is hiding, pistol useless beside her. River takes a quick peek around the bulkhead at the approaching three gunmen, then grabs Kaylee’s gun. “Don’t look, don’t look,” River mutters and, eyes closed, aims and fires the gun three times. She gets all the gunmen and cheerfully remarks to a stunned Kaylee, “No power in the ‘verse can stop me.”

The henchman is not quite dead, unfortunately, and attacks Mal as Niska slithers away. They’re struggling when the rescuers finally find them. Zoë tells Jayne not to shoot, as this is the captain’s fight; Mal hears her and cries no, it isn’t! Oh, she says, and she, Wash and Jayne empty their clips into the henchman. Yay!

Afterwards, Simon has reattached Mal’s ear, admonishing Mal to stop fiddling with it. Inara wishes that Mal had killed Niska; Mal says that he’s got regrets on that himself (presumably Niska would have shown up again in a later episode had this show not been cancelled). The captain then asks Simon if he’s okay with having taken up arms on his behalf. Simon says he’s not sure, seeing how he never shot anyone before. Book pats the young man on the shoulder: “I was there, son. I’m fair sure you haven’t shot anyone yet.” Mal chuckles - which makes his chest hurt. Kaylee is perched on the stairs, watching everyone; when she sees River looking down from the catwalk, she shifts uncomfortably, not able to meet her gaze.

Zoë is in the galley with her husband. Mal comes in: “Did you tell her? Your husband has demanded that we sleep together.” Zoë raises an eyebrow: “Really.” Wash is discomfited: “What? Mal, come on.” Mal: “He seems to think it would get all this burning sexual tension out in the open. You know, make a fair fight for your womanly affections.” Wash: “No, that was the torture talking. You remember, the torture?” Mal puts Zoë’s hands on his hips, pulling her close: “I know it’s a difficult mission, but you and I … have to get it on.” Zoë deadpans: “I understand - we have no choice. Take me, sir, take me hard.” Mal hilariously purses his lips and leans in for a kiss; Wash springs up and grabs Zoë, smacking her on the ass. “We’ll be in our bunk,” he tells Mal.

Next episode/previous episode

Friday, May 9, 2008

More zombies!

Dawn of the Dead. Now this is what I call a horror movie. Forget the PG-13 teen-screamers, forget your nasty torture-porn. George Romero’s zombies rule! I liked Night of the Living Dead; I loved Dawn of the Dead. This timeless zombie flick has it all – enough character development, social commentary and situational-acceptable violence to allow you to put aside the datedness of the 1978 hair- and clothing styles, as well as the obvious red tempera paint subbing in for the buckets and buckets of blood.

Armageddon has come. No-one knows why, but zombies are everywhere. Dead folks rise up to attack and eat the living; live folk who are bitten succumb to the zombification process. The living dead are slow-moving but focused: they want to eat and they want to eat fresh meat. Four survivors find refuge in a shopping mall, eking out a fairly decent existence for themselves until a surviving motorcycle gang threatens them. A couple of the heroes make it out alive, heading off in their helicopter to an uncertain future – a slightly more hopeful ending than Romero’s first zombie installment.

I won’t discuss in detail the cynical statement Romero makes about us Americans and our rampant consumerism: one of the characters asks why the zombies keep coming into the mall; another character answers, “They're after the place. They don't know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.” (Dude – and this was even before the Gap!) If you’re interested in some of the zombie scholarship, try this guy.

Day of the Dead In this 1985 movie, a small group of scientists and soldiers hide out in an underground bunker while up above the zombies have seemingly overrun the rest of the world (or at least the country). Things are wicked tense down in the bunker: the scientists are experimenting and conducting research on various captured zombies, trying to find out why they are zombies and how they can be rendered harmless. The soldiers, on the other hand, want the scientists to find a way to eradicate the walking dead entirely. All the living people are stressed out and dealing with it in varying ways: drinking, panicking, losing their marbles, brutalizing their compatriots. Exacerbating the situation is Bub, the head scientist's pet zombie: a former soldier, Bub remembers a great deal of his life and can be trained. His re-emerging humanity is shown in direct juxtaposition to the soldiers' increasing dehumanization.

