100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Steve Jablonsky writes this blog about TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON score CD!!!

When it comes to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon's orchestral score, you can't get much more authoritative a source than the man who composed it! A short while ago Steve Jablonsky sent me an e-mail about the current state of the score album's CD. In it he not only explains what's going on with it, he also provides a fascinating insight into the makings of a major summer blockbuster!

So without further ado, here is Mr. Jablonsky...

Hi Chris

Nice to hear from you. As you probably know the score is now up on iTunes. The physical CD situation has been more complicated. I finished the album weeks ago, but we didn't actually finalize it until a few days ago. Michael Bay is really happy with the score and he wanted to check out the album before it went out. As you might imagine, he's a busy dude. He's been flying all over the world promoting TF3, making it difficult to get approval. But I was happy that he wanted to be a part of the soundtrack and I did not want to release anything before he had his say. The record company tells me they need 4-6 weeks to get the album produced and into stores, which would put us into August at this point. A lot of discussion went into this, but the decision was made to wait on the physical CD, and release some kind of special edition alongside the blu-ray release (maybe autographed copies or other goodies, we don't know yet).

I know people are probably disappointed. Believe me I wish I could get physical CD's out there tomorrow. But it's just the way things went this time around. I can see why Paramount would rather not release a score CD almost 2 months after the movie release. To them it makes more sense to do something special around the blu-ray/DVD. I understand that.

So anyone interested in a CD should rest assured that it WILL happen. It just won't happen until later in the year unfortunately.

These big movies are so complex sometimes!! I hope you've been well!


In the past 24 hours a wazoo-load of folks have written in, wondering if there was going to be a CD at all, based on a number of indicators. But there it is from the man himself: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon: The Score WILL be coming out on nice and shiny physical media... and in comparatively the same amount of time that we had to wait for Transformers: The Score. Which in retrospect wasn't too awfully long a wait. It's just that too many of us wanted Steve Jablonsky's beautiful work to get the respect that it deserved... as it indeed it is getting this time, without a doubt :-)

In the meantime however, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon: The Score is already available on iTunes! I purchased it last night and have been listening to it like crazy all day!! This whole album is amazing and there are some positively powerful tracks on here. "Sentinel Prime" is particularly haunting (but that's all I'm gonna say, for sake of those who haven't seen the movie yet but who no doubt wil be doing so soon ;-)

So there y'all have it: the score CD is gonna be rolling out soon! Thank you Steve, for passing along the word :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Well, that didn't take very long, did it? :-P

Seibertron.com is reporting tonight that Transformers: Dark Of The Moon: The Score is now available on iTunes!

All of you know what I will be doing for the next few hours :-) And now you know where to find it too. So go buy Steve Jablonsky's epic score now!!! Or, perish in flame.

It's your choice. But, not really.


This popped up tonight on Amazon.com's page for the product listing...

It's still listed as "Currently unavailable". But we've got the album cover art.

That has to be mean something good, right?

(Incidentally, at this moment I've got iTunes playing "Decepticons" from Transformers: The Score. With this one track composer Steve Jablonsky did something that had never adequately been done before in the whole history of the Transformers franchise: conveyed the utterly alien nature of the Transformers. I love this music!!)


Dear Michael Bay: You may now consider yourself fully forgiven for Pearl Harbor.

I could also say that you are now also forgiven for the previous Transformers movie, but since you've made up for Pearl Harbor, saying as much would just be redundant.

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon... is at last THE Transformers live-action movie that I have dreamed of someday seeing on the big screen! Now I love like mad 2007's Transformers and I'm kinda starting to at last warm up to Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. But this third movie... I kid you not folks... is not only better than the previous sequel, it is by a wide degree better than the original film of the franchise!!


Michael Bay has been paying attention to his own handiwork. He has seen what is good and what is bad. And good googely moogely, the man has done something about it! If like me you cringed at the sight of Bumblebee "peeing", at jokes about masturbation, at jokes about marijuana, at Devastator's wrecking-ball testicles, at dogs humping each other, at those stoopid Autobidiot twins AKA "Car Car Binks"... your desperate prayers have been answered. We have, at last, a Transformers movie for real grown-ups as well as the kids!

The movie begins in 1961, with a flashback to some revisionist history starring among other people President Kennedy (is it just me or is Kennedy getting a lot of screentime this summer? Between this movie and X-Men: First Class, there's more JFK on film this season than there was in all of Oliver Stone's JFK). Earthbound instruments detect an alien vessel has crashed onto the Moon. We find that it was a Cybertronian ship piloted by Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) - the predecessor and mentor of Optimus Prime - and it contained technology that Sentinel believed could end the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. However, the United States and the Soviet Union have both spotted the downed ship... so it turns out that the entire race to the Moon of the Sixties was in order to be the first to reach the wreck. In one beautiful sequence we get to see the Apollo 11 mission landing near the site, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going into the bowels of the ship before returning to their heroes' welcome on Earth.

Jump to the present day: Optimus (Peter Cullen) and his Autobots have been busy in the past few years since the battle with the Fallen in Egypt. When not hunting Decepticons, they're doing things like sneaking out of N.E.S.T. headquarters to raid rogue nuclear weapons sites in the Mid-East and elsewhere. But during a mission to the no-man's land of Chernobyl, Optimus and crew encounter Shockwave (voiced by Frank Welker, who also voices Soundwave) and his "pet" Driller (maybe the wickedest CGI-created monster yet depicted in film). The Autobots recover pieces of a Transformer vehicle and realize that the humans have been hiding a previous history with their race. Optimus's silent fuming about it results in the United States government coming clean about the true purpose of the Apollo program... and leads to a historic meeting between the Autobot leader and the real Buzz Aldrin, in what has to be one of the most geek-gasmic moments in pop culture history! Trust me: I was going completely bonkers at seeing the legendary astronaut being praised by Optimus Prime. THAT alone was worth seeing this movie in 3D (but more on that in a bit...).

Meanwhile we see what's become of Sam (Shia LaBeouf), now out of college and trying to hack it on his own in the real world. Mikaela has dumped him but no fret, 'cuz Sam has a far better girlfriend in Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, in a first dramatic role that already has many wondering "Megan who...?"). And Sam... well, he's trying to prove himself. The poor kid got a medal from President Obama for saving the world twice, but nobody but Carly and his parents really know about that and it's hard to find gainful employment when so much of his past few years is classified information. And yeah Sam's parents do show up but thankfully their presence is kept to a bare minimum (did I say that Bay learned from his mistakes, or what?). Sam does wind up with a menial job at a defense contractor... but on his first day he's accosted in the men's restroom (in a toilet stall actually) by a seemingly crazed co-worker who recognizes Sam from underground Internet footage. The guy gives Sam a package of information and soon thereafter is killed in his own office by the Decepticon spy Laserbeak.

And so it is that Sam is propelled once again into the eons-long civil war between the embattled brethren of the Transformer race.

I am not saying anything else about the plot. Because - brace yourself dear readers - THERE IS A PLOT IN TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON! And it's not only a brilliant one but it's easy to follow along! There are surprises out the wazoo in this movie. There is a nasty twist that you will not see coming. And it all winds down to more than an hour (out of a two hour and forty minutes running time... wow!) of the most retina-frying planet-pummeling toad-strangling ACTION that you have EVER seen in a movie. This is the highest grade of Bay-hem that you have ever been served with! If Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was street heroin it would be dang near lethal, it's so pure cut. And if you happen to live in Chicago, brace yourself: you are probably gonna cry some hard tears when you see what happens to your hometown. Yes, there is the human element in this movie, but director Michael Bay and screenplay scribe Ehren Kruger have made this Transformers movie about the TRANSFORMERS, gall-darnnit!!! You #@%&-ing want shape-shifting mechanical aliens kicking the slats out of each other? You're gonna #@%&-ing GET shape-shifting mechanical aliens kicking the slats out of each other, fool!!!

Especially if you choose to see this movie in 3D. And I'm gonna absolutely recommend that you do during this movie's theatrical run, because Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is bar none the most jaw-dropping use of 3D that I have ever seen. 3D has become so over-used and so horridly mis-used that by and large I avoid it. But I won't avoid it with this movie when I see it again (and I intend to). And the battle in Chicago in 3D is... horrifying. You've never seen utter and total devastation and widespread death like you have in this movie. Bay had held back on both the Autobots and Decepticons in previous movies but in this one, prepare to see a lot of familiar faces buy it. So many get killed that this movie coulda been called "Transformers: Nobody Gets Out Alive" and it wouldn't be entirely inappropriate.

