Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Self-Guided Highlander Tour Of Paris: Parte Prima



As many of you already know, I'm a HUGE fan of Highlander. The first movie is in my top 10 of favorite all-time flicks, but the tv show is what I consider the finest production of episodic television EVER! Yes, I know that's a tall accolade, but the show appealed to me on so many levels. And not so much for the cool sword fights and special effects of the Quickenings (although those did, indeed, kick much ass) -- but because of the in-depth look the show took at immortality and it's attendant ups and downs. When the show delved into the pathos of being Immortal, that's when I dug it best. This is also what draws me most to vampire fiction and films.

Anyway, since I knew I was going to be in Paris for 7 days last week, I came with a shopping list of locales used in many of my favorite Highlander: The Series episodes. Included are a slew of images I took while travelling by foot around Paris. Some of them I stumbled on by accident (which was quite the thrill, I must say), while others I came prepared to find (like the area along the Seine where Duncan MacLeod's converted live-in barge was moored). But all should be recognized by die-hard fans of the show like myself and some of my friends reading this blog. It is for you that I dedicate this post.

First off, however, the above shot should really need no introduction to true Highlander fans. I purposely framed this photo within the arch of the tunnel under the Pont Tournelle -- the bridge which crosses over the quai where the barge was moored. This particular angle was used in countless episodes during scene changes, so it should be particularly recognizable. I was going by memory here, so maybe the shot doesn't exactly line up like in the show. And of course, there's no barge in my shot. But still, I think it's damn close. Also, it was around 7:00 in the morning here, and the quai was freaking FREEZING! My hands were in so much pain trying to grip the camera steady for multiple shots until I got just the right one. The things I do for my obsession! :)




And here I am at the actual spot along port de la Tournelle where the barge was moored for most of six seasons. In season 2, the barge was briefly moved to a different location in Paris due to flooding of the quai. I was praying that it would not be flooded this time, and luckily my prayers came true. Just look at that smug smile on my face! This place was literally just a 3 minute walk from my hotel, so of course I visited it almost every day. Wouldn't you?





And here I am standing in The Tunnel -- the same one in which I took the very first picture at the top of this post. The Tunnel was also used in too many episodes to count, so just pick one and VOILA! The second of the two pics I took because of that one episode where Methos is hiding just inside the recess where I'm standing and MacLeod almost mistakes him for an enemy Immortal. Remember? Duncan says: "I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod" and Methos replies: "Yes, I know -- " before Mac whips out his blade and nearly takes poor Adam Pierson's head! It was foggier in that scene of course, and at night, but you get the coolness.




This is me standing at the nearby steps from where the barge was moored in the second season. Maurice's little tug boat was tied close to here. If you need a cool episodic reference, check out "Prodigal Son" near the tail end of Season 2. In the scene where the baddie Immortal, Martin Hyde, confronts Maurice about the owner of "that barge." Maurice was coming up the other side of this block when Hyde shouts out "YOU!" -- but this angle was better for my camera.




I came across this shot quite by accident on our first day in Paris. Lisa wanted to take a nap when we got to our hotel, but I was too excited to sleep. So I took a stroll towards the Bastille memorial . . . and gasped aloud when I noticed where I happened to be walking. This is the boulevard Bourdon, which runs along the Port de Plaisance canal. It was used in a long shot of Mac and Fitzcairn arguing heatedly about love, and whether it's wise to keep important secrets from significant others, even if their lives might be put at risk by that knowledge. The episode is "Star-Crossed," and appears halfway through the 3rd season. It's always been one of my favorite scenes, because I love the chemistry between Adrian Paul and Roger Daltrey (of The Who fame) who come across as genuine friends. I didn't know the address for this location, so it was quite fortuitous that I came across it the way that I did. Watching that episode, however, I always had the feeling that it was nearby to where the barge was located. And I was right!




This is the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. It was where Mac first sees a married Tessa in the heartbreaking 2-episode arc, "2 Be/Not 2 Be," in the series finale in the 6th season.




This is, of course, the Eiffel Tower, as seen from the Parc du Champ de Mars. This area was used famously in the season 3 closer titled, appropriately, "Finale: part II." This was where Methos, Amanda, and Joe watched breathlessly from the ground while Mac and Kalas battle it out in the upper levels of the tower.




This is the Obelisk at Place de la Concorde. The location was used when MacLeod chases after and finally catches up to that crazy (but beautiful) Immortal, Nefertiri, in the season 2 episode "Pharaoh's Daughter".




This is me standing in front of the infamous Shakespeare & Co. Well, it's pretty famous to lovers of English literature . . . but also well-known to Highlander fans in particular as the secret Watcher hangout where Adam Pierson worked and conducted his subterfuge. It's insidious, of course, because this is where Kalas tortures and kills an old man to gain knowledge of the whereabouts of the oldest Immortal in existence -- Methos. It was used primarily in the 3rd season episode, "Methos." In this pic, I'm holding some recent purchases. In my right hand is The Long Good-Bye, by Raymond Chandler. And in my left . . . why that's Devil in a Blue Dress, by one Walter Mosley. I bought the last for my best friend, Tarrell, for his birthday. Happy bornday, T! :)






Just around the corner from Shakespeare & Co, and up the street, is the church of St. Julien le Pauvre. But us fans of the show know it as the church where Brother Darius lived and worked. I'm standing in front of the church in the top pic, within a framed shot used a couple of times throughout the second half of the 1st season. The church was not opened our first day in Paris, but was opened 2 days later on a Monday afternoon. The middle pic is an interior shot also used in several episodes. I could not believe my eyes when I stepped through the door and was greeted by such a familiar sight! The last pic is, sadly, where Mac finds Darius's headless body after he is murdered by renegade Watchers in the 1st season finale, "The Hunters".





