Mean Time

You're reading this because no other posts have gone up in several days despite my best efforts and profound desires to the contrary. I haven't done much commenting on other folks' blogs lately, so the following pretty much exhausts my supply of
word-verification witticism for the nonce. Those of you unfamiliar with these periodic offerings are directed to the master list of definitions, which explains the idea and collects the contents of all such posts to date.

Update: Paging through the coupon section from last Sunday's paper this evening, I was confronted with the image of a Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup can and took it as confirmation from the universe that the time had come. As I write these words it's been almost one full week since this post went up and nearly two weeks since I last entered anything substantive, so the icon of that ancient Internet tradition is being placed in the sidebar for at least a little while; frankly, when there's no actual regularity to posting there's no reason to indicate that posting will be irregular. Within the next month this blog will likely go on a formal hiatus anyway so that I can devote more attention to the project that I should be bearing down on already, but I hold out a potentially vain hope, in both senses of the adjective, of getting some languishing, increasingly less timely posts published before that happens if only for the sake of closure. There won't be any more definitions, though, because my connectivity complications keep me from commenting on other blogs just like they prevent me from properly posting here.

arrater — [ahr ay tur] n. Someone who decides that movies have too much sex, violence, or profanity for G, PG, or PG-13.

bousnext — [booz nekst] phr. The way the maitre d' at a tacky Halloween-themed restaurant greets folks in line.

boyawk — [boy awk] n. A young male bird of prey.

cathopi — [kath oh pye] n. A flexible tube 3.14159 mm. in diameter inserted for bladder relief.

conessespl. n. 1. [kah neh siz] Lady tricksters. 2. [koh ness iz] Men sharing the role of the leader of The Untouchables.

dreeabl — [dree ah bul] n. Southern dribble.

Filetro — [fih leh troh] Arch-criminal known for boning his victims. (You know what I mean.)

gewse — [gyoos] n. A very British goose.

Grank — [grank] The 2035 installment of Jason Statham's Chev Chelios franchise.

ingly — [ing lee] adv. In a style that forms adjectives from nouns or the present participles of verbs.

jarrebox — [jar boks] n. A jukebox that only plays Al Jarreau. (He's done more than the Moonlighting theme, people.)

lidysion — [lid ee zhun] n. The pricicple of physics by which bottlecaps stay on.

matterns — [mah ternz] pl. n. Patterns that matter.

oyshille — [oy sheel] excl. Short for "Oy, shillelagh!", an interjection often used by Irish Jews.

phated — 1. [fay tid] adj. Destined to meet at gunpoint aboard the Enterprise. 2. [faht ed] n. Classes that teach you to be totally funkilicious.

provirt — [pro vurt] adj. In favor of high moral standards.

renes — [reh nayz] pl. n. Women who should just walk away (q.v. The Left Banke).

reploni — 1. [rep lah nee] v. Be an agent for Burt Reynolds' ex-wife. 2. [rih ploh nee] v. Answer someone using spiced sausage.

sevist — [seh vist] n. 1. A fist made with seven, yes, seven fingers. 2. One who likes to cut things off. 3. Hip name for Seventh-Day Adventist.

solegr — [sohl gur] n. A lone noise from an angry dog.

Siteseeing: Quick Hits Continued

Screencap © 2010 Bryan Lee O'Malley, perhaps.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation" is a short flashback to events not depicted in the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World feature film. It first aired as part of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night block, back in August when SPVTW opened, with the movie's Michael Cera and Alison Pill voicing the title character and his high-school girlfriend Kim Pine. The mini-episode was produced by Titmouse Inc. and is visually based on creator Bryan Lee O'Malley's work in the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels.

Screencap © 2010 NBC Universal and/or The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

I took notes during this year's
Emmys in hopes of doing a writeup like last year, but never fleshed them out.

Still, I'm happy to belatedly note that Jimmy Fallon of NBC's
Late Night did a fine job as host —the lame Twitter intros aside — most especially with the musical opening featuring, in order of appearance, him; Glee's Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, and Chris Colfer; 30 Rock's Tina Fey; Dancing with the Stars' Kate Gosselin; Mad Men's Jon Hamm; Hot in Cleveland's Betty White; Glee's Jane Lynch; The Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev; Lost's Jorge Garcia; Community's Joel McHale; Project Runway's Tim Gunn; and American Idol's Randy Jackson. (Yeah, I know some of those folks have more than one show and do movies too, but if I referenced everything Betty White was involved in this post would break your browser.)

