Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frakking Shiny Goes to the Movies: The Expendables

A few months ago, I walked into a movie theater and saw something that made me pretty excited:

Sylvester Stallone
Bruce Willis
Mickey Rourke
Jet Li
Jason Statham
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Dolph Lundgren
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Randy Couture

were all sharing space on a giant cardboard cut out for a movie called "The Expendables". Now, I'm not usually a huge blood/muscles/machine guns sort of movie guy, but even I got excited when I saw that this murderer's row of action stars were all going to be in one amazing, gooey, explosion-y, action shootacular.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I went and saw "the Expendables" and I have to say, that cut-out definitely wrote a check that the actual movie couldn't cash.

Oh. There might be spoilers after this, so stop reading if you don't want the movie wrecked.

I think I'd describe "The Expendables" like this: Imagine if the kid who beat you up in middle school wrote fan fiction. We know nerds write fan fiction about Harry Potter, Spider Man, Star Trek, and stuff like that. What kind of fan fiction would a bully write? The premise of a bully fan fiction might sound something like this:

"Oh man, and in the movie Rambo, Ong Bak, and the Transporter team up to fight Gordon Gecko, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Fidel Castro. And there'd be tons of blood, and explosions, and jokes about how short Jet Li is. Oh! And there'd be hot chicks but they wouldn't really do anything except get waterboarded."

Now take that sentence, and imagine a movie that feels just like that, but not as fun.

I think the main failure of the Expendables is a lack of creativity, and a lack of willingness to just totally go over the top. I feel like this was a movie that desperately wanted a director like Quentin Tarantino, or Robert Rodriguez, and if they'd had one of those guys it might've been able to make it over that hump. The Expendables is supposed to be a love song to the big action movies of the 80's that made Stallone famous. And it is. But it didn't revel in itself enough. It wasn't funny, or fun enough. The movie didn't cross that plateau of sheer ridiculousness that it needed to. It tried to take itself just a little too seriously, and I think that's where it failed.

Yes, the movie was fun. Stallone is Stallone. Despite all of the plastic and collagen in his face, he still oozes 80's machismo. And the rest of the cast is fine, they all do the things they do. Alot of the characters and plot points seem extraneous. Guys like Couture and Bruce Willis don't really do a whole lot to move the plot forward or make it more interesting, and there's a whole sub-plot with Jason Statham's girlfriend that doesn't serve into the greater story at all. But so what? Right? It's an 80's style blockbuster. The plot comes second to the bluster.

I guess my point is that the bluster is underwhelming. Let's get ridiculous! I want to see the Expendables crash two airplanes together, then crawl out of the wreckage unscathed, then make out with a team of Brazilian swimwear models, then wrestle mako sharks, then machine gun the Axis of Evil to death. I wanted Stallone to go the extra mile and really blow this movie out of the water, but instead, he seems to think that nostalgia for those wonderful, decadent years of the 80's will get us all to enjoy what's really kind of a boring movie. Without the names, the Expendables wouldn't be worth the experience at all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Moving On


My name is Sean Michael Kelley.

I am 28 years old, and an addict. Since 1991, at the tender age of 9 years old, I have routinely fed my addiction every single Wednesday. I have spent ludicrous amounts of money on my addiction. On many nights when I could have been out with other humans engaging in social activity, I stayed at home, and instead of laughing, dancing, conversing....I stayed at home with this horrid, monstrous demon.

I call my demon "Comic books" and I am hers completely.

Oh, it started innocently enough. Like about 6 million other kids and idiots looking to get rich, I bough Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's X-MEN #1. Well technically, my brother Tom got X-Men #1, and I bought #2, but I read #1 first. I started with X-Men. It was my gateway drug. It seemed harmless enough. Heroes in colorful costumes fighting villains...also in colorful costumes? Right up my 9 year old alley. But it didn't stop there. Once I had a little taste of sweet comic-y goodness, I needed more. I started buying all of the X-books. X-Force, Generation X, Excalibur, X-Factor- my bedroom closet back in Newburyport, MA is chock full of comics with big "X"s on them. From mutants, I moved into the heavy stuff, real traditional superhero stuff- Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Avengers, Kingdom Come (Kingdom....motherhugging Come). It was a downward spiral.

Sure, I thought about quitting. I tried to quit! I thought about moving on. I really did try! I had the impetus to stop. Remember Onslaught? When Magneto and Professor X's consciousnesses merged and sent nearly all of Marvel's best heroes into a weird alternate dimension where Rob Liefeld was God and no one had feet? Yeah, it was awful, and I almost stopped. But I didn't. I couldn't. Like I said, I'm an addict. And not even a Rob Liefeld world filled with shoulder pads, giant guns, and feetless heroes could get me to put my precious comics down.

And so I've kept it up. Hell, I'm holding the most recent issue of "Invincible Iron Man" right now. Sweet, delicious, Iron Man...Oh Iron Man. Don't ever leave my side. I need you Iron Man! And you too War Machine and.... and....


Where was I?

Oh right. Addiction. Dealing with it. Or something.

I've come to a pretty momentous decision. I'm going to do something about my addiction.

