Monday, March 2, 2015

EVERY DAY CARRY 2015

In 2012 I wrote this article about the contents of my bag at the time. It had a lot of gear in it.

Sometime in the summer of 2013 ( I think) that bag was stolen out of my office. Apparently this is a thing of midtown NYC; sometimes vagrants and mendicants will open the doors of offices, snatch the first thing they see, if no one is immediately watching, and take off.

That day, my bag was mostly filled with heavy hardcovers I was bringing home from Comic Con International in San Diego. The thief in question ditched the books (and some other items) in the stairwell, and kept going with my bag. I lost a precious Swiss-tool, but everything else was easily replaceable.

It was infuriating nevertheless.

Smash-cut to two years later, and much of the gear I used to carry every day has been broken off into specific bags. A gym bag, a cycling bag, and a carry-on bag for planes all have very specific needs that don't overlap entirely with my daily items. This barely touches on the diaper bag, which is a whole other ball of neurotic wax.

PANT POCKETS:


Bandana, keys, phone, and "wallet". A few months ago I moved away from the bulkier traditional folding wallet, got this slim piece of metal with an elastic band. It fits perfectly the few cards I need daily, and is quite handy. You can check them out here.

The iphone 5 case is ala the CBLDF, and available here.

Not pictured; SUNGLASSES, prescription. They go in a special place.

THE BAG:

This is a classic messenger bag from Manhattan Portage, a gift from my bride after the loss of my old bag. I can't find the actual make and model, it's possible it is no longer in production. It has an Adam West Batman button on it.

MAIN COMPARTMENT:


Sketchbook, and pencil. I don't do nearly as much drawing as I used to, and as I should, but I keep supplies handy for when then spirit moves me. The pencil is a Palomino Blackwing 602, which I keep around the house in bulk.

I love my iPad. I am not ashamed to say that. It is one of the most useful tools I've ever owned. The headphones are a random brand, and change frequently, as I am not great about keeping them safe, and I use them a lot. They get a lot of miles in a year. As someone who can't stand to hear other people eating, talking, breathing, chewing gum, or basically making any noise, these are an absolute necessity for a subway train commute.

There is always at least one book in the bag, usually more. Sometimes there are comic books. Right now I am on a very rabid Wodehouse kick, which was jump-started when I realized that there were several Jeeves and Wooster books I had not read. When I need a break from Wodehouse, I have been re-reading all of the original Ian Fleming 007 novels, which I cannot recommend highly enough. They are great literature of the highest order.

This pocket usually also has an assortment of other junk (clean clothes for after gym, extra books, whatever I need to transport to and fro) but none of it classifies as "Every Day Carry".

FRONT POCKETS:


Pencil-case with a variety of pens and pencils. Again, I do not draw enough, but hope springs eternal. Extra business cards, Field Notes, and a new Swiss Tool. Afrin, because as I get older I find I can't breathe anymore. My body is betraying me. A first aid kit, which has a lot of essential items that I try not to need.

Finally, a soft case of plugs, wires, connectors, and an external battery. This case used to be for art supplies, but I found I had so many chargers in my life (bluetooth speaker and keyboard, phone, tablet, charger for battery) that I needed to sort and store them all in a more thoughtful way. (That case, and the pencil case, get transferred over to the carry-on bag when I travel).

I've dropped a few things (or moved them to other bags) that I found I rarely used, like rope, flashlight, spare bandana, and a few other sundries. It's all about streamlining. 

I love Every Day Carry lists. I dare you to look at this website, or this category of posts at lifehacker, and try not to get jealous of all the excellent gear.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

REQUIEM FOR A COMIC SHOP or THE MAGUS OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE

The former site of CENTAUR BOOKS AND COMICS.


I was six years old when I first started reading comics, and they came from grocery store spinner racks.

It was a haphazard method of picking comics; very often they were chosen at random by my parents, or older siblings. It was a mix of known standards like Spider-Man or Richie Rich and licensed properties like GI JOE and TRANSFORMERS. Archie was another favorite, with his bell-bottoms and other left-over fashions from the late seventies.

