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February 2011

January 2011

Merciful Minerva! Wonder Woman returns to TV

I have rarely been so terrified of a project that could be so potentially awesome.

No one expected that NBC would pick up David E. Kelley's reboot of Wonder Woman. It's a reinvention of Diana Prince as a corporate executive who is also a vigilante crime fighter. No word on whether that means they will jettison her Amazonian roots, but I'm betting she won't be in the iconic strapless swimsuit and go-go boots.

I'm excited, because there's a screaming shortage of women heroes on television right now and the few that persist are mostly cops. I'm terrified, because it's network TV and they hardly ever get it right.

It's also David E. Kelley, who brought us the idiotic Ally McSqueal as the 1990s' alleged answer to women's rights, which led Salon to quip, "The guy who killed feminisim is reviving Wonder Woman." I'm not encouraged by his statement that she's a modern woman trying to "balance all the elements of her extraordinary life." Yes, because unlike men who have spent centuries balancing work, home and soul, women are incapable of doing so without angst. Gah.

Then there's the real question: Who's going to play Diana? No word on whom Kelley might pick. When Joss Whedon was working on it, floated names included Angelina Jolie, Charisma Carpenter and Eliza Dushku. Honestly, I'd love to have seen Carpenter do it, but she's 40 and that might as well be 200 in Hollywood years.

Please, not Megan Fox.

Look, we all wanted to see Joss Whedon's long-vanished Wonder Woman movie script. Everyone except the movie executives, that is. Because Hollywood seems to think women can't hold the center of a comic book movie (or a Disney film, or anything that doesn't involve standing in the corner and screaming for help), we have to turn to I-kid-you-not network TV for a woman to kick ass in the name of truth, justice and the American way.

(What, you think Big Blue gets all the fun?)

Here's hoping that Kelley actually read the comics, learned something from the McSqueal backlash, and gets out of the way when whoever-she-is starts wielding the lasso. Buffy is long gone from the airwaves. Geek girls need a new heroine.

Meet your new Catwoman

The latest on The Dark Knight Rises names Anne Hathaway to play Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman.

Hathaway certainly has the acting chops to hold her own in the Nolan trilogy, which has seen stellar performances from everyone except maybe Christian Bale. (Sorry, man, but you gotta ditch that growly thing you do when you're in the Batsuit. It just sounds silly. You can change your voice without sounding like you need a thump on the back. Love, CultureGeek.)

But I feel even better when I see who else they were considering. Keira Knightley, Jessica Biel, Naomi Watts.... Not that I have anything against these ladies' acting abilities, but they have one thing in common: I could break them over my knee. They're sticks. Particularly Knightley, who was perfectly healthy in appearance for the first Pirates movie, but ever since then her collarbones make me wince and I want to give the poor woman a sandwich.

Catwoman is the original cat burglar. Both the original comic Catwoman and the Frank Miller reboot version have Catwoman as an enterprising, intelligent woman who uses her body as a tool in her criminal escapades. Certainly her sexuality has always been one of her tools, but don't discount the physical part of climbing and running and fighting. Her body itself is her strongest tool, so her physicality is very important. Catwoman is not a stick.





If you grew up in the 1960s, this was your Catwoman. Eartha Kitt (and Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether) may have filled out the costume enough to make teen boys growl, but she could clearly kick their asses.











In the 1990s, here's your Catwoman. A little crazy, a little too fond of the skin-tight vinyl and we were never quite sure whether to root for her or not. But Michelle Pfeiffer certainly knocked Batman off his feet, saving the movie from the annoying Penguin. We're not entirely sure how her near-death experience(s) taught her jujitsu, but she barely needed her super-whip to win her fight.



I did not see the 2004 Catwoman movie. I was not alone. And those who did see it, from all reports, rather wish they hadn't.









But you have to admit, for sheer physicality, Halle Berry had the idea of Catwoman down, even if she wasn't supposed to be Selina Kyle. Oversexualized costume? Silly helmet? Impractical high heels? Yes. But we're not talking about costuming here.

We're talking about musculature. We're talking about strength being sexy, about making a comic-book heroine (or anti-heroine) something more than balloon breasts and soft-core porn.

Catwoman isn't a paragon of comic-book feminism, and uses her sexuality cruelly to achieve her goals. But Berry as Catwoman, in every picture, embodies a Cat who can kick your ass sideways and seduce you afterward. She carries power in herself, a power sadly lacking in 99 percent of comic-movie heroines.

This cat won't need to be rescued out of a tree.







So when I hear Hathaway wants to take on Catwoman, I think we might have a shot at a good Catwoman in a good movie, as Christopher Nolan wants to complete his Batman trilogy. True, I hated what the script did to her in The Devil Wears Prada - size six is nothing to be ashamed of, dear - but I hope she will spend her time reading kick-ass comics and working out at the gym.






This is a woman who might get what Catwoman really is.










