Monday, January 19, 2015

Most anticipated splody movies of 2015

At the beginning of each year, I check to see what movies are coming out and try to informally rank which ones I think will be worth seeing. My formula for success is equal parts good character development and explosions. Here is what I think about the movies scheduled for 2015:

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
When: December 18. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because like just about everyone my age, the first time I saw the original Star Wars was the defining moment of my childhood. The original films still stand as the best trilogy ever made, and while George Lucas tried to kill the franchise with the prequels, all signs point to a glorious return to form with this seventh film.

2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
When: May 1. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the first Avengers film was the most fun I have had at a movie theater since the original Star Wars trilogy. (See above.) Marvel Studios is firing on all cylinders right now, and I am all in. It was really hard to pick between this and Star Wars for my number one most anticipated splody film of 2015.

Note: at this point there is a huuuge drop-off in my level of anticipation...

3. Ant-Man
When: July 17. Why I’m looking forward to it: This film had some trouble at the beginning, as it was stuck in development hell, and then the original director Edgar Wright walked out over a disagreement with changes made to the script. Also, Ant-Man is not the most well-known or film-friendly superhero. But, you know what? I don't care. As I said before, I am all in for anything Marvel Studios does. This film has a great cast (Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly), and the more I see of it, the more intrigued I get.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road
When: May 15. Why I’m looking forward to it: I loved the low-budget original Mad Max. I loved the second film, The Road Warrior, even more – it's one of the best action movies ever made. And the third movie – well, two out of three ain't bad. Tom Hardy is a phenomenal choice to replace Mel Gibson as the lead in the series, and first trailer looks magical. I think they might just pull this off, and if they do – wow.

5. Spectre
When: November 6. Why I’m looking forward to it: Despite initial fan backlash, Daniel Craig has proven to be the best James Bond since Sean Connery. His last outing, 2012's Skyfall, was arguably the most cinematically gorgeous Bond film ever, thanks to director Sam Mendes, who returns with this year's Spectre. Most excitingly, the title of this film is a reference to the on-screen return of the secret criminal organization of the same name, which hasn't been seen officially since 1971's Diamonds Are Forever due to legal issues. After a copyright settlement in 2013, filmmakers are now free to use the evil organization again, and rumor has it that Bond's most iconic villain, SPECTRE boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld, will appear as well, played by Christopher Waltz. That would be wicked.

6. Kingsman: The Secret Service
When: February 13. Why I’m looking forward to it: Early reviews from film festivals at the end of 2013 said that this comic book adaptation was like a cross between James Bond and Kick-Ass. If director Matthew Vaughn's previous films (including X-Men: First ClassKick-Ass and Layer Cake) are anything to go by, this will be a fun ride.

7. Jurassic World
When: June 12. Why I’m looking forward to it: The first Jurassic Park is a classic, the second was mindless fun, and it's a shame that the sub-par third installment cut short a franchise that seemed to still have so much potential. When this fourth film was first announced, I was initially dubious, but I have warmed to it. The casting of the ever-charming Chris Pratt as the lead was a great move, and the first trailer was very reassuring. If the filmmakers can recapture the personality, excitement and fun of this series, there might just be some life left in this franchise after all.

8. Tomorrowland
When: May 22. Why I’m looking forward to it: In his first live-action directorial effort, Brad Bird took a mediocre action franchise (Mission: Impossible) and churned out one of the best splody films of 2011. Tomorrowland is an even more ambitious project, an off-kilter sci-fi mystery on a potentially epic scale. But as the director of such animated fare as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, Bird is no stranger to ambitious projects or world-building. Rumor has it that Bird was so excited about this project that he turned down the opportunity to direct a Star Wars movie in order to do it. Hopefully, his enthusiasm pays off in the end. (This film also co-stars George Clooney, who has quietly been doing some absolutely incredible work in recent years.)

9. Chappie
When: March 6. Why I’m looking forward to it: Geek favorites Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver star in a movie about a robot by District 9 director Neill Bomkamp. Honestly, that's all I know about this film except that it's getting great buzz. But really – read that first sentence again. Do you need any more information to be excited about this one?

