Monday, February 27, 2006

Movie Releases, 3/3

This week, Richard Donner returns behind the director's chair for the first time since 2003's Timeline. The movie is 16 Blocks, starring Bruce Willis as a cop trying to escort witness Mos Def to a New York courthouse. But there are some people who don't want that to happen, led by baddie David Morse.

The Matrix-y, Fifth Element-y, and probably Resident Evil-y Ultraviolet also opens, starring someone who was in two of those three films, Milla Jovovich. Look for high octane action--although the look of the film looks a little off-putting. Kurt Wimmer directs; he did the cult fave Equilibrium a couple of years ago.

And did we need a sort of pseudo-updating to Splash? Aquamarine, which I stress is not a remake, stars pop star JoJo and Emma Roberts as sisters who stumble on the titular mermaid played by Sara Paxton. Look for all of the conventions of the genre, kind of like E.T. and Short Circuit, not to mention, uh, Splash.

Also, appearing in a sort-of wide release is the return of Dave Chappelle in what appears to be a concert film featuring some of his stand-up and a whole lot of musical guests including Kanye West and the reunion of the Fugees. Mos Def appears too, so he'll be competing against himself this week. It's Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the best of the decade) directs.

Also, not appearing at my theatre, but will finally make it to Nashville, will be the long-awaited Night Watch, or Nochnoi Dozor for all the Russians out there. I've seen some not-so-favorable reviews of this--it does appear to be a movie that lends itself to a kick-ass trailer (which this one has). But I'm still going to try to watch it.

I think this is going to be a solid weekend business-wise. There's something for just about everyone here.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fantasy Baseball

Anyone who reads this blog is invited to join the fantasy baseball league (No Such Thing As A Curse) over at Yahoo. The needed information:

ID# 132210
Password: cubs

Hope to see you all join.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Transamerica

Transamerica (Director: Duncan Tucker)

TRANSAMERICA has been nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress (Felicity Huffman)
Original Song (Dolly Parton, "Travelin' Thru")




Tucker hasn't done anything else in which most would be familiar. He also wrote the screenplay.

This year's Oscar representatives definitely, no duh, have that left-wing barrage, an overload of alternative lifestyles and political perspective. It's not fair to say Transamerica fits with this, really, but it definitely got awards attention from the subject matter. But this movie isn't concerned with making its main character a voicebox for trans-gendered people, not in the usual way, where there's some heartfelt speech about "this is who I am, deal with it," and so on.

Bree (Felicity Huffman) is a pre-op looking to make the necessary surgery that will finally fulfill her gender identity. Before she was Bree, he was Stanley, and he did make it with a girl once, and now there's a boy Toby (Kevin Zegers) calling from prison claiming he's Stanley's son. His mother has committed suicide and he doesn't get along with his stepfather. Bree doesn't let on that she once used to be a man and that he is the father, only saying that she is from a church that helps misguided youth. She wants to go to California and get the operation, and he wants to be an actor, so they have a cross-country trip together. Of course, there are going to be revelations and misunderstandings along the way.

It's your typical road movie, even if one of the characters is a tranny. There's your usual fights over what plays on the radio, personal boundaries, growing to accept and appreciate each other, all that stuff. What makes a road movie worthwhile is what happens on the journey. I can't say that it's the most exciting trip you'll ever take--it's pretty much been done before and there's not much that's memorable. And I thought the scene where Toby finds out that Bree is a man was completely unbelievable. There were better chances to get that across than the one chosen.

Felicity Huffman does deserve some mention here, because her performance is actually very good apart from the things you'd expect. But yeah, it's an overall average movie.

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Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Director: Hayao Miyazaki)

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE has been nominated for Best Animated Feature






Or: Hauru no ugoku shiro. Miyazaki is one of the premier animation legends, a man with a super cult following whose Princess Mononoke was the big splash a few years ago, along with the 2003 Best Animated Feature Oscar winner Spirited Away. Like most Asian products this movie was made long ago and is listed in the IMDb as a 2004 film, but it qualified for the 2005 Oscars. It's going to be interesting to see Academy favorite Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit) and Miyazaki duke it out, because I don't see Corpse Bride being close (not like we'll see the vote count, but you know what I mean). Newly-dubbed English voices take over for the Japanese originals. From the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Miyazaki wrote the screenplay, and it appears that Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt added the English polish.

Sophie (Emily Mortimer) is a lonely cleaning girl who works at a hat shop during a time of war. When she goes to visit her sister in town, she runs into the mysterious Howl (Christian Bale). It's apparently very dangerous out in the city, and he protects her from these black blobs, henchmen of the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall). Later on, though, the Witch of the Waste casts a curse on Sophie, turning her very old (Jean Simmons voices). She goes on a quest to find Howl's castle, a moving junk of machinery where the magician stays. She eventually gets inside, and meets a fire demon named Calcifer (Billy Crystal), who is a vital link to Howl's castle and to Howl himself, and an apprentice named Markl (Josh Hutcherson of Zathura). The castle exists in 4 different places, all catering to some need or another. Sophie's curse can be lifted if she finds the link between Calcifer and Howl. The fact that Sophie appears as her young, beautiful self while asleep stirs feelings in Howl and the love story becomes key.

There's a ton more involving the Witch of the Waste and a woman named Madam Suliman (Blythe Danner), who wants to hurt Howl for reasons that are left mysterious within the movie--but some research into the original novel suggests a love affair gone bad. In the novel, apparently, Howl's character was a womanizer, only hinted at here.

It's an incredible experience, this movie. It's got just the right tone and imagination, I found myself totally immersed. It's hard to say which movie I like better, this or Wallace & Gromit, because they are completely different. This one has more of a dramatic pull and it has traditional animation. It's also, if you can't tell from my plot description, a movie that probably rewards multiple viewings because there are a lot of hidden meanings within the film. I can see why this got a nomination, it deserves it. It's one I'd like to see again in the future.

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Doogal

Doogal
Directors: Dave Borthwick, Jean Duval, and Frank Passingham
Written By: Paul Bassett
The Weinstein Company


After Hoodwinked, The Weinstein Company looked to be a potential force in the ever-crowding arena of digital animation. Taking a Rashomon storyline, their first animated entry seemed to promise a different kind of family movie, one that took a chance. It wasn't near perfect, but it was enjoyable enough and it was their first try. Essentially, TWC is still in their infancy, but their second animated film in two months doesn't have nearly as much going for it.

Doogal (Daniel Tay) is a candy-loving dog who one day plots to raid a man's candy cart. It goes out of control and ends up crashing into a merry-go-round, one that Doogal's owner Florence (Kylie Minogue) is on. The result makes the merry-go-round spin ultra fast, and it does two things--unleashes the springy baddie Zeebad (Jon Stewart) and freezes the merry-go-round with Florence and a couple of other friends in it. Zeebad wants to find three diamonds that will freeze the Earth, and Doogal has to find the diamonds to unfreeze Florence and to prevent Zeebad from getting them. So, with the help of Ermintrude (Whoopi Goldberg), a cow, Brian (William H. Macy), a snail, Dylan (Jimmy Fallon), a bunny, and the Gandalf-esque, fiery good twin brother of Zeebad, Zebedee (Ian McKellan), the animals and a train (Chevy Chase) do indeed go on a Lord of the Rings type quest, complete with the requisite danger that it implies.

It's just not a fresh movie. There are jokes that are adult-oriented, and I'm not talking the kind that pushes the censor envelope in any way, but there is a consciousness to get more than just the kiddies involved--it's only mildly amusing. The animation is of that Hoodwinked variety, kind of creepy, and also, unfortunately, Doogal is a fairly unlikeable hero. Yes, he needs to learn lessons about not being selfish, but he's selfish all the time, until the story dictates that he becomes the hero. All the people who do voices here are very good, but Judi Dench as the narrator comes off extremely well. Her narration gets you excited about the movie, even when you've sort of been bored to tears, but then it's back to the grind.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Running Scared

Written and Directed by Wayne Kramer
New Line Cinema


Wow! Now this is a dirty movie! Moms and dads, don't worry about violent content and wardrobe malfunctions if your kid sees any of this in the near future. This is a movie that isn't afraid to bathe in the mud. It's a screwdriver complete with pulpy orange juice.

Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is involved with a crime family. One of the deals that goes down early in the film goes horribly awry, and lots of killing occurs. Unknowingly, they've killed some dirty cops. Tommy (Johnny Messner) and Sal (Michael Cudlitz) leave the job of stashing a key piece of evidence against them, a gun, to Joey. Joey comes home to his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son Nicky (Alex Neuberger), who is playing with his best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) in the basement. Joey stashes the gun there, not seeing the hiding kids. When Oleg goes home, next door, we are introduced to his Russian parents. His mom Mila (Ivana Milicevic) and his John Wayne-loving and abusive dad Ivan (John Noble, completely unrecognizable from his LOTR days). Guess who's got a gun? The shooting that occurs is a major problem for Joey--with the cops and now with his gang, who entrusted their well-being on that gun not being found. Now a kid has it and is running around New Jersey with it.

Sounds typical, almost. But this movie is going to twist you around and give you some of the best pulp fiction we've seen this side of Tarantino, Matthew Vaughn, and Guy Ritchie. There's a scene reminiscent of the gimp portion of Pulp Fiction in this, a lurid extra that could be the idea for a movie all on its own. The narrative is practically real-time--it's one night in the city--a lost gun, dirty cops, bad people of all varieties, innocent people having to do bad things, all mixed into one. The early rottentomatoes.com score is at 40% positive. I guess I'm not shocked. When you see Paul Walker you tend to expect the worst and look for any reason not to like the movie. But if Tarantino had directed this, we'd have people coming out of the woodwork to praise it.

Sure, it's unbelievably violent. But what a kick it is. It's original. People need to come out and see this movie in droves if we're going to see less derivative stuff in the future. And by the way, Paul Walker kicks ass in this. It's the first time I've ever gotten involved with any of his performances. He's usually pretty stoic, even in Eight Below where his acting style works. I just want to know why the critical response has been so negative--this is the type of movie the critical community wishes would come out all the time.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Late Review: Final Destination 3

Director: James Wong
Written by Glen Morgan and Wong
New Line Cinema

Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just had a vision of everyone's horrible fiery death. This time, it's a roller coaster after part one discussed the issue of getting off a plane due to such visions and the second covered highway safety. Trouble is, even though these people are miraculously saved through one person's hysterics, Death still wants their heads, and the worst actually awaits the survivors.

