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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

100 Songs I Love: Spin Radio Edition (147-151)

Long before I was a balding, happily married father with my own house and a spirit-crushing day job with the government, I was a teenager with a full head of hair, coming of age in the 1990's.  It was an amazing time to be young, wild and free.  Nothing bad was going on.  Nothing good was going on.  Nothing at all was going on.  And that's how we liked it.

I was then, as I am now, a huge music fan.  I especially liked that newfangled "alternative" sound.  There was an alternative rock station in Charlotte that I liked a lot, but they played a lot of what you'd expect. It wasn't a bad thing, but my ears longed for more.  That's where Spin Radio came in.

Spin Radio was an hour long program that played on Sunday nights (I think).  I assume it was associated with Spin Magazine, which was an actual magazine you could hold in your hands at the time.  It caught my attention one night when they played a They Might be Giants song.  "They Might be Giants?  On the radio?  Clearly this is a radio program that knows what it's doing!"  I was hooked.  I grabbed a fresh, blank cassette from the stack I kept on my desk at all times and started taping.  I didn't know most of the songs they played, besides the aforementioned TMBG track (it was an accordion only version of "Meet James Ensor" that would later appear on the Severe Tire Damage album) and a Phish tune from the only Phish album I have ever owned (Picture of Nectar), which a friend recommended because of my love of TMBG.  For the record, Picture of Nectar sounds nothing like TMBG.  It was OK though.  

Anyway, by the time my family took our epic trip Out West, I had a a cassette full of songs recorded at random off of Spin Radio.  It was the soundtrack to my trek through Yellowstone.  Spin Radio will forever be tied to Old Faithful, Jackson Hole, WY and my cousin's AC-less house in Colorado.  In fact, I made two fairly epic mix tapes using his CD collection the night we stayed with him that I should write about in the future.  But this is about Spin Radio, specifically the five songs that remain lodged in my brain to this day.

147. "I'll Be Back To Haunt You" (The Dylans)

I don't know anything about The Dylans aside from this song and the fact that they have a dumb name. I've also never really been that curious to dive deeper into The Dylans back catalogue.  This song is a perfect little nugget of dopey alternative rock that I would hate to have spoiled by any lackluster Dylans efforts.

The Dumb Lyrics: "I'm not alive/I'm dead/I'm dead/I'm dead/I'm dead"

148. "I Need Love" (Sam Phillips)

If you sat down with the lyric sheet for "I Need Love" without knowing who wrote it, you'd probably guess it was penned by a sullen teenage.  He or she is probably a member of the Poetry Club at school and watches a lot of black-and-white movies on the weekends.  He or she probably drinks a lot of coffee and pretends to like it best black.  The lyrics are kind of dumb is what I'm getting at.

But then you hear Sam Phillips voice and it all makes sense.  The words are undeniably sophomoric, but there's something beautifully sad about the performance that makes "I Need Love" one of my favorite tunes to this very day.

149. "Violet" (Hole)

Before Courtney Love was the worst person in the world, she recorded this song. Her growly vocals and the yelping chorus ("Go on take everything, take everything, I want you to") does something not unpleasant to my swimsuit area.

150. "For The Birds" (Juliana Hatfield)

Juliana Hatfield was one of my Top 5 favorite artists when I was a teenager.  Her album Become What You Are was very instrumental in my musical evolution.  And I sort of have Spin Radio to thank, I guess, because I first heard "For The Birds" on the show.  I've been going back and listening to some of her stuff over the past couple of weeks (Blake Babies stuff I totally missed, post-Bed songs), and I think it's time for a Juliana Hatfield Renaissance.  I am a fan.

Embarrassing Moments in Matt History: I met Buffalo Tom at a mall in Charlotte.  After a short performance, they hung out in the mall's record store to sign autographs and talk to fans.  I had them sign a golf-themed birthday card for my dad.  They were happy to do it, filling the card with golf puns and such, so, since they were so nice, I decided to ask a question.  Knowing they were from the New England area, I asked the following probing inquiry:

"Do you guys know Juliana Hatfield?"

"Oh, yeah.  We're friends with Juliana."

"Cool."  I had no follow-up.

They were so nice to answer my dumb question, but I was totally embarrassed.

Dawson's Creep?: I started college at the height of Dawson's Creek-Mania, a phenomenon to which I was not immune.  Dawson's Creek, as you probably already know, was filmed in Wilmington, NC, so it was not unheard of for cast members to pop up in various places throughout the state from time to time.  In fact, I think Joshua Jackson was arrested for fighting at Hurricanes games multiple times.  My sister was in a movie theater in Charlotte with the guy who played Jack (There was a guy named Jack, right?), when a trailer for Final Destination, a movie in which he starred, came on and remembers his friends giving him a gentle ribbing.  And I may have stood next to James Van Der Beek at a Juliana Hatfield show in Carborro.  I'm not 100% sure, but I do know it was a guy who looked very much like Mr. Der Beek and I know he was flanked by two huge dudes who barely moved the entire show.  Dawson, on the other hand, danced non-stop.  After every song, he'd throw his hands up and scream "Juliana!"  After performing this dance-and-scream move a dozen or so times, Ms. Hatfield looked over at him, shrugged as if to say, "What are you gonna do?" and continued the show.  It was pretty great, even if it wasn't James Van Der Beek.