10. Terminator: Genisys
When: July 1. Why I’m looking forward to it: My first reaction: "Oh no, not another Terminator movie. Just let this franchise die already. The first two were good and everything after that is diminishing returns." My reaction after seeing the first trailer and realizing just how batshit insane they decided to get in order to fix this franchise: "Oh... uh... that might just work. Wait, is that Daenerys Targaryen?! OK, I'm all in."

11. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
When: November 20. Why I’m looking forward to it: This is the finale to a series I never wanted to like in the first place, but I just couldn't help myself, because Jennifer Lawrence. The first three installments were good, so basically all they have to do now is not screw it up.

12. The Hateful Eight
When: November 13. Why I’m looking forward to it: I really wanted to believe westerns were a dead genre. Unforgiven was the exception that proved the rule, said I. Then Quentin Tarantino went and made Django Unchained, and now I have no choice but to admit that westerns are alive and well. Tarantino has said his latest western is unrelated to Django, and I have no other frame of reference for it, but I don't think we need one at this point. Tarantino has found his groove again making these period pieces, and we should all just be thankful and sit back and enjoy.


Finally, some other splody-looking movies that just might prove worthwhile in 2015 include...
  • Taken 3 (January 9)
  • Jupiter Ascending (February 6)
  • Furious 7 (April 3)
  • Ex Machina (April 10)
  • Inside Out (June 19)
  • Minions (July 10)
  • Pan (July 24)
  • The Fantastic Four (August 7)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14)
  • Hitman: Agent 47 (August 28)
  • Victor Frankenstein (October 2)
  • Crimson Peak (October 16)
  • The Good Dinosaur (November 25)
  • The Martian (November 25)
  • Midnight Special (November 25)
  • Mission: Impossible 5 (December 25)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The bowl is half empty - part 6

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes, winner of last night's National Championship game and holder of this year's NCAA football crown. For the first time in history, an actual playoff determined the champion. (Thanks, Obama!)

Still, only four teams were involved and that's not enough. After all, if the 4th-seeded team did this well, imagine what the 8th, 12th or 16th-seeded team could have done!

So, as I have done for the past four years, I'd like to imagine a world in which we had been treated to a month of playoff-level excitement. A world where we had gotten to see 16 of the season's top-ranked college football teams battle for the ultimate, indisputable title.

Here is what it might have looked like. I have bracketed and seeded the teams according to their final regular-season rankings. I also used the rule of no more than one team per conference in any given bracket.


Fiesta Bowl Bracket

1st seed Oregon (12-1, Pac-12) vs. 4th seed Clemson (9-3, ACC) -- winner: Oregon. Clemson looked really good in their bowl game, but Oregon was a beast.

2nd seed Mississippi State (10-2, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Kansas State (9-3, Big 12) -- winner: Kansas State. Both of these teams lost their bowls, but Kansas State looked more impressive in their loss.

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon over Kansas State.



Cotton Bowl Bracket

1st seed Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Georgia (9-3, SEC) -- winner: Ohio State. Again, both teams won their bowls, but you have to give this one to the impressive Buckeyes.

2nd seed Baylor (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Arizona (10-3, Pac-12) -- winner: Baylor. Both teams lost their bowls, but Baylor looked impressive in its losing effort against Michigan State.

Cotton Bowl:  Ohio State over Baylor.



Peach Bowl Bracket

1st seed Alabama (12-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Arizona State (9-3, Pac-12) -- winner: Alabama. Although Alabama lost its bowl and Arizona State won, you have to factor in the level of the competition. 'Bama played good enough to win this game.

2nd seed Michigan State (10-2, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Georgia Tech (10-3, ACC) -- winner: Michigan State. Here again, we have two teams that had excellent bowl game efforts, but I have to believe the victory would go to the Spartans, who showed real heart on New Year's Day.

