Friday, June 22, 2007

The Last King of Scotland...Oscar worthy

The Last King of Scotland - Kevin Macdonald - 2006 - 7/10

Summary:

Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a Scottish doctor looking for adventure and excitement and chooses Africa as the field of his dreams. He goes to help a clinic in Uganda where he quickly falls for the married Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson). He becomes fascinated by the passion of Uganda's new leader, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). After Garrigan sees Amin speak and Sarah forces him to leave, Garrigan is called to Amin's side to help him after he is in a car accident. Enamored by the fact that Garrigan is Scottish, Amin asks his name and shakes his hand and then begs for Garrigan's Scotland football t-shirt. The next day Garrigan is summoned to Amin's estate and after being wined and dined, agrees to accept Amin's offer to become his personal doctor. Garrigan quickly becomes much more than a doctor, becoming Amin's "friend" and advicser, helping to build a new, independent Uganda. But its not all roses forever as Amin's dark side and hard fisted politics begins to close in around Garrigan.

Critique:

First, I have to say that Whitaker is GREAT as amin. The clip they showed at the Oscars is AMAZING - "you did tell me, but you did not CONVINCE me." Very nice. McAvoy is great here too - a pleasant suprise considering I didn't know what to expect. Well, I did expect James Purefoy, but James McAvoy is quite different, and quite good. The story moves almost too fast - following the history with some scenes of action without really spinning much of a linear story. I want to see more of [MILD SPOILER...] of McAvoy's relationship with Kerry Washington's character. They clearly have some pretty good chemistry but there's just not enough of their relationship onscreen. Likewise of Gillian Anderson's character. As an aside, this is one of the few times I thought Anderson was attractive. Back on topic, Gillian Anderson's character seems to come and go in relation to the story with little explanation. In the end, Whitaker is AWESOME, McAvoy is solid, the movie is good, but the story is done a disservice.

Verdict:

If its good enough for Oscar, you should check it out.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Catch a Fire
...Blood Diamond
...The Constant Gardener

Too much roadkill


I've been doing a lot more driving lately and I have seen a lot of roadkill. Too much roadkill.

Honestly. Have animals gotten dummer? Has their intelligence regressed? Have their adaptations to life among humans been somehow weeded out? Are we driving faster so they can't get out of the way? What's the deal.

Frankly I don't care, I just do not want to have to steer my car around a dead animal everytime I get on the road.

Another thing that bothers me about the roadkill I have been seeing is that some of them are squashed birds. Seriously, come on. If you're a bird, and there's a car coming FLY AWAY. You have wings, use them. You should never be at a loss for getting out of the way. You should never have to WALK across a busy road. In fact, you should always be able to fly well above the road. Birds are actually the only animals I don't break for either. Because if they can't get out of my way, I'm only helping their species evolve.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Highlander...too high

Highlander - Russell Mulcahy - 1986 - 7/10

Summary:

Christopher Lambert is the Highlander, an immortal who has lived for more than four centuries. The Highlander, who now calls himself Nash is in for a rough ride as The Gathering, the time when there remains only a few immortals, draws near. At the time of The Gathering, all of the immortals will feel the pressence of their kinsmen and gather to fight to the death for the fabled "Prize." Lambert has a hard time though as he is wanted for the murder of an immortal who tried to kill him. Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) is close on his trail, trying to unravel the mystery of this weird longswordsman. Spliced throughout are flashbacks to Lambert's training, in the mid 1500's when he first became aware of his immortality, by Juan Ramirez (Sean Connery, playing an Egyptian Spaniard next to Lambert's Scotsman). Frothing over The Gathering is the evil Kurgan (Clancy Brown), Lambert's nemesis through the ages. There can be only one.

Critique:

I first wanted to see Highlander after I saw the Bunny Video that hammered home the line "there can be only one." The movie is pretty good, mostly because I think the entire idea of the Highlander, of the immortals is so great. Just the idea of living forever - all that you see, all that you lose, all that you can't have despite having eternal life, is all so intriguing to me. It also helps that half the movie is flashbacks to the fifteen hundreds which helps you see past the cheesy eightiness of the movie. The beginning of the movie was almost hysterical as two men in suits pull long swords out of their suits and begin dueling. The duel was expected, but the swords seemed to come out of nowhere. After that though, its very easy to get caught up in the movie, because, as I said before, the story is so compelling. Lambert is good and bad. Good in the sense that his attitude and look fits very well, especially in the ancient scenes. He is bad in the sense that he seems to be overracting. Sure, that might be his lines or the story, but its too much some times. Clancy Brown on the other hand is able to walk the fine line between great villain and overacting joke, and does so quite well. Connery, as usual, is great here, despite playing a character you could never actually picture him as. An Egyptian Spaniard? Ha! What suprises me so much though is that Connery and Lambert came back for a pathetic sequel that has to do with the ozone! How does that make any sense (the plot)? What is even more embarassing is that Lambert lets himself get roped into two more movies, playing the Highlander for four movies.

Verdict:

It's worth it.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Judge Dredd
...Demolition Man
...Time Bandits

Constant Gardener...very green

The Constant Gardener - Fernando Meirelles - 2005 - 7/10

Summary:

The movie picks up when Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) learns that his wife (Rachel Weisz) has been murdered, and the early suspect is her "lover" Arnold (Hubert Kounde). Crushed by her death and the information that she had been cheating on him, Justin begins to investigate the matters of her death. His wife had been investigating a pharmaceutical company she suspected of falsifying drug tests. As Justin begins to uncover more and more, he learns that he has no one to trust, and that this scandal runs all the way to the top. But the question that keeps running through Justin's head, is whether his wife loved him. Uncovering who murdered her is important to him, but he longs to know, if their life together had been a sham.


Critique:

I'd heard mixed reviews of this movie from my friends and I was pleasantly suprised with this movie. Fiennes was great here, and I wish he'd make more movies - it seems like he's been AWOL since Harry Potter. Weisz is great too, and I can understand all the Oscar consideration. Her character is played perfectly, reminding me of Catherine McCormack's character from Spy Game, except much much hotter. The movie has a good pace, one that reminds me a of Syrianna a little bit. But this movie is much better because it is simpler - it is one story, or two rather (there are flashbacks of Fiennes and Weisz falling in love). And it works much better because you don't have to wait until the end to get the big picture, what is the message - instead you can see the themes throughout. I don't have much more to say beside the fact the Darren Aronofsky is one luck man.

Verdict:

Definitely worth a Blockbuster run.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Syrianna
...Blood Diamond
...Traffic

Goonies...anticlimatic

The Goonies - Richard Donner - 1985 - 3/10



Summary:

A bunch of kids led by Sean Astin's Mikey discover an old treasure map in their father's museum things kept hidden away in the attic. After tieing up Astin's older brother who attempts to dissuade the kids from going searching for burried treasure, the kids embark on a bike ride to the coastline where they hope to pick up the trail of the treasure map. Along the way they pick up two of their brother's friends, one who wants to be more than friends with him....To make things a little more interesting, the kids run into a recently escaped convict and his family, intent on carrying out more criminal acts. Will they find the lost treasure of One Eyed Willy?

Critique:

This movie was an extreme let down. With the direction of Mr. Lethal Weapon, Richard Donner, the story from Indiana Jones' Steven Spielberg, and the screenplay from Chris Columbus, the director of Home Alone, I expected a hell of a lot more. Instead the movie surrenders itself early to an overruse of childish distractions like gadgets and cheap Rube-Goldberg antics. Sean Astin delivers a strong performance that can't quite pull the movie out of the quagmire it sank itself into. As a short side note, the fat kid was annoying as hell and way way way too stupid, even for a kid. The villains seem to be overracting and way too ridiculous. The one brother the family shuns is an unbelieavable characiture, even for a kids movie. While the mother is a mildly amusing, frightening villain, the main villain overdoes the Italian bit and the brother is too stupid and underdeveloped to have much of an impact. Besides that, the movie follows an overly predictable course, with most of the jokes' punchlines being evident the second they were uttered.