151. "Let It Drip" (Failure)

Not unlike The Dylans' "I'll Be Back To Haunt You," "Let It Drip" is literally the only Failure song I've ever heard.  For years, it's felt like the only Failure song I'd ever need (It's awesome, right?), but I was recently listening to Tom Scharpling interview Matt Pinfield on the Low Times Podcast, and the legendary former host of my favorite Mtv show growing up, 120 Minutes, shared that Failure was his favorite band that never made it.  He guessed it might have been because of the their name.  Kind of setting yourselves up for it, I guess.

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Get It Off My Facebook Page!!!: Diamond Rio Banned For Believing

A lot of us have "friends" on Facebook that we consider un-friending on a daily basis, but to do so would take away the perverse joy we get from their often asinine posts.  In GEP's newest feature, Get It Off My Facebook Page!!!, I will share with my readers some of the stupidest, strangest and outright ridiculous garbage that clutters my personal FB page on a daily basis.  I don't plan on revealing any names, because people are entitled to their wrong opinions and dumb philosophies (J/K LOL!).

In general, it is a good rule of thumb to check before sharing anything that sounds even the teensiest bit untrue or ridiculous, like this 100% untrue and ridiculous story that was shared in my Facebook News Feed this morning:

A song some radio stations are banning, the song you are about to listen to, was played at a Las Vegas Diamond Rio concert. They received an immediate resounding standing ovation, and continue to do so every time they perform it! 

Sadly, major radio stations wouldn't play it because it was considered politically incorrect'. 

Consequently, the song was never released to the public. 

Now Congress is getting involved. 

Your President is saying that is not fit for release because it offends so many. 

So America , see what you think... 

If this offering speaks to your heart and you feel you want to share it with friends and loved ones, please do so now. 

It was accompanied by this video:

Look, I've already stopped by Snopes, so I know this story is a big bag o' lies, but I was roughly 100% certain this was nothing but woe-is-me-everybody-hates-Christians propaganda the second I saw it.  Was it because I'm way smarter than the person who wrote it and the "friend" who shared it and added her own two cents ("We are exposed to all matter or TRASH on the radios, but this song is not PC?? I wish to hear it every day")?  Not necessarily, I simply thought about what I'd read for longer then three seconds.   Let's go point by point.

1. ...major radio stations wouldn't play it because is was considered politically incorrect 

Or, you know, it just didn't fit the format.

"In God We Still Trust" is, as far as I can tell, a Contemporary Country song.  It also wouldn't be out of place on a Contemporary Christian radio station.  Last time I took a spin around the radio dial (and anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I do this quite often), I fond plenty of country and Christian music stations, too many country ones probably.  I'm sure country music stations played this song when it came out in 2006.  Why wouldn't they, unless it wasn't tracking well for whatever reason?  Most Contemporary Country music fans I know would not be offended by the lyrics to "In God We Still Trust."

And it would be foolish to expect Top 40, alternative, classic rock and urban radio stations to play this song, wouldn't it?  By not playing something, a radio station isn't necessarily banning it, it just don't fit the format, as I've already stated.

2. ...this song was never released to the public

Sure it was.  In 2006.  On Diamond Rio's Greatest Hits, Volume 2.  You can literally go to right this second and buy it.  You can buy just this song for 99-cents.

3. Now Congress is getting involved

No they're not.

4. Your President  is saying that it is not fit for release because it offends so many

Oh, I see.  This is another attack on Barack Obama.  Question: Why would President Obama care about a song from seven years ago?  He didn't even take office until 2009, and "In God We Still Trust" came out in 2006.  Are you trying to tell me Barack Obama has held a grudge  against this song since 2006, and that he is now spending a least a portion of his time in office to ban it from the airwaves?  If you think that's true, you are the stupidest human being to ever walk the Earth.

Think before you post dumb junk on your Facebook page, old people.  I don't want to have to block you because you keep falling for urban legends.  Do me a favor and just GET IT OFF MY FACEBOOK PAGE!!!

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

What the WTF?!?: Really? Planes? REALLY?

Have you seen the trailer for Disney's Planes yet?  Here.  Watch it real quick.

I saw the trailer for Planes on July 4th, a day that will live in infamy.  

We spent the morning with my parents at an old-fashioned, small-town Independence Day celebration complete with bounce houses, temporary tattoo stations and Taylor Swift karaoke being performed by screechy sixth grade girls.  We followed this up with lunch at [NAME OF RESTAURANT SPECIALIZING IN CHICKEN SANDWICHES AND HOMOPHOBIA REDACTED] and dropped the kid off at my parents' place for a nap.  The wife and I then took in a matinee of the latest Pixar release, Monsters University.  It was here, in a movie theater full of children and families, that I first witnessed the trailer for Planes.

Before I go any further, let me say a few very important things.  First of all, I hated Pixar's Cars.  It was boring and impossible to understand (Who built these cars?  Does this movie take place on our Earth or some other parallel Earth?  If it's the Earth that we know, where did all the humans go?  If this is not our world, how did these cars evolve and from what? Etc, etc, etc).  Second, I did not, nor do I plan to ever, see Cars 2.  And, third, and most important, nobody in the theater that day enjoyed this trailer.  I'm talking kids, parents, theater employees--nobody!  There wasn't one laugh, snicker or chortle.  The children in the audience, who had earlier been asking their mommies for more popcorn and whining about having to sit next to their least favorite sibling, were stone silent.  Were then staring with awe at the screen, enamored and enchanted by what they were seeing?  I would submit that they were not.  A boy sitting three seats away from me actualy burst into tears.  "No, mommy," he wailed.  "No, mommy."*

Look, if you're looking forward to Planes, good for you.  It's not for me and I understand that.  So, I'm not going to waste a bunch of time pointing out every single I hate about this trailer.  I just want to bring everyone's attention to one thing.  You'll find it at the two-minute mark.  Go ahead.  Sync it up.  I'll wait.


