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  • Friends with Benefits - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    It's a romantic comedy and it follows all the rules and cliches of romantic comedies. But wait, here's the thing, it knows it's a romantic comedy, it knows romantic comedies are cheesy, and it wants you to know that it knows. So through out the movie we have many nudges and winks towards the audience, including one scene where the couple is actually watching a romantic comedy, to let you know that you are still cool and in on the joke. It is passable  with some funny lines and situations. Some of the required "adorable but cooky" family memebers are mildly amusing. But it is often uneven and the "hey wait we're still hip" moments do nothing other than to remind you that you are watching a movie. There is plenty of A-team grade sex scenes in the movie.(Plenty of action and bullets being fired but nobody getting shot.) I don't think Mila Kunis even shows a single boob. The actors play their parts to the inevitable conclusion of "happy ever after" and I was left wondering why I didn't just watch When Harry Met Sally or While You Were Sleeping instead.

  • General Video Game Rant - Video Games Are All Grown Up

    Video games are just about as old as I am. I was just young whelp when pinball halls started to feature stand-up arcade games, and we were the first family on our block to own an Atari (probably because the other families on our block were retirees). I’ve watched video games grow up with me, from the Nintendo Entertainment System and the original Playstation to the Xbox 360 and the rise of online video games. And one thing I’ve noticed is that where old games were considered cutting edge if a disembodied voice could say, ‘Warrior needs food… badly’, now the various characters in a game can all cuss violently in accents that betray their origins, and their mouths move along with the words.

  • Ghostbusters (2016) Review

    Calm down, your childhood is not ruined.

  • Gilda - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    "It's a thin line between love and hate." So sang The Persuaders and they were never so right. Sometimes there is an attraction so powerful between two people that it can burn. Like a fire it becomes a destroyer. In Gilda the love/hate story between Gilda and Johnny enters a death spiral of mutual antagonism, despair, and longing. It isn't pretty, it isn't fun, but it's hard to look away. There are some great performances but the show is totally stolen by Rita Hayworth. She is beautiful, no doubt, but more than that she is sexy. So palpable is her primal  appeal that you'll know just why the men in the movie feel the way they do. The quiet menace of the casino owner is ratcheted up slowly and with great tension. He's played by George Macready whose one of a kind voice is a delight to listen to even when he's saying horrible things. I really like quiet  well spoken antagonists. They just seem more competent and fearful. However, the last five minutes of the movie are a let down. An obligatory "happy ending" seems tacked on. As always, that's a let down. And Fellahs, when your wife asks if Gilda is the kind of women you really like, you best say "No" but we both know what you'll really be thinking.

    Showing on TCM 4/30/13 at 4:15am. Your girlfriend should be asleep then so you're good to go.

  • Glengarry Glen Ross - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    One sign of a truly great script is that there is no bloat. No excess. Everything is ripped away except for what is absolutely necessary. Glengarry Glen Ross is a sterling example of this. It crams into ninety minutes what it would take a lesser movie to do in two and a half hours. David Mamet, justifiably revered as a master of dialog, has a lot to say about the survival of the fittest, desperation, and the rise and fall of winners and losers. He also puts in a hint of human decency and loyalty as well. Alec Baldwin totally owns his most famous scene. The rest of the cast is a who's who of great actors and they all deliver. Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey.  One of the best dramas of the 90's and it hasn't aged a day in the ensuing 20 years.

    Netflix Status: Now Streaming

  • Gunga Din - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    Classic adventure film so often copied and referenced that much of it feels cliche. There are some hokey parts especially at the beginning of the film and at the very end. However, from the moment Sgt. Cutter discovers the Thugee temple to the moment the Guru leaps into the snake pit, this is simply one of the finest examples of an action movie ever put on film. The guru, as played by Eduardo Ciannelli, is one of the most malevolent, hate filled, evil bad guys you will ever see. That he didn't get a best supporting actor award is only excused by the fact that the movie came out in 1939, arguably the best year in movie history and the competition was so fierce.