This has been the kick of the series, that the survivors actually endure, one-by-one, the most horrifying deaths imaginable, in the order they were supposed to die originally. It sort of opens that discussion as to whether you should have just died in the first place. But one thing I've never been able to get about these movies is why any one person is being given these visions. Is it Death giving the visions, so he can have some imaginative fun? Or is it that in these cases, he just so happens to pick a group of people and one of them is psychic? Yeah, it's overthinking it, because really it's just a filmmaker's trick. But those thoughts always linger.

In this one, after the roller coaster vision, this film's protagonist Wendy is able to save a gaggle of unlikeable teenagers--two overtanned hoochies, an asshole pervert, an asshole football player, a pretentious goth guy and his pretentious goth girlfriend, and her best friend's boyfriend Kevin (Ryan Merriman), who Jim Bouton would refer to as a "beaver shooter." Her boyfriend and her best friend end up staying on the ride and dying. Kevin has looked into it, and tells Wendy that 6 years ago (in Final Destination, he's really saying) a group of kids avoided a plane crash but then all mysteriously died. After some grieving, Wendy starts looking at pictures that she took the night of the disaster and starts noticing some freaky things about them. They seem to be clues as to how the survivors are going to die.

This is where I thought the movie was at its most ridiculous and contrived, even though it's still, in a way, a fun movie to watch. The pictures, taken at completely random moments in time, capture clues to a future death that these people weren't even supposed to be alive to experience anyway. And if she takes pictures two or three minutes later of the same people, the clues wouldn't be there. Once again, filmmaker's trick. A hook. Something the audience can become actively involved in...kind of. Really, it's the series of innocuous occurrences that build into some sort of superdeath which becomes the movie's calling card--it's the reason why people will come out of this saying they really liked it. Those deaths, over-the-top gruesome, are practically funny.

It's one of those movies you've basically just got to shrug and get over it, enjoy it for whatever the filmmakers want it to be, and it is exactly what they want it to be. You can't fault that, but you can fault the logic.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Pull-Down Menu and Oscar

I've positioned all of the Oscar nominees that I saw last year to the top of the "L & N Movie Reviews" pull-down menu. There's 30 films there for quick reference, complete with the list of their nominations, if you're at all interested in this year's Oscars. Judging by the unusual lack of a bump in sales after Oscar nominations, maybe not. But it's there if you'd like--everything that got nominated that I saw from Best Picture nominees to the ones that only got Best Makeup nods. And the 2006 movies I've seen so far immediately follow those.

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Movie Releases, 2/24

This Friday we see the return of Paul Walker after a long hiatus of one week. It's Wayne Kramer's Running Scared, and no, there's no Billy Crystal in this, and especially no Gregory Hines. That would be morbid. Kramer's last writing/directing combo was the very good The Cooler. And he wrote Mindhunters, so hopefully he's responsible for that "I guess we finally found his weakness...Bullets" line. Considering this is more B-movie territory, we might have some fun with this.

And here's a movie the IMDb knows nothing about. It's Doogal, and they don't list the voices of Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Tay, or William H. Macy. The Weinstein Company is already touting this "from the team that brought you Hoodwinked." Amazing how a movie that no one had heard of a couple of weeks before its release became a mid-level hit and can suddenly be referred to as a selling point a month later for another movie. It's something about diamonds, and how these animals, including a dog named Doogal, need to get there before the bad guy does, because he can use them to freeze the sun...or something. We'll see.

The sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman arrives this weekend as well, Madea's Family Reunion. Look for a bunch of people who used to be good and used to go to church regularly who are now evil bastards, but can change only through loved ones. Sex sells. Tyler Perry finally gets to direct his own screenplay.

The IMDb has also curiously listed Ultraviolet as a release this week, but all of the national ads are saying March 3, and that's what I've been seeing on our various calendars at work.

In other words, looks like another fairly slow February week.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Date Movie




















Date Movie
Directors: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Written by Friedberg and Seltzer
20th Century Fox

At one point in this parody movie Alyson Hannigan's character Julia Jones gets an electric shock and can read people's thoughts, a la What Women Want. She thinks to herself, "It's like I'm in some bad Mel Gibson movie." Sorry honey, Mel Gibson has never made a movie as bad as this.

The directorial debut of writers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Spy Hard and the first three Scary Movies), this is the kind of movie that is outrageous due to the fact that these guys get to work in Hollywood and make tons more money than me. It is one of the most un-realized, shoddy pieces of crap I've ever seen.

Come on, Chris, this is all in fun! It's supposed to be stupid! It's just a movie! Lighten up! I would have to smoke the fattest, juiciest blunt in all of Amsterdam and suck nitrous oxide from a garden hose to force a giggle. You know that episode of "The Simpsons" where Bart gets a gig on Krusty's show saying, "I didn't do it?" Remember what happens when the joke gets old and there's a polite giggle from one of a hundred people? That's this movie. Bart's following, "Woozle Wuzzle," is funnier than this entire movie.

Usually, even in the worst of parody comedies, there's at least something you can laugh at. Like in Spy Hard, Weird Al Yankovic's title theme was funny--but I doubt you can give credit to Friedberg or Seltzer on that. These guys obviously grew up loving the Airplanes! and the Naked Guns and dreamed that they could match the Zucker Brothers. But just throwing the kitchen sink on every gag doesn't work--and the way it is filmed and edited is atrocious. There are jokes piled on top of other jokes that have absolutely no context--and no, I'm not talking about random gags that just pop up out of nowhere, I'm talking about the setup, the delivery, and the punchline--many fail to have even 2 of the 3. Considering the punchlines are often as tired as George Washington on a Barcalounger after three glasses of milk, a bottle of sleeping pills, and a Thanksgiving turkey, it doesn't really matter. Cliche is a bad medium to work in when you do parodies--here's yet another movie that makes fun of Michael Jackson as a child molester.

I don't give star ratings, but if I were to start today I would still have yet to give a star rating. It's awful, one of the worst of the aughts and we have three Uwe Boll films, Cat in the Hat, A Sound of Thunder, and The Brown Bunny to compare it.

2 Comments:

At 2/19/2006 12:14:00 PM, Anonymous John B said...

Chris, I have to agree with you 100%!! A case of beer plus a handle of Jack and this movie still wouldnt be funny. I waited for your review, but made the mistake of going before I saw it. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The movie's jokes and parodies are so forced that they aren't natural as a film. It's almost as if they made a bunch of 2-3 minute spoofs, used the same characters, and threw them all together. Many spoof a specific movie and then one random line or shot is thrown in the middle and you have no idea where it comes from. Also, there were many great one liner opportunities that were shot to hell by a bad, bad replacement, or they tried to extend it too long. I actually couldnt wait for it to be over. I watched as part of the audience left, someone's cell phone kept going off and I didnt care. It was that bad, no one cared.

One of the biggest wastes of 2 hours ever!! And this is coming from someone who loves B-horror movies!

 
At 2/20/2006 01:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Oh God... When John doesn't like a camp movie like this, you know it has to be HORRIBLE!!! And based on the previews, I'm not at all surprised.

 

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The Second Chance

I'm not going to go with my normal format for reviewing this movie. It's not something the whole country is going to get this weekend--it's only on 87 screens according to Box Office Mojo. Yes, it's another Christian-themed movie about problems faced inside the church, this one based and filmed around Nashville.













Michael W. Smith, the local gospel singer who enjoyed some pop success in the early 90's stars as Ethan Jenkins. He works as a hopeful pastor in a ministry group that has interests locally and abroad. One of their interests is improving The Second Chance church, a predominantly black place of worship set in a bad neighborhood. Jenkins enlists their pastor, Jake Sanders (Jeff Obafemi Carr) to come out to a massive multimedia church called The Rock and plead to the worshippers to give money to the fledgling church. But Sanders is a bit of a hothead and veers off course and tells them, "If you don't want to help, then keep your damn money." Oops.

Jenkins actually gets punished for his call, and is told to go observe Sanders and The Second Chance. Jenkins doesn't want to be there, but he gives it a go. Sanders doesn't want him to be there, either, figuring he's just another white boy coming out for a temporary stay in the projects so he can tell all the other white guys "he's been there." But now, Jenkins's job seems moot, because the ministry group (led by local actor David Alford) wants to demolish The Second Chance, build a new one, and also reconstruct the whole neighborhood to include hotels and a baseball stadium. Heresy! So, can Jenkins learn to like The Second Chance, and can he save it?

As films go, and how one goes about critiquing films, it's proofed against it. Yeah, the production values aren't the best, and Smith isn't the best actor in the world even though he's affable. But, religious moviegoers should have a good time--it's not bad, it's even above average.

Also of note are the local actors who are in this. I'm sure there are more but the ones I recognized were Alford and Jeremy Childs, both who appeared in The Last Castle. Matt Chiorini also makes an appearance. These are some of the more familiar faces in the Nashville theater scene and even though this is a small religious production, it's always cool to see them on a movie screen.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Freedomland

Director: Joe Roth
Screenplay by Richard Price from his novel
Sony Pictures

Maybe books, or rather certain books, shouldn't ever be turned into movies. I haven't read Price's Freedomland, but it's a 700+ page book turned into a 2-hour movie. Movies have to cram all of that into a concise running time. L.A. Confidential turned out well, but it's an exception, and after you read the Ellroy novel you realize that the undertaking took some balls. In that film, though, they were able to keep the layers of complex plot virtually intact, and with a great mystery, awesome performances, and exciting action, it was enthralling. Freedomland is another adaptation that falls short, regardless of whether the book is good or not.

Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) comes into a hospital with blood on her hands. She says she was carjacked, and that a black man did it. And, to make matters worse, her son was in the car. On the case is Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson), who is the trusted, fatherly black cop of the predominantly black neighborhood. His investigation, along with all the other cops who get onboard, means questioning the residents of the projects. This sparks a protest in the neighborhood, and a racial divide begins slowly to get out of control. Meanwhile, Lorenzo doesn't quite believe all of Brenda's story, which is somewhat of a sticking point between he and Brenda's brother Danny (Ron Eldard), who wants a swift resolution. Eventually, Lorenzo has to call on the help of a lost child finding team led by Karen Colucci (Edie Falco), which takes the investigation to a creepy park called Freedomland that once was an abusive orphanage. There are other matters--Lorenzo has been asked by Felicia (Aunjanue Ellis) to have a word with her boyfriend Billy (Anthony Mackie), who has started beating her. Lorenzo also has a son in jail.