Peach Bowl: Michigan State over Alabama. New Year's Day went to the Big Ten this year, and so does this game.



Orange Bowl Bracket

1st seed Florida State (13-0, ACC) vs. 4th seed UCLA (9-3, Pac-12) -- winner: UCLA. Florida State imploded, so they go home.

2nd seed TCU (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Mississippi (9-3, SEC) -- winner: TCU. (Note that this was the actual match-up in this year's Peach Bowl.)

Orange Bowl: TCU over UCLA.



Sugar Bowl Semifinal

Ohio State over TCU



Rose Bowl Semifinal

Oregon over Michigan State



National Championship

Ohio State over Oregon



------------



BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football

As I did the past two years, I have also set up a second-tier 16-team tournament. I've included all of the conferences champions without a spot in the main tournament (American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt), as well as the next-best available teams according to the polls.


EAST BRACKET

1st seed Auburn (8-4, SEC) vs. 4th seed Memphis (9-3, AA) -- winner: Auburn

2nd seed Louisville (9-3, ACC) vs. 3rd seed Marshall (12-1, C-USA) -- winner: Marshall

Music City Bowl: Auburn over Marshall


SOUTHEAST BRACKET

1st seed Missouri (10-3, SEC) vs. 4th seed Georgia Southern (9-3, Sun Belt) -- winner: Missouri

2nd seed USC (8-4, Pac-12 vs. 3rd seed Minnesota (8-4, Big Ten) -- winner: USC

Gator Bowl: Missouri over USC


MIDWEST BRACKET

1st seed Wisconsin (10-3, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Northern Illinois (11-2, MAC) -- winner: Wisconsin

2nd seed LSU (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Oklahoma (8-4, Big 12) -- winner: LSU

Alamo Bowl: Wisconsin over LSU


WEST BRACKET

1st seed Boise State (11-2, MW) vs. 4th seed Duke (9-3, ACC) -- winner: Boise State

2nd seed Utah (8-4, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed Nebraska (9-3, Big Ten) -- winner: Utah

Holiday Bowl: Boise State over Utah


OUTBACK BOWL SEMIFINAL

Wisconsin over Auburn


CACTUS BOWL SEMIFINAL

Boise State over Missouri


NATIONAL INVITATIONAL CITRUS BOWL

Boise State over Wisconsin

Monday, January 5, 2015

Most anticipated splody movies of 2014: recap


At the beginning of each year, I make a list of what I think will be that year’s best movies. My formula for success: equal parts good character development and explosions. Now that 2014 is over, here is my analysis of how my predictions for 2014 went.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). This was the best splody film of the year, and maybe Marvel Studios’ best to date. A perfect blend of 1970s spy-thriller, 1980s action-hero romp, and over-the-top summer blockbuster, this movie had it all. Chris Evans remains perfectly cast as Steve Rogers, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo brought a visceral edge to the action that kept audiences on the edge of their seats. The supporting cast was also top-notch. (One of the best scenes belonged solely to Sam Jackson as Nick Fury.) Every moment of this movie was crammed full of wonderful moments and Easter eggs for Marvel fans, and it is a testament to the skill of the storytelling that the more ridiculous plot elements feel organic. This is where the strength of Marvel’s shared universe begins to shine—small elements that were set up in Cap’s previous film and those of his fellow Avengers pay off here. You don’t have to have seen those films to appreciate this movie, but having seen them enriches the experience. Everyone knows about the famous elevator scene, but two other scenes in particular stood out to me. First, his one-man stealth assault in his first mission in the film is fast-paced and unforgiving, finally showing us what Captain America is capable of when firing on all cylinders. Second, his chase scene with the Winter Soldier is so kinetic I think it knocked the wind out of me as I watched it. Cap is so intense as he pursues his mark that he runs right through walls or leaves huge dents in them as he careens around them. The payoff of that scene is shocking and amazing—just like this film overall.

