"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville

Send all adoration/vitriol to marc@shadowbloom.com

The Beginning -- 2006 Updates -- Part Two

August 3, 2006

Movies Update
As promised, my review of A Scanner Darkly is now online. Enjoy.

Song of the Moment: "What Are You To Me?" by UNKLE.
Considering how much I love UNKLE's first album, it took me far, far too long to pick up their followup, Never, Never, Land. Sadly, DJ Shadow has departed, but Richard File ably fills in and even lends vocals to this track, a beautiful mesh of acoustica, piano, and breakbeats. Those open to some genre mishmash owe UNKLE a listen.

August 11, 2006

Movies Update
Big batch of reviews today: Lady in the Water, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Who Killed the Electric Car?, and Once in a Lifetime.

Et Cetera
Seriously, are you all watching Project Runway yet? Going back to my Reality Show Villains/George Carlin entry from April, Vincent is definitely the villain this season and he's a real asshole. No doubt about that one.

Open Wide for Some Baseball!
A big hug to Chase Utley for his spectacular 35-game hitting streak that came to an end a week ago. I was dying to talk about it here, but was scared to death that I'd jinx it and I just couldn't live with that on my conscience. Chase is easily my favorite player in baseball and has established himself as the best second baseman in the game. His legend started building early: his first hit in his first game? Grand slam. I was at that game and everyone knew this was the start of something special. It'll be a joy watching him man second for years to come. I actually got to meet Chase in May 2005 at a Phillies charity event (and to quote Elsa, I was "as giddy as a schoolboy.") Check it out.

Songs of the Moment: "Topless" and "The Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin.
New album out this past Tuesday and these are my current favorites. I first heard "Topless" years ago when my friend Peter found a live copy, so I'm ecstatic to finally have a sexy studio version of it. It's generic alt-rock all the way, but when I have ever shied away from that?

August 18, 2006

Calendar Update
Lots of updates to The Calendar, including overdue entries for TV premieres, movie openings, and DVD/video game releases. Busy Fall coming up...this should help you get your priorities straight.

August 25, 2006

Movies Update
Snakes!...On a plane!

A little late with this, but The Descent started its US theatrical run a few weeks ago. I saw it back in April during the Film Festival, so you can check out my review here.

By the way, if you think I'm not going to get drunk off my ass and go see Beerfest tonight, well, you obviously don't know me well enough. Review will be coming next week.

Song of the Moment: "Lyrics of Fury" by Tricky.
Gotta love old school Tricky. "Fury" is notable as one of the only rap songs I can recite every single word to. God, that song is amazing. Also can't keep away from "Vent," "Sex Drive," and "Christiansands" elsewhere on Pre-Millennium Tension.

September 10, 2006

Running a little behind on updates. September/October is by far and away my most hectic time of year: crazy busy at work until Election Day, lots of new TV shows and movies coming out, heading out of town a few weekends, not to mention my usual laziness and procrastination, so things may be a little sporadic for a few weeks. Reviews for Beerfest and the unstoppable Tony Jaa's new film, The Protector, are still on the way, though. At the very least, we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming in November (you know I'll have plenty to say about the launch of the Wii, naturally).

Song of the Moment: "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Such a great song. Fantastic chorus, barnstorming outro solo, four stars all around.

September 14, 2006

Journal Update
Right, like Nintendo can go and announce a release date, price, and other launch info for the Wii and I'm not going to comment. You know me better than that. Check it out.

Songs of the Moment: "Butterfly Caught" and "Special Cases" by Massive Attack.
Finally, finally getting to see Massive Attack live at the end of the month, so I've been taking an extended jaunt though their back catalog. These two are from their 2003 album 100th Window. Can't get over the hypnotic, pulsing beats of Butterfly.

September 21, 2006

"I hate...so much about the things that you choose to be."
Hey, you know, the season premiere of The Office is tonight at 8:30pm on NBC...just saying...

<Hallmark Afterschool Special music>
"If just one person falls in love with The Office after reading this site, then it will all be worth it."

Since my obsession over this show long ago reached excessive, all-encompassing levels, here are my fearless predictions for how this season will open:

1. I really like this one. I think the opening shot of the season will be Pam and Roy's wedding picture. Less than five seconds into the season, they'll answer one of the most pressing questions of the summer. The picture could be sitting on Pam's desk and then the camera will pan over and we'll see someone else sitting at Jim's desk (I'm thinking new castmember Ed Helms). We could then cut to, or, alternately, open with...

