Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Murderball

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Ya know that documentary about guys in wheelchairs playing rugby? No? Well, this is it. As "Murderball" was becoming this big documentary sensation and was being featured in magazines and in various online columns and it was described as one of the best films of the year at that time. But what is it about? What is this murderball? Murderball the sport is wheelchair rugby and is played by paraplegics. This documentary taught me that a paraplegic is a person who is impaired in all four limbs, not necessarily unable to use all four limbs. The degree of impairment is given a point value and a team can have a certain amount of points on the court at any one time. In all other ways, the rugby is played exactly the same as regular rugby (as I understand it). This is murderball.

Is this subject worth a documentary feature? Yes. It is a glimpse into a world that most people did not know existed and would not have considered before. It shows those who have suffered a serious life changing injury that they can still participate in physical activities. It entertains at the same time as it informs. "Murderball" is very "watchable". The cast of characters it presents are very outspoken and interesting. The primary focus of the movie is on Zupan, a tattooed hard playing man with strong opinions. He is the face of "Murderball" and he sells himself very well and with attitude.

This is a very well made documentary and it should appeal to those viewers who do not normally watch documentaries or would be uncomfortable with the subject matter. Excellent film.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Buffy, Joyce, and Aimee Mann

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Buffy Season 7 is shaping up to a good one. I've really enjoyed the first two discs, the Gnarl notwithstanding (and they put the Gnarl in the opening credits...). I still don't like Spike as a character, at least not without Drusilla, but the whole set up for the slow introduction of the Big Bad and the hints that this time something truly big is going down...it's great. I loved that moment earlier in this season where the Big Bad changed shapes into all of the Big Bads throughout the show, starting with Warren and ending with the Master (and Glory! Glory was a fun character). It sets up that everything that came before was only prologue. And while I know a little bit of what goes down this season (Xander losing an eye, for example), and a little bit about the ending, I don't know it all. So...I think that what has been going on is that there is this cult killing potential slayers, and picked off a watcher in the latest episode. That's my call. Of course, I only know this because I know later on in the season Buffy gathers potential slayers to her as her little army.

What I don't understand, however, is how Season 7's ending and all the potentials get put together with Joss Whedon's comic book Fray. Fray is set hundreds of years in the future and there are no more Slayers called until Fray is called...and there is no memory of what happened except a hint that at one point the last Slayer was killed and it was a blond girl (Buffy, presumably). Hopefully Joss's new Buffy comics will clear that up, or maybe some of the Spike DVD movies that are rumored...and how does this all fit with Angel, another show I need to finish up? The new Buffy comic is rumored to be Joss's Buffy Season 8, so I'm interested. I'll give it a go when it is released in Trade Paper.

Back to Buffy 7. I'm so glad Joss gave Kristine Sutherland a chance to come back one more time as Buffy's mother, Joyce. It was only in a short period, and I get that killing off Joyce made a lot of sense (and maybe Kristine wanted out) in the storyline, but I miss the character. So, seeing her again, for a moment or two was great.

What I didn't expect was Aimee Mann playing at the Bronze. Really? Maybe she's a fan of the show, but that was fun. And then she actually got to interact when she and the band stopped when a vamp was dusted, and then started again with a shrug...and even had a line of dialogue later saying "I hate playing Vampire towns".

The Dragonbone Chair

In many ways "The Dragonbone Chair" is typical high fantasy. Many of the stereotypes of the genre are here and this could also be "kitchen boy fantasy". The protagonist is named Simon, and he is an orphaned teenager living at the Hayholt, a great castle in the land of Osten Ard. Simon is one of the castle servants, but is something of a lay-about. Somewhat clumsy in his chores, he spends much time avoiding his responsibilities and goes off exploring the great castle and dreaming of different lives he could lead. There is the occasional mention early on about something to do with his birth and origins that is shadowed in mystery, so we get the typical fantasy glimpse that Simon isn't as simple as he seems. But this is to be expected.

The first 200 pages or so of the novel can be by far the most difficult because Tad Williams is giving a lot of exposition. There are small details that build the world and set up some conflicts for later in the book, but it takes some work to get through the beginning. I admit that it took me three tries over the past 10 years for me to finish this book. Not because the novel is bad, but because it starts so slowly.

In this opening section we learn about the decline of the old King Prester John, and the strife between his two sons Elias and Josua. Elias is fearful that Josua will take his birthright, but Josua wants none of it, and there is a twisted advisor whispering in Elias's ear. Finally the old king dies, Josua disappears, Simon ends up on the run when tragedy and treachery strikes, and the novel truly begins. "The Dragonbone Chair" is an epic high fantasy novel where a castle servant boy will rise to a level of importance he never imagined and travel the world on a great adventure with a goal of saving the world as they know it. It is fairly typical fantasy, but Williams writes it well enough that the cliches do not feel forced or distracting.

This novel is the first of a long three volume cycle. Thus far we learn more about what sort of quest the series will take, a glimpse of the ultimate evil facing the world and what the stakes are, and how difficult things will become for the "good guys". The second volume, "The Stone of Farewell" is a somewhat shorter novel than the 600 page + "The Dragonbone Chair", but the conclusion "To Green Angel Tower" tips the scales at more than 1000 pages. The "Memory, Sorrow, Thorn" trilogy is one which will require a serious time commitment to read, but it is a favorite of many and is a classic feeling epic fantasy and is one of the most commonly recommended fantasy series. Right now I can't say that it is worth recommending above all others, but the story is interesting, the writing is good if a bit slow, and I hope that this is a series that continues to grow and develop in such a way that the set-up is worth the pay off.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All Rivers Flow to the Sea

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When I checked this book out from the library I knew that "All Rivers Flow to the Sea" was cataloged as a teen fiction book. Normally, that is a reading level that I don't even look at, but this was written by one of my favorite authors, and Minnesota resident, Alison McGhee. McGhee is best known for her novels "Rainlight" and "Shadow Baby", but is also the author of two children's books and a young adult novel ("Snap"). Everything she has written has been quite excellent, though I didn't love "Snap" the way I did her three adult novels.

"All Rivers Flow to the Sea" is a short novel about a teenage girl dealing with grief and loss. Rose and her sister were in a car accident, another driver hit them and her sister has been in a coma for months. Her mother hasn't been to the hospital since the day of the accident. Rose does not know how to live her life alone because she has never been alone and going back to school she does not know how to deal with the looks and the whispers that her sister is a vegetable and someone should pull the plug. What Alison McGhee gives the reader is a very real feeling story about Rose and how she deals, acts out, comes back, and finds healing in her life and acceptance about her sister. This is a novel that presents a true human challenge for Rose and one that I do not remember reading about, and certainly not quite like this. Likely, this novel will appeal to teenage girls and girls who have had to deal with grief in their own lives.

Alison McGhee has done something remarkable with "All Rivers Flow to the Sea." Not only has she written an excellent short novel for a particular age group, she has written a novel that transcends the age group. If I didn't know that this was "teen fiction" I would easily put this among her adult novels. She doesn't talk down to her reader, she is incredibly sympathetic, and "All Rivers Flow to the Sea" happens to be just as good as "Rainlight" or "Shadow Baby". That is high praise indeed, because those two novels (especially "Rainlight") are exceptional.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Willow and the Narl

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The episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7 titled "Same Time, Same Place" contained what is quite possibly the nastiest thing I've seen on one of my shows, and this includes the gruesomeness of "The X-Files". Willow was trapped by this demon called a Narl. The Narl was making these cuts on Willow's stomach (this part wasn't bad, we see this sort of stuff moderately often, a fair amount of flesh wounds on this show), but then we actually saw the Narl peel off two strips of flesh. My jaw dropped. Quite disgusting! It wasn't gorey or eye surgery, but that actually shocked me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Brokeback Mountain: The Short Story

Thursday, December 15, 2005 0
The film "Brokeback Mountain" which is garnering all this critical attention, Golden Globe nominations and many other awards which are soon to follow is based on a short story written by Annie Proulx ("The Shipping News") and is from her collection "Close Range". I was able to read this story yesterday because The New Yorker has the story up on their website, so I copied it over to a Word File to read at my leisure. This isn't a very long story, only 18 pages in Word and 10,000 words. I'll be interested to see how Ang Lee filled out the story to make a 2 hour movie out of 18 pages of not exceptionally developed characters.

The basic story has Jack and Ennis as two young cowboys, not even 20 years old, getting a job working at a ranch out west. Ennis knows that he's going to be marrying his girlfriend Alma someday. Their job is to spend all their time out on the range and to sleep out with the sheep to make sure that coyotes and wolves do not thin the herd at all. They are supposed to be working separately but they spend a little bit of time with each other and one cold night after drinking too much out on the range they warm each other up rather closely. This is how it begins, with alcohol and perhaps loneliness. After that Jack and Ennis go at each other as often as they can and not always secretively. But when the season at the ranch is over, they both go their separate ways and each end up married to women. Several years later they meet up again and pick up the passion where they left off and we see the strain this starts to put onto their lives and relationships.

While it seemed like Annie Proulx rushed the beginning of this physical attraction, she does a very good job with building in only 18 pages covering years how their passion has impacted them and affect how they treat each other and how the fear of being found out is a big deal.

I was surprised, but this is a good story, a western love story that just happens to be between two men. The gender issue is what raises adds the edge to the story because this is the unspoken, the thing that makes people uncomfortable. How this spare story will translate to the screen remains to be seen, though the critics are happy.