  • Halloween Fortress of Horror 01 - Things That Scared Me as a Kid

    I love Halloween.  Not the overprotected, sterile thing it's become for kids and certainly not the excuse to get drunk and dress "sexy" that it means for many adults, but the memory of Halloween from my youth and the event I've made of it in recent years.  I'll carve several pumpkins up, decorate the house with as much spooky shit that I can find, and indulge in copious amounts of horror movies and Count Chocula.  I'm sharing my excitement over the season this year with the Fort, largely taking a look which horror movies I'm watching, but also talking a bit about other Halloween staples.  To set the right mood, today I'm sharing three things that chilled me to the bone as a kid.  Some of them will seem ridiculous, some might seem legit, but there's no turning back now...

  • Here I Stand Up to My Ankles in the Med - The Last Crusaders [Books]

    Last week I spent my holiday on Rhodes, the smallish Greek island with a grand history, just off the Turkish coast. Cities sprang up here around 3,000 years ago, providing legendary Olympic boxing champions and some great classical philosophers. Later, its rethorical schools provided crucial stages in the education of the Roman elite, among whom Caesar. However, the civil war that ended the republic of Rome also led to the destruction of Rhodes.

  • Horrible Bosses - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    Clearly trying to capture the same vibe as The Hangover, Horrible Bosses places three metro-sexual archetypes in a completely outrageous situation and hilarity ensues. Well that's the plan anyway but the movie as a whole falls flat. The premise doesn't mesh mainly due to a lack of balance. These bosses make life difficult for our three heroes so....they should be murdered? I hear that gear box grinding noise in my head just thinking about it. The jokes and gags inhabit that fringe area where they are ALMOST funny but aren't and you want to laugh out of sympathy if nothing else but don't. Kevin Spacey phones it in, Justin Bateman plays the only role he ever plays...Justin Bateman, and poor Jennifer Aniston...taking crap roles like this are no way to jump start that movie career she should have had.

    Netflix Status: DVD and Blu-Ray only

  • Horrible Trashy Old Shorts

    Although I’m as much of a sucker for vampires and zombies as the next geek, I can’t really call myself much of a horror buff. As a teenager I was pathetically oversensitive to horror film cliches: I can remember lying on a sofa in a friends house as he watched the David Cronenberg remake ofThe Flyand refusing to turn to face the screen for the entire film. I’ve got rather less wimpy since then, but I guess some of that original distaste has stayed with me. I also have a fantasy-fan’s desire to explore the roots and details of fantastic creations and so I find the tendancy of horror writers to skip that sort of material in attempts to make what you don’t know all the more scary intensely frustrating. Never mind the fashion to focus on all-too human serial killers and sadists instead of the supernatural. But you can’t carry your nerd card without having a soft spot for at least some of this stuff, so I thought it might be interested to do a culture piece on what I am familiar with: an outsiders view of the genre so to speak.

  • Indie Game the Movie - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    The ease with which a creator can get his vision directly into the hands of the consumer becomes greater and greater everyday. The old systems of distribution,the publishing houses, the movie studios, the record labels become more and more dated and obsolete. What do the gatekeepers of content guard when the walls to either side of their doorway have been destroyed? In this documentary we spend some time with a few  creators in the field of indie video games.  Three sides are presented. The first is the thoughts of the man who made the very successful game Braid and his reflections some time after his game came out. The second is the team who were behind Super Meat Boy just prior to and just after it was released. The last is the guy who, at the time the movie was made, was still designing a game called Fez which he had yet to release and had been working on for five years. We get a look into the minds of creative people, how they obsess, and strive, and torture themselves to bring their vision into the world. How and where they live and to an extent the ramifications that their dream has upon their personal lives.  We get to see a bit too much of the neurosis and anxieties of the man who made Fez but we also  get to see the reaction of one of the Super Meat Boy team, on release day, as he realizes that despite all his fears and doubts that his dream really is going to come true and for that alone the movie is worth watching.