As in Dawn of the Dead, there is lots of spurting blood, splattering intestines and people being torn limb from limb. The special effects and zombie make-up continues to improve with each Dead movie - although I did have a quick flashback to the Thriller video at the initial zombie close-up. I thought the pacing lagged a bit even in such a short movie - lots and lots of talking - and I got a little bored during the non-zombie parts. I like Day of the Dead the least of the three: the first is a classic and a huge step forward for horror films; the second is wickedly funny and cynical; this third is just bleak where the people are almost more horrible than the monsters. I guess that's the point.

I still have a couple more to see if I want to complete my Romero Dead catalog: 2005's Land of the Dead and also Diary of the Dead, which had a limited US release in February 2008 but the movie never made it to theaters here, to my knowledge. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lost episode recap – “Cabin Fever” (S4E11) airdate 05/08/08

Y'all - it's a good and exciting episode this week, partly because there's only about 30 seconds' worth of Jack, but also because there's lots of Ben and Locke and Hurley and eyeliner and the cute Australian captain and some Desmond and Sayid and weird guys in the jungle and absolutely no moping. You can't tell me this show isn't better when Jack is limited.

Flashback: A 1950s-esque girl ("Emily") bops around her room to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Her mother comes in and tells Emily that she can’t date this guy she’s been seeing: he’s twice her age. Emily defies her mom, runs out into the rainy street and gets promptly hit by a car. As they wheel her through the hospital, she tells the nurse that she’s six months pregnant. The premature baby is born – a boy – and the nurses take him away. Emily shouts out after them: “Name him John! His name is John!”

On Island: Hurley wants to know who the heck builds a cabin this far out into the jungle. They’ve been walking all day and haven’t gotten there yet. There’s a funny little bickering exchange among Ben, Locke and Hurley as to who’s leading this expedition since no one has any idea where Jacob’s cabin is, until Locke, frustrated, says they’ll just build camp. Hurley also wonders what will happen when the Boaties come back. Locke doesn’t know – yet.

On the freighter: Sayid wakes Desmond up as the helicopter comes back. Dr. Ecklie (still alive) checks on the wounded mercenary who has had his guts ripped out by the Smoke Monster. Keamy first demands that Sayid tell him what the exact situation is on the Island but Sayid thinks he won’t be helping Keamy with any information. When the handsome Aussie captain comes up, Keamy jabs a pistol under his jaw, accusing him of giving information about him to Ben. The captain denies any involvement but know who to blame. Next: the Captain and Keamy pay a visit to Michael, who is handcuffed to a pipe in a cell. Michael admits to giving Ben information on the Boaties. Keamy thinks now would be a good time to shoot Michael in the face (over the captain’s protests) but even though Keamy pulls the trigger again and again, the Island won’t let him kill its agent. Plus, the captain points out, they need Michael to fix the engines … since he’s the one who busted them up. Keamy considers this, then whacks Michael in the face with his gun. Ouch. And, good start to the episode (largely because there hasn’t been any Jack).

On Island: Locke wakes up (it’s full daylight – wouldn’t he have awakened before?) to the sound of an axe. Ben is still sleeping so he goes to investigate. It’s Eugene Tooms from the first season of the X-Files. He introduces himself as “Horace” and goes on with some nonsense about building a cabin for him and the missus, needing a little time away from the Dharma Initiative. At Locke’s bewildered look, Horace says, “I’m not making any sense, am I? That’s because I’ve been dead for twelve years.” And his nose is bleeding. WTF? Locke watches him cut down another tree – the same tree he just cut down – and Horace says, “You gotta find me. And then you’ll find [Jacob] – we’ve been waiting for you a real long time. God speed, John.” Then he wipes his bloody nose, cuts down the same tree again and Locke wakes up to find Ben staring at him. Locke gets Ben and Hurley going and Ben muses that he used to have dreams too. [Note: Interesting that Horace tells Locke "God speed" when the character's full name is "Horace Goodspeed." These crazy Lost writers.]

Flashback: Emily and her mother, Mrs. Locke look at little John, the youngest and toughest preemie to have ever survived in the hospital - a “miracle” baby. Emily starts crying and runs away; her mother wants to know who to talk to about adopting. A man staring into the nursery window distracts her. It’s Richard Alpert! Damn – his eyeliner still looks good in the 1950s!

On Island: Locke tells Hurley that he’s special because he can see the cabin. Hurley has a theory as to why he, Locke and Ben are the only ones who can see it: because they’re the craziest. Nice – he’s been reading the fan-forums. Locke says that they have to make a pit stop first: at the ditch where all the dead Dharma folk have been thrown. Get it? Pit-stop - because they're stopping at the pit. Ben shoots Locke a dirty look. At the ditch, the three of them stare down at all the Dharma bodies. “What happened to them?” asks Hurley. “He did,” sniffs Locke, pointing a thumb at Ben.

