Spoilers Without, Review I Shall

While I could easily nitpick the new Star Wars movie, I greatly enjoyed watching it. My pal Johnny said to him it approximated what it must have felt like to see the original trilogy in theaters; having seen all three in theaters back in ’77, ’80, and ’83 at the long-gone Franklin Theater in Nutley, I will concur.

I had a smile chiseled into my face for much of the running time. There were missed opportunities, and some of it was a little too familiar, but as a whole I can compare it favorably with Mad Max: Fury Road. Don’t make me choose which is better; I’d say that Fury is more focused, because it didn’t go in with the intention of two more sequels. The Force Awakens (unlike the original Star Wars) knows we’re along for two more films, so introduces many new characters and doesn’t give them all complete story arcs, but lets us get to know them enough to know we’ll want to see more.


I’m no fan of JJ Abrams; he’s really good at making cotton candy like Cloverfield that thrills you until you start asking basic storytelling questions like “who’s that stupid?” and so on. There’s some of that here, where a character is given more camera time because of the upcoming Rogue Squadron spin-off, but it’s not blatant and the film captures the wonder of the original movies, at least in spirit.

What I loved:

The background is as detailed as the original movies (which I watched last week, so the memory is very fresh). And unlike the prequels, it’s not in love with itself. We notice a lot of detail while the story is focused on the characters. It feels a lot like the best video games LucasFilm came up with, like Knights of the Old Republic (which is begging for a direct screen adaptation). The fight choreography in The Force Awakens is quite good, and forgoes the crazy anime / Matrix style that made the prequels just not feel like a Star Wars movie at all. The originals are based on Westerns, World War II films, and samurai movies after all, not Chinese wire-fu flicks. The fights in this one are exciting, and the Stormtroopers can hit the side of a barn.

What I didn’t love:

JJ Abrams action set pieces and the lack of tension. Because we’re only just meeting everyone, and some things plotwise are a little too close to the original, there’s nowhere near as much tension as there was in the first trilogy. I’ve seen those movies dozens of times, and my heartbeat still quickens when they are taking out the Death Stars, Han is being frozen in carbonite, and during the lightsaber battles. Here the dogfights are a little more about spectacle, the bad guys aren’t as chilling, so there wasn’t as much riding on the stakes. John Williams is kind of phoning it in, there were many calls to the original themes, but I didn’t recognize or remember any leitmotifs or themes for the new characters.

I’m looking forward to the second and third films, and I hope they keep the faith; in Empire, Luke is not truly a Jedi but he’s quite capable; in Jedi, he’s no Obi-Wan but the Force is with him, and you don’t want to cross him. It would not be terrible to give the new characters similar story arcs. The last thing I want to see is a Jedi who can give into his anger or hatred, and then just go mope and feel guilty about it for a while. The high road is difficult. Luke telling the Emperor he’d have to kill him, that was a tough choice. In the era where Superman snaps people’s necks because it’s easier than dealing with the existence of evil, I sincerely hope the Jedi don’t take that path.


Here’s a photo of the old Franklin Theater. I was six when I saw Star Wars with my father; all I remember is seeing Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s barbecued corpses and looking to my Dad to see if it was okay. He kept watching, so I did too. I remember the collective gasp during Empire when Vader says “I am your father…” and the line around the block for Jedi, and how much we loved it, ewoks or not. While my joy during The Force Awakens was not quite that level, it was close. This is a good fun movie and avoids the mistakes of the prequels, so go see it with an open mind and enjoy.