Will The Dark Knight Rises finally be the movie that tells Hollywood we can have strong women in comic-book movies and not flop? They had wretched scripts for Supergirl and Elektra, and let us not speak of whatshername in The Fantastic Four. The rest of them have been glorified girlfriends, and the best of the X-Women were destroyed in the wretched refuse of X-3. Joss Whedon wrote a script for Wonder Woman, and DC refused to make it, because they hate us. Don't get me started on the brief insanity of casting an Australian supermodel as Wonder Woman for the never-made Justice League movie.

But then, comics themselves are stuck in perpetual adolescence when it comes to women. I keep hoping for better, and then I see really good comic stories about women trying desperately to kick ass in a G-string and high heels, and I wonder why Superman gets a cape and full (if tight) clothing while Wonder Woman has to wear a strapless swimsuit to work. (Yes, I know they changed it last fall, and good riddance.)

You gotta love this quote from Batman creator Bob Kane, on how women are cats and men are dogs: "Cats are as hard to understand as women are. Men feel more sure of themselves with a male friend than a woman. You always need to keep women at arm's length. We don't want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that. So there's a love-resentment thing with women."

Gee, and we wonder why Batman never could keep a girlfriend around?

Gervais goes out swinging at the Golden Globes

It just figures.

One of the perks of being my own boss here at the new and allegedly improved CultureGeek is that I don't have to watch awards shows anymore unless y'all really want those endless play-by-play recaps. I therefore ignored the Golden Globes with glee and made cookies with my son instead.

Of course, it would be the thing y'all are talking about today. Ricky Gervais apparently skewered all of Hollywood and awards in general. Shocking to all of us, they don't have a sense of humor.

As a friend put it so excellently, "Awww, did the Hollywood elite get their widdle feelings hurt last night? I got an idea, fuckers. Live in the real world where we struggle to pay the bills, then cry about it." There is a certain you-have-to-be-kidding about someone in a dress that cost more than my car complaining about the unfairness of it all.

Granted, Gervais skewered everyone pretty well, and maybe it was a bit far to call Bruce Willis "Ashton Kutchner's dad." But admit it, you laughed. And when he said the Golden Globe for special effects should go to the guys who airbrushed the Sex and the City 2 poster, the camera caught Chris Noth grinning and nodding.

Come on, you guys hired Gervais. If you can't laugh at yourself, then maybe you shouldn't pick up a porn star, pay her to have dinner with you, get drunk and naked and trash your hotel room, Charlie Sheen?

The misbehavior of famous people has been a staple for awards-show comedy for years. I recall when Whoopi Goldberg wrapped a loincloth around Oscar's waist and said, "John Ashcroft told me to do it." Seriously, Hollywood? You have less of a sense of humor than John Ashcroft?

Apparently so, since some anonymous mouthpiece at the Hollywood Foreign Press said, "Ricky will not be invited back to host the show next year, for sure. For sure any movie he makes, he can forget about getting nominated." Gawd, you want some cheese with that whine? Way to downgrade the quality of your own award – excuse me, sir, are you admitting that the awards are nothing more than a popularity contest? Because I figured that out years ago.

Buried under Gervais' extended middle finger were the actual winners. The Social Network swept best director, best screenplay and best score as well as best picture, which might be Oscar portents - and I was really expecting Inception to start its roll this way. Toy Story 3 beat out Despicable Me and Tangled, proving that Pixar has pictures of the voters playing golf with Satan. Natalie Portman won for Black Swan and The King's Speech picked up a few, following the buzz.

In TV, of course The Walking Dead lost to Boardwalk Empire. At least it didn't go to Mad Men again. Get the full list here.

But stunning to me was Katey Sagal's win (finally!) for Sons of Anarchy after three years of being utterly ignored. What did I say? As soon as I stop watching, the best show on television gets its due. Sort of - it really should have been best drama. Sagal has burned up the screen for three years with the kind of work that should have earned her a line of gold statues on her mantel. Congratulations to a job well done, madam.

And to Ricky Gervais, a tip of the hat. Perhaps he went too far, or perhaps not. But kudos for avoiding the single greatest sin of any entertainer: to be boring.

Our long national nightmare is nearly over...

And by that, of course, I mean the endless breathless wait for a Verizon iPhone.

Oh, shut up.

I am an Original Mac User, buster. I was Mac when Mac was for nerds. Not geeks - NERDS. Everyone complaining that we Mac users just follow the oh-so-cool trends can shaddup, because I had Macs when they were boring beige boxes that noooobody had but me.

And I still have never in my life needed antivirus software. So there.

Everything I use is Mac. My laptop, my work laptop, all my software, every file I've created since I was fourteen years old and my dad brought home the Apple SE, all of 1 mg RAM and an external modem for that wacky new AOL. Therefore, if I'm to get a smartphone that talks to my computer, it would be nice to have a smartphone created by Apple.

Hey, I wanted an iPhone when they came out. I could replace three devices I must carry on a daily basis with one gadget. No more digital camera (which has an overbright flash and eats batteries like my son attacks Oreos), no more iTouch (which is very nice as a PDA but sort of doesn't make phone calls) and it would replace my hand-me-down cell phone, which was perfectly good... in its day. Which was many days ago.