    Netflix Status: Currently Streaming

  • iPhone Gaming, Part One


    Since last Fall, there's been something of a gold rush on iTunes, with large and small software development shops seeking fortune by selling applications at price points between $0.99 and $9.99.  This gold rush is aided by the low cost of entry to the market.  The software tools required to develop applications for the platform are available free of charge from Apple, and access to iTunes costs a developer only $99. As a result, there are plenty of games available to users of iPhone and iPod Touch, but the lion's share are amateur efforts, facile puzzle games, or quickie ports of established titles.

    Sadly, the iTunes interface isn't much help in distinguishing the worthy games from the chaff.  What follows are capsule reviews of three recent ports to the iPhone platform.

  • Josh Look got the Astonishing X-Men Omnibus for Christmas, and all you get is this crummy review

    Observant followers of my comic articles here on the Fort will realize that I promised more coverage of Marvel's Point One line this month.  However, roughly half of the books in the line for this month will not reach my local comic shop in time for my article, and which ones that have, well...the less said of them, the better.

    Who doesn't love the X-Men on some level?  When I was in the third grade, I don't think there was anything that seemed cooler to me than the X-Men.  This was a bit before the 90's animated show came out, so to know the X-Men, who they were and what they're about, it was like being in a secret club.  At that age, the fact that there were girls i that club was oddly fascinating.  For me, as I'm sure was the same for any generation before or after mine, the X-Men felt so fresh and different from all the other comic book characters out there.  Mutants were not born out of the fears of the atomic era, they were just bornand born different.  What kid drawn to the world of nerdom doesn't find that easy to identify with?

    Yet there's plenty to not love about the X-Men.  Most significant for me is the continuity.  The team has a long, sprawling, and confusing history that's on the level of DC's Multiverse (and that's company wide!).  How many times has Jean Grey died?  Is she dead now?  Where did Rachel Summers come from?  Onslaught?  When is my local comic book store going to finally divide the new comics racks into "Indie," "DC," "Marvel," and "Books that feature Wolverine?"  It's some dense,frustrating, sometimes silly stuff, to say the least.

    Which brings us to Astonishing X-Men. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday set out to make something readable out of the X-Men's messy continuity, and completely ignored the major crossover events that happened in the Marvel Universe during the series' run.  I've now read the series three times, most recently in the excellent Omnibus edition.  The result is an absolute home run, difficult to put down. largely accessible, and as far as I'm concerned, the best X-Men story to have ever been published.

  • Ken B.'s Not-Yet-Titled Weekly Column, Volume 1: The Cape, Famiglia, Dungeonquest 3rd Edition, and more!

    Hello, and welcome to the first "official" installment of my not-yet-titled weekly column.  Today's contents:  Thoughts on The Cape's cancellation and genre TV in general, and mini-reviews/sessions of Famiglia, Dungeonquest 3rd Edition, and Steam 

  • Knock, Knock

    drWe live in an age where, thanks to a combination of the increasing pentration of nerd culture into the mainstream and the rise of computer-controlled special effects, science fiction and fantasy TV serials have become not only more common but, in general, rather better than their predecessors were. So it’s perhaps surprising that I watch very, very few of them. Mostly this is because of length: I just cannot commit myself to the sort of long-running series that US TV networks favour not only because of the total time involved but because of a nagging suspicion that writers tend to spin these things out for season after season more from commercial than creative considerations.

    So inevitably my favourite geeky TV shows are those that don’t fit this pattern. For a long time Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG were top of my list. Not only were most of the episodes of these shows stand-alone whilst fitting in to a pleasing and evolving continuity but I loved the very human relationships that were at the heart of most of the stories, something that a lot of science-fiction and fantasy, and indeed all of the later Star Trek serials, gets wrong in favour of big special effects and scary monsters. The old British series Dr. Who languished a distant third in my affections.