There are dynamic performances across the board, especially Moore, who plays off-kilter in a manner reminiscent of her character in Magnolia, only more controlled. It's been awhile since I've seen Jackson in material that suits him, and he's equally good. But where the movie lost me was where it gets into a huge mess. The racial divide that the film clearly wants to beat you over the head with isn't exactly a crucial element to the plot--and yet, every ten to fifteen minutes or so, we've got people yelling and protesting, and Lorenzo gets caught up in it, being called an Uncle Tom, and so forth. Ron Eldard's character disappears at a crucial moment in the story and never returns. There's a tacked-on ending that's just ugly. And I'm not saying that these things don't exist or aren't realistic, but I do ask that it mean something to the overall picture.

1 Comments:

At 2/16/2006 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I have to admit I'm not looking as forward to seeing this as I thought I would be going into tomorrow. Why? Because I looked at who the director is, Joe Roth. This is the man that brought us, "Revenge of the Nerds II," "Christmas With the Kranks," and one of the most ridiculous movies ever, "America's Sweethearts." I guess being a producer, you can get whatever directing job you want. I hope to like it better than you Chris, but I think you're probably right on the money.

 

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Vokoun's the Man

The Czech Republic's Dominic Hasek left today's game against Germany after facing only five shots, leaving Tomas Vokoun between the pipes. Tomas only allowed one goal on twenty-one shots, and made up for the goal with an assist. The extent of Hasek's injury is unknown, but I'll bet Tomas gets to play at least one more game.

In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes about English soccer fans who have trouble cheering for their country due to there being so many hated players on rival clubs playing for them. How does an Arsenal fan cheer for a Tottenham Hotspur lad? And I'm beginning to come to a situation similar to that; am I supposed to cheer against Vokoun (and other Preds Erat and Zidlicky) if the Czechs play the US in the knock-out round and Tomas is still the starter? Am I capable of that? I don't think I'll know unless it actually happens.

And with Roger Clemens pitching for the US in the next month, I don't know what I'm going to do...

1 Comments:

At 2/16/2006 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Rector said...

If the Czechs face the US I too will have a moral quandry (the way the US played Latvia though it might not be an issue).

If however the Czechs face Canada I'll have no doubt for whom I'm rooting.

 

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The N&L Line

So I live in Nashville...usually. Right now I'm in Louisville for corporate training. I am supposed to hear any day now whether or not I was selected for another job...a much better job. After 10 hours of classes and then dinner...I'm about ready for bed every night. So here's my observation, as a Nashvillian, on Louisville:

"Man, I need to talk to Mike sometime about Louisville..."

That's it. I had this grand idea to write a post about Louisville, and to try and get out there and experience something about the city. But I'm too tired and distracted. I have noticed some dialect issues. And the traffic isn't any better. Other than that...I got nothing.

Oh--I saw Napoleon Dynamite on HBO. I wonder if I should have seen it before every college and high school kid in America made it their favorite film, because I was like, "Okay...so...that was it?"

6 Comments:

At 2/14/2006 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Seriously; I couldn't get through "Dynamite". Not that hit was horrible, but that it wasn't anything really worth crowing about. The popularity astonds me a bit.

And, when in Louisville, travel down Bardstown Rd. The closer to the river the better. You should find something interesting there. As a movie guy, you might like Wild & Wooley videos, which rents a lot of strange ones.

 
At 2/14/2006 11:41:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is one of those movies that slipped through the cracks as this oddball indie, and it certainly didn't live up to the hype. Jon Heder is good as the lead, but damn...it's not THAT funny. Popular around work with many people, though. I didn't like it all that much.

 
At 2/15/2006 12:09:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Rector said...

I had exactly the same response re: Napolean Dynomite (spelled that way in honor of J.J.). I knew that the kids liked it, and it had it's moments, but it wasn't great by any stretch. I might be a generation thing, you like how us old fogeys just don't get it.

Hey KW, call me sometime we haven't talked in ages.

 
At 2/15/2006 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I don't feel two ways about it; Napoleon Dynamite sucked. It was easily one of the worst films of 2004. Not funny at all.

 
At 2/15/2006 09:46:00 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

So you all are saying, I'm not missing anything but not seeing this movie??

 
At 2/15/2006 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

I seriously don't think you're missing a thing, man. The only reason to watch it might be so you can understand what all "the kids" are raving about. But it's ultimately pretty underwhelming.

 

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The Rest of Film Observations in 2005

This post will cover favorite performances, underrated/overrated, and moments of 2005.

Favorite Unsung Performances of 2005

These performances stood out and were not given much credit during awards time. Some might not even be "award-worthy" but they were good. In no order:

1. Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers. Her psycho babe was one of the most memorable performances of the year. And her sexy revelation that ends up roping in Vince Vaughn roped me in, too.

2. Clifton Collins, Jr., Capote. As Perry Smith, one of the convicted killers Capote interviews, Collins has the best, most heart-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

3. Seth Rogen, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Steve Carrell is definitely a funny guy and carries this movie, but perhaps the funniest performance came from Rogen.

4. The penguins in Madagascar. Penguins were a huge hit this year, and don't worry, even more penguins will be hitting screens with Happy Feet around Thanksgiving. But these penguins, led by director Tom McGrath lending his voice to Skipper, were the main reason Madagascar was in any way funny, and then they had their own short before Wallace & Gromit, also funny. Why can't Madagascar 2 be just the damn penguins?

5. Vince Vaughn, Wedding Crashers. Sure, it's Swingers' Trent all over again, but damn if it still isn't entertaining.

6. Michael Caine, The Weather Man. Here's a guy who usually gets nominated for everything, but this time, he got overlooked. His performance may have been the most satisfyingly droll of the year.

7. Maria Bello, Viggo Mortensen, and Ed Harris, A History of Violence. William Hurt's 10 minutes get recognized, but the three who carried the whole movie to that point get snubbed? Especially Bello.

8. Bill Murray, Broken Flowers. There was a lot of buzz on this performance over the summer. That goes to show how long buzz lasts in the Best Actor category.

9. Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale. Another critically loved performance, but very few accolades.

UNDERRATED FILMS OF THE YEAR (CRITICALLY DRUBBED OR LITTLE-SEEN)

I was shocked that Rent didn't garner more of an audience, and the same goes for Zathura, although I blame marketing on that. Marketing also sunk Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a comedy that deserved a lot better. Red Eye was a mid-level hit but not, probably, would it could have been.

But no doubt, The Weather Man was this year's most underrated film. This is damn funny stuff, in some ways Gore Verbinski's best film even though it's certainly nowhere near as commercial. Funny performances, off-kilter dialogue--if this had been an indie flick, we'd be hearing praises nonstop. One thing that hurt: being pushed back constantly from its original April release date.

OVERRATED FILMS OF THE YEAR (CRITICALLY OVERPRAISED)

I heard "masterpiece" being thrown around for movies like The Devil's Rejects and Land of the Dead. Wow.

Also, three films nominated for Best Picture are space-fillers for more deserving fare: Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote, and Munich. There are good moments, good messages in these films, and I even have them ranked in my "Top 32" or whatever you want to call it, but way overpraised.

But I thought the most overrated might be The Constant Gardener. Director Fernando Meirelles, who made the kinetic City of God (and if you haven't seen that movie yet, as I always say when I mention this, you need to go see it now), makes an awfully tiresome political movie here--one that is rich with detail and plot, yes, but not much on excitement.

DISAPPOINTMENTS (MOVIES THAT HAD PROMISE AND FAILED)

Disappointing could describe a great many films this past year. I was awfully disappointed with the adaptation of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a hard book to film, I guess, but the rhythms of joke-telling were botched. Those same, classic Adams gags were there, but presented in a slipshod manner.

Elizabethtown was another biggie. In many ways, it had the feel of Cameron Crowe flicks from the past, but it was over-bloated with that loooooong ending, the Susan Sarandon speech that seems to go on for hours, and other missteps. What was disappointing was enjoying it, and then not enjoying it, and then just getting frustrated.

I loved it then and I still think it's good today, but Star Wars Episode III underlined the failure of the entire series. After the first two failed to bring out that Star Wars magic, the third was handicapped by those failures, and that's why when the Jedis get massacred it's not as resonant as it should be. Anakin was so unlikeable in the first place, that his transformation wasn't all that shocking.

I also had hope for the aformentioned Land of the Dead, considering it was "master of zombie horror" George A. Romero.

But no movie was more disappointing than Sin City. With a kickass teaser and awesome visuals, with Tarantino on board to direct a scene, I thought this would just blow me away. As I've said before, if you strip away the look of this film, then all you have is this crappy movie you'd see on late-night cable.

Memorable Moments of 2005

There are numerous moments here that may be a bit of a spoiler, so I would urge caution. You might want to read the highlighted titles first before proceeding.

In Hitch, Will Smith looks at client Kevin James's supplied bio, and under "Musical Interests" it features, on the same line, Led Zeppelin and Clay Aiken.

In Star Wars Episode III, Anakin Skywalker, who has turned to the Dark Side as is helping the Emperor wipe out all the Jedi, enters a room full of future Jedi. A little boy tells Anakin his concerns about what's happening, and that's when he sees the instant glow of the light saber. The little boy takes the slightest step back, before the scene cuts.

In Mindhunters, after the bad guy gets shot dead, one character remarks to another in a great cheesy bad line, "Well, I guess we found his weakness...Bullets."

Batman stands looking over Gotham, his purpose clear to protect it, in one of those perfect mood-setting scenes, in Batman Begins.

Once the attack is in full bloom in War of the Worlds, we get a closeup of a video camera's viewfinder, recording all of the action.

There were numerous scenes in Crash that deserve to be here. One is where Michael Pena has an argument with storeowner Shaun Toub, who is about to shoot Pena. His young daughter runs out, thinking she's invincible. Toub shoots just as the girl jumps in front of Pena. What follows is the most tense 30 seconds in film this year.

Also, Terrence Howard's face as he gets pulled over by cops the first, then especially second, time. Also, William Fichtner's offhand remark to Don Cheadle, "Black people...They just can't seem to keep their hands out of the cookie jar." Also, Matt Dillon saving Thandie Newton from a burning car, this after previously molesting her in an earlier traffic stop. There's much more, but those are the ones I felt needed to be mentioned.

In A History of Violence, when Viggo Mortensen finally exposes his true character and blows away the three guys (including Ed Harris) who have been harassing him.

In Sky High, Kurt Russell has two great line readings. Early on, as he's telling his son Michael Angarano that one day he won't be a superhero dad anymore, and that he'll need to take over one day, he says reflectively, "One day when if I have to stop a meteor from hitting the Earth, it'll be me that explodes into a million pieces." Also, at the end, talking to Lynda Carter, "Whatever you're teaching these kids...then just keep teaching them...it."