These last two locations were also used in the 1st season finale, during the scene where Mac tracks down a "Hunter" and begins questioning him in multiple different languages, all the while following him until the two reach the above courtyard. A huge brawl then ensues between Mac and about half a dozen or more Hunters as onlookers from the nearby building gawk and point. Eventually Richie rides in on his motorbike and "rescues" Mac, which is really one of the rare times he can claim to do so, eh?

I stumbled across this site by accident as well, during one of my many walks alone exploring the side-streets of Paris while Lisa took a nap back at our hotel. The arched arcade in the top pic surrounds the Place des Vosges, a plaza created by King Henri IV so that Parisiens would have somewhere to congregate and "chill out" like the Spaniards and Italians did.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out where the infamous courtyard could be in this same area, until I noticed two strollers stepping through an open doorway at the end of the long arcade. You can see them in the background of the top picture. I followed them, stepped through the doorway, and nearly passed out when I saw what I had been searching for. So perfect a moment! This is the picturesque courtyard behind the Hotel de Sully. Look it up if you're ever in the Marais district of Paris.

And so, that's the end of my pictorial tour. Hope you had as much fun reliving your favorite Highlander moments as I had visiting the sites on which they were filmed. The whole experience was so surreal for me, and only heightened the heady feeling that seemed to follow me wherever I went in this beautiful, magic city. Along the way I met many amusing people -- as well as some mild altercations with a group of street thugs or two -- all the while abusing the ears of unsuspecting Parisiens with my pitiful few (but helpful) French phrases.

It was a blast. I highly recommend walking as much as possible when visiting Paris. As I've shown, you never know just what you'll come across around that next corner on any given side-street.

***EDIT: I have since updated with more Highlander filming sites. To view them, click on the following link to visit Part 2 of my Highlander Tour of Paris!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back From Paris - Some Observations


We had a blast visiting the city of light this past week. I was excited during the days leading up to the trip, but honestly nothing could compare to the sheer amount of awesome it was to actually be in the city when we finally arrived.

Despite my worst fears, the flight out went flawless. Due to buying and confirming our tickets online, we were able to skip the check-in line at JFK and get our boarding passes from the kiosk. And I've never been more impressed by an airline than I am with Air France. Originally we were going to go on American Airlines, who had an identical flight time and price point as Air France. But then the price suddenly sky-rocketed on the day I was going to purchase the tickets, and so I went with AF instead.

And what a difference, I must say! I've been on AA too many times to count at this point, and honestly that airliner has gone downhill. They cut corners on the food, the amenities, and even the quality of their in-flight service. Air France, on the other hand, was aces in all these regards. The food was like a gourmet 5-course meal (no joke), their plane was brand new and state of the art -- each of us had our own tv screen and headphones (for free) with a huge selection of movies, shows, and games to choose from. And the flight attendants were so gracious and helpful -- and all for less than the ticket of the comparative American Airlines. How the hell is that even possible?

The attendants were all bilingual in French and English, though I didn't pass up the opportunity to start putting my limited French to use immediately. It went over well, with the FAs getting quite a kick out of my effort. But the key was that they understood me, at least, and this made me feel a LOT better. By the time we landed at CDG airport, I was definitely more confident in my French ability, despite not knowing more that the most basic of basics. The cabbie was nice and understood me immediately when I asked him in French to take us to the address of our hotel, which I had written down on a piece of paper for him to read. So cool! :)

Anyway, I'm in the process of uploading all my pics and videos. When they're ready, I'll provide the links, so check this blog (or my Facebook page) for updates on that front. In the meantime, rather than detail every single step of this trip (which would be way too tedious to write, not to mention boring to read), I'll leave you with some general observations:

1) The myth of the rude French (or, in this case, the rude Parisien) is just that: a myth. From our waiters down to the cashier at the local market, not once did I experience any rudeness from the local population. Where I think the stereotype comes from is the fact that Parisiens are every bit the city dweller as my fellow New Yorkers. Meaning: they're not so much rude as indifferent. Which is not to say they are not very friendly. When you walk into a shop, you greet the proprietress with a "bon jour, madame" and she replies back with a smile and a "bon jour, monsieur" and then she leaves you alone until you're ready to make a purchase, or if you have any questions about a particular item. This is how it is in NYC. No one bends over backwards or fawns over you. This is not Disney world; it's a living breathing city. No one *has* to cater to your whim here. You get back only as much kindness as you put forth. Except, in Paris, I would say the French were even more gracious than a New Yorker would be if the situation was reversed. Certainly they were very indulgent with me and my horrible attempts at French.