Verdict:

If like me you didnt see this movie when you were a little kid, DON'T see it now.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Adventures in Babysitting
...Willow
...Shipwrecked

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slammin Sammy

Sammy Sosa was always my favorite Cub when I was a kid, mostly because he was the only good player. Sure there was Mark Grace, but he was pretty flat. Sammy had some flair - he had some personality (a personality that rubbed a lot of Cubs the wrong way). When he was young, he was pretty fast, one of the few young Cubs back then, and he hussled on defense. Sure, everyone made fun of the fact that he always sprinted to the outfield from the dugout, but that showed heart and energy.

But Sammy was run out of town after he seemed to be abandoning his teamwork and hardwork principles for selfishness and loud boomboxes. He was shipped to Baltimore for little more than prospects - players who never really payed off for the Cubs. In Baltimore Sammy quickly lost the fans there too, looking sluggish and hitting poorly. He was kind of run out of Baltimore too.

When Sammy said he wanted to come back and play in the majors, I was a little dubious. The Cubs DID offer Sosa an unguaranteed minor league contract. Sosa turned it down and went to camp with the Rangers, the team he started with in the majors. Back then, the team was owned by GW. Now, Sammy has had a resurgence with the Rangers, proving to be just what they needed (after they lost all of their outfielders), playing with another former Cub, Kenny Lofton.

Now, Sammy is swinging for 600 home runs. With the whole Giambi business and a lot that other crap, I'm suprised there aren't more people whinning about if Sammy deserves it, deserves to be in that elite group because they assume Sammy used steroids. Sure, he had a year when he bulked up, but he was pretty consistent - lots of strike outs, lots of home runs. He IS the only player to ever hit over sixty home runs three seasons in a row. And now, he belongs in the 600 club.

Bond goes Stranger Than Fiction

A story today provides conclusive report that Marc Forster who directed a diversity of movies like Monster's Ball, Stay, Stranger Than Fiction, and The Kite Runner. I'm not sure which way I want to go with this one. I think its definitely a risk, considering the guy hasn't directed a solid action movie, and he definitely hasn't done a Bond before like Cambell has. Also, even the movies he has done (I know nothing about Stay) do not seem to be close to the type of movies that are "Bond-like." At the same time, this could also be a really inspired choice - a risk that could pay off with a new touch on a franchise that is looking to keep growing past Casino Royale. Hopefully Forster will look to keep doing something new, like he has in his other movies. To me Forster seems to be an interesting choice because most of his movies have characters that are deeply introspective. While Bond was certainly introspective in Royale, it would seem that the Bond in the next movie should be cold and bitter. In this sense, Forster's introspective speciality would seem to translate little more than brooding sadness - not exactly exciting action fare.

Defending the Silver Surfer

Which was worse, Silver Surfer or World’s End? What a terrible way to look at a movie. It’s like not even giving a movie a chance to be good. Where Pirates lacked depth and piggy-backed off of a three hour second installment, Surfer went places and developed superheroes that honestly, are pretty unswashbuckling-ly lame. I should clarify before I continue. What I mean is that the Fantastic Four are unfortunately weak source material that is not quite as glamorous as sexy pirates played by Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

One of THOSE previews

I had the sudden realization that previews ruin good movies. Instead of ranting about how the amazing Spiderman 3 trailer hurt what could have been a great movie, I want to talk about previews for movies that haven’t come out yet, for movies that were ruined for me recently when I went to see Knocked Up. That way, I can potentially finish ruining the movie in case the preview didn’t do the job...

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Diablo on the big screen?

A story today on Joblo mentioned that a Diablo movie is in the works. That sounds pretty cool to me. Diablo II was the only RPG I could ever really play because it was pretty easy and fun to play. As a movie, it could be really cool. What immediately comes to mind are movies like BloodRayne and Resident Evil, video-game to movie stories that feature groups of characters who battle evil. Those movies go from awful to decent and I hope Diablo is pretty good. With some inspired casting (as in not The Rock as the warrior) the movie could be pretty solid. Think Val Kilmer's Willow but with better special effects and a little darker. If the movie shot for a PG13 rating - a hard PG13 with some action and some blood, it could be good AND capture some of its younger fans. The real question is, is Uwe Bol going to direct?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Music and Lyrics...and more

Music and Lyrics - Marc Lawrence - 2007 - 6/10

Summary:

Hugh Grant is Alex Fletcher, an 80's has been from the pop group Pop! who's career went nowhere when the lead singer dumped him and the rest of the band, taking Alex's three singles. Mired in the past and living on cheesy gigs at reunions, hotels, fairs and anything Fletcher's fanatic female followers will follow. Finally, Fletcher gets a lifeline when his manager (Brad Garrett) stumbles onto Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), the new pop sensation who wants Fletcher to write the last song for her album, but she needs it in mere days. Unfortunately, Fletcher's strong belief in melody and his diminished confidence after his miserable solo album has given him lyrics writing block. Coincidentally, one of those Fletcher fanatics is Rhonda Fisher (Kristen Johnson) who's sister Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) has begun to water Fletcher's plants in his Manhattan apartment. On one of her days when she goes in to work, when Fletcher is working, Sophie displays some suprisingly good talent as a lyricist. Fletcher becomes obsessed with having her write his lyrics and does whatever it takes to build up her confidence and keep her in her genius mood. When Fletcher and Sophie begin to start sharing the feelings they're writing about, their complicated personalities begin to clash and suprise, you have a romantic comedy.

Critique:

I actually thought this was a pretty original movie that used a lot of devices that haven't been used before. You have a song writer, and a tortured novelist, and you have some other good things going on. The movie is pretty funny, especially Hugh Grant who plays a great Fletcher. What immediately comes to mind is to contrast Bill Nighy's eighties has been from Love Actually to Fletcher here. They are very similar, but Fletcher has significantly more screen time, and Grant uses that to deliver some pretty good lines. The movie also does a hell of a lot in a short amount of time - cramming a lot of backstory and development into fifty minutes before the romantic comedy part of the movie begins to come into play. This kind of lets the movie be funny - with quality jokes you don't usually get to see in romantic comedies. Barrymore isnt too bad here either, actually showing that she can look pretty attractive AND be funny. Her quirky personality and weird mannerisms are hysterical and finally prove to me that Barrymore can act.

Verdict:

All in all, a pretty solid romantic comedy.

If you liked this movie, see...
...About a Boy
...You've Got Mail
...Love Actually

Monday, June 18, 2007

Arrington crashes

A story today details how "former" star LaVar Arrington was in a serious motorcycle crash. This starts so many different questions running through my mind.

Such as, why was he on a motorcycle? At 29 was he honestly going to retire? Is the guy an injury magnet? Is he just the unluckiest guy in the world?

Seriously though, after the amount of high profile athletes from Jay Williams (anyone remember him?) and Ben Roethlisburger most recently. Most players have contracts now that prevent motorcycle use because they are so dangerous and the injuries can be so terrible. Had he just decided he didn't want to sign with another team after the Giants let him go?

And at 29, he is still pretty young, and he was supposed to be great. And he plays a position that many teams are looking for skill at - outside linebacker.

But the guy is an injury magnet. He comes back from injury, only to get injured again.

Basically, I don't know where else to go with this, except to say that this guy somehow wasted his talent. But at the same time, he's not wasting his talent like Pacman Jones or all those Bengals that had jail ruin their careers.

Why Did Nancy Drew Flop?

A new movie opened this last weekend, that not a lot of people knew about - Nancy Drew. To me, the movie seemed like the perfect Disney audience movie. Finally, here comes a girl that espouses all the chiched girl-isms of the Disney characters. She has the perfection, the looks, the attitude, the new girl feel. The only difference is her story doesn't revolve around her makeover, or winning the boy of her dreams, or coping with her parents' divorce or matchmaking her parents, or any of that old jazz. Instead, the movie is a mystery - with an intelligent female protagonist who has to solve a crime. And it isnt one of the lame Mary-Kate and Ashley crimes (at least I don't think so).

Why did the movie flop? The little kids didn't go to see the animated film (that one flopped too), and I guess they could have gone to see the Silver Surfer, but come on, why didn't the Disney kids flock to this one? It's even got Julia Roberts' niece in there to rubber-stamp the movie for the kids parents' who should have no qualms to fork over the money.