2. ...a shot of Jim sitting at his desk before the camera pulls back and reveals that he's not in the old office anymore, he's transferred elsewhere.

God, this show is so fucking good.

To celebrate, check out some great clips courtesy of YouTube:

A lovingly edited compilation of the Jinx storyline from the "Drug Testing" episode. A John Krasinski tour de force.
[March 2, 2007 Update: The clip I'd originally linked to is no longer available, so I made my own and uploaded it. This link now goes to my video. I rule!]

The Confession and the Kiss. I still get chills even watching it for the umpteenth time.

The Creed Mixtape. An inspired collection of Creed Bratton's finest moments.

Dinkin' flicka.

Song of the Moment: "Eurochild" by Massive Attack.
So, yeah, I'm now listening to Protection. If only Tricky could go out on tour with them...

November 7, 2006

It's Election Day. Have you voted yet? Seriously, go vote. And vote Democratic. We've got a chance to flush a lot of Evil out of government, so don't pass it up. Vote.

November 8, 2006

The Department of No Surprise Whatsoever
Britney and K-Fed are no more. A real shocker, right? You know where this is going, don't you? Britney hard-lines K-Fed in the divorce proceedings, using her phalanx of lawyers and iron-clad pre-nup to leave him with barely anything. Federline, pissed off at having the divorce sprung on him and infuriated at how little money he'll see, blackmails Britney by threatening to release a sex tape to the highest bidder. Britney acquiesces, drying up her bank account even more. Her music career never recovers and, from there, it's just a couple steps to the inevitable Playboy spread. The unfortunate part is that, even if the pictorial is released tomorrow, it'll still be at least five years too late. Remember, you heard it here first.

While I'm on the subject, here's my official list of the Celebrity Sex Tapes That Would Break The Internet (in order of infrastructure-crippling potential):

1. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt -- Show me someone who says they wouldn't be dying to watch this and I'll show you a liar. Firestorms would rage across the world as web servers unable to handle the bandwidth overload burst into flames. And you think I'm exaggerating...

2. Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett -- Like the Jolie-Pitt tape, it has cross-gender appeal. Always important. If I could make one of these five tapes magically appear (and what a glorious superpower that would be--don't worry, I'd use it for good rather than evil), I'd pick this one.

3. Lindsay Lohan and Jared Leto -- You can substitute Random Boyfriend # 47 for Leto if you like. This probably should be higher on the list, but since Lohan's basically done everything but start walking around naked with coke smeared on her face 24/7 (not that there's anything wrong with that), her stock has fallen. However, if it's a Mean Girls-era Lohan/Wilmer Valderrama tape that gets out, look out because there'll be a wee bit of traffic on the information superhighway.

4. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey -- Hopefully her performance here would be more believable than in Employee of the Month.

5. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline -- This seems about right. Kevin's gotta see the dollar signs here...how could this tape not utterly demolish Paris Hilton's sales? Britney had better watch out...

I just spent far too much time thinking about this list...perhaps we should move on.

The Guitar Hero Ascension
So I started playing Guitar Hero 2 at 5:30 last night. By the end of the night, I'd blasted through all 40 of the main songs in Expert mode. And, as a testament to how many hours of my life I drained into the first game, I only failed a song once the entire time (I got blindsided by the opening lick of Living End's "Carry Me Home" and bombed out at 8 percent--not helping matters was my wrist starting to remove itself from my body). The experience of soaring through the face-melting Free Bird solo and actually surviving (thanks to judicious star power use) reminded me why I play video games. Cathartic, transcendent, fun beyond belief...yeah, you could say I'm addicted to Guitar Hero. You have to play this game.

Restoring (some) Balance to the Force
Refreshing and delightful to actually be happy on Election Night and the following day. I'd gotten so used to paralyzing despair and angry frustration over the past few major cycles that I kept waiting for the tide to turn last night. But the Democratic wave only grew, washing away the scourge of Santorum and his ilk while preparing to drown Bush in oversight, inquiries, and populist will. Should be a fascinating few years. My only fear is that we end up with two years of unyielding gridlock with a lame duck Bush, nothing gets done, and when McCain wins the White House in '08, the House goes back to the Republicans as voters complain that the Democrats had their chance and didn't get anything accomplished. Great, now I'm depressed again.

Song of the Moment: "Day of the Baphomets" by The Mars Volta.
Amazing song on an amazing album. The best part of this 12-minute epic is that it's really four or five great songs all in one. Crazy, adventuresome musicianship and songwriting by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (fueled by raging guitar by John Frusciante) lead the way. Take a chance on this and current single "Viscera Eyes."