We all know one. You might even be one. The fanboy: the person who doesn’t just like something, but goes that extra parsec and lives it. We’ve all seen the Star Wars fans who waited in line for days to catch the midnight premieres, dressed in costumes, living in tents. This is a story about guys even crazier than that, who want to go to George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and steal the print, so their dying buddy can see it before he goes to a galaxy far, far away. Whether you are a fanboy, know one, or just like making fun of them, Fanboys is pretty entertaining just as a buddy road trip movie- the nerd stuff is just gravy.
The saga begins in ’98, a few months before the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, is to be released. Three nerd buddies show up at a Halloween party dressed as Darth Vader and two stormtroopers, like they do every year. When you spend that kind of time and money on a costume, you need to get some mileage out of it. They are Hutch (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury) who has the Shag Van and lives in his mom’s garage- I mean Carriage House; Windows who runs the town comic book shop (Jay Baruchel, who seems to have parlayed his ability to mimic Chewbacca in Knocked Up into this bigger role), and Linus, who’s got terminal cancer, but hasn’t lost his hair yet. They’re having fun until Linus sees Eric- his old high school buddy who was gonna draw comic books with him until reality dragged him away to Dad’s car dealership.
Eric misses his pals, and seeing them again makes him dread the daily drudgery and his douchey older brother at the dealership even more than usual. So when he hears of Hutch and Windows’ idiotic plan to raid Skywalker Ranch and snag a workprint of the new Star Wars film so Linus can see it before he dies, Eric is lured to the dark side. Windows is cybering with a “girl” in a chatroom who has a contact inside the ranch, so they hatch a plan to sneak in and grab the film. Remember this is ’98, he’s constantly lugging an old Toughbook and looking for phone jacks.

Once they hit the road the laughs are pretty solid, whether it’s Hutch’s Millennium Falconesque ’70s shag-van, their continual war on Trekkies, or the acerbic comments of Zoe (Kristen Bell, “Gossip Girl,” Spartan) the clerk at Windows’ comic book store. She’s the spunky Leia of the film, gone brunette and feisty. Together the gang has solid comic energy between her sharp tongue, Hutch’s perversity, Windows exasperated haplessness, and Eric and Linus as the straight men. Their adventures lead them to a hilarious clash with Jabba the Hutt (Harry Knowles, impersonated perfectly by Ethan Suplee of “My Name is Earl”), a hive of scum and villainy led by Danny Trejo, and a band of Trekkies led by Seth Rogen in one of his more self-effacing roles.
They use their cameos wisely, and don’t lay on the in-jokes too thick- there’s plenty to laugh at if you’re only peripherally aware of Star Wars. I saw it after a foray into NYC Comicon, and the theater was only a few blocks away, so the audience was full of folks who saw a lot of themselves up on the screen. And we all loved it. Just don’t go in expecting a classic- this is somewhere in the big spread between Detroit Rock City and Role Models, and the humor is similar to both. If you’ve been following the sordid tale of the movie’s attempts at re-cutting by the Weinsteins, be assured that this is no Lucas puff piece, and while we never get to see what the fanboys think of The Phantom Menace, they do ponder, “What if it sucks?” But they recall the new hope and anticipation we all had for it, and made a good comedy about it.

3.5 neckbeards out of 5

NYC Comicon – Venture Bros. panel

I haven’t been to a Comic con before, but there was a Venture Bros. panel, so I decided to go with Milky and Darth Dross this weekend. While I am still recovering from geek overload, I do not regret it. We began Tick Tock Diner, home of the English Breakfast Burger, Eggs Arepas, and other fine fare. We knew we were close, because a fat Jedi waddled past the window. At the Javits Center, the line to the dealer floor was enormous, but they kept it moving quickly. Soon enough we were in the dealer’s room, with all their wonderful toys.

Things got off to the wrong foot when I saw my old high school pal C.C. Banana while I was on the escalator. I’d seen his website, but I was not prepared for my old friend to be dressed as a giant fruit. We didn’t have a chance to talk, or for me to see his act. Then again, with the amount of grown men dressed as Inuyasha, I shouldn’t single him out. There were plenty of good costumers there, from the 501st Legion- Star Wars costumers- to a guy on stilts as an actual-size Hulk. And of course, plenty of Venture Bros. fans.