To give an answer to the South Park joke, I can't speak for the movie, but while there are gay cowboys, there is no pudding in the short story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Comedian

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Not a fan of Jerry Seinfeld? Don't worry, neither am I. "Comedian" has as its primary focus, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. This is several years after the end of the "Seinfeld" sitcom and Jerry is getting back on the road as a standup comic trying out new material and working on his new act. As we know, Jerry Seinfeld is a fantastically successful man and if he wanted (or didn't want), he would never have to work another day in his life. So why do standup? Sure, this is his origins and where he came from, but it can be a tough life having to sell himself and his jokes every single performance with no chance of a redo. So, why? Jerry never directly answers this question during the movie except that he loves his work, but my answer is that creative men need to continue to work, to find an outlet for this creativity and this drive to keep performing. But that's just my guess.

Jay Leno says midway through the film, to Jerry, that he couldn't do what Jerry is doing. What Leno is referring to is this film, "Comedian". Jerry is giving away his act. Not on stage, but to us, the viewer. Jerry is letting us see his frustrations, his struggles, and even some of his jokes as a work in progress rather than letting audiences discover the jokes for the first time. That is exactly what "Comedian" is. Jerry Seinfeld a struggling comic. He has a name that will get him through any door and on any stage, but it has been years since he has worked and he is trying to put together new jokes and a new routine. This is untested stuff and he is unsure if it is truly funny or if it will connect with an audience or if it will connect with many audiences. He is trying to find his rhythm.

What adds to this film being so interesting is that other major comics appear in some scenes talking to Jerry. Chris Rock meets Jerry and Jerry tells Chris about his insecurity and Chris replies by telling Jerry about seeing a comic that they hadn't heard of before do a two and a half hour set, no intermission, telling joke after joke after story after joke and everything works. Chris says he felt like a fraud after seeing that comic. And this is Chris Rock! And this is Jerry Seinfeld who is having the same struggles.

The other side of the coin is Orny Adams, a young (early 30's) comic who is trying to make it. He is very much full of himself and feels that he is better than everybody and better than the audience and when a crowd only politely chuckles he blames the audience as a bad audience and not that he may not have been good that day...because Orny is a professional and knows what he is doing. We see Orny begin to work with the guy who helped make Jerry Seinfeld a success. But his attitude just kills. He may be talented, but he needs an attitude check.

This makes me wonder if this is what a Jerry Seinfeld or a Chris Rock or others were like on the way up the comic ladder. That it is only when you reach the level of success and then try to keep being funny with new material that you find you are unsure of your skill. And for this, "Comedian" gives a very insightful look into the backstage life of comics trying to hone their craft, even at a stage in their career where most people think they have it honed.

I wasn't a fan of the tv show "Seinfeld" and I'm not sure I would love Jerry Seinfeld's comedy, and I know I already don't like Orny Adams, but I thought that "Comedian" is an excellent documentary look into their lives as comedians.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

I really think I gave the book a fair shake. When I heard that Anne Rice was writing a book called "Christ the Lord", I was intrigued and a little shocked. Anne Rice? Anne Rice? The Queen of the Damned herself? The lady who writes all those vampire books is writing a book about Jesus? And it isn't going to be about Vampire Jesus? This I have to read for myself.

And I tried. "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" covers some of the time when Jesus is a 7 year old boy. He is just realizing that he has these extra powers, like he accidentally kills a boy and then heals him not realizing quite what he is doing but knows that the "power" has "gone out of him". But most of this book is more of the ordinary life of the young Jesus as his family moves out of Egypt after Herod dies and back to Nazareth. We discover what Jesus knows of his family and what he knows of who he is as he hears the whispers of a prophecy and angels coming to his mother and a connection between John (the one who I believe will be "The Baptist") Jesus.

It just didn't seem to amount to anything. It was so dreadfully dry and dull that I could only make it 150 pages into this 300 page book. This book is supposed to be the first volume of three about Jesus, but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to read them. Or maybe the adult Christ will be more interesting and worth trying out. "Out of Egypt" is just not very good.

I respect that Anne Rice has become a Christian and is striving to use her writing gifts to honor God. This is fantastic news and I'd rather Rice be a Christian than continue to write vampire novels and not believe. But if we still have to judge the book of its own merits, I can't recommend this one at all.

Of course, this whole thing may be an elaborate set up and we'll find out in the last volume that Zombie Vampire Jesus will destroy the world.

But I doubt it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

hallelujah

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While there may never be a more beautiful, haunting song than Jeff Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah", Brandi Carlisle does a very nice cover of this song here.

The link I gave is to a list of in studio appearances, so you're looking for the 12/08 appearance. The song is 14:30 into the file. Not Buckley, but it's powerful when all is quiet.

Miracle

As someone who has watched the Winter Olympics for twenty years and has been watching sports in general for perhaps a little bit longer than that, it would have been difficult to have not heard about the United States Olympic Hockey Team from 1980. You know, the one that shockingly beat the dominant Soviet team, a Soviet team so strong it was beating the NHL All Stars in exhibition games. I knew this, but I didn't really understand. "Miracle" is the story of the 1980 team and follows the team from the formation to the conclusion at the Lake Placid Olympics.

We open with coach Herb Brooks (a nearly unrecognizable Kurt Russell) talking to a group of me, probably the US Olympic Committee about his vision for the squad and how he would like to form the team. He doesn't want to pick the best players, he wants to pick the best team. He knows this is the only way to have a chance against the Soviets who work so well as a team against the All Star Teams which are made up of individuals. Making the players into a team will be a challenge, one which is suggested throughout the movie as Coach Brooks asks the players their name and what team they play for and the players give their names and then their college (University of Minnesota, Boston College, University of Wisconsin, etc). It is easy to tell what answer Brooks is going for and not going and it is a bit later in the film that Brooks gets the answer he wants and that the viewer knows is a key turning point.

One would think that knowing exactly how the movie has to end would rob "Miracle" of dramatic tension. Somehow the director is able to make the viewer doubt that this team really is good enough to win in the Olympics at all, let alone to face the mighty Soviet squad which had won the previous four Gold medals for Hockey. Even when we get to the Gold Medal match is the ending in doubt. The US may have won their previous games, but these are the mighty Soviets. So much credit has to go to the filmmakers, the actors, the director, and the editor for cutting this film together in such a way that even knowing the ending does not lessen the impact of the ending, the emotion of the ending.

It is clear that I like this movie. It is a "feel good" movie in the best sense of the phrase because it isn't sappy and sweet, but a hard played game that brought out the best in the players and the underdog (which the United States is not used to being) is able to come out on top in the end.

Riding Giants

Director Stacy Peralta's first major film was the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys", a film detailing the history of skateboarding in America and how the big skating boom came about and those pioneers of which he was a member. Peralta followed up
"Dogtown" with "Riding Giants", a film which is semi-related in theme because "Riding Giants" traces the history of Big Wave surfing with a look at the early pioneers as well as where Big Wave is today.

There are really two kinds of serious surfing. There is the short wave surfing which we may see on television and competitions where there is a lot of flash and tricks and perhaps this is even where the glory is (movies like "Blue Crush" cover this end of the surfing world). Then there is Big Wave surfing where the surfer needs to get farther off shore to catch a wave that crests higher and breaks harder and may have another wave just as big right behind it so you better not mess up. Peralta tracks the origins and history of Big Wave surfing where guys (it is usually men) are constantly seeking a better wave, a more perfect challenge. They first just paddle out to deeper water and the narration mentions a time where two men paddled out for two hours to reach the spot where they could catch the wave they wanted. Then Peralta shows how Big Wave has changed with different surfing locations and when Jet Skis were used to start towing the surfer into the wave.

I imagine that most people know very little about surfing or Big Wave surfing. I freely admit that nearly everything that I know about surfing came from "Blue Crush" and maybe one or two broadcasts of a surfing competition on television. There are two ways that "Riding Giants" is a success as a film. The first is that the documentary is informative while being entertaining about the history and the present and possibly the future of Big Wave surfing. It's a world, a lifestyle, and a culture that I had never considered. The second way is that this is a beautiful looking movie. The sight of these big waves rolling in and the men attempting and in many cases succeeding in surfing the waves is incredible. This is fairly short documentary, perhaps an hour and a half, so there is not a large time commitment and I think it is one worth making.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sin City: Recut, Extended, and Unrated

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There comes a time when a review of the movie will have no impact on whether or not a person will see the movie in the theatre, or even buy a DVD of the movie. I think Sin City is one of these movies because in general, Sin City is a "love it" or "hate it" movie for critics and fans alike. Strangely, I was in the middle when I saw Sin City in the theatre. I was impressed with the visual style, and I liked the look of the movie, the sound of the movie, the hard bitten over the top language and action of Sin City. I admired what the director, Robert Rodriguez did in bringing Frank Miller's graphic novels to life. But I didn't love the movie. Since that time I've read the graphic novels and I've now watched this special edition extended recut DVD of Sin City and I've changed my mind somewhat. I'm even more impressed and I like the movie a whole lot more.

The question is why. I think the first and biggest reason is how this DVD is presented. It offers up the theatrical version of the film, which I feel is essential in any DVD edition which gives us an extended or director's cut. Let us compare. Robert Rodriguez does. The second disc of this set includes the extended and recut edition of the movie, but it's not like your typical extended edition. Since Sin City is based on several Frank Miller books and tells four different stories that slightly overlap, the recut version of the film is now four short films each with its own title card and each one has to be selected separately on the menu. I love it. This works far better for me because we get short films that are self contained and tell a complete story and I don't have to sit through two hours of film just to watch the 40 minute Marv segment "A Hard Goodbye". Even after watching the theatrical version, I'm not sure where the twenty minutes of extended footage came from. It's probably just 15 seconds here and 30 seconds there and not big new scenes. I can completely skip the short Josh Hartnett section if I want. This is the way I want to watch the film.

