What is This? A few months back I hooked up one of those digital converter boxes, so my wife and I could check out over the air digital broadcasts on our old, not flat, not HD television. All in all, it’s been a great experience. We get about 30 crystal clear channels using just a set of rabbit ears. If we ever get around to having a full size outdoor antenna, we’ll probably get another 20-30 channels and say goodbye to cable.

One of the oddest selections among all those digital sub-channels is the movie network This. The network airs some classic TV sitcoms (ala Nick at Nite) during the dead of night and a block of kids program early in the morning, but the bulk of programming are films from the MGM/UA library. Take a look at the motley crew airing over the next couple days.

Paths Of Glory and Inherit The Wind are solid classics, but the rest look to be crap. It’s hard to argue with free. But who doesn’t have something better to do than watch Cry For The Strangers with commercial interruptions? The fine folks at Weigel Broadcasting have put together some winners in the Chicago market, but they need to find some better content for This.

The plot for Hellboy II was derivative and had a change in tone from the first movie that I wasn't too keen on. The movie opens with the set up for "The Golden Army" that has a backstory very reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. I could get past that, but then the movie begins taking a more comedic twist and heading off into a direction that reminded me of more of Army of Darkness than Lord of the Rings. The comedy however was lacking and ventured into trying to get the cheap laugh rather than being intelligent humor.

Guillermo del Toro [GDT] focuses so much on the art direction for this movie and telling a story using the visuals that the narrative, particularly as relayed in the dialog, begin losing any appeal. In fact, if the movie had a score-only track, I'd recommend just watching it that way. The drama elements of the piece were conveyed in more of a 'tell, not show' sort of way.

The characters in the movie lose something that made them so special in the first movie. They all become caricatures of who they were rather than be true to what they were. This is particularly true in the case of the character Manning, played by Jeffrey Tambor. He's a joke character and not a very funny one at that. Abe Sapien loses some of his mystique. And even the new character, Krauss, is rather one-dimensional and not given enough development so that when he makes a dramatic change of heart late in the movie, it's completely nonsensical.

The plot is easily telegraphed and there is nothing so special about it that I feel like the characters have come away from the events having changed. Although again, it's force fed down our throats that they have. There are a few glimpses of something of more substance there, especially when Hellboy is forced to take down the forest-god. I wish that idea of Hellboy regretting having to kill that creature had been played out more.

The strengths of this movie come in the presentation. In spite of the script, the cast turn in solid performances. The fight choreography was very well done. The soundtrack(not counting the Barry Manilow gag which was very lame) was appropriate and some pretty good work for Danny Elfman, a composer I feel can be a bit repetitive in his work. Although, the music had a film noir sound to it at times that I felt was a bit mismatched to the movie.

The best part about the film though were the visuals which were amazing. The design of the creatures and the world around them were classic GDT. The execution of almost all of it was spot on and I'm surprised this movie didn't get an Oscar nomination for special effects. They carried this movie more than special effects should.




I'm looking forward to finishing the director's commentary. GDT always gives great information and regardless of my major problems with the film, I think he can offer great insight into film making and art in general. Should at least make me not feel so bad about buying the movie rather than just renting it. How was I to know? His last few movies were so incredibly good!

The Wrestler Every so often a TV show or movie comes along which seems tailor made for me. Often times that is a recipe for disappointment, but not in the case of The Wrestler. It has received strong praise from every corner, including rave reviews from Nerd Lunch favorites Nick Digilio and RD Reynolds. Like RD I am a long time wrestling fan who has also experienced some of craziness that is the indie wrestling scene, so I couldn’t help but feel a special connection to this film.


The Wrestler tells the story of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a professional wrestler who was at the top of the heap in the 80s and twenty years later is dealing with the negative consequences of that lifestyle. The uninitiated may not believe it, but the script is amazingly accurate in its depiction of pro wrestling. In his review, RD sums up the unfortunate truth this way:

It's hard to explain that there are men (and women) in this business who flourish, who can perform in sold out arenas and be in videogames and have kids wearing their t-shirts...and just a few years later, be completely destitute, and with no real means of making a fraction of the income they made previously.

