Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TMS MLB Preview 2009: The Philadelphia Phillies

From the Thunder Matt's Saloon archives.

Disgusting. But I'll have one, I guess.2008 Record: 90-72 (1st in NL East, WS champs)

SO LONG: OF Pat Burrell, P Adam Eaton, P Tom Gordon, P Rudy Seanez, OF So Taguchi

WELCOME: 2B Miguel Cairo, OF Raul Ibanez, P Gary Majewski, P Chan Ho Park, C Ronny Paulino


1. Jimmy Rollins SS
2. Shane Victorino CF
3. Chase Utley 2B
4. Ryan Howard 1B
5. Jayson Werth RF
6. Raul Ibanez LF
7. Pedro Feliz 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz C

Starting Rotation: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Chan Ho Park

Setup: Ryan Madson

Closer: Brad Lidge

A friend of mine once described Philly as a place where every available surface was damp with some form of human bodily fluid - urine, phlegm, blood or worse. That in no way links to anything I have to say about the Phillies, but I always found that amusingly disgusting. Almost as disgusting as the notion of Cheez Whiz on a steak sandwich. Jeez, can't you even get your own cuisine right, Philadelphia?

Anyway, easy prediction. Phillies win the NL East. Mets take the wildcard...done. TMS can mail my check to the usual location. Adios...
Okay...I've just been informed that PECOTA is projecting the Phillies to rank below the Mets and tied with the Braves this year. Also, the Phils have an interleague schedule that can only be called "hilariously brutal," as they are lined up to face every good team in the AL East. Worst of all, I am apparently not getting paid for this.

Still, the Phillies offense is pretty nasty looking. It may not be the famed Murderer's Row, but it will be lucky to plead down to Manslaughter. Rollins, Utley, Howard...any of these are potential, MVP candidates - and I'm not laughing at most of the rest of them.

GET OFF MY LAWN!Of course, they're probably going to need some runs, as Cole Hamels continues to be the only Philly (Phillie? Phillee?) starter that I wouldn't be annoyed to have on my own team. I mean, I love soft tossing lefties as much as anyone, but Jamie Moyer is so old that I...that I...well, crap. I used up all my "old guy" jokes on Randy Johnson in my drunken Giants preview.

Kidding aside, the Phillies are a tough team in what is shaping up to be a tough division (abeit graded on the NL curve). I don't suspect them to repeat their Series win this year, but then again, from March to May I am still contractually obligated to believe this is "The Cubs' Year."

Mr. Sexy Time: Any of a number of Philleay batsmen could qualify. I guess I'll go for Chase Utley, as a childhood of idolizing Ryne Sandberg has given me a soft spot for second basemen with surprising power. Even if his name sounds like the Villainous Head Counselor of the Rich Boys' Camp in a Meatballs sequel.

The Ronny Cedeno Memorial "Thank God He's Not a Cub Anymore" Award: Well, technically, the Mariners' Ronny Cedeno has this one locked. But I would like to extend a hearty "good riddence" to Scott Eyre's arterial fat. Would it kill you to skip one meal?

With a landing strip like that, I'm amazed he doesn't play for St. Louis.

The Yuengling Award: Given annually to the player that's better than I give him credit for. A player who is nothing to write home about, but better than average. This year's recipient is Jayson Werth. I didn't even realize how good a year he had last year. And I don't see a reason he couldn't put up a pretty decent set of numbers this year. Even if he looks like a sex offender.


The Good Phight
Beer Leaguer
We Should Be GMs

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Which the Slogger Goes Prime Time

Wow. Two posts in one week? I guess this makes it official.

I’m back.

After a long hiatus, contemplating that hideous soft-core amputee cheerleader mystery horse picture (and occasionally posting my random, mostly Iron Maiden-related thoughts over at Pomp Culture Thunder Matt’s Saloon), I’m giving all one of my remaining reader some more glimpses into my fevered psyche, and why I think it should be plastered on national television.

That’s right. National television.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Wolter (or “Slogger,” or “Jon,” or “Cuddles,” – I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking or what you call me in your spare time), you always struck me as too high-blown and arty for television. Isn’t that a vast wasteland?

Yes, yes it is.

And I want a piece of the withered heath.

And speaking of withered, this plan (like most of mine) involves a Golden Girls spinoff. Also détournement. Because what would a Slog-based TV series be without Situationist Propaganda?

