We Used to Be Friends

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A few years ago, a new show came out called Veronica Mars. It was on the CW and I remember hearing about it, but mostly decided against watching it. I can't remember the exact reasons, but it was probably because I stopped watching new shows after Firefly was cancelled. Plus, Buffy was still fresh in my mind and a good show about a spunky young girl who fought bad guys just didn't seem like lightning that could strike twice.

Then I remember learning that Jeeg was watching the show. And again, I can't remember the exact reason why he was, but his recommendation of the show immediately meant it would go on my list of shows to check out on DVD. Eventually, I did watch it. And loved it. And I watched and purchased all three seasons.

There is sometimes some risk in purchasing a show on DVD. Watch it once, sure. But can it be rewatched and still retain the magic? Will it hold up or be worth viewing multiple times? Let me tell you that it can. If you have not watched Veronica Mars ever, or have not watched it recently, I suggest you put this on your Netflix (well, Qwikster, I guess) queue or track the discs down and rectify the situation immediately.

The show was not especially groundbreaking, but had a mixture of elements that made for enjoyable television, a show that I would easily place in my top ten list of television series of all time. For as fun as a show like Buffy was playing in the high school setting, Veronica Mars pulled it off even better. In my mind, Buffy's biggest fault was that the main character, though likable, was the least likable character on the show. In Veronica Mars, Veronica was the best character surrounded by a (for the most part) wonderful supporting and recurring cast.

I mentioned on the blog once before the idea of casting Kristen Bell as Amy Allen in an A-Team movie. It's not too late. This could still be done in the likely never-to-be-made sequel to the awesome A-Team movie. My suggestion is based off the fact that Veronica Mars is a spiritual successor to John "Hannibal" Smith. Long time followers of this blog know that is high praise coming from me. Veronica's sense of justice, strong moral code, and ability to concoct beautiful plans that come together make her Hannibal for a new generation. Kristen Bell plays the part beautifully with the right touches of humor, sass, and strength. If I was the kind of guy to write fan fiction, and I'm not, I would write a story featuring a team up between Veronica Mars and Hannibal Smith. (I would also include Gul Dukat in the story just for that one guy who searched for "Gul Dukat fan fiction" and found our blog for some reason.)

Second to Veronica, but not by much, is her father, Keith Mars. I remember being skeptical of the casting of Enrico Colantoni as a former sheriff turned P.I. Sure, I liked him in Galaxy Quest and on the occasions I'd catch Just Shoot Me, he was fine. I had no idea the screen presence he'd have. I could have watched a show all about him.

There are a whole host of other characters, some regular cast and others bit parts that were recurring. I should mention Logan, the former friend, turned enemy, turned lover. The character was well-written and portrayed. I did feel his relationship with Veronica took away from Veronica as a character more than it added to it. But in some ways, he was her "Kryptonite" and the eventual outcome of that relationship could have been very satisfying. Also, a key role was Wallace, the "Watson" to Veronica's "Holmes," although, that's not incredibly apt. He was under-utilized in my opinion, especially by the end.

This list doesn't cover all the main or recurring cast members. It would be a shame not to mention Sherif Don Lamb, Weevil, Mac, Cliff, Vinny, Piz, or Dick.

In seasons 1 and 2, the show featured season-long mysteries with each episode providing clues towards solving that season's mystery, but also featuring an episodic-specific, small (usually school-related) mystery. Season 1 focused on the murder of Veronica's best friend Lilly. The resolution of this over-arcing mystery was satisfying, although I don't believe it was planned out from day one. That aside, season one is the strongest of the seasons, perhaps because of the freshness of the show and the strength of the minor mysteries.

Season 2's over-arcing mystery involved a bus crash that takes place in the first episode where some students and the driver are killed. It is quickly believed by Veronica and her dad that this crash was orchestrated. Season 2 is another incredibly strong, well-written season. It's weakness came in some of the supporting cast not being as strong. But the resolution of the season-long mystery was very well done and served to tie up loose ends from season 1 as well.