Is Arnold Right?

I read a story today that bashed Arnold for saying something along the lines of, "immigrants should stop watching Hispanic television and watch English-Language television, because that's how he learned English when he came from Germany." To provide some further context Arnold preempts his statement by saying, approximately "I know some might think this isn't politically correct, but I'm trying to help."

What have things come to that people can't even speak from their own experience AND say things they know could get them into trouble, but say them because they think it could be beneficial. Arnold KNOWS some might be offended and essentially says, I don't mean to be offensive, but this is what helped me.

For instance, at the second Democratic Debate they asked all the presidential hopefuls which one of them would make English the National Language. One guy was brave enough to say he'd do it. Before people jumped all over him he said that he would do it, because in America, people speak English. Whether or not you speak it at home, you're going to speak it most of the time in school, work, everywhere else. Sure, that might not be politically correct, but its TRUE.

Besides, I'm tired of political correctness.

Kobe Kobe Kobe


A story today points out how Kobe has been blogging that he wants to be traded. What's with this constant back and forth? I've already talked about how I think this could ruin his legacy, so instead I'm going to talk about my dream trade. Yes, Kobe to the Bulls. In my defense, this was mentioned as a moderately high possibility in a few previous articles.

So. Kobe goes to the Bulls and the Bulls send the Lakers Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, Victor Khryapa, and their first round pick. Lets talk about the plausibility first. Frankly, it doesn't seem like the Lakers have a lot of options. Kobe can opt out after this year, so at most they get one year of unhappy Kobe and media debacle. When they dished Shaq they dished him because he was aging and they wanted value before he completely deteriorated. Kobe is similar in that the Lakers need to grab value where they can here. Getting a potential mega star like Ben Gordon and they also get two pretty complete guards as well as some potential in Victor and a decent seventh overall pick in a pretty good draft. That would let the lakers continue to reload and they could pair Gordon and Duhon who already know each other, and then they put the guards with a pretty strong big (literally) three of Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Luke Walton that can continue to grow together. The Bulls on the other hand get an allstar, a scorer in the vein of Jordan to take their franchise to the next level in the anything goes, star driven east. They would be able to keep two of their big three - Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich and get value out of the other one of the three. They keep the budding star in Deng and keep the stronger defender of their guards and they still keep their sixth and seventh men in Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefelosha and keep a starting lineup of Ben Wallace, Andres Noicioni, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, and Kobe Bryant. Seems like it could be good for both of them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Painted Veil...painted well


The Painted Veil - John Curran - 2006 - 7/10

Summary:

Edward Norton is Dr. Walter Fane, a microbiologist specializing in infectious diseases. While home in England he immediately falls in love with the spoiled socialite Kitty (Naomi Watts) and he asks her to marry him. Anxious to escape the tyranny of her mother, Kitty seizes onto the proposal despite clealry not loving Walter. Walter must return to Shangai where he runs a laboratory and Kitty joins him, quickly falling for the smooth talking Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber). The two begin a heated affair and Kitty begins to think she loves Charlie - and then Walter discovers the affair. He threatens Kitty that he will have a very embarassing divorce if she does not accompany him central China where a vicious Cholera epidemic rages. The self centered Kitty is in for a wakeup call as she sees suffering unlike that she has seen before and begins to respect and admire the man the town calls, their vallant doctor. Both Walter and Kitty battle the hurt each of them has inflicted on the other as they try to love each other again as outside their home, Cholera draws closer and closer as do the aggressivly Nationalist forces of a China on the brink of rebellion.

Critique:

This is a really solid period piece and love story. It's pretty simple, for the most part, contrasting physical love and spiritual love, love at first sight and love over time. Norton and Watts are excellent together, especially Watts who shows something different here that I didn't see in King Kong or The Ring - a touch of personality. While her characters in those movies are flat at best, Kitty is multi layered, both a selfish socialite and a wounded optimist yearning for love. The story that swirls around Walter and Kitty is intriguing too, as they have to be on the watch for both Cholera and the Nationalists (as an aside, the movie seems very historically accurate). There is little more to say without giving the plot away, although the scenes with Watt and the mother superior (Diana Rigg) and Wadington (Toby Jones) are very good and very well written. Both Norton and Watts do an exceptional job at making you care for both of their characters, even as they cruelly torture each other.

Verdict:

Netflix it!

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Pride and Prejudice
...Indochine
...The Quiet American

Bonds - closing in

Barry Bonds is closing in on Hank Aaron's alltime home run record. It kind of bothers me because Aaron was always one of my favorite players growing up. First off I liked his name, and second off, my parents used to see him play at Brewer Stadium when they were the Milwaukee Braves. Aaron's record stood as a milestone not just for his accomplishment alone, or the consistency, but also as a racial mark - where an African American took ahold of the record.

Now the debate over whether or not Bonds deserves the record or if he used steroids or all that jazz has been debated and debated. But its going to be debated again here. First and foremost I am completely annoyed that he thinks this is about race. The comissioner and the Babe's widow didn't go to Maris' games, why is it so suprising that Aaron won't be waiting for Bonds to hit one out that shaters Aaron's milestone? And it isn't about race because Bonds is the same race as the guy who holds the record. The issue is about steroids. You used them Barry. How you have managed to stay ahead of the checks and balances so long is beyond me - whether its a restatement of an earlier admission or the timely termination of a trainer linked to steroids distribution. Hell, just look at the guy from his days in Pittsburg when he was lean and fast. Now he's huge and slow. Aaron was a man who stuck it out, played hard, played everyday for a long time, and consistently piled up the home runs. Bonds just doesn't seem like he's put in the time or effort to earn one of baseball's most fabled records. He plays a few games a week at most and seems to think he doesn't really have to field. If Bonds didnt have a looming record, he would probably be benched by any other team, because his fielding is that terrible.

In the end, everything has already been said on this issue, but I wanted to touch on it as the day creeps closer and closer when Bonds name has to go down above Aaron's. What do you think about it?

Bad Girls...extremely bad

Bad Girls - Jonathan Kaplan - 1994 - 4/10



Summary:

Anita Crown (Mary Stuart Masterson) works as a whore in the west and when one customer tries too hard to kiss her, Anita cries for help and as the customer begins to beat her, Cody Zamora (Madeline Stowe) shoots him dead. This shocks Cody and Anita's friends Eileen Spenser (Andy Macdowell) and Lilly Laronette (Drew Barrymore) who have to save Cody from the noose. As the four girls flee, they hatch a plan that with Anita's deed to land in Oregon and Cody's savings in the bank, the four of them can make it happen in Oregon. But there's some serious hitches. The man Cody shot has hired Pinkerton Detectives to track her down and when Cody goes to retrieve her funds from the bank, the bank is robbed by an ex-lover, Kid Jarrett (James Russo). Now, the girls need to hatch some sort of plan to rest their money back from Kid's gang before the Pinkerton's catch up to them and drag them back to the noose.

Critique:

I know all of you are reading this saying, WHY DID AARON WATCH THIS MOVIE, and trust me, those words kept ringing through my head too. But there was another question that rang through as well, WHY DID THESE ACTRESSES MAKE THIS MOVIE? Sure Barrymore was trying to escape her Poison Ivy phase and MacDowell probably didn't have much to do, likewise for Masterson and Stowe. But despite their meager resumes, they're pretty good in the movies they do make. It's hard to say however, if they're good here. This movie is terrible in so many ways. The movie, which should have it easy just by slipping into the cliche of the tomboy, the dark past, the flirt, and the shy one can't even keep it together to do that. The four women are clearly those categories, but its only by doing a lot of work for the story that you can begin to see that. Madeline Stowe's Cody is the one that has the dark past, and is arguably the lead here, but the movie engages in poor half steps to explain her past. Her relationship with Kid and Kid's father is never really clarified. There are hints throughout the movie, such as the split second scene of her back with whip-scars and the scene where Kid has a whip, but you can't piece everything together for them. While her relaitonship with Josh (Dermot Mulroney) makes sense, it has lots of holes in it as well, as does Josh's backstory. Anita who should be the shy one has a fairly lame excuse for her shyness, and one that isn't fleshed out because, despite being the "cause" for the turn of events in the movie, is largely ignored. Barrymore is an easy choice for the tomboy but her tomboyishness is never explained, nor is her seemingly un-tomboyishness before having to leave the whorehouse. Finally, MacDowell's seductive flirt gets a half explanation but little more is done for her, and her possible relationship with Tucker (James LeGros) gets little if any real screen time because the movie reaches a point where Tucker is just off camera for awhile. I don't think there is much good about this movie, and it seems like a poor feminist knock off of A Fistful of Dollars.