First and foremost, spinoffs often fail because just taking one or more of the original characters and putting them into a new setting isn’t a strong enough premise to carry a show. And, as Golden Palace taught us, putting 3 of the 4 GGs into a new setting is foolish – even if you replace Bea Arthur with the admittedly more feminine Cheech Marin.

And Bea, while powerful, is not even the strongest character one could carry over into a new series. No, as I have long maintained, and linked to on every occasion possible, the house itself is the true star for the discerning Golden Girls aficionado. My plan calls for the nightmarishly conceived set to be rebuilt1 (preferably along a ley line) and utilized for what can only be the most brilliant television show in history.2

Here’s the pilot treatment for The Golden Ones:

Opening title: Visually identical to The Golden Girls' credit sequence. Except that every face on every original character is replaced with cut-out black&white photos of the The Golden Ones' 4 main cast members pasted over the corresponding retiree, and animated in a similar manner to Saddam Hussein on South Park. The saccharine title theme will be replaced by "Fish Fry" as performed by Big Black on their seminal album, Songs About Fucking. It's a sentimental choice on my part, but I think it's artistically valid.

Theme: I'm thinking sort of a cross between the Golden Girls, The Young Ones, and an issue of Weird Tales, circa 1934. This show will follow the hilarious and terrifying adventures of 4 aging hipsters who purchase a mysterious Miami house after its previous owner’s tragic death in a sex-swing related hip injury. Each episode, they laugh, love, and learn about nameless terror beyond their comprehension.

Characters: What's in a name? Eh, who the hell cares. Each of the four main characters will take their name from one of the original members of Public Image Limited. They all have distinct personalities sure to make them household names:

  • Jim is the irritable argumentative one. He often argues with the other residents of the house, and is unpleasant to be around.
  • Keith is the irritable argumentative one. He often argues with the other residents of the house, and is unpleasant to be around.
  • Wobble is the irritable argumentative one. He often argues with the other residents of the house, and is unpleasant to be around.
  • John is the irritable argumentative one. He often argues with the other residents of the house, and is unpleasant to be around.
The Pilot: Our four main characters, each having been kicked out of their apartments by their respective roommates, meet at a grocery store bulletin board advertising a house for sale, and all agree to chip in together and buy it, sight unseen because it's so cheap. Their excitement is muted upon arrival, when they see The House, long left decrepit and in disrepair. There are odd pieces of graffiti spray-painted on the walls, several broken windows, and a group of local gypsies3 all make the evil eye when they pull up.

But does that faze our quartet? Not even John, the irritable one, complains. These four ne'er-do-wells are content to wallow in the filth, cursing at each other and breaking dishes…until, at the end of the first act they discover the garage. From that note on, the show takes on a decidedly darker spin, as more and more oddities involving the non-recursive space kick in, with hilarious results:

  • Wobble (the irritable one) wakes up in the middle of the night to use the rest room and ends up blinking confusedly in an open-air market in Cairo after a wrong turn into the linen closet. He turns around only to find himself falling out of the cabinet under the sink (where Dorothy encountered the lovable little mouse she couldn't hurt those many years ago).
  • Lovably irritable Keith keeps hearing an otherworldly disembodied voice in his closet telling tales of small-town buffoonery, and is only able to sleep each night after eating at least seven pounds of lutefisk.
  • John is irritated to discover that he keeps seeing odd tentacled creatures out of the corner of his eye every time he goes out for a job interview. But, by the end of the episode, he gets a job anyway, when he learns the ad agency he's applying for just got an account with a company that sells sashimi vending machines.
  • Jim4 has a wacky time trying to date two women at once while each night dreaming he's an eldritch priest committing vile sacrifices, then awakening with mud, blood, and other less identifiable viscous fluids across his sheets each morn. Did I mention the women are twins? He's on an express train to wackiness!

And that doesn't even cover the zany neighbor, Cyrus Wycheley - a retired Professor Emeritus of Parapsychology at venerable Miskatonic University, played by a heavily made-up Henry Rollins (who I'm going to sadly have to ask to lose enough muscle mass that he resembles his Black Flag days - also, he's got to cover those tattoos). Professor Wycheley's patrician "Old Arkham" ways will grate the irritable Wobble to no end, but delight and irritate Keith. Or the running gag that John has no sense of smell and cannot detect the odd odor of must that comes from the corner of his room that doesn't meet at a Euclidean angle! Or the work we're doing to get Charlie Manson furloughed for the Season Finale, where he plays Wobble's kindly Uncle Chuck, whose unstinting kindness will cause one of the cast members to commit the vilest and most unspeakable of crimes (I don't want to spoil the surprise, but here's a hint: the one who does it is a mighty irritable customer). Or the running joke where veteran character actor Dick Miller plays a series of different elderly gardeners and/or caretakers (each related to the previous in some way) who keep being found dead, with their gazes twisted into expressions of unimaginable horror!