I only fanboyed over a few people. Lou Ferrigno was there signing photos, and the Hulk was my childhood idol, as those who know me when I’m angry can attest. It was $30 for a photo with him, so I opted for an autographed one of the Hulk instead. I snagged a photo of him anyway. He was friendly enough, but it’s got to suck making money this way, so I don’t hold it against him.
While I’m more of a fan of the Conan movies and books than the comics, when I saw Will Conrad was there selling sketches, I got one of the Cimmerian. Milky got a headshot of Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle from the artists there, too. I also met animator Bill Plympton, one of my favorite animators. His sick sense of humor still cracks me up. He was showing off his newest, Idiots and Angels.
Of course Watchmen was a big thing- Dave Gibbons the artist from the original comic was there- but I was surprised there wasn’t more. No actors promoting it, or anything like that. I guess NYC ain’t as big as the San Diego one yet. Thankfully there weren’t any Dr. Manhattans going around in blue body paint, either. Here’s Milky’s Rorschach costume and a guy dressed as the Comedian.
The panel was very crowded- I had no idea Venture Bros. was this popular! Doc Hammer was there in his multicolor-haired and scrawny-limbed glory (hey, he spent like 5 minutes talking about how a men’s size small fits him like a circus tent, so don’t blame me for commenting on his gangliness). They showed some clips from the upcoming Season 3 DVD and Blu-Ray, the first HD release. The Blu-Ray will come with the soundtrack CD included; DVD set buyers will have to get it separately. The deleted scenes were pretty funny, and I’m sure I’ll be getting the set soon. I wonder how many will convert to Hi-Def to see Dr. Girlfriend in her Mrs. The Monarch outfit.
The panel was good fun- Doc, Jackson Publick, and Michael Sinterniklaas (voice of Dean, among others) answered many questions from fans who are a hell of a lot more obsessive than I’ll ever be. We didn’t learn much about Season 4, as expected. They repeated that #24 was dead so many times that I have an inkling he’ll be returning somehow. You can’t break up a good team like that. One of the more amusing questions was about how they’d cast a live-action movie of the show, and it seems they are big fans of Lost, since Hurley would be #21. And all the fans who lust after Dr. Girlfriend, the voluptuous villainess voiced by Doc Hammer with a throatful of gravel, got taken to task when a guy asked Doc if “he’d do her,” because of her voice. Doc replied, “would you have sex with me if I had a sexy girl voice?”
They did autographs afterward but I didn’t bring anything, and the line was limited to 1 hour- and moved glacially slow. So we went to see Fanboys instead. I’ll post a full review tomorrow, but I loved it. It was hilarious, somewhere between Detroit Rock City and Role Models. Certainly funnier for Star Wars nerds, but even Firecracker liked it. If you’re nerdy at all, you ought to go see it so it’ll get a wider release.

Star Wars Trilogy Retold

… by someone who’s never seen it.

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn’t seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo

Actually quite funny, and good to remind us nerds that not everyone cares about Star Wars. I pity them.

Chiller Theater Expo

I won’t deny that I’m a geek. I’m a cranky sysadmin. Have been for over a decade. The Weezer song “In the Garage” could be my high school anthem. I believe I’m past that to a degree. Other than blogging and an occasional die-rolling escapade. I don’t even play computer games anymore. So why the fuck was I at the Chiller Expo? It’s a horror con held twice a year, the big one being in October, since Halloween is the holiday for all things horror. Well, I wanted to meet Ace Frehley. And my friends Darth Milk and The World’s Tallest Man (Dross) were engaging in what they call Costumed Aggression.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 9: Hrrrm

Milky put together a great Rorschach costume, and Dross had become a perfect representation of Darth Revan. They both looked great. The first step in any nerd costume is not being fat (one reason why I don’t do it). Because then they wouldn’t be Rorschach and Darth Revan, they’d be Fat Rorschach and Lardbutt Revan. You’ve seen such things on the interwebs, I’m sure. Fat Tron Guy. Fattie Darth Maul kid. To my everlasting horror I’ve seen fat guys dressed as Sailor Moon, female coyotes, Fat Mad Max, Indiana Fats and the Beer Gut of Doom, and so on. Just don’t do it. If you can spend $800 on a fucking Stormtrooper costume, you can spend $300 on Nutrisystem for 6 months before the science fiction convention your life revolves around. But on the other hand, without you fanboys devoid of that human trait we like to call dignity, the internet would be a far less funny place. So don’t let me tinkle in your Count Chocula; have a ball. And please, keep LARPing (more on that in a future post).

