Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Briggs - seeing the light

The news finally broke that the Bears and Lance Briggs have agreed to a deal, meaning Briggs will play this season.

Honestly, I'm pretty surprised. With Drew Rosenhaus, the team-breaker, behind the plate, I expected Briggs to throw away a season or two being a whiny little baby. He rejected a contract that would have made him one of the highest paid left outside linebackers, but that didnt cut it for Lance and Drew. No, they wanted more. He wanted to test the waters. What for? Lots of money AND getting to play on a Super Bowl Caliber team isnt even enough anymore?

One of my friends thinks Briggs' stats are inflated because he gets to play next to one of the best defensive players in the game in BBrian Urlacher. Next to Urlacher, Briggs' tackles have steadily increased because the ball carrier doesn't want to run into the Urlacher wall. So they run by Briggs and he hits them. Its kinda like Briggs is in the perfect place. Sure, he could be star somewhere else, but his numbers would probably decline and he probably wouldnt get to play for a contender.

I guess I am a little relieved, because now we don't have a gaping whole at left outside linebacker, and we get some value out of Briggs for another year before he leaves. I do wonder if relations can be repaired to the extent where he would resign with the Bears. Would that be a good thing?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ballpark bankrupcy

I went to a baseball game yesterday (an exciting Reds victory in 12 innings) and I have this pet peeve about not buying food at the ballpark. Or really any sporting event, because the prices are so inflated. I'm really annoyed by this, to the extent that if I think I'm going to want any food, I sneak it in. Honestly, things are about FIVE TIMES what they should be. Bottles of water and candy bars are FOUR DOLLARS. Vending machines have that stuff for like, seventy-five cents. Why is it so much more expensive? I guess they assume they can get people to pay that, but that doesn't really make it right in my book.

Yesterday was different. After munching on candy for awhile, one of the people I was with wanted to try "fried cookie dough." Yes, FRIED cookie dough. I'd never even heard of it before. I'll admit it sounds pretty good. So I decided to make an exception and try the cookie dough. But when I got to the vendor, I saw that the price was $7. SEVEN DOLLARS. I thought that it was a lot, but that I probably wasn't going to try it again, so I might as well do this considering it was a once in a lifetime thing. Needless to say I couldn't really finish it because it was DOUGH. And it made me kind of sick to my stomach. And since I'd been chomping on candy for about six innings, my stomach was starting to crave "normal" food. And the only normal food I could really get my hands onto was pizza. So after all that sugar, all I could do was get something greasy to "calm my stomach."

The slice of pizza was five dollars. Frankly, I was okay with that. And I guess it was worth it. But I'm not used to spending $12-$15 at the ballpark.

Chuck and Larry...pretty hairy

We’ve all seen the preview, so we know that Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are two firefighters who get married so they can get couples benefits. Larry is paranoid about dieing because due to an insurance quirk, he can’t make his kids his beneficiaries. When Larry saves Chuck’s life and Chuck promises to do anything for him, Larry thinks that means getting hitched. Frankly, there isn’t much more to the movie.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poor Previews

I went to the new movie theatre this weekend to see an over-hyped, disappointing movie (Ratatouille), which I’m not going to talk about. Instead I’m going to talk about the only thing worse than the movie – the previews. Previously, I wrote an article about how previews gave away too much of the movies, which dissuaded me from seeing them. This batch of previews dissuaded me from seeing the movie because they were so miserable.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cecil B. Demented...very demented

Cecil B. Demented - John Waters - 2000 - 5/10


Baltimore's native director Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorf) leads a band of radical movie revolutionaries bent on making a truly good movie. To do so, they kidnap the starlet Cecil's script has been written for - Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith). After an all out kidnapping that includes guns, grenades and carefully planted bombs, the gang drags Honey back to their studio-lair where they force her to begin learning lines and shooting the movie. Each crew member is a sort of over the top eccentric - from satanists to rappers. The movie is little more than live action reality, featuring the Hollywood star Honey, the nymphomaniac Cherish (Alicia Witt) and the drugged out Lyle (Adrian Grenier) raiding a multiplex, a Maryland Film Commission press conference, and the set of a "Forrest Gump" sequel (my favorite). Adding to the tension is Cecil's insistance that the crew be celibate so they focus on their work and channel their sexual energy into the production.


