The three of us got together today for the first Nerd Lunch we've had in about a year. We're spread out over the country now, me in Florida and the other two in different spots in Illinois. But, Christmas time brings me back to Illinois and Jeeg was able to come down and meet up with me and PLee.

We had a gift exchange. Apparently my wishlist isn't up to date so I got items I already had. And the gift I got Jeeg was something he had already received twice. But, we had a good laugh about it after stuffing ourselves with Niro's gyros.

Then we went off to the local comic shop and ended our afternoon at Barnes & Noble (where I exchanged my gift from PLee).

Thanks buddies. It was good seeing you again.
I still have a couple rounds of gift exchanging left to do, but my leader in the clubhouse is Serenity: The Official Visual Companion by Joss Whedon. A solid nerd gift from a good nerd wife.
The Hellboy II trailer is up. Looks good...

I had planned on doing a "Signing the Cast" for the live action G.I. Joe movie, but I didn't get it finished in time. They've already announced some names. And while that didn't stop me from doing the Star Trek version, I figured I'd go ahead and just run commentary on the actual cast and make my alternate suggestions that way.

And before I get into this, there's one thing to keep in mind. This will be directed by Stephen Sommers. So, he could have the best cast in the world and still botch this thing. Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale battling Dracula and the Wolfman should have been great. But Sommers found a way to mess it up.

Sienna Miller for a "baroness-type character" Sienna Miller is not the Baroness. I guess there aren't any raven-haired actresses left in Hollywood. No wait, that's not true. Throw a pair of glasses on Emmanuelle Beart and you've got the Baroness. [See below.]

Ray Park as Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes doesn't talk and he does the martial arts. Ray Park is perfect.

Byung-Hun Lee as Storm Shadow
I don't know enough about him to really make a comment.

Rachel Nichols as Scarlett
Again, not sure why they didn't cast a redhead, but I'm okay with it. I've watched her on both The Inside and the final season of Alias* and I think she's great. She might be able to offset Stinky Sommers.

So, except for The Baroness, we're not in bad shape casting-wise so far. We probably need Duke, Cobra Commander, Destro, and a few colorful Joes like Roadblock and/or Shipwreck. Once we get some more names come back here and we'll discuss those, too.

Emmanuelle Beart with Photoshopped glasses

* When it comes to a live action G.I. Joe, it's actually already been done perfectly with the show Alias. It combined the sci-fi elements with ruthless terrorist organizations determined to rule the world. There were heroes with codenames and secret histories with one another. There was the side drama. There were the larger than life villains. And each week delivered a healthy does of action and martial arts. This was live action G.I. Joe and will probably not be topped by the actual live action G.I. Joe.
I can't explain it, but there is a huge contingent of nerds out there who love Bruce Campbell. To the point that it is a running gag that anytime a casting discussion comes up, Bruce Campbell is suggested for half the characters in the project.

Now, I don't think Bruce Campbell would be good for half of the roles in any given project. I think he could perform all of the roles if he had to. He's just that good.

I have his books and I have seen almost all of his movies. Even Congo. In fact, I once said that I would watch a TV show that was nothing else but Bruce Campbell mopping the floor. And I proved it by watching something even worse than that. It was called Jack of All Trades.

Unfortunately, Bruce Campbell hasn't had the best roles. His talent and potential was wasted by big time Hollywood who was too scared to see he could have been a big name. Now we get The Man with the Screaming Brain, Alien Apocalypse, and this...

Hey, I'll watch it.
PLee has been heading up the Oddly Shaped Dice posts, but I figured I'd jump in and talk about one of the one-shots I ran a few years ago. I got into a Western kick after watching Firefly. Once Firefly was canceled, I wanted more of the frontier justice and began watching a genre that I had never really touched before.

With this in mind, and a long-time love for sci-fi, I decided to try to marry the two in a game. I feel that I wasn't that successful at it. I'm not the greatest when it comes to game mastering. But I did have a lot of help from the Dog House Rules Sidewinder Recoiled rules. It's a great product taking the D20 Modern system and adapting it for the Western genre. I combined that with a little D20 Future and a little Star Wars RPG and came up with something that had a lot of potential.

I think the problem was the one-shot approach. I GMed a TV series pilot when I should have been GMing a major motion picture.

We had five guys playing that day and I gave them all packets with a cover page showing a picture of the actor I had cast as their character. This could make a decent TV show.

Rutherford Carson (Robert Patrick)
He's a former bounty hunter, but in his older age, he's settled down in a small western town, where eventually the folk there made him lawman.

Sam "Morg" Morgan (Gerald McRaney)
He's the town barkeep and one of the original settlers. He's one of the reason the town is still alive. One tough cookie, the fact that he has three beautiful daughters always being pursued adds to his general crankiness.

Wertham Cain (Brad Dourif)
Traveling preacher who believes himself to be the Lord's angel of vengeance. His mission is simple, "Help the helpless."

Armand Domingo (Nestor Carbonell)
From the original story notes about this character which I believe was written by Peeg, the guy who played this character:
Known by some for his difficulty in keeping on task, he is a man of great desires and great delusion. He sets out with big plans, but his plans are always missing key steps. He is inconsistent in his allegiances, not because he is fickle, but because he is forgetful.

It doesn't take much time around him to realize he's been out in the sun too long. He's a little nuts, and like most people who are a little nuts, he has no clue. This is showcased in many ways, but most notably by his only true friend, Fredo. Fredo travels with Armand every where, is his confidant, a brilliant guitar player, and only exists in Armand's head.

