Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

'The Last Airbender' - Worst movie of 2010 thus far?

"The Last Airbender," based on the popular anime series, hit theaters this weekend, and the reviews haven't been pretty. Roger Ebert gave it half a star (for context, he gave "Transformers 2" a full star) and opened his review with the following:

"'The Last Airbender' is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here."

Is Ebert a lone voice in the wilderness here? It doesn't look like it, judging by movie review aggregation sites like Metacritic (Score: 20 out of 100) and Rotten Tomatoes (8% out of 100%).

Not only has it filled the critics with hatred, but there's something else the critics agree on: that this likely marks the end of M. Night Shyamalan's career. Shyamalan made his name with "The Sixth Sense," and his career's been on a downward trend ever since. His fourth major release, "The Village," was the first that raised some serious concerns with those who followed his career, "Lady In The Water" continued on that path, and "The Happening" left critics aghast with what they'd just seen. The path to redemption is looking a lot less clear after this one.

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Wonder Woman's new costume: A step forward?

Comic book fans have been in a tizzy ever since it was announced Tuesday that Wonder Woman was getting a new costume (designed by comic book legend Jim lee), as well as a revised origin. It's a significant redesign, while retaining many of the classic elements. For comparison, here's the original, by artist Nicola Scott:

Her new outfit adds a jacket and pants. Critics have pointed out the '90s style of the jacket and the move away from Wonder Woman's iconic look. However, it retains the color scheme, as well as smaller versions of the tiara and the Wonder Woman logo. Her bullet-blocking bracelets are changed into larger bracers. She keeps her Lasso of Truth. It also provides a more demure, covered up look.

Here's Wonder Woman in action in the new gear:

After reading Wonder Woman #600, the fan fear seems to have been too early. It was a well told story as part of a comic that served as a real love letter to the character. It's also set up from the beginning as a change in the storyline timeline, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a return to the previous status quo with some minor alterations within a few years.

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Al Franken doodles Jeff Sessions during Kagan hearings, actually pretty good

Democratic Senator Al Franken showed that he's just like everyone else in a meeting they find boring, using a United States Senate notepad to sketch Republican Senator Jeff Sessions during Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

He's actually a decent artist. If he's ever looking for work, looks like he's got a variety of fallback options. (Caricaturist? Comic book artist? Police composite artist? Oh, yeah, and there's that comedy thing.)

It's a good thing I can't draw that well, or I'd be even more distractible than I already am. (This is also why I sometimes leave my iPhone at my desk to make sure I focus during meetings.)

Photo: AP

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Hulu announces Hulu Plus premium service

Hulu finally unveiled the much-rumored Hulu Plus service today. Instead of just offering the last five episodes of a program as Hulu currently does, you'll now be able to watch the full current season of most series, as well as previous seasons of a variety of series (though not all).

It's a subscription-based service. The item that made me raise an eyebrow is that, while you have to pay for a subscription, it's also advertiser supported, so you don't get out of advertisements by paying the subscription fees.

It's being priced at $9.99 per month. Will consumers be willing to pay for this service, or is the public happy with seeing the last five episodes of their favorite shows online for free?

You'll also be able to watch Hulu Plus programming on a variety of platforms, such as the iPad and the iPhone. I'm not sold on it over the streaming TV options being offered by Netflix, but it's definitely an intriguing new entrant in the paid streaming field. I'm also curious to see if they add more movies to their service to make their offering more competitive with Netflix.

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How not to be a slave to the label

Snobbishness, it seems, goes hand in hand with wine connoisseurs, but beer lovers?

Apparently it can. So, to combat the scourge, some local beer enthusiasts thought a blind beer tasting was in order.
Chris Quiroga, Dave Watrous and Brian Lenzo address the crowd gathered for the blind tasting at Blue Palms Brewhouse.

The Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood decided to remove the handles from their 24 draft beers and let the palates and imaginations of the drinkers do the mental work that a beer label alone often overrides.

The owner, Brian Lenzo, said the Woodshop 5.1 blind tasting was supposed to help remove misplaced preconceptions or allegiances a beer lover may develop about a certain beer style or brewery. Too often, subtle impressions take a back seat to hype and prior expectations associated with a given beer style or label, Lenzo said.

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