Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here It Goes Again

Mostly I stood in the corner of Robbie's, Huntington's coolest night spot, back in the day. Rhythm just wasn't my thing. No Electric Slide, no Macarena. Hell, not even the Boot Scoot 'N Boogie.

Finally, I may have discovered a dance I can do.

I Couldn't Resist

I ran into this over at eersfan.com ...

You should download it, the song's pretty catchy!


Seems like a lot of effort for a throw-away, non-rivalry game.


By the way, someone let me know when WVU fans make up a song about Mississippi St. later in the season. I can't wait to hear that flow.

V For Vendetta

In the not-too-distant future, the main character in V For Vendetta struggles through a daily life that includes: a Big Brother-type political leader who restricts civil rights under the guise of it being for the greater good; uses fear to control the citizenry; manipulates information and news through media outlets that, in reality, serve as an extension of the government; and interacting with a police force that uses brutality and torture as typical methods for enforcing social order.

Wait, my mistake...That isn't V For Vendetta. That was a slightly-exaggerated description of my life these days. Last week, and last month. And for the last several years.

But, I've digressed. Forgive me for venturing into the uncomfortable--and previously banned, here--political arena. My Meditation and Yoga class was cancelled this morning.

V For Vendetta stars Natalie Portman as Evey, a young reporter whose chance encounter with V (played by Hugo Weaving) changes drastically the direction of her life. Entangled with V during a year in which he works to overthrow the totalitarian government that exists in London, Evey's perspective about life and politics evolves. Watching it evolve is sort of like recognizing new ideas in your children; it is emotionally rewarding, and poignant.

My favorite part of the film was how Hugo Weaving (you will remember him as Agent Smith in the Matrix films) uses his voice, mannerisms and body language to create a three-dimensional, complex character. V is masked, so achieving this must have been incredibly difficult. But he was successful.

V For Vendetta reminded me a little too much of present-day circumstances. And because of that, I viewed it as a cautionary tale. A very good cautionary tale, that I recommend highly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Just In Case

I realize that not many outside the state of West Virginia care about this weekend's WVU/Marshall University football match-up. And I know that many in the state don't care a lick about it either. But, I do. And as the weekend nears, I need to talk about it.

Because I'm scared.

I'm going to the game, you see. And although I'm a Marshall alumnus, I've been to my share of Mountaineer games. Growing up anywhere north of Huntington's city limit line makes one pretty familiar with WVU football. I was in the stadium when Jeff Hostetler outplayed Doug Floutie, and when Major Harris and his crew beat Penn State. The Blue and Gold fans are loud, and passionate.

And mean. Really, really mean.

They really scared me when I was last there, in 1997. During that brief quarter-and-a-half when Marshall led WVU 31-28 (before losing, ultimately, in their first football meeting with WVU during The Industrial Age) I balanced my excitement about the potential win with my fear of getting out of Morgantown alive.

It was a valid fear. Trust me.

So, in the event something goes horribly wrong on Saturday, here are a few things I want made public. Just in case...

1. I intend to continue updating The Film Geek web log. If you notice that I have not updated this site by Monday afternoon, something has gone awry. Contact the police, quickly, and let them know that I am missing;

2. I would never--ever--write an entry that is complimentary of WVU, regardless of whether or not they win the contest this Saturday. If such a post appears, it is under duress. Again, please contact the appropriate authorities;

3. I'd like it on record that I currently possess all my limbs, fingers, toes and both eyes, and that all are typically shaped and function appropriately. Should I return otherwise, it is likely the work of the Blue and Gold Rogues Gallery;

4. If I end up arrested and in jail for assault, there is no doubt that I was not the aggressor, and that it was started by someone wearing a Pitt Sucks But Marshall Swallows T-shirt. Should I be arrested for public intoxication, however, ...Well, that one is probably on me;

And finally:

5. Mrs. Film Geek is going to the game with me. Should she not return, it wasn't my fault she went missing. Honest. It must have been those damn Mountaineers...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

RV

Gene Hackman, one of my favorite actors, says often in interviews that he has taken acting jobs simply for the payday. He doesn't make excuses for it; he's gotta pay the bills, and acting is his vocation, after all.

I pray--I hope to God--that this is the reason Robin Williams starred in RV.

In what I think is his most mainstream role ever, Williams is father and husband to a family that is self-centered, sarcastic and, unfortunately, stereotypical and predictable. Williams rents a recreational vehicle, and takes his family on the road. He wants to please everyone, mend strained relationships and get some work completed for his self-centered, sarcastic, stereotypical and predictable boss-- all at the same time.