As guards stand post outside of Folsom Prison, an audible thumping can be heard from inside. As the camera gets closer, it gets louder, and we see the prisoners stamping their feet and clapping their hands. It's Johnny Cash giving them a legendary performance in Walk the Line. Also, as Reese Witherspoon as June Carter does a comedy bit on stage, Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) can't stifle a quick laugh, drowned out by the audience's, as he waits behind the curtain.

In Hustle & Flow, Terrence Howard goes to a neighbor he doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye with and respectfully asks him if he can turn his music down. "I can't tell you to do it, I can only request." Also, when he finally starts pounding out songs "Whoop That Trick" and "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp," is when the movie is at its best.

In the otherwise horrible Dukes of Hazzard, there is one sliver of sunshine--well, Jessica Simpson in a bikini with a knockout bod certainly qualifies, but it's a hotshot racer talking on a headset during the big race in the end, asking, "Did you get the Celine Dion tickets?" and "Of course I want back-stage, don't be dumb."

In Cinderella Man, when Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) humbly asks for money from the wealthy promoters. Also, after Braddock has a comeback fight that no one expects him to do anything in, and he emerges as a knockout winner, Paul Giamatti comes into the dressing room and exclaims, "Jesus Christ! Mother of Mary, Jesus...all of the saints...did I say Jesus?"

In March of the Penguins, one of the female penguins after losing her baby, as Morgan Freeman says, "does something unimaginable." And that's to try to steal another mother's baby. But the other penguins won't allow it.

In King Kong, the three dinosaurs and King Kong fight, but the spectacular part of it is when they, including Naomi Watts, get caught in vines that hang over a huge drop below. Kong has to fight the dinos, and make sure Watts doesn't fall, in the best action scene of the year. Also, when Kong makes it to New York, he frantically searches for his blonde-headed love, getting disappointed and haphazardly tossing each woman he finds aside like trash. When he finally finds Watts, they have a touching moment on an ice pond, before the attack comes.

Also, Andy Serkis, in his other role as a sailor, gets swallowed by this huge centipede thing that just engulfs his face.

In The Weather Man, Nicolas Cage, told by wife Hope Davis not to forget the tartar sauce, gets distracted by everything he sees on the trip to the store, especially a woman that stands in front of him at a crosswalk. He thinks, as he looks at the girl's behind, "Tartar sauce...tartar sauce. I wish I had two dicks..." Also, when Michael Caine explains to Cage what "camel toe" means.

In Thumbsucker, Benjamin Bratt gets the funny, cheesy lines. One, on his show "The Line" as he helps someone out, a partner says, "They're just wetbacks," or something to that effect. He says, "There are no wetbacks here...only people!" Later, as he runs into the main character Justin (Lou Pucci), he introduces himself. "I'm from that show, 'The Line?' You know...'Sometimes You Gotta Cross It?'"

In The Bad News Bears, during a game, Billy Bob Thornton asks a kid what he thinks. Continuing to look out into the field, his reply is, "I think bird food sometimes tastes like candy." It may have been the most surreal funny moment of the year for me.

In The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd have a hilarious "cut down" fight while playing video games, always beginning with, "Do you know how I know that you're gay?" Also, Steve Carrell's attempt to fit in with the guys during a poker game when the talk turns towards sexual experiences, "Yeah...I love titties," he says, unsure, sipping his soda. There are, of course, tons more from this movie.

In Wedding Crashers, the montage where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson keep crashing weddings and bagging numerous women to the tune of "You Make Me Want to Shout." And there are quite a few times Vaughn goes on a riff, but the one where he's talking about all the different scenarios he hates about dating--"Should I hug her, should I not, do I do the hug where your butt sticks out so that you're not too close," and so on, culminating in, "Maybe we could play a little game called 'Just the Tip,' you know, see how it feels..."

There were a great many suspense moments in Munich, and the one where an unintended target, a little girl, answers a phone rigged with explosives was memorable, as was the one where Eric Bana has to turn out a light to signal that it's OK to blow up a bed in a next-door hotel room rigged with explosives, and when he does--that one second where it's silent and all of the sudden the wall blows apart, throwing him several feet. My favorite scene, though, is when Mathieu Kassovitz explains to Bana that the reason he feels pride in being Jewish is that they are a peaceful people, not searching for vengeance, and every time they do one of these hits, he seems to be losing some of his soul.

In Jarhead, in a cool dream sequence set to the tune of Nirvana's "Something in the Way," it culminates in Jake Gyllenhaal vomiting a ton of sand. Also, when Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard finally get a chance to kill someone, they are told to stand down because the napalm is on the way. Sarsgaard's flip out had to have been one of the most draining scenes for an actor in the year.

In Serenity, hot chick Kaylee (Jewel Staite) comments on her dry spell concerning sex, "I haven't had anything twixt my nethers t'weren't hooked up with batteries."

In Broken Flowers, when Bill Murray waits for old flame Sharon Stone, her daughter Lolita (Alexis Dziena, who is a regular on TV show "Invasion") is on the phone. She walks off, then comes back completely naked, like Murray isn't there.

In Proof, there are a number of flashbacks of Gwyneth Paltrow and her dad Anthony Hopkins that will eventually tell you the truth about who authored this amazing math proof. Hopkins is slowly going crazy, and it is speculated whether he was even sane enough to write an amazing proof before his death. In the climactic scene of the flashbacks, Paltrow is excited to finish the work and has come up with the proof, and she hears a call from Hopkins to come into his room, because he believes he's got it. Paltrow comes in with her proof, but lets Hopkins share his first. Reading from his notes, Paltrow reads his findings, heartbreakingly out of touch:

Let X equal the quantity of all quantities of X. Let X equal the cold. It is cold in December. The months of cold equal November through February. There are four months of cold, and four of heat, leaving four months of indeterminate temperature. In February it snows. In March the Lake is a lake of ice. In September the students come back and the bookstores are full. Let X equal the month of full bookstores. The number of books approaches infinity as the number of months of cold approaches four. I will never be as cold now as I will in the future. The future of cold is infinite. The future of heat is the future of cold. The bookstores are infinite and so are never full except in September...

The "Tells." (Spoiler)

I promised I'd go over this. There were two thrillers in particular that basically gave away the surprise bad guys early into the film.

In Derailed, when we first see Jennifer Aniston, the camera angle is behind her, not even showing her face, giving that mysterious allure to a character that really shouldn't be given much extra attention. That introduction stayed with me for the whole film, and I knew she was behind the scheme.

In Flightplan, there's an early scene with Peter Sarsgaard and the stewardess where he asks about what movies will be playing on the flight. The act of focusing on something that seems arbitrary calls attention to both characters--and yes, they were behind the abduction.

And so, there's the rest of my 2005 observations. Hope it is in any way entertaining.

4 Comments:

At 2/14/2006 02:21:00 PM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Too many to comment on so I'll just pick this one for now:
"5. Vince Vaughn, Wedding Crashers. Sure, it's Swingers' Trent all over again, but damn if it still isn't entertaining."

Excuse me! Do you know where all the high school girls hang out in this town??

GREAT movie. Top five, easily.

 
At 2/14/2006 03:50:00 PM, Blogger MaraJade said...

I meant that Swingers is in my top five, not wedding crashers.

Anyway...
"Toub shoots just as the girl jumps in front of Pena. What follows is the most tense 30 seconds in film this year."
Couldn't agree more. I was so glad this movie won the big award over Brokeback Mountain. It totally deserved it.

And thanks for finally sharing that flightplan give away. I could NOT understand what you were talking about in your review, but I get it now. I do remember thinking something along those lines of "that was weird..." but it didn't completely ruin the movie for me. I thought the ending was rather anti-climatic though.

Awesome post.

 
At 2/14/2006 07:40:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Darn good post, man. I wish I'd seen enough movies this year to write a post like that. My one movie note I'd add for the year is Wallace & Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I just bought that on DVD and it is even more clever than I remembered from seeing it in the theater. Hilarious. Give it a look-see.

 
At 2/14/2006 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Yeah, W & G made my top 10 list and I couldn't really pinpoint one moment out of it, because it was all funny. I loved the were-rabbit's craving for cheese, and the scene where all the bunnies were getting sucked up into Wallace's machine.

 

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Olympic

I'd almost forgotten what it meant to cheer for your country in an international event until I saw Joey Cheek race earlier today. He was in charge, in first place after the first of two runs in the 500 meter speedskate, and I was nervous he'd trip out of the gate like two others before him, blowing his chance, but no, he's moving, racing, sprinting, mastering the turns, making the second run just as great as the first, and what a champion there was on the screen, humble and joyous, and so was I. This American, this Southerner had won a gold medal in the freaking Winter Olympics, and I jumped up to grin and laugh share his joy, like you're supposed to celebrate greatness and take pride in your own people.

Unfortunately, this was about the only time I could be compelled to look up from my book. I sat through three hours tonight of tape delayed and processed drama that, just earlier today, was a great sporting event. Today this race, pairs ice dancing, and snowboarding were shown, but couldn't seem to keep on any one long enough, as if every Olympic fan had developed a case of ADD, needing constant cut-aways for entertainment, with a horrible Chevy commercial to boot. All of this jumping kept me from getting into any event, feeling little of the drama and the passion and the raw nerves that should fill every sprint and every jump where you simply can't look away as sprinter after sprinter after sprinter try to match the best time on the board and be remembered as one of the greatest of all time, to be celebrated in his country for years, and his hometown forever. Instead I read my pop science book.

What does NBC and the rest of the media do? They highlight Kwan, a very likeable athlete, but one that likely wouldn't have been a factor had she competed. They highlight Bodie Miller, showing all of his lesser points, making him as unlikeable as possible. They treat snowboarding as a truly important international sport to attract young viewers, even though the only question was which American would win (and most young people would rather watch Grey's Anatomy anyway). They show every minute of women's hockey debacles, where checking is not allowed and teams often score more goals than their opponents take shots. They show us the same scenes, the same sappy stories over and over and over until we can't take it anymore. Meanwhile Joey Cheek, the defending World Champion, gets treated like a happy to be here underdog, not even being mentioned in his own heat until they are just seconds from the gun. Why not?

It's the small moments that last, that you always remember, and, if I remember correctly, they used to do a much better job of bringing to the audience. When the Chinese lady Zhang Dan got back onto the ice tonight after a crash that might have blown out her knee, I worried that she'd do further damage, but could see in her that she simply wouldn't let that keep her from finishing the program. It's the freaking Olympics, dammit! I know the world is a lot smaller, and I know the Cold War is over, and I know that most of these sports aren't of interest every other week of the year, but it's still the best in the world competing at the highest level, showing you for just two weeks what they have worked their entire lives to accomplish. You should be able to sell that. Everyone, especially NBC, is missing some great sport.