2) The metro system is the way to travel in Paris. We walked roughly 8 - 10 miles a day (no exaggeration -- I measured it on a map), but at the same time we took the metro A LOT to revisit some places we had already seen by foot. And I'm in awe of their system. So much cleaner, smoother, and sensible than NYC's. The signs are easy to read (even though there's no translation), and each platform has a digital schedule board that lets you see how far back your next train is, and how long it will take for it to arrive. Why can't New York be as efficient? The longest ride we had on the metro (which included two transfers) was 35 mins. And this was to get from one end of the city to the complete opposite end. In NYC, this would take 1:30 hours. Of course, NYC is a lot bigger than Paris. Still, the Paris metro gets an A++ in my book. We got very comfortable using it even after just the second day in town. Aside from airport transfers to and fro, we only ever hailed a cabbie once while in the city. The rest of the time we either walked or took "le metro" to get to all the sights. I highly recommend this course of action for all visitors.

3) There is nothing more cooler than walking past Notre Dame at midnight with ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE AROUND! No tourists, no locals, not even a stray dog. Just me and this magnificent cathedral alongside me as I strolled back to the district where we were staying. (I like to take walks by myself in the middle of the night, btw)

4) A little bit of French gets you a long way. Even though a lot more people speak, or at least understand, English than you realize in Paris, I had made it a rule to only speak French as much as I possibly could while there. And the locals were extremely appreciative of this. It's funny seeing the look of first surprise on the waiter's face, followed by obvious appreciation at the effort. I don't know if this translated to a better service for us, though, as I got the impression that our service would have been impeccable and professional regardless. But I'd like to think it helped. The most useful line of dialogue I got by with, which I'd cobbled together from three separate phrases I had learned from my audio CD, was this: "Excusze-moi . . . pouvez-vous m'aider, s'il vous plait? Je ne parle pas tres bien francais. Parlez-vous anglais?" (trans: "Excuse me . . . can you help me, please? I don't speak French very well. Do you speak English?") It's a mouthful, but opened so many avenues of discussion for me whereas a normal inquiry in English would be met with a look of puzzlement, if not downright annoyance, despite the listener fully understanding English.

5) Parisiens hate skyscrapers. Seriously, almost no buildings are taller than 8 or 10 stories in the city. Turns out that a law was passed to prohibit high-rises from being erected within city boundaries so as to preserve Paris's unique vistas and historical ambiance. And amen to that rule! Seriously, Paris is so charming and romantic the way it is. I cannot imagine the travesty that would ensue should this rule ever be reversed. To my knowledge, only la tour Eiffel and Montparnasse Tower (Paris's only and last attempt at a modern skyscraper) are the exceptions to this rule.

6) Certain laws that are staples here in America seem strangely absent in Paris. For one, there does not appear to be a seat belt law. Drivers wear them at whim, or not. All scooter and motorcycle drivers wear helmets, though, but bike cyclists do not. Also, there are no leash laws from what I could see. Dogs are allowed to roam freely down the sidewalks or in the parks. Owners leash them at their own discretion. They also do not curb their dogs, apparently. Lastly, I'm pretty sure their are no prohibitions against talking on your cell phone while driving. To be fair, most drivers seemed to favor hands free sets as a matter of course, anyway, but there were a few who did not.

7) I don't know what the deal is with this, but not one cashier ever handed me my change by hand. All change (whether cash or coin) is immediately placed in a small tray on the counter, requiring the customer to scoop up his own change. Yet, by contrast, all cashiers want you to place the money directly in their hands when you pay them. Strange.

8) The French have a serious, serious love affair with bread. And, honestly, I don't blame them! I was never a big bread eater here in the states. But we had a boulangerie (French word that roughly means bakery) directly across from our hotel, and I would be remiss if I didn't add that I visited this establishment every single morning for breakfast. Sometimes lunch, too. What did I order the most? Croissants and baguettes, of course. But I also discovered the main ingredient of every French breakfast it seems -- pain au chocolat! Seriously people, you have not tasted heaven until you've had a freshly baked chocolate roll. Pain au chocolat was the most popular item being ordered every morning by both locals and tourists alike, and like everything else in a boulangerie, they're baked fresh on the premises. Seriously, I was told it's French law. A boulangerie cannot obtain a license until it is determined that the bread is baked ON THE PREMISES! How f'n awesome is that? And again, why can't New York adopt this law? I've tasted many a croissant here in NYC, and never EVER has one tasted even one-tenth as good as an *average* croissant from an *average* boulangerie in Paris. Someone needs to look into this.

9) Paris is truly a diverse city in every sense of the word. But the greatest indicator of this can be found by studying the high school students who congregate in large groups through the streets and metro once school is out. Whereas here in NYC where integrated schools still have cliques forming neatly down racial lines, in Paris everyone truly seems homogenized. Blacks, whites, asians, and indians all mix freely together in their groups. They all speak the same local dialect (no French form of "ebonics", from what I could discern) and there was no ostracizing of the more "ethnic" classmates even in groups where whites outnumbered them 10 to 1. Again, we have diversity here in NYC, but not like this. Not as frictionless as this, I mean. Try as I might, I could not discern even a hint of racism. And this applies to the entire city, where blacks of means mingle freely with whites of means, all going about their business as equals. I'm doing a terrible job of describing this adequately. You have to see it for yourself.