Besides this recut version of the film, there are also some quality bonus features included on the DVD. First up is Robert Rodriguez's "15 Minute Flic School". In this featurette director Rodriguez talks about how he decided to make Sin City after looking through his graphic novels and saw that shooting the film would both be possible and a challenge. He talks about specific ways that he was able to save money in the making of the movie as well as how few of the major actors were actually on set at the same time, even if they have scenes together. This is a very interesting look in how this man makes his movies. Next up is the "All Green Version" of Sin City. This is the Green Screen version of the movie and Rodriguez introduces it, saying that he sped the film up 300 times or so in order that we can watch the entire movie in 10 to 15 minutes, but it gives us the chance to see how little the actors had to work with and how much work went into getting what we see on screen to actually be there. This is a neat feature and it is remarkable how good of a job the actors did with so little on set. We also get to see "The Long Shot" where we see an on set take with some background footage where Rodriguez and guest director Quentin Tarantino just let the cameras roll for 15 to 20 minutes and keep the scene going. We see some of what Tarantino says to the actors, what actually made it into the movie, and how the actors work and figure out how to play a scene. This is another great feature.

Another feature is the Sin City concert. This is actually just a one song clip from Bruce Willis and his band The Accelerators doing a performance for the cast and crew of Sin City as well as Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly which was filming nearby. Surprisingly enough, Willis is quite good as is his band. Good stuff here. The last feature on disc two is a 10 minute cooking lesson from director Robert Rodriguez. Here we see Rodriguez explain how to make his homemade breakfast tacos. It looks good and I understand that he does this on his other DVDs as well.

The first disc of this set is the theatrical version of the film with other special features. Besides the commentary track, the other features are the obligatory “the cars of Sin City”, “the props of Sin City” and other related informative but not nearly as interesting as the disc two features. Two that are interesting are the story of how Rodriguez convinced Frank Miller to let him do the film and Quentin Tarantino as guest director for a scene in the movie. The rest are fairly stock features.

Overall this is an excellent set that really is worth owning if you are at all a fan of Sin City. This set does the movie and the books proud.

ANTM Cycle 5 Finale

Last night was the season finale for Cycle 5 of America's Next Top Model. This season there was nobody who really felt strong enough to win. Granted, I felt the same last year and thought Kahlen would win and I was wrong then, too. The final three were Bre, Nik, and Nicole. I figured, and my wife figured, that the Final Two would be Nik and Bre. But when the first cut came around, out goes Bre. Leading into that cut I had a strong feeling that Nicole would stay and that Bre would go, even though Nicole froze up during the commercial taping. But Nicole's Covergirl picture was quite a bit better than the other two. Her smile is better. So, Nicole and Nik. Nik seemed to be more polished and a better overall model and even improved throughout the competition and did very well during the commercial (unlike the first commercial weeks ago).

And yet...Nicole wins. Okay. Like I said, nobody felt like they should have won. I'm curious how the winners and non-winners compare against other seasons. Like, would Nicole win against Naima? I don't think Naima should have won, anyway, so I'd still probably stack the models as Kahlen, Bre, Nik, Nicole, Naima...but if they competed at the same time maybe I'd feel differently. I do think I'd pick Yoanna as the best overall that we've had.

So...are the previous winners still working? Adrienne apparently isn't since she's done The Surreal Life and then a tv show about dating Peter Brady. Eva is, I think, because she's popped up a few times during this season and was on that Kevin Hill show a bit. Naima is still under contract, I think, so she's still promised a job. But...where is Yoanna? Is she working in Bangladesh or in Europe or working not as a model but in the industry? She seemed to have the most knowledge and desire to be a model as any of the others did.

Just curious on this one. But probably not enough to try to find out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Passing on Shoah

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I've had the documentary "Shoah" out from the library for a week or so now and I tried to watch the first disc last night. I made it 20 minutes into the film before I knew that this just wasn't the time to watch it. This is a four disc, 9 hour 30 minute documentary on the Holocaust and is comprised entirely of first person accounts by the survivors of what happened to them. It is something that I've wanted to watch since the Spring of 2000 when Professor Kugler showed 40 minutes of the film in his class on Nazi Germany. I'm putting the movie back in my queue and I'll get back to it in another year or so and I suspect when I do I'll be more ready to watch it.

Some historians and some Jewish people object to the term "Holocaust" because the word means a "burnt offering" and in the Old Testament sense of the word when the Jews would sacrifice and offer a burnt offering to God, that was a holocaust and to say that the six million murdered Jews were a sacrifice, a burnt offering up to God is something that can be deeply offensive. Instead, the word "Shoah" to describe what happened. "Shoah" is a Hebrew word for "Catastrophe".

There's your history and linguistic lesson for the day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Porco Rosso

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One of director Hayao Miyazaki's ("Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke") earlier works is a film called "Porco Rosso". "Porco Rosso", like his other films, is an animated movie and this one features a pig as an ace pilot and bounty hunter. But before we think this movie is going to veer into the territory of Looney Tunes, Porco is the only character in the movie who is not human and we learn later midway through the movie that he used to be human but seems to be cursed in some way. The rest of the film is grounded a sense of reality, though a slightly skewed reality.

Porco (voiced by an unrecognizable Michael Keaton) is a sea-plane pilot and a bounty hunter. He works for money and usually to protect others (still for pay, not out of any generosity of spirit as he claims he has none). Early in the film we see Porco foil a kidnapping by a bumbling sea-plane pirate gang, and the pirate leaders from the region are out to put a stop to Porco's success against them. They bring in this American pilot (voiced by Cary Elwes), one of the fastest in the world. The American's job is to make Porco look silly and to put him out of a job, if not kill Porco.

"Porco Rosso's" storyline does not progress the way I would have expected. Even though the film clocks in at 90 minutes, "Porco Rosso" has a leisurely pace that feels as if Miyazaki knows exactly where he is going and is in no hurry to get there. I was surprised by just how much humor there is in the movie. The pirates bungle and bumble quite often, but they also drop these throw away lines that are simply funny, but only when you're watching the movie. Trying to list a series of these lines wouldn't be funny when one line that made me laugh was simply "okay", but it was when and how it was said that made the joke. The other thing about this movie was that I was interested in what happens to Porco, and what did happen to Porco, and what will happen. I cared about the character and also in his Engineer friend and the friend's granddaughter (voiced by Kimberly Williams) who is just as good of an engineer as any and a very important character.

Simply put, the movie worked. On all levels. Animation gives the false impression that it is automatically for children, and children can and would enjoy "Porco Rosso", but Miyazaki's films work for adults as well. This is just a good movie. Period. It joins "Princess Mononoke" and "Kiki's Delivery Service" as my favorites Miyazaki movies and is one I happily recommend.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kronk's New Groove

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Disclaimer: I have not seen "The Emperor's New Groove" and have no idea what the movie may be about, except that I imagine it has something to do with an emperor who finds a new groove. Whatever, exactly, that means.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way let's talk about the sequel to that movie: "Kronk's New Groove". Kronk, to the best of my understanding, is a secondary character from the first movie who now gets his own film with his own misadventures. Unfortunately, the storyline here is a bit unclear. We start out with Kronk sitting in a puddle of liquid cheese that seems to have exploded out of a building and made a huge mess out of everything. He tells us that he used to be somebody and that all of his troubles started earlier that day. We flash back to earlier that day, but the events in the movie seem to take place over several days so perhaps there is another flashback that I missed as well.

Kronk is a big lug of a muscle-bound man with a bigger heart and the respect of the townspeople. Somehow he gets mixed up with an evil sorceress who is peddling some "youth potion" that doesn't really work but folks get kind of addicted to, but Kronk didn't want to get involved in selling the potions but he does because he thinks the sorceress can help with Kronk making his father proud. But all this goes away pretty quickly and Kronk is living his life, working at a camp, being a cook and he meets this woman who is also at the camp and things go well, and then the don't, and then there is a big lesson learned and things may or may not be all good in the end depending on what you believe Disney will provide for an ending. Shocking, all of it shocking.

Or, not so shocking. Honestly, midway through the movie I wasn't sure what "Kronk's New Groove" was all about. After the movie was over I wasn't sure what "Kronk's New Groove" was all about. As I'm writing this review the next morning, I'm not sure what "Kronk's New Groove" is all about. If I can't even say with any real certainty what the point of the movie is, I can't recommend it. There were too many musical montages, the movie didn't seem to have a point, the jokes weren't funny, and it was all fairly dull and unoriginal.

There are a couple of bonus features on the DVD. First off are two "games". The first game makes no sense at all, but is kind of funny. You are to help Kronk complete three tasks by selecting items that will help him in the task. Kronk then goes through a description of how that item will help in the task and then says whether or not the idea will work. Let's just say that the descriptions of how the items will help are by far the most creative and entertaining part of the movie. The second game is "Pyramid Scheme" where you need to amass a certain number of points by answering three questions to move to the next round. The questions are about the movie and also a little bit about the Incas. I answered all of the questions correctly, so it wasn't too difficult. The other bonus feature is a short documentary about how the movie was made. Not as funny as it was intended to be.

Here's the bottom line: I am a 26 year old male and I normally like Disney's animated movies. "Kronk's New Groove" did nothing for me because I believe it is really intended only for children. Children younger than the age of 10 will likely love this movie as it has bright colors, some silly jokes, exploding cheese, a nice moral message at the end about family and friends, and it should be fun for the youngsters. So, parents should feel safe buying this DVD for their children. Personally, I think there are far better options out there for children's movies, but this is a very safe, harmless movie for kids. This movie will fit nicely into the children's market for which the movie is intended. Unfortunately, this is not one which adults will enjoy as much as the kids. It doesn't really work on that second level. And that's fine too.