A dozen more high points:

1. The neon pop-arty photos of the nominees that lined the stage.

2. Lynch's
acceptance speech for her role on Fox's Glee ("I want to say to the cast, I love you. You're young and you're wonderful, you're fresh-faced, and when I'm not seething with jealousy I'm so proud of you.").

3. The
video starring the ensemble of ABC's Modern Family.

4. The win for Jim Parsons of CBS's
The Big Bang Theory, even though I don't watch the show, since so many of my friends adore it.

5. Smirking at the title "Highlights from the Year in Reality".

6. Neil Patrick Harris, teasing Fallon, and being ingratiating as all get-out.

7. Many, although not enough, of the responses to the questions asked of writers and directors for their nomination roll calls.

8. The wins for Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston of AMC's
Breaking Bad, who turn in gripping, casually perfect work time after time.

9. The win for Archie Panjabi of CBS's
The Good Wife, one of the best things about a good show I finally got to catch up on this summer.

10. Ricky Gervais, who after some
patter poking fun at Kiefer Sutherland and a far more troubled notorious drinker ("Mel Gibson. He's been through a lot. Not as much as the Jews, to be fair.") announced some nominees to just as big a laugh ("I hope it's Bucky Gunts. 'Cause I didn't know you could say that on television.").

11. The wins for HBO's
Temple Grandin, which I haven't seen yet since I don't have the service, but which I hear is great, and because I've rooted for Clare Danes since the stellar My So-Called Life.

12. The deserved wins for
Modern Family and AMC's Mad Men, as well as the fact that other, although not all the other, options would've been entirely acceptable.

Another bit of awesomesauce, unnumbered to keep the list from turning unlucky and also because it works best as a capper, was the return of John Hodgman to the announcer's booth. Thanks to
Forces of Geek, I proudly point you towards New York Magazine's online inventory of the funny factoids and falsehoods Hodgman provided as winners walked to the stage ("[Edie Falco is] of Swedish and Italian descent, which means both her parents were constantly cooking meatballs.")

Image © 2010 Verve Inc.

You still have plenty of time to enter FOG's Glee contest, by the way, which has nothing to do with the television show but instead promotes Verve Inc.'s gum of the same name. It's apparently mighty tasty as well as being natural, vegetarian, gluten-free, and environmentally positive.

Screencap © 2010 ConAgra Foods. Logo created by Stefan Blitz.

If unlike me you're familiar with the original Chef Boyardee commercial, this is probably even funnier, but Forces of Geek overlord and mash-up maven Stefan Blitz recently linked to a version of the ad that spices up the ravioli with a dash of Pulp Fiction. (I won't spoil it except to confirm that it does not reference a "Royale with Cheese".)

Poster © 2010 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Last but not least is some brilliant artwork from
Cliff Chiang, whom comics fans know from his various DC cover work as well as all-too-rare interiors for modern-day takes on such unconventional features as The Human Target, The Spectre, and Dr. Thirteen. The rest of you may have seen his acclaimed Star Wars propaganda posters linked to from various pop-culture blogs; art lovers can check them out at his website's gallery and process wonks can read about his approach to them on his blog.

I came across his so-called "12-Inch Remix" series some time ago, bookmarked it to ogle and share at some point down the road, and have since let it languish in my long list of links laughingly labeled Temporary. Chiang has reimagined 1980s record-album covers with classic comics characters, beginning with a Vampirella take on Patrick Nagel's cover to Duran Duran's Rio — the only entry to date I didn't reproduce here, since four were easier to composite than five and the rest are all original motion-picture soundtracks, a phrase that itself makes me feel like a kid again. They're all so apt I could cry, from the Flashdance spin on Bill Sienkiewicz's Elektra: Assassin to the original Teen Titans swapped in for the Breakfast Club gang to the Pretty in Pink pose struck by select X-Men from the Dark Phoenix Saga days, drawn at the time by John Byrne, although Chiang's take is more reminiscent to me of the slightly later work of Paul Smith. First among equals, though, is the pitch-perfectly purple Purple Rain homage to Yvonne Craig's Batgirl.

Illustrations © 2008-2010 Cliff Chiang. Batgirl, Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and
Teen Titans TM/® DC Comics. Elektra, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Dark Phoenix TM/® Marvel Comics.