    That was until it got a modern makeover and a relaunch. After one episode of that, featuring Christopher Ecclestone as the Doctor, it shot up to the top spot right away.

    It pretty much blew me away. Here was a fantastically imaginative science fiction programme which had clearly not only learned a great deal from the recent resurgence of quality genre TV but built on it and done so in a way that made it not only feel totally sympathetic and natural to fans of the old Doctor Who but simultaneously fresh, new and exciting. It also offered me the chance to watch it in digestible one or two episode chunks but offered the more committed viewer an overall story arc that built to a climax - which instantly made me into a committed viewer. The idea of a single-series story arc is what really did it: longer running US-style programmes often set up initial mysteries in the very first episode and then spin them out series after series after series until the show starts to loose money. With modern Doctor Who everything is wrapped up in about 15 relatively neat episodes, or you can dip in and out or you can get in it for the long run. Genius.

    Doctor Who is a concept that absolutely should not work. First and foremost it breaks what I regard as one of the fundamental rules of fiction about time travel: that given the immense possibility of confusion and paradox that could arise from making time travel a reality, the writer should establish early what “laws” of time travel apply in their version of the universe and stick to them religiously. The Time Lords have not, as far as I’m aware, not only never set down completely what those laws should be but the good Doctor himself has gone on to break virtually every one of those that have been specified. It’s a continuity nightmare, yet no one seems to care: the sheer energy and imagination of the stories carries it through.

    Another problem area and another continuity nightmare waiting to happen is the concept of regeneration. This means that our heroic Time Lords has a fixed number of “lives”: if he is killed, or seriously injured then his body can regenerate a number of time to restore him to full health. The catch is that it not only restores his health but changes his appearance and personality too. This concept was originally introduced as a creative idea to allow the series to continue after the main actor bowed out and again, it absolutely should not work. Most series that have suffered the loss of a main character never recover properly. But in Doctor Who regeneration not only solved that problem but actually made a virtue of it: by regenerating his personality each time, but keeping a general sense of what the Doctor is all about, writers have managed to keep the show fresh and the fans guessing for a span of decades. It really is a work of genius.

    Of course the regenerating actors have been of variable quality. I feel a bit sorry for the current incumbent, Matt Smith, because he had to follow on from David Tennant who was unequivocally the best Doctor ever, brilliantly combining the largely irreconcilable action-hero, alien and academic sides of the character into one glorious whole. Smith is further hampered by his and the current writing teams new conception of the character as an extra-terrestrial boffin which is a nice idea and might have worked twenty years ago but which I find sits badly with the high action elements that the resurrection of the series has bought into the mix. He’s slowly growing into the role but he’s not helped that his companion, Karen Gillan, is going the other way as she demonstrates a rather limited ability to act beyond doing an excellent job of looking surprised and emoting wildly. I remain disappointed that the first actor to take on the mantle of the new Doctor, Christopher Ecclestone, ditched out after just one series, citing a desire not to get typecast. Almost uniquely amongst serving Doctors he seemed to bring something entirely new to the role - a genuine sense of something dangerous, mysterious, even slightly sinister that really evoked the alien qualities of the character whilst remaining recognisably well-intentioned. Fat lot of good it did him too - he’s not been in any major TV or film drama since. Going back to the old series there are a couple of really terribly Doctors at the end of its lifespan - Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker - whose dreadful mugging certainly helped to kill the original incarnation, and a couple more - Patrick Troughton and, inevitably, Tom Baker - who could stand toe-to-toe with the trio who’ve done the updated series.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s kept the series going through bad actors, bad writers and various budget cuts is the sheer imagination that drives it. A lot of this was introduced early on: the first Doctor made the most of the historical angles of a series about time travel, while the second introduced many of the recurring alien foes that have made the series so memorable and writers for the fourth and later Doctors made a fantastic job of mixing these two streams together to create compelling story lines, a fashion that continues to the present day. While some of the concepts - Cybermen and Sea Devils for example - are obvious takes on common science fiction tropes others are totally unique to Doctor Who such as the Rutans, the various villanous of misguided Time Lords and, of course, the Daleks. One of the greatest triumphs of the modern version of the series is the rebirth of the Daleks from something that scared children but was frequently mocked by adult fans (they couldn’t possibly invade any planet with stairs) into an implacable and virtually unstoppable foe that evoked apparently genuine terror in those that encountered them. The masterclass in this was the ninth Doctor episode that re-introduced them, in which a single Dalek completely terrorizes a high tech intuition that includes a platoon of heavily armed guards. Another great moment is that the current show has managed to introduce another highly memorable, highly unique foe for the Doctor in the form of the creepy Weeping Angels.