Bay continues his trend of taking high-caliber actors and casting them as the most screwball characters. John Turturro is back as Simmons, wacked as ever, but somehow he's much more likable this time. Look for Alan Tudyk (who has previously been seen in the just-now finally becoming widely released Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) as Simmons' assistant Dutch. Frances McDormand (yah, Deputy Marge from Fargo) is a despicable government intelligence official. But by far the most wonky bit of such casting is John Malkovich as Bruce: Sam's boss. HOW does Bay come up with casting like this? It's almost like he's following the formula that worked in Airplane!... and it works well in a Transformers movie too!

But y'all are prolly more interested in the Transformers characters, right? Like I said earlier, "Step-and-Fetchitbots" are gone. Instead we get Wheelie (from the previous movie) and Brains (voiced by Reno Wilson) and they are much more fun to watch. We also get classic Autobots Wheeljack and Mirage, along with several others, including one who transforms into Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s #88 car (NASCAR fans should be flocking to this movie in droves this weekend). Soundwave is now on Earth and transforming into a sleek new BMW, but Laserbeak is again his minion just like in the classic continuity. And Hugo Weaving is back as Megatron: the leader of the Decepticons now having to hide half his face with a tarp because he's still damaged from the Egypt battle in the previous movie (a nice touch). But my favorite Decepticon in this movie has to be Shockwave: I'm a huge Shockwave fan, even though he's a total bastard of a Decepticon. And they completely got him right for this film. Color me astounded!

'Course, I couldn't do a review of a Transformers movie without saying something about the score, once again composed by Steve Jablonsky. Folks, maybe I'm a little biased, but Jablonsky's orchestral work in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the best of the series by far. It is majestic, sweeping, and perfect for an epic that spans the world and spans worlds. I can not wait to have this score album once it become available!

Okay, I have just realized that I have now probably written more about this Transformers movie than I did for the previous two. So I'm gonna try to contain my excitement and keep it from getting the best of me, and simply say: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon not only wildly exceeded my expectations, it fulfilled everything that I had hoped and dreamed of seeing in a Transformers movie for most of my life. The faults and problems of the previous two movies? I can let them slide now, because this third film - this second SEQUEL, mind ya - was like what everything we had seen before, had been building up to. And I can now die happy knowing that if I haven't at last seen the perfect Transformers live-action movie, I've seen darn close to it!

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon gets my maddest most highest recommendation for a movie. Go see it! And even though this is Michael Bay's last time directing a Transformers movie, let's hope that this won't be the end of the series.

Where could it go from here? All I gotta say is: bring on Unicron! Maybe voiced by Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pope Benedict tweets (with an iPad 2!)

This photo is so fascinating, and I can't quite articulate why. Pope Bendict XVI, using an iPad 2 and quite obviously on Twitter, to "tweet" a brief message to inaugurate the Vatican's official news site.

And what was the Holy Father's first message in 140 characters or less?

"Dear Friends, I just launched News.va Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI"

The Catholic Church was the primary repository of knowledge and learning in Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire on through to the Renaissance. To have gone from a collection of scrolls and parchments, to seeing this photo of its leader communicating to the world with a piece of high-tech silicon and glass...

As I said: "fascinating"!

(But I'm also wondering if His Holiness might use his snazzy new gizmo for the occasional game of Angry Birds. Not that there's anything wrong with that... ;-)

Click here for SQPN's report on Pope Benedict's first tweet. And thanks to Fr. Roderick Vonhögen for the heads-up!

"Jimmy V finally found somebody to hug."

It instantly became one of the most classic moments in sports history.

Coach Jim Valvano's North Carolina State - a scrappy team that had fought tooth and claw in defiance of all the odds - against University of Houston for the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship. Houston: the team of "Phi Slamma Jamma". Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. No wonder one sports writer said that "Trees will tap dance, elephants will race in the Indianapolis 500 and Orson Welles will skip dinner" before Jimmy V's Wolfpack would beat the Cougars.

But we all know what happened. With seconds left in the game and the scored tied at 52, State's Dereck Whittenburg made a desperate launch of the ball. Lorenzo Charles was right at the basket, caught the ball and dunked it hard!

North Carolina State had done it! And in those wild seconds after the buzzer, Coach Valvano - overwhelmed with elation and disbelief - ran onto the floor looking for somebody, for anybody, to give a hug to.

It's moments like these that are the stuff of legends.

Jimmy V passed away ten years later in 1993, nearly a year after being diagnosed with bone cancer.

And yesterday afternoon, as '83 team member Thurl Bailey put it, the coach "finally found somebody to hug."

Lorenzo Charles died yesterday in a bus accident on I-40 in Raleigh. He was 47.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family and loved ones.

In his memory, here are the final seconds of the 1983 championship, featuring Charles making what many have said is the single greatest play in college basketball history.

Monday, June 27, 2011

An encouragement for those who might need it...

God never writes a "perfect" ending to our story... but He is capable and ready to write each of us a happy ending!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Germination of the Bhut jolokia has begun!

Awright, I've been putting this off for too long now. I knew that this day would come. Not gonna run and hide anymore. Here, live or die, I will make my stand.

This afternoon I began the process of growing my can of Bhut jolokia.

And as I said when I first wrote about coming into possession of this stuff back in February, "This is either one of the bravest things that I will have ever attempted... or it is the stoopidest of my entire life..."

The Bhut jolokia: regarded by the scientific community as THE world's hottest naturally-occurring pepper. Native to north-eastern India, in the local tongue "Bhut jolokia" translates into "ghost pepper". Because as the natives like to joke, one bite of this could send you to an early grave.

Spicy heat is measured in Scoville units. Regular Tabasco sauce has a "hotness" of 2,500 Scoville Heat Units.

The Bhut jolokia? More than ONE MILLION.

So ever since this can arrived (you can order some for yourself from the good folks at ThinkGeek) it's been sitting on my desk, and I've been... looking at it. Studying it. Contemplating its potency.

And finally today, like Jeff Goldblum's character does in that scene in The Fly, I finally came to the place where I had to say "What are we waiting for, let's do it." So I followed the package's directions, put enough water into it that it began draining through the opened bottom, and set it in sunlight.

In another month or so, the crimson red agony-ridden peppers will have arrived.

And then, the fun really begins.

My good friend and fellow blogger Steven Glaspie is still set to chronicle my eating this pepper on video (he also did an excellent job being co-cameraman on Vaporware Nevermore! the other week :-). That he is a volunteer firefighter trained in first aid, was of course another factor in considering him for the task. I have another friend who is scheduled to be here, who has brewed his own brand of beer just for the occasion. As beer is said to be a very fast and effective counter-agent for spicy-hot burning, we're going to have his brew on hand as a last resort.

So... have I finally gone too far? Have I crossed a terrible, terrible line? Is your friend and humble narrator gone mad? Will this be the end of Chris Knight?!?

Tune in later this summer to find out!! :-P


It's not a good sign for Broadway's most beleaguered show when none other than Grover is mocking it...

That's a promo for Sesame Street and it's forty-second season, beginning in September! Would LOVE to see this as a full-length sketch :-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Someday, this could be a President of the United States...

Aimi Eguchi is a 16-year old music star in Japan, with a loyal following of several thousands of fans. She lives north of Tokyo, has an official website, and enjoys track and field sports.

And she doesn't exist outside of a hard drive.

Good friend and fellow blogger Lee Shelton was the first to draw my attention to the intriguing but also unsettling story of Aimi Eguchi: a computer-generated composite of six different girls, who until now had fooled many people into believing she was a real flesh and blood person...

Click here for more about Aimi Eguchi's "biography".

I'm telling you people here and now: one of these days, this is going to be an American politician who "runs" for office. Whether or not it wins is a commentary that I shall leave as an exercise for the reader...

Weird Tolkien-ish map of "Flat Earth" comes to light... and it's pretty neat!

About the same time that Operation: Desert Storm was going on but before the ground war started in Iraq back in 1991, I read The Hobbit for the first time. Immediately after that I plunged into The Lord of the Rings. And it wasn't long after that when I thought that since I was on such a hot streak that I'd read The Silmarillion as well.

And my brain immediately got befuddled by the vastness of J.R.R. Tolkien's cosmology that had only been hinted at in The Lord of the Rings.

The thing which I most couldn't wrap my mind around was Middle-earth before the fall of Númenor: Tolkien had the world that would eventually be our own as a "flat Earth", and it stayed that way until the last king of Númenor sailed into the west to try to wrest away an immortality that could never be his. It was an act of defiance that led God Himself to break the world, sink Númenor and forever afterward made the Earth round.