I like that newest iPod commercial. Very peppy.

Flashback: Pre-teen John is setting up for backgammon and his foster/adopted mom says someone is here to visit him. It’s Richard Alpert. Richard runs a school for extremely special kids and he thinks John might be one of them. (I knew it - Locke is one of the X-Men!) Richard notices a drawing John has done of the Smoke Monster. I am distracted by the fact that Richard really is quite a handsome man. He brings out some ordinary objects and asks John to think about them: a comic book, baseball glove, knife, etc. He asks which of these things already belong to John; John picks out a vial of sand (?) and a compass – which makes Richard happy. But when young John picks up the knife, Richard gets upset and leaves abruptly.

On Island: Locke is in the disgusting pit, pawing through the dead Dharma-ites. Hurley notes that this must be where Ben shot Locke and left him for dead. This is true. Ben goes on to say that while the Others did in fact kill all the Dharma-ites, it was not at his behest. Hurley says he thought Ben was the Others’ leader. “Not always,” says Ben. Down in the pit, Locke has found Horace’s body (his jumpsuit reads “Mathematician”). All of a sudden, Ben gets interested in what Locke is doing down there. Locke finds blueprints to Jacob’s cabin in Horace’s pocket.

On the boat: Keamy wants the key to the safe from the captain. He also tells Frank to gas up the chopper – they’re going back to the Island. The captain fills Keamy in on the psycho-sickness that has been decimating the crew, thinking the mercenary has perhaps been affected as well. Keamy is not interested in anything but the “secondary protocol” locked in the safe which outlines where Ben is going to go when Keamy torches the Island. First the captain wants to know how Widmore knew where Ben was going to go. Then “What do you mean, ‘torch the island’?” The captain thought this was an extraction mission. Keamy is done answering questions.

Topside, the flustered captain tells Desmond and Sayid that they need to hide in a compartment he’s gotten ready for them. At Sayid’s question, he says that Michael is not dead – not for lack of Keamy’s trying – but they need to hide before Keamy comes up on deck and sees them. Hiding is pointless, says Sayid. He wants a zodiac raft so he can start ferrying Losties from the Island to the boat. Grimacing, the captain agrees – because he knows that Keamy is going to try to burn the Island down. He does not, however, impart this knowledge to them, unfortunately. As they walk away, Desmond grins at Sayid, impressed with his bargaining abilities.

On Island: Locke is poring over the cabin blueprint. He tries to send Hurley back to the beach for his own safety, apologizing for hijacking him at gunpoint. Hurley decides that sticking with the crazy armed guys is a better bet than wandering through the jungle alone. Ben thinks that Locke has manipulated Hurley into staying with them; Locke denies it.

Flashback: A beaten-up teenaged John Locke is freed from a high school locker by a teacher. The teacher says that he got a call from a Dr. Alpert at Mittelos (?) Labs in Portland, Oregon (where Juliet went when she was recruited), who has heard about John and wants him to attend science camp at the Labs this summer. John complains that things like science camp are what get him stuffed into lockers. Heh. John insists that he is not a scientist - he likes boxing and fishing and sports – but his teacher insists that John is in fact a science guy – not the prom king, not the quarterback, not a superhero. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” snaps John. Remember hearing that from him before, sometime around S1?

On the boat: Michael is looking bad when Frank pays him a visit. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a survivor of 815?” Frank wants to know. Ooh – Michael has an ally! Michael gets all intense and tells Frank that he cannot fly Keamy back to the Island as the mercenary is planning to kill everyone there. Frank springs Michael from his cell and as they leave they catch a glimpse of Keamy getting something – a radio? a remote trigger? – strapped to his arm by another mercenary. It’s slightly homoerotic what with Keamy being half-naked and all.

The Captain meets Desmond and Sayid and tells them the exact heading to take to get back to the Island. Desmond refuses to go back, saying he’s been there for three years and is never setting foot on it again. Sayid understands, promising to bring folks back soon, and heads out alone. I hope Desmond hides so Keamy doesn’t get him.