Let the hijinks begin!

Unfortunately, they never do.

I liked only two things about RV. First, Jeff Daniels is, as always, terrific in his supporting role as an RV lifer who really loves the lifestyle. And secondly, RV reminded me of how much I enjoyed Lost In America, an Albert Brooks RV-themed flick that stands heads and shoulders above this movie.

Now that I think of it, I recommend you skip RV and rent Lost In America instead.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"This Room Makes Me Smile"

I have three distinct memories from my first day of elementary school, way back in nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-one. (Doesn't it sound so ancient, when said that way?)

First: Mrs. Todd, the first grade teacher, was unusually tall and very thin. Freakishly so. It frightened me.

Second: The generations-old hardwood floor made the classroom smell like damp wood.

And finally: Flavia Corbett pulled a chair out from under another kid as that kid was sitting down, causing the kid to crash to the hardwood floor into an embarrassing heap. That single move established Flav's long-lasting reputation as the school bully.

So, when my wife and I took our daughter Griffyn to her first day of kindergarten today, I paid close attention to lots of things. No wood-like smell, damp or otherwise. The teacher didn't look oddly disproportionate. And no bullies, at least that I could detect.

My anxiety was reduced most, though, when Griffyn first sat down at her kindergarten table, and whispered sorta softly:


"This room makes me smile."


Keep smilin', hon.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

How To Eat Fried Worms

Each time I schlep my kids to the doctor for a shot, or to the dentist for something equally as scary, I remind them that the worst part of the experience is more likely to be the stress, fear and anxiety leading up to the event, rather than the event itself. Shots take literal seconds, and then is over. But, that's typically after hours of worry, hand-wringing and crying.

Same with eating worms. Even fried ones. Or, so I'm told.

The kids and I, and one of their friends, hit the early showing of How To Eat Fried Worms today. Fried Worms is a really neat film about fitting in, really. While the main theme involves an 11-year-old kid (played remarkably by Luke Benward) trying to fit in at a new school while overcoming the aggressive antics of a bully, a peripheral theme demonstrates the difficulties the kid's father has fitting into his new job, and getting along with his new co-workers.

Sometimes you gotta eat a few worms (figuratively, as well as literally in this case) to prove your mettle. To others, and to yourself.

I really liked the movie, and my kids loved it. Their reviews:

Maddisen (10): "My favorite part was the worm blowing up in the microwave."

Madison (10): "My favorite part was the worm blowing up in the microwave."

Griffyn (5): "My favorite part was at the end, the boy and the bully become friends."

Jaden (3): "My favorite part was the worm blowing up in the microwave."

The Film Geek: "The ending, when the kids work through their problems and realize they can become friends was rewarding. And it had a great message. Like when the kid realizes that it is the fear of eating the worms that is so much worse than actually eating them, his stress and fear is overcome. Plus, that worm blowing up in the microwave was way cool."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Good Idea / Bad Idea

You'll have to choose for yourself which is which:




Although it raised a bit of a stir when published in 1991, this cover has an art-sy feel, and sets a classy, soulful mood.











This cover has a less-than-serious feel, and there is something unsettling-and just plain weird-about her eyes.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

I should get this out in the open first, before my fawning is dismissed simply as fan-boy type obsession: I'm a serious fan of Neil Young.

People tend not to just be okay with Neil Young; folks typically love the guy and his sound, or hate both. I happen to think Young is an extraordinary artist, and one who cannot be replaced when he is no longer with us. (And, sadly, that could have been the case a year or more ago, before he underwent
treatment for a brain aneurysm.)

I was born too late to participate in the social and political protests of the late 60s and early 70s. Years later, when I learned about some of the more dramatic events, Young's songs helped light that passion for speaking out against things I consider societal ills:

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.


In my mid-20s, some of Young's songs reminded me that I hadn't fully lived yet, and that there were a lot of things that a goofy kid like me could learn from folks, if I'd just pay attention:

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there's so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.


Now, in near-middle age, songs from his Harvest Moon CD help me reflect on old friendships, and be reminded that even though we get too busy sometimes to say it, letting people know they are loved and appreciated is important:

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known
And I'm gonna try
And thank them all
for the good times together.
Though so apart we've grown.

Yeah, I'm a serious fan. Sometimes it seems my life has been lived with a Neil Young soundtrack playing in my head. Now that I think if it, maybe I do qualify as a fan-boy.