Hail to the King baby

Chiller Expo is run by a bunch of idiots who keep getting kicked out of hotels. This was my first one, and having to wait 2 hours in the rain to get in, I would not have done it if Milky wasn’t depending on me for a ride home in the Blue Meeny, and he hadn’t promised a hotel room party afterward. That party was not to be, due to a Nerd Wedding happening somewhere at the hotel; we met some cool folks but Old Man Tommy was not about to endure a fucking wedding at a horror convention. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and one of them was a “hand fasting” of people dressed up like Inigo Montoya in Seinfeld’s Frilly Shirt. My retinas have enough scars without seeing a vampire wedding, or a zombie wedding, or whatever horrors lay in store for us that night.

Snake Plissken? I thought you were dead.

The wait was worth it, however, because like Dross said- nothing makes you feel better about yourself than going to a convention like this. If you ever sit on your couch and wonder if you’re living a good life, do yourself a favor and do to a Comicon, or a Chiller Expo. If you are contemplating suicide because you feel like a complete waste of flesh, go to a Furry Convention. Then again, that might drive you to suicide, like a Lovecraftian beastie too terrible to behold, because those people fuck plush animals and dress up like fuzzy bunnies. Chiller is several magnitudes better in the Geek Hierarchy, and these people look like they have lives. Of a sort. There’s large biker contingent, a subset of guys with 6 inch or longer goatees, and a smaller Gwar! fan faction.

Zombie Attack!

The first thing you hit is the dealer room. Here if there’s any sort of horror movie DVD, movie poster, or expensive, delicate figurine you can imagine, you will find it. Obscure horror movie you and 3 friends on myspace have seen? They have a t-shirt. I myself wore my Evil Dead: The Musical! t-shirt, so I could rise above the unwashed masses (and how true that phrase was) with a Broadway show t-shirt. I could have bought a huge diorama of Bruce Campbell as Ash the chainsaw-wielding slayer of the undead, but I’d have to sell some of my collection of scary pointy weapons to make room for it. And no, I don’t have any of those cheap Made-in-China Renn Fest weapons littering my man-cave. My tastes run toward the custom-made Bowie knives by American Bladesmith Society Master Smiths. If a burglar trips in my home, I won’t need to call the police. He’ll be a pincushion.

Emperor Popetine

Rorschach was a huge hit at the convention. The Watchmen movie is coming out next spring, and there’s a lot of hype for it. Perhaps you saw the trailer before Dark Knight. Every Nerd, Dick and Harry wanted a photo with ‘Shack, so I was a busy man with the camera. Another thing about conventions is that every has-been of movies, music and televisions goes there to sell photos and autographs for beer money. $20 or $30 worth of beer money. I had a few names on my list- Ace Frehley, formerly of KISS; Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame, but known to nerds for that ’80s TV show “Beauty and the Beast”; George Kennedy, from Cool Hand Luke, but more importantly the Naked Gun Trilogy; and Ernest Borgnine, who’s…. Ernest fucking Borgnine, dammit!

Nerds like the obscure ones

We worked our way through the maze of hotel hallways leading to the Space Ace, and it felt like the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas, except with the dregs of nerd-dom surrounding us instead of New York glitterati. At the end of our long journey, we were greeted by an empty room full of police tape making a makeshift set of velvet ropes leading to the rock ‘n roll star. An unhelpful goon proffered post-KISS Ace wares, since the make-up is now owned and trademarked by KISS entrepreneurs Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who will sell you a KISS coffin if you like; and they’ll let someone else play the Space Ace on stage now, too. They’ve become The Phantom of the Park, while Ace has stuck to principles.

I look high because the goon didn’t say ‘smile’

Ace looks like Keith Richards’ younger brother; years of rocking hard have taken their toll, but he is a friendly and happy guy. Some stars get surly, but he was all smiles. Of course, we just paid $30 to get a picture taken with him, by a fat bodyguard who takes a shitty photo. I’d be smiling too. I wish he had copies of his solo album there; I had dreams of finding a 180 gram vinyl limited-edition and getting it signed in a flourish of silver paint marker. But the reality is that KISS is long behind him. He had the best of the solo albums, and his cover of “Back in the New York Groove” made the song a U.S. hit. I never liked KISS much once he left, but that’s another story. It was great getting a photo with him.