    The immense and wholly deserved acclaim and popularity that the latest Doctor Who serials have generated lead to a spin-off show, Torchwood, which was kind of an X-files take on the Doctor who universe in which government agents face up to similar alien horrors without the benefits of the Doctor’s skills and knowledge. It was billed as an “adult” alternative to the show which I initially imagined would mean darker storyline and more violence. In point of fact with the early series at least it seemed to actually translate as frequent and totally pointless sexual references and innuendo. I’ve nothing again lots of sex in a TV show so long as it has some relevance to the plot or themes of the programme but there didn’t seem to be any reasoning behind the sex in Torchwood. Why was I supposed to care, particularly, one way or the other that two of the main characters were gay and talked about it the whole time? What was far more important was that two said main characters eventually fell in love, at which point they stopped talking about being gay constantly and just got on like any two people in love and the show improved immeasurably. At the same time the series hit its highpoint with “Children of Earth”, a five-episode story broadcast over each night of a single week which finally gave us the “adult” themes I’d been looking for. In addition to the already mentioned emotional depth the series featured a truly disturbing alien foe and explored some really meaty plot territory around trust in politicians, eugenics, and the morality of sacrificing the few for the good of the many. It’s absolutely brilliant stuff and totally worth tracking down if you’ve not seen it - but the earlier runs of Torchwood are totally worth missing.

    This being a gaming site, I can’t wind up without at least mentioning the various Doctor Who games of which I, personally, have played only one (the old Games Workshop game of the licence by Warrior Knights designer Derek Carver) but which are by general consensus, universally awful. It’s a real shame that this is so, as I’m convinced the gaming world would leap on a decent strategy game based on the Doctor like a facehugger onto John Hurt. I suspect its been plagued by the twin evils of being a popular licence that encourages the production of mass-market children’s game and the problem of everyone wanting to play the central character. But I live in hope.

    I was inspired to write this piece and stick it into this time slot because it’s the first Monday before the series returns to our screens this Easter weekend. We’re promised a darker, more violent version of the universe with the promise that one of the central characters is going to die. Some have speculated it’ll be the Doctor himself but I don’t buy that - the BBC isn’t about to kill off one of the jewels in its crown when they’ve still got a regeneration up their sleeve. I hope it’ll be Amy Pond, who is makes good eye candy but is really getting on my nerves. Either way I’ll be hoping it lives up to the almost impossibly high bar set by its predecessor series, and I’ll be quietly gloating that finally we’ve got a hotly anticipated sci-fi TV property that we get to enjoy in the UK before you lot get it in the states. I’ll let you know what you’ve been missing next week.