Frankly, a show like this writes itself, so don't be surprised if I'm a household name by the next Emmys.

  1. The original is currently under lock and key in a storage vault at an undisclosed New England university, being studied by masters of the occult).
  2. Eat your heart out, Barney Miller.
  3. These gypsies will be the broadest stereotype of the Roma possible, in order to spark some controversy that will increase viewership.
  4. He's irritable.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Essay on Liquor Puritanism and Predestination

Or, "Come On! This Is Totally Unfair!"

Today is the day after St. Patrick's Day, and I feel hung-over as hell.

I'm sure you are shocked.

However, the honest truth is: I didn't have a drink last night. Not even one. No consultation with Dr. Scotch. No check-up from Nurse Bourbon. No snake oil purchased from my chiropractor, "Dr." Cheapvodka. Not even a back-alley abortion from a twelve pack of Corona that dropped out of Pre-Med.

I haven't gotten drunk on St. Patrick's day in a long time. I'm guessing 7-8 years. I don't like crowded bars to begin with, and I certainly don't like going out to capacity-filled bars loaded with part-time drinkers priming themselves to puke green-food-colored Miller Lite on my shoes.

St. Patrick's day is to the average social drinker what Easter Mass is to the lapsed Catholic. It's that one day a year to get dressed up in your finest faded Levi's 560s, green polo, and team-inappropriate-green MLB cap, snap on your snazziest puka-shell choker, and meander and sway obnoxiously in public at 3 in the afternoon, ready to pick a fight with no one in particular about nothing at all.

All that is well and good, if you're one of those idolators who think that one perfunctory and overwrought visit to church a year can save your soul,1 or one of those drinkers that are into showiness and ceremony over the message.

But give me that Old Crow Religion. It's good enough for me.

Drinking shouldn't be all about who's wearing what beads, how to download which Dave Matthews song on the internet jukebox, or where to find the Morning After Pill after "What the Hell Was I Thinking." That obscures the message. The Word. 2 The Price.3

Drinking should be a personal experience, between you and, ultimately, your Porcelain God. Those of us who have boiled booze down to it's purest message don't need the cheap vulgarity of sports bars and faux-Irish pubs to drink. Drinking belongs in simple, dimly lit rooms, with dark, simple wood and a bartender that can be reached in under 30 minutes. Sure, hot wings are a nice option, but a simple bowl of stale peanuts is just as holy.

So, much as the Puritans denouced Christmas as a pagan holiday with no relevance to their Lord, I denounce our current conception of St. Patrick's day as a false idol. Let us have a St. Patrick's day of the soul, one not bound by the calendar or Notre Dame shirts. Let every man, woman, and poorly looked-after child drink their fill in his or her own measure, and not bow to a tradition as meaningless as watching televised golf.

THAT, my dear reader, is why I do not drink on St. Patrick's Day.

And yet I woke up with a hangover. One that hasn't gone away. I have the headache, shakiness, and vague sense of nausea of a bog-standard whisky-induced hangover. You know, the thing baseball players used to call "flu-like symptoms." But this ain't no flu.

All of this proves Calvin was right. I am predestined to suffer for my sins, whether I commit them or not. For booze is a harsh mistress, and demands much from her worsphippers. But who am I to question? Dr. Scotch moves in mysterious ways.

Peace be with you.

  1. Or that you even HAVE a soul...but that's for another blog at another time written by another person than me.
  2. Thunderbird
  3. Forty twice.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

TMS MLB Preview 2009: San Francisco Giants

From the Thunder Matt's Saloon archives.

All through March, Thunder Matt's Saloon will be previewing each Major League team. We'll give you the ins and outs of the upcoming 2009 season, how each team will do, and some other useless crap you'll wish you had never read.


Note: Pictures may come later when I'm sober. I can't get them to work and I think my girlfriend is going to kill me if I don't stop cursing out loud.