At a certain point, around age ten, my interest in comics was not only expanding in intensity and volume, but also in specificity. I understood that some comics were better than others. I turned ten in 1986, and if you know anything about comics, that year will strike a chord. If you were young and impressionable, and your tastes were being molded, 1986 was a year that took that mold and lovingly attacked it with an over-sized wrench. The comics I had read just a year before were no longer going to make the cut. Everything was changing, and even in rural Tennessee, in the days before the internet, it was obvious that the grocery store spinner rack was no longer representing the high-water mark for comics as an art form.

Meanwhile, one town over, there was a comic shop. It was thirty or forty minutes away, and situated in a truly depressing strip of commercial real estate in the center of town. It had no distinguishing characteristics, and the sign was barely visible from the street. You had to know it was there. Inside, there were piles of strange paperbacks and used books with faded spines stacked everywhere. The comic selection was perfectly respectable, but it was an afterthought, hastily thrown into displays in the front of the store. The back end of the space was lit with a single fluorescent bulb, and the walls were floor to ceiling shelves of disorganized fantasy novels, and books about secret societies and the occult. It was like heaven, and it was casually called CENTAUR.

Like many a young person who is excited about pop culture, I had older friends with eclectic tastes, and I took their suggestions and advice with religious dedication. It was through them that I was introduced to CEREBUS, HEAVY METAL, DREADSTAR, FLAMING CARROT, DALGODA, and a particularly grim series called TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. All those and many more were available only at Centaur, and the few times I was allowed in there in my pre-adolescence (my parents were disgusted and mortified by it) I dug through the stacks and long-boxes of back issues like a crazed groundhog rooting out a burrow.

I read this when I was ten years old. The religious satire was not subtle and it terrified me.

The owner (manager? it was never clear) was a bearded man in an over-sized flannel shirt named R.T. He was impatient, surly, and pretentious, and by age twelve I thought he was the greatest guy on earth. While I had only a few fleeting interactions with him, my friend Garry spent many hours in that store, being sold copies of  the ILLUMINATI! trilogy, and listening to conspiracy theories. Garry was lucky enough to subscribe to R.T.'s mimeographed newsletter, which was a mix of "new releases" from Eclipse and Pacific Comics, and news from the world of psycho-magik research.

A telling selection of books R.T. compiled on his website. Image yanked from http://www.dbr.nu/books/AbsoluteElsewhere/intro.htm


The story of Centaur Books & Comics is a familiar one; it was sold to (well meaning) nerds who turned it into Centaur Books & Games, all the weird esoterica was liquidated (or thrown out) to make room for Role-playing Games and RPG paraphernalia, and there was a mighty boom and bust in the 1990s comic book collectors market that killed thousands of comic shops dead. Centaur rests in that graveyard.

That part of the story is sad, but not notable. The interesting part is revealed 20 years later.

Recently, I was in Tennessee visiting my family, and my bride and I took a trip to see the aforementioned Garry. While reminiscing about the forces that shaped us, Garry mentioned that a casual google search had recently proven that R.T., now deceased, was apparently a figure of some note in the nascent days of the internet, among devotees of mysticism, conspiracy theorists, and fans of occult, fringe, and visionary literature. The fact that he owned one of the few comic specialty shops in the southeast was barely a footnote.

Even stranger, admirers of his have managed to recreate or otherwise preserve his early internet writings. Several sites cite and reference his influence, and by all accounts he loomed just as large on metaphysics oriented Usenet groups and Geocities pages as he did in my developing comic tastes. Some of his writings are still out there today, and if anyone manages to come across them (like I did recently, on Garry's suggestion), R.T.s influence is still alive, and still creeping people out. (See links below!)

This was a man who grunted approvingly when I bought Moebius translations, and rolled his eyes behind filthy coke-bottle glasses when I plunked down CLASSIC X-MEN. His particular brand of snobbery infected my brain like the bug that Khan put in Chekov's ear.