And that concludes the Great Time-Shift Posting Experiment of 5771. While I've actually finished and scheduled posts in advance before, I'm enough of a control freak to want to see them when they go up — with good reason, as there are usually typos and problems with graphics or fonts or HTML this-and-that to address, not to mention the vigilance that used to be required when either Blogger or vandals or both kept posts from staying online. So I probably won't be doing this often, but if I have a spell when the Internet is cooperating in letting me get finished pieces input and imaged up, I guess there's no reason not to queue them for publication.

Siteseeing: Quick Hits

You'll pardon me, I hope, if these next couple of posts have some problems, but I'm scheduling them in advance. My usual post-posting attempts to finesse errant text styles and whatnot may be put off for a few days, since if I'm not stuck in bed I'll be spending the New Year in synagogue or with family. To all — whether observing this day as a holy one, as a cultural tradition, or merely with bemusement — I wish you a sweet year ahead full of health and happiness.

A good, brief
writeup on Rosh HaShanah
can be found at Tracey R. Rich's, a.k.a. Judaism 101. I like it because it's (1) concise; (B) non-judgmental, written, as the home page says, "from the Orthodox viewpoint" as a baseline to explain "the traditions that are being changed or chosen" by Conservative, Reform, and other streams of observance; and (3) possessed of the domain name "JewFAQ", which I find mildly hilarious.

The above photo of apples and honey, a traditional snack to begin the year, was provided courtesy of Elena's Pantry, which has gluten-free menus for every occasion.

Now for the launch of a litany of lustrous linkage, flirting dangerously with datedness. (I was going to add "non-liturgical" to my opening volley of overdone alliteration, to contrast it with the above, but if you're reading this there's a good chance that you worship at the altar of pop culture.)

Logo ® The Philadelphia Phillies.

I haven't written about baseball since Opening Day — and not just 'cause my team has had a rough, injury-marked season; the summer has still been an exciting one worthy of comment, full of truly wild streaks. As pointed out by Larry Shenk, however, The Phillies are now, the day after Labor Day, in sole possession of first place in the NL East for the first time since the day before Memorial Day way back in May, and the first team in the entire National League to reach 80 wins this year. Hoo-hah!

Screencap © 2010 Lucasfilm Ltd.

You can apparently get specialized voices for a GPS service called TomTom. I only know this because Mark Evanier's News from ME linked to a faux recording session for Darth Vader; if you're not a die-hard Star Wars fan who feels that stuff like this cheapens the characters, then you're welcome to watch the one for Yoda too. Evanier says that among the other voices in the works are Garfield and Warner Bros. characters, although I'd bet that if Yoda was tough then Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and Tweety would be impossible.

Screencap © 1977 Carson Entertainment.

In the vaguest of correlations to my first topic, here's a clip of Harry Shearer and Billy Crystal as Tom Snyder and Muhammad Ali, now Izzy Yiskowitz, on a 1977 Tonight Show, also courtesy News from ME. Evanier's intro is interesting context, but it's not essential to enjoying the video.

Photo © 2010 Universal Pictures.

While the movie was fantastic, I agree with pretty much the entirety of Josh Tyler's "5 Reasons Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Failed To Find an Audience". Tyler writes that "what it all comes down to" is massive anticipation for the film "from the handful of people who'd already seen it. But it was always a movie without a specific audience. It's a broad movie built on a lot of different niche elements, and as much as we'd like to believe moviegoers are open-minded enough to step outside their comfort zone, most of the time they won't. The mistake was in thinking that all the different audiences Scott Pilgrim speaks to were the same audience, when they're not." You can call me an exception that proves the rules, since I'm a comics reader pushing 40 who hadn't read the source graphic novels and was wary of another Michael Cera role but went into the theater pumped by advance word because I enjoy thrilling cinematic experiences. I suspect that SPVTW will become a cult classic at the very least on DVD, but it's a shame that so few folks got to enjoy it on the big screen.

More to come tomorrow if everything works!

What the F---?

I spent long enough playing with yesterday's Google logo when it first came up — just screwing around, initially; then, say, trying to see how much you could mess up one letter without moving the balls in the other letters — that I forgot what I opened the page to search for, and in my head I let loose a silent "F---!"

And that reminded me of a couple of recent items I've been meaning to share, courtesy EW's PopWatch:

The official video for the song has come out since I first bookmarked it, so that's what's linked to above, although the original placeholder has its own charm.

Her object of affection is rhymingly described as "the greatest sci-fi writer in history" and celebrated his 90th birthday a couple of weeks ago. While the lyrics are crude, in the sense of not particularly inventive as well as scatological, the song definitely has its moments.