Boba Fett and Darth Kabuki

After seeing has-been star power drain my wallet, I decided to forgo dropping any more money to pose next to the likes of Angie Dickinson, or even my teenage crush Linda Hamilton. I’d rather remember her as Sarah Connor. In the lobby we met more followers of Costumed Aggression, including a kick-ass Boba Fett costume and another Sith Lord named Darth Childmower or something. Others included a nurse from the games/movie Silent Hill; a guy dressed as the Burger King with the creepy mask, who engorged the loins of every nerd in the house by bringing his girlfriend dressed as Princess Leia in slave gear from Return of the Jedi. There were plenty of Jabbas to slobber over her.

Fredwina Krueger and waif

Some of my faves were more obscure, being the snooty sort of ex-nerd that I am. A couple dressed as Frank (Dennis Hopper) and Dorothy (Isabella Rosellini) from Blue Velvet; a great Snake Plissken costume from the Escape from New York/L.A. movies, who actually looked like young Kurt Russell; the gorilla with a space helmet from Robot Monster; and a kid wearing a giant milk carton with her face sticking out under the “missing child” logo.

Silent Hill

The costume contest had plenty of more typical, but excellent ideas- a guy dressed as a zombie cop attacking a woman, complete with his guts falling out and throwing a severed head at her. That won “scariest costume” and looked professional. There were a trio of Ghostbusters, with proton packs; a decent Godzilla costume, missing the tail. Maybe he’ll have a tail next year, but he could stomp Tokyo and get away with it. The funniest one, which won “most creative,” was Emperor Popetine. Pope Joe Ratzenberger just kinda looks like the evil Emperor from Star Wars.

Who you gonna call? Three nerds!

Unfortunately for Milky, there was also another Rorschach. Milky’s costume was better, and he better resembled the scrappy vigilante in size too. They got a photo together for another fan. We spent the rest of the night photographing the nerdiest people we could find; I’ll end with them here, so you can feel better about yourself. Now, I’ve got to review 9 more horror movies before Halloween, so I’m going to watch stuff like The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?, which isn’t nerdy at all. Nope nope.

Fat Star Wars guy
Robot Monster

Heineken? Fuck that shit!

Where losers win!

Dueling Rorschachs

Not sure if he just likes kilts or if he’s in a costume.

Godzilla and his terrible grimace

And finally, a guy dressed as Batman with underoos.
Wow, I feel GREAT about myself now.

You’re Gonna Regret It For the Rest of Your Life

Johnny wanted a tat tonight. I myself was deep into the task of murdering a nest of wasps when he called. The insects had built their home in the window where my air conditioner fits, and were therefore scheduled for slaughter.

“I want to get another tattoo,” he told me, as I hosed the nests down with a virulent poison unknown to the EPA.

“Of what?” I delighted as I sprayed the wasps’ nests from afar with my hornet blaster aerosol (“Shoots 27 feet!” the can promised).

“The Mandalorian skull from their battle armor.”

If you don’t know what a Mandalorian is, Boba Fett is kind of the Last of the Mandalorians, as in the Mohicans. He already had the U.S.M.C. letters across one arm, so I knew he wouldn’t faint or wimp out. When someone asks you if you want to watch them get a tattoo, I recommend you always say yes. It is always entertaining, especially if it’s their first. I should know, I have 3. Tattoo parlors are unique places. Now that the tribal tattoo fad is over, they’ve returned to that slightly seedy kind of place you expect to meet bounty hunters, hell’s angels, and graphic designers who hate photoshop in.

We went to Jinx Proof Tattoo in Montclair. Iron Maiden was playing in the background; flash, what tattoo art is called, covered the walls in poster flippers like booklets of wallpaper, except when you choose the skull & crossbones or big boobie babe motif, if goes on your bicep and not the bathroom wall. Tattoo flash hasn’t changed too much- you can still get Sailor Jerry‘s old designs at most places, or stuff that comes from 70’s album covers, and the famous stuff like a melange of booze, boobs and blackjack cards labeled “Man’s Ruin,” my personal favorite.

