Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Television Tuesday: The First Two Episodes of, "Welcome to Chippendales," Are Fantastic

Up until recently, I did not realize how much bloodshed was involved in the male stripping industry, at least in regards to Chippendales. There have been podcasts and documentaries discussing the rise and fall of the famous brand, but, "Welcome to Chippendales," is a fantastic dramatization of the whole thing, delivered in a tone that is both at once ominous and darkly comic. Kumail Nanjiani plays the founder of Chippendales, Steve Banerjee. An Indian immigrant who used his savings from working at a gas station to found a Backgammon club, once that started failing he pivoted to a number of ideas before a strip club for women resulted in him hitting a gold mine. Then things went horribly wrong. 

The first two episodes of this eight-episode series dropped last week on Hulu and a third episode (which I still need to watch) is out today. Through these two initial entries, we see how Chippendales rose to fame quite quickly through Banerjee's keen business mind and assistance from choreographer Nick De Noia (played superbly by Murray Bartlett). The whole cast is great, with Dan Stevens' Paul Snider absolutely dripping with an equal mixture of sleaze and desperation. Annaleigh Ashford as Chippendales' accountant and Banerjee's love interest, Irene, is fantastic as well. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how Juliette Lewis is always a treat in any role and she's here along with Quentin Plair as a dancer named Otis with a lot more to him than dancing.

There are elements of, "Welcome to Chippendales," that are a bit exaggerated or fictionalized, but when you Google certain things that happen in the show it is astounding how stranger truth is than fiction in some cases. I know a bit about everything that happens, but I'm still incredibly entertained seeing how we get there, with Nanjiani totally stealing the show as Banerjee. If you have Hulu I'd recommend tuning in and getting ready for one of the most bizarre stories of show business you'll ever witness.

5 out of 5 stars (for the first two episodes).

Monday, November 28, 2022

My Least Favorite Holiday Commercial is Back

I hate holiday car/truck commercials. Unless your bank account is flush with cash I can't imagine most people just randomly surprising their partner or family with a car. The most annoying version of this ad is the one where the man surprises his lady with a puppy by whistling before she then whistles and reveals he gets a truck. It's just dumb. You should always talk with a partner/family before randomly getting a pet or vehicle. Both are expensive and both are a responsibility.  The latest version of the ad can be seen at this link, but it has been around for a chunk of years. I recall how, "Saturday Night Live," skewered these advertisements with its own parody a couple of years ago. Check it out:

Now that's an ad!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Mad Cave Studios Has Expanded to Lunar For Distribution; The Trend Continues

I wrote earlier this month about how AWA was expanding their comic distribution beyond Diamond to also work with Lunar. I discussed how it seemed like there was a trend where--if I may quote myself--"I'm pretty sure these publishers who are sticking with Diamond but also willing to work with Lunar and/or PRH are hedging their bets on Diamond's comic division folding or otherwise not being used by a chunk of stores." Now, Mad Cave Studios will be working with Lunar as well as Diamond. More publishers expanding to other distributors. Bets are getting hedged.

I honestly think that even if folks hate Diamond, they do need them for the distribution of a chunk of stuff, but ever since 2020 (which seems like eons ago) Diamond has lost its once firm grip on the comic distribution market as the sole entity. As long as Image and a variety of other publishers stick with Diamond as their sole distributor their comic division will struggle along. Plus, many comic and comic/collectible stores will need Diamond for a variety of items besides comics. Still, times are rapidly changing.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

There Are a Lot of, "Spawn," Variant Covers Coming for December

Next month we will get a ton of, "Spawn," variant covers to celebrate the character's 30th anniversary this year of 2022 (yep, 1992 was 30 years ago, which makes me feel old). There will be a lot of variant covers from Image--where Todd McFarlane created Spawn--and a whole bunch from DC. The ones at DC are because there is that big new crossover coming up between Spawn and Batman, so why not have a bunch of covers featuring Spawn with other DC heroes/villains? It is kind of fun, but man, that is a lot of Spawn.