Season 3 took a departure from its predecessors. Instead of solving one, season-long mystery, there were three over-arcing storylines: (1) a series of rapes which was set actually set up in season 2, (2) the murder of the dean, and (3) a yet unformed plot dealing with a secret society at the college that likely would have carried over into season 4. Season 3 is still watchable and enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the two previous seasons. The loss of the one, season-long storyline hurt it as did the heightened smaller stories. More murders and less "find my dog."

The show was canceled and left a few unanswered questions, but things that don't desperately need to be answered. I imagine Jake Kane and his secret society would have taken a prominent role in 4. Also, the resolution of whether or not Keith Mars would retain his job as sheriff would have been answered. The romance drama would have continued on. Veronica would eventually have dumped Piz for Logan again only to dump Logan again later.

After the show was canceled, the producers put together a ten minute pilot that introduced the premise of an alternate take for Veronica Mars. In the pilot, it is four years later and Veronica is working for the FBI. It could have been interesting, but I don't think the show would have been quite as good.

Overall, an excellent show. I'm glad it came along. And I'm glad Jeeg turned me on to it. Not sure I would have jumped on this show without his valued opinion.

Nerd Lunch Podcast 4: Guilty Displeasures!

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Nicole Wakelin joins the Nerds to expose some shocking revelations about nerdy franchises and icons that they feel they should like, but don’t. Star Trek: Voyager, The Watchmen, Stargate, and Game of Thrones are all on the hit list of at least one of the panelists. Plus we chat about Dr. Manhattan’s “little doctor” for the first and hopefully last time.

Shaquille O'Walrus is Steel

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This post is long overdue. Which I guess is appropriate since the first post about this was exactly three years ago and was about a library.

In 1997, a movie came to the theater and Jeeg and I had every intention of going. It had two major things going for it: it was about a comic book hero and was written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. Unfortunately, or perhaps rather fortunately, it's tenure in the theater was only two weeks long and we never made it.

As a result, this movie had become one of the very few comic book movies that I had not seen. And the only one (sort of) based on a DC Comics character (until more recent ones I just haven't caught yet) that I have not seen.

The movie--STEEL.


Jeeg stuck his $1 copy of the Steel VHS tape in the mail and sent it my way. I should have jumped on it right then, but years have passed and I had to actually dig out my VCR and hook it back up to watch this. This movie has since made its way to DVD, although, you might read this post before jumping on that.
I'm not stupid. And I wasn't stupid in 1997. Well, I was a little stupid in 1997, but that's beside the point. The point is that, as just mentioned, this movie was written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. Say what you will about his pretentious approach to The Incredible Hulk, he gave us a pretty good show despite some off-the-mark, sappy stuff. But if that weren't enough, he gave us V and the Alien Nation TV series as well. So, I thought that maybe Steel would be better for that. And was it? Well, let's find out.

"Plot" Synopsis
I suppose I should say that there will be spoilers in this synopsis. John Henry Irons is in the army as a part of a team that develops specialized weapons. On this team is also "Sparks," played by Annabeth Gish, and some guy played by Judd Nelson. Apparently everyone on this team gave up the millions of dollars they would have made in corporate tech companies and joined the army to develop weapons. Because, I guess that's what the army does.

While testing a new sonic blaster gun for a government official, Judd Nelson sneakily turns the blaster up to 11 and causes an accident that kills the official and cripples Sparks. Nelson is dishonorably discharged, and Shaq is fed up and leaves as well. Surprisingly, they both end up going to LA. And even more surprisingly, LA has a population of about 12 people because it just so happens that Nelson winds up working for the company that is funding the gang that is trying to recruit Shaq's nephew.

Shaq is moving on with his life, leaving weapons development behind him. But he gets dragged back into it when he is riding with his police lady friend and she answers a call where the aforementioned gang is robbing a bank. And they're using super weapons! Shaq manages to chase one of the robbers down, but is then shot with a phaser blast that was set to stun, I guess.

