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Best of the Web

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Best of the Web

Movies

IGN
www.ign.com
Call it a guy wire. With sections devoted to sci-fi, wrestling, and videogames, the IGN cluster of sites is clearly aimed at a male audience, but movie fans of both genders can appreciate the fab flick facts in its three overlapping film areas: Movies, FilmForce, and DVD. Stuffed with interviews (Matthew McConaughey, Edward Norton), features (”The Best-Sounding DVDs”), and opinions (”the Curse of Chris Columbus is that any script he opens turns to mainstream, lowest-common-IQ crap”), IGN even manages to uncover little-known trivia nuggets (Spinal Tap‘s Harry Shearer played Eddie Haskell in Leave It to Beaver‘s pilot episode). A-

Cinefex
www.cinefex.com/home.html
For two decades, the paper version of this respected special-effects mag has detailed the visual wizardry deployed in films from Alien and Altered States to Stuart Little and Mission to Mars. Now you can read online synopses of articles and buy back copies — and since all issues are indexed by artist, company, and film title, you can also find, say, a filmography and list of stories on Rick Baker. Meanwhile, the archive of 20 years’ worth of covers constitutes an F/X Hall of Fame: E.T., RoboCop, the Sta-Puf Marshmallow Man. Very, um, effective. B+

Stomp Tokyo
www.stomptokyo.com
Named after the original monster mash, this site goes way beyond Godzilla. Florida’s Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland have created the kind of trash-movie paradise where names like Fred Olen Ray and Tim Thomerson are invoked without hesitation. Tokyo offers half-admiring, half-mocking reviews of such schlock cinema as 1973’s vampire fiasco Ganja and Hess and 1983’s desert horror film Scalps, rating them on a one-to-five David Hasselhoff scale. The only goof: including reviews of current mainstream movies (High Fidelity, Erin Brockovich), which detracts from the marvelous monstrosity. B

Northern Stars
www.northernstars.net
Years ago, Spy magazine ran a feature called ”The Canadians Among Us,” ferreting out those from the Great White North who were quietly trying to pass as Americans. With its list of dozens of actors and directors (some 30 of whom earn extensive profiles and filmographies), this Toronto-based site, created to accompany a 13-hour (!) documentary of the same name, has a similar feel to it. ”Hey,” you’ll say, ”I didn’t know Pamela Anderson was from British Columbia.” In other words, blame Canada. B
Caren Weiner Campbell

MOVIES BEST OF BREED
Pulp Phantom
www.pulpphantom.com
If George Lucas channeled Quentin Tarantino, that galaxy far, far away might look something like this snappy animated series out of Montreal. Darth Vader is crime lord Marcellus Wallace (complete with a Band-Aid on the back of his helmet), Queen Amidala is his Uma-esque wife, Darth Maul and Boba Fett are assassins Vincent and Jules, and Leia is the multi-pierced wife of drug dealer Han Solo. The nine 2-minute episodes are packed with sly jokes: The restaurant Crack Habit Jim’s is inside Star Trek‘s U.S.S. Enterprise (Captain Kirk is maitre d’ and Mulder and Scully share a table); that 1977 disco version of the Star Wars theme accompanies the dance contest. What’s next — Reservoir Ewoks? A

TV

Dr. Drew
www.drdrew.com
Dr. Drew Pinsky, the bespectacled, so-serious half of MTV’s Loveline team, takes the troubled-teen beat online at this virtual hotline/support group/info center. Mixing standard topics like relationships and fitness with more serious fare like STDs and abuse, Drew reaches out to teens both on the page and through his twice-weekly online show (recent guests have included Coolio and Amanda Peet). And since the site lacks TV cohost Adam Carolla’s crudely funny barbs, kids who are in jeopardy might prefer the site for its privacy. A-

Instant Dharma
www.immortals.net/dharm
TV’s oddest couple this side of Will and Grace is delightfully dissected into silly sound bites and screen grabs that pit Dharma & Greg stars Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson against each other in a battle of sheer cuteness. This fan site has all the telltale signs of Greg-ish compulsiveness (hyper-organized design, complete episode guide) and Dharma-like irreverence (scans of series creator Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards that appear at the end of each episode). B

Friends: The Official Site
www.friends.warnerbros.com
The creators of Warner Bros.’ official site for the original Gen-X comedy offer up a charming, glossy, somewhat utopian cybercommunity (you too can ”Become a Friend”…by subscribing to the ”official” Friends newsletter). What Monica would like: well-organized video clips and sound bites from the show. What only Marcel the monkey could dig: lame, slow, kiddie-grade games. B-