Scratch that opening paragraph.

Neil Young: Heart Of Gold, directed by Jonathan Demme, is an intimate look at Young's two-night performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Although the film spends the first eight minutes or so with brief interviews of Young's band-mates, the remainder of Heart Of Gold allows the viewer a rare, close-up concert perspective that is so much better than front row. Demme made me feel as though I was on stage, beside Young.

Hell, a coupla times I felt like I could have been a roadie. Sure, I'd be happy to shake out his harmonica and hand him a clean one. With urgency.

Songs from Prairie Wind, Young's most recent album, are featured in the first half of Heart Of Gold. The songs are highly introspective, and speak to everything from spirituality to Alzheimer's Disorder to the tragedy of September 11. Young sings these songs in that shakey voice that reminds us how fragile and delicate the emotions and memories are. My favorite, When God Made Me, is hypnotic.

In the second half of the film Young sings many of his classics, and gives brief narratives about the events that lead him to write the songs. Poetic. And beautiful.

If you are a fan, I can't recommend Neil Young: Heart Of Gold more highly. If you hate Young, check it out anyway. This is a side of him you may not have often heard.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Do I Hear $5,001?

This recent photo, showing a beach-lovin' Matt Lauer topless on the surf, was recently purchased by several tabloids for $5,000.


That's 5 large!

A bidding war for the picture shot the price sky high, most likely because it is a rarity. Lauer isn't typically seen dallying and frolicking, I suppose. Compare the five grand to shirtless shots of Matthew McConaughey and you realize just how rare it is...The We Are...Marshall star's pictures typically sell for just a few hundred dollars each.

I maintain that Lauer ain't all that! Sure, he has a fine stomach for a guy who sits on a couch for a living. But, I think I compare favorably. I mean, ...take a look.

All The Right Moves

Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hand Me That Eraser

Cartoon characters in the UK just got their butts snuffed out. Literally. Seems folks there don't care to see Tom & Jerry lightin' up a Pall Mall.

"We have now pledged to view Boomerang's entire library of favorite cartoons and remove all other references that could be seen as glamorizing smoking in all our shows," said Cecilia Persson, vice president of programming, acquisitions and presentation for Boomerang's parent, Turner Broadcasting UK.

Now, if they would just edit out that heavy anvil that gets dropped on heads, and shut down that evil ACME factory. You know, the place that really does manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

Life would be so much sweeter.

I'm not typically a proponent of censorship. And when specific things--like cigarettes--start getting mentioned as reasons for censoring material, it just sounds petty.

But...

I sure don't want my kids (or me) watching some of the cartoons from the 40s and 50s (the decades often referred to as the best in American history). Many poked fun at those who were culturally different by exaggerating cliched physical and behavioral stereotypes.

Check this page out, if you'd like to see examples of cartoons that are now deemed too offensive to be rebroadcast.

There just isn't anything funny about a mouse in blackface. Or a cat committing suicide. (Unless it's done with an ACME anvil...)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Please Make It Stop: Part 7

Paris Hilton, on her debut album:

"I, like, cry, when I listen to it, it's so good."

Followed by the profound: "I think when people don't know it's me, they won't judge it. But if they know it's me, then they'll be like, 'Ugh.' They won't even dance."

Now, where did I put that "The End Is Near" signboard?

Find Me Guilty

I suspect that in the future, say circa 2022, Vin Diesel will accept his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (or Best Actor, since we are conjecturing anyway), and pay respects in his speech to Find Me Guilty as the film that set him on the path to true acting.

It could happen. Remind me again,... Who starred in this flick way back in '84?



Diesel has the lead role in Find Me Guilty, as Giacomo "Jackie Dee" DiNorscio. Directed by Sidney Lumet (yeah, the guy who directed 12 Angry Men, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon), the film is supposed to be a pretty true-to-life accounting of the longest criminal trial in US history. For more than two years, a team of prosecutors carried out their case against Jackie Dee's alleged Mafia family, all of whom were lawyered up with high-priced suits. Except for Jackie Dee. He represented himself.

Like many of the movies directed by Lumet, Find Me Guilty is heavy with dialogue. This movie focuses nearly all of it's two hours on the courtroom scenes, which are reported to be nearly identical to the actual transcripts of the trial. Early in the movie I found myself put off by Jackie's unsophisticated mannerisms and courtroom style; later, I discovered that I was rooting for the guy. Even though I knew he was guilty. Really guilty.