So, Shaq decides he must fight fire with fire and calls in the help of his crippled former teammate Sparks and Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree. The three of them work around the clock to build the dumbest looking super hero outfit to ever appear on film. I think the costumes in that live action Justice League pilot looked better.

With this super outfit, Shaq can act just as poorly as he did when he wasn't covering half his face, deflect bullets, and shoot things with his hammer gun. He also has a grappling hook and a motorcycle.

After finishing construction of the suit, Shaq hits the town and stops a mugging and fends off some gang members. His adventures continue the next night when he attempts to stop another high-tech bank robbery. That goes awry and Shaq goes home injured.

Because there are only 12 people who live in LA and Steel is clearly the 7'1" black guy, everyone pretty much guesses that Steel and Shaq are the same guy and the cops eventually show up and arrest him.

Meanwhile, Judd Nelson has been doing stuff, too that I have been leaving out. Most importantly, he has been building weapons that he intends to sell to the highest bidder. As we'll find out, it takes very little time, effort, or resources to build these weapons. Judd can do it, and so can Team Shaq. If I lived in that movie, I can only assume I'd be able to build high-tech laser weapons with an old PC, a shoestring, and a cigarette lighter.

Shaq breaks out of jail and he and Shaft head towards the auction event for the final showdown. Of course, Judd has kidnapped Sparks so she can be there for the fun as well and use her weaponized wheelchair. Final battle, blah, blah, blah. Steel wins. The end.

Story
There is nothing original here and it might be one of these worst movies I've seen in a long, long time. I didn't really have high hopes for this, but I had secretly wished that Kenneth Johnson would surprise me. And he did. But in the bad way.

Presentation
The cast was very earnest and I have to give props to Annabeth Gish. I can't imagine she was proud of accepting that role, but she gave it her all and actually seemed like she was having fun. She must have been a huge fan of the NBA. Costume was bad. Special effects were bad. The whole thing seemed like it was directed with a TV mentality. Not surprising since Johnson was really only experienced with TV. But V and Alien Nation seemed more cinematic than this did.

Speaking of Alien Nation, there were little homages to that show including Tenctonese graffiti and appearances by Eric Pierpoint and Gary Graham. Nice, but it reeked of Johnson trying to rest on his laurels and not make something new. There were also horrible winks throughout including references to Richard Roundtree designing the "shaft" of the hammer gun, and Shaq's inability to make free throws.


FOR YOU BLOG! I DID THIS FOR YOU!

STORY
0
PRESENTATION
walrus_half (that's solely for Annabeth Gish)
REWATCHABLE
walrus_reno

Nerd Lunch Podcast 3: Dude, Where's My Fast Food Mascot?

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In this week's episode, Paxton, Jeeg and CT are joined by Nick, the genius behind DudeFoods.com. Nick explains the origins of DudeFoods, what it's like to go viral, his unique method for conducting a taste test, and more. Later in the show, these four fast food fanatics discuss some of the best, worst and creepiest fast food mascots and marketing campaigns.

Netflix Notes: Stallone Again, Naturally

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For a recent episode of The Atomic Geeks, I was forced to pick a horrible movie from Netflix's selection of "Showbiz Musicals" and watch it for the show. I chose Staying Alive only because it was directed by Sylvester Stallone. I have been continually impressed with Sly's acting, writing, and directing abilities. I don't love him, but I guess I have such low expectations that I am constantly surprised at what he delivers. Staying Alive, in some ways, was no different. It wasn't a great movie, nor was it my cup of tea. But I do give Stallone credit for delivering on a couple of well-written scenes and being a competent and technically good director.

With my Netflix temporarily reactivated, I began seeking out some other movies to watch and settled on a Stallone double-feature.