The movie is really "too good" at what it does. Meaning it is simply too crazy. It took me awhile to really get into the feel and tempo of the movie and then I really enjoyed the middle of the movie. But then the end was even more, all over the place, and I began to get mildly annoyed again. The acting is over the top - its probably supposed to be. But the problem is, it's over the top to the point that the acting is BAD. I was especially annoyed by Maggie Gyllenhal's satanist character because the character was pretty flat - and her lines were stupid to the point that they caused me pain. I was hoping she'd be in the movie more - maybe be a little bit more like herself instead of some crazy devil worshipper. At the same time, when the movie was good, it was good - pretty funny, lots of good movie references, and other little things that I really like. But not enough to overcome all of the bad.


If you want to do something crazy, its an ok flick to watch

If you liked this movie, see...
...Death to Smoochy
...Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

A Better Tomorrow 2...not so good

A Better Tomorrow 2 - John Woo - 1987 - 4/10


Ho (Ti lung) has been serving time for killing boss Shing at the end of "A Better Tomorrow." The police try to recruit Ho to go undercover and find out if his friend Lung (Dean Shek) is the source of a new surge in counterfeiting. Ho refuses. But when he finds out his younger brother, Kit (Leslie Cheung), has gone undercover to infiltrate Lung's shipbuilding business Ho agrees. While Kit's wife (Emily Chu) is pregnant, Kit has to put his family life aside to seduce Lung's daughter Peggy (Regina Kent). However, Lung is framed for killing a rival gang leader who has been trying to take over Lung's shipyard and Ho has to smuggle Lung to New York. In New York, Ken (Yun-Fat Chow), the twin brother of Mark is operating a Chinese restaurant and trying to repel the advances of the local Mafia who are roughing him up for protection money. Lung arrives in New York but becomes mentally unhinged and Ken has to literally nurse him back to health so he can regain his sanity so they can return to Hong Kong and take back what is his.


My biggest problem with this movie is probably my own fault. That is, that I thought Dean Shek's Lung was supposed to be the new Yun-Fat Chow character but I also wasn't sure if Lung was supposed to be Mark. So I was pretty confused for awhile, almost until Yun-Fat Chow actually did come onscreen. With that out of the way, I guess I can focus on all the substantive reasons why this movie was a disappointment. I guess I was expecting a little more considering the first one was so good and EVERYONE, the director, the writer, the producer, the actors ALL came back. But the movie makes little sense and is connected by too many coincidences and happenstances. Also, by now, I'm pretty sick of Kit - why won't he go away. Basically the movie just seems to have senseless action scenes whenever it realizes the movie is getting to be THAT bad. I wanted a lot more out of this movie. It would have actually been more respectable if Mark would have lived instead of inventing this twin character for Yun-Fat Chow to play. It reeks of cheap soap television instead of badass Hong Kong cinema.


The first one is all you need.

If you liked this movie, see...
...A Better Tomorrow
...The Killer
...The Replacement Killers

Rumor Has It...failure to graduate

Rumor Has It... - Rob Reiner - 2005 - 4/10


Sarah Huntington (Jennifer Aniston) attends her sister's wedding with her fiancee Jeff (Mark Ruffalo). There, while she drinks with her grandmother Catherine (Shirley McClane), she begins to form an idea that The Graduate was based on her family. Convinced that since she's nothing like her father, her dad must have been the mysterious Dustin Hoffman-like character her mom ran off with before her mom's wedding, Sarah sets out to uncover the clues. Finally she finds the charming Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), now an internet millionaire and tries to find out if he's her father. Will Sarah succumb to the charms of the man who charmed the rest of the women in her family? Will she find her real father?