2008 Record: 72-90 (4th in the already laughable NL West)

P Kevin Correia, SS Omar Vizquel

WELCOME: P Jeremy Affeldt, P Bob Howry, P Randy Johnson, SS Edgar Renteria, SS Stabby Stabberson Juan Uribe

1. Randy Winn RF
2. Edgar Renteria SS
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Bengie Molina C
5. Fred Lewis LF
6. Aaron Rowand CF
7. That Unholy Spawn of Satan, Will Clark Travis Ishakawa 1B
8. Emmanuel Burriss 2B

Starting Rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, The Late Randy Johnson, Jonathan Sanchez, A Giant Hole That Brian Sabean Periodically Tosses Money Into Barry Zito, Noah Lowry
Setup: Bob Howry, Jeremy Affeldt
Closer: Brian Wilson

OH MY GOD I HATE WILL CLARK SO MUCH! What is there to say about the San Francisco Giants, of whom I do not hold a grudge? Other than the fact that Will Clark ruined my goddamn life in the fall of 1989, as I sat in my Aunt and Uncle's house because my own home had just been destroyed by Hurricane Hugo days previously and then that son of a bitch twisted the knife in my already devastated life their lineup is a cosmic joke more hilarious than Will Clark played on me beyond all possible schadenfreude. I mean this is a really BAD lineup, even by the already anemic NL West's standards. I begin to wonder if the Giants and the Diamondbacks had a bet running as to who could score less runs a season. Take a long, steamy look at that festering boil of a lineup. Bengie Molina at cleanup? That's a fantastic move, as both scouts and statheads agree that the best choice for a #4 is a guy with mid-range power, mediocre on-base ability, and an ability to run the 50 yard dash in slightly less than 3 minutes.

The Giants also have a lot of young question marks in the lineup. Pedro Sandroval? Fred Lewis? Travis Ishikawa? Roland Burris? None of them are proven, but I guess they all paid to play.

Of course, the Giants do have decent pitching, with 24-year old Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and 72 year old 5-time Cy Young award winner Randy Johnson, and possibly amazing, but potentially hilariously bad Barry Zito taking the mound.

I think, given the weakness of this division, the Giants have a shot Excuse me, I need to do a shot, because my rage at Will Clark is building. Okay I'm back if the Dodgers falter and they get some breaks, but the odds are they'll fall like Mitch Williams throwing a pitch that Will Clark laced over his head to drive in both the winning run and the stake through my heart during game five of the 1989 NLCS short of taking the division. And in a real division, they'd never come close.


Mr. Hatred Time: Will Clark Mr. Sexy Time: Tim Lincecum. Seriously. He deserves to be promoted from the AA SF Giants to an actual MLB team. One that rhymes with Michago Mubs, for example.

The "I'm Still Alive Like Michael-Fucking-Myers In Halloween" Award: Will Clark. WHEN WILL YOU STOP HAUNTING MY NIGHTMARES!" Award: Randy Johnson. Seriously. All age joking aside, the man was an active major leaguer when Will Clark was breaking my heart Reagan was president.

The "I'm the Infield Equivalent of Kenny Lofton" Award: Edgar Renteria, who has also won this years coveted Derek Jeter Memorial Award for Shortstops Who Should Probably Be Moved to Third At This Point In Thier Career. I fully expect Will Clark to rot in hell for all eternity Renteria to play for at least nine other teams before he retires in eight years.

Honestly, the Giants can screw. I suggest going here:
The Official Homepage of the Band that Will One Day Kill Will Clark Onstage In Front of THousands of Screaming Brazilians.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Grown Man Attempts To Review NES Games, Part 2

From the Thunder Matt's Saloon archives.

The Battle to Understand The 3-D Battles of World Runner

I know none of you out there want to read what we think about baseball, right? That's why I'm back with another reason to knock the NES off its pedestal. As per last time, I will be rating this game by a scale that only makes sense to me, Stephen Hawking, and the rest of the Secret Genius Cabal that runs what you have all been convinced is "The Earth." Again, I have done no research on this game, and had never heard of it before I started the emulator.

I'm already having second thoughts.

The game in question is The 3-D Battles of World Runner. It was made by the same people responsible for the popular Final Fantasy games, so it's probably pretty good. Oh, wait. It was made in 1987. And it's an arcade game. I think...

Oh hell.

This is going to be rough. I can feel it.

This is the single most exciting thing you will be doing in this game.

Graphics: Okay, who designed this "3-D" world? Jeff Spicoli? Just because it looks good on a pair of Vans is no reason to assume I want to frolic on a checkerboard pattern. Neither checkers nor chess are fun unless you are (a) running a general store in Appalachia (for the former) or (b) a completely batshit Antisemitic Jewish homeless wizard (the latter). I also feel as if the characters are poorly designed, and not fully taking advantage of the lush capabilities of 8-bit processing. Also, the near constant chasms in this game are just black rectangles. Meh. (2/5)

I bet you weren't even expecting to find a picture of Bobby Fischer today.