First up was The Expendables. This was a fun movie, but one has to go in expecting very little. It could have been better and probably should have been. It delivered more in terms of coolness for seeing all the actors he corralled to be in it than it did actual plot. But the personalities of everyone were fun and the interaction was cool to seen.The Expendables 2 promises to be even more over the top. (Side note, in some ways this was a better G.I. Joe movie than G.I. Joe was.)

Second in my double feature was Demolition Man. Stallone did not write or direct this, but did star. This movie is actually quite bad, although it stems from an interesting concept. It's hard to take seriously now that we're in 2011. In the movie, Stallone is a cop who takes down Wesley Snipes' crazy character. But in a weird twist, Stallone is also sent to prison. Prison, in this near future, is cryogenic freezing. When Snipes is able to break out 30+ years later on an unsuspecting peaceful and oblivious world, they must reactivate Stallone. This was just full of nonsensical scenes and conveniences. Some of the tech they predicted has come true and was interesting to see, but the societal differences would have taken many more years than 30-40 to change. Just couldn't buy it.


A few days later, I wound up finally seeing the fourth installment of the Rambo series. I enjoyed the first three in spite of some cheesiness. This one was a weird amalgam of all three in some ways. Not the "Rocky Balboa" ending I would like to have seen. I guess a Rambo V is still possible though. My big problems with this were the horrific acts that were shown. Certainly based on real events in the world that need to be addressed, it was still disconcerting violence. Also, the movie is only 90 minutes and it takes almost half of that before we get any good Rambo action. I could have done without a fourth Rambo, but I give Stallone credit for at least not watering down this vintage series as other 80s franchises have done with their "20 years later" entries. (Side note, in some ways this also was a better G.I. Joe movie than G.I. Joe was.)

Nerd Lunch Podcast 2: Drill Down - Back to the Future

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Hey! We've doubled the amount of Nerd Lunch episodes available to you. In episode 2, the
guys are joined by Shawn Robare from Branded in the 80s for an in-depth discussion of the Back to the Future franchise. Favorite movie? Favorite scene? Should there be a Part IV? Do the temporal mechanics make sense? Hang on to your flux capacitors, it’s going to be a nerdy ride.

Countdown to Avengers

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Shortly after the launch of this blog, news came out about the new approach that Marvel was taking with some of its movies. Four years ago, we were hopeful about the idea, but skeptical that it could come to pass. Following this project has been a delight and I for one marvel (pun intended) that they appear to have set themselves up for success in pulling off the greatest comic book movie epic saga of all time. Even though I have trepidations about how it may come out in the end, I have to stand up and applaud their journey thus far and the fact that it is all coming together. In anticipation of this epic movie, and with Thor due out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, I took a trip down memory lane and did a "Countdown to The Avengers."

(NOTE: Spoilers for all these movies ahead.)

5. Iron Man
Surprisingly, one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. This story sets the stage for the fantastic things to come. From beginning until the closing credits, this movie is Iron Man's. Wisely, they made a sequence with Nick Fury introducing the "Avengers Initiative" the post-credit sequence. Not much is revealed other than there are other super heroes in the world and the name of the project Fury wants to talk to Stark about. It was a gamble to even include this because doing so committed to a long process of assembling parts from four properties into one.

Even though Hulk was next to be released, I watched this second since it winds up being second in the next step in the Avengers countdown. Iron Man 2 advances the Avengers Initiative plot the most of all the movies, perhaps to a fault because the Iron Man component suffered for it. Still, the movie holds up decently in the context of the larger story. Here we meet Black Widow, Agent Coulson is given some screen time to set up his story in Thor, and the stage is set for Tony Stark to show up in The Incredible Hulk. Cleverly, footage in the background of Stark's final scene with Fury shows scenes from Incredible Hulk. The post-credit sequence is a brief scene that will be further fleshed out in Thor.