I'm not big on swearing. But I curse a heck of a lot more today than I did 20 years ago, for a variety of reasons. And as I've said before, I see the appeal and I'm perfectly willing to laugh at filthy dialogue or comedy routines if they're funny. Still, I know that "the F word" is utterly offensive to some folks, and that this blog could even get flagged for content if the word's spelled out, so when I've had occasion to reference some variation of "f---" I've resorted to either blanking out letters like I'm doing now — despite finding the practice hypocritical — or used an entirely unsatisfying substitution. What surprises me, as I offer yet more links that involve the word, is just how often it's been referenced here.

So for you folks who simply f---ing can't get enough of it, I've actually added "F---" as a label, and applied it to posts carrying the following material. Except for the first, the links below go straight to other sites rather than the previous posts of mine that included them, although you can find those posts by, uh, clicking the "F---" above.

Signs That Christian Bale Is Your Valentine [Feb. 14th, 2009]
• The F---ing Weather [Dec. 26th, 2009]
F---ing Movie Reviews [Dec. 26th, 2009]
• Lily Allen's "F--- You" [Feb. 14th, 2010]
• Casey Kasem Losing It in the Studio [Feb. 14th, 2010]
• Matthew Gasteier's F--- You, Penguin [Feb. 14th, 2010]

There may be more relevant posts, but since the "F---" label didn't exist until now I just went by memory. I find it curious that all of these date from either one of the past two Valentine's Days or the day after last Christmas; the fact that this post comes a day before the period of reflection and atonement that begins with Rosh HaShanah is, while not intentional, certainly serendipitous.

The Dotty Matrix

Google's logo of the day is a weird one. And I wish you luck clicking on it to find out what it represents...

Logo © 2010 Google Inc.

There have been a few articles surmising what this so-called Google Doodle might mean since I first posted on it in the wee hours, but I suspect we won't hear anything from official sources for a while yet.

Knives, Chow

I spent a throwback night at the movies on Saturday. A friend in need of distraction opted for Machete instead of The American, and things got even more indulgent when times didn't add up. We'd each already had a snack in anticipation of going to dinner after the movie, and were talked out from the night before, so Machete became the back half of a double feature kicked off by Piranha 3D. The last time I went to the multiplex for a dose of retro, which was just a couple of weeks ago to see The Expendables (not my first, second, or third choice), the flick didn't even have the courtesy to meet my low expectations. Saturday night was all right for fighting, though, and not that bad for screaming or biting either.

Piranha 3D poster © 2010 Dimension Films. Original Piranha poster © 1978 New World Pictures.

Piranha 3D is no classic, let's be clear. For at least the first two-thirds it's kinda boring — a bad move for any piece of entertainment, but a cardinal sin for a self-awarely trashy movie. We know that there's going to be mayhem in the final act, after all, rather than cerebral plot twists that cast everything that has come before in a new light blah blah blah, so getting there had better be fun. That same anticipated explosion of carnage might be what keeps the buildup so dull, since you can only go to the full-on piranha attack once, but the pieces were in place to add a lot more in the way of side stories, character bits, and humor than was offered. Director Alexandre Aja has made a decent-looking movie, and the 3D is frankly pretty damn good, yet the narrative, I say with a straight face, is lacking; jazzing up formula can be and has been done before.

Based on the 1978 Piranha, a low-budget screamfest that capitalized on Jaws and has already been pseudo-sequelized and/or remade in each of the past two decades, this incarnation unleashes a posse of prehistoric piranha on the fictional Lake Victoria, Arizona, during the town's annual Spring Break gathering. Richard Dreyfuss has a much-reported-upon extended cameo at the film's start as a fisherman with the bad luck to be near a laughably CGI'd whirlpool when an earthquake opens up an abyss where the monster fish have been sequestered and from which they ride the vortex to the surface. We learn of their origins from seismologists sent out to the lake and a dotty old marine biologist played by Christopher Lloyd, of whom the movie could've used a lot more; luckily, the story is anchored in part by Elisabeth Shue — whom younger audiences may not recognize for her '80s roles in The Karate Kid or alongside Lloyd in the Back to the Future sequels any more than they recognize Dreyfuss for his stint as a '70s sensitive guy in The Goodbye Girl or Close Encounters of the Third Kind or even Jaws, defeating part of the nostalgia casting. Shue plays Julie Forester (or so IMDB tells me; I recall almost nobody's name), Sheriff of Lake Victoria, who has left her older son, Jake, played by The Vampire Diaries' Steven R. McQueen, in charge of his younger siblings. Of course Jake wants to partake of Spring Break and in fact is tapped by a soft-core porn impresario played by Jerry O'Connell to do some location scouting. Zany hijinks, or at least a lot of jiggling and dismemberment, ensue.