Adult Grade: D +
Children's Grade: B- (I'm just guessing here, I don't have kids yet).

Hawkmoon

Michael Moorcock is best known for being the author of the Eternal Champion series in the fantasy genre. He has written other things, of course, but the size and scope of Eternal Champion and its impact on the fantasy genre is Moorcock's true legacy. This is a fantasy series spanning decades in the man's career. Started back in the 1960's (I believe), Moorcock has only recently published the final Eternal Champion novel. Most of the books have been collected in omnibus editions which group the novels by theme or character.

The Eternal Champion is a warrior who has had multiple incarnations in various eras, worlds, dimensions, times, and has fought for Balance in the multi-verse (multiple universes). Some of the aspects has known that there have been other lives, others have not. This volume, "Hawkmoon" is the third Eternal Champion omnibus out of...thirteen (?). It collects four short novels about the Hawkmoon aspect of the Eternal Champion who is fighting in an alternate Earth against the Granbretons (Great Britain) invaders of Europe and their Dark Empire which has nearly conquered the globe. There are swords, and magic, and wondrous beasts, and great valor, magic talismans, and darkest evil, and grand adventure. In short, "Hawkmoon" is a collection of some classic pulp fantasy from the past.

Moorcock is able to spin these stories in such a way that I remained interested the entire time. There are heroes and villains, but the lines aren't always as clear as we initially think for some characters but others are fairly stock with the classic heroes of Count Brass and the classic villain of Granbreton's evil empire of insane warriors. It works, though. While a whole lot of bad, nasty things happen in these books, they are fun. They a fast paced classic fantasy in which a Conan character would not be out of place, but Moorcock's writing is still good.

It has been suggested that Moorcock only wrote the Eternal Champion novels so that he would have the financial freedom to work on other, less successful projects that he cared more about. That may be so, but Moorcock has also created a lasting series of fantasy which has impacted the genre and other authors.

I gave this series a try after seeing so many online recommendations of Moorcock's work, and in general I have truly enjoyed it (though less so for the "Von Bek" volume). There is no question that I'm going to continue on with this series which only seems to be available via Interlibrary Loan at my library.

Control Room

My perception of the Al Jazeera television network was that this is the network that broadcasts the Osama Bin Ladin messages and that it is the most popular news network in the Arab world. This is, of course, filtered through a very American lens. It is difficult to say what the reality of the network is without actually being a part of that world or even that network, but "Control Room" attempts to bring us that perspective. We are invited into the world of Al Jazeera where the network producer tells the viewer that it is his job, his passion to have an entirely fair news broadcast that presents different viewpoints and gives voice to those who are willing to speak. The network has criticized Arab governments and has been officially banned in several nations. It sounds so democratic.

At the same time the people at the network are talking up Al Jazeera there are clips from speeches and press conferences held by Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush saying that what Al Jazeera is doing is wrong and it isn't balanced and that the network is trying to undermine the war in Iraq (this film was shot in the early days of the US invasion) by showing the violence and aftershocks of the violence and that the network is distorting the truth. Al Jazeera counters with saying that they are only showing reality and that United States can't have it both ways, to have a war and also to be shown as entirely peaceful. This is as much of a clash of ideology as it is about the truth in Broadcasting.

The Army's press liaison asks an Al Jazeera newsman if the people at the network can be entirely unbiased and report only the truth with no shadings of interpretation. The newsman counters by asking if the Americans can do this. Of course, we know the answer is no. Fox News and CNN and all of the other channels shade the reports, especially in the early stages, with Pro-American slants. It is expected, though not truly "fair". I think that the issue the United States officials and military has with Al Jazeera is that it doesn't blindly support the United States and that it does offer differing perspectives and that it does give voice to those the US finds offensive. Perhaps even the network is Anti-American, though the film does not truly give that opinion. The perspective the film is showing us is that Al Jazeera is a truly free network and possibly the only truly fair network. But even that is spin.

"Control Room" is an excellent documentary and gives a rare look into a world Americans never see and a network that Americans only hear rumors about. Here is another side of the story, one that is worth watching, and one that is well worth learning about.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kronk Quickie

Sunday, December 04, 2005 0
I watched my review copy of Kronk's New Groove today. Not so good. Now I just have to figure out what to say about it. Ah well. Sin City has to be done this week, too.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

ANTM, Lost, Clean House

Thursday, December 01, 2005 0
I am so glad Jayla got the boot. She should have been gone weeks ago. It's been bugging me in the judging room at the end that the judges have been saying that she's so beautiful in person...yabbut, she looks bored in every picture. And she's a bit of a punk trying to tear down Nik by saying Nik has the same expression in every picture. Hello!? Pot? Kettle? Black. This year that isn't even a fair complain because nearly every girl gives the same expression. I really liked Kim and wished she lasted another week, but she had the same problem. Kim, at least, brought a different look to the table whereas Jayla just looks boring and like a poor reflection of dozens of other print models.

The finals? Should be Bre and Nik. My wife has been a big fan of Bre for some time now while I've been wavering on her all season. The editors showed some personality, then showed Bre acting out and acting in such a way that I wouldn't want her representing my product...if I had a product. Nik has steadily improved and is taking some of the better pictures right now, but she has no personality. Bre is all personality, but it is semi-negative. Bre also takes very good pictures. Nicole is just boring. My wife has hated her since the first episode where Nicole said that her sister was jealous that she was the pretty one in the family. I just don't see that her pictures are that good or that powerful. She's pretty enough, I guess, but this is a modeling competition, so there aren't going to be any fugly girls on the show. Nicole doesn't seem to bring anything original or different or strong or anything that is better than the other two girls.

And that's why Nicole will be one of the final two. I'm just not sure which one she'll replace.

Sandy has been saying all along that Bre is probably going to win and that there is a good reason her picture has been in the center of the cast photo at the end of every episode and how strong of a picture it is. Something to think about.

Something else to think about? Lost. What the hell is up with that horse? I mean, the polar bear is one thing, and the fact that even though I don't remember white and black stones folks are curious about them, but the horse? And that Kate saw it when she first escaped from the FBI/police? I'm baffled.

The missing part of the filmstrip is confusing, too. So...don't communicate with anyone else with the computer. But, they can't. Locke couldn't type anything else. At least, not until Michael was communicated to by...somebody. It's not Walt, so let's get that out of our mind right now. And what was this previous Incident? Last book I read that had an "incident" had the biblical plague of the first born, but I don't think that's where JJ Abrams is going with this. Decent episode, but we're going to get two episodes of filler from this before we find out anything about Michael's "message" from "Walt". Just wait.

This morning I was watching some sort of show called "Clean House", or something like that. It's on the Style Network, a channel that I've never, ever, ever watched. But, Sandy and I cancelled our cable yesterday so we can get the Dish Network on Saturday and save a good $50 per month on the cable bill. But the cable is still on even though we don't have the cable boxes anymore. The living room has all the channels (except we can't get to IFC because it is 371 and the tv only goes to 99 or so), but the tv room with my old tv doesn't. It's easier for the cable company to switch off my cable rather than the main tv because they can turn off our line to the one tv, but the technician needs to shut off the household doing some work outside, and that's on the 8th of December. But, I still have CNN and TBS and AMC. Channels 2-11 are all the same, but AMC is now 14 rather than 60 something. And I have 2-24, but no ESPN. And that's why I watching Style this morning. So, this show Clean House was about having a team come in and totally revamp the household of this woman. They take her possessions (almost all of them), sell them in a garage sale and restock her house with a whole new set up. Some furniture went, much "stuff" and then they repainted. Ugh, the dining room was some purple color and this other room was "daquiri", which is a sea greenish color. It looked nice, but nothing I'd want to live in. Sure, they made a nice looking house and removed clutter (and removing clutter is a good thing, I'm finding), but it's not "home". It wouldn't be the comfortable home that Sandy and I made, ya know? Sure, remove clutter and clean things up, but some things are home and just replacing everything kind of gives it this "hotel" feeling. Not anything I ever want to do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blue Like Jazz

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 0

"Blue Like Jazz" questions the very notion of what it means to be a Christian. Donald Miller writes about faith with a variety of topics on coming to faith, why to have faith, how Christ can transform, what to do with that faith and how to live a life as a Christian. Other than the last chapter of the book where Miller writes that if Ani Difranco wasn't a lesbian he would marry her, what interested me most was how Miller's perspective on being a Christian did not really come from a sense of organized Christianity as an institution. While he was a Christian and went to church and was even a youth group leader Donald Miller knew that there was something lacking. He believed in his head and he knows that Jesus was God, but he didn't truly believe in his heart. He didn't truly believe with his life. The organization of the church was telling him one thing, but it wasn't quite right for him.

There are several very interesting chapters dealing different aspects of faith that focus on Miller's time at Reed College. Reed is a college that people at his church and other believers declared was extremely immoral and that the college was voted "most likely to not believe in God". That much is true, but it was also a strong intellectual school. When Miller started attending, he met up with some Christians at the school who were essentially an "Underground" group of believers. They talked seriously of what it meant to believe and live for Christ and it was a transformative kind of living, more than just attending church on Sunday it was living as a follower on Monday and Tuesday and every other day. One of Miller's friends believed that feeding the homeless meant more than just giving some money to a homeless shelter, that it really meant to actually go out and feed the homeless, to give them food directly, to sit and talk and share a meal with them. To minister with more than just words and preaching, but by truly loving those whom society does not love. It's a sacrifice that takes a person well out of what they think their comfort zone is. It's a challenge.