Verdict:

If this is on TV, turn the TV off.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...A Fistful of Dollars
...The Quick and the Dead
...Unforgiven

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer...rising to the top

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - Tim Story - 2007 - 7/10

Summary:

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is about to marry Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) amid the incessant gossip and paparazzi invasion of the private lives of the Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) is in a good place right now with his girlfriend Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington) but Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) is not in a good place. While Johnny tries to convince the Four to give way to marketing schemes he's hatched, and surrounding himself with the best eye candy, he fights to hide the simple fact from himself and everyone else, that he desperately needs someone - desperately needs a real relationship. Meanwhile, a strange "comet" has appeared, a fast moving force emitting its own energy that creates strange weather conditions. After this "comet" has a literal run in with Johnny, the name him "the Silver Surfer." Reed looks into the other places the Surfer has visited and finds that within eight days, those worlds have been swallowed up. It becomes crystal clear that the clock is ticking down until an all powerful force destroys Earth and the Four have to battle both the Surfer, and Doom (Julian McMahon), who has reemerged with a new plan. Their attempts to finally finish off Doom are thwarted when General Hager (Andre Braugher) forces them to work with Doom. While the Four are professionally forced into relationships they don't want, Reed tries hard to maintain the relationship he wants as does Johnny who pursues a relationship with the one woman in Manhattan who seems to want nothing to do with him. With the clock counting down, the Four have no choice, but to accept the help of one of their two enemies, the Surfer, or Dr. Doom.

Critique:


Quite simply, this movie FAR AND AWAY exceeded my expectations. My expectations were pretty simple though, I just wanted this movie to be better than the first movie. While the first movie was a very solid origin story, it was little more than that. In that first installment Story showed some promise but couldn't quite finish his vision, perhaps because actors like Gruffudd and Alba couldn't act and their chemistry seemed forced at best. In those movies, all of those things change as Story keeps his movie running fast and sure - charting a plot that is pretty good, pretty airtight, and pretty simple. Additionally, Gruffudd and Alba have learned to act in the last year, making their relationship light years ahead of other atrocious fanboy movie romances like Hayden and Natalie. Instead, their relationship is beleivable, and so are they. Plus they get to execute a tight script with plenty of humor and plenty of clever lines. Story also tries pretty hard to give Johnny more depth and push his character to grow. Honestly, I'm not sure I would consider it a complete success, but Evans and Story are trying really hard. Frankly, the only reason this movie isn't better is because the Fantastic Four suck. I just don't think its good source material for a sustainable franchise. It seems to me that both their powers and their personalities have already been greatly expanded upon in just two movies. Even looking to wikipedia for some help, I can't really think of another villain for the Four for a possible third movie. But, these macro-issues aside, I really liked this movie. It was fast paced, lots of development, simple "believable" story (in the superhero sense), and a very good ensemble comic book movie.

Verdict:

It's worth $9

If you liked this movie, see...
...The Fantastic Four
...X2: X-Men United
...X-Men

Knocked Up...a real knock out

Knocked Up - Judd Apatow - 2006 - 10/10

Summary:

Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), a producer/director for E! gets a big promotion when her reluctant superiors decide to put her in front of the camera. To celebrate, she and her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) go out clubbing and after a lot of liquor, she meets Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and they both have a pretty good time together. Too good of a time as in their drunken rush to consummate their new friendship, Ben doesn't put on a condom. The movie then takes some time to show the mildly tragically funny marriage of Debbie and Pete (Paul Rudd) and also Ben and his lazy friends who are "working" to create a website that tells you how far into a movie you see nudity, and which of the various kinds, it is. Alison later realizes she is pregnant, and the only possible father is Ben. Honestly, it's pretty hard to explain more of the movie without ruining a bunch of jokes. You know Rogen knocks up Heigl because of the title, but he movie does do a pretty good job of also showing Debbie and Pete's relationship.


Critique:

This movie is really really good. One of the best comedies I have seen in awhile. The movie definitely goes to another level, moving beyond the traditional frat pack comedies we have seen from the likes of Ferrell and Wilson and gives way to something new. Beyond being a hysterical comedy, the movie also tackles real emotions everyone can relate to and its not just a good comedy, but a good movie. There is drama and laughter, well developed characters and funny characters...All in all, very good. Apatow keeps taking his game up another level, doing DIFFERENT things instead of just new twists. Instead of falling into the romantic-comedy genre, Apatow conquers it. The result is a movie that couldn't really be described as a chic-flick, but it has more than just guy humor - a movie both boys and girls can enjoy.


Verdict:

Buy your ticket now!

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The 40 Year Old Virgin
...Wedding Crashers
...The Break Up

Continue reading more like this at SaltyStix.

Paging Jimmy Fallon


My question is, where in the world is Jimmy Fallon? I thought he was going to start to dominate the romatic comedy market because he's a good guy, nice, not terrible looking, and he's pretty funny. The guy has the added bonus of capturing some cross-over viewers who liked his stuff on SNL. Furthermore, I thought Fever Pitch was pretty good - an original story that had its fair share of old cliches with also some pretty good new ones. And I thought that Fallon would start to cash in on the fact that Adam Sandler was aging, and moving toward more serious fare.

But what did Fallon follow Fever Pitch up with? I wouldn't know. He has two movies that are supposed to come out pretty soon, but they haven't yet and seems like forever since I've laughed at a Jimmy Fallon joke. Instead I've had to weather the likes of Shia LeBeuf and Justin Long, hapless pretenders trying to be more than they are - two-bit supporting actors good for a laugh or two. So, will the real Jimmy Fallon please stand up?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Are the Spurs a Dynasty?

Since the Spurs victory has seemed inevitable for a long time, and LeBron hasn't given the sportscasters much to talk about, the only real debate about this year's championship was whether or not the Spurs are a dynasty. Here are some compelling reasons for both sides.

~ Three reasons why the Spurs ARE a dynasty ~

1) The Spurs have won four championships in nine years, more than the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, and any team since the Bulls and before the Bulls, passing the Bad Boy Pistons and the Larry Bird Celtics. And the team that is usually considered an unquestionable dynasty, the Bulls, won six championships in eight years, dominating the eighties. The Spurs have won four in nine years, being a consistant force since 99', through the two thousand's.

2) The Spurs have been able to win while still passing the torch - David Robinson handed his team over to Tim Duncan and the transition hasnt sparked a massive rebuilding effort or the premature, management-enduced exodus some championship teams have had to deal with (like the Bulls). Additionally, Michael Jordan helped thirty people, over six championships get rings, while Duncan has already helped thirty-five people, over four championships get rings.

3) The Spurs have been able to get to the finals and win despite a tough, difficult level of competition in the vicious western conference. They have had to defeat championship caliber teams like the Suns and Mavericks year in and year out before even playing for a ring.


~ Three reasons why the Spurs ARE NOT a dynasty ~

1) The Spurs have not been able to win consecutive championships, and certainly not three in a row like their immediate dynasty predecessors the Chicago Bulls. This inability to put back-to-back wins together has undercut the argument that the Spurs are a consistent contender as the front runners year in and year out are the Suns and the Mavericks, not the Spurs.

2) The Spurs have not had star-laden teams that usually put the finishing touches on a "dynasty" label. While this is not really a criteria for being a dynasty, it helps explain why people have not labeled them a dynasty - because they don't have that flair. Sure, Duncan is a great 20/10 guy but he's not Kobe, and he's certainly no MJ.