2. Godzilla
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 73%). This was the first American adaptation of Godzilla, so I was not sure what to expect. (OK, I realize there was a 1998 American film called Godzilla, but let’s be realistic, shall we? That was a Matthew Broderick comedy about a giant iguana, not a Godzilla movie. In Japan, they claimed the iguana creature was a different monster—and then Godzilla killed it. I rest my case.) I need not have worried. Director Gareth Edwards didn’t do the best job with the so-so human drama in this film, but human drama is always filler in a kaiju film. The monster drama, on the other hand, built up steadily to a glorious payoff in the film’s final act. I and the rest of the theater cheered loudly.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 90%). A lot of people predicted this would be Marvel Studios’ first cinematic failure. Instead, it became a runaway success and the highest-grossing comic book movie of the year. (Suck it, a lot of people.) It would be wrong to call this a superhero film, as it was more of a Star Wars type space adventure story. And it was Marvel’s most comedic effort to date. Those elements certainly scored points with mass audiences, and I’m sure that the pure on-screen charm of leading man Chris Pratt (“Star-Lord”) and his talking tree (“Groot”) and raccoon (“Rocket”) sidekicks didn’t hurt. Marvel struck gold with this franchise, and the consensus now is that they could turn Howard the Duck into a billion-dollar franchise if they wanted to.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Result: EPIC FAIL (Tomatometer 53%). I almost feel bad for kicking Sony when they’re down, but the simple fact of the matter is that Sony needs some tough love when it comes to Spider-Man. They have the world’s most popular superhero in their film stable, and they consistently lose money on him. And deservedly so. TASM2 was a mess. Thanks to the Sony Hack, we now know that the entire point of the movie was to kill off Gwen Stacey, something Marvel Studios recommended against doing so soon, since she was a popular character, and a move which turned out to alienate a lot of viewers. The rest of the plot was shoehorned in, in random pieces, to fit a variety of conflicting studio directives, the most ridiculous of which was to sow seeds for an entire cinematic universe—that has now been scrapped because of how disjointed and awful this film was. The sad thing is that there were elements of a good story here, but Sony didn’t know what they had and refused to listen to any of Marvel Studios’ notes to improve the product. Sony and Marvel are supposedly in talks now on a deal that would allow Marvel to reclaim creative control while splitting the costs and profits of these films with Sony. Whatever Marvel asks for, Sony, take the deal. The first step is admitting you have a problem! What should have been on my list: Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. (Tomatometer 90%). Who would have thought that Tom Cruise had another sci-fi hit left in him? Apparently no one thought that, but he did, and this sleeper got great reviews, although it barely made a dent at the box office due to poor marketing.

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 92%). Fox remains a step behind Marvel Studios in crafting a compelling and audience-friendly superhero world. But only a step. This film successfully performed a soft reboot on the franchise by using time travel to hit the reset button on the less popular films in the franchise (X-Men: The Last Stand and at least part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine), thereby erasing past sins and opening the X-Men universe to tons of new storytelling possibilities. Plus, it was a great film in and of itself, ranking alongside X-Men: First Class, X2: X-Men United and The Wolverine as one of the best in the series.

6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 60%). I haven’t seen this yet (although I plan to this week), but I have it on authority that it is a fitting end to the trilogy and perhaps the best of the three. And while it should be noted that The Hobbit was bloated, overly reliant on digital effects, and nowhere near as good as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was nevertheless pure delight to return to Middle Earth.

7. Big Hero 6
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). Disney made good on their promise to translate this Marvel Comics property into an animated feature, giving us the best family-oriented superhero film since The Incredibles. (Given that Disney own both properties, I wonder if we could see a cross-over in the future…?)

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 66%). With the Hunger Games, the books get weaker as the series progresses, but the films have gotten better in relation to the books. I think the film makers have a better handle on this world they have created than the author did. Still, it is strange that they turned the final—and shortest—book into a two-parter. I haven’t seen this one either, and probably won’t until Part 2 comes out. But from what I hear, it’s fine. Just the captivating presence of Jennifer Lawrence is enough to keep me going on this series.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 91%). The original Planet of the Apes in 1968 was cheesy—but delicious. All attempts to expand the franchise, however, were miserable failures until Rise of the Planet of the Apes completely redefined it in 2011. So I wondered if Dawn would follow in its predecessor’s success or sink back into miserable failure. With a new director and almost a completely new cast, I suspected the latter, but this film delivered in spades. The POTA franchise is alive and well, and I cannot wait for the next installment. Long live Caesar! Long live the Apes!