He mentored Garry into a world of weird pulp fiction, including Lovecraft, Derleth, and Robert Howard. He sold him on the world of 1970s and 1980s psychotropic sci-fi, and suggested comics that were part of the wildly important self-publishing movement of the day. This was then filtered down to me, occasionally through my cousin, who added his own twists, inspired by deep cut prog-rock and sword-and-sorcery fiction. It all circles that little shop like comets.

Reading about R.T. now, it astonishes me that someone (who could be seen as an over-educated trust funder with an inexplicable love for tarot cards) that passed through jobs with very little interest and laying down few roots, could be such a massive influence on the lives of so many people. He was like Johnny Appleseed, except instead of planting trees (stupid), he left an obsession with weird shit in adolescent brains. I am quite sure he had no idea what he was accomplishing, and I'm doubly sure he wouldn't give a fuck.

RELEVANT LINKS:
The Life and Times of R.T. Gault
The Quixotic Dialectical Metaphysical Manifesto
Absolute Elsewhere: Fantastic, Visionary, and Esoteric Literature in the 1960s and 1970s

UPDATE 3/1:

Garry details his memories of CENTAUR and RT Gault here:  http://the-southcumberland-reader.blogspot.com/2015/02/to-mountains-of-madness-there-back.html

I recommend it highly.

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 5

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.

DAY 5: SNOW 2: BRAIN FREEZE

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I am a day late. I apologize. These movies can be emotionally exhausting.

In this entry, we are returning to the world of Tom Cavanagh as Nick Snowden, the current Santa, and his bride, the Sexy Zookeeper, played by someone who was on HOW ABOUT MEETING YOUR MOM!?

I reviewed the original SNOW, and found it stupid but charming, with a cast that had fun chemistry. The leads and the Bad Guy are back for this one, but everyone else has changed. Instead of Sassy Black Kid we have Obnoxious White Pick-Pocket Kid, and instead of Sassy Old Couple, we have Wise Grampa, who is played by the dad from "227" (who was great). The plot is an amnesia story, with Santa Nick forgetting who he is, Bad Guy Game Hunter stealing shit from the North Pole, and Sandy the Zookeeper trying to get Nick to remember who he is in time for Christmas Eve. There are a lot of "rules" about how the Santa-magic works, explained by a weirdo (with the bizarre name of "Galfrid") who dresses like Rembrandt. The less said about Galfrid, the better.

http://www.hiddenmasterpieces.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Rembrandt.jpg
In Modern Day Canada, sans jaunty Moustache
Wise Grampa is a member of the "Caribou Club", a secret society who, in years past, held a Christmas Eve Ball for Santa and his Wife, and kept the Secret of Santa among their Eldritch Ranks. They have a secret Meeting Hall that is a pretty rad art deco set, and we spend a good chunk of the movie watching everyone clean it up and cook turkeys. There's even a montage!

The set-up here is dumb, the way it plays out is ridiculous (and kind of dull), and most of the charm of the first one is swapped out for WACKY. Everyone is much, much "wackier". Cavanagh has gone from playing a good-natured loner with a weird streak, to what might be an all-out speed-freak, complete with tics and twitches and non-stop run-on dialogue. He's abrasive and bizarre. Santa takes a darker turn in the sequel.

Pick-pocket Kid is truly despicable. I know he's a child and everything, and you're supposed to give kids a pass in the holiday season, but I hated him. I wanted him to go to a juvenile detention facility and be put in solitary. I missed Sassy Black so much. That kid was funny, and had a great story arc with his mom that was actually really touching. This kid is just an asshole.

The end of the movie is the strangest part of all. After so much being made of the Rules of Santa-Magic, at the end, they all just get tossed for a quick wrap-up, and everything that was previously established is revealed as basically bullshit. Sandy the Zookeeper is supposed to bring him back with Love, but she totally fails, and then gets kidnapped. Pickpocket Kid and Wide Grandpa then break all the rules and Nick comes back in a weird fit of low-key nostalgia. It's wholly unsatisfying, and completely undermines the first 90 minutes. Finally, in a completely unearned and frankly insane capper, Nick's parents, the previous Santa and Mrs. Claus, come back from the dead for a few minuted to say "Hi". That's it, just "hello, your wife is hot", and then back to the Realm of the Departed. I was dumbfounded.