However, I did not get an iPhone in 2007. Or 2008, 2009 or 2010. Because Apple, for a company run by and employing literal Geniuses, doesn't always learn from its mistakes. In the 1990s, Apple nearly died because it insisted on proprietary everything, and its market share was approximately that of the Yugo.

But when Steve Jobs came back, he did two big things. He made the computers multi-colored and awesome, and he stopped the proprietary bullshit. Suddenly Mac was cool again, then they created the iPod and the rest is history.

iPhone looked awesome, and it currently holds about a 59-percent customer loyalty - as in, iPhone users intend to stay with iPhone in their next purchase - while smartphones overall enjoy about a 25-percent loyalty. Which kind of doesn't speak well for Android, no matter what market share they have.

But my love for Apple notwithstanding, I ain't going AT&T. Not no way, not no how. I'm Verizon, and so is most of my newspaper, and all of my family. That means our calls are free. I had no intention of switching to AT&T no matter how much Steve Jobs begged me or how many emails he sent me. 

So after three long years of waiting patiently, Verizon gets the iPhone. And it's the 3G iPhone, not 4G, but since I never had a smartphone before, I really don't care much about the difference. They say I can't go online while talking. Well, I can't do that now, unless I'm using my laptop while I talk on the phone. They say the 3G network is actually less crowded than the 4G at this point because of all the people leaping onto iPhone 4. They're welcome to it. They have to pay AT&T.

Verizon iPhones go on sale next month. Current Verizon customers get to go first. I'll be first in line. Well, I'll be first in line behind the guys who set up their tents in the parking lot waiting to be first in line. So I'll be first in line among people who have lives.

And my dear old Razr... well, it can go into storage next to that old Mac SE. Wait, I gave that to my Mac Genius friend. Seems he can still make it work, 22 years and still ticking. Take that, Microsloth.

The Heisenberg Compensator School of Science Fiction

Hilariously, NASA has named Roland Emmerich's 2012 the most absurd science-fiction film ever. The Guardian posits that in part, NASA's annoyance with 2012 comes from the massive volume of mail they have received from people convinced neutrinos are going to flood the earth and kill us all next December.

I don't think NASA can blame all the 2012 hysteria on Emmerich - there were plenty of people freaking out about the Mayan calendar before it came out, and they still would have had to deal with the mail if he had never made the movie. But Emmerich's blame of neutrino particles was particularly stupid. Frankly, the scientific stupidity of 2012 wasn't nearly as annoying as the fact that the plot was paint-by-numbers, the characters were annoying, the suspense was... not, and rich obnoxious white people inherit the earth. Yay?

Still, I think his The Day After Tomorrow was even more scientifically flawed - that insta-freeze is fairly unlikely - but it also made their list. They were unhappy with the insta-clones of The Sixth Day, The Core's dissolution of the earth's magnetic field and the Los Angeles Volcano (Dante's Peak, which came out the same year, is a much smarter film and far more scientifically accurate. Bonus: Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton!).

The Guardian professes to be surprised that NASA also dissed Armageddon, one of the many asteroid disaster flicks, but one that NASA itself initially praised. I wasn't all that surprised, because it (and its sister flick, Deep Impact) cast astronauts as the ultimate heroes. Once, we really considered them heroes, in my father's day when the world was glued to the screen every time the rockets went up. Now we bitch about how much they cost us to go out in space, as if there is nothing more to be learned there. A few more astronaut-as-heroes movies would do us well, and maybe a few less unlikely-astronaut pictures: retirees who know more than these PhD jumpsuit-jockeys seem to go into space a lot in Hollywoodland.

Frankly, I was more annoyed with Star Trek 2.1 on the science than any of the above - black holes don't do that, and WTF is red matter? Trek, at least, has a history of winking at real science. Until JJ Abrams came along, at least. That's all I ask, a wink and a nod.

I personally belong to the Heisenberg Compensator School of Science Fiction. If you're a Trekkie, you know that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle basically makes the transporter impossible under our current knowledge of physics. So at a few points in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, we hear a mention of the Heisenberg Compensator.

When asked by TIME Magazine how the Heisenberg Compensators work, famed Trek gadgetmaster Mike Okuda replied, "They work just fine, thank you."

That's all I ask. Apparently all NASA asks as well.

Highlights (and lowlights) of the upcoming movie year!

No, you still don't get Star Trek 2.2, or That Bedamned Avengers Movie They Keep Teasing, or a Superman Movie That Doesn't Suck. But for a year without much excitement, there's still a few geek-gems to watch.


The Green Hornet. Somehow I don't care for Seth Rogen as a loser-turned-superhero in what is being billed as a superhero spoof. If we've gotten as far as spoofs, superheroes might be almost over for a while. Please no.

The Rite. A priest learns about exorcism from Anthony Hopkins, who kinda knows this acting stuff. It looks like creepy fun, especially since the Devil is getting a workout this year.


I Am Number Four. From a book by James Frey and produced by Michael Bay… you know, I don't think I have to write any more.

Drive Angry. Terrible title for Nicolas Cage as a dead man who escapes hell to stop the cult that killed his daughter from doing the same to her baby. It might not suck, though I really have to wonder why Cage is picking these projects.