I recently was in a discussion on Reddit with folks when someone posted how they loved the artwork in Spawn comics but found the writing to be painful. I commented that I weirdly enough really like Spawn stories not written by McFarlane. That sounds odd, but I have a fondness for the, "Hellspawn," series Brian Michael Bendis and Steve Niles wrote with Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith doing the artwork. I also liked the crossover with WildC.A.T.S. that was written by Alan Moore of all people and considered hokey and dumb by some, but I feel it has a silly charm. Again though, when McFarlane himself writes his creation, I tune out any text and simply enjoy the artwork.

Do we need so many, "Spawn," covers? Probably not. Are some clever and do many of them look quite pretty? Yes, yes they do. These covers are like a lot of, "Spawn," content, frankly. A ton of style and minimal examples of substance. Just enjoy the pretty pictures and move along, in other words.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Film Friday/Flashback Friday: "Die Another Day," Did Have at Least One Clever Idea

I was reading an article by Kyle Turner on, "Paste," that doesn't argue so much that, "Die Another Day," was good, but had some interesting ideas. The movie came out in 2002 and I recall seeing it in theaters and another time some years later, but that was it. Hence, my memory of the flick is a bit foggy, but I can say it was not very good. Overreliance on CGI, a plot that leaned far too heavily in sci-fi for my liking, and just general messiness. However, one over-the-top element actually kind of works in retrospect. The big villain of the movie is a North Korean terrorist--Col. Sun-Tan Moon--and he's had ample gene therapy and plastic surgery to resemble a white British dude modeled after Pierce Brosnan's James Bond. 

Going by the name Gustav Graves, he's able to gain power and respect now so that he can take those he hates (but resembles) down. As Turner observes in his article, "On a literal level, it’s fascinating and unsettling, racialization inverting itself and whiteness becoming a snake eating its own tail: Graves tells Bond that he modeled his persona after him, with, 'Unjustifiable swagger,' and, 'crass quips,' a funhouse mirror of the man whose love only extends to Queen and country." The big baddie is someone who exists basically as a mockery of everything James Bond is and stands for. That's such a surreal and strange idea that it is one part of the movie which actually kind of works even if to get there you need a bunch of made-up jargon about gene replacement and altering DNA.

Gustav Graves...or is he?

Someone hates Bond and the UK so much that he basically becomes an extreme and nearly parodic version of what he despises and finds himself beloved for it. The whole thing is a bit like when Max and Leo try to make a play so bad it'll bomb in, "The Producers," but they end up with a massive hit because the result is so absurd that the concept strangely works. It's just that in, "Die Another Day," we don't get, "Springtime for Hitler," we get a North Korean terrorist who transforms himself into a WASP-y Brit.

Don't get me wrong, "Die Another Day," is still pretty low on my list of Bond movies I've seen (The Daniel Craig-led, "Casino Royale," is probably my all-time favorite), but I'll admit it does at least one thing that is interesting and clever along with all the less entertaining stuff. To be fair, Halle Berry does what she can with her role as Bond's latest fling, but if you want Berry giving her all in a genre flick, I'd recommend, "Swordfish," anytime over this movie.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Enjoy Thanksgiving 2022!

If you're in America or its territories, you might be celebrating Thanksgiving today. Should you be doing so I hope you have a fun holiday and eat plenty of tasty food. If you're the person preparing the food, don't forget to give yourself a break as well. I'll be chilling with Samii and Clarkson as well as my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, so it'll just be a pretty relaxed day. Have a good one, everybody!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

"Cuff It," Is the Beyonce I Know and Enjoy

Earlier this year I made a post discussing how I was not a fan of Beyonce's song, "Break My Soul." I found it to be a rare misstep, but now with, "Cuff It," getting popular I can say that is a tune I enjoy. It's catchy, has peppy and sexy lyrics, and makes me wanna groove. "Cuff It," has a bit of a retro vibe with the funky guitar and horns straight out of a 70's jam, but doesn't feel like a wholesale rip-off that way, "Break My Soul," was reminiscent of a mediocre house music song. Have a listen:

That's a darn good song right there. I knew even if, "Break My Soul," let me down something else would be a return to form, and "Cuff It," is quite great.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Television Tuesday: "Pepsi, Where's My Jet?"