I know, it's all fantasy... but Tolkien infused plenty enough realism that even such wild geography should make sense somehow... right?

That's been the most frustrating quirk of Tolkien's legendarium for me, for the past twenty years. Until last night when I came across this story about a fella named Orlando Ferguson and his clever "Square and Stationary Earth" scheme...

That's a map that "Professor" Ferguson compiled in 1893, combining his understanding of the world's geology as depicted in the Bible along with the scientific knowledge of the day. The result? A flattened Earth that... is kinda a viable model. Gotta love how it keeps all the water from Earth's oceans contained in a Roulette wheel-style bowl, with the North Pole at its center. Ferguson was a real-estate developer in South Dakota and he had ninety-two pages of lecture material prepared to defend his flat-Earth thesis.

Well, even if it's scientifically way off-kilter, at least Tolkien's mythical First Age geology finally makes sense to me :-P

Peter Falk has passed away

A few weeks ago we lost James Arness, who played Marshal Dillon on Gunsmoke. I'd come to regret that I didn't post anything about it at the time and promised myself that I'd try to do better when it came to marking the passing of an iconic person who excelled at their craft.

Unfortunately, this afternoon I am having to do such sooner than I would have liked...

The very sad news coming off the wire this afternoon is that Peter Falk, who played Lieutenant Columbo from 1968 to 2003 (yowza!!) on the television series Columbo, has died at the age of 83. In addition to Columbo, Falk is also well known for playing the grandfather in the movie The Princess Bride.

Think that in remembrance of Peter Falk, that I'm going to spend the rest of the day carrying around a cigar while badgering and harassing people incessantly with questions. Peppering it with lots of "just one more thing..." 'course.

Seriously though: he was a terrific actor, and he will be greatly missed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Muppet cross-breeding

It is the eternal question: "What if Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy DID marry and have kids?"

Now we know...

All I can really say to this is: Heaven help us if the folks at Rovio Mobile ever see Avenue Q! :-P

Mash down here for more "Muppemathics" courtesy of one "idiotjim" at Picture Is Unrelated. Click here if you haven't been addicted to Angry Birds yet. And if you don't know who the Muppets are well, shame on you!

Thanks to fellow blogger Scott Bradford for a great find! :-)

Look! Info about Steve Jablonsky's score for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON!

Hey gang, we are just a few days away from Transformers: Dark of the Moon and, starting to get stoked about this movie in the biggest way! Maybe it's something to do with having bought the Blu-rays of both the previous films last week and watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for only the second time ever. And oddly enough, two years later I'm much more entertained by that movie. It still has its problems (namely "Car Car Binks" aka the Autobot twins, and I genuinely feel sorry for whoever it was at Industrial Light and Magic who was handed the task of digitally animating Devastator's ummm... "wrecking ball testicles") but y'know, I wound up digging it way more than before as a Transformers live-action flick. In fact, as I write this my desktop PC is busy ripping the Blu-ray so I can put both these movies on my iPad!

Awright, so we've got the third movie coming out next week. And a lot of you have been writing me about the score that Steve Jablonsky has composed for his third outing with the Transformers saga. Maybe the inquiries are coming here because of, ummmmmmm... how totally crazy I went for Transformers: The Score four years ago. Longtime readers remember how this lil' blog sorta wound up being where many people coalesced their desire to see that score released. We eventually got it and four years later, I've heard from bunches of people how it gets consistently played on their iPods or whatever (including my own :-). And thankfully we didn't have to go through that in order to get Jablonsky's score for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (a score which was no less epic than the one for the first film).

But what about the score for Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

Apparently the CD (and presumably iTunes availability) was supposed to have been June 7th. Those industrious Trans-fans at Seibertron.com are now reporting that it has been pushed back to June 28th: this coming Tuesday, just before the movie smashes its way into theaters. However it's not showing up on Amazon.com yet. And as of this writing the official Transformers: Dark of the Moon music site is merely stating that the score album is "Coming Soon".


I'm inclined to believe that it's gonna be coming out and sooner than later (likely much sooner) 'cuz Film Music Reporter has snagged the complete track listing! It's there if you wanna read all the track titles, but be warned: there might be (read as: "definitely are") some spoiler-ish details about the movie that can be gleaned from them.

Oh yeah, that's not the official album cover art either. Just a placeholder that I'm seeing on a few sites. No doubt the real score album cover is gonna look much better :-)

Anyhoo, there y'all have it. Don't fret: Steve Jablonsky's Transformers: Dark of the Moon score is heading our way. We aren't going to have to fight for it this time either! And there's a good chance that a week from now we'll all get to have it in our grubby lil' paws.

Good times! :-)

"The thing works!" On the church and history

The other week was Pentecost: the day that Christians remember as the start of the church as Christ's kingdom of emissaries in this temporal realm and age. It is the Sunday that many churches take to honor the coming of the Holy Spirit onto the followers of Jesus, as recorded in Acts, chapter 2.

I spent this year's Pentecost visiting with a friend, at a United Methodist congregation. It was also the final Sunday that the minister of this particular assembly would have with the people that he had served for many years. Per a tradition that hearkens back to the days of the circuit riders, United Methodist ministers will be at one church for a few years before being assigned to another, at which time the congregation will receive a new minister who will serve them until the next time that the conference gets to the task of re-assignment.

So it was that this wound up being the first and possibly last time that I listened to this good man of God. But as I told him when we left the worship service, he gave me a bunch to think about. One of which I was bursting to tell my friend when we got to the car...

"It really is one of the most amazing things about Christianity," I was feeling led to observe, "that the church has persisted for two thousand years... in spite of the most RIDICULOUS things that Christ's followers have done to themselves!"

Think about it. All the nonsense and stupidity and even grief that too many of us who bear the name "Christian" have done to ourselves, to the name of Christ, and unfortunately to those who we should be witnesses to as examples of Christ in this fallen world. We have condemned each other for trivial matters. We have tortured many and led a great number to their deaths, even... all in the name of Christ. We have split ways from each other over how one measly word might or might not be translated. We have even held others in slavery and bondage and claimed a biblical mandate for it.

Let's face it: Christianity has a reputation, and not at all entirely a good one. And that's not Christ's fault at all. It's like a bumper sticker that I once saw: "Lord, please protect me from your fan club."

And yet, despite it all: the church has endured, for darn nearly two millennia.

It has endured in defiance of everything that we who follow Christ have done. And I'm not talking about the historical stuff like the Inquisition, the sacking of Constantinople, the Salem witch trials and all that horrible crap.

No, I'm talking about the ubiquitous failings that all of us have... including and especially Yours Truly... as those who must live in this carnal plane. And we know from scripture that even those earliest Christians were not miraculously immune or imparted some special grace that kept them "perfect" in the ways of doctrine. Peter and Paul had severe disagreements with each other. Paul and Barnabas argued and went their separate ways. The church at Corinth had former prostitutes and idolators among its number... and not a few of them were being tempted to go back to their old ways. The seven churches of Asia Minor couldn't possibly be called models of Christian unity and non-division! The New Testament is rife with these examples and many, many more.

When one studies the historical record, it seems nothing short of a miracle that the church survived past the first century... let alone the twentieth!

Indeed. How could it be anything but a miracle?

Because man, for all his schemes and devices and cleverness, is still a fallen creature. And I can not believe that men left to themselves could have created such an enduring institution.

This good Methodist pastor emphasized something during his sermon, that I have also thought much about: that the work didn't begin or end with him. That the church was there before he came to serve it, and it will be there long after he would be gone. Because the man... and the woman too, no chauvinists we!... is not the finished work. The person is not and should never be the purpose and the focus of the one true great work. We, each of us, are only laborers for a time in the Kingdom of God. We do this not for our glory, but for His... and one of the neat incentives about working for Him is that He does honor us in His own wonderful way. But that isn't why we work. We do so because we love Him and because we love others as He has instructed.

And so it is, that the work has been done across the centuries, and across all the body of Christ. It matters not if we worship in a Methodist congregation, in a Baptist congregation, in a Catholic congregation, in a Pentecostal congregation, as a non-denominational Christian, or whatever. As I have written here before, there is NO such thing as "denomination". There are only different perspectives of Christ. Given that Christ is too magnificent and too wondrous for any one man or group of men to fully comprehend, that is only natural and only understandable that we see Him only with earthen eyes and mind. In the fullness of time we shall know Him as we are meant to. In the meantime we strive to gaze through a glass darkly...

...and even so, the church has endured.