Sound: A hideous squalling noise (not unlike a snippet from Metal Machine Music) greeted me when I started the game. And it didn't get better from there. In fact, I almost got into a fight with my girlfriend because I told her I needed to hear at least 1-2 minutes of this "Midi Carnival In Hell" score. Feh. (1/5)

Gameplay: Okay, so the "Battles" in the title seems to be a misnomer, since the whole point of this game is to run forward, while sidestepping cutesy monsters and obstacles and leaping ridiculous distances over solid black rectangles. This game could have been played with an old 2600 joystick for all the complexity of controls. You have no weapons, shields, or useful power-ups - at least none that I could discover (there is at least on part where you can pick items up, but they seem to only give points). The jump function is the exact opposite of Castlevania's - it's video game physics to the Nth degree. The longer you hold the button, the longer you jump, and you can steer yourself in midair. However, it's very hard to judge depth and while in midair it feels like you're steering an '85 diesel Oldsmobile through Jell-o. Guh. (2/5)

Your guess is as good as mine.

Level of Adult Confusion: This game didn't mystify me like 8-Eyes did, as it's clearly a mindless arcade game whose main gimmick is the illusion of 3-D. However, I would love to know exactly what the hell is the point of running endlessly until you die. At least Asteroids and Centipede had some sort of backstory. As far as I can tell, you're just running as fast as you can on a giant chessboard until you either fall in a pit, ram into a pillar of fire, or lightly bump into a bouncing ball with eyes. Maybe that's some sort of metaphor for life, but it's pretty forced. Also, would it have hurt to go through this metaphorical "Game of Life" with some missiles or something?

This game also has some sort of health meter or something, but it's clearly decorative, as every time I ran into anything, I died. And when you die, the screen flashes black and red and a dragon left over from a Chinese New Year parade flounces about the screen like Rip Taylor on ecstasy. I think he's taunting you, but for all I know, he's mourning your passing.

Other "charming" (read: confusing and infuriating) touches: when you pause the game, World Runner (I assume that's his name, or at least his title according to the Peerage Registry) turns and faces you, sitting Indian-style. And naps. Lazy bastard. World Runner also flashes a damn peace sign from the bottom corner of the screen - at all times. Maybe if you were less of a damn hippie pacifist, you'd be able to defend yourself against a figgin' beach ball moving at 10mph. (3/5)

Ram it, Churchill.

Level of Childhood Rage If I Had Spent My Own Money On This: I'm guessing rather high. I mean, at least Spyhunter had the "Peter Gunn Theme" playing as you drove until your death, not an outtake from a Melt-Banana casio tribute band rehearsal playing as you ran until you fall into a black rectangle. The 3-D gimmick would have hooked me for a while, but honestly, even the old vector graphics Star Wars was more convincing. Being poor as a child, I would have probably gritted my teeth and gotten very good at this game, meanwhile hating every second as much as I hated my parents for not buying me a Mega Man game instead. Bleh. (4/5)

Time Spent Playing as an Adult Before Quitting In Annoyance: Wanting to give this monstrosity one more chance, I came back to this game two weeks after my first attempt. This means I have spent a total composite time of nearly 10 minutes of my only time on this "Earth" playing this game. I could have spent that time listening to 6 Ramones songs. I feel like a fool. Bah.

He's like a tiny, boring, confusing angel when he sleeps.

Composite Grade: D

You're better off just hitting pause and taking a nap with World Runner. Unless you have a fever above 103, your dreams will make more sense. And you'll have more fun.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thunder Matt Movie Minute: Watchmen

From the Thunder Matt's Saloon archives. I only wrote my responses, the rest being written by TMS contributor Chaim Witz.

For this review, I have enlisted the help of resident comic nerd Wolter to help me deconstruct this year's most anticipated film. I just finished reading the novel about a week ago and that was the first 'graphic novel' that I've ever read, having not read an actual comic since I used to devour 'Richie Rich' comics as a pre-pubescent lad (no wonder I'm so pretentious). Wolter on the other hand, has intimate knowledge of the subject matter. And by intimate, I mean he has had sex with the novel. Don't knock it til you try it. We'll spare you the details of the trying to explain the plot. You can do that legwork yourself.

IMDB Cribbed Synopsis: "Watchmen" is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity... but who is watching the Watchmen?