COPS
www.tvcops.com
Small for an official site, the online version of Fox’s guilty-pleasure docudrama is surprisingly low on self-promotion — aside from the online store, where you can buy those ubiquitous T-shirts and uncensored videos. Incorporating the grating faux-reggae theme song, the site is a showcase for creepy, jerkily shot video clips from upcoming episodes of the show. Written by Chuck Shepherd, the brains behind the syndicated ”News of the Weird” column, the Dumb Criminals section profiles clumsy losers like the woman whose getaway car stalled after she robbed a Waffle House, and the guy who stuck around the bank he’d just heisted to count his cash. To complement, you can read about the heroism of ”Top Cops” in various states. Bookmark ’em, Dan-o. B
Ann Limpert

TV BEST OF BREED
Bundyology — Facts About Married…With Children
www.bundyology.com
Fan Andres Carl has distilled the most dysfunctional of sitcom families into a cramped (it’s mostly text), updated-daily shrine. Carl has religiously collected articles, links, merchandise (buy the Married board game!), even a few scripts, but the site is most notable for its testimony to the show’s ”world-wide presence.” You can view the site in English or German, peruse broadcast schedules around the world, or see how Married…With Children has been titled in other countries (in Croatia, it’s The Waters of Marriage, whereas in Denmark it’s Our Worst Years). No word on how Peg’s whining monologues translate. A-

Music

GoGaGa
www.gogaga.com
GoGaGa won’t win any design awards, nor will its unfortunate name garner accolades, but if good, solid Internet radio is what you’re looking for, this 18-channel site is as good a place as any. The mixes are a pleasant blend of standards and lesser-known gems, but the real treats are the extras: contests and trivia tidbits hidden throughout — which almost make up for the brain-bruising color scheme. B

Insound.com
www.insound.com
Most online music vendors organize their wares in categories like Classic Rock and Country. At Insound, a cooperative for such label-phobes as hip-hop warrior Princess Superstar, the headers look a little different: Ambient Dub, Shoegazing, etc. And that’s just the music — there’s also a ”cinema” featuring RealVideo samples from films, music videos, and documentaries (one concerns Judas Priest fans loitering in a parking lot). Would you expect anything less from a site subtitled ”indiemogaragpunknoiselectronic+essentials”? B+

OnePlace Live Radio
www.oneplace.com/content/ChannelLiveRadio.htm
First, a cautionary note: This is the real thing, undiluted, un-PC, unapologetically evangelical. This means you’ll be seeing plenty of ads for inspirational tomes and crosses galore. But you’ll also be hearing some excellent gospel, Christian rock, and (if gabbing about God is your game) religious talk radio. Each station has its own administrators, but the delivery method (RealAudio) is the same. So now it would seem even salvation is downloadable. B

myCaster.com
www.mycaster.com
DIY Net-radio sites aren’t exactly exotic these days, but few are as easy to use as myCaster, which allows you to build radio playlists by simply dragging MP3 files onto the custom software (a lickety-split 320K download) and…that’s it; myCaster enters your show into its searchable database, and you’re free to focus on your voice-over: Just click on a button to overlay the tunes with witty commentary. Or make like a real DJ and spout inanities. A
Scott Brown

MUSIC BEST OF BREED
The Official Jeepster Belle and Sebastian Site
www.jeepster.co.uk/belleandsebastian/
Less eye-catching than the Glasgow folk-rockers’ own page but much more fun, this creation by the Jeepster label redeems its drab decor with addictive, Java-driven “magnetic poetry” and is bold enough to offer a collection of submitted ”mishearings” (a gentle jab at the band’s often unintelligible vocals) alongside B&S’ actual lyrics and audio samples. One quibble: Where’s news of the band’s upcoming album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant? Was the title just too long to fit on the opening page? A

Family

Game Cabinet Rules!
www.centralconnector.com/GAMES/GameCab.html
Who hasn’t ended a childhood Monopoly tournament by flinging the board across the room, sending pastel money aflutter, and declaring one’s siblings ”stupid, money-grubbing cheaters”? (Okay, I admit it…it was last week.) Luckily, graphic designer and father of five Dan Johnson has created a site that features the complete rules for more than 90 classic amusements, from Triple Yahtzee to Uno. Better yet, the site includes helpful links for discontinued and foreign games — which should help ward off family squabbles for many a rainy day to come. A

Traveling Internationally With Your Kids
www.travelwithyourkids.com
Maintained by a couple who have lived abroad with their two daughters for almost 15 years, this site is crammed with helpful — albeit anecdotal — information based on the family’s travels. Though you won’t find museum times or comprehensive hotel listings here, straight-up tips on transportation, packing, and home exchanges abound. Sample advice: ”[Packing] ‘too light’ means no change of undies when your son’s first taste of raw squid in Japan ends up on his clothes.” A-