How can this be, other than the work of the Holy Spirit which came to those first Christians at Pentecost? How has the church, as the complete body of all followers of Christ, persisted for all of this time against all the odds and against every screwy bit of craziness that His believers have done to others and even done to themselves?

I know of no other way to put it, than one another writer exclaimed after his own study of the Book of Acts...

"The thing works!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review of ALPOCALYPSE: "Weird Al" Yankovic has conquered again!

Yesterday, June Twenty-First, Two Thousand and Eleven... was a date which will live in hilarity! It was almost five full years coming, but at last we "Yankovictims" (that term will make sense once you watch the accompanying DVD) got a new album from the crown prince of parody: "Weird Al" Yankovic!

Yes folks, the Alpocalypse has cometh!

I drove more than an hour and a half yesterday afternoon so a group of friends could party like true Al-oholics and enjoy listening to Alpocalypse together (contrary to rumor, Twinkie wiener sandwiches were not served... although they were contemplated during the planning stages).

So, what sayeth this life-long Weird Al fan? Alpocalypse was well worth the wait. And going further than that: this is some of Al's freshest and most vibrant material ever. I must confess than when Al began releasing many of the songs from this album two years ago as part of his Internet Leaks collection, that I couldn't help but worry: "If he keeps releasing songs before the album, what's going to be left for the album itself?!"

Be of good cheer, fellow Al-iens! Because this album is so well-balanced and orchestrated, that even if you know the Internet Leaks songs by heart, they'll feel all shiny and new when you hear them on Alpocalypse. How many other recording artists can pull off that trick? Only two honestly come to mind: The Beatles, and Elvis. That alone says much about Al's prowess as a musician, when ya think about it.

Okay well, on to the review!

Track 1: "Perform This Way" - A dead-on spoof of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". Al released the music video for this song on Monday and it has gone viral big-time! I'm hearing a lot of people say that this is Al's best video since the one for "Amish Paradise" fifteen years ago... and it is definitely a hoot! The song itself is full-tilt distilled essence of Gaga's bizarre wardrobe. Al said earlier that this album was waiting for the next pop culture paradigm shift for him to parody. I would say that with "Perform This Way", mission accomplished! I foresee this song will be hot in demand on the karaoke circuit :-P

Track 2: "CNR" - One of the Internet Leaks songs (first reviewed here). A style spoof of the White Stripes, praising the metahuman might of the one and only Charles Nelson Reilly (similar to the popular "Chuck Norris Facts" floating around the Internet). I love this song! It's just plum catchy and that it's about Charles Nelson Reilly makes it all the more fun. And strangely quotable: "He had his very own line at the D-M-V, he made sweet sweet love to a manatee, oh yeah!"

Track 3: "TMZ" - A parody of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me". Is it okay to say that "TMZ" is very entertaining... but it's also something of an indictment against our celebrity-obsessed media, and culture in general? Weird Al songs very rarely engender that kind of sober reflection on real life. But in true Al fashion, he does so with his unique style and good humor. And Al has captured Taylor Swift's style perfectly. I've already heard "Perform This Way" played on the radio and "TMZ" is just as worthy of airplay!

Track 4: "Skipper Dan" - Another song from the Internet Leaks set (first reviewed here). A Weezer-style original song about a poor guy who could have rocked 'em on stage and film, but instead has wound up a guide on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Every time I listen to this, I can't help but feel sorry for this dude. But it also ends on a bit of an upbeat note (especially if you watch the music video).

Track 5: "Polka Face" - THIS MIGHT BE THE FUNNIEST POLKA MEDLEY AL HAS EVER ARRANGED!!! Obviously "Pokerface" by Lady Gaga is in the medley (it's the first song to get the polka treatment) and also in the mix are Justin Bieber's "Baby" and "Tik Tok" by Kesha. I would rank this as perhaps my favorite polka medley that Al has done alongside "Polka Your Eyes Out" from Off The Deep End and "The Alternative Polka" from Bad Hair Day. It's just... go listen to it for yourself! I haven't the verbiage to describe how awesome "Polka Face" is!

Track 6: "Craigslist" - Originally released two years ago this month (original review here), this wound up my most favorite song from the Internet Leaks set. Two years later and it seems even more energetic now that it's on a proper album! Al sings about the anarchic Craigslist website, in the style of Jim Morrison and The Doors (with Ray Manzarek himself doing keyboard accompaniment!) At our lil' Alpocalypse release party last night I was wearing my "Craigslist" t-shirt that I got at Al's concert in Knoxville last year (LOOK HERE! :-) and... just couldn't help getting up to imitate Al's performance. Probably a good thing (for once) that that won't make it on YouTube :-P This was my favorite Internet Leaks song and it's one of my favorite on Alpocalypse. And as a dear friend noted, it's likely the only song in existence to make so many references to "styrofoam peanuts"!

Track 7: "Party In The CIA" - Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." goes to Langley, as Al sings about the trials, travails and tribulations of an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. Has "water-boarding session" ever been used in a song before? Well, it sure has now. Another Al song that is inherently catchy!

Track 8: "Ringtone" - First released in August 2009, Al channels Queen and Freddie Mercury to mock the never-ending inanity of cell phone ringtones. Like the other Internet Leaks releases, "Ringtone" seems newly frenetic on this album.

Track 9: "Another Tattoo" - Parody of "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars. LOVE THIS SONG!! Maybe it has something to do with how I've been watching for some time that there is too much tattooin' going on out there these days! Seriously people, don't you realize what a tattoo actually is? It's a permanent reminder of your temporary insanity! Something which Al celebrates(?) in this song. Favorite part? Boba Fett... playing clarinet!

Track 10: "If That Isn't Love" - an original song done in the style of Hanson (who I first heard about on CBS' The Weird Al Show back in '97). This one was fun the first time I listened to it and it's starting to grow on me even more. My personal favorite of Al's "love songs" is still "Since You've Been Gone" but this one is pretty good too :-)

Track 11: "Whatever You Like" - First released in October 2008, "Whatever You Like" was retro-actively declared to be the first of the Internet Leaks collection (original review here). Nearly three years later and Al's parody of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" (yes the parody shares the same name as the original :-) seems even more fitting and appropriate to the times in which we live! A rollickin' fun anthem - or dirge, if you like - for our current economic downturn.

Track 12: "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me" - I was literally honking with laughter when we played this song for the first time! But it took me awhile to recognize what Al is doing here: a style parody of Jim Steinman, who has written a lot of songs for Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tylor. And Al retains Steinman's signature lyrical flow with this screed-in-song protesting junk e-mail about cookie recipes and Mister Rogers' exploits in Vietnam. An awesome song and in my mind the perfect way to wind down Alpocalypse.

And that is the album itself. But that's NOT all! Because if you choose to buy Alpocalypse in stores you've got a choice between the CD alone, or for a few dollars more the CD along with a DVD with music videos for ten of the songs on Alpocalypse! The video for "CNR" (animated by JibJab.com) was released along with the Internet Leaks single two years ago. So were the videos for "Skipper Dan" (animated by Divya Srinivasan), "Craigslist" (live-action directed by Liam Lynch) and "Ringtone" (produced by Josh Faure-Brac and Steven K.L. Olson). Well for Alpocalypse we also get new videos like the Bill Plympton-animated "TMZ" (which might inure you to the sight of a naked butt, if you aren't already), "Party In The CIA" animated by a bunch of different people and directed by Roque Ballesteros, "If That Isn't Love" helmed by Brian Fisk, "Whatever You Like" (animated and directed last year by Cris Shapan) and the kinetic typographically-animated "Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me" produced by Koos Dekker. But by far the video that will be most analyzed by Al fans is the one for "Another Tattoo": Augenblick Studios' dizzying montage of eclectic body art, some of which has until now probably never been conceived of by mortal man. Or woman for that matter. And yes: Boba Fett does get to play clarinet. You'll see. Along with... wait, what is that happening to Papa Smurf? It's just a shame that the video for "Perform This Way" couldn't make it onto this disc. But word is that Al is even now working on a video for "Polka Face": his first ever for a polka medley! That means that there will soon be a music video for each and every song on Alpocalypse! Hey, maybe we'll get another release of this album with an updated DVD in the near future. I would certainly plunk down more coin for it!

So I'm gonna give Alpocalypse by "Weird Al" Yankovic my biggest-most possible recommendation: it's well worth buying from a store or from Amazon.com or from iTunes, but I must heartily suggest the CD/DVD combo: it's probably the best single original package of music entertainment that I've come across in a heap many moon. On a scale of 1 to 10, I hereby give Alpocalypse a 27... and 1/2!