Nice clean parlor with the Pit Bull sign for friendliness

The place was busy with hairy tattooed dudes buzzing behind their needles. I found a little Italy boot I wanted to get next to my shamrock, but they were full up! Maybe next time. I also don’t want to nurse even a tiny tat in Hawaii. Though that might be a good place to get one, since Sailor Jerry’s last studio was in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

Give ’em the boot

After a few minutes a friendly long-haired tattoo-covered fellow copied the image Johnny brought in, brought him back to the clean area, and began to stab him repeatedly in the arm with a needle. As his good friend, it was my duty to sit and listen for any cries of pain and make fun of him. I listened to Johnny talk about Rob Zombie’s directorial prowess and blogged from my phone. Nerdy, but when your buddy is getting obscure Star Wars symbols tattooed on him, you have already been painted with the nerd brush.

We embrace our stereotypes here, thank you very much.

They also have some cool Irish themed flash, like a beer mug surrounded by shamrocks and stuff.I asked the owner about the little boot and unfortunately seawater and sun are not the best idea when its healing, so I’ll have to come back after Hawaii. If I don’t go native and pass as a Samoan, and get some of their tattoos. I wish I brought my copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Curse of Lono to re-read. This Boba Fett tat is taking forever. I can only listen to “Flight of Icarus” so many times, despite Piece of Mind being the soundtrack to my sophomore year in high school.

I’ve always liked tattoo flash, though. Something about the encapsulated art with its stylized brush stroke outlines has always appealed to me. It’s a language all its own, from the bitter cynicism of the “born loser” stuff to the sentimentality of the Mom heart, a crying Jesus, or a cute widdle devil. The darker stuff, like a 13 signifying the judge & jury who screwed you, the Iron Cross and the hooded skeletons with double-barreled shotguns hinting at the nightriders of the Klan. Back in the 80’s when I got mine at the Tattoo Factory in Butler, the Klan tats were right there alongside the faeries and butterflies.

Tattoo parlor etiquette is civil. Everyone might be a badass; look at all the pain they endured. You go out of the way to show ýour tats if they’re hidden, so you fit in. I’m a piker, I only have 3. Signs say stuff like “No Whiners!” “Yes, it hurts!” And “you can’t have just five!” Nowadays girls outnumber guys; they come in gaggles to get them, the sisterhood of the traveling tats. There’s nothing daring about it anymore, in enlightened areas; some places still find them immoral somehow. Mine only mean something to me, and are all vaguely ridiculous.

My first one was a fox. I’ve only seen another one on girls, which means I alone am manly enough to bear it with pride. My buddy at the time was a complete idiot obsessed with Navy SEALs and he got their insignia; I still wonder if he got the snot pounded out of him by real SEALs, since the closest he ever got to the Navy was the Charlie Sheen movie. I just looked over the flash, saw a cool fox, and got it.

2 very manly tattoos and a huge bruise

Later I got something even lamer, Pepe le Pew and Penelope- she’s the hapless cat he chases. So I’ve got cartoon date rape on my left arm. I love it though- Pepe has that oblivious confidence and assured sense of romance I think I have. Firecracker keeps me modest, thankfully. I got that in Minneapolis at Tattooing by Yurkew, whose founder passed away last year. My last one was done at Atomic in L.A., with friends I no longer consider such. It was a whim, and I like it. A shamrock to mark my grandfather’s ancestry. I need to mark my 3/4 Italianity, maybe I ought to put a pizza behind the bit of green.

Tattoos are one of the last rituals we have- in the old days we marked important changes in life with painful rites. It burns them in the memory. Usually the pain commemorates the headstrong decision to have a strange man jab you with needles for an hour. I sure as hell remember all the dumb things I did when I was getting my tattoos. Maybe that’s why its been ten years since the last one, I haven’t done anything dumb enough yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

The euphoria of endorphin rush has not worn off yet.