The Adjustment Bureau. Congressman Matt Damon falls in love with ballerina Emily Blunt, but something sinister is keeping them apart. You saw the trailer to this a year ago, and then it vanished. Uh oh.

Apollo 18. Another "found footage" movie, this time about a secret Apollo mission that found something creepy on the moon. Dun dun dun!

Battle Los Angeles. The Dark Knight's Aaron Eckhart (!) as a war-weary sergeant fighting a ground battle against aliens (!!) with Michelle Rodriguez (!!!). I'm there.

Red Riding Hood. Another Twilight ripoff by the director of Twilight about a girl torn between two men as a fight breaks out between werewolves and… *kerthunk* I fell asleep on my keyboard.

Suing the Devil. A law student sues the Devil - hey, everyone deserves their day in court - and for a wonder the Devil shows up, played by Malcolm McDowell. Okay, now they've got my attention.

Beastly. Beauty and the Beast with tattoos, starring the kid from I Am Number Four.

Limitless. A writer gains superpowers from a mysterious drug, and is suddenly hunted by shadowy killers. I yawned until I saw it co-stars Robert De Niro.


Super. A month of spoofs kicks off with Rainn Wilson as the hero and Nathan Fillion doing a schtick on Captain Hammer.

Hop. James Marsden runs over the Easter Bunny in his car. I cannot make this up. Also, is Marsden in every movie this year?

Your Highness. No, James Franco is in every movie this year. He's a prince who must rescue his bride with the non-help of his useless brother. Co-starring Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, so it has a chance of awesome in between the spoof.


Thor. That's what you were waiting for. Natalie Portman (again!) in a movie directed by Kenneth Branagh (!!) about the thunder god superhero. They found the hammer. (Not that one, you pervs.)

Priest. Humans vs. vampires, priests rule the world and Maggie Q is a priestess. Weird post-apocalyptic fun from Legion's Paul Bettany.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. You will see one zillion promos for this. Captain Jack Sparrow is fighting zombies and mermaids, looking for the fountain of youth and his rival is Penelope Cruz, who is seriously badass in her three seconds of trailer.


X-Men: First Class. Prequel about Professor Xavier and Magneto in the 1960s, turning from friends to enemies. Do we finally see what put X in the chair? Starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, it lacks a certain Stewart and McKellen. Okay, they probably couldn't pull off that young. I'll give it a chance, but I haven't trusted them since X-3, and Wolverine was awful.

The Green Lantern. DC tries to do something besides Superman and Batman and the trailer looks dumb already. Come on, guys. You can do better.

Rise of the Apes. Prequel to the Apes movies, James Franco (again!) creates a super-intelligent ape to cure Alzheimer's. Because genetic engineering always turns out well in science fiction movies.


Transformers: The Dark of the Moon. We're back with the horror (?) of the Apollo moon landings and blowing up Washington D.C. I was so disgusted with the second movie that I will only see this one if (when) CultureGeek Jr. drags me kicking and screaming. Also, they ditched Megan Fox because she said quite honestly that the second movie sucked and it was Michael Bay's fault. Interestingly, Shia LaBeouf said the same thing and didn't get sacked.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. Otherwise known as the Battle of Hogwarts. This is my top choice for the summer, guys. Because I read the book, and the second half was awesome.

Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. Tribute to Ray Harryhausen, they are stupidly putting it opposite the Last! Harry! Potter! Movie! Even Patrick Stewart won't be able to save this one. P.S. How did Stewart manage NOT to be in any of the Potter movies? Every other Brit got a role.

Captain America: The First Avenger. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, script by Joss Whedon and the final set-up to The Avengers, which has had so much set-up that it can only disappoint us at this point.

Cowboys and Aliens. You've already seen the promos for a Western vs. science fiction, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford - what are they doing in this movie? Watching the trailer made my brain break.


The Smurfs. Hollywood's hatred for my childhood continues as the Smurf Village ends up in Central Park. Hank Azaria as Gargamel and Neil Patrick Harris is in it somewhere.

Conan 3-D. Jason Momoa flexes opposite Rose McGowan as a "half-human, half-witch." Um. I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding here.

Fright Night. Yet another remake, but it has David Tennant (The! Doctor!) as the magician who helps a teenager fight the vampire next door. As io9 said, "It's David Tennant in a horror movie. We're not really going to be objective about this."

Spy Kids 4. Jessica Alba is a retired agent in a catsuit with a new set of kids rebooting the series - wait, how can you reboot something this recent? Never mind.

Final Destination 5. They. Just. Won't. Stop.

Piranha 3DD. Which, yes, does refer to the amount of cleavage that will be chewed apart by the evil fish.


The Apparition. Tom Felton tries to escape Draco Malfoy by helping a pair of college students who meddled with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know in a lab experiment. Nobody learns from Mary Shelley.

Now. Andrew Niccol wrote The Truman Show and directed Gattaca. Now he's working a Logan's Run pastiche in a near future where everybody is young forever - but the dial on your wrist counts down to your death. The good news is you can work for more time, unless you're super-rich. Oh, that sounds fair.