Which brings me back to my opening line.

I'm not naive enough to believe Diesel is the next Tom Hanks. But, I was very surprised at how he transformed himself into this role, and the chops he showed while doing it. At popcorn time (which, for the uninitiated, is about midway through for me) I realized that I had forgotten that it was Vin Diesel in the starring role. Jackie Dee's mannerisms were different than Diesel's, his dialect was different that previous Diesel characters, and the actor seemed pretty comfortable with the slower-paced, dialogue-filled scenes.




He went from this...






...To this pretty easily. He was believable. As hard as that may be to believe.



I can't recommend the film highly for a few reasons. Mostly, it was too long, relied too heavily on dialogue and didn't spend enough time developing the supporting characters. But Diesel proved he had some real chops.

That, alone, was a welcome change of pace.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes

It's been Horror Week at Netflix, I think. Seems like every red envelope that arrives in my mailbox of late is of that genre.

Whoopee...

Mrs. Film Geek and I had a long talk after Hostel, and I think she may be less excited about horror movies these days. I know she wasn't that thrilled when we popped in The Hills Have Eyes. She knew the Wes Craven low-budget film from the 70s, so she was willing to give this one a try.

But not an enthusiastic one.

We watched the opening scene, in which an obviously mutated man killed scientists who were studying the radioactive New Mexico desert. It was brutal and violent, but not so much that I had to turn away. Then, we watched the opening credits, during which the film showed dozens of pictures of mutated fetuses, deformed limbs and toddlers with severe physical abnormalities.

All to a peppy musical score. Pass the popcorn!

And then, very quietly from her favorite spot on the couch, Mrs. Film Geek says: "You know, I'm not really interested in watching mutants kill and eat people tonight. There's just no sense in it."

Yes! I was saved.

Maybe there's hope for the horror-lovin' chick after all. And for me.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dan Akroyd: Unplugged On UFOs

There were lots of reasons to not write about my viewing of Dan Akroyd: Unplugged On UFOs. First, and most obvious, is that the flick is about, well, whether or not aliens are making Earth their own private, all-inclusive vacation resort.

And that just seems kinda goofy, huh?


Secondly, UFOlogist (go ahead, giggle) and host David Sereda presents the documentary as an in depth, intelligent discussion with Dan Akroyd.

You remember: Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.



Now, Akroyd is no modern day Einstein (would a modern day Einstein be called a Hawking?), but he does have a long-held reputation for being a walking encyclopedia of all-things-alien. The guy is the Rain Man of X-Files-ish occurrences. The actor who made the Bass-O-Matic famous is actually quite intelligent, and deeply interested in the mysteries of space, physics, aliens and the conspiracies that connect them.

So, I watched it. I've always liked Akroyd, anyway. I feel a kinship with him, in fact. I get his sense of humor, and I've been told for years that I look like him. I think people mean the Akroyd of The Blues Brothers and Spies Like Us, and not the Akroyd of Driving Miss Daisy. But, I could be wrong...

Anyway, back to Dan Akroyd: Unplugged On UFOs. . .

The documentary is surprisingly serious, makes good use of video from the last five years or so to show interesting objects that can't be identified, and presents the information in a way that doesn't seem too kooky. In fact, when you hear Akroyd tell it, the theories seem to kinda make sense.


Kinda.

If you like this sort of stuff (which I do) you'll probably enjoy this documentary. If you believe this sort of stuff (which I don't) you'll love it.

May the Bass-O-Matic be with you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Was Wrong, And I Apologize

There is a classic Happy Days episode in which The Fonz (or maybe by then he was called Fonzie, the softened up nickname he was given when he became part of the Cunningham family) tries to admit a mistake, and apologize for being wrong. And try as he might, he can't get it out.

"I was wrrrr... I was wrrrooo... I was wrrroouuugh..."

It was a funny episode. And sort of true to human nature, in many ways. The only thing we hate more than admitting mistakes to ourselves is admitting them publicly. Just ask The Fonz. Or Bill Clinton. Or the current Commander In Chief.

Yesterday, when John Karr admitted he killed JonBenet Ramsey ten years ago, I realized I have been wrong. For a decade.

And I apologize.

Like many folks, I had my doubts that an intruder murdered JonBenet. I suspected a family member, to be honest. And I made this judgment based on little more than the media reports of the event, the family's odd and quirky behavior and the opinions of some talking heads who are too often passed off as credible journalist.

