Saturday, June 25, 2005

Holy Crime Caper, Batman

Back to the beginning

And that’s what Batman Begins is, holy. Finally, after a wretched metamorphosis from dark, tortured gem to laughable comic farce, the ailing Batman franchise takes a right turn back to its roots. Batman Begins returns the Dark Knight to all his brooding, conflicted glory and performs a veritable check mate on its predecessors, save the original Batman with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

As for the pathetic Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, I believe that George Lucas secretly talked to Warner Brothers about his new strategy for taking a wonderfully compelling franchise and turning it into a series of ridiculous kid movies - a tactic that he would soon perfect with the launch of Stars Wars Episode 1. But, I digress…

Batman Begins gets it right by focusing on the events and emotional trauma that gave birth to the brooding badass in the first place. Strong performances by Liam Neeson, Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman round out this solidly entertaining flick. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention Katie Holmes in the strong performances category. Not that she performed badly, but she wasn’t really given a chance to – and that’s fine, as it helped center the movie around Batman and not his flying rodent groupies.

Perky Katie

Katie was nice to look at though, and that’s worth the price of the celluloid on which she appears. It must be really cold on set though, as Katie always seemed to be a bit chilly in her thin, clingy outfits. The same thing happened with Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman. Probably just a coincidence rather than some prurient scheme to sell more tickets to adolescent males. Probably.

Getting back to the film, I could yammer on about how Momento director Christopher Nolan kept the digital effects to a minimum in the fight scenes, and how the dialogue was just as entertaining as the frenetic action, but I won’t. I don’t get paid for this, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. The bottom line is not to be scared off by the previous incarnations. Batman Begins is certainly worth your $9.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Simple Pleasures of Youth

Secondary Sex Sells

A couple of years ago, our good friends Matt and Susie were visiting with their 14-month-old daughter, Hannah. As we were chatting with Matt and Susie, their daughter had found the magazines on the coffee table. In particular, she was doing her best to leaf through a Communication Arts magazine.

We weren’t really paying attention until she let out a scream of delight and pointed to a particular ad. Apparently she had some experience in the subject matter. It was always my plan to send the photo to the company behind the generously clever ad, but I never got around to it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Triumph over Michael Jackson

The one and only TriumphThe Michael Jackson trial is over. Thank God. Now the media can go back to reporting on more consequential news, like the next runaway bride. In regards to the Jacko trial, I won’t waste your time by going on and on about how Michael Jackson is a freak. That’s common knowledge, plus I’ve already done it.

What I haven’t done is comment on how freakish Michael Jackson fans are. However, I’m not going to do that either, because Triumph the Insult Dog has already demonstrated it to a tee. You’ll need Real Player to watch this video, but this clip of Triumph interviewing fans outside the Santa Maria courthouse is worth Real’s notorious software nags. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Outside, the Target Market?

The great indoors, outdoorsSummer is right around the corner, and American families across our fair nation are turning their thoughts towards the great outdoors. Of course, the outdoors really aren’t that great, unless you can bring your computer, inflatable couch and collapsible rocking chair. At least, that’s what I’m led to believe by the latest Target ad.

OK, right about now you’re thinking, “Didn’t this guy just post something about ads,” and “He must spend way too much time looking through ads.” The answer to such astute queries is “yes” and “yes.”

I wouldn’t look at so many ads, if they would stop sending them to me. Somehow I inherited a grave malady from my family gene pool; it’s called bargain hunters disease. I have a hard time passing up a good deal. Luckily, I’ve also been endowed with an ample portion of common sense, which keeps me from buying useless crap. I’m proud to report that I’ve never bought an “As seen on TV” product – not matter how many aluminum-can slicing Ginsu knives they throw in.

Camping Doggy StyleGetting back to camping and the Target ad, it was my afore-lauded common sense that turned me on to something a little strange. The first thing I noticed was the family tent they were advertising. This particular family tent took to heart the notion that pets are part of the family, because right there protruding out of the side was a doggy tent annex. Don’t get me wrong; I love my dog. In fact many a random banter has professed such affection. However, I’m certainly not buying a tent with a canvas-covered canine corral.

I don’t know why I’m so shocked about the existence of such a product. Americans don’t even know what the term “roughing it” means anymore, so why would they expose their pet to such an archaic concept. Instead, according to Target’s brand merchandising team, Americans want to update the camping experience with luxuries from home. This is evident in Target’s ad for the Eddie Bauer Family Tent. Apparently, Eddie Bauer is such a workaholic that he can’t leave his computer home when he’s out camping with the family. Yes, that’s a computer monitor you see inside the tent (see first image). At least Mrs. Bauer has accented the computer with a nice vase of fresh cut flowers.

The Anti-Love SeatMy gripe ends with the Coleman inflatable love seat. If you’ve been able to successfully persuade your significant other to go on a romantic camping trip with you in the woods, the mood will be hurt, not enhanced by the introduction of an inflatable love seat. If that’s your idea of romantic camping, save the $22 and spend it on a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and get drunk on the couch watching a Jerry Springer marathon.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Cautionary Father's Day Ad

Ideal DadIt’s June, which means that Father’s Day is the next shopping holiday mandated by a secret international consortium of unscrupulous retailers. Over the next few weeks, poor, unsuspecting, disposable income sporting individuals will be bombarded with a myriad of ads for creative gifts for dads.

While ‘creative’ might seem a positive adjective to describe these gifts, I use it more to describe the outlandish and useless products that suddenly appear this time of year in mall stores around the nation. For example, who really needs an all-in-one TV, radio, flashlight, warning light, car battery charger and bottle opener device? I admit that guys are harder to buy for than women, but that doesn’t justify buying a cheap plastic gizmo whose dubious future lies in a leaking landfill in Nevada.

Luckily, it’s easy to avoid the pointless, made-in-China trinkets – just steer clear of the center aisle display at your local department store. As you venture away from the road-most-traveled, take a look at a nice shirt or watch – always good gifts if you have insights into the deserving dad’s fashion sense - or know what it should be.

Ethnic DadA recent Father’s Day-themed direct mail advertising piece from Macy’s offered up numerous suggestions for dads that ranged from trendy clothes, sleek shoes, musky fragrances and striking timepieces. I enjoyed the deliberate photography choices that showed ‘model’ dads with ‘model’ children.

The cover of the Macy’s ad showed a father and child smiling together in their coordinating polo shirts. For good measure, that precious scene was replicated a few pages later with an ethnic flare. It was the next page that got my attention.

Reluctant DadAdvertising a cotton/polyester blend dress shirt by Kenneth Cole, a model is seen cradling an infant while feeding him a bottle. This appears in the Father’s Day mailer, so such a scene is not out of the ordinary...had it not been for the expression on the dad’s face and missing ring on his left hand.

No Mona Lisa, the model’s expression in this portrait was easy to decipher. With pursed lips and the head cocked culpably to one side, the look on the model’s face issued a warning to all single, sexually-active males out there – use protection. The expression was so clear it was as if he was sitting across the table from you saying, “Yeah, I was stupid and got a girl knocked up. Now, instead of hitting on some lingerie models from the Mother’s Day shoot, I’m here taking care of a baby.”

As this dialogue played out before me, I instantly placed some well-deserved respect with the Macy’s organization. At least they were trying to be honest in their advertising and were able to convey a socially-minded message at the same time. In order to reward their honesty, I encourage you to go out to Macy’s and get that dad a nice cotton/polyester blend shirt or stylish chronometer – just stay clear of the center aisle displays.