On Island: Locke, Ben and Hurley are STILL walking through the jungle. It’s nighttime now. Locke is sure they’ll find it this time because he was told they would. Ben: “I was told a lot of things too – that I was chosen, that I was special. I ended up with a tumor on my spine and my daughter’s blood all over my hands.” He goes on to tell Locke that there are consequences to being chosen: “Destiny, John, is a fickle bitch.” Cue Hurley finding the cabin. That was a little un-subtle, writers.

Flashback: Adult Locke, doing physical therapy. Boy, he hates that wheelchair. The orderly, whose face we can’t see yet, tells him not to give up. Locke gets all gloom and doom but the orderly is not dissuaded, calling him a miracle. The camera pans up: it’s the guy who told Hurley he was the Oceanic lawyer in the flashforward after Hurley got off the Island (anyone remember his name?). He tells Locke that he should go on a walkabout, and says that when they meet again, Locke is going to owe him one. The wheels in Locke’s brain start turning.

On the boat: Keamy’s mercenaries are loading up with lots of guns. Desmond watches surreptitiously from the shadows. One of the mercenaries takes Dr. Ecklie aside, saying that he got a curious Morse code message from their people on the Island, which said that the doctor washed up on shore with his throat cut. “But I’m the doctor,” Ecklie says, not really paying attention. Frank walks up, wanting to know what Keamy is doing with all those guns. He then refuses to fly Keamy back to the Island, despite Keamy’s threats to kill him. Nonplussed, Keamy walks over to Ecklie, slits his throat and tosses him over the side of the boat. He tells Frank that he’ll keep killing people until Frank changes his mind. A gun is fired: it’s the gorgeous Aussie captain and he’s aiming right at Keamy. A short distraction later and the poor captain is dead. Frank decides that they’ll fly right back to the Island. He manages to turn on a sat-phone and stuff it in a dufflebag without Keamy seeing, and then they take off. RIP, Captain.

On Island/beach: Juliet chastises Jack for leaving his tent and putting himself at risk for tearing his stitches, etc. He apologizes and then the sound of the helicopter is heard. Everyone runs out onto the beach to watch. The ‘chopper flies over low and something is thrown out: it’s the bag with Frank’s sat-phone, the GPS up and running. “I think they want us to follow them,” says Jack.

At the cabin: Locke is ready to go in the cabin but Ben says he’s not going in. The Island made him sick and it’s just not his time anymore. Hurley says he’s cool with Locke going in alone too. Hee hee. Locke thinks they’re being wimps and forges ahead, lighting one of the lamps that is on the porch. Inside, someone is sitting at the table. “Are you Jacob?” asks Locke. “No, but I can speak on his behalf,” is the reply and it sounds like Jack’s dad Christian. He moves into the light: it is Christian. What the fuck is going on with this show? Locke pulls up a chair, saying he is here because he was chosen to be. Then, hearing a creaky floorboard, Locke turns to find Claire sitting in the dark on the other side of the cabin. “Don’t worry, John,” she says, “I’m with him.” She looks strangely smug. Locke is confused, as am I. Christian says that Locke is not to tell folks that he saw Claire here, plus the Boaties are on their way, so Locke needs to get down to what’s important. Locke asks, “How do I save the Island?” Apparently that was the right question because now both Christian and Claire look extremely smug. I repeat, WTF is going on?

Outside, Ben and Hurley sit and wait. Why hasn’t Hurley lost any weight in the months since he’s been on the Island? Oh, because he keeps chocolate bars in his pocket. At least he shares with Ben. It’s cute. They look up as Locke comes back outside. So, what are they supposed to do? Locke: “He wants us to move the Island.”

Next episode/previous episode

It's season finale time again!

Already? Didn't television just start back up a couple days ago? Never you mind: the networks have spoken and we must have reruns and reality for the summer! Here's the calendar for the shows I care about (all times Eastern - but please check your local listings to confirm!):

Scrubs - tonight!!, Thursday, 5/8/08, 8:30 p.m., NBC (possibility of switching networks to ABC to finish out their final season but if that doesn't happen, we may never see how it all ends)

My Name Is Earl - Thursday, 5/15/08, 8:00 p.m., NBC

CSI (Las Vegas) - Thursday, 5/15/08, 9:00 p.m., CBS

The Office - Thursday, 5/15/08, 9:00 p.m., NBC

How I Met Your Mother - Monday, 5/19/08, 8:30 p.m., CBS (still no definitive word on whether this show is coming back in the fall - which is crazy because it's clearly the funniest sitcom on CBS's schedule)

Lost - Thursday, 5/29/08, 9:00 p.m., ABC (must be a two hour season finale?)