1 Comments:

At 2/14/2006 10:17:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

What amazes me is that NBC uses their sister networks USA and CNBC to broadcast the Olympics as well, and they STILL have to switch sports. Maybe they should bring back the Olympic Triplecast or something. Because, yes, the Olympics used to broadcast one sport and you'd see the whole thing, at least that's the way I remember it.

 

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Movie Releases, 2/17

I think I've spent this vacation well, not watching any movies. No doubt about it, the 2005 experiment kicked my ass. Anyway, I hear I haven't missed much with last week's flicks. Back to the grind this week, though.

I'm beginning to wonder if Julianne Moore has a personal experience with child abduction. I'm not saying this to be crass or insensitive, but she comes out with her second such film since 2004's The Forgotten in Joe Roth's direction of the Richard Price novel Freedomland, which Price adapted. Samuel L. Jackson will likely yell a bunch, which means I'm there! Edie Falco, Mrs. Tony Soprano, also stars.

Also, the dogs-in-peril movie Eight Below arrives this week. I've reviewed it, and I liked it quite a bit.

And, also, the big movie of the weekend will likely be the parody Date Movie. Alyson Hannigan stars in this spoof--the first part of the trailer looked funny, then it looked like your typical pop culture pile-on, as if just doing scenes from other movies is inherently funny. But, there's the possibility that there will be some fun here and there.

Also, because we live in Nashville, the next Christian-themed movie comes out this weekend. It's called The Second Chance. Christian pop star Michael W. Smith stars. Could be decent, or could be unbelievably awful.

4 Comments:

At 2/13/2006 10:05:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I've got high hopes for "Freedomland," might be putting up a review of the book later this week if I can finish it in time (It is a tome). Next to "Inside Man" and "V For Vendetta" this is one of the movies I'm looking most forward to this Spring.

"Date Movie" looks fucking awful. It looks like the bastard son of "Not Another Teen Movie," which was a piece of shit in it's own right. Parodies when done well are something to behold (Airplane, Young Frankenstein), but the majority of the time their just "wink, wink, nod, nod" kind of things. There always the most over the top and obvious references and puns. The preview makes me want to vomit. I feel this strongly about it, I really do. But like Chris said, it'll make it's money; probably 20 million or so.

 
At 2/14/2006 08:30:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Just tell me one thing - is Freedomland exactly like "forgotten"? Because that's immediately what I thought of when I saw the little boy disappear in the commercial...

If it's different I want to see it. I'm a fan of both Moore and Jackson, but if it's just a recap I have no interest.

No interest in date movie either. I'm sick of raunchy comedies. They need some more innocent fun at the movies lately. I guess that's what Curious George is for....

 
At 2/14/2006 10:14:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I think FREEDOMLAND is a lot less, if any, supernatural than THE FORGOTTEN. It's more crime procedural, and it looks like Falco's character is one of those "when the law fails you" child finders.

 
At 2/14/2006 10:45:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Well, there may be hope for it yet then.

You know, you guys should set up a movie discussion board or something. That'd be fun. :)

 

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Book Report: Cell



The recently retired Stephen King (ahem) releases his first of two new novels in 2006. King wrote a non-fiction novel in the early eighties called "Danse Macabre." In this book he decided to take on the task of critiquing horror in all of it's multi-media forms: Novels and short stories, Television, and Film. In the part about writing horror he divulges what he believes is the evolution of a horror writer. Initially, like any other writer, you are just trying to find your voice, the second step is to get down to the scares, and be able to knock your audiences on their asses with as many one-two punches as you can fit in the work. Then comes the psychological and surreal stages where you are trying to get past the genre's conventions and do something new with it. And lastly, when you have used up a lot of your will powere you're just going for the gross out factor. "Cell" is a definate stepping stone toward this last stage.

"Cell" is the story of a world gone to hell. Through some powers that are never explained, a "Pulse" is sent through the cell phone sattelites, and anyone who uses their mobile treasures becomes the equivalent of a zombie. The people become barbaric and start killing and in some cases eating their own kind. Three of the survivors of the initial catastrophe become the focus of the story as they try and decipher what is going on and at the same time try and rebuild what little is left of civilization.

Clayton Riddell is our hero of the story, a guy who just sold his first graphic novel before all this shit hit the fan. He's paired in the Stephen King tradition with a child, mature well beyond her years, and a yuppie named Tom who does very little but allow us to have a trio to follow. All of this makes it sound like I'm being sarcastic as hell, but actually the novel isn't half bad; at times it's pretty damn good.

King really had his heyday in the eighties from his scary debut, "Carrie," he followed the next decade with a slew of great horror novels that scared the bejesus out of us ("Salem's Lot," "The Shining," "Cujo," "Firestarter," "Pet Semetary," etc.) His most treasured work during this period was his post-apocalyptic epic, "The Stand," and for many people (with the exception of those Gunslinger fanatics; I am not one of them) it is their favorite. For me personally, I'll take "Salem's Lot" and "Pet Semetary" over "The Stand," but it's a great novel nonetheless. It should also be noted that this prime period for King was also at the time he was a major coke addict. Maybe, Chris, this is why you and I can't sell any of our material; we don't do enough coke.

But I digress. "The Stand" is what "Cell" is being compared to. And I can see why; it's a much more compacted version, and that's fine. At under 400 pages, this novel is a relief after ten years of those 800 pound gorillas King was throwing at us (Insomnia, Bag of Bones) that could have used a good editor. But like "The Stand," "Cell" shows us a world reliant on all of the technological advancements guiding us through the rest of our lives, and what chaos would break out if they were used against us. I applaud King for not making this a message story. I'm sure from reading this the man hates the cell phone; he claims he doesn't own one. But this story is not about that.

The book is dedicated to Richard Matheson (Who's own epic, "I am Legend" this strongly resembles) and George Romero. King wanted to write his zombie novel, and this is what we get. It's gory as hell; not for the squeamish. It's fast paced; the action starts up on page 2. For most of the 380 pages it's a lot of fun, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Is it scary? Not really. Does it lack something at the end like most King novels? Yes. But is it good? I would have to go with yes. It's the best book of King's I've read since 1992's "Needful Things." King might be past his heyday, but "Cell" proves he can still put together a hell of a fun story. He might not being breaking any new ground, but he stood true to his scoped out evolution; he is in his gross out period, and for this story that seems to work out pretty well for him.

1 Comments:

At 2/13/2006 03:22:00 PM, Blogger Doc said...

Awesome. I'm going to have to pick this up. You are sadly right about Stephen King's recent novels. Even the Dark Tower books that I initially loved became sour and used-up in the final three. It looked like King just wanted to be done with the series. I did like the metafiction angle, though.

Who knows? Maybe cell phones could turn people into zombies eventually. Take a look into people's cars on the interstate, and it'll make you think...

Keep 'em coming, Johnny.

 

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Webcam Blogging: Turin (Torino)

2006 Winter Olympic Stadium:


Arco Olimpico:


Torino Skyline:


Mole Antonelliana:


Palazzo Madama:


Via Roma:


Allestimento Medals Plaza:


Una Finestra Sul Piemonte:


Torino Skyline 2:


Turin Cathedral (Duomo di Torino):

(Time-lapse)

Piazza Castello:


Porta Palatina:


Palazzo Civico:


Northern Highway Gateway (Piazzale Autostrade Nord):


Panoramic view from Villa Gualino:

2 Comments:

At 9/27/2007 10:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Le foto sono così belle...solo un po grige!!! Vabbè che Torino non è proprio la città del sole...ma queste foto non le rendono affatto giustizia!!!

 
At 11/25/2008 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I didn't take these photographs! They are live on webcam! Thanks for visiting the site, though.

Or translated...

Non ho preso queste fotografie! Essi sono in diretta su webcam! Grazie per la visita del sito, però.

 

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pred Ramblings

The Preds just took another loss to the Red Wings, and there are some things that really irritate me about the way they have been losing lately. They are now 2-6 since the back-to-back wins in Detroit. And they are 9-13 since what I considered the biggest win of the season to that point at Calgary.

What is the deal? Well, look at how the Red Wings play and you'll see the vast difference between the two teams. This has become a common scene when watching the Wings play the Preds:


Sure, it's a scene a lot of teams see when they play the Wings. And, hell, the Preds are only 2-3 against them. But notice the face--it's Mathieu Schneider. This guy has scored 4 goals in 5 games against this team (the Red Wings as a whole have scored 15). I think I've seen every one of them. They're all from the same spot on the ice, to the left of the goal, wide open, with only Vokoun in front of him. And guess what? Vokoun's not going to stop him. He genetically cannot stop Schneider from scoring under those circumstances.

That means no one is attacking. I don't think anyone can accuse the Preds of not being a hard-working team, but against the real good teams in this league, they get bullied. Teams have put up 40 shots or more in a drinking-game number of instances against this team. That's too damn many--I don't think that's ever going to change. This will never be addressed. The other side of it is watching the Wings play defense. They sort of form a 5-man wall in front of Legace, they look like the 5-side of a di. And when the puck is loose, they always go after it and disrupt any kind of offensive momentum that a skater can get. There's always someone trying for the puck.

The way you get around that is do some disruption yourself. But all the Preds stand around on the outside of this wall, expecting to be able to get a good shot if the puck gets to them, and let me tell you right now, that's not happening. It won't happen. I've never played hockey in my life, but I do know the laws of matter. They aren't going to be able to shoot the puck through 6 opposing guys. Someone needs to get in the wall, get in front of the net, cause a penalty, whatever. Stop allowing teams to build walls! And when you play defense, stop allowing their guys stand 2 inches in front of the goal! This has been a Predator staple since 1998.

And this losing the lead and losing the game late has to stop, too. What's the fix? Is there a fix? Is Legwand the answer? A healthy Walker (at this point, I'm not seeing either of those two ever being available for a whole season)? Whatever it is, they're going to have to find it. This team will make the playoffs, but they're also not going to face the Chicago Blackhawks, sorry to say.

2 Comments:

At 2/09/2006 10:30:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I couldn't agree more. What a disappointing loss tonight. In these last two games we've shown that the Wings are clearly the better team; they are better coached, and have more talent. We're lucky to play Columbus, STL, and Chicago eight times each. Right now, we're playing like the old Preds, hoping and praying we can make the playoffs.

 
At 2/10/2006 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

I agree as well. I don't know what the answer is, though. There are nights...when they come out looking and playing great. But those are not as frequent as I'd like to see (though more frequent than any previous season).