This movie took a pretty clever idea - The Graduate - and basically turned it into shit. It wasn't even like these people were off their game - I think the acting was great. Especially Shirly McClane and Richard Jenkins (who played Sarah's "father"). But the movie is just a disaster. The pacing of the movie is really weird too (the three act formula seems to have fallen away here). It's also tough to decide if you really care. Granted, Ruffalo is doing a good job and Anniston is kind of along for the ride as well, but the characters themselves - their stories and lines are just not, not really doing it for me. So much of like the little things don't really work. The camera work also leaves lots of excess shots, or shots that seem unnecessary or do not fit with the rest of the movie. It doesnt seem like it, because I didnt say that much I guess, but the movie was a big disappointment.


Stay away.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Graduate
...The Family Stone
...In Her Shoes

Go Cubs

When the Cubs, a favorite to win the NL Central before the season, began to falter, I gave up on them pretty quickly. Hell, I thought with the signing of Alfonso Soriano, the influx of new pitchers, and the generally expensive offseason they would be good. But as usual, they were sucking and I quickly forgot about them and instead turned most of my attention to fantasy baseball. My thoughts of the Cubs, and the National League generally, began to fall away as my main fantasy baseball league was an AL-only league.

But as the All-Star break approached I was forced to notice the Cubs as they finally started getting those late game, one-run wins. And they were winning generally too - and catching up on the lagging Brewers. Well past .500, closing in on the division lead, and riding a ridiculous win streak, I knew I had to weigh in on this. Plus, the Cubs have done some deals of late.

First the transactions. The big one - the Cubs got Oakland's Jason Kendall for LHP Jerry Blevins and C Rob Bowen. It's a pretty good deal that gives the Cubs a good offensive catcher since we shipped Barrett west. And Kendall is a veteran pressence in a dugout that is getting increasingly younger. At the same time Kendall is getting pretty old and it seems like Koyie Hill is pretty good too (he had a 5-rb game this past week). The other move was the Cubs ditching Cesar Itzuris (sent to Pittsburg) - a guy who the Cubs got that was supposed to be an amazing fielder, fast on the base paths and who's hitting would improve. Instead he was pretty useless and left me begging for the likes of Ronny Cedeno and Neifi Perez. In fact, I'm actually thinking I'm starting to like the two Louisiana boys the Cub's have. Theriot to Fontenot - there's a double play combination that rhymes.

Now if the Cubs keep playing the way they are, I think they could easily contend for the NL Central crown. But that's really their only chance - I think it would be a stretch to say the Cubs could win the wildcard with all the competition out west.

Also, there's been all this talk on ESPN (a week or so ago) about how A-Rod might opt out of his contract. Among some of his destinations that were considered, were the Cubs. The Cubs might even have an advantage, because they would let A-Rod play short stop. Before we talk about how realistic this is, lets talk about how amazing this would be. The hitting of Soriano, Rodriguez, Lee, Ramirez...that's amazing. The Cubs would go from the butt of jokes to the NL's version of the Yankees. Throw in a solid leadoff hitter (Theriot, Fontenot, whoever) and you have a pretty formidable lineup. Now the reality - most people don't think the Cubs could pay A-Rod and Soriano. They might be right, but I'm more worried that an A-Rod contract would come at the cost of a Carlos Zambrano contract. Big Z is a pretty good reason the Cubs starting rotation is so solid, and losing him would be a big blow. Most commentators have already counted the Cubs out because there won't be enough ownership stability (because the Tribune is selling the Cubs) for a deal to happen. Lets hope something happens.

Well Cubs fans, cross your fingers.