Real Steel. Hugh Jackman is a boxer in a world where only robots are allowed to box. Um? We know you're just killing time until you strap on the claws again, but I hope this doesn't suck as much as its description.

The Thing. Prequel to the John Carpenter version, showing us what happened to the Norwegian Camp. It will either be awesome or awful, not much middle ground.

Contagion. Stephen Soderbergh (!) tracks a global disease outbreak and the all-star team that races to stop it. Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould, Bryan Cranston and a bunch of other people. Looking for this one for the cast alone, and besides, I'm always a fan of the apocalypse.

Paranormal Activity 3. They. Really. Won't. Stop.


Immortals. Theseus is back, fighting the Titans that don't clash. Mickey Rourke as a Greek King? It's desribed as Gladiator meets 300, so you might want some wine with that cheese.

Yet Another Goddamn Twilight Movie. Breaking Dawn Part 1 - yes, they divided the last book into two parts. Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) takes over direction.


Hugo Cabret. A children's movie by Martin Scorsese. If that wasn't enough to break you…

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. No Tom Cruise, and directed by The Incredibles' Brad Bird and starring Sawyer from Lost. J.J. Abrams produces. It might not suck.

Sherlock Holmes 2. Guy Ritchie returns with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and I can't wait. It was the best movie of 2009, so I hope the sequel does it justice. Paging Professor Moriarty - the game is afoot!


These are just the highlights and lowlights, guys. There will be many Oscar-winning Serious Dramas and cheesy romantic comedies to fill in the gaps between explosions and superheroes, never fear. But if you're waiting to see more lens flares on the iStarship Enterprise, you'll have to wait for 2012.

not to tease you Castle fans...

But I'm going to anyway.

Guess what happens on Castle this January?



Yes, that is who you think it is.

No, as far as we know it is NOT a dream or an imaginary scene from Castle's latest book.

That mixture of squee and terror? Yeah, me too. Especially since Beckett isn't quite returning it - see how her hands aren't grabbing him?

Tell me, ladies and appropriately inclined men: if you were being kissed by Nathan Fillion, would your hands be involved?

Yeah. Mine too. To hell with the Moonlighting Curse: That's Captain Tightpants, dammit.

CultureGeek's Awards of 2010

Welcome to the new CultureGeek, and thanks for following us! CultureGeek has gone rogue, so now we can use the naughty words. And what better way to kick off the new CultureGeek than with a look at the year we just escaped - the Year of Meh.


Movies of 2010

Most Fun Movie: Sir Not Appearing In This Column. Oh, there were some I liked – listed in the genres, in fact – but for real fun, we’re short this year. I suppose if you forced me, I'd say it was Inception, but that movie was emotionally and mentally so convoluted I can't really call it "fun." I guess I'd give it to Salt, but she wins best action movie, so for this year, the award sits on the shelf.

-- Honorable Mention: The Town. Ben Affleck wrote, directed and starred in this heist film about a bank robber who falls in love with a hostage. The best writing comes when you write what you know, and Affleck knows this neighborhood. The heists are brilliant, Jeremy Renner pulls out an awards-worthy performance as Affleck's best friend (I guess Matt Damon was busy), the late Pete Postlethwaite is appropriately chilling and all the background characters really make you taste the Boston beans. The only flaw is that Affleck never quite makes me feel his love for the woman, and perhaps with someone else in the lead, it would have been a perfect film. But then, nobody else might have been able to capture a Charlestonian like Affleck.  

Best Action Movie: Salt. A movie written for Tom Cruise, they didn't remove any of Salt's skills, intelligence or capabilities just because the lead was Angelina Jolie. A spy who may or may not be a double agent, seeking the kidnapped spouse… it's paint-by-the-numbers if it's a man. With a woman in the center role, it became something wholly new. No one doubts whether Salt is as capable, committed and deadly as a male spy. She is awesome, and supposedly they want her to be a franchise. I surely hope so. Extra credit for backup players Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and the sadly underused Andre Braugher.

-- Honorable Mention: Robin Hood. Russell Crowe takes a gritty new twist on the famous outlaw, creating a medieval anti-hero we can actually understand. Ridley Scott had some fun in the mud with the genesis of a rebellion, and I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel that showed us the rest of the fight. Only... just a little bit of humor, okay?

Best Movie I Didn't See: 127 Hours, with James Franco playing that hiker who got stuck under a rock for five days and amputating his own arm to escape. Yikes.

-- Honorable Mention: Red. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine and Brian Cox should have been enough… do you really need to know the plot of retired spies trying to escape their own government? These guys are the pros. I am catching this on Netflix, folks.

Best SF/F Movie: Inception. You have to turn on extra brain cells for this one, guys. Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page bring the top acting skills, with everyone putting in A-plus performances. Everyone talked about the awesome effects, but it's really a story about the quality of memory, the subjective nature of our own conscious reality, about grief and loss, addiction, dreaming and the strange nature of our own minds. It was a top contender for Most Fun Movie, and will probably reappear at Oscar time. Also, how long did we all talk about that damn spinning top?