We do that in America these days, don't we? Make judgments too quickly, and based on too few facts. Sometimes that suspicion is right (read Scott Peterson), which reinforces our skepticism and suspicion, and lets us feel comfortable drawing quick conclusions in subsequent cases or circumstance.

It's wrong. And we are wrong as a society every time we do it.

I've never been as cool as The Fonz. In fact, I'm a bit more like Potsie. But Potsie could more easily admit his mistakes, and ask for forgiveness. I'm certain the Ramsey family doesn't read the electronic ramblings of some goof who likes movies and pop culture, so I won't pretend to be apologizing to them. But I regret that I allowed myself to form conclusions about such a tragedy without being fully informed.

I am sorry. I was wrong.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Public Enemy Number One?

First he [allegedly] ripped off Steely Dan. Now, he may have [allegedly] ripped off the Black Crows. Owen Wilson may well be on his way to becoming America's Most Wanted.

Ba da da da da da da, Feelin'-Not-So-Groovy

With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel, and their classic The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)...

One of the main reasons I'm feeling a bit annoyed today is that I stayed up later than usual to watch the newly-Netflix'd Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. Usually my wife plugs in the Netflix choices, but I added this one myself. For me, 'cause I really like Sarah Silverman. From her under-used days at SNL to work she has done on Comedy Central (didya see the Pamela Sue Anderson Roast?), she is consistently funny, edgy and smart.

Uh...Except in this flick.

Sure, part of her charm is that she is vulgar. I even like vulgar. I prefer it in a comic, in fact. As long as it has meaning. Jon Steward using crass language and visuals to drive home a satirical point is brilliant; but Andrew Dice Clay using profanity to get a reactionary laugh from the audience? Not so much. And in Jesus Is Magic, Silverman is more Andrew Dice Clay than she is Jon Stewart, Lenny Bruce or George Carlin.

After each joke, I waited for the common theme that would tie the jokes about race, ethnicity, disability and age together into a point or message. That theme was never delivered, at least that I could hear. So, that left me with the conclusion she used those topics for shock value alone, which I just don't find that funny. The live audience for which she was performing seemed uncomfortable, too. It's laughter was uneven, and sometimes uncomfortable. That may also be due to her uneven delivery, and the (seemingly) random manner in which she delivered material.

Too bad. I was expecting better.


Another reason for my less-than-groovy vibe is that I read that retired NBA player Rick Fox is gonna have a recurring role in the new FX series, Dirt. The USA Today article mentions Fox has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including: Oz, Holes, Eddie, He Got Game, The Collectors, and most recently Minnie's First Time.
Sure, he spent 12 years in the NBA. But as a former Laker fan, I wish he had worked on his game with as much enthusiasm as he seemed to work on his image and the acting gigs.



Finally, I'm a bit down over the death of one of my favorite character actors, Bruno Kirby. Kirby died Monday in Los Angeles from complications related to leukemia, with which he had recently been diagnosed.

Kirby may be best known for his work in the very funny movie City Slickers, and the very good film When Harry Met Sally. But, he worked pretty steadily in his thirty-plus years in the industry. Roles were varied, and included everything from This Is Spinal Tap to It's Gary Shandling's Show to the HBO series Entourage. Check out his body of work here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Some of the most important historical records of all time have been lost. Missing, for over a year. And oddly, no one seems that worried.

NASA has lost the original recordings of the first moon landing, including Neil Armstrong's famous line: "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The recordings have been missing for over a year.


"We haven't seen them for quite a while. We've been looking for over a year and they haven't turned up,"spokesman Grey Hautaloma said.

The tapes also contain data about the health of the astronauts and the condition of the spacecraft. In all, some 700 boxes of transmissions from the Apollo lunar missions are missing, he said.

"I wouldn't say we're worried -- we've got all the data. Everything on the tapes we have in one form or another," Hautaloma said. "We're looking for paperwork to see where they last were."

According to the report from AOL news, it is possible the tapes will be un-playable even if they are found, because they have degraded significantly over the years.

My great-grandmother, many from her generation and a few folks since would suggest the tapes are missing because they didn't exist in the first place.

I'm just saying...

The Power Of The Documentary

In America these days, we spend a lot of time in partisan-driven debate. Red states vs. blue states. Poor vs. rich. Liberal vs. Conservative. How we enter into that dialogue is often key to how successfully we solve common--and not so common--problems.