10. Interstellar
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 73%). Can Christopher Nolan do any wrong? That has yet to be proven. His first outing in pure sci-fi gives us yet another gorgeous example of his skill with cinematography, and the acting and storytelling are also compelling. It’s not his best work, but it is delightful, as always. One thing to note: Nolan was intent on using practical effects and avoiding green screens wherever possible—so much so that rather than adding the stars of space in post-production, he projected them onto the background of the actual soundstage, so the actors would feel that they were in space as they did their scenes.

11. Jupiter Ascending
Result: INCOMPLETE (Tomatometer n/a). This movie was delayed to February 6, 2015. Out of pure coincidence, the planet Jupiter is at opposition (its closest approach to Earth) on that date. What should have been on my list: Snowpiercer (Tomatometer 95%). This film was actually released in 2013—everywhere but in the United States. Here, distribution rights disputes caused its delay and it opened in extremely limited release. A major success elsewhere, you should see it if you like dystopian sci-fi. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America) as a passenger aboard a post-apocalyptic train, it tells a riveting, intense and highly original story.

12. RoboCop
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 48%). This film actually received a lot of hate from both critics and fans alike, but I loved it. I think the important thing to remember as you’re watching it is that it is not a remake of the 1987 classic by the same name. Actually, that would have been a disaster, because the 1987 RoboCop is one of the universe’s most perfect films and does not need to be remade. Instead, renowned Brazilian director José Padilha, in his first English-language film, takes the underlying RoboCop concept and crafts an entirely new story around it. And it is a great story. Instead of being rooted in 1980s paranoia, the new tale expands upon modern-day concerns and does it well. It’s not a perfect film, but there is a lot to love here. A lot of detail was put into every scene. For example, there is a fight in the dark where the two different sides are using two different kinds of night vision, and the effect is amazing. What’s more, unlike the original, this one exists in a more realistic and fully-realized world, perfect to explore in more detail in future installments. And I hope we do get sequels to this.

-----------------

Bonus Wins: I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the kid-oriented The Lego Movie (Tomatometer 96%) was, and I look forward to future installments for this franchise. Meanwhile, Gone Girl (Tomatometer 88%) was a magnificent thriller from director David Fincher and removed all doubt that Ben Affleck has the acting chops to be the new Batman.

Finally, lest I forget, Sharknado 2: The Second One was, if anything, even more glorious than the first installment.

Coming soon: my choices for splody movies most likely to please in 2015...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Twisdom 2014

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.


Genius isn't having all the answers. Genius is knowing what questions to ask in the first place.


What kind of mileage does a Transformer get?


Theory: all video game plots take place in a parallel universe of lobotomized clones.


Don't look now, but there's a ninja on your lap...


This Mickey Mouse cartoon about a trip to the moon is really doing a piss-poor job of teaching my 2-year-old about astrophysics. 


Don't upset the apple cart as it plunges over the cliff.


My wife and my boss just joined Twitter. Welcome aboard! And remember this advice: if you can't express something in 140 characters or less,


You call it ADD. I call it accelerated mental task switching.


No one has killed me yet. Therefore I cannot be killed. #logic


Was asked by a ~10 year old boy this morning: "Can zombies swim?" My answer: "No, but the fresh ones float."


I'm pretty sure the reason my two-year-old cries and screams so much is because he hasn't yet learned how to swear properly.


Million-dollar idea: a watch you wear on your finger like a ring, instead of on your wrist like a bracelet.


It is my strong desire to see Breaking Bad resume 15-20 years from now with Holly White picking up where her father left off.