  • Larry Crowne - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    Points at which my suspension of disbelief were broken: 1) Larry Crowne the dream employee of every shift manager ever to work in retail  is fired because he doesn't have a college education which unbeknownst to me is required to work the minimum wage job chasing carriages in the lot of the local Walmart 2) Larry is befriended by a beautiful 20 something in the parking lot of the community college because 45 year olds that show up riding scooters in 1972 Evel Kanievel helmets, button down shirts and wrinkled khakis are in no way creepy but are actually cute.  3) Harley guys do not meet people riding scooters with scorn and derision but rather with an assumed bond of spiritual brotherhood. They do not give the finger to scooter riders but rather give them a thumbs up and a "right on, Bro". 4) Julia Roberts who has that sallow unhealthy look of either a five pack a day smoking cancer patient or middle aged woman in Hollywood desperate to stay thin is treated as a breath taking beauty rather than a creature that appears to be on the verge of singing the chorus to "Down Down to Goblin Town" at any moment. This movie was one big suck, the story unbelievable, the characters unlikeable, the attempts to pull emotional strings laughable. If you've been looking for an excuse to kick in your TV but haven't had any luck, here is your answer. Watch ten minutes of this and see if you don't feel like putting a boot through the screen.

    Netflix status: Your not going to watch this P.O.S. are you?

  • Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    A movie that documents what happens when Karma gets drunk off her ass and decides it would be fun to fuck with the lives of four petty hustlers living on the mean streets of London. Equal parts caper, action, slapstick comedy, and murderously funny humor so dry it'll lead to a severe case of dehydration if you're not careful. Full of twists and turns that will make you want to shout "Oh, come on!" as you grin like a fool in eager anticipation of the train wreck to come. The dialog alone would be worth the price of admission just to hear these low-lifes blurt out their insults and threats in thick cockney accents.

    Netflix Status: Currently Streaming

  • Logan's Run - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    I love this movie. No excuses. No apologies. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. If ever there was a movie that proves that story trumps special effects it is this. The themes of self reliance, of the triumph of virtue over self indulgence, of the value of freedom give me goose bumps just to think about. It stands up to repeated viewings and is one of the few movies that outshines its source material. The book by William F Nolan is so horrible I get a little vomit in the back of my mouth just thinking about it but David Zelag Goodman, the screenwriter, and Michael Anderson, the director, turn that attrocious piece of excrement into a glittering jewel. They don't slack on the action scenes either which are tense and energetic.  Jenny Agutter, Michael York, and Richard Jordan are all great. Peter Ustiov is a  legend for good reason. See if you don't take in a long deep breath of fresh air along with Logan and Jessica as they break free of the city and witness their first sunrise together.

    Netflix status: DVD & Blu Ray only. But you can buy the DVD for $5 you cheap bastard and you should own it because it's great.

  • Lonesome Dove - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    When a TV mini-series produced 23 years ago stays in your mind, that's saying something. There are lines from this movie that have become part of my everyday lexicon. When actors and actresses embody a role so completely that you can't even imagine anybody else playing the part, that says something as well. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are the stars but all the roles are played to perfection. It is certainly one of the best Westerns ever made. Take a trip with "two worn out old rangers" as they journey from South Texas to Montana. You won't forget or regret it.

    Netflix Status: Currently Streaming

  • Looper - Tow Jockey Five Second Review

    Love is powerful. It can make us do crazy things. The lengths to which a person will go got get it, to keep it, and to protect it can be quite extreme. How far would you go for love? Would you let the whole world burn to protect those dearest to you? That is one of the central themes running through the great time travel movie, Looper, but it is not the only one. The power of free will confronts the momentum of fate. The importance of fathers in the life of men is also is also put to the test. The one question that is not in the movie, thank goodness, is the one nerds have been discussing since H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and that is how to resolve the paradoxes implicit in the concept of time travel. As Bruce Willis' character yells out "It just doesn't matter!" The person responsible for the set design really needs recognition. The distopian near future is done with such a light subtle touch that you scarcely notice it on a conscious level and yet is pervasive just below the surface. (This does not count the silly and unnecessary jet-cycle which I swear had a Harley Davidson primary cover on it). Emily Blunt, as Sarah, puts in a performance worthy of note. While Jeff Daniels and Bruce Willis both combine charm with menace in a delightful way.  I get the same vibe from this movie I did from the classic Gattaca. In a world of despair, there is always hope.

    Now showing in theaters