The most heart-breaking aspect of this whole thing has been that Ed Norton was really good in this movie and for some reason (the green monster known as money, probably), Norton will not be returning for The Avengers. Still, a good movie that brings in components from the super soldier project, and advances Tony Stark's progress through the overall plot as he approaches General Ross at the end of the movie. There is a rumor that Captain America is seen in the background of a deleted scene. I don't buy into it, but it will be interesting to see if that comes up in The Avengers.

2. Thor
Thor advances the Avengers story subtly and not in an overpowering way like Iron Man 2 did. Agent Coulson comes over from the Iron Man movies, references to Tony Stark and Hulk are made, and Hawkeye makes a throw away cameo. Things are left with Thor stuck in Asgard meaning that his return to Earth will have to be dealt with in The Avengers. The post-credit sequence gives us Nick Fury again and shows us the Cosmic Cube which plays a role in Captain America. But this does not seem to tie into Cap, but rather The Avengers. In fact, this post-credits sequence was directed by Joss Whedon.

1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Cap furthers the Avengers Countdown by backing up and going to the beginning. The start of the Super Soldier Serum program is shown when Steve Rogers is picked to become Captain America. Involved in that process is Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark. Also, as just mentioned, a major component of the movie was the Cosmic Cube which is lost and discovered again by Howard Stark. The movie stands on its own but the end sets the stage for further modern day Cap adventures and at the end of the movie, a teaser for Avengers is shown.

So, with all the pieces in place, we're left waiting to see how it all wraps up in The Avengers. And that's the key, that it wraps up. My biggest hope for this movie is that they don't leave anything hanging that needs to be resolved as a group. This is a magical thing they're pulling together that my little nerd brain can't even fathom. There may be multiple Avengers movies, but I hope this first one stands on its own.

Announcing the newest venture by Nerd Lunch...

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...a podcast!


That's right, we're taking the discussions we've made infamous one step further and having them in auditory form. Jeeg and I will be joined by our good friend Paxton Holley from the Cavalcade of Awesome to hash out nerdy and foodie topics. And on occasion, we'll be joined by other special guests as well.

We are happy to be the first podcast to be released under the banner of The Atomic Geeks Podcasting Network. A couple of podcasts today, tomorrow the world.

In episode one, CT, Jeeg, and Paxton get to know one another a little better by taking some Internet personality tests. Find out which nerd is C-3PO, which is Chuck Norris, and who could survive the longest if chained to a velociraptor. Plus one of the nerds reveals an impressive and somewhat frightening knowledge of the Care Bears.

If you want to play along at home, you can check out the quizzes we took here:

Check out the first episode and let us know what you think.


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(Nerd) Lunch Special: Novelty Pop-Tarts

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When it comes to Pop-Tarts, I'm probably the exception to the rule. My favorites are the unfrosted strawberry flavor. Toast those up and spread a little…okay, a lot of butter on the top, and that's tasty treat. Especially when you get a run of Pop-Tarts that have a bit extra strawberry flavoring in them.

That's not to say I don't enjoy these "novelty" flavors every so often. There was a sale recently and my wife picked up a couple flavors that were new to me.

First up, Blueberry Muffin. I really didn't have high hopes for this one. I mean, I knew they would be edible, but I didn't think they'd be phenomenal. I was wrong. These were great. After their time in the toaster, it smelled like we had baked blueberry muffins. The filling was a creamy, icing flavor with natural-tasting blueberry bits throughout. Bravo! Recommended.


Second, Cookies & Cream. Anytime I have a chocolate Pop-Tart, it's almost seemed like a poor imitation for something that I actually want. The hot fudge sundae Pop-Tart, for example, is not hot fudge sundae. So I didn't go into this expecting much. Again, I was surprised at how good this turned out. The crust of the pastry is very Oreo-esque and the filling was much creamier than I had anticipated. I actually think this would be great if it were crumble up into a milkshake. Maybe someday. This flavor, also recommended.

What about you...what are your favorite Pop-Tart flavors?
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