The aspect of Miller's time at Reed that I found most fascinating was during the college's weekend party, drunken orgy. It is some sort of festival that most would probably see as one of the more decedent displays anywhere in America. Accepted public nudity, drunkeness, lewdness and this is the norm for that weekend. What Miller and his friends decided to do was set up a Confession Booth in the campus's common area. They expected harassment and perhaps abuse, verbal and physical. Christians are not generally accepted at Reed. But this was a different and revolutionary Confession Booth. The Christians confessed to the Pagans. Donald writes about how they would confess how they were not truly feeding the poor, how he has anger issues and lashes out verbally when he feels threatened and that in general they and many others are not good representations of Christ. And change happened after this. Their activities (feeding the poor, Bible studies for non-believers, etc) gained a measure of respect and more involvement from other students. This isn't to say that the entire school changed, because it didn't, but that a raw Christian faith can find a seed anywhere.

But this raw Christian faith is about truly living a different sort of life, that we as individuals and we as a nation cannot hope to fix the world if we don't see the world differently, that we try to heal ourselves first and that what is wrong with the world isn't the world, it is me and it is you. Saying that hunger and homelessness is a problem isn't enough if we aren't actually trying to do anything about it. If everyone gave $20 a month or whatever to various organizations within America (or worldwide), so many lives could be saved. If everyone stopped the "me first" attitude which is so prevalent and so easily glossed over, there could be radical change. But it comes first from not worrying that the other person isn't changing when we aren't changing, when I'm not changing, because if I change then I'm not worrying that someone else is being selfish...I'm working for change.

But this is a frightening idea because it is easy to be comfortable and just deal with our own issues and we all have issues. To move beyond this is a radical step. It comes from a true change and dedication inside and the daring to move beyond the fear and into the faith.

That's kind of what this whole book is about, but it is also Donald Miller writing about a non-religious but highly spiritual perspective on Christian Faith and that this is so important today. When asked by a radio host to defend Christianity, he couldn't and wouldn't because he didn't know what Christianity and any ten people would have ten different ideas of what Christianity is. But he could talk about Christ and what Christ means to him.

Reminds me of a song by Sara Groves called "Conversations" where near the end of the song where she sings about trying to tell a friend about Jesus and she closes the song with a variation of her chorus "The only thing that isn't meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free. This is all that I have, this is all that I am." This is the root of her belief and is the root of what Miller is trying to say.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Two Mules, Bobby Long

Monday, November 28, 2005 0
I was able to get in a couple of movies this weekend. The first movie is the Clint Eastwood western "Two Mules for Sister Sara". In this one he teams up with Shirley MacLaine. While this isn't a pairing that immediately comes to mind for Eastwood during his Western Days, it isn't nearly as strange as Eastwood teaming up with a monkey, so it all works out. Here's the set-up: MacLaine is set upon by some bandits and Eastwood happens to come and rescue her. She is initially in a state of undress and Eastwood is his gruff self and plans on just leaving her. But when she gets dressed she is a nun! In full habit nonetheless. Somehow they start to travel together and there are some conflicts and neither can seem to leave the other until the movie ends in a big gun battle with some Mexican soldiers. It's a decent western and entertaining. Eastwood is exactly what you'd expect from him in a western, but MacLaine was spunky and worked very well with Eastwood and it was a good role for her and a good fit for the movie. I liked it!

The second movie is one that netflix had shipped me by mistake. I cancelled last week but I guess "A Love Song for Bobby Long" had already shipped. I made sure I watched it right away so I could send it back. Wasn't sure what I'd think about this movie. John Travolta seems to be hit and miss these days with perhaps a few more misses than hits. I believe I had heard some semi-good things about the movie but it pretty much slipped under the radar except that Scarlett Johansson has been turning in good work, this included.

The basic plot is that Scarlett's mother has just died and when she is told she tries to make it to the funeral in time. She doesn't, but she finds out that her mother has left the house to her and two men. The two men are Travolta, who plays Bobby Long, a former college English professor, and a former student of his. They seem to get by without paying rent and just existing, talking about literature and drinking bad alcohol. When Scarlett begins to live with them things start to change and we see how their relationships evolve and how the student cares for the professor and why Bobby Long seems to be broken and how everyone is broken in some way. "A Love Song for Bobby Long" is less a movie about plot than it is about the characters and how they relate, grow, and learn. Character growth and development. It's one of those movies. Nothing explodes on screen, but their lives seem to be on the verge of explosion. I was surprised by how moving it was and how good everyone is. Johansson, if she can stay away from doing another Michael Bay movie, is turning out to be one of our better young actresses and Travolta can prove from time to time that he's quite good. It's not going to make a "Best Of" list, but it's a decent movie. I'm not mad I watched it. How bout that?

Blood Follows



Steven Erikson's series "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" is widely considered one of today's Great Fantasy Series and he is often listed at or near the top of the list of the best fantasy authors writing today. He's good, but it'll take a few more books until I'm willing to anoint him above a certain George Martin. Thus far only three of his Malazan novels have been published in America and I'm waiting for the third volume, "The Memories of Ice", to come from the library. It's possible that Book 4, "House of Chains", is out, but my library certainly doesn't have it yet. Anyway, along with the primary Malazan series Erikson is also writing a series of novellas set in this same world/universe, but featuring secondary characters which may or may not appear in the main series. As the Malazan books progress we'll see how they tie together or if they even do. "Blood Follows" is the first of these novellas and it is described as being "A Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach".

Who? I don't know, either. Maybe they show up in "The Memories of Ice", but I can't say for sure yet. The story of "Blood Follows" touches up this Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, but the story the novella is telling is two fold. First we have Emancipor Reece, a former coachman for a local merchant who was just killed by this serial killer who has been eviscerating his victims one a night for the past eleven nights. Reece is now out of a job and his wife is commanding that he not come home until he finds one. He does, of course, and it is in the employ of a Bauchelain as his manservant. There is also a sergeant of the city watch who has been ordered by the King to stop the murders and bring the killer to justice. The sergeant is good at his job. Since Reece's last three employers all have ended up dead he is someone the sergeant first talks to, but his investigation also takes him to the foreigners Bauchelain and the so far unseen Korbal Broach.

The novella is only 120 pages or so and Erikson does not have the space to indulge in slowing teasing the reader with little bits of detail across hundreds of pages and "Blood Follows" reads easier than the main Malazan books. It doesn't have the depth of satisfaction or richness as the Malazan books but it does add something to the world, that there is something else going on that may eventually tie in to the main story and how everything may connect. I'm actually looking forward to the novellas as much as I am the novels, if as much because the novellas are less of a time commitment. Finding out more about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach will be interesting and now that Reece has left the city with the two I can only wonder what darkness comes next.

Shadowed


With "Shadowed", author Jerry Jenkins brings to a close the trilogy he began with "Soon" and "Silenced". Jenkins is best known as the co-author of the "Left Behind" series and Jenkins was the writer of that series while Tim LaHaye provided the scriptural background. Here Jenkins is on his own and he tells a story set midway through the 21st Century. Several years from now there will be a World War III and it will be a war based on religion. Out of the ashes of this war will come a worldwide fear and distrust of religion and the new World Government that is created makes as one of its first act of completely banning religion of any kind. The world has lived in relative Godless peace but there are still pockets of underground believers.

"Soon" introduced us to Paul Stepola, a top agent with the National Peace Office and his job is to infiltrate cells of "believers" and arrest them, breaking up the Christians. To better do this he researches and researches and reads the contraband Bible and as he continues to work against the Christians he comes closer and closer to belief until he can no longer deny that there is a God and that Christ is Lord. But Paul still works for the NPO and his new fellow Christians asks if he will work from the inside as a double agent. He agrees. In "Silenced" Paul is working deeper inside and has aroused some suspicion but his "success" in various jobs has protected him even while Believers pray for various large scale miracles which God has delivered. Finally, near the end of "Silenced" the leader of the World Government is issuing a decree that within 60 Days every citizen must sign a statement that they publicly renounce religion. But for a Believer this is Peter denying Christ and they are not willing to do so. Paul knows that this is the end of his status as a double agent when the 60 Days is up and he doesn't sign. The Believers give an ultimatum. If the decree is not rescinded they will pray that God will unleash the 10th Plague of the plagues that inflicted Egypt in the time of Pharoah: The Plague of the First Born. The decree is not rescinded and God unleashes the plague and every first born male on the planet who is not a believer or have a believer as a parent drops dead.

And so we begin "Shadowed". Paul is known to be a first born son and when Paul and his own first born son are still alive he needs to go in hiding. Paul's father in law is also a high ranking NPO official and one who is vehemently anti-religion and is grieving for his own adult son. Paul goes on the run to a underground group of believers and his wife, Jae, also comes to profess faith in Christ.

Since this is written by a Christian author and the Christians are the good guys we know that God will come through and things will change. Nobody on the planet can deny there is a God, but they still do not all worship. This "Incident" as it is called is the last major event of the series, though there is still a little bit of action as the Christians gain more worldwide support.

Yadda.