3) The Spurs have not been dominant in their conference. The mold for a dynasty was carefully built by the Chicago Bulls, a team that rose from the east amidst competitive Cleveland and Detroit teams that were in their division, as well as strong Knicks teams, Heat teams and a few others that made the east the cream of the crop. The Bulls were still dominant in the more difficult conference - winning 72 games one year, the most ever. The Spurs on the other hand had only the third best reccord in the east, once again behind the Suns and the Mavericks.


You decide...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Captain America leads war on terror?

A story today confirms Marvel is going to go ahead with a Captain America movie. The article discussed the posibility that Captain America, a storyline that almost exclusively took place in the WWII era might get a facelift and be updated for modern times.

I think it would be nice if the franchise sacked up, and decided to set themselves apart from other comic-book storylines and keep their hero in the past. It would be refreshing to me to see a hero fighting back then. Hey, The Phantom producers rightfully chose to keep the man in purple in the past and the finished product was one of my favorite comic flicks. Think about how good King Kong looked in the first fifteen minutes - yeah, that would have been a pretty solid movie if Peter Jackson could edit movies.

When it comes down to it, I think the Super-Soldier-Serum belongs in the WWII era when scientists were trying to create super soldiers and harness unnatural weapons, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, when I think about the SS Serum I think more of Black Cat, the Spiderman character who took the animated show to the next level.

And again, my knowledge of Captain America is limited at best, but I do know that he is a complete badass in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, so it seems only logical that if he's hella cool in the videogame, he'll be even more awesome on the big screen.

Who should play Captain America? Some names to throw out there: Jason Lewis; Mathew McConaughey - I thought he was solid in the underrated Sahara, and he could be a pretty solid action guy who isn't attached to any other comic franchise; Paul Walker - showed some acting chops and the endurance for a fast paced movie in Running Scared, which was another great underrated movie; and Josh Lucas - who showed me just enough in Poseidon for me to want more.

Jessica Alba on Sportscenter?

I got a nice suprise this morning when I turned on Sportscenter while I got my bearings and woke up. There on the running Sportscenter headlines was Jessica Alba! Instead of rushing to get up and get to work, I lazily waited for Alba's turn to come on the moving headlines. They even managed to advertise Alba's upcoming turn on the Hot Seat a few times before add breaks.

Finally she was on and they asked her some pretty powerful, journalism type questions. Like, who is the bigger basketball fan, you or Eva Longoria? Alba thought about it for awhile and said Eva was just marrying into it, while Alba was really diehard. Then again, Eva does more for her team - her Spurs are on the brink of their fourth title while Alba's Warriors watch at home. The other question was about Nascar *yawns* and it was kind of lame.

Honestly though, besides the fact that Alba is extremely hot and that her name on the headlines list was able to keep me watching the show, sitting through ESPN's ads, why was she on the show? Does ABC (ESPN's parent company) own Marvel or the studio that is releasing Fantastic 4 Rise of the Silver Surfer? It seemed like if they were going to have a hot woman on the hot seat they could have at least gotten Michelle Wie to answer some tough questions for them. Especially after PTI called Wie a bigger baby than Paris Hilton. At least give her the chance to hit back!

Casino Royale v Batman Begins

Two great movies came out recently that reinvigorated two of my favorite franchises - Casino Royale for James Bond and Batman Begins for Batman. Aided by creative directors and brilliant young actors with new attitudes and ideas, both movies were a financial and popular success.

Those movies were so good they got me thinking which one is the better franchise reinvention? Which franchise needed their respective “restart” the most? Some background on each franchise helps contextualize this question....

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix under "Fanboys #1"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Happy Anniversary Jerry Krause

Today, or yesterday rather, was the anniversary of the Bulls's 1991 NBA championship, a championship largely due to Jerry Krause's ability to gamble on an unaccomplished coach, Phil Jackson, and his eye for talent that helped Krause assemble a team behind Michael Jordan.

Krause joined the Bulls in 1985 shortly after the Bulls settled for drafting Michael Jordan. Krause's best move came early when in the 1987 draft he selected Central Arkansas' Scottie Pippen and Clemson's Horace Grant, two fowards who would win three championships for the Bulls. I like this in particular because Pippen and Grant could perhaps be two of the most underrated players ever as Pippen, a truly great foward, was constantly overshadowed by Jordan. Grant on the other hand is barily remembered despite his hard play in three championships. In 1988 Krause took a risk by trading Charles Oakley, Jordan's best friend on the team, for Bill Cartwright, a slightly older, less defensively skilled center. The move panned out and Cartright shut down Patrick Ewing to help the Bulls win three championships.

In 1993 the first post Jordanera began and Krause continued to find good talent, acquiring Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper. Kukoc was great a fan favorite that is possibly the best six man ever, and he won that award many times. Kukoc was so important because he forced GM's from all the teams to look at European talent, paving the way for the likes of Dirk Nowitzki. While Harper could not replace Jordan as a prolific scoring shooting guard, he did win three championships for the Bulls as a point guard. Those championships happened in 1995 when Jordan returned. Krause helped put together what some called the best team ever when he acquired Dennis Rodman. After the team won 72 games, Krause won his second Executive of the Year award, and rightfully so as Rodman was a hardnosed defensive player who's ridiculous rebounding skills made the Bulls a dominant force for three years. Rodman's hairstyles and public life also proved interesting (although not the kind you see now with jail and all, just Carmen Electra type stuff).

In 1998 Jordan and Phil were essentially forced out as Krause's ego proved too much and Krause dumped the championship veterans to draft Elton Brand, Ron Artest, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford, Jay Williams. Krause follows this up with a huge gamble in the 2001 draft, trading Brand for high schoolers Tyson Chandler ("the next Garnett") and Eddie Curry ("the new Shaq"). Frankly, especially the first five, were really solid. Elton Brand is extremely good and so is Ron Artest (minus his mental problems). Eddie Curry has turned into a scoring machine that is unfortunately too similar to Shaq (cant make free throws, is too slow, and plays little defense) while Tyson Chandler had a break out year (after the Bulls finally gave up on him. The only thing I really don't like that Krause did was trade Brand who is one of the great fowards and thinking about how good the Bulls would be now, with Brand, sends shivers down my spine.

In 2003 Krause retired and would eventually be replaced by former player John Paxson. All in all, he should get some credit where credit is due - he was a big part of why the Bulls were really good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Love Actually...actually pretty good

Love Actually - Richard Curtis - 2003 - 10/10

Summary:



The movie begins with Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), an old British rock star trying to get back into the game after battling addiction, recording a Christmas song bastardizing one of his earlier hits who's premise was once, "love is all around us" and is now, "Christmas is all around us." John (Martin Freeman) and Just Judy (Joanna Page) fall in love over the course of shooting a pornography movie together. David (Hugh Grant) has just become Prime Minister and immediately falls in love with his catering manager Natalie (Martine McCuthcheon). David's sister Karen (Emma Thompson), is married to Harry (Alan Rickman), who runs a local magazine where he is smitten by his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch). Harry's editor Sarah (Laura Linney), has been obsessing about the office hunk Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), who likes her as well. Karen's friends both Daniel (Liam Neeson) has just lost his wife and discovered his stepson is in love with a young American girl. Karen's other friend Jamie (Colin Firth), walks in on his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) and his younger brother (Dan Fredenbergh), forcing him to move to France to continue writing his novel while falling for Aurelia Lucia Moniz), a young Portuguese woman who can't speak English or French. Juliet (Kiera Knightley) has just married Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), without realizing Peter's best friend and best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) has loved her since they first met. Colin (Kris Marshall) is desperate to have sex and believes American girls will find his British accent sexy, so he hatches a plan to visit Wisconsin. And that's just each character's/story's first scene!