There's less CG flying animals this time around, and Buddy the Reindeer, from the first movie, gets some funny animal bits (seriously), but otherwise, there's not much to recommend about SNOW 2: BRAIN FREEZE. I would suggest KIDS IN THE HALL: BRAIN CANDY instead. Both have a subtitle with "brain" included, and more importantly, lots of Canadians.





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 4

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.

DAY 4: THE MISTLE-TONES
 
http://image-cdn.zap2it.com/images/tia-mowry-tori-spelling-the-mistle-tones.jpg

Well this was some dogshit.

Tori Spelling is the worst, you guys.

I don't even know where to start with this one. It's vaguely a dopey Christmas riff on PITCH PERFECT, with rival singing groups, but the major difference is that that movie is great, and this is horrible. I didn't want to go into this project (where I watch a bunch of dumb movies) just shitting on everything. That was never my intention. I never wanted to hate a movie featuring the great Reginald Veljohnson, and I certainly never wanted to make fun of people for having no talent or being weird-looking. That's rude. But fuck Tori Spelling. She is absolutely awful, and her face is fucking creepy. This could have been a perfectly harmless larf about dummies doing dumb stuff at Christmas, but Tori Spelling had to show up. We're only four movies into this thing, people. Four Movies. And then this funky-looking, talentless bleach-job has to pop in and ruin my day by being the worst. I was really hoping to get to at least Day 6 before I had enormous regrets about this ridiculous project. No such luck.

THE MISTLE-TONES doesn't have a bad premise. It's not executed well, but the basic premise is just fine. The star is Tia Mowry (who was on a sitcom from my youth called SISTERS! SISTERS! SISTERS! SISTERS!) and she is actually perfectly entertaining. She plays someone who likes to sing, and works in an office, and is clearly a talented human who has been trained to be an inoffensive performer since birth. Apparently, the most important event in her town is a Christmas concert by the local signing group, the Snow Belles. She audition, but is nixed by Tori Spelling, playing an awful rich person who for some reason is really into this local Christmas-signing-thing. She is terrible. I can't stress this enough. She's trying to be funny, but is just so inherently unfunny that she comes across as some sort of robot who just can't quite time her responses to human conversation properly. I watched her and wondered why anyone would spend time in the same room as her, much less allow her to be in charge of a beloved holiday institution. Maybe they explained that at some point, but I spent most of the time she was speaking covering my ears in horror, the same way British children of the past hid behind couches when Daleks appeared on DOCTOR WHO.

Tia starts her own group, featuring nerds from her office, and to be fair, there's a lot of funny banter between them. They have a casual rapport and there's some actual gags here and there when they're together. At one point one of them suggests "SLED ZEPPELIN" as the name of their group, which made me laugh out loud, although it might just be that up that point, I was so upset by what I was watching, any levity was welcome and I overcompensated.

The actual plot concerns Tia blackmailing her uptight boss, a Secret Karaoke Master, into helping her group perfect their routine, so they can eventually beat out the Snow Belles in whatever competition they are engaged in. Reginald Veljohnson is around, sitting on a couch in every scene and dispensing the advice we all have come to expect from him. You can guess where it goes from here.

The biggest problem (aside from the general presence of Tori Spelling) is that this is a Musical, so we have Musical interludes. Lots of lip-syncing and dancing, and my god, it is awful. Spellings' main dance move is walking towards the camera while arhythmically swinging her hips, and she does this for most of the movie, as if in a loop. Whoever she is lip syncing to sounds nothing like her speaking voice, and it's so jarring I started to wonder how something so easy could go so wrong. Donald O'Connor lip-syncing to Debbie Reynolds in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was more natural. Tia Mowry can sing, but the song choices are completely dull and the arrangements are exactly what you'd expect from this type of cornball exercise. A lot of business is made of people dancing poorly (until the inevitable montage where they Get Good) and if you find nerds dancing in an awkard manner to be hilarious, then ignore everything I've said in this review. You will love it.