If you didn't go back and watch, I'll transcribe the "hilarious" exchange between two anthropomorphic planes, one of which is most assuredly high on something:

Druggie Plane: It's a really compelling underdog story.  Like Old Yeller.
Other Plane: (smacks Druggie with his wing) That's not an underdog story!
Druggie Plane: There's a dog in it. (takes a giant bong rip)**

1. How does Old Yeller, book or movie, exist in a world without humans or dogs?

2. If Planes takes place in a post-apocalyptic, post-human, post-dog world in which Fred Gipson wrote Old Yeller, and the planes do, in fact, possess the ability to read, how do they turn the pages?  If they're referring to the movie version, how did they work the projector/VCR/DVD player?

3. If this is a world in which there were never humans or dogs, how is there a movie and/or book with a dog in it and how would any of the planes know what a dog is?

That's all.  Screw you, Planes!

*This didn't happen.
*This also didn't happen.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

***UPDATE*** : You want bottomless fries with that, Bub?

How did I want this whole thing to end?  A free meal for me and my family?  I mean, maybe.  That wouldn't be so bad, I guess.  Free Red Robin burgers for a year?  That's way too much, plus, I'd rather have a burger from Tribeca Tavern or even 5 Guys.  A letter of apology from Sam, the barbershop quartet singing owner of the first ever Red Robin in Seattle, WA?  Sam is more than likely long dead, so while a personalized letter from his ghost would be quite novel, it might also frighten me into a catatonic state from which I may never return.  My own Red Robin franchise, free of charge and staffed entirely with curvy cosplay enthusiasts?  That is both unlikely and sexist.  In short, I didn't know what I wanted.  What I got was a phone call.

Take the dumbest you've ever felt, times it by 100 and you still won't feel a fraction of the shame and embarrassment I felt when I got Red Robin General Manager Wood Wilson's call last Tuesday.

"Is this Matt Lawson?" said the nicest voice in the world.

"Yes.  Who is this?" said the smart-ass who tweeted a bunch of goofy garbage at a national burger chain because he was bored and suffering from blog writer's block.

"This is Wood Wilson, general manager of the Red Robin in [LOCATION REDACTED] and I just wanted to say we're all really sorry about the brioche bun."

What could I do?  What could I say?  I laughed, but not in a mocking way.  More in a way that said, "You caught me.  I'm an asshole."

"You really don't have to apologize," I said.  "I was just, um, kind of surprised when I found out about the brioche bun, you know, after the fact."  I SAID THIS!  WHY DID I SAY THIS?  Sure, I was surprised, but I also didn't care at all.  I thought #YouOweMeBriocheRedRobin would be a funny hashtag.  That's it.  So, my lackluster bacon cheeseburger came on a sesame seed bun.  I've had countless lackluster bacon cheeseburgers on countless sesame buns and they've been fine.  

"Well, I wanted to personally apologize, and let you know that we've taken care of the brioche problem."  This poor, sweet man.  This isn't what he wanted his life to be.  

"You really don't have to apologize, but I appreciate your call," I said, my face redder than the tomato that didn't come on my Berserker.

"Hey, next time you're here, ask for me.  I'd really like to meet you."

And punch me in the balls, I'm sure.  That's what I'd want to do.  Oh, I'm a dick.

"Sure thing.  What was your name again?"  I ACTUALLY GRABBED A PEN AND SOME SCRAP PAPER!

"Wood Wilson."

"Wood is your last name?"  I WAS WRITING ALL OF THIS DOWN.

"No," he chuckled amiably.  "My first name is Wood.  A lot of people hear that and go, 'Wait, you're name is Wood?'"  He ended this sentence with the most charming chuckle ever uttered in human existence.  

I wrote down Wood Wilson's name, congratulated Dave (the Red Robin executive who originally contacted me by e-mail) on his recent marriage, laughed uncomfortably too many times to remember, and finally assured Wood that the two of us would meet someday and share a laugh.  And then it was over.

The wife and I had some friends over for dinner tonight, and I brought my phone call with Wood up.

"Two part question," I said.  "Do you think I should've asked for something, and, if so, what?"

Jonathan basically told me I was right not to ask for anything.  Sallie and my wife both felt a free meal-for-three should have been offered at least.  I probably agree with both statements.

So, that's how it ends.  Not with a bang, but with an uncomfortable phone call from a man named Wood who assured me that all of Red Robin's brioche issues are a thing of the past.  Oh, life.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie Penguin Monday: Friday Edition: #21. Sharknado

Remember when the impossible-sounding existence of something called Snakes on a Plane was announced and the world was abuzz with excitement? Remember how leading up to its opening weekend, you could hardly sleep because the anticipation of watching Samuel L Jackson yell obscenities at snakes for two hours had given you a ten-foot-tall nerd-boner? And remember how you and your friends went to the drive-in to see Snakes on a Plane and it was, in actuality, fairly disappointing? Well, history has a tendency to repeat itself, and it did so recently with the premiere of  Sharknado on the SyFy Network. Replace “various species of snakes” with “various species of sharks”, “plane” with “tornado,” and “Pulp Fiction’s Samuel L Jackson” with “Beverly Hills 90210’s Ian Ziering” and you’ve basically (not really) got Sharknado

I don’t’ know if you spend a lot of time on the internet, but it has been lousy with Sharknado talk lately, especially on Twitter, the #1 spot for weirdos and the snark elite to spout their thoughts on, reviews of and jokes about all matter of pop culture. Here’s what the denizens of Twitter have been saying about Sharknado

@jefforange89 Oh my god, guys. #Sharknado is the best movie I’ve ever seen. 