Chaim: Watchmen comes to us as the most anticipated comic/graphic novel since Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. It's length is Lord of the Rings-esque, it's violence stylized yet brutal and it's scope is sometimes too complex for it's own good and for the mere mortals trying to take it all in.

For those who are unfamiliar with the dark noir world of graphic novel that the movie is based upon (Voted one of Time Magazine's '100 Greatest Novels of All Time') the best way I could describe it would be if George Orwell's book 1984 made love to the movie Sin City and had a child, but then gave it up for adoption to David Lynch and Hunter S. Thompson, that child would grow up to be Watchmen. Sound a bit complex and slightly disturbing? Welcome to the show.

Wolter, you can probably speak to this better than I can, but I did feel that for the most part, the movie stayed very true to the novel, which may please the die hards, but alienate the casual viewer. Gone are the pirate ship sub-story and the news stand guy, and the ending is tweaked a bit for mass consumption, but other than that and a few other slight omissions, the book seemed to be the storyboard for the movie.

Wolter: I agree. In fact, last night I picked Watchmen off the shelf and started sort of half-rereading it. It's amazing how much was directly from it (at least in the first 30 minutes of the movie). Rorschach's diaries are pretty much identical, even down to what's being shown as he talks. And a lot of the signs and graffiti were pretty much directly transferred. It's pretty clear that the original source panels were converted directly into storyboards for much of the film.

Of course, such reverence could easily make the film turgid and hard to follow (which, for all I know it is - I really need to rewatch it now that I have "OHMYGOD I'M WATCHING THE WATCHMEN" out of my system). But pretty much all of the major plot changes and omissions worked for me. In fact, I think the changed ending is actually a more plausible plot device, and works better in almost every way. Oh, and I support Sally Jupiter aging into a GILF...but I'm shallow that way.

I did love the "tip of the cap" to the fans by including a brief view of the "newstand guy" and the "comics reader" near the end. Sort of a "yeah, we had to cut the Black Freighter, but you know it was still going on, fanboys."

Another observation: the score was a bold and largely successful decision. The use of mostly period songs (with a smattering of 60s songs) and a sort of 80s-movie style guitar/synth highlighting (is that the right term? I suspect not) really worked for me. It really put the movie in the proper (alternate) time frame.

I think this movie may do poorly later in the run, as it's definitely not The Dark Knight, Iron Man or Spider-Man. I'm not 100% sure how Snyder got the budget to make what has always been a niche read comic meta text ruminating on such subjects as the comics industry and the way the American Dream flirts with fascism.

Chaim: The soundtrack was ballsy, but yeah, it worked. Putting Hendrix, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen in key spots could have really been a disaster, but I thought it worked.

Do you think that someone that sees the film without any preconceived notions might see it as a bit cold and detached though? I will say that I think that it's easier to get away with that type of heavy tone in a book than on film.

Wolter: I think it's possible. I told my girlfriend (in as spoiler-free a manner as possible) that if I didn't know how his character sees the world from the get-go, I might have felt that Billy Crudup was way too flat and detached in his line reads.

The whole trick of the original graphic novel is that none of the characters are fully likable at all times (except for maybe Hollis Mason). Depending on the point in the story, I have felt sympathy with and revulsion regarding almost every character's morals and behavior.

An example: in many ways, Rorschach is the most heroic character of all, and the only one who stays true to his ideals - and he's actually an unlikable psychopath that is more or less a straight caricature of the Ayn Randian Objectivism and moral certitude of comics legend Steve Ditko (whose Question is the inspiration for his character). In both the original source and the movie, he ends up brutally torturing more-or-less innocent people to get the information he needs - and he is far more obsessed with retribution than genuine justice.

And now an aside: one of the more disturbing experiences at the screening was hearing all the comics geeks cheering loudly in response to some of Rorschach's more psychotic excesses (particularly in the prison). There's always been a bit of that mindset in vigilante heroes anyway, but the amount of laughter at the fate of the relatively defenseless and (at that point essentially impotent) ringleader was somewhat chilling. And somewhat more chilling: I found myself almost wanting to laugh and cheer along with them - which I believe was the result Moore and Snyder were consciously aiming for.

To get back to the original question: the Watchmen graphic novel rewards careful rereading with insights, and I suspect this film does the same with careful rewatching. However, I'm not 100% sure if the film will attract rewatching in people who weren't already fans. I would like to see it again, but I suspect my views are not those of the average moviegoer.