This movie is a perfectly fine half-hour Tia Mowry-vehicle sitcom. Unfortunately, it's a two hour musical co-starring Tori Spelling. That's all you need to know. F Minus.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 3

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.

DAY 3: SNOW
 http://images.starpulse.com/news/media/snow2brainfeat.jpg

Hey, Tom Cavanagh! He's great!

Already this is not so bad. I mean, it's not good, but it's not totally painful.

We start with foxy Zookeeper Sandy, played by an actress I've never seen before, but my beautiful bride tells me that she apparently was a girlfriend to "Ted" on a show called HOW DID I MEET YOUR MOTHER? She's perfectly charming. No complaints.

Sandy lives in a boarding house with a sassy black child and a sassy elderly couple. She has some Christmas Sad that isn't ever quite explained, or if it was I missed it. Even though this movie wasn't offensively bad, it still went on way too long, and somewhere in the second hour it's possible I started putting dishes away. So far, three movies in, the one thing I'm noticing is that all of these movies are way too long. Too many subplots, too many wacky comedy set-pieces, too many third act arguments. I've never seen so much hung onto plots that offer so little.

Cut to the North Pole! Tom Cavanagh is apparently Santa Claus! But he's a normal Canadian guy named Nick. The whole premise, you see, is that Santa Claus is not the bastardized version of an orthodox Saint, but a genetic trait passed from father to son. So Nick is the latest Santa, and you have to swallow that to keep moving. A reindeer escapes, is shot with a tranquilizer by the Bad Guy, and "Nick" has to go to southern California to rescue him. And we're off!

We meet the Zoo Security guard, who is doing an admirable Barney Fife riff, the Bad Guy (whose deal is never quite explained; he's a big game hunter that also works at the zoo, I think?), and the bigger Bad Guy, who is the most ridiculous EVIL RICH GUY I've ever seen on film, complete with dastardly cackle and slow burn cigar lighting moves. He also looks so much like Larry Flynt that I had to check IMDB to make sure ABC Family hadn't cast the famous pornographer in a cameo. 

Tom Cavanagh is really great on THE FLASH, by the way. He took a character that could have been wildly stupid and made him work on so many levels. For my money, he's the best part of that show. In SNOW, he is much "wackier", but he has some very sweet chemistry with sassy black kid and foxy zookeeper. Hell, he has great chemistry with the rescued reindeer. There's a funny running gag about he is very concerned about all the kids he meets and if they are naughty or nice, which could have been creepy, stupid, or both, in anyone else's hands. The ending is telegraphed from minute one, but I am learning no one watches ABC Family for subverted expectations. This is in the "foxy girl learns to love oddball because Christmas" category.

There's a lot of wacky hijinx, and some "fish-out-of-water" silliness, but it all actually had me sold by the end, despite dragging in the middle. With any other cast, this nonsense would have been so flipping hokey as to be unwatchable. But the leads are great, and Tom Cavanagh puts the hard sell on some deeply dumb material. The supporting cast does a pretty job, and despite some dicey CG reindeer effects, there's way worse things to have playing in the background as you drink spiked eggnog, and bullshit with friends while unwrapping gifts.


Monday, December 15, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 2

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.

Day 2: SNOWGLOBE

This is a deeply weird movie.


At times, I wondered if it was some sort of TWILIGHT ZONE, twist-ending-on-the-way, horror/suspense jam. There are some very creepy performances and a bizarre supernatural element that never makes sense. It could very easily, with just a few cuts, be an ABC Family Halloween movie. It is a weird movie.