Critique:

Everyone's favorite British-Romantic-Comedy writer Richard Curtis directs a really good movie here that benefits from featuring a cast of who's-who of British actors. He also works in a pretty good short performance from Rowan Atkinson as well as cameos from Billy Bob Thornton, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Claudia Schiffer, Shannon Elizabeth, and Denise Richards. The movie IS the best romance movie (maybe I should say romantic comedy) because it tells too many stories to be bad. Let me explain. Romantic comedies can be good, sometimes bad, but in both realms there are cheesy and corny parts to the movie as well as the predictable progression and finish. "Love Actually" is so good because it doesn't suffer from any of these symptoms - cramming in so many solid stories with great actors means there isn't time for you to dwell on what you think is going to happen next with each story or bemoan the corny way the boy gets the girl back (because those lame scenes don't even make the cut here). All of the stories come from different angles, spanning the whole genre of romantic comedies. You have the coincidence love at first sight for two shy people, the now classic Hugh Grant I'm-to-befuddled-to-tell-you-I-depserately-love-you, the trials of a long marriage and raising two kids, the lust and allure of something dangerous, the cutesy love from affair crush, powerful first love, rebound love, forbidden love, and desperate love. Beginning and ending with Billy Mack's "Love is All Around Us" song is very fitting for a movie that tries so hard to show us that everywhere we look, whether we are searching for it or not, there is love - for someone.

Verdict:

Must see (especially if it's your girl's turn to pick the movie).

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Pride and Prejudice
...About a Boy
...Garden State

In Her Shoes...big shoes

In Her Shoes - Curtis Hanson - 2005 - 8/10



Summary:

Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is enjoying finally landing the man of her dreams when she gets a call to pick up her drunk sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz). This opening scene is spun as the story of Rose's life - constantly bailing out her out of control sister. While Rose is a well established Lawyer at an accomplished Philadelphia law firm while Maggie is jobless - coasting through life by having men pay for her lifestyle. Rose tries to balance an office romance with a partner while also trying to get Maggie a job so she will get out of her apartment. When both of those dreams/intentions are snapped in one action, Rose is crushed and her life as well as Maggie's spins out of control. A little dog helps Rose get back on her feet and taking a chance brings her more happiness than she could have ever dreamed. Maggie, a self depreciating woman who thinks little to nothing of herself receives some confidence when she pursues the sender of an old letter.

Critique:

Just for the reccord, I tried to keep the summary down to a minimum in terms of what I reveal, because some interesting stuff happens, especially for a chick flick, the ideas are pretty original. Another Diaz movie, The Holiday should take note of how well this movie seemlessly moves between two different storylines while tracing the growth of two powerful women. The movies are similar, but In Her Shoes is a few shoe sizes better. While I haven't seen a lot of her movies, this is probably the best performance I've seen from Shirley MacLaine turn in. Furthermore, this movie broke my long held belief that Diaz can't act - because she is great her. She finally stops paying the ditzy girl, or the perfect girl, or stuck up girl and plays, the ditzy-stuck up-flawed-tormented-naive girl who is the perfect counterpart to Collete's Rose. The movie does have some fast turn arounds from some characters at the end as well as the "mildly" unrealistic premise that a high profile lawyer would become a dog-walker. I would also like to thank the writers/director for not having Diaz do anything with that guys son the doctor - that would have been totally corny.

Verdict:

If you need to watch a chick flick, this flick is pretty good.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Holiday
...The Devil Wears Prada
...Love Actually

Monday, June 11, 2007

North Country...very strong

North Country - Niki Caro - 2005 - 9/10

Summary:

Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes, a single mother trying to run from her past, her present and run into a new future. A future where she is planning on making a lot of money from her new job at the mine. The mine however, has yet to warm to the idea of having women in the mine, and the men are less than welcoming. In fact, they're downright ridiculous - writing profane patriarchal slurs on the walls along with lewd pictures are the little things they do. They talk to the women harshly, physically harass them, sabotage their bathroom, leave dildos in their lunches, beat them...the list goes on. Josey's dad, Hank (Richard Jenkins) who has worked at the mine since he was a kid, is not exactly supportive. Whether its giving her a hard time about leaving her husband (who was beating her) or how she's foolish to think she's as good as he is, he doesn't exactly inspire her. While not critical, Josey's mother Alice (Sissy Spacek) is far from comforting. Josey finally turns to her best friend (Frances McDormand) and her husband (Sean Bean) who helped her get into this mess, but they're dealing with personal issues. To make things worse, a dance with a co-worker stirs up the local women into making a scene and embarassing Josey's son Sammy (Thomas Curtis) who starts to hate his mother. As things continue to get worse and Josey has no one to turn to, she meets Bill White (Woody Harrelson), a lawyer who becomes her one ray of hope

Critique:



Charlize proves that she doesn't have to dress down, put on the pounds and make out with a girl to turn in an Oscar-worthy performance. Furthermore, the film is close to, if not the best of its genre. The acting is great, the story is strong, and the film itself doesn't disappoint. Like I already said, Charlize is great, but so too is McDormand who returns to the country she knew before as Oscar territory. The movie does have some problems. For starters, the movie is totally killing - I liked the splicing of the court room scenes, the flashbacks, all that is going well until the last twenty minutes or so when they get to the court room for real time and the court scenes are unrealistic and borderline corny. At least Erin Brockovich spared us a cheesy court room scene. Additionally, the growth of the characters, especially Josey and Josey's son Sammy is very realistic, but the sudden changes in Josey's Mom and Dad as well as Bobby's is unpredictable and unlikely. The ending sort of lets itself become a warm and fuzzy happy ending, which kind of was what really happened, but it seemed unrealistic.

Verdict:

If you're looking for a serious movie, this should be close to the top of the list.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Erin Brockovich
...A Civil Action
...The Pursuit of Happyness

Napoleon Dynamite...explosive

Napoleon Dynamite - Jared Hess - 2004 - 7/10

Summary:

Jon Heder burst onto the scene in this modern cult classic as Napoleon Dynamite, that paid him a measley $1000. Heder is great in this movie, although it's hard to understand how he could do it, considering his eyes are closed all the time. Anyway, Heder's Napoleon is kind of the school joke until he lucks into a friend when he shows the new student from Juarez, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), around. Pedro and Napoleon are fast friends while at home, while Napoleon's Grandmother is in the hospital, his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) comes to stay. Along with Napoleon's pathetic older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), Uncle Rico causes bunches of trouble as he embarasses Napoleon at every turn. There are other subplots and storylines, but really, the movie is driven by the great characters/acting, and there is much less emphasis on the story.



Critique:

One of the few movies I've seen recently that has lived up to the hype. The movie was such a joy because all of the characters were really funny. Heder is dead on as the loopy Napoleon while Ruell is equally great as his weird brother who "is a cage fighter in training who chats online with babes all day." Gries is also superb as the crazy bumbling uncle who's get-rich-to-buy-a-time-travel-machine provides plenty of laughs. Tina Majorino is great as Deb (although I don't really understand how they could make her un-hot). Majorino's Deb has a certain way about her that is both funny when she needs to be and alluring at those other times. When you start to consider that the movie was made for next to nothing and that this was a firs time affair in terms of acting-writing-directing, its pretty impressive. And the movie is really clean too, which is nice for once in awhile.

Verdict:

Watch it.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Garden State
...THe Royal Tenenbaums
...The Breakfast Club

Saturday, June 9, 2007

REVIEW: American Idiot

American Idiot - Green Day - Reprise - 2004 - 8/10

I never thought I'd say this, but Green Dayreally showed their maturity in this album. Previously their longest song, ironically called “Longview,” was about 3:40, now most of their songs on this album are at least 4 minutes. I hesitate to compare this to both the album, and the group's growth, but this album is mildly similar to The Who's "Tommy." This album, like "Tommy" could easily be called a rock opera, although I would probably call it a "pop opera" or a "popera" if you will. By the way, I coperated "popera" so don't even try to use that again without expecting to send me a quarter. I saw Green Day when they were almost done, touring behind a greatest hits album, playing second fiddle to Blink 182. Luckily, they pulled themselves together, put out their best album and began (hopefully) a shift back to the concept album as we know it.