Sometimes, movies get serious, and serve as the catalyst for public debate. Film is a great way to take an analytical look at a problem, or a specific point in history. Often the conclusion the film reaches is less important than the dialogue it creates. Roger & Me is a good example. And so is: Is It True What They Say About Ann? Sure, both flicks have an obvious theme (way too often called an "agenda" by people who don't like or agree with the theme), but the discussion that is generated is ultimately the most important result of documentaries.

Spike Lee's most recent work is a documentary titled When The Levees Broke, which will premier on HBO later in August. It will undoubtedly generate controversy; Lee is considered an iconic genius by some, and vilified by others. But that's beside the point...The examination into why this tragedy occurred is vital to American culture. Regardless of why one thinks such devastation occurred, the fact is we must learn a lesson from it, so it doesn't happen again.

I'm looking forward to the documentary later this month. I hope others watch it too. If you do, come back and tell me what you thought. We'll talk about it. Politely.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Failure To Launch

"You look nice, you find out what they like, and you pretend to like it, too. You encourage them to share a sad experience with you. And you ask them to teach you something. "~Paula, explaining how to attract a man, in Failure To Launch.

Now, I get it!

I understand, finally, my 10th grade whirlwind romance, the one with the senior who shouldn't have been attracted to a sophomore. And the first six months of dating the now-Mrs. Film Geek. That short period of time where she seemed content to sit in the sun and watch me play in a 3-On-3 basketball tournament. And why she always sat quietly and let me explain current political events to her, even though she seemed pretty well versed in the goings-on.

It's a ruse. A con. And we men, apparently, rarely see it coming.

In Failure To Launch, Matthew McConaughey stars as Tripp, a 30-something upwardly mobile who still lives with his parents, played hilariously by Terry Bradshaw (yeah, the former Steeler) and Kathy Bates. Tripp's parent's want him to move out, and presume he hasn't yet because he lacks confidence. So, they hire Paula, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, to create a relationship with Tripp and help him develop a bit more maturity, so that he can be pushed from the nest. The problem, of course, is that the characters fall in love with each another, and comedic complications ensue.

Failure To Launch is mostly entertaining, even though it is more than a bit predictable. Sarah Jessica Parker performs well in one of her more mainstream roles, and McConaughey continues to show his talent. There is a running gag with McConaughey being bitten by various animals that is sort of strange and unnecessary, but some of the scenes do provide a few comic moments.

Terry Bradshaw stole the show, for me at least. His character, Al, was funny and Bradshaw's performance was more professional that you might anticipate. And in a film with eye-candy Parker and McConaughey, it is Bradshaw's backside we see in the movie. And we see a lot of it. And I mean a lot...

Not a bad movie at all if you want to sit back, relax and chuckle. Check it out on DVD.

Whatever Happened To...Dianne Kay

While watching Failure To Launch with my wife, Mrs. Film Geek suddenly bolted upright, exclaiming: "Hey! That's the Eight Is Enough house." Sure enough, the exterior shot of the house where Matthew McConaughey's parents lived did seem to be the large, white, two story home used in the 1977-1981 hit ABC TV show.

How she stopped looking at McConaughey long enough to recognize the house is still a mystery...

But the reference reminded me of my favorite Bradford, Nancy, played by Dianne Kay. Nancy's sisters all had interesting personality traits: Mary was smart, Susan was quirky and Elizabeth seemed mature and insightful for her age. But Nancy had the whole package. She was smarter than you thought, perky, sensitive and cute.The perfect combination to be the object of a crush by a 12-year-old goofball kid.

Since Eight Is Enough left the air, Dianne Kay (second from left in the picture) has worked sporadically in television. She guested on shows like Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. She did one unsuccessful pilot, titled Once A Hero.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

But Is The Kinkajou Rabid?

See! It isn't just me that Paris Hilton annoys. Even Baby Luv is tired of her.

Half Light

Half Light was a real surprise. Demi Moore stars as Rachel Carlson, a novelist who seems to have a near-perfect life. She is successful, wealthy, married to an ambitious editor and mother of a young, precocious son. Her life is altered dramatically when her son, Thomas, dies in a tragic accident.

Unable to write even several months after the accident, Rachel moves to an isolated Scottish town, holes up in a cabin near a lighthouse and tries desperately to re-discover her muse. It's sparked by a romance with the local lighthouse keeper, who is sensitive and insightful. Just when life seems to be looking up, though, things begin to go bad.

Are things really what they seem?