-- Honorable Mention: Harry Potter and the Deathly Filler still managed to entertain me despite its part-one status and my second-least favorite storyline of the Potterverse. Congrats to the filmmakers and the excellent acting by the kids we've watched grow up. The only downside: we have to wait until next summer to watch the Battle of Hogwarts.

Best Horror Movie: Predators. Redeeming the series from the awful Alien vs. Predator series, my man Adrien Brody turns in a great show as a mercenary among the worst of the worst kidnapped by the Predators, set loose on a jungle planet and hunted. Extra credit to Danny Trejo, Topher Grace and Walton Goggins in their parts, plus Alice Braga as a brilliant and capable sniper and Laurence Fishburne going crazy. Wonderful movie, and hopeful there will be more.

-- Honorable Mention: Buried. I didn’t see this, folks, but what I heard was that it was claustrophobic, riveting and brilliant. Netflix. Others in this category include Shutter Island, which I really wanted to see and vanished before I could hire a sitter.

Worst Horror Movie: Skyline. Nearly AvP-bad, it’s from the same idiots who brought us that abomination. Don’t blame the actors, who barely escape with their careers – wretched writing, plot holes big enough for the Cloverfield Monster and utterly unsurprising “surprises” made it an awful, derivative mess. The only good thing I can say about it is the $10 million price tag – see, Hollywood? Put your money into scripts and you can still have awesome special effects.

Best Kids' Movie: Tangled. I had very low expectations, given the idiotic way Disney marketed it: No, it’s not a princess movie, because boys don’t like movies with girls in them! And we’ll just ignore the fact that it’s a musical by Alan Menken, who single-handedly brought us back from the dead with The Little Mermaid twenty years ago! But Tangled was charming fun, with lovely art that overcame its CGI roots (mostly – I still prefer hand-drawn) and Zachary Levi amused me enough that I didn’t hate him. I never thought princess movies were suffering all that much, not Princess and the Frog or Enchanted, but Tangled’s success should teach Disney that boys will watch girls if the girls kick ass. Bonus: frying pan as weapon!

Best Kids' Movie I Didn't See: The Karate Kid. A surprising shift from the pale remakes of late, CultureGeek Jr. adored it and everyone I know who saw it said it was a worthy successor - with bonus acting! I plan to catch it on Netflix.

-- Honorable Mention: Toy Story 3, because CultureGeek Jr. loved it.

Worst Kids' Movie: The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Nicolas Cage was either drunk or miserably phoning it in, as he gave a lackluster performance - and I didn't think that was possible for him. Boring story with above-average art, they wanted it to be Pirates of the Caribbean or at least Enchanted, and it didn't work. At least they wrote in the mops.

Worst Movie: Clash of the Titans. “Release the Kraken!” Which, of course, was a Norse mythological monster and had nothing to do with the Odyssey, Iliad or Greek mythology at all. I mean, movies were pretty sucky this year, but this one starred the monosyllabic Sam Worthington fighting Medusa, and once you hear her backstory you’re rooting for her. It was an awful movie that could have been awesome.

-- Dishonorable Mention: Grownups. When the "funniest" moment in the trailer has to do with grown men urinating in a pool, I pass. Also, there was another Twilight movie.

Most Offensive Movie I Didn't See: The Last Airbender. I won't rehash the whitewashing and misogynistic rewriting of an Asian-influenced series, because you've read them all. But when you recast a truly international cast so that all the good guys are white and all the bad guys are minorities, you've missed the lessons of RaceFail.

-- Dishonorable Mention: Sex and the City 2. The four ladies were bored with marriage, so they ran off to the desert to be the worst kind of American tourists. The cosmo-sipping women who pride themselves on being the most shallow of New Yorkers were offensive enough in the few scenes I read that I had no intention of watching the movie, even though I used to like the show.


Television of 2010

Best New Show: The Walking Dead. The end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days afterward had everyone talking since its Halloween premiere. The most vicious comic book in history comes to AMC and they do it right. The grotesqueries of the zombies pale beside the man backhanding his wife or Shane's drunken attempt to rape Lori. The psychological impact of the apocalypse is on clear display, from mass suicides to a half-insane doctor at the CDC, stonily awaiting death in the company of the computer. It didn't take long for The Walking Dead to become my must-see show, and it's strayed far enough from the comic that I no longer know what will happen next. Except… I know not to get too attached to anybody.

-- Honorable Mention: Parenthood. Technically not a "new" show as it was a midseason replacement last year, but the trials and tribulations of the Bravermans became a guilty pleasure for me, even when they made me mad. The cast does a good job balancing drama and humor, just like real parents and real family. I’m looking forward to the new season, even though nothing blows up.

Worst New Show: The Good Guys, which lost me before the credits in spite of Bradley Whitford.

Best Police Procedural: Rizzoli & Isles. This Cagney & Lacey for the 21st century did a great job with two women as best friends and co-workers, complete with personality defects and crazy family drama, plus a backup cast of fun cops. My biggest complaint with the series was that Rizzoli always got her man, and then they turned that on its side for the finale. They fail to keep a witness safe and lose half a dozen cops in a precinct assault. Rizzoli is taken hostage by a dirty cop, and as he's using her for a human shield, she shoots through herself to get him. Awesome, with grit that puts Harry Callahan to shame.