SNOWGLOBE stars Christina Milian, who is apparently a famous person. It takes place in "Brooklyn". Brooklyn, New York, is one of the largest population centers in the United States with a wide variety of cultures, neighborhoods, and flavors. The "Brooklyn" of SNOWGLOBE is a street with an apartment building and a butcher shop, and everyone talks like Carmela Soprano. Milian plays Angela, a super-fox who has trouble dating (putting this squarely in the "super-fox can't find a guy until the magic of Christmas brings her a hunk" category of bad holiday movies). She works in the family deli, and her family and friends are always trying to set her up with men, because despite being a total dime, she can't find a date. I think? It's never clear what the problem is. She resents always being set up, but also seems bummed out that she's alone. I suppose like Walt Whitman she contains multitudes, and contradicts herself.

Milian has one of the worst fake accents I've ever heard on television, right up there with almost everyone on NASHVILLE. She is from a wildly stereotypical Italian family, complete with "grandma's lasagna recipe", dudes in track suits, and an astonishing amount of time spent watching the Giants. (Seriously, there is an entire subplot about her brother-in-law watching too much football.) They stop short of shouting 'HEY MA, PASS DA GRAVY FOR DIS MACARONI!" while they chomp spaghetti in undershirts, but it comes really close.

Her mother is played by Dr. Melfi herself, the great Lorraine Bracco, cashing a paycheck with gusto. Her father is a black man, who inexplicably behaves just like the rest of the Italian stereotypes, despite mentioning in a bit of ham-fisted exposition that he was raised in Cuba. This bit of cognitive dissonance led my bride (of New York Italian stock) to wonder aloud, "Why is this elderly black guy acting like such a gindaloon?" I did not have the answer for her.

To try and summarize this movie would make my brain (and myheart) ache, so I will try and wrap it up as quickly as I can. Milian loves Christmas (we know this because she wraps up salami in a package with a bow in the first scene) but she loves a particularly ethnic type of Christmas exclusively. That ethnicity would be WASP. She wants Christmas that involves Edwardian street scenes, and white people in sweaters and ear-muffs. She wants a "white" Christmas, with all that that implies. It's gross.

After getting angry with her family because they want to have meals with her, and keep trying to set her up with attractive, successful, nice guys (yes, that makes her angry), she enters a magical world inside a mysterious snowglobe, where everyone is lily white and it looks like a Norman Rockwell Christmas village, if Norman Rockwell was a member of the Aryan Nation. So she wanders around, smiling and giggling, and then comes the fish-out-of-water material, as everyone stares at her, with mouths agape. They've clearly never seen her brand of perfect mocha skin before, or heard her particular brand of fake Brooklyn accent. Milian loves it there anyway, and falls for a guy in the snowglobe, whose only personality trait is that he smiles like a lunatic.

This guy is played by Matt Keeslar, who does the best he can with what he's given. Keeslar is a fine comedic actor, and he's been in some pretty good stuff here and there, but he's rocking the absurdist comedy chops while everyone else is playing it basically straight. He elevates his material quite a bit, but in the grand scheme it's like trying to kick yourself out of quicksand; you just sink faster in the surrounding muck. Why and how Milian falls for him never makes any sense, it just happens. She spends a lot of time in Snowglobe World, neglecting her family and job, until one day, Keeslar follows her out into Brooklyn. Then comes the next round of fish-out-of-water material. Keeslar gets shown around NYC by the guy Milian will eventually end up with, that nice guy down the hall who her family wants her to bone.

It gets increasingly stupid after this point, and there's lots of metaphysical question marks about the parallel realities at play while she is trapped in snowglobe land. Eventually, the creepy mailman who delivered the snowglobe in the first place returns with another snowglobe and snowglobe snowglobe snowglobe, everyone snowglobes back where they belong, thanks to snowglobes.

My wife pointed out that this movie implies that everyone in it is stuck in their own cosmic snowglobe, and she's right. That's exactly what this movie says. It's existentially terrifying. However, the strangest thing about the story isn't the alternate dimensions that exist in snowglobes, it's Matt Keeslar's character. He's like a robot that can only shovel snow and ice skate, only thinks about Christmas trees, and when Milian slips into a sexy outfit to seduce him, he falls alseep. This was easily the best part of the movie, and he fell asleep before they could get down. It made me so mad. She is so foxy.