Sure, some critics said it was much of the same, and they're right but they're also wrong. It does sound the same, but at the same time, on each and every song you can see the growth, you can see where that song would have been before, and what it is now. (1) “American Idiot,” the title track has the vocal progression and same rhythm part as “Maria” with the vocal delivery of “Basket Case.” The song pushes anti-conservatism observations about the media and homophobia with little behind the buzz words. (2) “Jesus of Suburbia*,” has the tempo of “Waiting,” the feeling of “Macy’s Day Parade,” and the guitar chords and progressions of “Redundant.” The song is a multi part “opera” seemingly all parts introspective about Billy Joe’s upbringing. (3) “Holiday,” has the vocal progression of “Poprocks and Coke,” the guitar chorus of “Longview,” with the greater guitar parts of “Walking Contradiction.” “Holiday” is essentially a harsher “American Idiot” that uses stronger language and more allusions to sarcastically light into American conservatism. (4) “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” the humongous video single about being lonely has similar stop go lyrics and guitar parts as “Brain Stew” combined with the guitar buildup of “Walking Contradiction.” (5) “Are We the Waiting,” is a throwback to the old Green Day Standard “Waiting” except that was a non emo version that shares the intonation of this newer track accompanied by the guitar rifts of “Redundant” and the tempo of “She.” The song is pretty deep, probably beyond a random guess but it seems to be about the urbanization of dreams, and the side effects of the wheels of progress. (6) “St. Jimmy,” about a funny character who gets his own song here while being name checked throughout the album, has the guitar parts and vocal delivery to match “Maria” and the drums of “Jaded” with the fast delivery of “Stuck With Me.” (7) “Give Me Novocain,” which has amusing lyrics metaphorically about pain and loss, is played at a tempo between “She” and “Redundant” but with the vocal delivery of “Macy’s Day Parade” and lyrics like “Longview.” (8) “She’s a Rebel” is a simple tune with the vocal delivery of “Welcome to Paradise” and the cool intro of “Jaded” that seems to literally be a new take on “She.” (9) Continuing the trend of revisiting “She,” “Extraordinary Girl” is the song from her point of view and has the long instrumental intro of “Longview” but the tempo and feeling of “Stuck With Me” and the guitar parts in “J.A.R.” (10) “Letterbomb,” a possibly metaphorical song about ignoring obligations, uses the little girl sound effect and powerful guitar intro we know from “Maria” with the lyrics “Stuck With Me.” (11) “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is begun with a guitar intro like in “Warning” and recaptures the feeling of “Macy’s Day Parade” to comment on how quickly time passes. (12) “Homecoming*” has the static guitar lead in just as “Welcome to Paradise” did with the vocal inflection of “Basket Case” and the guitar of “She.” The song, like “Are We the Waiting” has no obvious explanation and could perhaps be praising returning from war. (13) “Whatsername” is a new take on the progression of “She” that goes from the introduction to the main meat of the song using similar voice inflection to finally end the story of “She.”

What annoys me the most is that whenever I want to talk about this album with some of Green Day's fans, they say stuff like, "I liked them before they were political." Honestly, come on. The album is NOT political. There are TWO songs that are MAYBE politica. Sure, some of the others have tenuous allusions to mildly political concepts, but this album is not really that big of an outcry about the war. If you don't believe me, you could read all of the lyrics. What would have made this crystal, is if the album had been named something more logical, like St. Jimmy, a character who is mentioned throughout, but that probably wouldn't have been marketed as well as "American Idiot." Or another thing they complain about is that Billy Joe sold out and went "goth." Does it matter? The music has gone to another level. Yes its poppier, yes its a little more emo, but its still Green Day. I hope my song-by-song break down above can prove that to you, but if it doesn't it doesn't.

When it comes down to it, most of these songs are catchy as hell, and this is a really really good pop album. Accept it for what it is, a pop album, and then you have to admit, its a pretty damn good pop album.

Ocean's Thirteen...murky at best

Ocean's Thirteen - Steven Soderbergh - 2007 - 6/10

Summary:

Ocean's (George Clooney) pal Reuben (Elliot Gould) enters into a shaky deal with big man Willie Bank (Al Pacino) who promptly double crosses Reuben, causing Reuben to have a severe heart attack. Gathered by Linus (Matt Damon), the gang start to esemble after Ocean gets Rusty (Brad Pitt). And they're all back, the computer wiz Livingston (Eddie Jemison), the British bomb expert Basher (Don Cheadle), the agile Yen (Shaobo Qin), the fast talking Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), the smooth talking actor Saul (Carl Reiner), and the cahos brothers the Malloys (Casey Afleck and Scott Caan). Determined to pressure the board of directors to ditch Willie for the recovering Reuben, they have to make the casion lose a bunch of money so it can't make the 500 million dollar profit threshold they have supposedly imposed. So the gang has to whip together as many ways as they can to rig the casino games to dump the most amount of cash. With Willie Banks' right hand woman Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin) chomping at their heals as well as the imposing obstacle of beating the world's most intelligent security system the world has ever known. Do you have any doubt they can pull it off so Reuben's heart can recover with joy?



Critique:

There just is no tension in the movie. You're never really left wondering if they're going to be able to pull it all off or if they'll get caught - because you know they won't and whenever someone gets close, they just buy them off. In order to enjoy this movie, you pretty much have to throw everything to the wind and just let yourself be swept away by Soderbergh's over-smooth cinematography and fast shots. Yes, the movie is more like Ocean's Eleven then Twelve, but that is not saying a lot, considering twelve was one of the worst movies I ever saw with a cast that ridiculously good. So if you want, you can pick the movie apart, or just enjoy the fast talking Bernie Mac, the antics of the Malloy brothers and their amusing Juarez revolution, the new addition of the enjoyable Eddie Izzard as Roman, another fast talking idea man who helps Rusty and Ocean out (except not really because they just use him to walk you through their preparations).

Verdict:

It can wait for DVD.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Ocean's Eleven
...The Italian Job
...The Heist

Read more about what I think of Ocean's Thirteen at SaltyStix.

Cleveland v Chicago



I know I'm biased, because I'm from Chicago, but who are we kidding, Cleveland sucks. Their sports teams make every other city's look like All-Star teams. They have been so inept in nearly a whole half century that they have won one championship since 1964. Since then, the Chicago Bulls have six championships, the Chicago Bears have one championship, the Chicago White Sox have one championship, the Chicago Wolves have three championships, the Chicago Fire have five championships, and the Chicago Rush have one championships. That covers Basketball, Football, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer, and Arena Football. That pretty much covers the spectrum.

Sure, Chicago sports teams have their curses and have their own droughts to deal with (the Cubs), but at the same time, at least the other teams have provided fans a crutch to hold onto. Cleveland, on the other hand, has no crutch to lean on. Hopefully the Cavs can end that drought, although I strongly doubt it.

Suspect Zero...somewhat suspect

Suspect Zero - E. Elias Merhige - 2004 - 5/10

Summary:

Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) is an FBI agent who is sent away to Arizona to be out of the spotlight after he bungles a major case. However, someone has different plans for him, committing high profile crimes and sending Mackelway special clues. Mackelway is beginning to get into the case when his old love, Fran (Carrie-Ann Moss), another FBI agent, is also demoted to Arizona and joins him on the case. As Mackelway begins pursuing the man who keeps sending him these clues, he comes across the trails of several serial killers and begins to think that his mysterious pen pal is really a powerful empath bent on vigilante justice. Either way, he has to stop the killer who keeps stealinig little children and murdering them by the roadside.


Critique:

For being a suspense movie the movie takes a lot of the suspense out right away. Its hard to even see where the writers/director thought they were generating tension. It's too bad really because Eckhart works really hard to portray a character who is supposed to be consumed by this case. Carrie-Ann Moss is probably the best I've seen her here. Although she plays the same type of character over and over again, she's pretty convincing here. Carrie, and her character, could have used a lot more screen time too, to sort of flesh out her character a little more and actually have an impact on the stuff that was going on. What makes me feel badly is that the idea for this movie is pretty good, and all the little twists are pretty cool, plus the acting is pretty solid. But at the end of the day, the movie just falls kind of flat. There are too many questions at the end for it all to be resolved.

Verdict:

Eh. If you like these kind of movies, there are probably better options.