Shue may be a minor icon of my younger years, but I mostly have affection for her portrayal of "Elisabeth Shue" in the bizarre Hamlet 2, a good rental for Glee fans or anyone who can handle uncomfortable comedy and thinks that an amateurish stage musical featuring a time-traveling Jesus helping out the Prince of Denmark sounds like fun. Had that film not beaten them to it, the writers of Piranha 3D would've done well to make Sheriff Forester and her deputy, played by Ving Rhames, a fictionalized Elisabeth Shue and Ving Rhames — buddy-cop versions of themselves as retired actors looking for a quiet life in the small-town Southwest but toughened up enough by Hollywood that law enforcement is the perfect gig. There's far too little winking as opposed to just wallowing in its exploitation going on, with the most memorable quippiness coming early when Jake's little sister has an exchange with Kelly Brook about her "nice boobs". (My favorite lines, actually, came when Shue betrayed her Jersey roots and told everyone to get out of the "wooder" — although curiously, she grew up to the north where the dialect tends to be more New York than Philly.)

There's also a vague sense that the filmmakers might be trying to equate the piranhas' lust for blood with the partying kids' lust for one another's bodies and a general good time, or with the audience's lust for blood and for the partying kids' bodies as a questionable excuse for a general good time, or something. If it's there, though, it's not very well, uh, fleshed out, and any such social message is undercut by such obvious promotion of the nudity and gore.

So... I'll say it: Piranha 3D could have used more to chew on.

I can't recommend the movie for what it costs at the theater, but that's the only way it's worth seeing at all until really good home 3D comes about and you can gather up a bunch of friends for a mindless night in front of a wall-sized TV. Since I had a coupon, I paid less than a third of the $15 ticket price, and in context it was all right for a once-in-a-blue-moon diversion with maybe a few gross-out moments that go too far over the top; I have no tolerance for the likes of Saw, which besides the disgusting levels of viscera feature human depravity rather than animal instinct as the instrument of carnage. Piranha 3D, or rather just Piranha, is ostensibly playing as a plain old "flat" movie, too, by the way — in which form I'd imagine what enjoyable tackiness it does have is depleted disproportionately to the loss of one of its three dimensions.

The Expendables poster © 2010 Lionsgate Pictures.

Ving Rhames would have been a welcome addition to The Expendables, or perhaps a substitution for one of the guys I'm not familiar with.

When I first heard about the movie, I thought that it might be worth a look even though I wasn't as big on the genre of '80s action flicks to which it promised to hearken back as some men of my certain age. By the time it became the choice for a rare but welcome evening out with my cousins, however, it had already been laden with bad reviews and middling word of mouth despite doing boffo box office. As it turned out, its biggest problem was that it wasn't worse.

I was hoping for something more tongue-in-cheek trashy, although not without a certain earnestness. Co-written by, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables was more than earnest enough, with its band of aging mercenaries liberating an island nation in South America not for money but for some combination of pride, responsibility, and a pretty face. It just didn't have enough trash — no deadpan one-liners to remotely rival Bruce Willis's Die Hard or Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando, nor even goofy jingoism on a par with Stallone's indelible Cold War kitsch Rocky IV.

Neither did it have enough of Willis or Schwarzenegger themselves, relegated to glorified cameos opposite Stallone in a curiously staged scene all the stranger for the fact that here and there you can tell that all three were on set together, so there's little reason for the continuous volley of close-up solo shots that fairly screamed "We have the Governor for five minutes on a makeshift soundstage! Somebody run Bruno's lines! Now, people!" The casting of Stallone's would-be Soviet nemesis from Rocky IV, Dolph Lundgren, was an unexpected treat, and Mickey Rourke adds to his recent, eclectic string of tired, tortured bruisers during a soliloquy as the Expendables' retired-from-the-field mechanic and tattoo artist. But many of the other names and faces mean little (Steve Austin, long after my time sampling "pro wrestling") or nothing (UFC'er Randy Couture, NFL'er Terry Crews) to me; I liked Stallone's intergenerational interplay with Jason Statham all right, but it mostly served to remind me that I've enjoyed the suavely gritty Statham in ensemble pieces and should add Crank or The Transporter to my inexhaustible list of Movies to Watch.