November 16, 2006

Movies Update
Better late than never, my reviews of Beerfest, The Protector, and Jackass Number Two are now up finally.

"Cordially, Future Dwight"
It's Thursday, so let's talk some Office. If I've learned one thing this season, it's that the show absolutely, positively NEEDS to be longer. By tossing Jim to Stamford for the first seven episodes, new settings and characters were introduced and a few of the episodes have seemed to run in hyperspeed to cover all the storylines. This will be alleviated somewhat when the merger happens tonight, but with all the characters now under one roof, we still won't be able to cover everyone in a scant 22 minutes. Unfortunately, there's no simple solution. I'm going to guess NBC won't jump on the idea of 30-minute episodes with no commercials, nor will they be enthusiastic about 40-minute "super-sized" episodes every week. I think, instead, the producers should start planning around the DVDs. If you checked out the Producer's Cut of the "Branch Closing" episode that's been online for the past week, you'll know that this extra time won't be wasted. Storylines have a little more breathing room, the supporting characters get their own subplots, it's a win-win-win situation. Imagine if the producers could create an extended cut of every episode this season to put on DVD. I don't mean they should just dump in all the deleted scenes that have been posted online--some of these wouldn't fit within the structure and overarching storyline of the show (they were deleted for a reason, not just because of time)--but you just know there are extra subplots with Creed, Toby, Angela, et al, that are getting trimmed and we need to get them back. It would also be an instant major selling point for the DVDs. I'd start getting the shakes over the prospect of getting an extra six or seven minutes in every episode this season.

In the meantime, on the heels of this season's best episode yet, it should be a banner run to the end of the year. Tonight gives us the long-awaited merger episode (super-sized, no less), in two weeks we get an episode penned by British Office creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and two weeks after that is an hour-long Xmas special directed by Harold Ramis. Oh, the glory...

Did you see the recent South Park two-parter where Cartman was completely losing his mind out of impatience for the Wii to come out? Yeah, I officially entered that stage earlier in the week. Now I just have a crippling fear that I somehow won't be able to get one on Sunday. And people will die. Just thought you should know.

Song of the Moment: "Fuck the Pain Away" by Peaches.
Thanks to Jackass Number Two for this one (it basically got a whole music video during the "Old Man Balls" scene). I missed out on the Peaches fun when she hit the scene back in 2000, but damn this is a catchy song. Gotta love the no-money low-tech beats and sex, sex, SEX subject matter. Plenty of songs can get stuck in your head, but only this one will have you singing all day long, "Suckin' on my titties like you wanted me / Calling me all the time like Blondie / Check out my chrissy behind / It's fine all of the time / Like sex on the beaches / What else is in the teaches of Peaches? Huh...what..."

November 17, 2006

Movies Update
Just got back from the awesome Casino Royale and had to get a review up. Take a look.

November 28, 2006

Journal Update
The first part of my coverage of the Nintendo Wii Launch is now up. Much more to come.

Calendar Update
Cleaned up the Calendar and added a batch of entries to take us into 2007.

Songs of the Moment: "The Government Totally Sucks" and "The Metal" by Tenacious D.
Rocket sauce, cream dream goodness from the soundtrack to The Pick of Destiny. Any new D is always cherished and it's impossible to resist a song called "The Government Totally Sucks." Fun note: the song actually isn't in the movie; it's featured in a deleted scene with David Koechner and will be back on the DVD. "The Metal" runs during the closing credits--gotta love the tasty metal groove. Obey the D.

December 4, 2006

We'll try again in another couple years...
Saturday Night Live has been unwatchable for years now. This is not news. Once in a while, though, a guest star or musical appearance will intrigue me enough to try another episode. This past Saturday featured Matthew Fox with Tenacious D, so I figured what the hell. Have things gotten any better? Oh boy have they not. Not at all. SNL's ongoing problem has been one-joke sketches that get beaten to death and long overstay their welcome, a problem they've seemingly done nothing to solve. Perhaps Lorne Michaels' ego won't allow for any significant changes to the so-called "tried and true," but it's time to blow things up over there. Now, I'm certainly no SNL aficionado and haven't exactly given this a ton of thought, but a few things come to mind immediately. First, cut back to 60 minutes. You don't even need to cut down the number of sketches--JUST SHORTEN THEM. Maybe this would add some production headaches to set and costume changes, but production value does not equal comedy, so if some designs need to be toned down, so be it. Right now, these excruciatingly drawn-out sketches are KILLING the show. One or two iterations of a punchline will do just fine, thank you, not 10-15.