@SarahPilato #Sharknado holding our hearts. 

@agoldberg85 Rewatching #Sharknado it's just as awesome the second time around! 

@379_Deanne You are the bomb diggity in #sharknado, @IanZiering! 

@ChuckNorris8 Now that I've seen #SharkNado I can easily say that #SnakesOnAPlane is definitely better

I guess it depends on what your definition of "better" is.  

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing the first time I became aware of the impending Sharknado (It may have been on one of the many 90210-related message boards I frequent), but I do remember the first in-depth analysis I heard, and that was on my third-favorite bad movie podcast, How Did This Get Made?, which posted an emergency episode to deal with the Sharknado issue in a timely fashion (unlike, say, this review). It goes without saying, but listening to Paul Scheer and his co-hosts goof on the movie is the best thing about Sharknado. This movie is bad, ladies and gentleman, but not unlike Snakes on a Plane, not bad in the right way.
What does Sharknado get right? Well, Sharknado justifies its existence in two pretty glorious scenes, both of which pop up in the movie’s third act. The first scene involves Ziering’s son and Nova, the spunky bartender who hates sharks for reasons that are beyond ridiculous, but totally justified considering, in a helicopter, throwing bombs into the titular weather condition. A passing shark chomps down on one of the helicopter’s skids, so Nova whips out her hunting knife and goes to town stabbing it in the face. But—uh-oh!—these two are in the middle of a tornado full of sharks in a helicopter, so, of course, Nova falls out DIRECTLY INTO THE MOUTH OF A PASSING GREAT WHITE! Did you get that? Nova is SWALLOWED WHOLE BY A FLYING SHARK!!! That. Is. Awesome. 

The other scene finds our hero, Fin, played charmingly by Ian Ziering, running toward his ex-wife (Tara Reid, awful per usual, but not distractingly so) and his daughter, warning them to look out for falling sharks, when the biggest CGI shark in CGI shark history tumbles from the clouds and SWALLOWS HIM WHOLE!!! To be a little more clear, Fin, who is brandishing an active chainsaw at the time, JUMPS INTO THE SHARK’S OPEN MOUTH AS IT FALLS FROM THE FRIGGING SKY!!! Reid and her daughter stare sullenly at the dead shark, its guts filled with Steve Sanders meat, crying and blubbering and whatnot, when suddenly, from inside the mighty beast, come the sounds of a whirring, rusty chainsaw. Ian Ziering CUTS HIMSELF OUT OF A GREAT WHITE SHARK FROM THE INSIDE! Oh, then he DRAGS NOVA’S BODY OUT OF THE SAME SHARK!!! WTF?!?!? 

I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking, “I gotta see this movie!” You don’t. You’ve got to see these scenes, but you do not have to watch Sharknado in its entirety. That would be a waste of the precious little time you have on this planet. To squander your hours on something as abysmal as Sharknado is to spit in the face of God. “This is how I choose to spend my time. Not helping the less fortunate or giving my time and effort to make things better in this country and the world. I spent it watching dumb movies about shark tornados starring Tara Reid, America’s premiere acting raccoon.”
There are essentially two reasons why Sharknado is bad. First is the editing. Second is the CGI.

Sharknado is so poorly edited, there is absolutely no way to tell what’s going on at any particular time in any specific scene. The weather goes from vaguely stormy to sunny and pleasant to slightly overcast to apocalyptically windy in the span of a single scene. These badly patch worked scenes showcase a weather phenomenon far more disturbing than a tornado of sharks. Take for instance the “exciting” bus rescue scene, in which Fin repels from an overpass to save a school bus full of teenagers and their teacher/bus driver. Atop the overpass, the weather seems kind of nice: a little overcast, but the sun is just peeking through; no rain; and commuters are driving by without a care in the world. Below, however, the bus is stranded in a stormy no-mans-land of flash floods and homicidal sharks. Dumb. The only redeeming thing about the scene is when the teacher—who I think we were supposed to get a real kick out of?—is crushed by a letter from the world-famous Hollywood sign. 

Maybe it’s because I watched Sharknado two days after I saw Man of Steel, but, dammit, is this CGI awful. I mean, it’s just the worst. And I realize this is a SyFy movie and bad effects are part of the “charm,” but, c’mon! A lot of the effects don’t make any sense. Like, how are Fin and his friends driving on roads that are flooded with enough water to allow scores upon scores of sharks to swim through the streets of Los Angeles without a care in the world? And it’s not just the sharks that look bad. Every explosions, every tornado, every single thing looks like garbage. The best looking sharks appear in the stock footage inserted willy-nilly. The CGI ones look like lumpy, gray worms. It’d be infuriating if it actually mattered, which it doesn’t.