Half Light was a surprise because the acting was better than expected, the plot was interesting and the story had enough twists and turns to make the viewer a bit unsure about the conclusion. Some aspects of the script are too predictable, but mostly Half Light entertains the old-school way: by presenting a good story, and delivering it with quality acting.

Local News Is Funny

No matter where you live, local news always comes across as pretty goofy. But local news in West Virginia always seems a bit over-the-top. For example: at Christmas-time 2002, during the year I lived out-of-state in Iowa, my new friends enjoyed ribbing me about the West Virginian arrested when found having sex with a sheep, which was being used as a prop at a live nativity scene.

So it's hardly a surprise when I read a story in the Gazette that reports:

A St. Albans (WV) area man was arrested on Friday after he allegedly told police he grew his own marijuana because it costs too much to buy, court records show. He then led the troopers over a hill behind the home where plants worth $6,000 were growing, police wrote in the complaint.

A felony. Offered up on a platter. Montani semper liberi!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chicken Little

I needed 90 minutes or so of a Disney animation to clean the Hostel out of my head. So, the family made some popcorn, grabbed some sodas and plopped in the DVD. Mission accomplished.

Chicken Little's story gets a modern update in this adaptation. Not only is Little's reputation on the line with his "the sky is falling" schtick, he must save the world from an alien invasion that is right out of the Spielberg/Cruise snooze-fest War Of The Worlds. Little and his friends save the world, and improve the Chicken's relationship with his Dad in the process.

The animation was just OK, and the story wasn't that great, truth be told. But, there were lots of things I did like about Chicken Little. The music was awesome, with tunes from Patti LaBelle and Joss Stone ("Stir It Up"), the Barenaked Ladies ("One Little Slip"), and R.E.M. ("It`s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." And Chicken Little himself sings a cool rendition of Queen's "We Are the Champions." A subliminal plot theme involved how children face and overcome grief and trauma, in this case the death of Little's mother. And (as mentioned before) how children overcome communication barriers that pop up sometimes with parents.

Overall, Chicken Little is a C-plus movie. But, hanging out with my family eating popcorn turned it into a A-minus. Add the bonus of washing out Hostel, and it's a hit.

Hostel

I hate sounding like the old guy. Can't stand the stereotype, and hate it when "He just doesn't understand us cause he's getting old" is used to dismiss this not-quite-so-old fogie's disinterest or dislike in something. Especially art. Damn it, I like lots of things that aren't old school. I like modern music more than the music of my youth, and ...Well, I like today's music. And lots of other stuff. Promise, I do.

Ahem...anyway.

I've been reluctant to write about Hostel, due to that very reason. The first couple of times I started a post about the movie, paragraphs automatically started with: "Back in my day..." or, "Old-school horror movies were..." And in my head the voice saying the words was the Grumpy Old Man character Dana Carvey used to do on SNL. You remember:

"Back in my day, we didn't have no 'talking mooooviees.' Our movies were black and white and silent, and we had to make up the dialogue ourselves. We didn't have no mamby-pamby talking movies, all done up in techno-color and lookin' prissy. No! Our movies were hard, like our lives. And we liked it that way!

No, I never want to be that guy. So I have to choose my comments about Hostel carefully in order to ensure my objectivity, and preserve my street cred with the kids. Let me try it this way:

Hostel is a clear indication that American culture and civilized society is nearing extinction. The end is near, folks. We're done. Toast.

Somehow, that still sounded like the Grumpy Old Man. Let's see if I can make my point.

Hostel follows three recent college graduates, all young American men, as they travel to Amsterdam for a holiday of decadence before they enter into the more responsible and professional period of their lives. While traveling, they meet up with an assortment of characters who build up their desire for easy chicks and legal drugs, and they learn that in a neighboring town "you can pay to do anything you want." They high-tail it off to the neighboring town. Of course, that's ultimately a mistake. They are eventually drugged, kidnapped and tortured (and two of the three are murdered) by rich men who have become so bored in life that they pay as much as $25,000 to torture and murder humans. This hostel is really a trap used to feed that business; unsuspecting tourists show up and spend a day or two livin' large, then become drugged into a stupor. They wake up in a dungeon, chained to a chair with some rich bastard cutting off body parts.

It is disturbing. Completely, overwhelmingly disturbing.