Cyberkids
www.cyberkids.com
Kids can submit original drawings, stories, poetry, and games to showcase on this colorful, graphics-heavy site from San Francisco-based educational website operator Able Minds Inc. Meanwhile, their parents can peruse book and film reviews or troll for links to children’s tutoring, homework, and scholarship advice. The biggest draw? The Creative Works gallery, which can feature anything from an adorable haiku (”The sun is so bright/It gives a merry twinkle/In its brilliant eyes”) to a well-intentioned, yet — frankly — ugly drawing of a green alien. B+

Pun of the Day
www.punoftheday.com
Discourage your child from spewing ”There was a young girl from Nantucket” limericks at your next cocktail party by plopping the little one in front of this clean, kid-friendly site. Containing hundreds of clever one-line wordplays (e.g., ”Your nose is in the scenter of your face”), the site also features tidbits about such famous punsters as Erma Bombeck and Ogden Nash. Consider it practice for the SATs. B+
Clarissa Cruz

FAMILY BEST OF BREED
The Yuckiest Site on the Internet www.yucky.com
As the popularity of the late, great Garbage Pail Kids can attest, you should never underestimate children’s capacity for appreciating the revolting. What better way to entice young ‘uns to learn about science than to explain the biological functions that Mr. Wizard wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot beaker? Answering queries on everything from ”stinky pits” to ”poop,” this site, launched about four years ago by a New Jersey-based parent, isn’t for the delicate — but you probably figured that out after the Scabs and Pus section. A

Weird

The Semi-Official Small Wonder Home Page
www.smallwonder.simplenet.com
Whatever bizarre amalgam of eccentricity and zeitgeist that led to this syndicated ’80s TV show about a girl robot named V.I.C.I. still lives at James H. Vipond’s fan site. It’s ”semi-official” because it has a blessing — and a Q&A — from Small Wonder creator Howard Leeds. You’ll find not only theme music, episode guides, and videos of the show but also fan fiction — including an entire novel. Serious techies may explore discussion groups where they can debate ”the math and myth behind V.I.C.I.’s science and the social ramifications that a real-life V.I.C.I. might pose,” while others may just want to hit the Tiffany Brissette Fan Page (she played the kid robot), or head to the next site in the — no kidding — Small Wonder WebRing. A-

The T’inator
www.firefly.sparse.org/~mrt/
We pity the fools who disrespect this site. Enter any URL and see the page transformed into appropriate Mr. T ”jibba jabba,” complete with photos of the Mohawked man. Film titles on the Internet Movie Database become T-riffic names like Music of the Dam Heart and Mr. Foo! Smith Goes to Washington. Sure, some of it comes off like bad Mad Libs — but it’s fun to read the news and get threatened at the same time, sucka! B-
Gillian Flynn

WEIRD BEST OF BREED
Comics I Don’t Understand
www.crimeweek.com/cidu.html
Ever come across those strips you think should be funny — if you could figure them out? Bill Bickel did — so he built a site dedicated to weekly debates on, say, what the hell Tuesday’s Tank McNamara was about. This is good for two reasons: You are reassured that you are not the only one who finds those Far Side spin-offs completely confounding. Plus, the resulting discussions (Did the cartoonist mean sea cucumber instead of sea slug?) can be more fun than the ‘toons themselves. A-

Really Useful

Flight Tracker
www.flight.trip.com/ft/home/0,2096,1-1,00.shtml
Bad weather? Airline strike? Planes stacked up over O’Hare? For a minute-by-minute look at where Uncle Henry’s flight is (and how soon he’ll be landing for the family reunion), just type in his carrier and flight number (or city and time) and see his plane’s whereabouts via detailed map or text. Elsewhere on the Trip.com site, the Colorado-centered team offers the usual travel stuff (car rentals, hotel reservations, vacation packages), but the Flight Tracker is the thing that’ll really send you. B+

Public Figure
www.publicfigure.com
What made the people who make the news? Find out from this info-laden batch of biographies. Founder Scott Farrell and his coworkers augment short news items with dossiers on the people involved. Facts both thought provoking (Anthony Hopkins became an actor after seeing hometown boy Richard Burton drive past in a Jaguar) and trivial (Janet Reno grew up in a house her parents built, on 20 acres of land just outside Miami) emerge. It’s an enjoyable, informative resource — if you can manage to read that tiny type. B-
CWC

REALLY USEFUL BEST OF BREED
Kelley Blue Book
www.kbb.com
Sure, you love your beat-up 1980 El Camino, but just try selling it for more than $500 — especially since the rest of us can consult this online version of the famous resale guide. Thanks to a comprehensive database going back 21 years, we know your jalopy has a trade-in value of $515, but if you use the Virtual Walkaround to get a more accurate appraisal, you might turn into a used-car salesman we can trust. A-

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