10) It is not possible to walk down a street in Paris -- any street -- and NOT be surrounded by history. Honestly, Paris is full of so many of the world's best and most diverse museums . . . but the biggest museum is the city itself! My jaw dropped so many times turning the corner of what I assumed would be just an average side street, that I think I developed lock-jaw at one point! One such example: across the bridge from where we stayed, on the right bank in the Marais district, is a little side street I stumbled down on my own called St. Paul's. Turns out this is the main "thoroughfare" of St Paul's village, a charming, mostly cobble-stoned, area lined with dozens of antique shops and tiny restaurants. I felt like I had stepped back in time three centuries! This experience was repeated often throughout our wanderings. I felt so spoiled after just a day of so many awesome and uniquely Parisian experiences such as this.

11) Related to the previous item, nothing at all can prepare you for the culture shock of realizing that you are actually -- for really and truly -- in Paris! When we arrived at our hotel on the Ile St. Louis (a quaint, historic island in the middle of the Seine only a stone's throw from Notre Dame cathedral), our fist reaction was to just collapse on the bed and sleep. But I couldn't! Lisa took a nap, whereas I immediately took to roaming. I went down a tiny side street outside our hotel, turned the corner, and found myself in the middle of the Pont Tournelle -- a bridge with a direct and majestic view of the famous "flying buttresses" of Notre Dame itself. This quickly became my favorite spot in all of Paris, and I would visit it constantly. But on that day, in that first moment, it all struck me at once that I was finally here! I was in Paris. This was what I had been dreaming of for weeks on end. If I was one for weeping foolishly, I would have burst out into tears at that moment. But of course I played it cool and just leaned against the bridge and soaked it all in. I must have stood there for a good 30 minutes, not moving but simply staring. Luckily, I did have the presence of mind to snag a passerby and implore her to take the below picture. And, trust me, while it might not look like it, I'm sure . . . deep down inside I am BEAMING! :)


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rainy Day

Hey everybody!

Despite my promises to the contrary, I'm actually logging in from (another) Internet cafe here in Paris. This time I found one tucked away in a small cobble-stoned street about a stone's throw away from Notre Dame. I love this city -- and this area the most!

Anyway, it's a dreary rainy day today, so a lot of our outdoor plans are in limbo. I'm trying to decide whether to risk the trip up Montparnasse Tower (sp check, please!) to take yet another panoramic video of Paris. I already have one from atop the Eiffel Tower, as well as from the steps of Sacre Coeur perched atop Montmartre. But because of the bad weather, I might have to nix this next trip.

We were going to head down into the catacombs afterwards. We might still do that, although I think it's going to be freezing down there -- and I didn't pack for this kind of chill!

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let everyone know we're still having an awesome time. The food could not be any yummier, nor the people any nicer. Oh, and we've been riding the metro A LOT! I'm like an expert now! It's so awesome, really. Much smoother and cleaner than NYC's subway of course. But also nowhere near as crowded. Even at the height of what passes for morning rush hour here (which begins around 9:00am, as opposed to our 7:00) there is still a few seats available and room to breathe. I can't say I'm quite used to the idea of having to open up the train doors yourself (by hand!), but it's charming in its own way. I have a video that shows what I'm talking about, which I'll post when we get back.

Well, that's all for now. I hope the weather where you are is a lot better than it is here today. While the gloom fits more with my mental pic of Paris anyway, the cold is a real bummer. It makes visiting all the outdoor sites a major drag.

Before I go, a few words of warning for when I get back:

There will be MANY blog entries, covering various aspects of our trip, with a TON of pics and some videos. Those of you on my Facebook list -- be doubly warned! You may be getting the same stuff twice! I'm also planning a special Highlander-themed update of all the exciting sites from the tv series which I got to visit. Words alone cannot explain how awesome this was! You'll see, you'll see. :)

Au revoir!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heading Out


Well, the time in nigh . . . we are leaving for Paris! I can honestly say I'm not anxious or nervous one bit anymore. I've learned so many basic and wonderful French phrases, as well as researched the hell out of the maps and guidebooks, that I'm now pretty comfortable in my rudimentary knowledge of the city. Oh, and the "street view" function in Google maps was a godsend, too! :)

Anyway, I'm already packed and ready, but Lisa still needs to finish packing her stuff. Nothing new there. I usually never bring souvenirs back from our travels (don't want to use up costly luggage space), but maybe I might break the rule this once and bring back 2 bottles of wine (I think that's the limit, right?)

And perhaps a book or two from Shakespeare & Co.

So, since I doubt I'll be having Internet access while in Paris (and even if I do, I doubt I'll feel like checking in), I hope everyone has a great week! Though not as great as I plan to have. (heh, heh)

I'll be sure to bring back a ton of pics and (maybe) even some videos!

A la prochaine!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some Useful French Phrases (Humorous)

I came across this website today while trying to learn a few more French phrases before our trip to Paris. I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time! Check out the website yourself, and try imagining the reaction of native Parisiens were I to use any of these:

http://yoyo.cc.monash.edu.au/~mongoose/french/phrases.html

I so want to try the Spain line at customs. :) Do you think they'll let me through the gate, or send me back?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Game I'm Addicted To!


If some of you have been keeping track of my sidebar, you'll know that I completed my playthrough of Fallout 3 last week. I was trying my best to get through that game in time for this . . . Resident Evil 5. It came out on Friday the 13th, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

I cherish the RE franchise more than any other game series in the modern era -- which, for me, counts as 1998 and onward, since this was the year I got back into gaming after a 4-year drought. And the game that got me back into the swing of things? The original Resident Evil for the PlayStation 1. Ever since then, I've been an RE fanatic!