The plot of Sharknado is pretty straightforward: Sharks of all kinds are hanging out together because of global warming (?); a bunch of them launch a seemingly planned attack on the Santa Monica Pier one afternoon, killing dozens and destroying Fin’s bar (The shark attack scene contains what could almost be considered a third justification of Sharknado’s existence--a runaway Ferris wheel--but nothing crazy enough happens. I like the idea of an errant Ferris wheel rolling down the street, crushing pedestrians and knocking over buildings, but the Sharknado team doesn’t take it far enough.); three tornados pop up, lifting the gang of sharks into the air for a sweet ride over Los Angeles; Fin, Nova, an Australian dude who is likable but is literally given nothing to do, Fin’s ex-wife and Fin’s kids single-handedly save the day by hatching a plan to toss homemade bombs into the tornados, because that’s a thing that works. There’s the movie. John Heard is in there too, as a drunk who is killed by a shark while trying to save a dog. 

Sharknado is bad, but not bad enough to be good. And I’m pretty sure adding booze and a room full of friends wouldn’t help. The actors are all fine, in fact, it’s refreshing how fully they commit to the stupid script and to what I assume were several days spent running around in front of green screens reacting to invisible sharks. The editing is what ultimately sinks Sharknado (I can look beyond the bad CGI, after all, I’m a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show.), making it nearly impossible to watch. Sorry, internet. You were wrong about this one.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

***UPDATE***: You want bottomless fries with that, Bub?

A lot has happened since I posted my not-at-all scathing review of Red Robin's Berserker burger, the "official" burger of 20th Century Fox's The Wolverine, opening July 26, 2013.  Strap yourselves in, because this update is going to get real exciting real fast.

1. On July 15, I directed the following three tweets to Red Robin's official Twitter account, @redrobinburgers:

.@redrobinburgers I recently purchased a Berzerker at one of your establishments and it was not served on the promised brioche bun.

.@redrobinburgers I, like most people I interact with on a daily basis, enjoy brioche in all of its forms. I wanted that brioche.

.@redrobinburgers I don't know how you usually hand these situations, but I would greatly appreciate it if someone got back to me.

I followed this up with a quick tweet to Red Lobster (@redlobster):

.@redlobster Please fix the misspellings in your commercials.  It should be "see" food differently, not "sea." Easy mistake.

I haven't had time to watch a lot of live TV recently.  Have they corrected the problem yet?  You can let me know on Twitter at @FilmFlan.

2.  A few hours after my Berzerker tweets, @redrobinburgers responded to my complaint:

@FilmFlan Sounds like we missed the mark, Matt!  Please DM your phone number and the location so we can follow up directly!

My first thought was, "Wow, I'm really doing something important for America."  Keep in the mind, the day I posted my Berzerker review, George Zimmerman was found not guilty and an already divided country became just a titch more divided.  What I'm trying to say is that I was doing absolutely nothing important for America at all.  Rather, I had fallen into the role of the Complaining Asshole, the type of obnoxious, distinctly-American jerk-off who rants and raves about the dumbest of things (the temperature of one's coffee; the quickness with which one's double-bacon chili-cheese burger is delivered via drive-thru window; the lack of brioche in one's bun, etc.) and expects to be recognized for it.  Of course, I was mostly doing it to be funny, but I'd be lying if I said part of me wasn't hoping for a free onion ring tower on my next Red Robin visit.

My next thought was, "Why so many exclamation points, Red Robin?  Why are you so excited to discuss your failures with me?"

Then I thought, "Oh no.  I'm going to have to talk to another human person about my dissatisfaction with a burger I actually kind of liked and didn't even know wasn't supposed to be served on a sesame seed bun.  I'm about to be exposed for the whiny, American jerkwad I've apparently become."

And finally I thought, "This will be funny for the blog.  I'm-a do it."

So, I DM-ed (direct messaged) Red Robin (who is following me now, by the way) with 3 MORE MESSAGES!  Gosh, I hate myself:

I'd be happy to give you my email address: [REDACTED]. Location I dined at was [REDACTED]

I don't want to get anybody in trouble, I was just kind of shocked (after the fact) that my Berserker looked NOTHING like the one online.

Thanks for the quick response. In general, I've had nothing but good experiences at your restaurants, was just kinda bummed.

3. The following was tweeted at me on July 16:

@FilmFlan Thanks for the DMs, Matt!  Let us know if you don't hear back in the next day or two!

Whoever maintains Red Robin's Twitter account is so excited about everything.  But that's what it takes to succeed, I guess.

4. I didn't hear anything from Red Robin for awhile.  Then yesterday, I received the following e-mail:

Good afternoon Matt!

I wanted to reach out to you and talk with you about the feedback you provide on line. I’m sorry we did not meet the expectations for the burger you saw on TV. I would like to talk with you live about this to get some more details.

If you could provide the best time and number to call you, I will reach out then.

Thanks for your time and feedback. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, Dave

Dave Riley
Regional Operations Director
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

"OK," I thought, "this has gone far enough.  It's not like I was sexually assaulted by the waitress or was refused service for being bald in public.  I was literally given the wrong style of bun without an explanation and denied the proper hamburger accoutrement (i.e. lettuce and tomato) (they weren't even offered on the plate as a possibility).  The burger tasted fine.  Not great, but fine.  What am I doing?"

That, of course, did not stop me from writing ol' Dave back this morning:

Hi Dave: 

 My direct contact number is [REDACTED]. You can call me any time really. 

