Archive for March, 2011


Welcome to the Jungle, Baby — You’re Gonna Die

March 31, 2011

It’s a TV show about the survivors of a plane crash who find themselves in a strange, mysterious place. They include a strong, beautiful woman, a wisecracking blonde guy, a man of science with a hidden health problem, a kid with mysterious links to the land around them, a spoiled, rich, whiny diva and a doctor who doesn’t think to take off his tie for at least three episodes. And there are people living in the jungle, people with a secret they want to protect.

But it isn’t Lost. It’s Peter Benchley’s Amazon, a Canadian-made series that ran for one season a decade ago. Shot in Toronto, it starred Carol Alt, Alotta Fagina from that Austin Powers movie, Canadian TV legend Rob Stewart and the king of the low budget, C. Thomas Howell. And I found it this week in the discount bin, the entire series for a good price.

  • Note: This DVD set includes a strange new disclaimer: “The quality of the audio and video may reflect the age of the source materials.” In other words, Canadian.

I spent some time on the set of this series back when I wrote about science fiction for a living. It was shot on a revolutionary set in Toronto, an Alliance Atlantis facility with an adaptable jungle that could be rearranged as needed. When I watch it now, I remember how efficient the production was as the crew managed to make the same small space look like a river, a jungle, a clearing or a Starbucks. I made that last one up. Also, they gave me a backpack, T-shirt, hat and pocket knife with the Amazon logo on it, and I always reward graft with a compliment.

Watching the show now is strange. It doesn’t hold up, quality-wise; it has that cheap video look to it and those super-Littlest Hobo-style opening credits Canadians know well. And there are acting issues; everyone is capable enough, but they seem unsure sometimes of what they’re supposed to be doing. This has a lot to do with the production system, as they were acting against footage shot by a second unit in the actual Amazon, and it can sometimes be hard to react to a monkey that’s actually thousands of miles away, or to C. Thomas Howell.

But I’m enjoying it. As a Lost fan, I see the archetypes, and I see the similarities, but to be honest, every TV show about castaways will feature the same ideas and points. It’s the way storytelling works; Episode 2 of Amazon features survivors returning to the damaged plane  salvage what they can, only to be attacked …  The biggest shame in Amazon is that the story never concluded, but that first season contains everything I love about adventure stories: lost tribes, poison arrows, nerdy survivors and Littlest Hobo production qualities. I’m glad to be seeing it again.

I once told Carol Alt she could use some acting lessons, and she said “Shut up and go back to sleep.”


Batman Begins, With Help From Michael Caine

March 28, 2011

“He wanted to go with ‘Oi’m Batman, mate!’ Took me a week to talk him out of it! Ah, well, it’s not like the tosser’s career’s going anywhere, is it?”


Tarzan Discovers Music

March 24, 2011

So my youngest kid, Tarzan, which is not his real name but is the name he answers to most often, wanted an iPod. He’s seven. He does not need an iPod. We have several in the house, along with other MP3 players and old cellphones that can still be used as cameras and music players. But he wanted a specific one: the iPod Shuffle, because apparently some kid at school named Keegan has one, and they are cool in Grade 2, along with snot and farts.

“Not a chance,” I told him before making him clean the basement. I am a dedicated parent, but I hate picking up Lego.

Then we were at Walmart the other day and we spotted a cheap little MP3 player, $10, that looked enough like the Shuffle to fool him. “You want this?” I asked. He said yes. And now he’s telling the world his daddy bought him an iPod, and I paid less for it than I pay for a sandwich. Later, I went to the dollar store to get him a pair of old-school headphones, because the earbuds that came with his new machine are too big for his little Tarzan ears, and I also needed bandannas.

Now I come to the surprising part of all this: the MP3 player is actually pretty decent. I’ve bought a few low-end players over the years, but this one is fairly solid. Simple drop-and-drag interface, sturdy design, and a clip. It works. I might go back and get one for myself, you know, for the gym. Well, for driving past the gym.