-- Honorable Mention: Memphis Beat. It started as a tourist's vision of Memphis, exacerbated by its location shooting in New Orleans. But it smoothed out and became fun, though the good guys always seemed to win. Once they got off Beale Street and started digging into the layered texture of the city, I really started to enjoy the show. I look forward to its return next summer.

Best SF/F Show: Sir Not Appearing In This Column. Okay, I’ve been told I should be watching Fringe, that I gave up too early (in episode 2). But in the year of Haven, The Event, No Ordinary Family and The Vampire Diaries, while Medium and Smallville still walk the earth… there just wasn’t anything I could get behind this year, guys. Even Supernatural can’t win my love, treading all-too-familiar waters of brotherly sacrifice. Just kill monsters, boys.

-- Honorable Mention: With the exception of Warehouse 13. This is mind candy for SFF fans, particularly those with a steampunk bent. It's a show written by geeks with in-jokes that you will get and they trust you to understand. Pete is the good shot, but Myka is hand combat, and as a bonus she dresses like a professional: Dana Scully, not Amy Pond. It's a pile of skiffy fun I can watch with my son, and that's worth putting up with the SyFyLys Network.

-- Dishonorable Mention: V. Hey, I wanted to like it. But the screaming right-wing politics marred the early episodes, it suffers badly from Evil Journalist Syndrome, and later episodes fell into an annoying pattern: Erica investigates, Fifth Columnists run, Anna simpers. Plus, someone needs to give Morena Baccarin a sandwich. I missed the last few episodes and found I didn't care. I might give it one more shot - but only one.

Best Comedy: Castle. It's hard to classify this show, but really it's become a dramedy. The Moonlighting pastiche has been sublimated to a working partnership, and while the cases are a little too outlandish (Bones-style) and the outcome is a little too predictable, watching the two leads play off each other is always fun. They went out in style for the break, singing "Piano Man" on their way to a tavern, and it was an awesome moment. If it's a comedy, it's the best one we've got.

-- Dishonorable mention: Chuck, and the lobotomization of Sarah. The best season finale of 2010 was Chuck's: Ellie finds out about the spy biz, Casey comes clean to his daughter, the final showdown with Agent Superman, the death of Chuck's father… it was great. And then the fall came and we turned Sarah into the lemon-faced whiner, Casey was sidelined, and every episode was about their relationship. Sarah used to be intelligent and capable; now she's just The Girlfriend, as proven by her ill-advised solo mission to rescue Chuck toward the end of the winter session. The only high point of this new season has been Linda Hamilton as Chuck's mom and her relationship with Timothy Dalton, hilariously chewing scenery as a Russian baddie. I was almost disappointed by his villainy, because when he was pretending to be MI-6, he was the most incompetent spy ever, which made me laugh like a little girl as a long-time Bond fan. Can those two get their own show? We'll call it Come With Me If You Want To Live.

Best Drama: Sons of Anarchy is so convoluted at this point I cannot in good conscience suggest you leap in now. I will, however, strongly insist you seek out the show from the beginning. Hamlet in a biker jacket continues to be the best-written and -acted show on television, despite an ill-advised foray into Ireland for half the season. Katey Sagal has deserved the best actress Emmy for the last two years, and I want to know why they keep ignoring her - and Ron Perlman as the Claudius figure is almost as good. Extra credit this season for a guest appearance by Stephen King, a motorcycling "cleaner" who specializes in body disposal… named Bachman.

-- Honorable Mention: Criminal Minds continues to horrify, even with the loss of J.J. (damn ye, CBS!). I am undecided on the J.J. replacement, in case you're wondering. In the meantime, the season finale with Tim Curry as the scariest Unsub since the 100th episode was astounding. This show is always an awful box of awesome, and not for the fainthearted.


Special Awards:

Best TV Moment: Bones' 100th episode. Sure, this show has danced around the Moonlighting curse for a long time, but it couldn't go on forever. David Boreanz and Emily Deschanel were letter-perfect, emotionally affected by their missed chances. Extra credit goes to the recent Christmas episode, a nice dovetail to that one with Bones turning to Booth and being rebuffed as gently as he could manage – and Bones weeps. So do we all. In a show generally requiring a huge suspension of disbelief, it gave us a few moments of emotional reality.

- Honorable Mention: The New Orleans Saints win the Super Beauxl. Great game, marred by the worst misogyny in Super Bowl commercials I have ever seen. Jezebel wrote, "Pathetic Men and the Women Who Ruined Them." I wrote my own criticism, pointing out the fallacy of man-vs.-woman henpecking in these commercials when nearly half the Super Bowl's viewers are female. Otherwise, this would have been the best TV moment of the year.

Best Hallelujah Near-Miss: The U.S. version of Torchwood, which died on the drawing board and good riddance. Instead we will get new Torchwood in Britain, where it is far away from American studios' stupidity and Captain Jack gets to remain omnisexual.