This time around, we get to play as fan-favorite, Chris Redfield, one of the few survivors of the original mansion incident in 1998. He now works for an anti bio-terrorism group called B.S.A.A., going around the world and helping out wherever illegal, weaponized viruses are being exploited. This time he's sent to a fictionalized country in West Africa, where he teams up with a local B.S.A.A agent named Sheva Alomar. Together, the two have to continuously use teamwork to get through the horrors that are set upon them -- namely deranged, infected villagers codenamed "Majini". These are not the traditional slow-moving, shuffling zombies of old. No, much like the Ganado in RE4, the Majini are fast bastards that are cunning and can outflank and organize against you. They are also capable of using weapons, which make them a whole lot more dangerous than zombies, to say the least. But the end result is the same: they want your blood, but you'd rather keep some of it! Simple, really.


So far the game is insanely gripping and fast-moving. Not to mention frenetic. While a tad easy so far, I'm sure the difficulty will ratchet up in the next coming chapters.

I really like my partner. Not only is she extremely easy on the eyes, she's very capable and helpful in a fight. The computer AI controlling her is better than most games, but still has a few hiccups. The game overcomes this by giving you some basic commands to reign her in when she gets a little too ambitious, so that helps.


Anyway, right now we're trying to investigate who let loose this virus on the villagers and why. Right now the clues are pointing to a cover-up, and our support team has been wiped out. So we're on our own for the moment, and an entire village of angry, hopped-up pseudo zombies are clamoring down the alleys searching for us. Isn't this always the case?

As usual, keep reading the "Now Playing" sidebar to keep track of my progress. Since I'll be heading to Paris for a week starting Friday, don't expect this to get updated for perhaps the next 2 weeks or so. Although, that may be a lie seeing as how I can't seem to put down the controller right now. Who knows, I might just progress rather far by the end of the week.

I'll keep you informed. In the meantime, BUY THIS GAME if you are at all interested in action-horror gaming and blowing up angry, mutating creatures that are out to eat you. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Funny Money


Went to the bank today to purchase some Euros for our Paris trip. Even though the exchange rate app on my iPhone told me that the dollar was exchanging at 1.27 compared against the Euro, I for some reason was charged the rate of 1.34 by my bank. I'm guessing their info is more up to date, though. Anyway, point is, I got raped. It might not look like much, but spending 1 dollar and 34 cents for every 1 Euro you're purchasing adds up once you break that 100 mark. And don't think the wrongness of "paying" for money has escaped my notice, either. Sheesh!

Anyway, I'm actually very excited. I've never seen a Euro in person before. Hi, nice to meet you! You can't help but make the comparison to monopoly money, of course, and for a brief moment worry that perhaps someone's pulled a fast one over on you back at the bank. But, after it sinks in, it starts to grow on you. I think the Euro is very cool, in fact. I love the weighted band through the notes, and the holograms on the right. I feel so international now!

I've been slowly devising our itinerary for the six days we're in Paris. We'll be doing a whole helluva lot of walking, by my estimation. This is, of course, my preferred way to see a city, but now Lisa's foot is hurting and I'm worried we won't be able to walk around as much. Bummer! Hopefully she can heal enough by then to manage. I guess we can rely on the metro a lot -- except for the one day we'll be doing a 4 mile guided walking tour of St. Germain, the Latin Quarter, and the Marais districts. Uh-oh!

Now This Is A Casting Choice I Can Get Behind!


The Hollywood Reporter announced here some tidbits regarding pilots for new shows and casting assignments. One item of particular interest to me was the news that a remake of the 1980s prime time sci-fi miniseries, "V", was in the works. I had already heard this news a while ago, but this is the first time it's being made official (at least to me). The original freaked me out when I was a little kid watching it on NBC, but who could not find the evil, conniving leader of the Visitors, Diana, appealing even at such a young, tender age?

Anyway, word is that genre actress, Morena Baccarin, will be stepping in to fill the shoes of the main baddie, this time being called "Anna". Here's a little snippet from the THR article:

""V," from WBTV, is a re-imagining of the 1980s miniseries about an invasion of aliens known as Visitors and the resistance against them. The ICM-repped Baccarin will play Anna, the leader of the Visitors who is remarkably knowledgeable about human culture and media manipulation."

Why they couldn't just stick with the name "Diana" is beyond me, if this is indeed a straight remake. I have no problem whatsoever with this casting choice, though. As you can see from the above pic, Morena is definitely quite pleasing to the eyes, no? The dark hair and angular face is what does it for me -- yum! :)

She was the one big highlight of the show, Firefly, and probably the only reason I tuned in every episode (tho she was horribly underused, imo). I'm glad to see she's landed such a high profile role, if and when this project gets off the ground. Can't wait to hear more.