My ideal bromance: get drunk and discuss the cinematography of car chase scenes.


Happy July! I moved my snow scraper from my back seat to the trunk today. #Michigan


Athcab stromatolites halibut bitches.


I just time traveled.  I oscillated back and forth between "here" and a memory. "Here" won, as it always does, but that was fun.


How to watch sci-fi movies: pretend they were all made in the 1950s on a shoestring budget and be amazed.


My son just said to me: "One time I farted so hard, I cried." #proudpapa


Definition of old age: singing along to a song you've always hated just because you finally found something on the radio you recognize.


Definition of old age: singing along to a song you've always hated just because you finally found something on the radio you recognize.


Does anyone else think that dried flowers are creepy? They should call them "mummy flowers."


I'm practically blind without my glasses. Then again, maybe that's what the world really looks like, and "clarity" is just an illusion.


Show me something that doesn't go with bacon and I'll show you something that isn't worth eating in the first place.


I just hope when A.I. takes over the world, it will at least humor us enough to create bad-ass robots with which to subjugate us.


Scrambles eggs are eggs for people who don't appreciate eggs.


There are two kinds of people in this world: assholes and me.


Bonus Retweets:


@JMSchrader
The plural of "singlehandedly" is "singlehand-in-handedly"


@CommuterJoe
What I need is a giant, oversized bumper so I can just bumper-car other vehicles right the fuck out of my way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014-2015 college football playoff brackets announced!


Every year, I report on the results of a mock college football playoff in protest of the fact that we still don’t have one. This year, I almost didn't, because we finally have a four-team playoff. However, four teams is not enough, and so by popular demand I am releasing the full 16-team field. Enjoy.

I have bracketed and seeded the teams according to their final regular-season rankings, with some consideration given to tradition and geography. I also used the rule of no more than one team per conference in any given bracket.


Fiesta Bowl Bracket

1st seed Oregon (12-1, Pac-12) vs. 4th seed Clemson (9-3, ACC)

2nd seed Mississippi State (10-2, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Kansas State (9-3, Big 12)



Cotton Bowl Bracket

1st seed Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Georgia (9-3, SEC)

2nd seed Baylor (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Arizona (10-3, Pac-12)



Peach Bowl Bracket

1st seed Alabama (12-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Arizona State (9-3, Pac-12)

2nd seed Michigan State (10-2, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Georgia Tech (10-3, ACC)



Orange Bowl Bracket

1st seed Florida State (13-0, ACC) vs. 4th seed UCLA (9-3, Pac-12)

2nd seed TCU (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Mississippi (9-3, SEC)



------------



BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football

As I did the past three years, I have also set up a second-tier 16-team tournament. I've included all of the conferences champions without a spot in the main tournament (American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt), as well as the next-best available teams according to the polls.


EAST BRACKET

1st seed Auburn (8-4, SEC) vs. 4th seed Memphis (9-3, AA)

2nd seed Louisville (9-3, ACC) vs. 3rd seed Marshall (12-1, C-USA)


SOUTHEAST BRACKET

1st seed Missouri (10-3, SEC) vs. 4th seed Georgia Southern (9-3, Sun Belt)

2nd seed USC (8-4, Pac-12 vs. 3rd seed Minnesota (8-4, Big Ten)


MIDWEST BRACKET

1st seed Wisconsin (10-3, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Northern Illinois (11-2, MAC)

2nd seed LSU (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Oklahoma (8-4, Big 12)


WEST BRACKET

1st seed Boise State (11-2, MW) vs. 4th seed Duke (9-3, ACC)

2nd seed Utah (8-4, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed Nebraska (9-3, Big Ten)


So there you go. Start your office pools now and stay tuned: the final playoff results will be posted here sometime after January 12...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why the current comic book movie craze is a good thing

Films with comic book roots, tie-ins or obvious inspirations that have enjoyed or am looking forward to since Blade kicked off the new "comic book movie" era in 1998:

2020
Cyborg
Green Lantern (2020)

2019
Avengers: Infinity War Part II
Justice League Part 2
Shazam!
Star Wars Episode IX

2018
Aquaman
Avengers: Infinity War Part I
Captain Marvel
The Flash
Godzilla 2
Inhumans
2018 Star Wars film
2018 X-Men film

2017
Black Panther
The Fantastic Four 2
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Justice League Part 1
Kong: Skull Island
Lego Batman
Pacific Rim 2
Star Wars Episode VIII
Thor: Ragnarok
Wolverine 3
Wonder Woman

2016
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Captain America: Civil War
Deadpool
Doctor Strange
Gambit
The Sinister Six
Suicide Squad
X-Men: Apocalypse
2016 Star Wars film

2015
Ant-Man
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Fantastic Four
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Spectre
Star Wars Episode VII
Terminator: Genisys

2014
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Big Hero 6
Birdman
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Godzilla
Guardians of the Galaxy
RoboCop
X-Men: Days of Future Past

2013
Iron Man 3
Kick-Ass 2
Man of Steel
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness
Thor: The Dark World
The Wolverine

2012
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Avengers
Chronicle
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
Dredd
John Carter
Skyfall

2011
Captain America: The First Avenger
Limitless
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Thor
X-Men: First Class

2010
Iron Man 2
Kick-Ass
RED
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
TRON: Legacy

2009
Sherlock Holmes
Star Trek
Watchmen

2008
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man
Speed Racer
Wanted

2007
300
Transformers

2006
Casino Royale
V for Vendetta

2005
Batman Begins
Serenity
Sin City

2004
Hellboy
The Incredibles
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Spider-Man 2

2003
Kill Bill Vol. 1
X2: X-Men United

2002
Blade II
Spider-Man

2000
Unbreakable
X-Men

1999
The Iron Giant
The Matrix
Mystery Men

1998
Blade

And there are probably some more good ones that I just haven't seen or become aware of yet. So DC and Marvel fan-boys, stop the flame wars. Everybody is winning right now. We are living in a golden age of action and special effects. Pray that it doesn't end any time soon.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The blood

 
Hey everybody, I found some blood
 
Does anyone want to share the blood?
 
I’m gonna take and steal the blood
 
I’m gonna touch and feel the blood
 
I’m gonna make a meal from the blood
 
I’m gonna dip my heel in the blood
 
I’m gonna strike a deal with the blood
 
I’m just tryin’ to be real with the blood
 
I’ve got so much zeal for the blood
 
I’ll get a bag to seal the blood
 
That way I can conceal the blood
 
I’m gonna kneel before the blood
 
I’m gonna love and adore the blood
 
I beg and I implore the blood
 
Open my mouth and pour the blood
 
All you fools abhor the blood
 
I’ve got to get some more of the blood
 
Find somewhere to store the blood
 
All I do is for the blood
 
My pure and precious whore, the blood


—with Jason S.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

History of the universe

Here are some timelines to illustrate the scale of the history - past and future - of our universe.


Our universe is in its infancy. To illustrate just how long the lifespan of the universe is, I showed the four major stages that it will go through. Fittingly, each of these eras is so ridiculously longer than the period before it, by orders of magnitude upon orders of magnitude, that there is no practical way to make the earlier ones visible. (A logarithmic scale works to some extent, but even there you have to cheat.)

We are currently in what scientists call the "Stelliferous" (or star-making) Era. This is the time period where the universe will be familiar to us and life as we know it will be possible. The universe is approximately 13.798 billion years old, and if that entire time were reduced to one millimeter on the timeline, the entire Stelliferous Era would be 7.25 meters long.

The next phase will be the Degenerate Era. With no new stars being formed, the last stellar remnants will slowly decay, and then matter itself will decay. Life may exist in some form throughout part of this era, but it will become increasingly difficult, and the universe will be a dark and lonely place. If we use our same timeline (the Big Bang to present day equals one millimeter), the Degenerate Era would occupy a timeline some 72.5 billion light years across.