Next, this is more of a personal pet peeve, but is there really nothing we can do about the cue cards? Now, maybe the scripts really are changing rapidly and at the last minute, but I'd like to think it's not too much to ask actors to actually memorize some of their lines. Especially when the alternative is fun sketches where two characters are talking, but instead of looking at each other, they're looking a few degrees to the left or right. This really bothers me and it's certainly not doing any favors to the already-poor writing. Blasphemy it may be, but how about a few more pre-recorded segments every week? Tighter dialogue and performances, sharper direction and editing, less hurried production value, there's a lot to gain from this. Under better circumstances, SNL wouldn't need to resort to this sort of "cheating," but cruising along with the status quo is just fueling perpetual mediocrity. Desperate measures need to be taken.

As for this episode in particular, not much to recommend. Fox's opening monologue was fun before it was hijacked by the first of a few obligatory, unfunny Michael Richards jokes. The "mountain man" sketch was fairly cute in its own meta way, but it reeked of lazy writer Mad Libs (don't have enough material for your attractive male guest star? No problem! Just plug him in as the "mountain man" and go! Instant gold!) The D gave a spirited performance, but the song choice was a little curious. As much as I love "Kickapoo" (the opener from the movie/soundtrack), the Meat Loaf and Dio cameos were missed and, try as JB might to make "freak" work for "fuck," it ain't the same. They fared better with "The Metal" by turning it into an odd performance piece, but the sound mix muffled the ripping guitar riff and KG was sadly relegated to the background.

Sorry, Saturday Night Live, but it's back to must-miss irrelevance for me. I'll see you next year when the Pumpkins make their return...

Song of the Moment: "Papagenu (He's My Sassafras)" by Tenacious D.
Yep, I'm still on the Pick of Destiny soundtrack...

December 5, 2006

The Continuing Slow Death of the English Language
Another addition to the ever-increasing list of things that piss me off. I've already bitched about the irreparable damage Alanis Morissette has done to the word "ironic" (scroll down to my January 10, 2005 post). Now, we've got to face the release of the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. That's not a typo, that's really the name. Perhaps if we were a more educated country and could actually manage to properly fund schools, this wouldn't inflict that much damage, but how many kids in poorly-funded, badly-run schools is this going to mess up? I'm thinking lots. Here's their excuse (according to the movie's Wikipedia page): "When Smith's character sees a teacher at his son's daycare center writing the words 'The Pursuit of Happyness' on the outside of the building, he tells the teacher that the children misspelled happiness on the Declaration of Independence. The teacher notes it is not important whether or not happiness is spelled correctly, but if the children have it. These words motivate Christopher Gardner to lead a happier life for his son." Maybe it's just little ol' optimist me, but is there a reason why we can't have BOTH? Did I miss the school board meeting where we learned that proper spelling and happiness are mutually exclusive? Would the kids have descended into an irreversible spiral of drugs, violence, and apathy if their teacher had actually <gasp> corrected one of their mistakes? But now, because the filmmakers wanted to be clever, we get to watch the mistake perpetuate across the entire country. Awesome. [Bangs head on wall repeatedly]

That Underwater Level Can Go Fuck Itself
This is great. Any gamers who have fond (and not so fond) memories of the NES era need to check out the Angry Nintendo Nerd. Filmmaker James Rolfe takes you on an expletive-laden tour of some of the shittiest, most insanely, controller-breakingly frustrating games ever to eat up hours of your precious youth. If you can't think about the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game without breaking out in hives or getting a nervous twitch recalling the merciless dam level or the completely bullshit jumps, you must watch this video. Rolfe relives the pain so you don't have to (alcohol helps). I'm still making my way through all of them, but Top Gun and Double Dragon 3 are good ones also.

Song of the Moment: "My Out of Style is Coming Back" by Matthew Good Band.
Classic MGB from their second album. Always gets me in a good mood. "I sold the skin that I am in for a plan."

December 8, 2006

Movies Update
My review of Little Children is now up.

Song of the Moment: "Through Glass" by Stone Sour.
Same old, same old alt-rock, but it's been on repeat in my head all morning. "And it's the stars / The stars / That shine for you."

NEXT: The Beginning -- 2007 Updates

PREVIOUS: The Beginning -- 2006 Updates -- Part One

The Beginning Archive

2006 Part Two
2006 Part One
2004 Part Two
2004 Part One