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic's DISTURBING "Perform This Way" music video!

Here it is! The so very wrong and yet so insanely right music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of Lady Gaga's hit "Born This Way". Here is: "Perform This Way"!

Weird Al's latest album Alpocalypse streets tomorrow! Can. Not. Wait!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Don't be crabby: HERE'S that new Lauryn pic already!!

Awright awright... I KNOW that it's been since March that The Knight Shift has had a new photo of my exceptionally beautiful, sweet and inspirational (can't say enough how much she has encouraged me in my walk with Christ) second cousin, Lauryn. Yes in case you don't know already, this blog has an official (more or less) pin-up girl! Okay, maybe "pin-up girl" isn't quite the right terminology, but you get the idea.

So here's a new one, and this one demonstrates that Lauryn looks downright gorgeous no matter what it is that she's doing... including feasting on crabs in Maryland!

Remember guys: Lauryn is a taken gal. And even if she wasn't, you'd have to get through me. You get through me, then you'd have to deal with her father Bob... and you don't wanna mess with Bob :-P

So now that that is done, I've got The Knight Shift's beautiful quotient filled for the next good while :-)

Bachmann and Romney mad at each other or something about pro-life "pledge"


Every time I come across a story like this about how inane our "political process" has become, I can't help but think of that line from Battle for the Planet of the Apes: "Ape has killed ape!!!"

So newly-announced candidate for President of the United States Michele Bachmann is feigning righteous wrath (I know of no other way to put it) at fellow candidate Mitt Romney because he hasn't signed something called the "Susan B. Anthony pro-life pledge".

Here's what the pledge is about, according to the story at LifeNews.com:

The pledge has the candidates promising to support only judicial nominees who won't interpret the Constitution in a way that supports Roe v. Wade, select pro-life Cabinet members on positions affecting abortion policy, supporting legislation to stop taxpayer funding of abortions and Planned Parenthood, and to support a fetal pain bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Y'know, every single item listed here, I agree with. In a lot of ways my personal beliefs about abortion are even more legally stringent. For one thing, Roe v. Wade is atrocious legislation from the bench, and not even something that should have reached the Supreme Court. It should have always been a states issue... and that is why so many abortion "rights" supporters have done their damndest to keep this a federal matter. Because they know that left to the individual states, that abortion would go down in flames in this country. But I digress from my line of thought...

It just seems to me that if a candidate knows what he or she stands for, then that candidate won't need to sign any "pledge" at all. Congressman Ron Paul has apparently signed it. But even if he didn't, it wouldn't bother me: having read his record for myself, I know he has an adamant pro-life position. That's something that can't be "earned" by the stroke of a pen on a pledge that at election time are a dime a dozen.

Here's what I'm getting at, folks: a person's values and virtues, ultimately aren't something that can be defined or not defined by whether or not that person signs this or that statement. That only serves to cheapen the candidate and it even cheapens the impact of such statements when they can be instruments of weight and worth.

And they cheapen us and what we should be expecting and demanding from those who offer to serve us in public office. If I vote for a man or woman for President, I don't want to be voting for a party automaton. I will and always shall vote for a person, not a product. Y'know: someone who can think and hold on to a position and understand why that position is held!

Or maybe I'm just asking for a little too much enlightenment from our political process...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Remember last year when the planet Jupiter underwent stellar ignition?

Here's a reminder in case you missed it...

Y'know, 2010 - Peter Hyams' follow-up to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - is by now a horribly dated film: the Soviet Union was long gone by the time this movie's eponymous date rolled around, and we've yet to return to the Moon, much less have manned missions to Jupiter...

...but so help me, I positivalutely love this movie all the same. And that scene, where the planet Jupiter is forced by the monoliths to ignite into a new star, is on my very short list of all-time favorite science fiction moments in film. Everything about that scene is orchestrated perfectly together.

Anyhoo, fellow blogger Scott Bradford has compiled a neat list of "past" science-fiction "history". As in, events that sci-fi foretold but somehow never quite seemed to pass (or did they?). Like, back in 1996 when Khan Noonien Singh mysteriously vanished in the aftermath of the Eugenics Wars that devastated much of the world. Or the year before that when Dr. Sam Beckett was forced to use himself as the test subject of Project: Quantum Leap.

Great list, Scott! But if I might make a suggestion, it's probably a good thing that we never got the 1997 that John Carpenter envisioned in Escape from New York...

Yeah, another horribly dated movie by now. But that soundtrack is still a beast! And Isaac Hayes absolutely ruled as the Duke of New York. 'Twould be neat to see that rumored remake finally happen (maybe with Josh Holloway as Snake Plissken)...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review of GREEN LANTERN: A mis-focused but fun movie!

Maybe I should disclaimer this by admitting that before going to see the movie, that I bought a Kilowog action figure just so I could have a Green Lantern power ring to wear while watching this flick. Well, that and to also have an action figure of Kilowog to pose on my desk, 'cuz he's my favorite member of the Green Lantern Corps.

But I don't think that would be enough to subjectively color my perception of this movie when I say that I for one enjoyed the heck out of Green Lantern: the live-action adaptation of one of the most classic and revered superheroes in the DC Comics stable, which opens today. But I would also have to admit that this movie is far from perfect, or what it should be at a minimum.

Green Lantern is mis-focused far too much for the film that it should be: about a high concept cosmic mythology. Thor pulled that trick off beautifully when it opened last month. Unfortunately the high concept mythos is there in Green Lantern but doesn't get played up nearly as much as it ought to be. The scenes on Oa, and our glimpses of the Corps and of the Guardians of the Universe and the bits about how green is the color of willpower and yellow is the color of fear, etc... I loved that stuff!! Heck, I could have sat for the entire 114 minutes of this film's running time with nary a glimpse of Earth...

...because we get Earth too dang much in this movie about Green Lantern. That's my biggest beef with this film. And it's sadly ironic: that for a story about choosing to be fearless, director Martin Campbell (who also directed Casino Royale a few years ago for the James Bond franchise) and his crew were afraid to let their baby take off and soar out into the larger universe where Green Lantern belongs.

Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the human entrusted with the Green Lantern ring by the dying Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, perhaps best known for playing Jango Fett and his zillions of clones in the Star Wars prequels) pulls off the role admirably, if also with a touch of clunkiness. The thing about Jordan's fear after the freak accidental death of his father, resonated with me with all the grace of a rusted cowbell. It was definitely something that could have benefitted from some rewrite and better editing (or being excised completely). Come to think of it, quite a bit of this film could have been edited away and it would have felt much slicker. I also liked Blake Lively as Jordan's girl/boss Carol Ferris. Tim Robbins also appears as a United States senator and Angela Bassett plays Amanda Waller (a DC Comics character and I'm wondering if Waller's turning up here is helping to set things up for the Justice League movie I'm hearing whispers about, much as Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury has been crashing almost all the Marvel movies of late).

But by far the worst of the human characters, and the single most distracting element of Green Lantern, is Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard. I don't necessarily blame Sarsgaard himself but... well, there's no way around it: Hector Hammond sucks. He's a character more at home in a David Cronenburg film than in a blockbuster comic book adaptation. But that Sarsgaard plays him like he's channeling Seth Brundle from The Fly doesn't help matters any. At best Hector Hammond comes across as just too powerful for his own good and at worst, like Rick Moranis' nerdy accountant in Ghostbusters after becoming the Key Master. Too much crap like this and not nearly enough of the Green Lantern legendarium...

...but when we do get pure-D Corps, the movie is an absolute hoot to behold. Michael Clarke Duncan is firing on all cylinders as Kilowog, the Green Lanterns' drill instructor. And for Sinestro, I really can't see any better than Mark Strong as the Corps' respected warrior, soon to become worst enemy. That doesn't happen in this film, but the setup is there (stick around during the credits). I'm looking forward to seeing Sinestro going full-tilt against the Guardians in the sequel (which, based on this film I do believe is merited).

The special effects in Green Lantern are CGI intensive, and at times a bit cartoony... but given that this is a Green Lantern movie, I can forgive that and even say that it's about what I expected. James Newton Howard turns in a fine score. Conceptually, the scale of this film is vast. It's just not exploited to the fullest hilt. As I said, Thor made it work and there's no reason why it can't in a Green Lantern movie. Maybe in the follow-up we'll see Hal Jordan hanging around on Oa more and on Earth less (and speaking of Oa, I thought the Guardians were handled magnificently: elder beyond reason and yet a vital and breathing component of the Green Lanterns' realm).