Ratatouille - Brad Bird - 2007 - 3/10


Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat who loves to cook and his high standards for food have gotten him in trouble before. Besides that, Remy's brother and father prefer that he eat garbage and stay close to the nest so they can use Remy's super-smell skills ti determine if their food has rat poison on it. But the family is separated and Remy ends up in Paris. And this time, Remy's stomach gets him caught by Linguini (Lou Romano), in the kitchen of Gusteau's resteraunt, adding ingredients to the soup. Luckily for Remy and Linguini the soup is very warmly received and the chefs thing Linguini is responsible. In order to keep up appearances and fulfill his dreams, Linguini and Remy team up (Remy hides in Linguini's chef's hat, literally controlling him) to become one super chef. It's not that easy. Strange things are afoot as the manager begins to suspect Linguini is not the real chef. But Remy and Linguini must hold together to keep people coming in and defeat their nemesis - Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) - the man who's harsh review gave Gousteau a heart attack.


The animation was great - simply amazing. It all looked so so so good. And in this regard, the movie really was "the next step" in the evolution of animated movies. Also, the use of voiceactors instead of allstar "regular" actors is an admirable move to create the best possible movie instead of just cashing in on big names. However. my friends really hyped this movie, so maybe I went into it expecting too much. Being called "Pixar's best movie" really raised my guard. And unfortunately, this movie was far from it - barily coming close to A Bug's Life (the low end, not the high end of Pixar's greats). The movie is simply not that great. From the story. to the dialogue, the movie is nothing new. The characters, what they do, the plot progressions, the "jokes," all seem very old. And not anywhere close to old in a good way. Not a single line or plot point is unpredictable - you can practically say the lines before they're even prompted - its like a computer playing chess. And frankly, while the voiceactors are a good step forward, some of the voices are just downright annoying (unintentionally so). I don't think the laughter or adventure was anywhere close to either of the Toy Story movies. The puns and clever inside jokes meant for parents are even cornier - characters named after foods is not funny - its just cheesy (forgive the pun). And a criticism that can destroy any movie even applies here, which children's movies usually escape, is that the you just don't care for the characters.


Way overrated.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Toy Story
...Toy Story 2
...Monster's, Inc.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Better Tomorrow...bright outlook

A Better Tomorrow - John Woo - 1986 - 8/10


Mark (Yun-Fat Chow) and Ho (Lung Ti) are friends and couriers for a Hong Kong crime syndicate specializing in largescale counterfeiting operations. During a sale in Taiwan, Ho is double-crossed and surrenders to the police so the boss's son can escape. Enraged, Mark goes to the traitor's resteraunt and kills him and all his men, but is shot during the shoot out. Meanwhile, Kit (Leslie Chung), Ho's brother, is a rookie cop whose reputation is tarnished by his gangster brother. When Ho gets out of prison, he wants to start over. Unfortunately, Ho is haunted by his past, and Mark pressures him to return to a life of crime as his partner. The rest of the plot is pretty straightfoward - with the boss's son running things, Mark gets no respect and Ho is worried for his life and his brother's so Mark and Ho must team up once more to topple the big boss.


This movie was awesome. Surprisingly good character development too and an especially great performance by Yun-Fat Chow who is AWESOME as Mark. I can definitely see how this movie influenced reservoir dogs - the same sort of crime lifestyle, the suits, the seemeless killing, the butchering of people left and right, intense shootouts - it's hard to see how John Woo would go on to make crap movies like Mission Impossible 2. The action, while excesssive is not unrealistic - and looks like most of the stuff could be possible. Lung Ti is great too as a man who is torn by his loyalty to Mark and his promise to his father to keep Kit out of a life of crime. The movie is a great actioner driven by Yun-Fat Chow's superb character and Woo's brilliant direction which is fast and furious, and never lets up.