Monday, March 9, 2009

This Is Looking Good

I wasn't quite a fan of the idea of J. J. Abrams retooling the Star Trek franchise back when the news was first announced, but I have to admit that this "prequel" of sorts to The Original Series is looking rather sharp! I forgot to mention that the new trailer was attached to Watchmen last week, and what a fine sneak peek this is. Check it out for yourself:



Now I'm excited, although I still think John Cho is simply WRONG as Sulu. I'll still be wondering to myself "where's Kumar?" whenever he's on screen, I just know it! It also doesn't help that he's making a typical Harold Lee scowl in the trailer. LOL!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Movie Review: Watchmen (A Tale Of Two Movies)


Not even before the last issue was off the press back in 1987, Watchmen the comic mini-special was optioned off to be Watchmen the Hollywood movie. Yet the road to its eventual realization in celluloid would be a long and treacherous one. Many die-hard followers of the eventual graphic novel proclaimed the property to be unfilmmable. And eventually it even became clear to some higher ups in Tinsel Town that maybe those fans were right.

Anyway, the movie WAS filmed, and thank god for it! Because even before I set out to see for myself whether it would live up to the hallowed collaboration between writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins -- the film had some lofty aspirations to fulfill. Which is not usually a good thing.

I'm speaking of the (mostly) glowing reviews the film has been raking in from around the world. But one in particular, found here at Mania.com, caught my interest. In his review, contributing writer Rob Vaux mentions that: "If you put a gun to my head, I'd likely tell you The Dark Knight was better."

Well, now that I've actually seen the movie, I can tell you this startling fact: Watchmen is actually the better movie. At least, it was to me. But before I go any further, let me first say that this review avoids any spoilers. This is mostly due to the fact that I'm lazy and do not feel up to the job of detailing the details that would naturally engender a large spoiler warning across the text right around:

HERE!!!

Now, back to the business at hand. Some of you are probably sitting there sick to your stomachs wondering how I could blaspheme so wantonly on what is considered the greatest comic book movie of all time.

Well, confession time folks: I've never really felt as cheery about TDK as everyone else seems to feel. Don't get me wrong, it *is* in fact an AWESOME, KICK ASS superhero movie with an appropriate dark and brooding atmosphere, along with some amazing acting by one particular actor. But it is also a tad boring, not to mention heavy-handed at times. It simply lacked something for me . . . I dunno what. Call it spark, spunk, pizazz -- whatever. It just didn't do it for me as thoroughly as it apparently did for others. Which is fine. I still think it was a great movie, and I love my DVD copy to death.

However, Watchmen is the better movie. This is a statement I'm sure many will disagree with. But it's something I will make no bones about.

Now just let me explain why, and forgive me if I must use TDK as an unwitting example to illustrate my opinions.

Like TDK, Watchmen is lifted from a treasured, albeit briefer, comic book source. And like TDK, Watchmen deals with mature and dark subject matters that are more cerebral than what one is used to finding in films of this ilk.

Unfortunately, also like TDK, Watchmen suffers from some wonky characterization that one can only describe as: indifference. Now, the comics of course have many, many pages with which to work some nifty developments into getting the reader to sympathize with the characters. Naturally, an over two-and-a-half long movie like either TDK or Watchmen will suffer from not being able to use much of the character(s) back stories that appear in the printed form. This is just one of those things we accept as comic book readers heading in to watch movie adaptations of the works we love.

And both movies suffer from making the motivations of the people on the screen very murky and unattractive. TDK's Batman was imposing and tres goth, but he was portrayed a bit stiffly and one-dimensional. Only Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker brought that level of true gravitas that elevated all other performances in the movie (apparently).

Something similar happens in Watchmen. Owing to the obvious ensemble nature of the titular bunch of vigilante crime fighters, there are a lot more principal characters in this movie than in that other one. As such, you have to expect that the characters' stories are going to get short-shrifted a bit. In the GN we're treated to almost chapter-long backstories and flashbacks on all the involved characters. But, in Zack Snyder's film, the director naturally eschews a lot of this in lieu of more "showing" rather than "telling." Which is fine, I understand that. Because even without most of that exposition, the movie still clocks in at a whopping 2:40 long.

So one of the biggest complaints I had with the film, Watchmen, is that perhaps nobody in the audience cares enough about what happens to these people. As someone who has read the source, I already know these characters inside out. They're like old friends to me now. But taking a step back, I can feel for what the non-initiate must be thinking. And that is: What The Hell Is Going On Here? And: Why Should I Care?

And that, my friends, is exactly how I felt coming out of TDK. It had its other shortcomings, but that was the crux of it right there.

So then, where did Watchmen go right where TDK faltered just a step behind it?

In that self-same ensemble nature I just picked on as being the film's chink in the armor. Say what? David, you smoking that bug shit or what?

Well, let me explain. Watchmen's saving grace is that there *are* so many principal characters running around it and doing their own thing. When Rorshach's Chandler-esque monologues get too long-winded, or Jon's brooding too emo, or Laurie's naivete too damned annoying where you want to just grab her and shake her really hard . . . the scene shifts to Silk Spectre (the original, played smashingly by Carla Gugino), or the Comedian, or Nite Owl (both I and II). Point is, there's always someone for the scene to cut away to and give the other characters' subplots a rest until you're ready to deal with them. This weaving in and out of various characters' stories is handled as expertly by Snyder as it was by Moore in the original. Okay, maybe not AS GOOD, but it does Moore's material justice, okay?

In TDK, all we really had was a murky Bats, bland Bruce Wayne, and a fantastically demented (but just a tad trying) Joker to follow for close to 3 hours. And again, I'm not knocking this. In the Batman universe, it's patently impossible to find two characters -- Batman and Joker -- who readers care about more. So this was not a failure on Nolan's part to spice it up with a few more main villains from Batman's gallery. It was just a little taxing for non-fans to stomach.