Green Lantern isn't the best superhero movie that I've seen, and it's somewhat frustrating that it's not the film that it could and should have been. But neither is it the train wreck or the bomb that I'm seeing too many other critics panning it as. I went in to see it braced for anything. Coming out, I realized that it is what it is: a fun summer popcorn flick. I won't say that I'm gonna give it my highest recommendation, but I will say that Green Lantern is worth considering plunking down some coin at the box office to see.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ya see, THIS is where wacko environmentalism is taking us...

Japanese researchers have announced that they have created a meat substitute... manufactured from human excrement.

The laboratory sample is even labeled... may the Lord forgive me for ever having to write this... "SHIT BURGER".

Darn. This stuff makes Soylent Green sound downright palatable!

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK came out thirty years ago this week

In 1973, around the same time that he was putting ideas together for what would become the Star Wars saga, George Lucas came up with a rough outline for "The Adventures of Indiana Smith". Nothing came of it until a few years later, when Lucas was vacationing in Hawaii... and happened to run into fellow director Steven Spielberg building a sandcastle on the beach in Maui. It was Spielberg who suggested changing the name from "Smith", and Lucas thought up "Jones" instead.

Four years later, their new hero swashbuckled onto movie screens and forever into popular culture...

Raiders of the Lost Ark came out thirty years ago this week, on June 12th 1981.

Incidentally, this is my all time most personal favorite movie! I could literally watch it all day, all week, and not get tired of it. No other film ever influenced my life more. Raiders of the Lost Ark is what ignited my love and passion for history. I still remember pulling down the "A" volume of the World Book Encyclopedia as a seven-year old on the day after I saw this movie, so I could read up about the real Ark of the Covenant. And that led me to going all through our family Bible to read even more (guess you could say that the Ark was my very first research project).

Anyway... Happy Thirtieth Anniversary to Raiders of the Lost Ark and to everyone who made this movie happen!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chris sees SUPER 8 and struggles to understand why he's so madly in love with it

The most singularly consistent quality possessed by Super 8 that I've heard from friends who have seen the film is that it is like a Rorschach test: different people are going to see different things in this movie. And always those friends pick a movie from Steven Spielberg's long career to describe Super 8: a film executive produced by Spielberg and written and directed by J.J. Abrams.

"It reminded me of E.T." "It was as scary as Jaws and Jurassic Park!" "Didn't you get a Close Encounters vibe?"

Yes to all of those and more. But having seen this movie two days ago and with it getting better and better the more that I think about it, I've come to the conclusion that I absolutely love Super 8 because, to me anyway, it gave me a feeling that I haven't felt watching a movie in a theater ever since The Goonies in the summer of 1985.

This is definitely a J.J. Abrams/Bad Robot movie. But it is also a film that has Steven Spielberg's handiwork all over it... and it is a beautiful thing to watch this story unfold and work its magic. When I saw that Amblin Entertainment logo, the one with Elliot and E.T. flying in silhouette, my inner geek started jazzing up like it hasn't in way too long. Because, this is a movie that many of us wondered if Spielberg was even capable of pulling off again.

Let me explain that. I met Steven Spielberg once. It was at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in 1989. Spielberg was there to inaugurate the Cinematography merit badge, and he also produced the jamboree's opening night show. I was our council's media correspondent: sending reports to newspapers back home and such. There was a press conference with Spielberg and we got to talk with him and... the guy was just a big kid. He even wore his Boy Scout uniform complete with Eagle Scout badge! And there was this light in his eyes as he talked about what was coming up with the Back to the Future trilogy and then how he first got into filmmaking. It was really quite something: the most successful movie director of our generation, bouncing up and down and off the walls like a kid in a candy store... and could anyone really blame him?

That was the Steven Spielberg that gave us E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Gremlins and Goonies, and later on Jurassic Park.

And then, Spielberg made Schindler's List.

He hasn't been the same as a filmmaker since. And I don't know how anybody could really blame him. Now, he did not get "worse" by any stretch of the measure. There was no decline in his creativity or artistic execution. But doing Schindler's List... and I don't know of any other way to put it... scarred the man. Broke something inside. It frightened that sparkly-eyed kid and made him run away. I thought that I could see that kid coming back when A.I.: Artificial Intelligence came out ten years ago... except for that ending. Spielberg before Schindler's List would have found an entirely different ending for that film. Spielberg after Schindler's List however...

...Well, as I said: nobody can blame him. And I'm not going to demand that Spielberg not grow as an artist. This, the man has certainly done, often literally right before our eyes. He should grow into his own, as each of us must with our lives.

But I gotta tell you: when I heard about how Spielberg was scouting locations in Poland for Schindler's List and how he found a gray puddle of debris near one of the death camps, and casually put his hand into it before realizing that those were the ashes of human bones...

...Just reading that, I knew that this most celebrated of American filmmakers had been made to lose a lot of innocence. And that nothing would be the same for him again.

Not I, or anyone else, should ask Spielberg to go back to "the way things were". We don't have the right and, I don't know how that's even possible.

But even so, just the same: I have missed the old Steven Spielberg. The man who made us believe that childhood friendship would always triumph over the bad guys, whether they be government agents or hostile creatures or both. The man who let everyone else know what those of us who grew up in the late Seventies on through the Nineties already knew: that there was always an adventure awaiting, right around the corner or down the street or even in the dark recesses of our own home.

Super 8 is a J.J. Abrams movie. But this is also a Steven Spielberg film. The kind that we haven't gotten in way, way too long.

Super 8 is a homage and a tribute to everything that we loved about Spielberg's movies back in the day. If there was one word that I would have to use to describe the tonal quality of this film, it would be "innocence". Joe and Charles and their friends: here we've a bunch of middle-school kids who spend their time making zombie horror films with Super 8 cameras and jury-rigged lights and audio and lots of schlocky make-up. They share a dream. Kids at that age, they can do anything and they know it and don't get in their way! For Joe Lamb (played by Joel Courtney) this is more than a collaboration with friends: it's how he loses himself from the grief of his mother, who dies in a work-related accident at the beginning of the film. For Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths, who seems to steal the scene every time he's on-camera) it's about showing up older teenagers in a film competition. And for both it is a feeling of affection toward Alice Dainard (wonderfully played by Elle Fanning), for whom this Super 8 project is a brief escape from her hated father. Then there is pyrotechnician/pyromaniac Carey (Ryan Lee) and Preston (Zach Mills) and Martin (Gabriel Basso). And they all wind up at a train station on the edge of town late one night to shoot a scene (and also hopefully, as Charles is constantly demanding, "PRODUCTION VALUE!").

And by that point, I was so involved with these kids and their good-natured plot that I didn't remember that Super 8 is a movie about something going horribly wrong in a small Ohio steel-mill town. Indeed, it comes almost as complete surprise when an Air Force train speeding past the station hits a truck and derails, in what has to be the most spectacular train wreck in cinematic history.

And then...

No, I'm gonna hold off on saying much more. I only saw one trailer in the past several months leading up to Super 8's release. I went in with a mind totally innocent to what I was about to witness.

And so should you.

This is a movie that they just don't make anymore. And I keep thinking back to the scene in Joe's bedroom, when Alice sneaks out to see him and comes in through his window. That scene, too many movies in this day and age would have had it turning into something far too more between a boy and a girl on the verge of young adulthood. Super 8 takes the high ground without being pretentious about it. I thought that scene was incredibly sweet and tender and pure.

Wow. Just now realizing how much I've written about Super 8. Even though I don't know how much of this could sincerely be called a "review".

This is the kind of movie that I grew up wanting to make. And now that I'm a little older and have seen J.J. Abrams do it, and that it is possible to do it... well, maybe that has reinvigorated me. It certainly has made me respect Abrams all the more, and the man already had that between Cloverfield and Lost and 2009's Star Trek: still the finest re-launch of a franchise that I know of. And no doubt, Super 8 is going to inspire a lot of kids out there.

Just as Spielberg inspired us and still inspires us to this day.

Super 8, I cannot possibly more urge this blog's readers to see this movie. DON'T wait until the DVD and Blu-ray release. Absolutely do not watch it for the first time in streaming video on a teeny tiny monitor screen. If you can at all, you owe it to yourself to see this movie right now, on a big screen, with lots of other moviegoers around you. And preferably, in the company of good friends. I saw it with one on Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to seeing it with another this coming Friday (along with Green Lantern). Yes, this is a movie to see and celebrate with friendship, just like we did with The Goonies.

One last thing: does this movie have "PRODUCTION VALUE!!"?