Buy this one.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Killer
...Leon (The Professional)
...Reservoir Dogs

My Super Ex-Girlfriend...super bad

My Super Ex-Girlfriend - Ivan Reitman - 2006 - 3/10


Luke Wilson is Matt Saunders, an overnice architect who somehow can't find a girlfriend who isnt crazy. So his friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson) pushes him to talk to a woman on the subway (Uma Thurman). Despite many weird quirks, Matt sticks it out with Uma's Jenny for awhile. But Jenny has a secret - she's really G-Girl, New York's superpowered savior - complete with interspace powers. She can fly, is impervious to any weapon, can shoot lasers from her eyes, has supersonic hearing and a lot more. Matt realizes he's not really in love with Jenny and does his best to end their relationship so he can move on. To say the least, Jenny is a little vengeful.


The movie had a pretty good premise, but goes wrong soo often and so early, it's hard to let any of the good aspects rise to the top. It's too bad because between Luke Wilson, Uma Thurman, Anna Farris, Rain Wilson and Eddie Izzard, there are some pretty funny people on cast. But instead of laughing, the only thing you want to do is cover your eyes. The movie is pulled in too many directions as they try to have "action" scenes with a comic book type action heroine and then a "villain" is thrown into the mix as well. It's supposed to be a romantic comedy! Why do we need this villain plot?! There is enough going on without clutterin an already weak movie. And these good actors don't get nearly enough screen time - especially Rainn Wilson and Anna Farris who seem to be near afterthoughts in some scenes.


Please please please, do not see this movie.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Deuce Bigalow
...Scary Movie

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Underrated comics flicks

In the past few years, since the success of Spiderman, the movie industry has been over-saturated with over-hyped comic book movies. This recent success has made us forget the comic book movies that came before these new blockbusters. Some of those movies were really good, and there are A LOT of them. Most of these movies had solid acting and were good enough to capture a cult following while still small enough to fly under the radar. Hopefully you will realize what you’re missing out on – and take note of the strong showing of 1994.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix under "Fanboys #2"

Clerks...hard at work

Clerks. - Kevin Smith - 1994 - 8/10


Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) is woken by his boss who wants him to come in on his dayoff to work at the QuickStop, where Dante is a store clerk. Dante's friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) works at the video store attached to the QuickStop. Things dont go very smoothely for Dante as he has to deal with a moralistic salesman, revelations about his girlfriend's "history," the immature antics of Randal, his desire to squeeze in his hocky game, his obligation to go to a classmate's funeral and much more. While the movie shows "only" one day of work for Dante - a lot of stuff happens. The glue throughout the movie is the conflict Dante has to overcome: whether he can come to grips with the fact that he is still obsessed with his high school ex Caitlin while he is in a long time relationship with Veronica who really cares for him. Throw in some ridiculous humor, Jay and Silent Bob, and you have a pretty sweet cult classic.


I was expecting a little bit more. Sure, I loved the film, but it was so hyped. It's kind of tough because it's hard to tell exactly what this film is about - slackers, wastrels, punks, lovers...the themes are all over the place and nothing really gets resolved. Sure, I'll give Kevin Smith some credit - life is all over the place and usually has no resolution. At the same time, a movie is a movie and so much stuff is just thrown out there that I was curious about. Sure, it might be the credit of a good movie that I have to think about it a lot, but it's also frustrating. On the lighter side, the movie was pretty good - and we get some of Smith's best nerd debates here - Return of the Jedi v Empire Strikes Back in particular, stands out. The acting is suprisingly good, especially considering that O'Halloran and Anderson haven't made any other movies before or after this one. In the end, this movie is missing a spark to push it over the top, something or someone, like...Rosario Dawson.