I finished this book because I started the series and if it is at all readable I want to finish. This book and this series suffers from the same issues that plague (pun intended) the Left Behind series: bad writing. Jenkins can come up with some interesting ideas and he writes in such an easy style that the books go by very quickly...but they aren't very good. Everything is so simplistic and one sided and heavy handed in his novels (and I can say this after reading 12 Left Behind Books, 1 Left Behind prequel, and these 3 Underground Zealot novels). There is enough compelling ideas in the story that I want to see how he delivers the conclusion of the story and how he gets there, but there is a lot of cringing and wishing that the craft improves. But he isn't that kind of writer and this isn't that kind of a book. "Shadowed" is lightweight (though semi-violent and semi-graphic) fiction with a Christian perspective, but I wouldn't hold this book up as something to celebrate how "Christian" fiction can be just as good as the best of "secular" fiction. There's just a little too much sugar here for it to be good for you.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Buy My Stuff

Friday, November 25, 2005 1
Along with the Netflix Cancellation and other budget changes around the house, we are selling off a bunch of our stuff. Books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, random stuff. I'm putting everything that looks like it can sell for at least a couple of dollars up on ebay. There are a few books up right now, a handful of cds, and I'm working on the DVDs right now. In the next days and weeks I'll be getting more stuff up until we run out of things that look like they can sell.

So, if anyone is interested, they are free to buy my stuff. I suspect I'll be re-evaluating the DVDs that so far I've decided to keep, and will then auction those up as well.

There are also some other DVDs which are not going up on ebay because there doesn't seem to be an Ebay market for them but which can likely sell for $5 each at my mother's garage sale in May. If anyone is interested in buying some and finding out what DVDs aren't going up on ebay (books, too), contact me by e-mail or post a comment and I'll let you know what is available.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

goodbye netflix

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 3
I cancelled my Netflix subscription this morning. It was a cost savings measure. To get certain costs back in line we're cutting some things out of our budget, and Netflix is one that had to go.

Where shall I get my movies from? The library! I just put a good number of DVDs on hold. They have longer hold lines, but I should be able to get most of what I want, so it all works out in the end.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (movie)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 2
How do you turn a 700+ page novel into a movie? Well, you either make a 4 hour movie or you cut, cut, cut and turn into a 2.5 hour movie. The filmmakers decided on the latter because there was no good splitting point in the novel to make GOF: Part I and GOF: Part II. What we end up with is the absolute core of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Gone is that side plot with Hermione forming S.P.E.W. and trying to bring freedom and equal rights to all house elves. Gone, actually, is any appearance of a house elf. So, no Dobby in this one despite the role he plays in the book. The early scenes of the novel dealing especially with the Quidditch World Cup are cut very short, nothing at the Dursleys, and we do not get to learn much about either Krum or Fleur.

What do we have, then? Harry starts out with the Weasley's as they go to the Quidditch World Cup. The match isn't shown (though the entrances are, so we know Krum is famous) and after we see the attack at the Q.W.C. by the Death Eaters and the Dark Mark being released in the air. I have to say that there was a serious sense of menace and fear and confusion during the attack. Very well done and shows hints of why the Death Eaters (followers of Voldemort) are that scary. From this moment we know things are changing. Year 4 for Harry, Ron, and Hermione is now beginning back at Hogwarts, but this year is going to be different. The Tri-Wizard Competition is being held at Hogwarts and each of three wizarding schools will have a champion competing for Eternal Glory. It is only open to those over the age of seventeen, however. The three champions are chosen: Krum, Fluer, and from Hogwarts - Cedric Diggory. But then the Goblet of Fire glows red once more and spits out a fourth name: Harry Potter. So, Harry must compete in this competition which has caused death in the past and Harry doesn't have the experience or the knowledge. Meanwhile he keeps having visions and dreams about the return of Voldemort and his scar is hurting.

This movie is far more streamlined than the book. School, Voldemort, Competition. That's it. Nearly everything extra is cut. And you know what? It works. Azkaban may have been a stronger movie, but Goblet of Fire is still far better than the first two movies. There is a real sense of darkness and menace to the film as we know that the series is just going to get darker. I didn't feel like anything was missing from the movie. All of the side stories which build the richness of the world would not have fit in the movie and would have killed the flow and tension of it. The only lack is that there is little or no development or information about Fleur or Krum, or even Cedric though a little bit more is given about him. We do get the little love interest of Harry for Cho Chang and the boredom of the Parvati twins at the ball is perfect. But the main story here is the Tri-Wizard Competition and Voldemort, and it works well.

After each Harry Potter movie I always wonder how they are possibly going to film the next one and have it work, but I look forward to it because the movie series is turning out to be quite a good one.

To End All Wars

I thought this was just going to be another telling of "Bridge on the River Kwai". I think it is the same basic story and may be based on the same source material (though "River Kwai" is also from a Pierre Boulle novel). But, the basic form of the story and the origins may be the same, but midway through the movie it is clear that "To End All Wars" is going in a different direction. We are still set in World War II and we are still in Burma and Thailand building the railroad. There are still British Prisoners of War (Scottish this time) and one American (this time played by Keifer Sutherland) and they are being poorly treated in the prison camp and made to build this railroad on meager rations. They are brutalized for not bowing, and for doing anything out of line or that would make the Japanese "lose face".

But through the movie there is a string of hope, of grace. That through kindness in the face of brutality, of turning the other cheek and of sacrifice, that the prisoners can gain respect (from their captors and self respect) as well as better treatment. The railroad is almost an afterthought here.

I had never heard of this movie until a friend recommended it to me, and then another friend. I still didn't expect too much from "To End All Wars", but it turns out that this is a quality movie. Well made, well acted, and very moving. There is a spiritual side to "To End All Wars" with a bit of the Christian teaching running through it. It's not overwhelming or preachy, but it is effective and there is a very strong and overt Christ image but not quite the way it was expected and how that plays out isn't such that it bangs your head with Christ.

Well done. I like when a movie I haven't heard of and clearly did not get a major release turns out to be a good one.

Kinsey

"Kinsey" is the story of Alfred Kinsey, the very controversial sex researcher of the 1950's. At a time when the only sex education that was being taught was abstinence and only in a general health class, Dr. Kinsey was feeling the lack of information and that amount of rubbish that was being taught as fact. People just didn't have any information about sex, who does it, who does what, what is permissible, and what is possible. His interest in the subject came because of some sexual issues early in his marriage and his need as scientist to know the solution. There is also a deep undercurrent of sexual repression from his father.

Dr. Kinsey initially starts to advise some of his science students and then more and more start coming to him and Dr. Kinsey inquires about a sexual education class that could be held at his University. He also begins an exhaustive study (pun intended) into the sexual behavior of human males with a follow up study on females to come later. Any question that could be asked is asked and the findings are shocking to many, though not likely shocking to today's audience.

My expectation for the movie that it would be start to finish sex and nudity. I think this is from some of the negative, one sided reviews that portrayed this movie through a certain moral lens. It isn't. The movie is filled with talk about sex, and as it should be considering the subject. There is sex and nudity, though not nearly as much as one would expect. While there is a good deal of sex as the movie progresses, it is far less revealing than it could have been.

The real surprise that I had was that this was a good movie, better than I had anticipated. I was all ready to dislike the movie and I couldn't. Well made, well told, and while it does celebrate Kinsey and his work (ending with a woman telling an older Kinsey that his work saved her life and helped her to have a healthy relationship with another woman), "Kinsey" does not hide his faults, obsessions, and uncomfortable beliefs (such as that there is nothing wrong or immoral about pedophilia). The film shows the great strides Dr. Kinsey helped America take in sexual education even when America wasn't truly ready, but doesn't hide the negative.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

HP:GOF

Thursday, November 17, 2005 2
Sandy purchased some tickets yesterday to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Imax Sunday night at 10:00pm. Looking forward to how this book gets adapted. Quite a bit has been cut, I hear (nothing on Hermoine's quest to free the house elves), but the core should still be there. Here's hoping.

Lost, ANTM, MNIE, Boondocks

I was a little disappointed with Lost last night. The episode was all about covering the first 48 days the survivors from the tail of the plane were on the island. So we're given this whole new group of survivors to be introduced to and to get to know...except we're not. The focus is mainly on those who we met in the previous two episodes: Michelle Rodriguez, Bernard, Clinical Psychologist Lady, Strong Silent Black Man. But my real problem with the episode was just the format. To get us from Crash to Ana Lucia shooting Shannon in 1 hr and 4 minutes, we get a lot of fade in and fade out as days pass and days are skipped. We get the highlights. We get little clips of the characters and this all could have been done just as well by giving us little clips throughout the regular episodes. The one really positive thing this episode did was show why and how Michelle Rodriguez was in such a leadership role. At first I thought she was just the mouthy little second in command to SSBM, but she's the leader. Why? Like Jack, she stepped up when nobody else did. She filled that void and she was fierce in her desire to protect her group. Unlike Jack, she's much closer to snapping. My wife doesn't like her for two reasons. 1: Ana Lucia is played by Michelle Rodriguez. 2: Because she's always so angry and unreasonable and M.R. always plays that girl. I think I figured some of that out, though. I think the snap in Ana Lucia happened when the kids were kidnapped. She was frustrated when the Others first took the three men on the first night, but losing the kids pushed her over the edge. That's what I think.

Still don't know who the Others are, or where they came from, or why. My guess is something to do with the Island experiment.

Another decent episode of America's Next Top Model. Everyone (except Nicole) was mad at Kim because Kim talks behind folk's back. But near as I can tell from what the editors have selectedly shown us, Kim has only talked about Lisa and Jayla. She joked about Nik in front of Nik, but I haven't seen anything else behind anyone else's back. Bre continues to be a hoot with her attitude hidden behind a layer of cuteness. She's funny, my wife really likes her. Right now Bre is our pick to win (in the absence of any really strong contenders). The shock, though, was Lisa being cut. I thought she'd be final 2 and probably the winner. Don't like Lisa, but she was the strongest and arguably the best model. She was a punk behind the scenes, though. She'll probably get work from this if she can control herself off camera.