I do think both Walker and Legwand--and them being on the ice together--will help. Walker is hustle master, and he's good. Legwand is (as I've now said several times) way better than people give him credit for. Trotz said publicly he's very happy with David's play. He's EVERYWHERE. He's not only fast, he's smart about where the puck is going and where it's going to be. He steals a lot of pucks. He makes and receives good passes. He creates...he sets the table.

We do officially need to go buy that free agent defenseman the team's been talking about. A big-ass guy who will clear the freaking front of the net and slam people. A good one. I know they can't afford Adam Foote...but a guy like that. Foote-lite. Now.

If that happens...and Leggy and Walker are both back shortly after the Olympic break...I think we can be the team that steps up and steams into the playoffs. We need more defense to stop the crazy shot totals. And yes...we can think of Legwand as a third defenseman who also plays wing. He is a great defensive-offensive player.

Done ranting. Good post, Chris. Sure hope we beat Columbus heading into the Olympics.

 

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Why MySpace.com Will Destroy the World





At last count, MySpace.com has roughly 12 trillion users with their own personal niche carved into the world-wide web. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

For those of you who don't know, MySpace.com is a self-described "Place for friends" to connect, re-connect, and disconnect in a safe, user-friendly environment that promotes benefiscence and global communication. Sounds innocent, right? I mean, who wouldn't want to find their high school sweetheart, teenage pen pal, summer camp counselor, and favorite R & B singer's personal site in under 5 minutes? It must be a modern-day phenomenon!

Maybe not. Since the increasing everday worldwide absorption of the internet, global communication has become as easy as clicking the mouse a couple of times and letting the good times roll, whether it be email, job searches, finding movie times, locating that Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign on Ebay, or discovering the inherent joy of Lithuanian Acid-Induced Gymnasium Pornography. Good times indeed. MySpace, however, takes it to a whole new level. It's gotten personal.

I don't write this as an outside observer. Sure, I've received many an invite from people that I know well, and I've listened to rave reviews about how a buddy reconciled with a former girlfriend, only to have the current girlfriend become dangerously irate and threaten to perform a "butterfly cut" on the buddy testicles, but I still had my doubts. I signed up for the damn thing about a month ago.

Instantly my world was rocked. The planet was at my fingertips. I could find people that were really into table tennis, loved to read John Milton, or appreciated the subtle artistry of Beavis and Butthead. Not only that, they could immediately become my "friends," promoting a sense of community of which I had only dreamed.

With slight amusement, I watched as high school classmates and other previously known aquaintances sent welcome messages to my "website." "Wow," I thought. "I haven't heard from that guy in ten years!" I then realized that I had been registered on the site for only about an hour. The walls were already caving in. This was getting a little disturbing.

I had to cancel my account within two hours of creating it. I have friends, but I'm not that popular. It was like I was a moose in central Canada, and people couldn't wait to bag me as their MySpace pal. "They're everwhere! Retreat!" My email was blowing up like never before. It's chilling to know that many people know where you are and what you're doing. It led me to think...

Globalization of information has assisted in building international businesses from scratch, but it changes people on a personal level. Some of you might be a proponent of the dating services available online. Others may see the intrinsic danger of anonymous chat, leading to predatory encounters.

Now, don't label me as a moralist. Those of you who know me know that I'm maybe the last person to go to for personal ethical advising. However, I'm concerned that as globalization increases, cultural differences wane, and individualization disseminates into cyberspace. It's not a popular opinion, but one worth considering.

Old-fashioned? Maybe. The way I see it, if you really had wanted to get in touch with your little league baseball team before MySpace, it would have taken an effort that said team would certainly appreciate. The ease of communication in the modern day could be cause for alarm. Is it hypocritical that I'm posting this on an internet weblog? Perhaps, but I see it as hitting 'em where they congregate. Good times.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

But Will They Bring Back Tony's Mailbag?

And the big announcement from ESPN:


Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser will be part of a three-man booth calling the games on Monday nights next season and Suzy Kolber and Michelle Tafoya will be sideline reporters.


What an odd trio. Tirico is a solid choice, of course. I think Mr. Tony will be a perfect fit for the game, with people like me (and most others my age) loving him, while others find him annoying. Theismann will be exactly the opposite.

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Best and Worst of 2005

I saw a little over 170 movies in 2005 (and it's 180 when you count the 2005 releases that came out in Nashville this year). That's every major release and more. I've seen just about every Oscar nominee (damn you, Transamerica!) and I've definitely seen every terrible flick--those overlap in badness so much, it's a challenge to come up with definitive rankings for them.

The Best of 2005

After the count was done, I saw 32 films out of the total amount that I felt were good experiences overall. Counting down:

32. Good Night, and Good Luck, 31. Red Eye, 30. Wedding Crashers, 29. Hustle & Flow, 28. Hitch, 27. Syriana, 26. Millions, 25. Star Wars Episode III, 24. Broken Flowers, 23. Capote, 22. War of the Worlds, 21. Munich, 20. Kung-Fu Hustle, 19. The Matador, 18. The Squid and the Whale, 17. Jarhead, 16. March of the Penguins, 15. Layer Cake, 14. Sky High, 13. Pride & Prejudice.

12. The New World

Terrence Malick returns with a movie that's not going to get most people excited, but for me, I watched this agape at the beauty of it. Q'Orianka Kilcher, Colin Farrell, and Christian Bale all brought their best to the table for this telling of the founding of Jamestown.

11. Oldboy

The reason Oldboy doesn't make it into the top 10 might be a ridiculous one, but it's one that bothered me enough--it's a 2003 film that finally made it here in the summer. If I had seen this in 2003, it would have made the top 10 for 2003. As it is, it does qualify as a movie I saw on the big screen this year, finally getting an American release (just in time for this year's remake!), and I decided to include it on the list. Anyway, Chan-wook Park's film is filled with great moments, a fun performance from Min-sik Choi, and an ending you will never forget.

10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Nick Park's signature characters finally got their big movie in 2005, and it was one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year and certainly was the best animated film of the year.

9. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Steve Carrell makes a big jump to leading comic actor in Judd Apatow's very funny comedy that toed the line between sweet and raunchy. He had a great amount of help from Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco as his newfound worker buddies trying to get him laid, and a performance from Catherine Keener that I thought was better than her nominated one in Capote.

8. Walk the Line

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon do a great justice to Johnny and June Carter Cash in this biopic that was able to shake off the normal conventions of biopics in general. James Mangold's direction is phenomenal, especially when it comes to the music and the bookended Folsom Prison sequence.

7. Batman Begins

The best big-budget movie of the summer was this restructure of the Batman series, Christopher Nolan's "let's forget that any of those other movies happened" entry into the world of comic books. Christian Bale is a kickass Batman. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman fleshed out Bruce Wayne's world nicely.

6. Match Point

Woody Allen blew me out of the water with this thriller, an old Hitchcock-style narrative that winded up making me hold my breath as the spectacular finale unfolds. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in one of the great unsung performances of the year.

The next five movies I probably considered as "Best of the Year" many times in the course of knocking them around in my head. This is the most difficult challenge of the ranking process. I'll give it a shot--it's almost a blindfold dart-throwing exercise, but I'll explain reasons for my choices.

5. King Kong

The night I watched this, and subsequently reviewed it, I considered this the best movie of the year. It's certainly the best big-screen experience of the year, and maybe in some circles that's all that should count. But in later years we're not going to be able to see this on a real big screen, condensed onto video. Luckily, Peter Jackson didn't make a movie of pure spectacle; he put in many human touches that are going to translate well down the road. King Kong's fight with the dinosaurs was the most thrilling experience I had in a theatre this year, and his death was one of the most heartbreaking. It's fifth, and I can deal with that.

4. A History of Violence

Now that I'm at fourth, it's getting even harder. Why only 4th? Well, I was a little put off by the whole William Hurt ending. I have nothing against his performance, he's good, and it's an important element to the story, but it seemed just a bit out of place. Maybe further viewings will prove me wrong. Anyway, David Cronenberg's film might be the best all-around of the year, with nary a misstep on its way to a necessary end. William Hurt gets a nice nomination and all, but this movie and its other performances (Viggo Mortensen, and especially Maria Bello, and how about Ashton Holmes as Viggo's son?) were ignored. Oscar always seems to have one movie that slips through the cracks, and this is just one of them. Read on.

3. Cinderella Man

A movie with the most undeserved "failure" heaped on it--marketing mistakes led to a box office misfire, and although it gained a little bit of steam after its video release, this is a movie that typically would be a surefire, can't-miss Best Picture nominee. It's way freaking better than Capote, or Munich, or Good Night, and Good Luck. Paul Giamatti finally gets recognized after at least two snubs, Russell Crowe turns in one of the most dynamic leading performances of the year and is apparently getting punished further for throwing a phone at a hotel clerk, and some of the best boxing scenes you'll ever see. Why third? Possibly the one-dimensional characterization of Max Baer, played well by Craig Bierko for what it is. That's a tiny flaw, for sure, but it's 3rd, and that's very good.

2. Brokeback Mountain

It always seemed to be a fight between this and King Kong for my number 1 slot, and now that I sit down and examine all of these films carefully, neither make it. Ang Lee's Brokeback certainly isn't a perfect movie, but it has awesome dialogue and just unbelievably great performances from Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and the unrecognized Anne Hathaway. It has a lot of memorable moments. The music by Gustavo Santaolalla is gorgeous and the cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto can be called the same. Really, this is only 2nd because I went back and thought about Crash.

1. Crash

Released in May, Crash had an early position into this slot. I knocked it down several times, but it never got any worse than 5th overall. Now, going back and sort of reacting to how I felt about each and every one of these last 5, I found out that I really liked Crash better than all of them. It is, of course, no knock against any of the other films--like I said, all of them could have ended up here. But how amazing is this film to explore complex racial issues, make each member of a huge ensemble cast memorable, and just be dowright exciting throughout? Tons of quotable dialogue and great moments in Paul Haggis's script, in his directorial debut. This had to have been tough to make, and it's brilliant.

The Worst of 2005

After the count was done, 35 movies vied for the coveted "Worst of the Year." Finding the worst movie out of the bunch is probably harder than finding the best, but I'll give it a go.