Circling Shark-infested Waters: Supernatural. The episode about the Whore of Babylon was a low point in the show's unfortunately-strong history of misogyny, and by now I'm really sick of the Brothers Grim sacrificing themselves for each other. I liked it better when they just killed monsters.

Best Book: Dweller by Jeff Strand. A tale of a disturbing childhood friendship between a lonely kid and a monster, Strand makes good on the promise of his Stoker-nominated debut novel, Pressure. Total disclosure requires that I tell you Jeff is a friend of mine, and I rarely review books by my friends. But I made an exception for Dweller, because it was a brilliant and enthralling story that will propel you through an entire life in one long, page-turning night. CultureGeek strongly recommends.

- Dishonorable Mention: Under the Dome, by Stephen King. From anyone else, it would have been all right. For King, it was pretty dull. The Peter Principle applied to a small New England town's apocalypse should have been fantastic, as King's primary territory. Instead, it was a long, quasi-unbelievable devolution of humanity that dragged in places and made me sigh in disbelief in others. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was very disappointed.

Firefly Memorial Dead Before Its Time Award: Trauma. It turned off a lot of people with an overly high-incident pilot and unprofessional ambulance boinking. But strong acting, intelligent stories and the pressure of high-incident jobs made for an interesting series that could have grown into something wonderful, but the plug was pulled.

-- Honorable mention: 10 Things I Hate About You. It was smart and vacuous, funny and overwrought, a teen comedy that strived to be a little bit more and almost succeeded. Gay and straight students coexisted without stupidity; characters had less-than-perfect home lives; there were characters that weren't perfect Hollywood beauties. It was the best teen show in years that didn't involve slaying vampires, and the first sitcom in years that actually made me laugh. So, of course, it died.

-- Honorable Honorable Mention: Law & Order. One more season and it would have broken Gunsmoke's record. Instead, we got Law & Order: Suntan Edition, and nobody cares. A graceful send-off for Epatha Merkerson turned into the end of the show, and we didn't have time to bring in all the familiar faces you know would have dropped by for the last shot. A goodbye movie would be great, but I wouldn't put money on it, even though L&O was doing its best work in a decade with better ratings than many shows that were inexplicably renewed. NBC, you suck.

-- Yet Another Honorable Mention: The Bridge. BSG's Aaron Douglas as a cop in a decidedly split district, covering both the landed gentry and the gang-infested ghetto of Los Angeles. It lasted a handful of sharply-written, well-acted episodes before it got the axe. Of course.

Biggest Disappointment: The fifth season of Doctor Who. Not even the arguably improved finale could fix it, with twists so complicated they lost me going around the turn and a horribly overdone score. I called on Steven Moffat to find the person doing the music, flay him alive and feed him to the Daleks. But then, Moffat didn’t do much to make me happy this season, what with the screamingly sexist public comments and insistence on writing Amy as a totally incomprehensible and illogical girl. Even Rose, all of nineteen, was really a woman at heart. Worst of all, I think, was writing the Doctor as a jerk, someone who is inexplicably nasty to River Song (who still managed to be mostly awesome) despite watching her die for him only one season ago. I loved the last four years of Doctor Who, and watching it fall apart this season has been awful. It was Doctor Who wrapped in cotton, and in the end nothing mattered, because all the sacrifices were negated by the Power of Wuv. Everybody lives, but when Christopher Eccleston shouted it, it was joyful and rare. Now it is “meh.”

-- Dishonorable Mention: In Plain Sight. It wasn’t the trainwreck I was expecting, and there were a few good episodes. We saw the end of Raph, thank Zod, and he was replaced by Steven Weber, who was smarmy and annoying but at least is unlikely to marry Mary. Still, most of the season was treading water, and the only fun came from the guest stars. I wish they had let us see the original end to Who Shot Mary, because they said it was “too dark” for the series and it got the creators fired. As I don’t mind the darkness and was disappointed most of the year, I’d like to see it.

ER Memorial “That's Still On?” Award: Desperate Housewives. Yes, really, it’s still on.

Biggest Hollywood Brouhaha: Team Conan vs. Team Leno. To recap: NBC decided in all its brilliance that Jay Leno was funny enough to be on prime time every night. They were wrong. NBC tried then to move him to the Tonight Show timeslot and shove Tonight with Conan O'Brien to midnight, with Jimmy Fallon talking to the drunks at dawn. Conan said the 60-year history of the Tonight Show was too important to be shoved aside like that and declined. The internet went nuts, solidly on Conan's side, but NBC held fast, fired Conan and gave the Tonight Show to Leno. No one has watched it since.

Best Internet Moment: Google created a Pac-man logo for the 30th anniversary of the ghost-eating yellow spot, and made it playable. Someone estimated it cost $120 million in productivity worldwide for the 36 hours or so it was on Google.


And that, my friends, was 2010, the year of Meh. Here's hoping for better stuff in 2011, for smart stories and snarky characters and fun explosions and maybe a few laughs and tears along the way. Here's to flying with dragons, battling among the stars and ignoring the laws of physics whenever we damn well please. It's a new decade and a new site, so let's make it the year of the geek.

CultureGeeks, if you please.