It's not a huge deal, but I was pretty surprised when the burger I was served looked nothing like the burger that was advertised. I mean, I think we can both agree there is a big difference between a run-of-the-mill sesame seed bun and one made of brioche. 

Again, thanks for taking the time to get in touch with me about this extremely trivial matter. I look forward to your call. 


And that's where it stands for now.  Stay tuned for future updates.

OH!  Since I was fairly certain Red Lobster was going to ignore me, I tried giving advice to another chain eatery this week:

.@wendys Had the pretzel bacon cheeseburger last night.  Maybe a little salt sprinkled on the bun?  Might be good?

Wendy's promptly, and excitedly, responded within hours:

@FilmFlan Thanks for the suggestion, Matt!

Ugh.  They're not going to do it.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer of Joe: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983 Mini-Series)

Before we take a look at the third installment of 1983's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero mini-series, I thought I should take a moment to describe a G.I. Joe-ment (patent pending) I forgot about from Episode 2, "Slaves of the Cobra Master," concerning Duke's daring escape from Cobra Mountain.  Duke absconds with a Cobra-brand hang glider, and under the cover of darkest night, leaps off of a cliff, three unidentified Cobra lackeys in hot pursuit.  Duke hang glides ALL NIGHT LONG, and THE NEXT MORNING, finds himself soaring over a forest seemingly miles from the Cobra temple.  Even though he has expertly hang glided ALL NIGHT LONG and IN PITCH BLACKNESS over a treacherous mountain range, Duke somehow, in the BRIGHT LIGHT OF DAY cannot avoid SLAMMING INTO A TREE.  Luckily, directly beneath said tree sits a Cobra-brand all-terrain tank, which Duke falls into, drives recklessly thorough the forest and into a lake, and summarily crashes.  Thrilling!  And stupid.

Title: "The Worms of Death"

Three sentence synopsis: All of the Joes who weren't irradiated and left for dead at the North Pole during the previous episode, head underwater to collect the second catalytic element needed to create their own matter transporter device.  The Joes are forced into a momentary team-up with Cobra when a bunch of horrifyingly giant, moaning tube worms launch a deadly attack.  Snake Eyes makes an animal friend.

G.I. Joe-ments: Remember the opening scene in "The Cobra Strikes," where Cobra blows up a whole mess of fighter jets for no discernable reason? Well, in this episode's "Previously on..." prologue, we are reminded of this moment in great detail, as if it will have a major impact on the following story.  I was intrigued, as I thought that opening scene served no purpose other than to introduce viewers to the fact that Cobra is made up of a buncha jerks.  Spoiler Alert: Yeah, that scene is still completely pointless.

*Speaking of pointless, what's up with that satellite G.I. Joe launches into space to take out Cobra's weapon of mass destruction?  They build it, launch it into space and watch it get blown to bits by Cobra in the span of, maybe, an hour.  This could have been time well spent obtaining the third catalytic element needed to create their M.A.S.S. device, but, no, G.I. Joe decided to dick around with rockets like a bunch of middle school science fair geeks.

*The 2nd catalytic element: heavy water.  What's that?  It's this, I guess.  Read about it if you want.  I assumed it wasn't real, but there it is on Wikipedia, boring and ready for you to read.  In this cartoon, heavy water can only be found in a small pool located in the deepest part of an unspecified ocean.  The pool is guarded by giant worms.  

*Those worms are the stuff of nightmares.  The less said about them the better.  

*Snake Eyes' escape from the arctic wasteland in which he was left for dead in Episode 2, makes Duke's escape look like an old-fashioned elementary school cakewalk.  First of all, he's still radioactive.  Since his insides are more than likely liquified and his body is probably covered in cancerous tumors, Major Bludd allows Snake Eyes to wander into the icy tundra, where he promptly falls off a cliff and is attacked by a polar bear.  He does free a wolf from a steel bear trap, which is kind of fun.

*Wait.  Who put that trap out there and for what purpose?  Was it blind Irish Santa Claus, the man who rescues Snake Eyes and his wolf companion (soon to be named Timber) from the aforementioned polar bear with a laser-harpoon gun?  Maybe.

*How does blind, laser-harpoon gun-wielding Irish Santa Claus cure Snake Eyes of radiation?  The only way possible of course: he wraps Snake Eyes in leaves.  Problem solved.

*We're introduced to several new Joes in "The Worms of Death," most importantly Torpedo, a flamboyant Latino diving expert who says something super creepy (see "Quotes without context").

Quotes without context:

"I believe none of us know doodley-squat about deep sea diving, so who we have to ramrod this operation?"  ("Ramrod this operation?"  Is that a thing people say?)

" enough to boil an elephant."

"Come to 'pedo, baby!"

ON THE NEXT G.I. JOE: Lava and shit.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

You want bottomless fries with that, Bub?

If it's been awhile since your last trip to Red Robin ("Where screaming toddlers and feeble old geezers come together to enjoy mediocre hamburgers and all-you-can-eat steak fries"), then you are probably unaware that they are currently offering a cheeseburger sandwich known as the Berserker, which is, if you haven't already guessed, the official burger of the upcoming hit motion picture, The Wolverine.  What is the Berserker, you ask?  Well, here it is, right from the Robin's beak:

"A flavorful combination of zesty aioli, Sriracha onion straws and spicy pickles topped with Cheddar on a brioche bun"

OK, first of all, does that look like a brioche bun to you?  Me neither.  I actually didn't even know I was supposed to get a brioche bun until right this second when I visit Red Robin's Web site.  The bun pictured on their Web site is, in fact, a brioche bun, and it looks delicious.  Now look at my sorry excuse for a brioche bun.  It's a) obviously not a brioche bun and b) there is no "b" because it's not a brioche bun, and that sucks.