I'm going to...stop buying comics.

It's hard. It's really hard. Comics have been my refuge from the real world for almost 2 decades. When life got stressful, or sad, it was always so easy to pick up a stack of comics and get lost for a little while. But I've got to stop. It's time

Why? What FINALLY sent me over the edge? It's a bunch of stuff.

1. They're expensive. A single comic now is at least three dollars. If I buy 5 a week, I'm spending $90 a month.

2. They clutter up my house. I'm not a collector. I don't keep my comics in plastic bags with cardboard backs in organized file cabinets. I put them wherever there's space. The bathroom. The coffee table. My bed. If there's space in my apartment, comic books live there.

3. And finally? The comic book industry has moved on from it's classic, monthly single issue format. Writers don't write single issues anymore- they write sprawling 12 issue epics that are collected into "graphic novel" format at the end of the storyline. A single comic just isn't enjoyable like it used to be. Well, if the comics industry isn't going to write single issue stories anymore, I'm not going to buy single comics anymore.

So, no more comic books from me. I'm moving on...

To graphic novels. Oh, you thought I was going to stop collecting all together? Stop reading about superheroes? Oh, no. I still love superheroes. And I love sequential art as a storytelling medium. You can't make me stop reading this shit. You'll have to pry my heroes from my cold, dead fingers, as a great, insane man once said. But I'm not going to blow my money on single comics if the industry itself doesn't care about them anymore, and if they want to charge me too much for them. I'm dealing with the reality of the 21st Century, and that reality is that superheroes are moving from comics to graphic novels. And digital apps. I have the Marvel Comics app for my iPhone, and it's great. And they have some comics for free!

So yeah. I'm dealing with my addiction. I'm not giving up my addiction I'm not giving up the bottle, I'm just buying a bigger, cheaper, more potent bottle from now on. I'll miss single comics. I definitely will. There's a great deal of nostalgic pleasure to be had from holding a single comic, and reading it cover to cover. But it's time to move on. I've got my Marvel Comics app, and I have plenty of shelf space for my new graphic novel friends.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five reasons why Grover is the best Sesame Street character

As a kid, I used to watch quite a bit of Sesame Street. I learned a ton while sitting in front of the 'tube, watching it on PBS. I learned to read, to recognize ROYGBIV, to count, to share and to cooperate. I loved Big Bird, Telly Monster, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and Mr. Snuffleupagus. But most of all, I loved Grover. I loved that skinny, little, furry monster like he was another brother. I giggled endlessly as he tried to sell nose-less and ear-less Kermit the Frog sunglasses and settled for Groucho Marx glasses with ears. Genius.

Thus, in honor of that little blue genius, I give you the top five reasons why Grover is the best Sesame Street character:

1. Super Grover, enough said.

2. He shares a voice with Yoda and Yoda is awesome.

3. Singing Telegram:

4. Prepositions. No one can teach prepositions like Grover.

5. He’s nothing like Elmo. Elmo's annoying.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prologue: Origin Story

First and foremost, salutations and welcome to Frakking Shiny. We hope that this little place we've set up here on Blogger may offer you a respite from your daily worries, woes, and drudgery.

Oh, how rude. We forgot to introduce ourselves. I'm Sean, and this is Chelsea. We're both from Massachusetts originally- Sean from the north shore up by New Hampshire and Chelsea from the magical island called Martha's Vineyard. We met at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and discovered that we shared mutual passions for dragons, spaceships, historical anachronism, cyborgs, sorcery, and making out. It's now eight years later. We've relocated to Chicago, have jobs (Sean at a prominent encyclopedia company, and Chelsea in nursing regulation), and are engaged to be wed in about a year (Huzzah!).

As you may have guessed from the descriptions above, and the title of the blog, we're both nerds, or geeks, depending on your preference in nomenclature. While those words get thrown around pretty liberally nowadays (geekiness being chic in some circles) we are nerds of the classic comic book reading/ Harry Potter loving/ please don't take my lunch money variety. We both like writing, and are passionate about geekstuff, and so we decided to start Frakking Shiny as a place wherein we could make the Internet aware of our own personal opinions on matters like "Phoenix or Emma Frost", "Bill or Eric", and "which glasses are right for me?".

Anyway, now that we've got introductions, and statements of purpose out of the way, why don't we tell you a story about ourselves that will probably give you a better idea of just who it is you'll be dealing with here.

In the Fall of 2002, Chelsea and Sean had been dating for roughly two months. Well, they'd been romantically involved for about two months. They were in college, and poor, and didn't go on "Dates" as much as they got together and talked for a bit before making out (their mutual appreciation for making out having already been established). Anywho. On one of these nights (a full moon in November) the two got together to watch the Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. Actually, to be more specific, it was the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring, and to be EVEN MORE specific, they'd watched the movie part the night before, and were settling in on this particular night to watch the appendices (what they call the "Extras" on the Lord of the Rings DVDs). Somehow during the process they got to talking about their feelings for one another. Maybe it was the mood, and maybe it was the full moon, but one thing led to another, and they both admitted that there was a possibility that they were in love. They both wept, embraced, and the rest, as they say, is history.