Back to Watchmen, though. In my opinion, the best part of the movie was Jon Osterman's/Dr. Manhattan's plight. His scenes resonated more (naturally) with my sci-fi sensibilities, and he was also the most sane yet detached person out of the entire Watchmen cast. Maybe that says more about my own nature, though. It's no surprise to me that I would connect more with the metaphysically augmented Dr. Manhattan than the decidedly more pedestrian Rorshach or Nite Owl. That's just the way I roll, I guess. :)

But that's not to shortchange the value the rest of the cast of characters bring to the film. The strength of the characters is the strength of this entire film. They are each so individualized and opposites of each other that it lends a sort of frenetic energy to the pacing of the film. Again, as I've said above, this is because we're never forced to brood too long on any one vigilante's plight. For some, this breaks the movie. For me, it makes it.

What I think Watchmen does better than TDK, also, are the action sequences. One of my strongest complaints with TDK were the fights -- or lack thereof. The principal offender is when Bruce Wayne travels to Hong Kong and suits up to infiltrate a highly secured office building. The take-down happens in less than 3 minutes, with Bats putting down maybe two, three thugs before getting what he came for and zipping back out of the building. Pretty much the whole movie was like that, owing to Chris Nolan's reluctance to delve too long on fight choreography, I guess.

Anyway, Watchmen is a different animal altogether. I've read people complaining online already about the lack of action. And true, the GN was never really high on the combat meter to begin with. But what I love about this movie is that, for those scenes where fisticuffs are in fact called for, Snyder not only delivers, he sometimes extends the battles just for the pleasure of the audience! This is certainly true of the opening scene, and later during the prison escape scene. (Oops, sorry -- minor spoiler. So sue me.)

And boy were the fight scenes awesome! I simply loved every second of it. I would be interested to see some fanboys *try* to say TDK had better. It's not even an issue!

But does fight choreography make a whole movie? No, of course not. But it can certainly make a movie more exciting at times. Especially when some heavy dialogue or exposition scenes just preceded said scenes of glorious ass-kickery!

Lastly, I'd like to make a brief mention about story. Both films suffer from what critics like to carpet-bomb genre movies with, and that would be the hated "confusing plot" label. This, sadly, is an area that is much harder for me to gauge in my reviews. Because, more often than not, I've read the source material!

In Watchmen's case, I know the plot inside-out, so the film adaptation is no more confusing to me than placing Romeo and Juliet on the big screen has been. However, when I sit back and pretend that I know nothing about both movies' plot (difficult to do, I admit), it emerges that TDK is the more muddled. I don't know, maybe, again, that's just me. Perhaps it was that I was more engaged by the pacing of Watchmen to actually *want* to sit forward in my seat and pay attention to how the story was unfolding on screen. Something I can't really say so much about with TDK.

So, there it is in a pretty large nutshell. I find Watchmen to be (pardon the pun) more watchable. And watchable, for me, translates directly into entertainment value. Do I think non-fans will get as much of a kick out of it? Maybe; maybe not. I saw many instances in the movie where someone who has not read the book might not quite grasp why a certain character is behaving the way he/she is. This tracks back to, again, what I said about characterization and the necessary truncating of certain back stories. When I bring Lisa to see this movie, I already anticipate myself explaining a few finer points to make the experience smoother.

So, yeah, I think there will be a difference in opinion between fan and non-fans. Well, really, I can't call them "non fans" -- more like, non readers of the source material. Then again, I know plenty of people who *have* read the GN (and some of them, religiously) who will not be happy with certain liberties taken by the director and screenwriters. I'm a lot less of a stickler for these kind of details than you would expect. So, no, I don't care that the ending has been altered from the way Moore wrote it. I believe the message is still intact, and that's what counts.

Besides, I always hated the way the "final plan" unfolds at the end in the GN. Now *that* would have been truly unfilmmable. Or, at least, too laughable to film, which amounts to the same thing.


Rating: 8/10

Friday, March 6, 2009

That's One Hella Huge Omelet!


Seriously, WTF? I was shopping at Whole Food Markets tonight with my friend, Tarrell, when we spotted two people taking pictures of the produce section. Wondering what the fuss was about, we wandered over and spotted this!

Tarrell said they looked like dinosaur eggs -- and he's right! You can't tell from the picture, but the texture of these eggs are hard yet leathery looking. Meaning: they look like they're soft-shelled eggs, but they're hard like chicken eggs.

These things are HUGE, too! I should have placed my hand around one so you can see by contrast, but take my word for it -- theyre about the size of grapefruits. And the green ones on the left, especially, look like some kind of vegetable. But nope, both the green and white ones are emu eggs! I have to look up what the deal is with that, unless someone reading would care to enlighten me in the comments section.

The white, at least, I'm used to . . . but WTF is up with the green? What, are they not ripe yet? :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Definitely Have To Visit This Bookstore!


Back in Season 3 of Highlander: The Series, in the episode titled "Methos," I was first made aware of this little bookshop in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. And I thought to myself: now there's an interesting bookstore I wish I could spend a whole day in! Of course, it was made even cooler by the fact that, in the show, it happened to be the daytime cover of the Watcher watching over Methos. A fact the villain Immortal, Kalas, exploits to his sinister advantage. It's also where the now infamous Watcher Chronicles were archived and backed up on CD-ROM (a duplicate of which was hidden away in one of the stacks, too!)