Let's talk about the "zesty aioli" next.  There was certainly something "aioli-ish" on my Berserker, but it certainly wasn't zesty, unless zesty means "subtle to the point of near uselessness" now.  Does it, English professor friends?  I could look it up in a dictionary, but I threw my dictionary away the day I graduated from college.  I actually set it on fire and threw it at the Dean of the English department screaming, "Not gonna need this shit no more!"  I have a flair for the dramatic, I guess.  

Sriracha onion straws, you're up next.  I like onion straws on a burger.  I like onion straws on almost anything: tacos, salads, ice cream sundaes, other onion straws.  But Sriracha onion straws?  Well, that's a whole new ball game, a ball game where the ball is covered in some kind of lubricant and players have to wear those novelty Hulk hands that make breaking glass sounds when you pound them together.  The Sriracha onion straws on my Berserker where fine, I guess.  I've never had Sriracha before (little too popular for my taste--plus, hipsters are really into it, right?), but I'm pretty sure it's supposed to make an impression.  It did not.

Let's talk about the spicy pickles.  They were legitimately spicy, so that was nice.  They were also SWEET PICKLES!  What the hell, Red Robin?  Why are you putting sweet pickles on ANYTHING? Sweet pickles suck usually, but on the Berserker, they added the spicy touch my taste buds had prepared themselves for, so, good on ya, spicy sweet pickles.

Cheddar is Cheddar.  It's great, but whatever.

Do me a favor.  Check out the Berserker on the Red Robin Web site and then look at the photograph I took of the Berserker I was served last Thursday evening.  Notice anything off, besides the lack of brioche bun, which I've already established as complete horseshit?  Exactly.  Where are my tomatoes?  Where's my lettuce?  I didn't ask for them to be removed.  I ordered a Berserker and I expected to get exactly what I paid for.  Turns out I didn't.  What a minor annoyance.

Look, the Berserker was fine.  In the end, it was enjoyable hunk of meat covered in cheese and boring, not-at-all-spicy-and-or-zesty toppings.  Enjoyable, but not stellar.  I mean, I could recreate this burger at home and it would probably be a lot better.  It wouldn't have stupid-ass sweet pickles on it, that's for sure.  I'll have you know that I currently have two different brands of spicy pickles in my fridge right now, and neither one of them is sweet?  Did you you know that?  Huh?!?

What makes the Berserker ultimately disappointing is that it doesn't deliver what it promises, and I'm not talking about the brioche bun.  I'm talking about the fact that it aligns itself with one of America's most beloved characters, Wolverine, of the X-Men group and its affiliates.  Wolverine wouldn't eat this burger.  If served the Berserker at a restaurant, Logan would probably sniff it, put his cigar out on the brioche bun (in this scenario, Wolverine is served the correct bun) and snikt the shit out of the nearest Red Robin employee that thought Wolverine would get a real jolt out of the combination of Sriracha and fried onions.  This isn't a hamburger worthy of Hugh Jackman, let alone one of the most bad-ass mutants in comic book history.

So, what should the official burger of Wolverine be?  I don't get the spicy angle, really.  I mean, Wolverine is a real man's man; a rugged, hirsute individualist who plays by his own rules.  The Berserker should be something uncompromisingly manly.  Like, I don't know, three beef patties, cooked rare (Red Robin currently gives you two options when ordering your burger: "little bit of pink" or "no pink at all;" for my version, they'd have to make an exception), topped with several slices of bacon (you would actually have the option of bottomless bacon in this situation, so you could add more as you navigate through the burger), and covered in A1 steak sauce.  Or how about make it out of wolverine meat?  They're not endangered yet, are they?  I've never had wolverine.  I bet it's pretty good.  Anything with Cheddar melted all over it is usually delicious.

Anyway, the Berserker was fine, but it wasn't something I'd get again.  And, Red Robin, you totally owe me a brioche bun, and you better believe I'm coming to collect, bub.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

You Don't Know Me At All

I’ve been called a movie snob many times in my life. I think of myself less as a snob, and more as a guy who possesses an acute awareness of what sucks and what doesn’t. I don’t think there’s anything superhuman about said awareness. I think at some point in every person’s life, he or she has this ability to discern the good from the bad, some of us just have it beaten out of us, metaphorically speaking, by the “Hollywood Machine” or the general malaise that comes with realizing life is one big steel-toed boot kick to the taint after one big steel-toed boot kick to the taint and, sure, I want sparkly vampires and singing, CGI-chipmunks on a cruise ship, please and thank you. Boy, that sounded kind of snobby. 

I’ve been unfriended on Facebook for daring to not like Avatar very much. I’ve duped friends whose company I very much enjoy into thinking I generally like a movie that I wouldn’t see if the entire cast watched it with me and presented me with Wild Cherry Icee refills for the duration of its runtime, and felt bad about it. Just last week, apropos of nothing except the obvious, I wrote the following message on my personal Facebook page: *SPOILER ALERT* The Lone Ranger movie is dumb. Why would I do such a thing? Turns out, I was probably right, but still. The day I posted this one-sentence judgment of a film I have less than no desire to see, I observed several FB “friends” extolling its virtues. Was I attempting to goad these movie plebs into an online shouting match? Of course I was! Perhaps I’m more of a film dick than anything else. 