148. The Brothers Grimm, 149. Land of the Dead, 150. The Longest Yard, 151. The Dukes of Hazzard, 152. The Family Stone, 153. The Honeymooners, 154. House of Wax, 155. The Cave, 156. Undiscovered, 157. Kids in America, 158. Beauty Shop, 159. The Ring Two, 160. The Fog, 161. Miss Congeniality 2, 162. Are We There Yet?, 163. Boogeyman, 164. Cry Wolf, 165. Venom, 166. Domino, 167. Monster-in-Law, 168. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, 169. Doom, 170. Elektra

171. The Perfect Man

No one does more emotional damage to her mother than Hilary Duff does to Heather Locklear and potential suitor Chris Noth in any movie I've ever seen. The farcical elements that this movie tries to create are way more disheartening and downright ugly than being anywhere near funny. This movie made me squirm, and as my review states, I was about to disregard this movie as a completely inessential kind of entertainment until the meanness started.

172. Undead

Like Oldboy, this was actually released in 2003. But this one miraculously made it to our shores with a somewhat "big" (to put it lightly) release. So I reserve this spot for the 11th worst film of the year. It is, in actuality, probably the worst-made film of the bunch--bleached out colors, horrible story, terrible acting, no scares whatsoever, and even if it's trying to be funny, it's not. I nearly left the auditorium watching this--if anything was wrong with the print, it wouldn't have been noticed.

173. XXX: State of the Union

One of the many big failures at the box office, this flick had more ludicrous scenes than any other in the year. This movie and Transporter 2 vied for "Most Ridiculous of the Year," but XXX 2 wins with its finale, as Ice Cube tracks down a train in a car that has no tires and is riding down the tracks on its rims, and then is aided by a helicopter in getting onto the train and beating Willem Dafoe.

174. Stealth

The big, bloated action picture failure of the summer, at 2 hours, seemed longer than King Kong. There was a whole bunch of unnecessary, mishandled bullshit in this flick. The point at which Jessica Biel's plane crashes behind enemy lines and Josh Lucas has to team with the evil HAL-like airplane, which has learned the error of its ways, to save her, was the most egregious foul of filmmaking in 2005, followed closely by the "shore leave" scene that bloats a movie that could have been an hour and a half of pure ridiculous action over the line into just plain bad.

175. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D

Robert Rodriguez really lost a lot of my respect this year, after the disappointment of Sin City and then especially this hard-on-the-eyes 3-D kiddie flick, in which his young son Racer gets a writing credit. This movie is just wrong in so many ways. The adventure isn't all that fun, George Lopez seems to play every character and wildly overacts, and well, most of the characters are extremely unlikeable.

176. Saw II

The original Saw was OK fun, and I thought maybe the sequel would have been able to avoid the trappings that weighed down the first one. Instead, this hastily-made follow-up actually makes the whole movie moot with one pretty good surprise--but movies aren't just one surprise away from making the whole experience good, just watch The Village. Before this momentous occasion, though, we see a whole bunch of terribly stupid characters trying to make their way out of a puzzle-box house, puzzles that really can't be solved and therefore aren't any fun.

177. Palindromes

Todd Solondz has made some very funny, if controversial, movies in his day. But they've never been boring, and this is terribly boring. Having the main character played by 8 different people adds nothing. It seems to try to make some sort of statement--but what? Hell if I'll ever know.

178. Son of the Mask

New Line has done a lot of good things since their inception--taking a chance on Lord of the Rings, making different kinds of genre pictures. They're kind of like the Fox TV of the movie world. But they've been horribly inept about just saying "no" to sequels that don't make any sense. Like Dumb and Dumberer, which they decided to do without Jim Carrey and turn it into an unfunny prequel. Well, here's another movie they just couldn't turn down. It's wildly excruciating on the nerves. There's a reason why you make cartoons instead of making them live action. This tries to be a live-action cartoon, and it just sucks.

179. King's Ransom

One of the unfunniest movies ever, filled with a lot of characters you want to hire a hitman for. Some really, really, awful dialogue--some of the worst you'll ever hear, and the real funny thing was, they used those lines in the trailer! Like those were going to get people to watch. Thankfully, they didn't.

180. Cursed

Wes Craven made two movies that were on opposite ends of the spectrum this year. This long-delayed horror flick, in which he re-teamed with Kevin Williamson and tried to re-create some of that Scream magic fell with a violent thud when it finally got its release. Imagine if you made a movie about innocent people turning into werewolves, and never turn them into werewolves! The lack of excitement doesn't stop there--we get Jesse Eisenberg howling at dogs and a werewolf who flips the bird, on top of all the other painful crap.

181. Alone in the Dark

This is the Thank God For...Award, the Second Worst film of the year. Uwe Boll is certainly filmdom's worst director going at the moment. He followed up House of the Dead with this ineptly-staged action flick, starring late-night punchlines Christian Slater and Tara Reid. The thing you get with Boll is that complete lack of focus. He'll take you in all sorts of directions like a psychotic school bus driver and never stage an action scene with cohesion or tension. There's a lot of time spent in this movie with scenes that have no bearing on the outcome. And yet, even though Boll has now made my Worst List twice, and Bloodrayne is an early candidate for 2006, he has yet to have made the worst film, in my opinion, of any given year.

182. A Sound of Thunder

Nope, that belongs to Peter Hyams and this absolutely dreadful adaptation of Ray Bradbury's awesome short story. First off, I'm not going to mention them one-by-one, but completely paradoxical time-travel logic reigns supreme in this. Second, production values may be among the worst of any major studio release I've ever seen. Are you scared of a video game dinosaur? Then, just lend those factors to a stupid story, one that doesn't even explain, as Bradbury's story does, why it's even called A Sound of Thunder. It was long delayed, and now we know why, and due to contract considerations, the movie had to be released. There should have been a court order to interfere.

Last year, I included all the other stuff, like memorable moments, most disappointing, most underrated, etc. But that would make this post extremely long and I'll put that in another post later.

3 Comments:

At 2/09/2006 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous drew said...

Holy crap, you saw more movies than ME last year! I tip my hat to you, fine sir.

 
At 2/09/2006 12:02:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Working at a movie theatre that gets everything helps--I see everything...for free. Now, if I had bought a ticket to all of these...I'd be very grumpy.

 
At 2/09/2006 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I completely forgot about 40 Year Old Virgin; I must have forgotten to write that one down. Funniest movie of the year; would definately fall in my top twenty somewhere.

Pretty high ranking there for "Sky High"(14). A lot of people were really blown away by that film. I just thought it was okay, but what do I know. I'm glad a movie like that could touch so many people the way it did.

Good list, man.

 

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Farewell to the Game












Ok, maybe the Superbowl wasn't the greatest game ever played. And maybe these playoffs were not the dynamite, down-to-the-wire finishes most of the country was looking for. And maybe most of our teams (Packers, Titans, etc.) didn't do shit except for blow draft picks and free agents, but there are some things about the season to reflect on, and some things to look forward to.

The Patriots almost getting there: This is one of the best stories of the year to me. I'm not a Pats fan, but I love the way they play the game. They were slammed with a ridiculous amount of injuries and obstacles throughout the year, but still ended up being favored to get to the AFC Championship game at the beginning of the playoffs.

The Colts almost unprecedented choke: It's unbelievable what happened to that team. There must be something seriously wrong with Dungy, Manning, and the Idiot Kicker. As a psychologist, I'd like to find out. As a Titans fan, I don't care....keep losing.

The Steelers: What a strange season for them. High highs, and Charlie Batch lows. Ok, Superbowl champs.

Looking forward to:

The Packers at least showing some sort of recognition of who they are. Look at the Steelers. At least they've been close for most of the past 10 years. Show some class, Green Bay.

The Draft: Should be very interesting this year. I've never really looked forward to a draft so much, just to see what happens.

Rebound: Does Manning listen to the critics, or does he prove them wrong? I bet I know the answer.

Bears: Are they really that good? Is Steve Smith the wunderkind that everybody made him out to be, and that's why you lost in the playoffs? I think most of that defense should be back next year, which should be fun to watch.

I, for one, am sad and pissed after every football season, including this one, for going on a 7 month break. The tension will build, and hopefully we won't have to sit through any T.O. bullshit. Cheers.

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New Email Address

I've set up an email address so that our readers can mail us if they'd like. Feel free to shoot us a message any time to:

lnnline (at) gmail [dot] com

We don't guarantee that we'll check it every day, but we'll look at it fairly often. This should help us keep up with your comments a bit better as well, as all comments will be sent to this address. We're happy that we have a few people who drop in, and we'd like to get to know them better. Thanks everyone.

2 Comments:

At 2/07/2006 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Matthew S. Urdan said...

Hey Mike, I got your comment on Eight Below. Yeah, it's worth seeing. Chris is right. Although I would add to Chris' review that even though there is no real violence, the movie is scary for young children. the eight year old twins behind me for crying and wanted to leave the theater after the disaster following the southern lights display and the leopard seal attack was the clincher.

Sometimes, death of dogs can be more painful emotionally, especially for kids, than the death of human beings. This movie brought tears to my eyes, and that is rare. It certainly had the kids in the audience at the preview crying and silent.

Awesome movie, definitely worth 8 bucks or whatever a night time ticket runs these days in Louisville.

Cheers! And thanks for checking out my blog...I'm having some graphical format issues, but at least the text is still good.

http://michiganrafter.blogspot.com

 
At 2/07/2006 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Matthew S. Urdan said...

Mike, I published both your comments. I'm a restaurant manager, and I don't want disgruntled employees posting trash on my blog, etc. So I review all comments before they are published. I just want to make sure there's no profanity directed at anyone, no racism, religious slurs, etc...In short, no hate comments.

Here's my email address: msurdan@aol.com

Thanks for reading.

http://michiganrafter.blogspot.com

 

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Movie Releases, 2/10

After Tuesday's work, I'm off on vacation! I might still be able to get a couple of them in, anyway. With a week off, what the hell am I going to do? Might be the first time I don't go anywhere.

Harrison Ford returns with Firewall, his first movie since 2003's Hollywood Homicide. Here, he stars with Paul Bettany and Virginia Madsen in a computer/heist/ransom/thriller. Looks like it might be a decent brain-waster. We'll see.

Sequel #3 of the young year comes out this week, Final Destination 3. Stupid kids continue to escape death, but death figures the best use of its time is to kill the dirty cheaters and not Paris Hilton, or Jim Belushi, or Kevin Federline, or [enter hated celebrity or faux-celebrity here]. James Wong, who wrote the original's script, writes and directs here. And cutie Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sky High) is in it.

Steve Martin takes over the reigns of Peter Sellers (and well, if you want to count them...Alan Arkin, Roger Moore, and Roberto Benigni) as Inspector Jacques Clousseau in The Pink Panther. He reunites with the original Cheaper by the Dozen director Shawn Levy, who takes over for Blake Edwards.