Though Armand is nuts, he is not without skill. An expert with a lasso, he has tied many knots with rope. However, despite his encounters with many women, he has not once tied a knot with any of them. And much dishonor has been brought to those women.

He and Fredo get by mostly on whatever they are able to steal. With no real home base, they travel from town to town, frequenting saloons of any kind. Armand is not a heavy drinker himself, but will often find Fredo passed out at the end of the night.

The Gray Man (Michael Vartan)
A man of mystery. He is greatly skilled and very loyal. When he rolls into town, the story is set into motion as he is there to protect Carson from an attempt on his life.

I also had a kid character ready to go should a sixth player show up. I can't remember all the details, but this group of five band together and eventually stumble upon a crashed spaceship. Wackiness ensues and it's our heroes between aliens and a group of bandits.

I wish I could have revisited the world. I'd have toned down the sci-fi some and would have done a lot of stealing from Brisco County, Jr.
I just recently watched the most recent M. Night Shyamalan movie, Lady in the Water. I intended to do a full walrus review, but I couldn't really wrap my head around it enough to write something comprehensible. That was probably due to the fact that I was sick at the time I watched it, but being well probably would have only made it worse.

I went into Sixth Sense knowing the twist and came out still enjoying that movie. Unbreakable, not quite as good, but I still enjoyed it. And from there, it just declines rapidly. Signs isn't as good as Unbreakable. The Village isn't as good as Signs. And now Lady in the Water isn't as good as The Village.

I'd like to suggest Shyamalan do one of two things.

A) Just stop. The luster is gone. Perhaps he can get into doing something for TV or the direct-to-video market. But feature films aren't working for him.

B) Find a franchise and take ownership of that and make these pet projects on the side. Do what Christopher Nolan is doing. Make something like The Prestige in-between Batman movies. Or follow the Guillermo del Toro model. Make a Pan's Labyrinth in-between Hellboy movies. Meanwhile, make really good franchise movies, too. Marvel has plans to make movies for every character they've got. Pick one of those. Maybe Spider-Man will even be available if Raimi steps down. That would mean that he'd have to have a movie set somewhere besides Philly, though.

Of course, whatever he does, it looks like we're stuck with him casting himself in his own films in larger and larger roles. Which is really too bad because his acting skills aren't getting much better.

I guess we'll see how The Happening fares this summer. I've got to think it will flop like Lady in the Water did. If it does, I wonder if any studio will want to take a risk on him again.
On Thursday, Wrestling Observer reported that legendary pro-wrestling manager and announcer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was undergoing very serious surgery on Friday. The surgery is the most recent of many procedures related to Heenan’s lengthy battle with throat cancer. As the pro-wrestling nerd amongst the crew, I have been a fan of Heenan going back to the mid-80s WWF. Heenan’s completely biased and hilarious commentary during the 1992 Royal Rumble is just about as good as it gets. So good, that several years later a friend and I drove a couple hours just to meet The Brain at a WCW ticket sale event. Within the last few years, CT also had the good fortune to meet The Brain and spend the day filming promotional material for the book Chair Shots and Other Obstacles.

Best wishes Bobby, we hope you’ll be making us laugh again soon.

The Chicago style hot dog is a fast food staple throughout the Windy City's sphere of influence. Outsiders think the concoction is weird, but the combination of mustard, onion, neon green relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato, sport peppers, and celery salt takes a hot dog to a different level. This particular specimen is from Mitch's Chicago Style Grill and was quite tasty. Though for my money, the best Chicago Dogs anywhere are found at Portillo's. Unless you're one of those people who would dare put ketchup on a hot dog, the Chicago Dog should be a lunchtime favorite.
I am very intolerant of people who talk through movies. There are times for it, sure. If you and those watching the movie mutually decide this is a movie worthy of commenting through, or if you've seen the movie 700 times and it's just on for background noise.

The other main exception is when those involved with the film talk through the movie. I am of course referring to the commentary tracks offered on DVDs. For the most part, I enjoy listening to commentaries. I've even listened to commentaries on bad movies just to see how the filmmakers can justify what they did.

Commentaries themselves vary in quality. One of the worst I've heard was for Sky Captain where the filmmakers did not offer a whole lot of new information, but instead confirmed that most of the movie was digitally created. Sometimes the commentators get wrapped up in watching the production and don't say a whole lot. The commentaries for 24 are like this. Sometimes studios will counteract that by combining two or three commentaries into one track. Spider-Man's commentary was like this. And it was frustrating because I wanted to hear Sam Raimi talk, not the other track.

Here are some commentaries I recommend:

Star Trek Generations
Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga tear apart the movie they wrote. They give great behind the scenes info on the politics of this movie. It's refreshing to hear them honestly admit to their mistakes. It doesn't make up for this movie, but it's good to know they realize where it went wrong.

Blade II
Any commentary by Guillermo del Toro is awesome, but this was the first I heard. GDT is a genius and in the commentary for this movie, he shows how much thought and effort he puts into this sequel.

Firefly, pilot episode
One of the funniest commentaries I have ever listened to, writer/director Joss Whedon and star Nathan Fillion deliver a laugh a minute in this commentary.

Buckaroo Banzai
One of the weirdest commentaries I've listened to. Director W.D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch are featured here. Except, Rauch delivers his commentary as though he were the "real" Reno Nevada, one of the characters in the movie. He talks about the movie as though it were based on real people. Very interesting approach, but a little bit confusing at first. For kicks, watch the movie with the text commentary on, too. That'll blow your mind.

Tastes Like Chicken, actor's commentary
I made a little movie a few years ago and four of the actors got together to record a commentary. Very funny and very meaningful to me.