Battlestar Galactica - Friday, 5/30/08, 10:00 p.m., SciFi (this is the first half Season 4 finale - not the finale for the whole shootin' match)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why Mr. Mouse is not a gourmand

There's a reason why I do the "cooking" (such as it is) here at the Mouse house. Mr. Mouse just got home from a bike ride and made his typical after-ride/before-dinner snack: a stick of string cheese, smeared with extra-crunchy peanut butter and drizzled with yellow mustard.

I almost urped in the sink, watching him eat that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Super weekend!

It was a superhero-rific weekend at the Mouse house, that’s for sure. Not only did I very much enjoy the excellent and previously posted-upon Iron Man (and now can’t get that darn Black Sabbath song out of my head – grrrrrrr), but I also finished up the Watchmen graphic novel and caught Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer on HBO.

Watchmen - Wow. I mean – wow. From what I can tell, Watchmen is the War and Peace of graphic novels: epic in scope and proportion, complex, sophisticated. It is, in fact, the only graphic novel on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best English language novels from 1923 to the present. Set (and written) in the mid-1980s, with the specter of the U.S.S.R.’s nuclear threat looming, the main story follows the investigation of a string of recent killings and disappearances – someone is taking out superheroes. That’s just the baseline. You also get (1) the back story on each of the central group of superheroes (or “costumed adventurers,” since most of them have no actual superpowers), (2) a comic book about pirates, within this graphic novel, which story offers subtle meta-commentary and (3) “excerpts” from characters’ diaries, newspaper articles and scholarly journals. I couldn’t believe that everything was going to tie together – but it did. This is a graphic novel that requires multiple readings: you can certainly get the gist from one go-round, but there’s so much involved that subsequent visits will only add to the experience.

Director Zack Snyder (300, the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake) is apparently making Watchmen into a live action movie and there is much consternation among the fanboys. I can’t imagine how this behemoth could be made into any sort of decent movie – there’s just too much going on; he’ll have to focus on the basic who’s-killing-the-heroes story. And that is only a slim slice of this amazing book – so much will have to be left out. Plus, from the cast listing, it looks as though Snyder has cast actors much younger than the middle-aged characters from the book - just one of many issues, I'm guessing. Anyhow, if you get the chance, read Watchmen (and re-read it). It’s an incredibly impressive book.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - This movie: not so impressive (Of course, it never really had a chance seeing how I saw it Sunday night, after having taken in the wonder of both Iron Man and Watchmen). The special effects are fine (except for Jessica Alba’s blonde wig), and the Surfer is so very cool (Doug Jones is awesome!), but otherwise I give it a resounding “meh.” The dialogue is clichéd and the acting is average at best. The villains are completely uninteresting: this movie version of Galactus has scarcely any presence, build up notwithstanding, and Von Doom is BORING. I understand that they needed a corporeal villain to beat up on-screen and that they didn’t really have time to introduce someone brand-new – but Von Doom? Whatever. If there’s ever a FF3 (and I don't really see any reason why there should be), I hope they find someone else to be the Big Bad.

So, two out of three ain’t bad, I guess.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Book review: The Real Animal House by Chris Miller

Who doesn’t love the movie, Animal House? I mean, be honest - that is a great movie. So much fun – drunken, sexy, disrespectful fun. The book, The Real Animal House written by the real Pinto (played by Tom Hulce in the movie) is everything the movie is, only exponentially so. This is a raunchy, slightly fictionalized retelling of the Dartmouth Alpha Delta Phi debauchery of the early 1960s.

Now, I’m no prude, but I did find this book to be a little much. Miller is neither very funny nor that good a writer (or maybe he is and he just didn’t work that hard at it this time) and it took some fortitude on my part to make through 300+ pages of vomiting, urination, defecation, masturbation and fornication … repeated ad nauseum. While Harold Ramis’s foreword states that Miller was on the National Lampoon staff and co-wrote the movie with him, this book's prose leads me to believe that the others on the writing team took Miller’s wild tales and crafted them into the movie comedy we know and love.

The “where are they now?” section at the end of The Real Animal House is pretty interesting. A fair number of the Adelphia brothers are dead, several from alcohol-related issues; John Belushi’s character, Bluto, is a composite of several of Miller’s AD brothers; and Miller insists that Dean Wormer’s wife is in no way representative of the wife of his actual college dean (hee!). One thing that I think this book does do well is represent the strong friendships that can arise out of fraternities; Miller seems to have kept in touch with many of his brothers to this day.