Skimmed through My Name is Earl. I watched it, but I was also looking for crap to put up on ebay and if it would sell (found some books that might sell), so I didn't really get a grasp of what happened. That was last week's episode where they drove away in the Bandit car. I have this week's episode recorded. I'll make sure to watch that one and pay more attention.

The Boondocks is getting a little bit stronger. I watched the second episode, "The Trial of R. Kelly" and it was funnier and really kind of ripped on how (and I need to be careful here) the black community will get behind somebody who commits an awful crime because that person is an entertainer and because they like his music, or his athletic ability...even if that person has a mountain of evidence which should convict him. It was a good episode, and at the end I think they are about to introduce Jasmine, the cute little girl from the comic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 0
Phew. After starting John LeCarre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" weeks ago I finally finished the book last night. I had previously read his "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" and thought it was fantastic, and was disappointed by "Absolute Friends". Thought I should love this one. Didn't.

My biggest problem is that it was a difficult book to really get into. The story, about spies and double agents and George Smiley trying to figure out who the mole was in the British spy agency is a great idea. However, LeCarre spent so much time telling us what might be happening that he doesn't actually show us. The entire novel is Smiley talking to people, investigating, but we never get into his head so we don't know where Smiley is going with this investigation or where he makes his intuitive leaps. Not really.

I plan on reading more LeCarre, but this one was disappointing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

RAW Tribute Show

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 0
RAW last night was an Eddie Guerrero tribute show. I don't remember if it was taped on Sunday along with Smackdown, or if RAW was live last night like it usually is, but this must have been incredibly difficult for the performers. Vince McMahon gave every wrestler the option of performing or not and every single person elected to perform as a tribute. It's an odd thing about the wrestling business, but it is the way things seem to work. These men (and women, but mostly men) spend way more time with each other than they do with their families, so to say that they become family is likely not an exaggeration.

The show opens up with all of the wrestlers of RAW and Smackdown standing in front of the "curtain" where they make their entrance. Vince McMahon (owner of WWE) was standing in front with a microphone announcing to the crowd about Eddie's passing. Everyone already knew as many had signs saying goodbye and even before Vince said anything the crowd was chanting "Eddie, Eddie" and "Thank You Eddie" in respect. Vince talked for a short while as the camera panned around the other wrestlers, some who were barely holding themselves together. Chris Benoit, in particular, was having the hardest time as he has been friends with Eddie for fifteen years. Then there was a tribute video showing some of Eddie's accomplishments and just giving a little bit of a feel for who Eddie was. The song playing with the video was Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt". That's a beautiful, painful song as it was. When it was over most of the wrestlers were crying and as the camera panned, so were many in the Minneapolis audience. After Vince spoke, but before the video the WWE gave the traditional 10 bell salute to a fallen wrestler. It's a chilling sound to hear.

Interspersed throughout the show and between matches were segments where the wrestlers talked about Eddie. Some talked about his professionalism, others his heart and how good of a friend he was. Benoit broke down at the end of his as he talked about his friendship. As Benoit spoke and got more emotional, this was the only one that I had a tear fall. The pain was too raw for so many of these men. Eddie's nephew Chavo Guerrero talked about how he really thought of Eddie as a brother since they were only three years apart and how everything they dreamed of came true except that Eddie isn't here anymore. Shawn Michaels gave a completely different perspective and said that he can't talk about Eddie as a wrestler because he never had wrestled him. Instead he talked about Eddie's faith and how they had shared their faith in Christ for the past few years and how Eddie was the only man Shawn had ever seen to get the entire company together from Vince to the road crew and lead them all in a prayer meeting.

I'm not really going to talk about the matches because they weren't terribly important. They did not advance storylines but served to just entertain the audience as well as show respect to Eddie. Many wore Eddie's t-shirts to the ring and several wore black arm bands with EG on it. A couple almost broke down just walking to the ring. The best match, by far, though was Shawn Michaels against Rey Mysterio (Mysterio is a good personal friend of Eddie's and their families are close). It was a well wrestled match, and if you can give respect through your actions and performance, this one gave the most.

Smackdown, which will air on Friday and was recorded the same day as RAW (this is why I think Sunday night) is also going to be a Tribute Show and is likely just the second half of the Super Show which ended up being one great big Tribute to Eddie Guerrero

Monday, November 14, 2005

RIP: Eddie Guerrero

Monday, November 14, 2005 0
WWE wrestler Eddie Guerrero died Sunday morning in his hotel room in Minneapolis. He was in town to wrestle in WWE's Super Show. Guerrero was one of the best wrestlers on Smackdown and had overcome drug and alcohol issues in the past to reclaim his life and his career and at the time of his death he was near the top of his industry.

Personally, Eddie has been one of my favorite performers since he had come back from rehab four years ago. He consistently put on some of the most entertaining matches and his gimmick of "Lie, Cheat, and Steal" made for some comic moments as he always found a way to win. It appeared that he was primed to make another run as the Champion on Smackdown as there were hints of a feud with the champion Batista and Batista had just suffered an injury that might put him off the shelf for months, so Guerrero may have been the logical choice to take the belt. As I've never met the man (or any other wrestler), I can't comment on his personal life, but from all reports Eddie had put all of his demons behind him. On WCCO news his nephew and WWE wrestler, Chavo Guerrero said that Eddie told him on the flight that he had just celebrated four years of sobriety.

As a husband and a father to three daughters, Guerrero will be missed. As a wrestler, Eddie Guerrero was one of the best and will leave a hole in the hearts of fans everywhere.

mucho television

This weekend was a semi-busy weekend for me. I wasn't terribly productive, except for running a 5k race and putting 20 cds up on Ebay, but I did get a few things watched.

First is the documentary Gunner Palace. This movie follows a particular group of soldiers in Iraq and gives us a glimpse into their daily life. We follow them on patrols and get to hear what they have to say about being in Iraq, and their frustrations with the situation, lack of armor, and risking their lives when people at home will be forgetting all about what they are doing. Very interesting documentary, and the squad rapper/poet has some heartfelt verses about the situation. It's a little disjointed, though, because Gunner Palace really doesn't follow any sort of narrative structure. There's no point A to point B. But that's okay. The picture of the soldier's life is a very good one.

Second is a couple of episodes of Commander in Chief. This continues to be a quality show. I think we're at the point that Rod Lurie had left the show, so we'll see how things continue. Geena Davis makes a credible President, one who wants to do the right thing, is intelligent and strong yet compassionate.

Third is the first part of the History Channel documentary on the Crusades. It's called "The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross". It's fairly interesting and it seems fair to both sides, though it veers a little negative in the actions of the Christian Crusaders...but then I suspect it should be. It grants the genuine devotion to religion and spirituality and that many of the Crusaders went off with the best of intentions and the belief that they truly are doing the right thing, but also acknowledged that others may have went for profit and plunder and to be a warlord in the Middle East. Neither side really comes out smelling like roses in this documentary.

Fourth is the Ironman Triathlon World Championships at Kona. Inspiring. Truly inspiring. I don't care so much about the elite athlete stories, it is the common people who are interesting. If you can call them common. There is always a focus on those who have the best stories, like a guy named Blais. Blais is suffering from the early onset of Lou Gehrig's disease and has already lost the use of one of his hands, so he has an additional challenge. So, you know that if he can't finish this year he never will because he will likely be in worse shape next year. Then there is Sarah Reinertson. Sarah was profiled in 2004 as well. She is a single leg amputee (below the knee, I think) and last year she didn't make the cut-off time on the bike, so she didn't get to do the marathon. This year she clear the swim, makes the bike, and I felt a little choked up as she finished. More so than the guy with ALS. It is amazing what people can do when they are determined to work for it.

Fifth is the second part of Category 7: The End of the World. This is the crappy CBS mini-series/movie about a superstorm destroying the planet. Blah blah. Still crappy and now there is this kidnapping plot thrown into it, like giant hurricanes with 400 mph wind isn't nasty enough. Whatever. Honestly, it didn't get any better in the second part. Why do I watch this crap? Do you think there is any chance there is any scientific basis for the weather claims the movie makes? I doubt it, too. But, in case you are curious and didn't bother watching the claim is that something in the atmosphere is dropping (really cold stuff), which is causing these low pressure storms (is it low pressure, I don't know), but this is what is causing these extra powerful storms. Now, when they get over a city the city has these rising columns of heat. This part makes sense because a city should have a greater concentration of heat energy than any other area. When the heat mixes with the already powerful storm you get these super storms and when a couple of super storms combine over a city...you get a crappy movie. The solution, turn off all the power in the city which should lower the city's temperature quickly enough to lessen the storm...but then when they finally do this the storm isn't lessened...it flat out disappears and the the sun comes out. Oh. My. God. Who wrote this crap and what is Gina Gershon doing?

Sixth, because it just gets better, I tried to watch the Penn and Teller special while putting stuff up on ebay. They make a sub disappear and do random other tricks. The one cool thing is that the reveal how they did everything, but otherwise it was kind of lame. Sure the disappearing submarine was interesting (yes, a submarine, not a sub sandwich) in theory, but watching it happen wasn't. Blah blah, blah.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Boondocks

Thursday, November 10, 2005 0
The Cartoon Network is airing the first cartoon adaptation of Aaron McGruder's comic strip "The Boondocks". This is probably my favorite current strip, though I don't read the funny pages very often anymore. Now Huey is bringing his angry black viewpoint to television, along with his brother Riley and Grandpa. Jasmine didn't make an appearance in the first episode. Regina King does the voices for both Riley and Huey. It works. I don't know what voice I expected for the boys, but they are just kids so a manly James Earl Jones certainly wouldn't work.