Oh yeah. Big time. You'll see :-)


Yes, it really is! I even went out late yesterday evening along with good friend/fellow blogger and Eagle Scout Steven Glaspie to be at the local GameStop for the midnight release, just to behold it with our own eyes.

But that wound up not being good enough. I had to have some tactile sensation of it as well, so I bought a copy of the standard edition.

And though I hadn't planned on it, I wound up shooting and then editing together a lil' film to document the event for posterity. This is the first time that I've ever put together a movie with an iOS device. May this be the first of many more to come :-)

Anyhoo, here is... Vaporware Nevermore!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creepy, and all too true...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"A Good Man Goes To War": DOCTOR WHO mid-season finale pulped my poor brain!

The last episode of Doctor Who until September aired just over an hour ago on BBC America. Titled "A Good Man Goes To War" and...

GREAT GOOGLEDY MOOBELY that was six scoops of crazy with sprinkles on top!

This show, might be finally coming into its fullest potential after nearly half a century since it premiered. This one hour of Doctor Who had more mythology packed into it than any episode in recent memory. Hey, it even had the classic Cybermen: as in the Mondas originals, not those stoopid Cybus Industries brand-name losers from the other universe.

And then, the real intensity got poured on and ratcheted up a notch or twenty.

Sooo now we know more about River Song than we've ever learned about her to date. But I get the feeling there's way more to her... and I even have a pretty neat theory about it. Don't wanna say too much in case some reading this haven't seen this episode, but here's a hint: the 1996 television movie.

I'm gonna have to watch this episode again just to adequately absorb it all (the Nazgul-ish Headless Monks were definitely "hide behind the sofa" material :-) But "A Good Man Goes To War" is such a rollickin' excellent episode that it will certainly tide us over until Doctor Who returns in late summer with "Let's Kill Hitler". In the meantime, I give this episode an unprecedented SIX Sonic Screwdrivers!

On wars and monuments and such...

I hadn't wanted to revisit the issue of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in my hometown of Reidsville this soon. But earlier this morning I was led to consider something, and I think it's worth sharing and asking others to ponder it also...

I have visited many historic battlefields, and cemeteries, and locations of monuments. Both in my own country and also abroad.

I have seen many memorials honoring soldiers who fought in war.

But I have yet to see a single memorial honoring any war.

Les Misérables: Women steal 75 deodorant sticks, as pet cemeteries ordered to stop burying humans

In the state of New York a government agency is ordering pet cemeteries to cease and desist with interring the cremated remains of human pet owners with their beloved dogs and cats.

Meanwhile in Fort Pierce, Florida (I happen to have lots of family there) two women were taped by video surveillance at a Winn Dixie supermarket stealing seventy-five sticks of deodorant. Police figure the ladies will try to sell the deodorant to convenience stores.

Not the craziest stories that I've heard lately, but certainly worth passing along for your mirth and merriment :-P

Friday, June 10, 2011

Make Super 8-ish movies with your iOS gizmo!

As of this evening I haven't seen Super 8, but some of the coolest cats that I have the honor of personally knowing seem to be completely losing their minds about how incredible it must be. I'm gonna be catching it Sunday afternoon with friends and am really looking forward to it :-)

But in the meantime, thought I'd turn y'all's attention to 8mm Vintage Camera, a sa-weeet lil' app from Nexvio for Apple iOS devices that are camera equipped (doesn't matter if it's an iPhone, iPod touch or the newest iPad). 8mm Vintage Camera turns your newfangled Apple contraption into an old-school 8mm movie camera with all the fixins. Select from different lenses, various types of film stock, and you can even give it a classic camera frame jitter effect. I've had this app for a few weeks now and it has definitely become one of my favorites. Indeed, all kinds of fun ideas have crept into mind since I started playing with it!

8mm Vintage Camera is $1.99 on the App Store, and the current version (1.1) is a tiny 2.7 MB download. Click here to get to it on iTunes. You'll thank me that you did :-)

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is finally coming to theaters near you!

I have been waiting more than a YEAR to make this post...

It was April of last year that I caught Tucker & Dale vs. Evil at the first ActionFest film festival in Asheville (slash here for my review of it then). And it was almost one year ago that I ranted about how this movie SCREAMS for distribution! Heck it should have come out last summer: no doubt it would have been the sleeper hit of 2010!

Well, all these very long months later, Magnet Releasing has picked up the film! It will be released theatrically on September 30th and in video on demand on August 26th.

If I might make a suggestion: don't see Tucker & Dale vs. Evil on your teeny tiny monitor at first! This movie deserves to be first beheld on the big screen! I caught it at a midnight showing and it was a crazy good time had by all!

Mash down here for more about the release. Thanks to Drew McComber and "Weird" Ed Woody for passing along the great news.

And hurray to Magnet Releasing for bringing Tucker & Dale vs. Evil to the masses!! :-)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A monument to brave duty in a broken world

My original plan for this day was to head out around lunch to grab a spot at the back of the chamber and do live blogging of this afternoon's meeting of Reidsville City Council. Agenda Item #5 was public comments on how to proceed with the Confederate Soldiers Monument, which was greatly damaged in an unfortunate vehicular accident on May 23rd. So I was going to be there and blog/tweet during the session.

In the end however, I chose not to attend, for a number of reasons. There was already going to be quite a large crowd in attendance with limited space available, and since I don't live in the city limits proper I didn't think it was going to be fair. Citizen journalist though I am, I'm also a citizen who's already publicly stated that the monument should be restored. There were a number of associates who had more reason to be there than I, and I greatly appreciate the reports that they have sent to me.

The biggest reason why I didn't go however, is that in my mind, at this time there is no "controversy" about the monument. It was damaged in an accident, the driver's insurance will certainly pay to have it repaired (as happens countless times across the country each and every day). Did I have a reason to be there as an independent journalist of some repute (hopefully good)?

It began dawning on me yesterday evening that I should just steer clear of this meeting, to not "dignify" a non-issue with attention, and be content to give Mayor James Festerman and the city council the benefit of the doubt and trust them to do the right thing. As of this writing, I'm still counting on them to do that by letting the monument be repaired. Besides, I know that at least one of the Reidsville City Council members is a regular reader of this blog, so my thoughts and observances are going to be considered even if they aren't in the official record.

I'm thankful for those who came to speak in favor of the monument. And I think that I did the right thing in being an absent presence of publick reporterage on this occasion. But based on what I'm hearing this afternoon, I'm gonna keep a really hairy eyeball on this... and if Mayor Festerman and council doesn't do right, I'm gonna be on them like white on rice!

Here's to hoping them to do the right thing, however. The Confederate Soldiers Monument (shown before the accident), contrary to what some speakers at today's meeting asserted, is not a monument to a lost cause. It is not a monument to a slavery. It is absolutely NOT a monument to racism!

You want to know what that's a monument to?

It is a monument to nearly two thousand men of Rockingham County - more than most other counties in the state which sent the most soldiers to serve in the Confederate army - who arose to the task of defending their families and their communities in a conflict that certainly not one of them had wanted to see in their lifetime or the lifetime of their children.

It is a monument to men who lived in unenviable times and had to cope with those times per an all too natural wisdom that it can not be said a century and a half later has appreciably deepened in clarity... by any of us under the sun.

It is a monument to men who went to fight in a war that was clearly unfortunate... but only the most ignorant or the most foolish would call it a war with any side that was clearly evil.

It is a monument to men who were only doing what they knew best to do in this fallen world, not out of hate but out of love.

It is a monument to men who did what they did, out of duty to God as best that they understood that duty.

Who are we, who are any of us, to presume that we know better or that we would have done otherwise?

Because as far as this writer is concerned, the men who went out from their farms in Rockingham County, were fighting as much for the freedom that we have today... including the freedom to never have to make the choices that they were forced to make... as they were fighting for their own families and friends and communities.

Nearly two thousand men in Rockingham County served in the army of the Confederate States of America. More than six hundred never came home. That too, is a higher percentage than this county's fair share of participation in the Civil War. Either across the state or across the states of the Confederacy.

If none of that is worth remembering, honoring and even celebrating, then... I honestly don't know what would be.

Department of Education sends SWAT-like team (with GUNS) to man's house over wife's unpaid student loans

In a saner age and a better reality, most of us would have never even imagined a headline like that. Today, we know better...

(Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Department of Education was buying up shotguns a year ago?)

Herein lies the tale of one Kenneth Wright of Stockton, California... who yesterday morning was rudely awakened at around 6 a.m. local time by at least a dozen armed officers in SWAT gear. Wright was held in handcuffs in a police car for six hours and his three children (ages 3, 7 and 11) put in another police car.