It's worth seeing.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...American Splendor
...Clerks II
...Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sicko...very healthy

Michael Moore’s Sicko was a pleasant surprise. For once, Moore’s touch is perfect. Instead of politicking and engaging in ridiculous attacks on political officials, Moore makes a movie where his message isn’t lost amongst his liberalism. Bowling for Columbine was a great documentary that got swept away under the wave of conservatives who defended the NRA and the National Guard. And Fahrenheit 9/11 had many ideas that should have been heard, but weren’t because of Moore’s blatant political commentary.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix under "Aaron's Sicko Review"

Sunshine...not very bright

Sunshine - Istvan Szabo - 1999 - 4/10


Sunshine follows a Hungarian-Jewish family lhrough three generations, around the turn of nineteenth century. The family's patriarch rises from nothing, aided by his spectacular miracle drink he calls "Sunshine" after the family name, Sonnenschein, which means sunshine. The story begins to follow the patriarch's favorite son, Ignatz (Ralph Fiennes) becomes a fast rising judge who faces serious questions about his Jewish name when Ignatz begins to rise through the court ranks. Drama heightens when Ignatz's family's pressures him not to marry the woman who becomes his wife (Jennifer Ehle) and the radical communist antics of his brother. World War I comes and Ignatz goes to war, only to come back bitter and estranged from the love of his life. The film then begins to follows Ignatz's son Adam (Ralph Fiennes) who becomes a great fencer under the tutelage of his brother. In order to make the next step and make the Hungarian national team, to compete for an Olympic gold, Adam has to decide whether he can continue as a Jew, or as a Hungarian. Everything comes tumbling down as World War II starts to rumble and anti-Semitism sparks to new highs. The family is separated, torn apart, and thinned out, and only Ivan remains, finally returning home to live with his grandmother (Rosemary Harris taking over from Jennifer Ehle). Fueled by anger over what some of his countrymen did to his family, Ivan becomes a Communist Party secret policeman and quickly rises through the ranks. Sure, there's some time for each character to get all introspective, but its not really part of the plot.


The movie looks really good - a sort of (I'm using this term generously) faster paced combination of Giant and Dr. Zhivago. Giant's whole deal was the three generations and Dr. Zhivago had the whole, "I lived through everything," but in a boring way, unlike the amusing portrayals of historical events in Forest Gump and Little Big Man. Unfortunately, Sunshine seems to have learned little from Giant and Zhivago because the movie is like a carbon copy - it has almost exactly the same progression and events that Zhivago does and all the extra drama of Giant (but with a lot more explicit sex). Beyond the close connections to two of the most overrated, most boring, overlong movies - Sunshine tries too hard to express themes the movie just doesn't have time for. Critics and fans and even the writers seem to think the movie is about "identity" and "loyalty" and "religion" and I can kind of see that. But those are themes that receive cursory screen time. The whole, "we have to make sacrifices to get what we want" falls flat pretty quickly because there is little debate, little hesitation before sacrifices are made, so its tough to tell if the characters were actually even torn between two choices. Another thing that makes this movie hard to get into is that none of the protagonists (Ralph Fiennes plays all three) are particulalry sympathetic. Some of them are downright disgusting. They engage in questionable sexual practices, sever their family and cultural ties at will, seem to be easily swayed by those currently in power...the list goes on. When a character dies, you almost breath relief because you know there are only three, and when one goes down, you know the movie is closer to finishing.


If you don't have to see this movie, you probably don't want to.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Dr. Zhivago
...Enemy at the Gates

Friday, July 6, 2007

Genre genre genre

What is a genre? “Genre” is defined as “a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique.” So a movie genre is a category in which to group movies. What makes a genre? A good movie. Movies, unlike plays can’t be grouped into simply “tragedy” and “comedy.” Instead, over time we have created the action movie, and then the action comedy, and so on. There are some movies that helped jump-start these genres, and the movies that followed them took a lot from these movies...

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Evan Almighty...a mighty mistake

Evan Almighty - Tom Shdyac - 2007 - 0/10

I’ve been able to put off my review of this movie for so long because no one else that writes for us has been stupid enough to see this movie. I can confidently say Evan Almighty was one of, if not THE, worst movie I have ever seen. As a “comedy” it takes the cake for THE worst. I think I laughed once, maybe twice. The only mildly funny thing was the credits, and that was too little too late...

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix, under "Evan All-terrible"
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