Anyway, now that I'm going to Paris in 2 weeks, you can guarantee that this will be on the top of my list of places to visit. In fact, we'll be within walking distance from our hotel, as it turns out the store is located nearby on rue de la Bûcherie near Place St. Michel (and directly across the Seine from Notre Dame).

Check out this video on Youtube which explores this wonderful gem with the store's manager (and the owner's daughter), Sylvia Whitman. Unfortunately I wasn't able to embed the video, so you'll have to click on the link to view this.

This place is legendary in the annals of English-lit history. Can't wait to go!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Just Luv Me Some Aisha Tyler!

Just finished watching her comedy show: Aisha Tyler Is Lit: Live At The Fillmore. She was absolutely hilarious! Her humor was quite impressive, especially since she carries it through for almost 90 minutes. A much truncated version was just aired on Comedy Central a week ago or so, but I've got the full uncut version on DVD. I highly recommend this to everyone, especially fans of Aisha.

Here's a hilarious music video of her song "No Ass At All" which was included at the beginning of the special. Check it out -- it had me rolling! :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

This Is Just . . . IN-SANE!!!!

Whoa, talk about a blast from 80s past! Anyone who was in NYC and who lived through the 70s and 80s no doubt remember these commercials -- the one and only CRAZY EDDIE!

Crazy Eddie was a huge electronics retail store with branches all over the Tri-state area. At one point the company was taking in $300 million in annual sales. That's just INSANE!!!

Anyway, most people remember the hyper-kinetic commercials with the chain's spokesperson, local radio DJ and minor celebrity, Jerry Carroll. When I was a kid, I remember thinking Carroll *was* in fact Crazy Eddie. But turns out the real Crazy Eddie -- Eddie Antar -- ran the business along with his father and cousin and various other family members. In the late 80s, Antar was convicted of securities fraud and fled to Israel. He was later extradited and brought back to the U.S. where he plead guilty to a different charge and was sentenced to nearly 8 years behind bars in the early 90s. The company's stocks quickly plummeted on the fraud charges, and eventually the stores closed up and went the way of the dodo and The Wiz. Later, it was uncovered that Eddie had been crazily cooking up the account books for years. It was the biggest local retail scandal of the day.

Anyway, I bring this up because it turns out some fool wants to revive the name! Yeah, can you believe this? As much as it brings back crazy nostalgic memories of my childhood, I can't believe anyone would be so bold as to try and open an electronics retailer in this economic climate. But if you want to read more about it, check out this here NY Post article.

I'll leave you with a slew of Crazy Eddie commercials from back in the day. The first two are typical ads, and my fellow 80s kids from the area will remember these fondly no doubt. I mean seriously, was this guy coked up? I leave it to you to decide. The last video is a collection of various commercials.







Seriously, check these out. Tell me this doesn't scream 80s kitsch to you! :) But you gotta love them. They were low budget and corny, but god they're such an integral part of the local scene from that time period. It's like a time capsule back in time! Shit, I might just want to see the stores come back just so that I can pretend we are living in some bizarro alternate NYC where the 80s never died.

I've got my He-Man action figures and Garbage Pail Kids cards ready just in case.

Got In Some Quality Gaming This Weekend

Just letting everyone know that my "Now Playing" sidebar has been updated, so head down there and to the right if you want to see how I'm doing in Fallout 3.

It was a long overdue update, due to the fact that I took a few days off to write another story. And even when I was done I had the Paris trip planning to deal with and which is currently ongoing. I don't want us to be bogged down with places to see when we're there, but at the same time I want to see at least *some* of the cooler sites. It's going to be a balancing act, and part of me just wants to say forget it all. We can spend our time just walking around and sitting at corner cafes watching the Parisians go by! :) Maybe we'll do a little of both.

Anyway, it seems I'm almost done with Fallout 3. Which is a lot shorter than I expected. Even with all the side quests factored in this is nowhere near as large as Bethesda's Oblivion game a few years back. But I'm not going to complain. I seriously need to finish this before Resident Evil 5 hits stores on Friday the 13th this month. Because once it does, that's it for all other games!

Yes indeed.

Woke Up This Morning . . .


. . . And this is what I found outside my bedroom window.

Looks like we *finally* got the blizzard I just knew New York was capable of getting. I've been waiting all winter for this! Up until this point, we've only gotten pitiful, pathetic little snow/rain mixers, with more of the latter and less of the former. But finally the winds prevailed in *my* favor for once, and we got a nice 5 inches of snow just overnight alone. Fortunately for me, the biggest part of the storm is not yet done with us, and we can expect about an additional 5 or 6 inches when all is said and done by late afternoon. I would love about twice as much snow as that, but with the anemic winter we've had -- beggars can't be choosers, you know?

I, of course, got up and went in to work. But seems like almost no one else did. The subways were deserted!!! And downtown Manhattan was eerily quiet as well. Not like the ending of the movie Devil's Advocate empty, but still creepy nonetheless.

I'll see if I can remember to take a picture on my way home through the park. I'll probably be moving too quickly to take more than a blur with my iPhone. :)

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