Because his estranged wife - who no longer lives at Kenneth's address - was in default of her student loans.

No joke folks: this man's house was raided by gun-totin' thugs on orders from the United States Department of Education...

Mash down here for more about Kenneth Wright at the Daily Mail website. According to an update on Michelle Malkin's site these were not actually SWAT team members that raided Wright's house but "...rather federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General, a 'semi-independent branch of the U.S. Department of Education' that investigates things like student aid fraud."

There you have it: the Department of Education has a highly-armed strike force at its beck and call.

Anyone else reading this and like me, can't help but wonder: "What the hell has happened to our country?!?"

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dale Price is one kewl dad!

Y'know, Rain Price might have endured twinges of embarrassment because of his father's antics all this past school year, but these are gonna be some cherished memories as he gets older. Heck, from the sound of this fun-loving family, it wouldn't surprise me if this became a generational tradition! :-)

Stay-at-home dad Dale Price in Salt Lake City, Utah thought it would be funny to wave goodbye to Rain as his son boarded the bus at the beginning of his sophomore year of high school. And Dale Price kept waving at the bus, every single morning that his son boarded it for the past 180 days of school.

But Dale Price also made sure to liven things up by wearing a different costume each and every one of those mornings! In the ensuing months Price dressed up as a Star Trek fan, as a bride in a wedding dress, as an ice fisherman (when it snowed), as Michael Jackson, as Lady Gaga, and he even sat on a toilet while holding a newspaper for one morning's bus arrival. On the final day he donned full pirate getup (including a "peg leg" in place of his usual prosthetic).

Here's the story about Dale Price's wacky outfits and if you wanna see even more, his family documented his prank with photos on a blog called Wave At The Bus.

Dale Price, you're a good man! I might have to steal this idea from you if Lord willing I ever have children :-P

Thanks to good friend Kristen for finding such a great story!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Chris raves that X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is ALMOST the perfect comic book movie!

So we caught X-Men: First Class late on Saturday night and my synapses have had time to mull things over about this movie, which I absolutely loved...


I'm going to get this off my chest from the getgo because it bugs me more than anything else about this movie: the cameo appearance by Wolverine (played by an uncredited Hugh Jackman) is THE WORST thing that I've ever witnessed in a comic book motion picture of this caliber.

Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr are going around the world looking for mutants that Xavier has located using the first version of Cerebro. Their search brings them to a bar and Logan, who promptly drops the F-bomb on them before resuming his beer guzzlin' and cigar chompin'.

Look, I understand that the Comics Code Authority ain't what it used to be, and that Wolverine is supposed to be the biggest hardcase of them all, but still: this is an X-Men movie. And to include that line by Wolverine is immature and juvenile and... it's worse than that even. It's disrespectful of the source material of the X-Men comic books that have been published since the early Sixties. I hate this kind of thing, though I'm sure those responsible think themselves "cute" and "clever" for throwing it in there.

Hey guys, there is a time and a place for everything. Including harsh language that most parents still wouldn't want their kids to hear in what is being marketed as a blockbuster movie with bunches of toy tie-ins. It's worse than un-necessary. If you wanted to give Wolverine a fleeting appearance, he could have just been made to give Charles and Erik a surly "Scram, bub" and that would have made everyone happy.

But as it is, it should have been left on the cutting room floor or at least re-dubbed with something more innocuous...

...because it totally jerked me out of the illusion that what I was watching was what X-Men: First Class otherwise very much is: the X-Men movie that we always dreamed of seeing but thought we'd never actually get.

Now I enjoy the 2000 X-Men movie also. But in retrospect X-Men is very much from the "transitional" phase that filmmaking was in at that time: trying to figure out how to give all comic book cinematic adaptations the respect that at that point was the exception more than the rule (see Superman: The Movie for what I mean by this).

X-Men: First Class takes everything that we've learned over the past decade about how to properly project comic books onto the big screen, and then raises the bar big-time. It doesn't "diss" its roots, but it doesn't apologize for breaking free from its cage to become its own animal. And bearing that in mind, I absolutely must tip my hat to what director Matthew Vaughn and his crew have pulled off with this movie.

Now here's the thing where X-Men: First Class most impressed me: the story proper is set in 1962, building up to what history remembers as the Cuban Missile Crisis. But before we get there we see some circa World War II stuff that revisits young Erik Lehnsherr's internment in the concentration camp (first seen in X-Men), intercut with ten-year old Charles Xavier encountering the cold and hungry adolescent mutant Raven trying to steal food from the Xavier mansion. Xavier takes Raven in and promises to take care of her. Juxtaposed against that we witness "Dr. Schmidt" - AKA Sebastian Shaw - threatening to kill Erik's mother unless the boy can move a Nazi coin just as he bent the steel gates of the deathcamp.

Two young men, each set apart from humanity because of God or genetic chance. Both in their own way marked by the extremities of the species that mutation has divorced them from: Charles Xavier who is kind and shows kindness, while Erik Lehnsherr is given cruelty and made to realize that the only way for the world to make sense is to force it to.

I had misgivings about how X-Men: First Class was going to work with a setting now half a century removed from where we are today. But having seen it I think that Vaughn - along with co-writers Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman - did it right. They played up the very real uncertainty that was amok in the world of fifty years ago and cranked it up a dozen notches by throwing in the threat of mutants arising to supplant homo sapien. The result? A brilliant piece of revisionist history that plays out better than many docudramas I've seen of the period!

But that's just the background for the real story here: the biggest reason why I feel that X-Men: First Class is the superior film to 2000's X-Men: how this film portrays Professor Xavier and Magneto (played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively). Whereas Patrick Stewart's take on Xavier was as an "elder statesman" type with a lifetime of wisdom to guide him and his charges, McAvoy's Xavier is very much a green lad bursting with virtue and ideas... but also lacking the self-discipline that Xavier comes to be renowned for. Heck, this young Xavier is a party animal who loves to chug beer and woo sexy women. But in time Xavier comes to understand that - you will excuse the blatant borrowing from another Marvel character - that with great power comes great responsibility. And it is with relishing delight that we watch Xavier come to grips with the task that fate has set before him.

But as much as I really applauded James McAvoy's take on Xavier, I am even wildly more enthralled by what Michael Fassbender did with Erik Lehnsherr: the man better known to the world as Magneto. THIS is the Magneto that I wanted to see in the 2000 movie. Ian McKellan, okay: he brought the necessary seniority and gravitas to the role. But McKellan's portrayal of Magneto lacked what in my mind is the character's most defining quality: his rage at the world of baseline humanity. And that kept us from ever seeing McKellan's Magneto turned on full-tilt against all mankind.

Not so with Fassbender's rendition of this classic villain. In this performance we get to see him become what longtime fans of the X-Men comics know what Magneto truly is: a force of nature as destructive as any hurricane or earthquake. Worse than a force of nature, even. Earthquakes and hurricanes aren't bent on genocide, after all...

It's the dynamic between Charles and Erik that is the soul of X-Men: First Class. But providing the heart is all the mutant-on-mutant action that we've come to expect and demand from a movie emblazoned with "X-"! Kevin Bacon is already one of the best supervillains I've seen in a movie, with his portrayal of Sebastian Shaw (another stroke of brilliance, if you ask me: Shaw has always been a very cool character and it's good to see him get some time in the cinematic limelight at last). January Jones (probably best known for her work on AMC's Mad Men) is hitting on all the right notes as Emma Frost. The rest of the cast is a terrific ensemble, particularly Rose Byrne as the young Moira McTaggert and Jennifer Lawrence as the older Raven/Mystique (look for a cameo by Rebecca Romijn as Mystique's appearance from the previous movies). But I'm especially impressed by Nicholas Hoult's portrayal of the young Dr. Henry "Hank" McCoy, AKA Beast. Hoult is spot-on the Hank McCoy that we've all come to know and love... except that not once does he ever say "By my stars and garters!"!! Color me disappointed. But here's hoping that this gets remedied in a follow-up movie. Hey, there'd better be another X-Men movie after this one: it took them eleven years to finally get Magneto's costume right! I don't want it to just be limited to a few seconds at the end of this movie.

I'm not gonna say anything else about it, 'cuz X-Men: First Class really is a movie you deserve going in to see fairly cold, as I did. I didn't know what to honestly expect and in fact, I was braced for a letdown. Happily, I could not have been more wrong. Apart from that one issue with some horridly inappropriate language, this is certainly the X-Men movie that I had no idea I was aching to see for all this time. Highly recommended!