Music: Tarz wanted to be able to listen to the John Williams Star Wars soundtracks. And the Ben 10 theme, and any Batman-related music I could find. I added some other stuff, because he likes the Beatles a bit. I also threw in that Adam Sandler/Kevin Nealon comedy routine about the farting hypnotist, and The Final Countdown, which seems to be the kid’s new favourite tune. When it comes on, he pumps his fists in the air. I am glad he has inherited my interest in ’80s hair metal.

On a whim, I added Fight For Your Right To Party, which led to the best musical moment of my week: my kid stopping mid-step, turning, wide-eyed, removing his headphones, and asking me a question: “Daddy, did you put a song on here that’s about a guy who doesn’t want to go to school? Awesome!” It appears he likes the Beastie Boys even more than Europe. My pride is huge.

Remember, this is the kid who still thinks we came to Earth on the Enterprise. And now he likes hard rock and goofy hip-hop. Later, he asked me to get him The Ring, because he heard it’s super-scary. So we have our weekend covered.


Punch That Canada Goose In The Face

March 23, 2011

"Look at all those happy Canadians ... for me to poop on!"

The Canada Geese are back. The dumbasses started showing up a few days ago because they think it’s spring in Canada, and did not notice the blizzard.

I’m seeing them everywhere now, looking confused. Yes, they are our national symbol, but so is the beaver, and what does that tell you? I hate Canada Geese, and I would like to punch them in the face.

But why? You can ask. And you know me — I’ll tell you.

  • Canada Geese, called “Canadian Geese” in the U.S. and “Geese” everywhere else, are large, dumb, slow, ridiculous birds, and there are thousands of them. Wherever they gather, shit happens.
  • That wasn’t a figure of speech. My kids can’t swim at the perfect beaches in our city because of goose shit simmering in the water. And they can’t play in the parks because of goose shit all over the grass. And they can’t launch our Batman five-person hot-air balloon because of their stupid sharp V-shape formation in the sky.
  • It’s not even a V. Stupid geese can’t even spell. It’s like a raggedy N with a broken leg, and there’s always one exceptionally stupid goose, the Dane Cook of geese, off on the side, all slow and limpy. He’s usually the one they ditch behind a gas station in North Carolina. “We’ll be right back, Dane! We’re just going in for smokes. Wait here, hee hee hee.”
  • Once, I saw a bunch of geese who flew north too soon, parked on a slushy frozen lake, and were stuck there when the ice froze around their legs. The lake was behind a tavern called the Plaza Hotel, a real class joint. Goose Bowling was a big hit with Jean-Marc and the boys that night, es-ti.
  • “Sorry, kids. I know we drove all the way here after spending the morning packing the van with beach toys, picnic grub and all that other crap, but the sign says the water is toxic because of all these geese.” … “But Dad!” … “I’ll just take you to the air-conditioned mall and spend a few hundred dollars to make up for it, and don’t call me Butt Dad.”
  • I’m as Canadian as the next guy (if the next guy is from Oklahoma City, that is), and I love my country and the red-and-white flag and the hockey and bacon and all that. The geese, however, I lump in with Celine Dion and curlers: people seem to love the idea of them … until they actually see them up close and in action, and realize that the initially interesting long-necked honking bad-smelling creature is actually a major nuisance, and so are the geese.
  • They’re aggressive little shits. You can’t go near them without them honking and barking at you. And they bite, the fuckers. No teeth, but it still hurts. I would tell you how I know this, but I promised Chris P. Bacon I wouldn’t ever tell the story of how he got his honker chomped by an angry Canada Goose. And by “honker,” I don’t mean “nose.”

The biggest problem with these stupid birds is they taste like crap, even with a good barbecue sauce. And so, Canadians, I urge you: punch a Canada Goose in the face. You Americans can do it, too, if you want, but I warn you: they’re tough little bastards, and they might make you cry.

Weird Al fears no man ... but a Canada Goose makes him weep like a little girl.