And who said 2-D animation was dead? Curious George, from the books we all read as kids, gets a full-length animated movie! Lots of recognizable talent lend their voices, notably Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Dick Van Dyke, Joan Plowright, and Eugene Levy.

And hopefully, Transamerica will make its way to Nashville so that I can finally cap off the Oscar nominees. If it doesn't arrive this weekend, I'll just go ahead and do my 2005 Best and Worst List.

3 Comments:

At 2/07/2006 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I guess it's a pretty sad week when Final Destination 3 looks like the most fun of the bunch.

 
At 2/07/2006 04:48:00 PM, Blogger Mara Jade said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2/07/2006 04:50:00 PM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Oops. Wrong name. Reposting, sorry.

No way! I can't wait to see Curious George. I love that the animation looks just like the books. :)

 

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Super Bowl Notes...

-Since I can be negative on occasion, let's start out with a positive. The Steelers were the best team in the playoffs, and have been the best team in the NFL ever since the Colts decided to take the rest of the season off. Hats off to them.

-And another compliment; I like the way they celebrated their victory. They took it with dignity and class, which was nice, if expected. What a joy it is to win the title! But what presence there is in, when doing so, to realize how fortunate you are. Too often teams make it seem like winning their championship is the most important issue in life, while there are many things outside of sports that hold more importance. I think the principle players of the Steelers get that.

-I've heard some say today that the Seahawks played the better game and that Pittsburgh got lucky. I'll have to disagree. The defense of the Steelers played a great game, only allowing one touchdown when they were forced to guard a short field. Other than that, it was all field goal attempts and punts. How many times did Seattle punt from around midfield? They were hardpressed to get past it. And Pittsburgh had no problems getting close to the endzone. That's why I think the better team won.

-I'm disappointed with the Seahawks. Their clock management was terrible. They didn't come anywhere close to tackling Parker on his touchdown. And, when you're playing the Steelers, you simply have to by ready for any skill player on the team to throw the ball, especially if that player was a college quarterback. When they're doing some handoffs in the backfield, and not leaving the backfield, you simply don't leave Hines Ward uncovered. Based on that alone they deserved to lose.

-I'm also disappointed with at the Colts. They should have been the team that won it all this year, with their remarkable play in the middle of the season, but they simply don't have what it takes to win in the postseason. I made one bet in the playoffs, and that was against the Colts. Manning and Dungy need to look at their mentality and preparation going into a playoff game and figure out what they do wrong. I don't think they take it seriously enough. I hope they get it right one day.

-Finally, I'm disappointed with all special teams everywhere. Can we please stop holding players on punts and kickoff? After twenty games you can't get this right? Especially when the player you're blocking isn't anywhere near the ball. Stop doing that!

-I thought the Stones did pretty well. They brought a lot of energy, and even got the censors dancing a bit. Not bad at all for a half-time show.

-Boy, Shaun Alexander ALWAYS shows up for the big games, doesn't he?

-Did anyone think having Brady flip the coin was a good idea? Especially with so many great players on the field. And his coin toss was pretty poor (not that it matters much).

-Some judgment calls. I think the ball just barely touched the goal line. I think it technically was pass interference, even if I wish it weren't. And I don't think that was holding, but I'm no expert on holding calls, which have always seemed pretty arbitrary to me.

-Chris has mentioned earlier that maybe, just maybe, the referees were making questionable calls to help the team they think should win when the Colts played the Steelers. I'm not anywhere near officially claiming that there's a problem (and I don't think Chris is either), but that holding call was officially questionable. Still, despite some legitimate complaints, I think the Steelers deserved to win.

-I watched all eleven playoff games, and most of the times I wished I was doing something else. There was not one great game in the batch. I'm glad football's over, and I can't remember ever saying that before.

4 Comments:

At 2/06/2006 05:14:00 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Mike-

Thank you for the positive comments about the game! I will agree with you, the playoffs seemed flat this year but hey, my team won last night so I am not too upset.

The officiating is something I think can be debated throughout every sport on every level. The officials see things that most do not see and sometimes they get it wrong-not that any of them would be willing to admit it.

Do I think that the Steelers played their best game ever? No, they were off a bit and I really wanted to see some of those beautiful passes that Big Ben put up on the way to the Super Bowl. I also wanted to see Bettis get a TD just to put a nice little bow on the package but that was not meant to be either. The defense was solid, keeping the Seattle offense from getting close to scoring.

Seattle? Gee, I think my cat has better time management skills than the Seahawks. They never got in a hurry to huddle, set a play. . .in fact, I think I could run down the field and back before they got set for the next play. Their coach didn't seem really fired up either, well with one exception, as he was leaving for the half he was chewing on ref's butt out. . .

I have read some comments from MSNBC, etc about how unfair the game was and that Seattle should have won it, etc. Here is my take, the game is done, there were some questionable calls on both sides, both teams had some issues with their game and somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. The Steelers defended their endzone preventing the Seahawks from scoring. The offense could have played better. . .

Plus, their story is better (in my opinion). They wanted The Bus to go out on top, Big Ben promised him a trip to Detroit this year and he delivered. Bill Cowher wanted to give Mr. Rooney "one for the thumb" and he did. This is a team that mangaged to be sucessful on the road since January 8th.

Like Mike said, they were nice about the win, appreciating it. This is a nice team and even though Joey Porter shoots his mouth off quite frequently, he is there to encourage his teammates and he comes to play.

So, there are my two cents about the game. This is coming from someone who has watched a lot of football in the past three years and enjoys the "sport" of it.

 
At 2/06/2006 06:55:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

I really liked this post. But I have to disagree on one thing: I thought the Stones sounded bad. Now...I don't even have cable...so perhaps there is some mojo that happens to the audio of a higher quality television and digital signal...but through my tv...they sounded like grandfathers. I didn't think the instruments were tight. Mick was alright, I guess... but even he sounded winded by the end of the first song.

That's just my take.

I thought the game was okay. I do think there were majorly blown calls by the refs. But...that being said...don't we hear that every year? Isn't there this steady swell of complaints on the officiating? Again...there were awful calls...but do you think we'll ever have another NFL playoffs, a World Series, or a Stanley Cup Finals without the press and the fans picking apart the officials more than the game?


I'm just glad the Patriots didn't win again.

 
At 2/06/2006 11:06:00 PM, Blogger Amy said...

KW-it wasn't your tv. We were commenting on the sound during the pregame show. Apparently, nobody can figure out the sound for a live musical performance. The Stones were okay. I have enjoyed the flashier performances of years past. The stage looked amazing though and I read somewhere how about how many pieces the stage was in and how long they had to put it together. I don't think Mike mentioned this but was this year's batch of commercials crappy or what? They had a year and a few of them were either from last year or have been played before the game. Oh well, still glad the Steelers won.

 
At 2/07/2006 08:19:00 AM, Blogger Mike said...

My other reaction was how silly it is to pose with the Lombardi Trophy when you haven't won it yet. I wouldn't have done it.

 

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Post Game Reaction - Bad Play Calling = Bad Football

In many ways that was the worst superbowl I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few stinkers. I'm not a fan of either team, and besides hoping my pick was right (Seahawks; it wasn't) who won was not a big deal to me. I really just wanted to see a good game, and we didn't. I've never once in my life actually thought officials were getting paid by one of the organizations on the field, but after some of these calls, I had to wonder, at least a little bit.

The Seahawks had a ridiculous offensive pass interference call that cost them a touchdown. Rothlesiberger was given a touchdown that he never should have had. What should have gone down as one of the greatest goalline stops turned into 7 points for the Steelers. Even the little things the officials called bugged the hell out of me. Pittsburgh did not get a time out called before their clock ran down. It's a little thing that probably means nothing in the long run, but it's still annoying.

I'm not saying the Seahawks couldn't have done anything here. Brown missed two field goals he should have hit; Hasslebeck threw a costly interception. They dominated the first half, and could only get three points on the board. And even if the two questionable touchdowns had been called right, the Steelers very well might have still won.

But even a Steelers diehard must look at this game and be a little dissapointed at how the points got on the board. You shouldn't feel good about this win at all. And Mike predicted it right; the Superbowl would just add on to what is the worst postseason in football that I've ever seen. Congrats to the Steelers for having to win four away games to get the championship, and I am by no means saying they didn't deserve to be there; I just wish there had been some better playcalling, and this would have been a much better game.

4 Comments:

At 2/05/2006 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

By rule, both touchdown calls were correct, even though I don't totally agree with the way the rules are on some of these things.

For instance, the pass interference call, in "my" NFL, wouldn't have been called. To the extent of the rule, though, it's pass interference.

The Roethlisberger TD was also debateable, but so close that the call on the field, whatever it was going to be, was going to stand. I didn't think he got in, and I'm always conscious that the angles we get are not absolutely straight. If it was right down the line, we would have had the evidence. As it was, both end zone camera angles were slightly from the front of the play, meaning our 3-D eyes weren't registering the 2-D images correctly. But that play was so close, a butterfly could have flapped its wings in China and it would have affected the outcome.

What the Seahawks did poorly, and cost them a chance, was manage the clock. In both halves. Nobody was aware of a game clock it seemed. With 8 minutes left in the 4th Quarter and down by 11 points, there was no sense of urgency. And there especially wasn't a sense of urgency when there was 2 minutes left, throwing out passes to the sideline for minimal/no gain, when you need large chunks. This kind of clock management should get coaches fired, but it seems like no one bats an eye.

 
At 2/06/2006 08:15:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

This was the first superbowl I've ever gotten into. I'm from new england but just never really cared much about the pats. I've been forced to watch two or three games they were in, but last night was the first time I watched without as much complaining.

I was routing for the seahawks. No particular reason... better uniforms? Eh, whatever.

Anyway, here's what I don't get.... There were at least three or four bad calls. And I can ALMOST understand where they came from in the rules and whatnot. But the one I TOTALLY don't get is that touchdown they took away because..... the seahawks player "touched" the other player?? Someone please explain this to me. Is this not football, a violent sport second only to hockey?

Anyway, it was an okay game besides that. Who knows. Maybe I'll even watch again next year.

 
At 2/06/2006 09:18:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

That "touch" was considered a "push-off," which it definitely wasn't. But the guy had his arms extended and it looked like he got away with something. I don't like it either.

 
At 2/06/2006 02:58:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Like I said the Seahawks played a pretty piss poor game even in that first twenty minutes or so where they controlled the ball for about 95% of that time. And even if all these calls went the way I think they should have, the Steelers still could have won that game, no question.

Another ridiculous penalty that was called was the low block on Matt Hasslebeck; most people refer to that as a tackle, but maybe that's not allowed in football anymore.

 

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