Chaim: I love that you casually work into the conversation "...the Ayn Randian Objectivism and moral certitude of comics legend Steve Ditko..." That's some Grade A geek speak right there.

My summary for the uninitiated would be this: If you like your comic book characters ambiguous, your violence extreme, your nudity gratuitous, your symbolism deep, your penises blue, your endings somber and your humor dark, this might be the movie for you. Or it might not.

Rating: 3.5 Blue Penises Out of 5

Wolter: For the initiated: If you can wait for the special DVD to see Tales of the Black Freighter, can accept that the original ending would never have made sense on the big screen (heck, be honest, you had to reread the comic just to understand it in the first place), don't have any cockamamie theories about Dr. Manhattan's penis size or circumcision status being symbolic, and can get over the gratuitous freeze-frames and slo-mo sequences during the fights, you probably will enjoy this movie. Very little was added that wasn't in the original, and it's still dense even after the judicious cuts were made. I did think the fight choreography (and to some extent the dreaded FREEZE FRAME AND SLOW MOTION) was out of place. But even if it falls flat on some levels (Nixon looks goofy as hell. There, I said it), remember how hard it is to even be in the ballpark of the source material. And how often will you have the chance to see a live action comics movie that is so visually faithful to the source material?

Honestly, I don't know if this movie is successful on it's own terms or not, but seeing Dr. Manhattan's crystal sanctuary rise up out of the soil of Mars on the big screen is probably worth your greasy, Dorito-stained money by itself. Watch it. You paid good money to see X-Men 3, and this is definitely better than that festering, amoral, crapfest. And, oddly, a lot more fun...

Rating: 4 Sadistic Killings Out of 5 (subject to change)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Spoiler Laden Watchmen Review

Turn's out he's really Breathless Mahoney.The Slogger got a real treat last night when he got a chance to see the Watchmen preview with some of his fellow bartenders at Thunder Matt's Saloon (formerly Pomp Culture (formerly Thunder Matt's Saloon)). I'll be participating in a review there tomorrow, which will be relatively spoiler free and possibly entertaining as well. But in the meantime, I'm giving anyone who ended up here in a search for Softcore Amputee Horse Porn a patented Totally Spoiler-Laden Review.1

Of course, I'd hate to ruin this movie for you, so all of the spoilers will be from other movies. And as an added precaution, spoilers are in bold, bright red, so if you want to avoid them, don't look at the most eye-catching spot on the page.

First and foremost, I think this was probably a good movie, maybe even a great movie, but it's really hard for me to tell, due to my familiarity and reverence for the source material. The reverence is shared by the filmmakers. From the opening scene where Cyclops is surprisingly killed off by Dark Phoenix in a total bullshit move, to the near shot-for-shot recreation of Jim Gordon faking his death to help Batman capture the Joker, this movie will delight fans of the original graphic novel with the opportunity to see breathtaking recreations of iconic moments from the original, like when Luke totally kisses his sister in that hospital room on Hoth.

Of course, not all fans will be pleased by some of the changes. The leaving out of all the Tom Bombadil scenes entirely and the changing the original ending so that Greedo shoots first are sure to grate on the more dedicated. But lets face it, these changes move the story along at a greater clip, and make it a little easier to understand. Frankly, I think we should just be glad we still get to see the rednecks gun down Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper at the end.

I think there are a lot of flaws in this movie. The fights are kinda out of the spirit of the rest of the movie, and the dense plot will possibly leave a lot of viewers a bit lost. I'm familiar enough with the story to see all the clues that point to Deckard possibly being a replicant himself, but unless you keep your eyes open you'll probably never catch all the hints that point out that Peter Graves is the real nazi spy, and he's framing William Holden to draw attention from the real plot: to replace the Red Car with a Freeway built by Cloverleaf Oil.

I do think it's a movie worth seeing, but if you're already familar with the comic book, you may have to explain to the person sitting next to you that Kevin Spacey IS Keyser Söze.

  1. Patent pending.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TMS MLB Preview 2009: Oakland Athletics

From the Thunder Matt's Saloon archive. I apologize for the font colors. TMS had a white background.

All through March, Thunder Matt's Saloon will be previewing each Major League team. We'll give you the ins and outs of the upcoming 2009 season, how each team will do, and some other useless crap you'll wish you had never read.


2008 Season: 75-86 (3rd Place in AL West)

SO LONG: OF Emil Brown, P Alan Embree, P Keith Foulke, OF Carlos Gonzalez, OF Thunder Matt Murton, P Greg Smith, P Huston Street, DH Frank Thomas

WELCOME: 1B Jason Giambi, P Russ Springer, P Michael Wuertz, LF(or DH?) Matt Holliday, SS Orlando Cabrera (likely), the rotting corpse of 3B Nomar Garciaparra (possible, depending on the rate his body decays).