McPoyles 2

March 22, 2011

I’m sorry for subjecting you to my weird fascination with the bathrobe-wearing milk-drinking incest-celebrating McPoyles from TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I guess I’ve always been intrigued by weird, eccentric, greasy-shiny freak families, which is probably also why I was so into the Jacksons in the ’70s.

I realized today that when I offered you a photo of the McPoyle twins with their deaf-mute love-bag sister, Margaret, I was subjecting you to a level of horror the likes of which have not been seen on this website since I wrote about being able to see Britney Spears’ panties. Here, let me remind you of whom I speak:

The sight of her makes me recoil, as does the the sight of her brothers, who occasionally leave their stinking, humid apartment to grope her in public. Margaret McPoyle is a television marvel, a character as repugnant as Mimi from the Drew Carrey Show, but dirtier, and sicker … when you see her and her brothers on the screen, you might find yourself convinced you can actually smell the nineteen days’ worth of unwashed bumcrack you know follows them around.

But here’s the trick: it’s acting, and acting on a level TV doesn’t see often. If you don’t believe me, click on the photo to see what the actress who plays Margaret looks like outside the incest den. Thesey Surface, which is not only her name, but actually a name, proves how powerful a performer can be with a stick-on unibrow and a lack of dialogue. Yet another example of why this comedy show, which I am rediscovering, is the funniest thing you’ll see this week, if you’re sick and evil.




March 21, 2011

If you don’t know the black-hearted scum and villainy that is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, I urge you to watch at least the first season of the American cable sitcom. It features main characters who make the Seinfeld gang look like the Cleavers, but with grease. The cast, who are also the creators and writers, came up with a show about four young assholes who run a Philly bar together and scheme constantly, always making the wrong choice and watching things end badly, with plenty of filth and bad language. Later, Danny De Vito shows up and makes things worse.

Two recurring characters are the McPoyles, Ryan and Liam, greasy inbred twin brothers who knew the gang growing up. When we first meet the McPoyles, they have just had a shower together, and go on to discuss a scheme to accuse their high school coach of molestation (the coach was Mr. Belding, by the way, which was odd when he started swearing, because I couldn’t help but think it would make that chick from Showgirls blush). The McPoyles, usually in old bathrobes or, more memorably, dirty tighty whiteys, appear here and there throughout the show, sometimes with other members of their family, like their sister. Hmm. The sister.

Yeah, the McPoyle brothers, in the parlance of the show, bang each other. All the time. And sometimes other family members who are handy, too. It’s one of the oilier elements of an already oily show, but the performances of the actors (Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney) make the concept work. When every other character is despicable, you need someone who’s even lower.

I just watched a few episodes of Season 1 again, then turned on a western movie called Seraphim Falls, which I saw a few years ago. With Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson, it’s probably the most Irish western ever made. Brosnan plays the Jason Bourne of the old west, while Neeson plays the tracker looking for him.

The wonderfully dark and engaging film, a tense, violent chase across Nevada, also features tons of “hey it’s that guy” guys and, in a surprising and fun cameo, the McPoyles (Mooney and Simpson). They’re even grimier, but these ancestral McPoyle brothers, bank robbers, are at least a little more sensitive to the plight of Brosnan’s shot-up, banged-up, horseless and hatless hero. Or villain. Unlike It’s Always Sunny, it’s hard to tell in Seraphim Falls who the good guys are.

Especially with McPoyles.


Celebrity Skin

March 18, 2011

Apparently someone has hacked Scarlett Johansson’s iPhone and stolen nude pictures of her. This is of no interest to me. However, in covering the story, the Hollywood press has concluded there is a ring of celebrity skin-stealers who specialize in breaking into iPhones in order to steal these photos. I have five questions about this:

  1. Why do famous people carry naked pictures of themselves on their telephones?
  2. For that matter, why does anyone take naked photos of themselves?
  3. Can you see her boobs?
  4. Is this in any way related to the star-whackers conspiracy Randy Quaid and his wife were raving about last year?
  5. Are there nude photos of Randy Quaid out there?

Nude photos of Randy Quaid could actually destroy the Internet.