Sunday, January 13, 2008

Week in Review: Office life, secret agents, football players, sushi and the Hulk

And now for something completely different...

Admittedly, General Admission has always been a bit of mixed bag. But, now that I've returned to the 9 to 5 life, it’s become increasingly apparent that I won't be able to make regular entries during the week. So, instead what I think I'm going to try it to post a sort of Week in Review every Sunday, where I will go into detail about things I've seen, done and watched over the last week.

Plus, maybe subject you all to some comic reviews.

Anyhow, most of our evenings this week have been spent either watching the Office or James Bond movies. Sarah and I were both huge fans of the British version of the Office, so I have to admit that we've been dragging our feet when it comes to watching the American version, but after Sarah watched a couple episodes during business trips, she became convinced it was worth watching through Netflix's On Demand service.

And, you know what? It's awarsome.

The humor is a little more broad than in the British version, but with more episodes behind it, the characters have been given an increased chance to breath and be fully realized. And, frankly, there are some sequences that are true genius: Jim doing his "Jets vs Sharks" finger snaps behind Michael's back, in "The Fight." Dwight barfing on his car windshield in "The Injury" (trust me, its funny). Or the subtly heartbreaking ending of the Halloween episode, with Michael giving out candy to Trick or Treaters.

In fact, its bits like the last one that really are the hook of the series. For every hilarious sequence, or awkward conversation, there's a scene that makes you feel for the characters. Michael may be a jerk, and Dwight a creep... but you still feel for them.

But, you all probably know this already, since everyone else in America has been watching the Office for over two years now. But, if we keep watching episodes at the rate we are, we should be caught up with everyone else by this time next week. Or, maybe by the end of tonight.

But, in addition to our Office-athon, we've also been indulging in our movie equivalent of comfort food: James Bond. Last year, Sarah's mom bought me two of the James Bond box sets, and this year, I got the other two box sets... completing our collection.

This weeks Bond films included From Russia With Love and Die Another Day. Watching these two, more or less back to back, was an interesting experience because we basically went from the second Bond film ever made, to the second most recent film. And the differences between the two were as interesting as the similarities.

In From Russia With Love you could see them still developing all those things that would become clich├ęs and standard tropes of the later films: Q's gadgets. Bond's sexism. The trademark villains. Plus, the series hadn't quite developed the kitsch factor that would define the later Connery films and most of Moore's Bond films. Oh, plus it takes place in Istanbul and it gave me another opportunity to wax wistfully about how much I love Istanbul.

But, probably the most noticeable difference is with Bond himself. In the earlier film, despite his training, he's still almost a believable character. Sure, he's a trained secret agent, but he hasn't yet taken on the superhuman qualities that defined later day Bond, as witness in Brosnan using a parachute and cockpit lid to wind surf a wave created by an iceberg cleaved free of the mainland by a laser shooting satellite in Die Another Day. It's a world of difference... and watching the two you can see how much Casino Royale has gone back to Bond's roots.

Personally, though, I have difficulty picking a favorite Bond era. Most people skew towards the older or newer Bonds. Usually the older Bonds. But, honestly, I think they all have strengths and weaknesses. And I enjoy them all. Even the frumpy Dalton films.

And, from "frumpy" we shift gears to "grumpy."

Sadly, as you probably all know, the Seahawks are out of the playoffs. After what was an amazing first four minutes, the rest of the game became increasingly difficult to watch... partially because it was difficult to watch the Seahawks game slowly unravel, and partially because the ever increasing snowfall just made it hard to even see the players.

Still, while I'm a Johnny-Come-Lately with the ‘Hawks this year, I've enjoyed the last couple of weeks shouting and cheering with friends, taking ski-shots, eating my friend JJ's amazing five-meat chili, and taking the edge off yesterdays loss by appreciating Todd's excellently grilled steaks... which continue to reinforce my belief in the value of buying your food at local butchers and farmers markets, as opposed to chain grocery stores. I mean, these steaks were just so far above and beyond anything you could get at Safeway.

On the subject of food, after attending an ex-corkers Last Day of Work Party, me, Sarah and a couple of friends made our way over to Umi Sake House. Now, Umi might not be the most traditional or authentic sushi restaurant, but it’s definitely become a favorite of ours. I'm pretty new to the world of sushi (and seafood in general), but I have to admit I'm pretty surprised by how much I've enjoyed everything I've had there. For example, I've never had sushi that was fried tempura style, and I don't think it's "true" sushi... but its good!

Finally, I'm going to quickly mention the comics I picked up this week. In my last entry, I mentioned the big X-crossover, the Messiah CompleX. Well, it's dutifully soldiering toward its climax. This week’s X-Factor #27 is the third from last in the crossover event, and it's far from my favorite. The art by Scot Eaton is fairly blah, and Peter David's writing is oddly stiff. But, what the issue did do well is get me excited for the final two chapters! I think, from here on out, we are moving into the storylines final battle... or battles. And, we are beginning to get the feeling that we are moving into the Grand Finale, and that some of the storylines are getting wrapped up.

In addition to X-Factor, I decided to check out the new Hulk series by Jeff Leob and Ed McGuiness. While Sarah and I were traveling, the Hulk had it's own major crossover called World War Hulk in which -I believe- the Hulk and a group of aliens tried to take over the Earth, which sadly I missed. I mean, the Hulk and aliens trying to take on the World!! It had to have been entertaining! But, with that story behind us, this new series marks a new direction for the Hulk as a character. And, while the concept of the newer, redder (and gun totting?!) Hulk is interesting, and the art was stunning... the issue seemed, well, slight.

I mean, a series about the incredible Hulk doesn't need to be cerebral. And I'm not one to usually complain about "decompression" (comics that tell stories more through the art than the writing, leading to less dense stories), but I was still left feeling like this first issue might have needed a little more meat to it. I might check out the second issue, just to see if it picks up, but I can't say I was particularly awed. Hulk Smash!

Anyhow, on to next week!

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