The Expendables fails the recently buzzed about Bechdel Test spectacularly, with just a pair of women getting any appreciable screen time (and separately). Angel's Charisma Carpenter has a thankless role in an out-of-nowhere side story focusing on Statham's character; at least Giselle Itié, as The Señorita Who Gets Them Mixed Up This Mess, is treated by the 64-year-old Stallone more paternally than I'd feared given that she was born the same year as Rocky III.

I don't fault the movie for its testosterone. Like Piranha 3D, it's pretty much exactly what it set out to be — except that it's also likewise a little less than advertised in terms of knowing humor. The Expendables is nothing more than a straight-ahead shoot-'em-up with some nominal soul-searching and gaping plot holes that aren't even archly referenced; it's hardly worth a look unless you're a true cultural omnivore.

Machete posters © 2010 Troublemaker Studios or 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

Machete is by far the winner of this trio, and the better half of Saturday night's double feature; it frankly satisfies just about every itch that the above films set out to scratch combined. You do need to be able to abide some bloodspatter, though Machete is not nearly as graphic as Piranha and often hilariously integrates its shock moments into the
plot. Piranha delivered its dismemberment, including the loss of a male member, purely for the gasps and groans. Early in Machete, by contrast, someone's betrayed when a naked woman produces a cell phone from her ladyparts — the Foley artists creating the far too audible sound effects for that one must be so proud — and later the titular hero employs his newfound knowledge of the length of human intestines in an instant-classic escape attempt.

Expanded from the fake trailer that ran with 2007's Grindhouse, Machete is co-written, co-produced, and co-directed by Robert Rodriguez of Spy Kids, Desperado, and Sin City fame. It stars longtime character actor Danny Trejo as a Mexican Federale whose weapon of choice is the same as his name. Set up and left to die, he crosses the border into Texas and tries to get along as an unassuming day laborer until set up again by a political aide to Senator John McLaughlin, whose platform includes not just expanding but electrifying the border fence and whose extracurricular activities include hunting illegal immigrants with a vigilante militia. McLaughlin is played by none other than Robert DeNiro, for whom I almost typo'd Danny DeVito (perhaps due to an innate understanding that he'd perfect for some role in the sequel) and his aide is played by Lost's Jeff Fahey. Throw in Miami Vice's lately MIA Don Johnson as the militia's leader plus Steven Seagal as a Mexican drug lord named Torrez (which itself is pretty danged funny), and you have an entire crew of alternates for The Expendables. With Cheech Marin as a priest who shares a past with Machete, the '80s nostalgia quotient easily rivals that of Piranha 3D.

Trejo brings stoic to a whole new level and belongs on a Mount Rushmore of craggy, bronzed faces with Pete Postlethwaite, Edward James Olmos, and Wes Studi. Yet despite the fact that he and Rodriguez have delightfully conjured up a great new strong-but-silent, no-bullcrap brute with unerring aim in the tradition of men whom men want to be and women want to be with, Machete would be far less without its exemplars of the opposite sex. I'm unsure how much Jessica Alba, as an Immigrations officer, is consciously trying to push the clash between her doe-eyed appearance and authoritative strut into gentle parody, versus how much the filmmakers are simply taking advantage of her look and limited abilities; the shower scene where everything that straight boys paid to see in Piranha is strategically covered suggests that she's at least partly in on the joke. Sexy too but with a steelier edge is Lost and Avatar's Michelle Rodriguez as Luz, who runs a taco truck catering to the day laborers and may be involved with the Network, which helps illegals get papers and protection.

Where the movie wobbles is in its extreme portrayal of the characters whose views don't align with the Network's. It defines not just McLaughlin and the militia but anyone who supports immigration-law enforcement as slickly corrupt, murderous, or acutely stupid (if not all at once), trivializing
larger issues that are complex and validly debatable to the level of such simpler sins as greed or outright bigotry. And the film does its argument no favors by revealing that the Network is far-reaching and armed to the teeth in preparation for la revolución, which I didn't take to be an equally satiric commentary on the secret fears of White America. Machete is camp-vengeance action homaging the so-called exploitation flicks of the '70s; it's much more enjoyable doing the exploiting than preaching about the exploited in a tone mismatched to its excess.

Since my reviews of Piranha 3D and The Expendables concluded with how little time and cold, hard cash they were worth, I'll add that although I'm sure it will play great at home Machete is well worth the 10-spot or so to see in as packed a theater as possible. The sound of a weedwacker in broad daylight has never been so chilling, nor the civic conversation it interrupts so contextually comic. If you can stomach it, this slash fiction is a cut above.