I watched the Netflix mini-series, "Pepsi, Where's My Jet?" over the weekend and it was delightful. The mini-series chronicles over four episodes how a man named John in his 20's sued Pepsi for a Harrier jet back in the 1990s. It was advertised as if it were a part of an ad campaign where you could use Pepsi points to get a t-shirt, glasses, a bag, or (theoretically) a jet. As Pepsi did not advertise the jet as being a joke (at first) this led to a very real case when John submitted money for Pepsi points (with assistance from an investor and friend named Todd) and requested his jet. 

The documentary approaches all of this madness with a nice lighthearted tone and is quite fun. At just four episodes it doesn't stretch the story out too much either as interviews with former advertising pros, Pepsi execs, lawyers, and plenty of discussion with John himself. If you don't know whether John eventually got his jet (or money equal to its value) I won't spoil the ending, but even if you do know how everything shook out the story is still worth hearing and seeing in this great little documentary.

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Simon Hanselmann's "Below Ambition," Mixes Depressing and Funny into a Strangely Satisfying Blend

Simon Hanselmann has spent years doing his, "Megahex," comics featuring Megg, Mogg, Owl, Werewolf Jones, and other surreal characters. He then achieved massive critical and commercial success with his strip, "Crisis Zone." It chronicled his characters in an alternate continuity of sorts as they responded in real-time (he did the strip daily) to COVID-19 shutting everything down throughout 2020 and resulting in utter mayhem. A collection of, "Crisis Zone," was published in 2021 and it was a massive book that practically burst at the seams with all the wild hijinks and events that took place. It was one of my favorite comics of the year. How does Hanselmann possibly follow up such a book? Well, you can't really go larger, so why not narrow the focus? Hence, "Below Ambition."

"Below Ambition," is a series of vignettes that focus on Megg and Werewolf Jones as their two-person band, Horse Mania, tries and fails to succeed at live shows because they frankly suck. We witness Megg and WJ failing miserably to get their tech to work or make anything resembling music, all the while being absolutely vicious to any other band sharing sets with them at various bars. Compared to the sprawling, "Crisis Zone," this is absolutely minimalist, focusing mainly on Megg and WJ simply being miserable, high/drunk, and getting into trouble when they aren't screwing around in the alleys behind bars. It sounds horrifically dark and it is, but Hanselmann is a master at injecting humor into even the grimmest of situations. One strip features Megg so intoxicated she can only lay on the stage and beg for someone to just kill her while a bar's audience stares on aghast besides a friend/drug dealer of WJ's yelling about how the show needs some, "Live suicide!" The humor is as pitch-black as a cup of espresso and hits you just as hard.

If I may have a light spoiler in my review, the last strip takes us the farthest into the future I think a, "Megahex," comic has ever gone, featuring Megg with a young daughter who stumbles upon an old, "Horse Mania," record. This inspires a variety of feelings in Megg from nostalgic, to sad, to somewhat horny. The result is the book closing with a scene that is as raunchy and graphic as it is strangely sweet. I honestly could see people who only know Hanselmann for, "Crisis Zone," being really turned off by the extremely dark tone of, "Below Ambition." However, if someone is familiar with his earlier works or liked the really sorrowful-yet-funny, "Bad Gateway," then this should appeal to them immensely. I dug it.
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

I Briefly Played, "Sonic Frontiers," and was Unimpressed

I have a longtime love of Sonic the Hedgehog and his games. From the class side-scrolling ones to the Dreamcast, "Sonic Adventure," games, there have been some fantastic titles...and some admittedly bad ones. I went into, "Sonic Frontiers," hopeful an open-world-styled Sonic game could be good and I was underwhelmed. There's a big island that looks pretty filled with weird robot creatures (a bit like the, "Horizon Zero Dawn," games) and you can run around as Sonic doing little tasks and sometimes have these more straightforward areas to run. You can level up sonic with items to gain more skills, and I just was bored really quickly. There are other things I'd rather try on my PS5 at this point, so I shut the game down and returned my rental to the store the next day.

Maybe I should've played longer and I would've had more fun, I always say in these posts that if a game doesn't grab my attention quickly I will often just give up on it to try something else. I'm at a point in my life where hearing how after five or so hours something gets good means I probably will avoid it lest I waste five hours waiting for a game to become entertaining. "Sonic Frontiers," was boring and I'm on to the next thing, that's how it goes nowadays. I mean, props to the game for trying something different and, "Getting weird," but I still found it dull.