1. Mark Ellis 2B
2. Ryan Sweeney CF
3. Matt Holliday LF
4. Jason Giambi 1B
5. Dave Kingman Adam Dunn Jack Cust DH
6. Eric Chavez 3B
7. Bobby Crosby Orlando Cabrera SS
8. Travis Buck RF
9. Kurt Suzuki C

Starting Rotation: Justin Duchscherer, Sean Gallagher, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Dana Eveland
Setup: Russ Springer, whichever platoon closer is available
Closer: Joey Devine/Brad Ziegler

The Oakland A’s always mystify me (heck all of the teams in this upstart “American” League mystify me a little). I (and this is largely due to not following the West Coast or the American League much at all) almost never know who 2/3 of the players are, and I’m never really certain where they are in the standings at any given point in the year. All I really know is that a robot named Billy Beane wrote a book called Moneyball about how baseball games should be simulated by computers while Joe Morgan’s grandchildren are tortured. Or something.

This looks to be another typical Billy Beane team: cheap, ugly, and reasonably effective. Despite last year’s disappointing record, PECOTA looks at them to bounce back to about 83-79. I say that’s not unlikely in the AL West, though I think this team looks closer to a sub-.500 team in a division that isn’t “the Angels plus ¾ meh.” Once again Oakland has a lineup of people who know the strike zone and have some power in their bats. Prodigal son Jason Giambi returns, and will probably hold his aging, steroid riddled body together long enough for at least a season or two before collapsing into his component molecules. Matt Holliday’s splits away from Coors aren’t as impressive as I personally would like, but I suspect he will still be potent. And Jack Cust is fast becoming the Platonic Ideal of the Three True Outcomes (and I leave that to you to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing). As of right now, it looks like SS Orlando Cabrera and 3B Nomar Garciaparra may both be in green soon, which means perennial DL favorite Bobby Crosby will be riding pine unless someone wants a barely productive money-pit to stand in their infield.

Big question marks in the starting rotation in my opinion, though most of the players involved seem like they have the raw “stuff” for the big leagues, if not the track record. Beane’s bullpens are always getting sold for parts, so who knows where the Devine/Zeigler closer platoon will go? Out of the dazzling array of ex-Cubs fighting for roster spots (including Possible Fifth Starter Jerome Williams, Probable Disappointment Eric Patterson, Ulcer Waiting to Happen Sean Gallagher, and Guy I Only Remember Because I Vaguely Remember Calling Him “Bowener” Rob Bowen), A’s fans may actually grow to appreciate the steady, dependable Michael Wuertz most of all, as long as they realize that “steady” and “dependable” mean “I hope they don’t know how to hit a slider.”

The biggest disappointment for A’s fans who also hate melanin is the departure of legendary Left Fielder and Future Hall of Very Capable Players inductee Thunder Matt Murton, who will soon be Bringing the Thunder to a mountaintop near you (only, of course, if you live near Colorado).

Mr. Sexy Time:
Honestly, given that this team is composed of aging veterans, solid Your guess here.journeymen, and non-flashy-looking prospects - I have no idea. I assume the 2009 Mr. Sexy Time will be awarded in 2012, when the hitherto unknown farm prospect that replaces Holliday just before this year’s trade deadline signs to the Yankees for more money than God owns. For all I know, it could be potential 1B Daric Barton who may or may not move Giambi to DH and Cust to the outfield. Or Dennis Eckersly, out of retirement and out for revenge.

The "Empire Rent-A-VORP" Award: Future trade material Matt Holliday. Sure, Lew Wolff says Holliday will stay the whole season, but I’m willing to bet when that trade deadline starts looming, the chance to unload him for prospects will be too hard to resist.

The official uniform of Peaked in High School.The "Most Likely to Pass Out in His El Camino Covered in Arby’s Sauce After a Night of Hard Partying After Work" Award: the Jason Giambi from an alternate reality who never discovered steroids and ended up picking up part time hours in an auto-body shop until his Ratt cover band “starts getting some gigs.”

The “Who the Hell are You?” Award: The current starting lineup, unless one of them steps up and blows my jaded and bitter little mind.

Athletic Supporters
Athletics Nation

Check back tomorrow when Chip Wesley will preview the Houston Astros.