But before you affix your hurtful labels to me, let’s take a look at my DVD collection. If I were some kind of snobby film jerk, you’d probably expect it to be revealed in my movie library, correct? Maybe I’m just like you. Well, not just like you, I mean, look what you’re wearing.

1. Child’s Play: Chucky’s 20th Birthday Edition; Chucky: The Killer DVD Collection 

I’ve made no secret of my love for Child’s Play and my deep, unnatural, slightly sickening admiration for its sequel, but as you can see, when it comes to Chucky, I want it all. To be honest, owning Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2 and Child’s Play 3, which is not without its charms (see: paintballs replaced with bullets), would be more than enough, but The Killer DVD Collection, which includes both Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, was, like, seven bucks at Wal-mart. That’s four movies for seven dollars. I’d be an idiot not to buy it, right? At heart, I’m a completest (a fact we’ll revisit in a few minutes—hold on!), but I don’t think I ever had any desire to own every Child’s Play film ever made before finding every Child’s Play film ever made, except for the first one oddly enough, for seven bucks.

2. House of Wax 

I am a huge horror movie fan (I also love anime, sci-fi and comic book movies. I’m a catch!), but I’m fairly certain most of my horror brethren would balk at my love for 2005’s, non-Vincent-Price-starring House of Wax. I think it’s the Paris Hilton factor, which is kind of unfair. I mean, she is undeniably a black hole when it comes to acting and personality, but she also gets a pipe shoved through her skull. 

House of Wax was a surprise when I saw it in theaters, and I’ve shared it with many people, most of them non-horror fans (i.e. girls who only watch scary movies on Halloween), and they’ve dug it. It’s a fun movie and not at all the snobby fare you’d expect to find in the collection of one with as refined a film palate as myself.

3. Spider-Man 3 

I’m not going to come out and say Spider-Man 3 sucks, OK? Maybe under threat of torture I’d admit the obvious, but please don’t torture me. I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty. Torture would not suit me, dudes. 

Look, I tolerated Spider-Man because I’ve loved the character since forever and I was excited about seeing him on the big screen (and directed by Sam Raimi, no less). I think Spider-Man 2 is probably the second or third best comic book movie ever made. And Spider-Man 3, um, has Venom in it and I love Venom or whatever. So, of course I’m going to buy the trilogy! Just another example of my completest ways. Have I watched Spider-Man 3 since purchasing it? Of course not. Do I plan to? I don’t know, probably. It’s not on my to-do list, but that list is always evolving, so who can say for sure. All that matters is that I own all three of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, from the first one that I’ve grown to accept over the years to the last one that I will not admit to any of you reading this, sucks really hard.

4. Sci-Fi/Horror 15-Film Man Cave Pack 

I share my “man cave” with a Little People’s Talking Zoo, a princess castle and two Sesame Street play sets (one resembles the Street itself with depictions of Hooper’s Store and Bert and Ernie’s apartment building; the other Abby’s Flying Fairy School, complete with flapping roof-wings), not to mention stacks of coloring books, assorted crayons and markers, stickers, construction paper, Sesame Street temporary tattoos and a pink beanbag chair. Needless to say, it’s more playroom than “man cave” at this point, and I’m fine with that. I don’t even like that term: “man cave.” I don’t need a whole cave to myself. I just need a huge TV with surround sound (check!), a video gaming system (check!), an internet connection (check!), a DVD player (check!), a comfy couch on which to watch movies and TV shows and play video games occasionally (check!) and a coffee table on which to set soft drinks and Taco Bell take-out (check!). If that stuff is surrounded by singing stuffed animals and farm animal puzzles, so be it. 

I’m not sure why the films included in the Sci-Fi/Horror 15-Film Man Cave Pack are considered “man cave” appropriate. I mean, aren’t man caves usually for the watching of sports? Mine is during football season, sure, but other than that, my “man cave” is a nerd haven where I can indulge in all of my geeky pursuits. Sci-Fi and Horror don’t seem like genres most “man cave” dwellers are into. Although who in their right mind would be into any of the shit in this collection? 

Here’s why I bought it: it was cheap and I had money to burn, which is rare. Also, eXistenZ is included, and I love that movie. But, why would I buy a copy of eXistenZ for five dollars or whatever, when, for just five dollars more, I could buy eXistenZ and 14 probably terrible movies? It’s simple math, people. So, that’s why this is on my shelf. I haven’t cracked it open yet. I should add that I also have a 50-movie pack of horror DVDs and a 50-movie pack of sci-fi DVDs in my collection as well. Sorry, ladies. I’m taken.

5. Party of Five (Seasons 1 & 2) 

These aren’t movies, but it’s kind of messed up that I own them, right? I saved up tips from my job at an arthouse movie theater to buy Party of Five: Season 1, dudes. I worked hard slinging popcorn, popping wine corks and faking my way through coffee drinks for that one. Here’s another fun fact: I’ve seen every episode of Party of Five ever made. Yea, me? 

See, I’m not such a snob. I’m got some weird, un-snobby stuff in my collection. And I didn’t even include the films I inherited when I got married. But anyway. All done.

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