For reference, the diameter of the observable universe is currently about 93 billion years, so we would need most of it to make our timeline - again, only one millimeter of which has happened yet.

I'm not going to bother doing the math on the remaining two phases of the universe (the Black Hole Era in which nothing but black holes remain, and the Dark Era in which nothing but decaying particles remain), because our human brains just can't handle it. (Believe it or not, the timescale gets even more ridiculous.)

Better to concentrate on that first breath that our universe has already taken, as I have done below. While time is normally divided into geological subdivisions, I have attempted here to divide it into historical ones. where intervals of the same level (Super-Eon, Eon, Era, Period, Epoch, Division, Stage or Age) are all of roughly the same duration. Each chart shows an increasingly narrow period of time. For more details, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe.






(Note: I am aware that some of the events referred to on the timelines above are considered "fiction." Again, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe to see where I stand on that. Also, I trust if you're reading this blog, you're smart enough to know which is which. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lost '50s B-movies...

...that don't exist but should.


Killer Bettie

A Saucer Full of Rage

My Baby Is a Martian!

Queen of Monster Island

Race to the Moon

Doom! She Cried

Zargon Six

The Scream Out of Space


Image: The Alligator People (1959)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Live-blogging my flight

It's been several months since I last flew. Here are my observations.

Getting through security is not as unpleasant as I remember, but it takes longer than I remember.

They now let you keep small portable electronics turned on during take-off (as long as cellular service is turned off). This is incredibly helpful for me, as I get noise-induced migraines and my noise-canceling headphones are my lifeline on an airplane.

Also, I'm typing this on my cell phone.

During her pre-flight speech, the head flight attendant pronounced "placard" as "plaque-card," and "carry-on" as "carrion." She also called turbulence "rough air." Do people not know what turbulence means anymore?

Still taxiing...

The Great Lakes are stunningly beautiful. Part if me wishes the camera on this phone still worked, but the rest of me realizes that I couldn't do them justice and there's a big plane wing in the way anyway. [Not-so-mental note: find a good photo and insert it here.]

We can use laptops now. That's funny—I already responded to six emails on my phone! (Of course, the recipients still won't realize that for another two hours and twelve minutes...)

Was I saying something about lakes? Nothing but clouds above and clouds below now. Sort of a nice effect, really—two white, fluffy canvases with a little patch of daylight in-between.

And now it's completely white—no open patches save for the plane wing. And it's gotten turbulent. This time, the flight attendant said of the turbulence: "We're experiencing some weather right now."

I don't mind the turbulence, though. Give me a roller-coaster ride all day long. I just wish the engines weren't so noisy. Why is it that airplanes give me a migraine, but loud music doesn't? Must have something to do with the structure of the sound. (I do get a migraine if two TVs are playing simultaneously, for example—even if they're playing quietly.)

I am grieving the loss of the word "turbulence" from the lexicon. (And also, the fact that "weather" now apparently only means "bad weather"?)

At this time every morning I get a cup of coffee. I see that they have theirs in first class already. Grumble.

Kudos to the pilot. Not only did he use the word "turbulence," but he used a numeric infix: "We're at thirty-six fun-filled thousand feet..."

Coffee! And a gluten-free snack: peanuts!

I forgot my rule: always wear a shirt with a front pocket on a plane. That pocket comes in useful when you have limited space. Like right now: I really don't want to put my tray down, so it would be nice to have somewhere easy to put my peanuts. Oh well.

Peanuts and coffee aren't really a great mix, but I'd recommend it over weak black coffee by itself.

I just spent the past hour going over branding research. Somewhere along the way, the turbulence stopped and we now have sunny skies over the Great Plains.

I could use another cup of coffee. But I'll take the sunshine.

That's a lot of farmland.

I am impressed by the immense size and scope of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the great state of Texas and our nation as a whole.

Yee-haw! We've touched down. Cell phones—activate!!!

Crap, I got a lot of email in two hours...

Post Script—On the return flight, the flight attendant again called the severe turbulence "some weather." Sigh.

Sent from my iPhone