If you've seen this movie...

I thought Ben Kingsley was a give away the whole way through. There was not a chance of suspense that he WASNT an FBI agent or really, that he would harm anyone that wasnt a serial killer. The movie would have been a lot better if you had thought that Kinglsey could be the killer, but you almost never did. Despite being a "chase" movie, you never really know what Eckhart is chasing, because you see everything Kingsley does, and you already know he's not the killer. It's also kind of weird how Kinglsey chose Eckhart...but I guess I'll chalk that one up to Hollywood.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Zodiak
...Memento
...Manhunter

Bend it Like Beckham...just as good as the real Beckham

Bend it Like Beckham - Gurinder Chadha - 2002 - 8/10

Summary:

The movie follows the lives of two young women who's whole lives are soccer. Unfortunately, they also have the lives they lead with their families (who don't like soccer). Parminder Nagra plays Jess, the youngest daughter of a traditionalist Sikh family with an older sister who is soon to marry - a big deal for the family. Kiera Knightley is Jules, a tomboy who recruits Jess to play on her amateur soccer team coached by Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Besides Jules, Jess doesn't have a lot of confidants, with the one exception of Tony (Ameet Chana) who everyone assumes is head over heels for Jess. Things start to get tricky when Jess endangers her mother and sister's happiness and her dreams of playing soccer in America are jeopardized. With things beginning to crumble, Jess can't even turn to Jules who won't speak to her after she feels Jess betrayed her.



Critique:

First, I have to say that Parminder Nagra looks pretty good for thirty. I'm not saying that thirty is old, it's just that it's still ten years older than Kiera Knightley. On a more substantive level, I thought this was a pretty good movie that had a good mix of family drama, sports excitement, and romance. It's almost like a movie that set out to be the perfect halfway point between a sports movie engineered for boys and a chick flick for girls that gets to that point with a little culture too. For all that, I have to applaud the director, Chadha, for maintaining that balance. However, the formula isn't flawless. Because of all the stories, from Jess', Jules', the sister, Tony's, the father's, the culture stuff, to Meyers', some of the stories do get the short end of the stick. Unfortunately for Rhys-Meyers, it was his story. I thought that his character was pretty good, with a sort of new British twist on Estevez's character from The Mighty Ducks. However, Estevez had the old guy to talk to as well as the mom because he was the star of a kids movie that could get by with only developing his character. Rhys-Meyers isn't so lucky, and much of potentially deep character isn't really developed. That's the big stuff, but some of the little things that put me off were how some of the sports scenes were shot in this lame slow-mow type format, which I thought took away from the excitement, especially for a sport like soccer that is all about speed. Chadha didn't do this for the training scenes/montages though, and those were still pretty cool.

Verdict:

A great movie to watch with your girlfriend.

If you've seen the movie...

My biggest question throughout the movie was, how did they fall in love? Like, for the most part, there weren't that many scenes of them together. They talked a little bit at the beginning and the end and they did have some chemistry, but it was a little much to expect that this guy would fall in love with this girl. Then the ending seemed a little too easy - sure the dad's speech was pretty good, and predictable, but why did the mother suddenly just buckle? Furthermore, how did Kiera just forgive Jess and move beyond her obsessive, all consuming love for Joe? It seemed like she was able to move past the pillar of her life (besides soccer) pretty quickly. And if her mom was so freaked out that Kiera was a lesbian, why didn't she say something the first time, when she thought Jess was her lover? And I guess this question is kind of because of the childish "epilogue" type ending, but how did the family just change? Sure, letting Jess play soccer in America was a big step, but welcoming Joe into their family with open arms is a little suspect. Oh well, still a solid movie.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Monsoon Wedding
...She's the Man
...A League of their Own

Homer brings it on home

I was at Great America Ballpark the other day to see Homer Bailey's first major league start. And as you can probably determine from the article title, he won his first start.

He wasnt amazing, but he was pretty damn good. He made a lot of mistakes, but he also made a bunch of good plays. He threw around 120 pitches in just five innings, mostly because he didn't have a lot of control on the first two pitches and he was behind on most counts. The first inning was a little rocky after he gave up a single to Travis Hafner and then a rbi double to Victor Martinez due to the lethargy of Adam Dunn. But Brandon Phillips hit a solo homer in the bottom of the inning and Homer was back on steady ground.

There were two real bright spots in his starts beyond the little things like how Homer remained pretty calm and collected throughout his start, showing suprising composure and maturity. The first spot was Homer's domination of Grady Sizemore, who Homer struck out twice. The second bright spot was right after Homer seemed to be slipping, allowing a single and then back to back walks to load the bases with two outs. Dellucci stepped up to the plate, and with his pitch count already very high, Homer burned Dellucci with a few fastballs to get out of the crunch he had created, and become eligible for a win.

After Stanton pitched two suprisingly strong inning and the rest of the bullpen managed to scrape together a few outs, Weathers earned the save and Homer got his first win.

What does this mean though? I think it means the Reds have another piece to begin their crawl up through the central. While I would be shocked if Homer's call up would spark the reds to a playoff berth this season, I think Homer can alleviate some of the stress on the Reds weak (at best) final two rotation spots. Being only 21, Homer has a bright future, and so to do the Reds.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Jericho survives

I know next to nothing about this show beyond that it has earned a vigilant cult following. This following was able to keep the show afloat despite CBS trying to axe the show. Numerous postings and such from viewers were able to convince the CBS executives that the show was worth a shot.

Frankly, I'm pretty suprised. The show seems kind of lame to begin with, sort of The Hills Have Eyes, but for TV. But I guess the fans love their Skeet Ulrich. At the same time, I am pleased, because it shows that shows people love can survive despite minimal ratings.

Tony Parker - luckiest guy in the world?

I'm not really sure which way I come down on this one. But if you stop and think about it for awhile, Tony Parker is a pretty lucky dude. He plays on the Spurs, one of the NBA's most dominant teams, and he's about to marry Eva Longoria.

Seems like that's a pretty good deal. Especially because all of the tabloid coverage about their relationship is that she worships him. She's always running after him after one of their fights, trying to smooth things over and begging for him back. And she goes to all of his games...Basically he has the best deal ever.

John Tucker Must Die...someone has to

John Tucker Must Die - Betty Thomas - 2006 - 6/10

Summary:



New girl Kate Spencer (Brittany Snow) falls for the king of her new high school, John Tucker (Jesse Metcalf). However, while working at a restraunt she sees Tucker whine and dine THREE girlfriends. When the three girlfriends discover each other by weird happen-stance, Kate is there to tell that instead of forgetting it, the three should get even. Head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), Miss Popular-I'm-in-every-school-club Beth (Sophia Bush) and budding tv journalist Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) join forces, despite hating each other because they have a common enemy. Trying to make Tucker "undatable" proves nearly impossible as everything they do seems to fuel the legend Tucker already is at the school. They decide to hatch one final plan to destroy Tucker: Love.

Critique:

Again, this is another teen movie that was a pleasant suprise. In particular, I really liked Brittany Snow, both looking at her, and her performance. She was convincing, and really hot. Even Jenny McCarthy, who played her mom, turned in a pretty solid performance. One of the few roles Jenny really does well in. I thought that despite her character, Kebbell was not a big deal. She played kind of annoying and the movie somehow made her not hot, even though she is INCREDIBLY hot in real life. Lucky for me, she, Brittany, and Sophia are all within a year of me, so I have a chance! Back to more important matters though, Ashanti turns in a good performance too, but between Sophia, Brittany and Metcalf, she almost seems like an afterthought, thrown in to try to appeal to another audience. Eh. Whatever. The worst part of the movie is the sound track, plagued by too many All-American Reject songs and other "alternative" impersonators. But I guess it's to be expected. One last thought - it should be well noted that this is a different form of girl-comedy - its not quite chick flick and its not quite American Pie. Instead it pulls from both categories and comes up with a pretty decent movie. Now all they need to do is take one more step, and make it R-Rated and give it some more teeth.

Verdict:

Watch it on tv.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Girl Next Door
...Step Up
...Porky's
 
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