Anyway, the first episode has Grandpa invited to a garden party held by the owner of the bank which has the mortgage on his house. Oh, keep in mind that Riley and Huey live with grandpa in an incredibly white neighborhood. The episode opens with Huey having a dream where he tells the truth to white people that Jesus was black, President Reagan was the devil, and the gov't is lying to us about 9/11. The white people riot. When he wakes up Grandpa tells Huey never to tell white people the truth and that he shouldn't even dream about making white people riot. Instead of telling white people the truth, Grandpa says, you should offer whites cheese. It calms them down.

I should be offended by this, but I'm strangely calmed by the thought of cheese.

The isn't consistently funny. The "N" word got thrown around a lot, but it was used casually like it would in real life. The show wasn't as topical or as politically current as the strip, but as McGruder said on Tavis Smiley this week, the show is written a year in advance so it is difficult to truly be topical with the political humor. Plus the shows have storylines rather than fitting ideas into four panels.

We'll see how the show progresses. I want to like this as much as anything else on tv.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Category 7: Part I

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 0
Apparently that CBS disaster movie Category 7: The End of the World is actually a two part mini-series and it is even a sequel to last year's crappy Category 6. The setting is a couple of weeks after that huge megastorm tornado which leveled Chicago and Gina Gershon has been promoted to be the head of FEMA. She is charged with not only been the first responder on the scene of disasters but to find a way to get there before the disasters hit. The movie opens with with scenes in Paris where a huge storm causes mass destruction and destroys the Eiffel Tower. Then there are news reports of storms which caused havoc from Nevada through the Midwest United States. The Mall of America was even destroyed (heartbreaking, I live only a few miles from it). Huge storms, tornadoes and hurricanes are taking place all over the globe and often over major cities. Why? What is causing this and how can that be stopped? Gina Gershon brings in a disgraced scientist who predicted the storms which hit these cities several years before they happened but was ignored. It just happens that they are former lovers and that this scientist also happens to be married to Gershon's former roommate. Oh! And Gershon's son is dating Science Guy's daughter!

Honestly, this is a pretty crappy movie. It's actually worse than Category 6, and Cat 6 starred Jo from The Facts of Life. Gina Gershon is a better actress than Nancy McKeon, or at least she should be. I'm not sure it is possible to be good in this movie. Strangely, I wish Jo was Cat 7. Gershon doesn't get to show much personality.

Somehow Randy Quaid is still alive even though his character was swept up in that Force 6 tornado that rocked Chicago. Mmm, hmm. He goes from a full body cast when he first shows up to tearing off his neck brace and walking around just fine only hours later. Right.

The special effects are about what you'd expect from a CBS movie. This movie rains destruction down on the globe. So many major American cities are destroyed, the MOA is gone, George Washington's head at Mt Rushmore has fallen, the Eiffel Tower is gone, some pyramids in Egypt have been wrecked the Sphinx also seems to be destroyed. And it is only fixing to get worse because near the end of the first part we saw the all these storms converging on each other which could make a mega storm.

*sigh* Why am I drawn to these crappy disaster movies? I'm not sure, but I just feel this need to see wanton destruction and bad acting. Then again, after watching The Core, I can make it through anything.

Stay tuned for Part II this coming Sunday night.

Monday, November 07, 2005

dvd cover art

Monday, November 07, 2005 2
Ooh!

Rize for Four Minutes

"Rize" is a documentary about Krump and Clown dancing. Before I saw the preview for this movie months ago, I had no idea. Dancing to me is the "white man's shuffle" which involves swaying and thumbs pointing straight up in the air, so krump dancing is well beyond my wildest imagination. So what is krump? Krump is a form of dancing that seems to have come from the streets of Los Angeles. The beginning of "Rize" ties the entire movie into the Watts riots from the 60's and the 1992 Rodney King riots, so we are to get the impression that this form of dance comes from the anger of those who have nothing else. In a way, that is exactly what the dancers tell us. The film introduces us to Tommy the Clown, a hip hop dancing clown who does neighborhood parties and is very popular. To him, this dancing and the "clowning" is a chance to do something positive, and the other clown dancers are also doing something positive. The dancing is wild and almost out of control, but it comes from the soul.

Krump comes from clowning, but krump seems to add this extra layer of aggression to the dance. It is hard to truly describe krump, or clowning, but the disclaimer at the beginning of the movie which says that nothing in the movie has been sped up should tell something of the intensity and speed of the dance. It really is amazing.

Rize continues to tie this dance into the community, African traditional dance, the church, and the opportunity to do something positive and be a positive influence rather than gang banging. Clocking in at under an hour and a half, "Rize" is well worth the time to watch. And for those who can only dance the white man's shuffle, it is an impressive look at dance.


"Four Minutes" is a movie which premiered on ESPN 2. Usually this would automatically lower expectations regarding quality but it was fairly well done. Since I enjoy running and enjoy watching the elite runners do their thing, seeing a movie made about Roger Bannister was a treat for me. Bannister was the first man to run faster than four minutes for the mile. As a character says in the movie, four minutes was as much a psychological barrier as it was a physical barrier.

Personally, I found this to be a fascinating movie. It is a fictionalized account and not a documentary, but the performances were good enough and I got to see some running. I have no idea how this movie would play for someone not interested in this story and what is going on. I imagine it would feel a little slow and maybe boring. It helps if you want to see a running movie and the enormity of what Bannister was doing in the running world is great drama even if you know that he is going to break it and open the floodgates to people running sub 4.

It's not a great movie, but I liked it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Days, Volcanoes, Naked Lunch, Earl

Friday, November 04, 2005 0
Big movie day so far. I managed to sit through Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. When The Thin Red Line was released in theatres in the late 90's he was acclaimed as this legendary director whom everyone wanted to work with. He was a recluse who hadn't made a movie since the 70's when he made two. This is one of them. Stars Richard Gere as a migrant worker with his woman and they end up working on this farm. The idea is to scam the farm owner who has fallen for his woman. Everyone believes Gere and the woman are siblings because this is the story they have told. There is very little dialogue, random shots of nature and scenery (though the underwater shot of the goblet was quite beautiful), and there is spare narration and the whole thing felt...incomplete. Like there was a story there but Malick didn't really get around to telling it. I was bored. Still, Malick did an excellent job with The Thin Red Line, I look forward to The New World and I'll get around to renting Badlands fairly soon. Then I can cross "Watch all Terrence Malick's movies" off of my list of things to do.

Watched the Imax documentary Volcanoes of the Deep Sea. Somehow this one managed to stir up a bit of controversy a few years back because it hinted at evolution and the creation of the world and some theatres in the south didn't show it. Oh. My. God. Honestly, this is an hour long documentary about creatures two miles underwater that we've never seen before and scientists didn't believe anything existed down there. So, for a visual treat this is worth watching and it is neat to see this unexplored world...and it is like a whole different world. On the other, the documentary isn't anything special and it doesn't really say anything or explain things very well and it was rather dry. I imagine the best experience would be to find an Imax theatre that was showing this and watch it as it was meant to be seen. It didn't play that well at home, but at only an hour in length it isn't bad. And forget about that evolution controversy. I was looking for it and it wasn't really there...unless you believe the Earth is only 4000 years old in which case you'll probably hate most science books and movies.

I tried to watch David Croenenberg's Naked Lunch. Key word: Tried. A co-worker lent me this movie when I said I've only seen eXistenZ and nothing else by the director. Love eXistenZ, by the way. Well, this movie is just flat out weird. Based on a novel written in an acid trip and considered unfilmable, I just didn't get it. There's this guy who is an exterminator and his wife is shooting up the "bug powder" and then some bugs are huge and they talk to him about this conspiracy and that his wife may be a bug and I just wanted Jerry O'Connell to come in with his roaches and have a great big bug paradise while Caspar Van Diem and Doogie Houser tell me the only good bug is a dead bug. It wouldn't have made sense, but then this movie doesn't either. I could only manage 40 minutes of it, so if you tell me that it gets better or that it makes more sense or that the last 27 minutes of the movie should have won a special Academy Award...I still don't want to finish it.

Ugh.

So, the three movies I've watched so far have all pretty well sucked. What didn't suck? My Name is Earl. This week's episode had Earl trying to make something up to his ex-wife Joy. He had smashed one of her figurines which apparently can only be won in this mother/daughter beauty pageant and he needs to get her a figurine. She wants a hot tub. And then there are this mother daughter pair who come from a long line of knife throwers but the daughter doesn't want to, she wants to become a doctor. The mother wants none of that and wants to go on the pageant circuit with her. This show just gets better and better. Love it. I also want more knife throwing children on television.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dirty Job, My Humps

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 2
My wife and I like to watch a show called Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. The host, Mike Rowe, goes around the country and shows us what some of the dirtiest jobs are that people do. And then he does them. So we've seen roofing, roadkill cleanup, something with a bat cave (nasty!), sewer inspector, horse inseminator, ostrich farmer and many others.

We really like the show, but sometimes the jobs aren't really nasty dirty, but just tough jobs when you might get a little dirty. Last night was about charcoal and Mike got as dirty as I've seen, and also a segment in a animal groomer's office which included having Mike express the anal glands of some dogs! We've seen that done on our dog, and it is nasty and smells awful. Good show, I just hope they can keep finding some dirty jobs for Mike to do. That guy is willing to try anything.


I've been thinking about this for some time and the song "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas has to be one of the worst songs I've ever heard. Really. That chorus about "my humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps" just kills me. I mean, who decided one day that they wanted to sit down and write these lyrics and thought they sounded good? Who? How was this a good idea? "Yeah, man, these are some kicking lyrics, let's put a beat to it!"

Ugh.
 
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