And more than that, having no clue what to do the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately wrestlers aren’t the only ones who use themselves up to make a living and arrive at a dead end too soon. From the wrestling ring to the strip club to the trailer park, The Wrestler depicts this reality better than anything I’ve ever seen.


The performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are completely convincing. Simply put, they are Randy and Cassidy. Both Rourke and Tomei convey the real pain and aspirations of the characters. Fantastic and moving.

The were a few elements of the cinematography (like the flashbacks of the hardcore match, for example) that rubbed me the wrong way, but overall it is quite good. The gritty film looks like shot on video footage and lends to the realistic portrayal. Best of all, the wrestling matches are shot in a way that makes them very engaging and feel different than watching wrestling on TV.





This is not the most uplifting movie, but I should be more than ready for a second viewing by the time the DVD hits stores.

I'm still shopping for a new instrument. It's a sickness. The National Association of Music Merchants just had their annual trade show, and a lot of interesting new gear debuted.

One item that caught my eye is the Martin LXM Tres. It's very similar to the Martin tenor guitar I've been circling, but unlike the four-stringed tenor, the Tres has three courses of two strings. It's a traditional instrument in Cuban (and later Puerto Rican) music.

And they are neat, and only around $400. And it's probably a good example of something I don't need, as it would take a remarkable turn of events for me to get a gig playing Afro-Cuban music. But it's a sign of the times that a major guitar company is producing something like this, which I've never seen used outside of that particular niche of ethnic music.

Since I'm a huge nerd who wonders about this kind of stuff , I look at this instrument and wonder whether the tres would work in other styles of music, too. Martin's advertising department is all over this, noting that it could also be tuned like a mountain dulcimer. Dulcimers are still played in old-time music, but suffer from a lack of volume --- less of a problem with a guitar body. Tune it DDAADD and you'd have an good instrument for Irish folk ---- use the lower courses for a bagpipe-like drone, and run your melodies primarily on the top D course.
I listened to a podcast recently where Andrew Stanton, the writer/director of Wall·E, was interviewed. He explained that the best way to give a pitch is to talk about it as though it was an awesome movie that you just saw. Imagine if this had been the pitch for the original Star Wars trilogy.

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


It’s a sad day in nerdom as today we lost both Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan. Amongst those extensive filmographies are respective portrayals of two of my favorite movie villains of all time, Khan Noonien Singh and Longshanks, King Edward I.

RIP, gentlemen. A well deserved rest it is.

I'm not sure if there has been a resurgence of the As Seen On TV commercials or if my TV viewing habits over Christmas vacation somehow aligned with these gems. Whatever the reason, I've seen a lot of the goofy product commercials over the past few weeks and I now have a few "favorites".

Disclaimer: This is not a reverse psychology endorsement. I'm not buying any of this crap and neither should you.

The Snuggie

The Snuggie is an blanket-robe hybrid that keeps you warm, yet still allows you to do those truly important things like answer the phone or pet your dog.

Best moment: The shot of a family wearing Snuggies at a football game. Not only is it absurd to think anyone would wear a Snuggie outside of the house, but the scene looks like a Heaven's Gate cult field trip.


The Slap Chop

The Slap Chop is the latest in a long line of spring loaded chopping devices which have been sold for decades. The product isn't anything new, but the pitchman is Mr. Shamwow himself, Vince Offer.

Best moment: While preparing some ice cream toppings Vince deadpans the line, "You're going to love my nuts."


Big City Slider Station

Finally, a specialized frying pan that simplifies the near impossible task of making those mini-hamburgers you see in restaurants. Luckily the 21st century Ron Popeil, Billy Mays, is here to save America from the twin nightmares of forming beef patties and flipping them over.

Best moment: There's a quick scene showing some topping options for the burgers. Just in case you couldn't come up with the novel toppings of cheese, ketchup, pickles, or onion on your own.