By the end, Milian is glad to be back with her family of stereotypes, they stuff a turkey with lasagna (not kidding), and she opens a Christmas-themed store, which apparently was her dream all along, I guess. And she bones the guy down the hall. HOORAY!

In short: This movie makes no sense, has like two funny lines, and Milian is a total fox.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 1

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.

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DAY 1: DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA

Set in Boston and starring Laura Vandervoort, this falls into the "Corporate Person Learns Money Isn't What Christmas Is About" category. Vandervoort is an up and coming executive at the South Boston Mall (the center of this movie's universe). She dresses for success, but is secretly poor. Or something. It's never really all that clear.

The basic idea here is that in her desperate quest to climb that old corporate ladder, she creates a "SEXY SANTA" contest, because women in their twenties and bored housewives do the majority of Christmas shopping. (This is actually something she says; market research and whatnot.) Apparently, there's nothing women enjoy more than howling at muscular male models in public, because once the contest begins, there's a lot of that in this movie. We meet Vandervoort's sassy and horny assistant, the two fussy gay guys that pick her clothes, and the guy who makes her coffee. She always goes right to the front of the line and he has her specialty coffee ready to go, because as the Mall Marketing Director she's too busy to wait, and also she's an asshole.

The coffee line is the localtion of our "meet cute", where a beefcake gets mad that she doesn't wait in line with the rest of the plebes. She gets sassy, beefcake accuses her of being a rich girl, and they both act like jerks. Adorable! Naturally, this hunk is there for Sexy Santa contest, which promises to be oh-so awkward when they both realize what's up. There's a twist, however... it's not awkward at all! Everyone loves the hunk and despite Vandervoort trying to sabotage his chances of winning, he charms the judges by doing a "dance routine" he "memorized", which is the laziest bot of ballroom dancing yet captured on film.

The actual quest for the Sexy Santa is over pretty quick, which is a bummer, because I was hoping the whole movie would be Vandervoort, her horny assistant, the two gays, and Random Local Celebrity judging all the hunks. Watching them go through head-shots and crack wise about the contestants was a jaw-dropping display, and I never wanted it to end.

As it turns out, the Hunk is trying to win money so his family's Italian restaurant won't be closed by new zoning regulations, or something. It's very specific and very vague, simultaneously. The point is, he's basically an all-around perfect dude. Handsome, good with kids, nice, and sacrificing his Christmas (and pride) to be a sexy Santa so he can help save the family business. If it wasn't clear enough that he is Mr. Perfect, his sister repeatedly talks about how gorgeous and great he is. WE GET IT.

Vandervoort, on the other hand, is a complicated character. She's the star, and I think we are supposed to be rooting for her, but she swings so wildly between "struggling, good-intentioned worker bee" and "cold-hearted, mercenary yuppie scum" that it's impossible to sympathize with her, or even understand her motivations from scene to scene. I think she was on SMALLVILLE, and was basically terrible. She's pretty good here; she's charming enough and clearly is better at playing a normal human than a Kryptonian, but her character, as written, is all over the place. Watching her fire the old mall Santa, with zero remorse, is hard to come back from. It's Bill Murray in SCROOGED, except we're also supposed to admire her for doing what's best for the mall? This movie asks a lot when it comes to this character. She's a total asshole half the time, but she has a good heart, I guess? It's baffling.

You can guess how it plays out from there. There's a corporate subplot, and a lot of time is spent on the fate of the restaurant, and I think the hunk has another girl that falls for him? It gets pretty boring, although there is a scene where Luigi (the Hunk's dad, probably not named Luigi, but he's as stereotypical an Italian dad as ever there was) teaches Vandervoort how to toss a pizza pie dough, and it lands on her face and wacky music plays. There you go. That happens.

That's all you need to know.