The Real Animal House is a book for actual Alpha Delts or for people who are enormous fans of the movie and want to immerse themselves in all the lore. For the rest of us, it may be a little more than we need or want to know.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Movie review: One Missed Call

Hollywood has done it again, remaking an R-rated Japanese horror flick, Chakushin ari into a watered-down PG-13 boo-movie. I’ve not seen the 2003 original but I’ll venture to say that One Missed Call pretty much missed the mark.

The story is this: young and pretty people – purportedly college students but none of them live in dorms and the one house we see is pretty swank for off-campus housing – receive mysterious voicemails from themselves sent from the future right at the moment of their upcoming, unavoidable deaths. The heroine, played woodenly by Shannon Sossamon, becomes concerned as her friends are picked off one by one and enlists a handsome and sympathetic cop (Edward Burns) to get to the bottom of the mystery. Throw in some off-screen child abuse, a flickery ghost or two, a haunted hospital and an unsatisfying ending, and you’ve got yourself a movie!

I feel as though there were some missed opportunities in One Missed Call. The cast is pretty strong for this genre: besides the aforementioned Sossamon and Burns it includes Azura Skye, Jason Beghe, Margaret Cho and the always fun Ray Wise in a cameo as a sleazy reality television producer. The supporting cast did a good job but Sossamon had the same dazed expression on her face for the whole movie and Burns was clearly just phoning it in.

Since this American version is rated only PG-13, there is obviously no gore and very little violence, much of it done off-screen. I jumped once, at the very beginning as the first victim was dragged by her face into a koi pond, but that was it for the startle-scares. In addition, it seemed as though the filmmakers couldn’t decide what sort of horror film they wanted to make: some of the deaths were by “accident” a la Final Destination (falling off a train platform, getting impaled by rebar) while others were clearly supernatural, brought on by the vengeful ghost. The ghost just wasn’t that scary, however; by now, American audiences are so over the flickering, stuttering, creepily hooded Asian-derived spirit. We want a new boogeyman.

As far as the DVD itself, there are zero extras. There are several previews and you can choose between a wide-screen and a standard-screen view. That’s it.

Neither as scary nor interesting as The Ring (or even The Grudge), One Missed Call is a movie I wish I’d missed altogether.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Movie review: Iron Man

I am a late bloomer when it comes to comic books. As in, I started at age 38. I've now got a Buffy subscription, and am systematically working my way through Fables and Y: The Last Man, and recently purchased the Watchmen omnibus. I know nothing about Iron Man - never even heard of the guy until Ain't It Cool News started salivating over the potential movie a while back. That being said, I do like superhero movies and, after doing enough online research to learn that Robert Downey Jr. was playing the lead and Jon Favreau was directing, I thought I should go see the flick, Iron Man source material ignorance notwithstanding. Oh, I am so glad I did. This movie is fan-fuckin'-tastic. Of all the superhero movies I've seen, I would place Iron Man in the top two - the other one being the original Superman.

First of all, Marvel Comics is the producing company and if anyone is going to know how to stay true to the source material, they are. Secondly, they hired actors who can act: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges - people who can actually bring some emotion and believability to the onscreen antics (ahem, Daredevil/Ben Affleck, I'm looking at you). Third, the special effects were great; it's impossible to tell what's a practical effect and what's CGI. Fourth, it's superfun - Batman Begins was a pretty good superhero movie too, but Iron Man is just more fun: whereas Bruce Wayne is a dark and tormented gajillionaire who likes gadgets, Tony Stark is a hard drinking, womanizing, carousing gajillionaire who likes gadgets. Who's going to have the better parties, really? And finally, Robert Downey Jr. is lookin' FINE in this movie. Homeboy is smokin' hot. Mmmm-hmm. Damn.

I saw this at a matinee with six other people, with a big goofy grin on my face for at least half of the movie (especially when Stark is figuring out how to fly in his Iron Man suit - the glee on RDJ's face is infectious) ... if I liked it that much in a nearly empty theater, imagine what a blast it will be to see it with a theater full of fans. Go see this movie! If you're a comics fan, go see it! If you're an action fan, go see it! If you're a Robert Downey Jr. or a Jon Favreau fan, go see it! Hell, just go see it!