One young man survives the torture and escapes. As he escapes he meets up with one of the rich pricks who is getting ready to enter into a room to torture his paid-for victim. The torturer mistakes the young man for a client himself (the guy was in disguise, as he was trying to escape) and the two have a several-minutes long conversation about the pleasures of killing. The theme of that dialogue is, basically, that life has become so boring and so routine that paying large amounts of cash in order to torture and kill is necessary to have feeling, or to experience a real purpose in life. The scene is an important one, because it seems to be challenging the viewer to avoid the pitfall of becoming de-sensitized by excess.

I couldn't help but wonder how the producers could make that argument, though, knowing they were asking people to pony up a $7.50 admission price to watch what amounts to a high-budgeted snuff film that contained no artistic merit. At least Nightmare On Elm Street had a surreal, supernatural-type premise that was original. More recently, Saw blended a horror theme with a psychological thriller. Hell, American Psycho was brutal to watch, but the violence was secondary to the mental breakdown of the main character.

Hostel just allows voyeurs to peek into a room to watch torture and murder. Period.

Maybe I'm just too old to get it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Good Luck

I get out to the theater so rarely to see newly released movies that I have a short list of must-sees. But, The Night Listener, starring Robin Williams, is on that list. (After Clerks II and before Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.) Robin Williams in the right role is just plain brilliant, and this role may be lightening in a bottle for him.

I'm saddened to learn that Williams has recently entered rehab for alcoholism. Good luck to him, I hope he recovers well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Wanted: Organizer of Memorabilia

Action star and all-around-tough-guy actor in need of professional organizer of memorabilia.

Successful applicant will demonstrate the ability to organize personal belongings and photographs in creative fashion, maintain household closet and pantry space, run occasional errands and complete light housework.

Applicant must also understand the subtle intricacies of alphabetizing and maintaining extensive DVD collections.

Will be supplied with a video camera and necessary audio equipment. And a gun. Reasons for and rules about gun use will be discussed prior to start date.

Must sign confidentiality agreement.

If you believe you meet these qualifications and would like to apply, contact Bruce Willis.

We Are...Marshall Featurette

Thanks to my friend Matt for the link to the featurette of We Are...Marshall. Nearly five minutes long, it has archive footage of the tragedy, interviews with the movie's stars, producers and director, interviews with Marshall football coaches associated with the tragedy and scenes from the film itself. Check it out here. You need QuickTime 7 to view it.

This And That, Again

It seems democracy isn't the only think America is exporting to Iraq. Whether they want it or not, Iraqi citizens are getting loaded up with reality TV.
You'd think reality would be the last thing they'd want to watch every evening after dinner.






Hugh Hefner, 80, is denying rumors that he recently had a stroke. Says the Playboy founder and notorious womanizer: "I've never felt better."

I'm guessing that ain't quite true.








If you're so inclined, take a look at these clips of The World Trade Center, the new movie directed by Oliver Stone and starring Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena. Be sure and check out the featurette, In Their Own Words, near the bottom of the clips page.






And finally, happy 69th birthday to my all-time favorite actor, Dustin Hoffman. I met him very briefly, along with director Barry Levinson, in the late 1980s. He seemed genuinely sincere, intellectually curious and very much interested in other people. Hoffman has a couple of films due out in the next few months that I am excited about, especially Stranger Than Fiction, already in the can and co-starring Will Ferrell.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Please Make It Stop: Part 6

Paris Hilton just got a whole lot less interesting...

In a recent interview with the British version of GQ (which, if you haven't picked up a copy of late, is way more dapper than it's American counterpart) Hilton announced she would remain celibate for one full year.

Hold the presses!

"I'm not having sex for a year. ... I'll kiss, but nothing else," the 25-year-old stated.

By the way, did I mention that the House Of Wax star is 25 freakin' years old?!? For the love of God, what 25-year-old says that to anyone, really, much less to a periodical with the reach of GQ.

My head hurts...


photo by By Paul Hawthorne, AP

We Are...Marshall Release Date Confusion

WSAZ, the West Virginia-based TV station serving the Huntington/Charleston viewing area, reported Sunday that the film We Are...Marshall has a new release date of December 22, 2006. WSAZ reported it's source as "an Internet film site," adding it could not confirm the information.

That's pretty shoddy reporting, in my book.

The Internet site which lists the new date of release is Comingsoon.net. It does list December 22, 2006 as the release date; however, I'm guessing that's incorrect. A holiday week opening would suggest that the studio has incredible expectations for We Are...Marshall. And while I hope and expect (mostly hope) the flick is good, I'm doubtful it will be holiday-week release worthy.

I could be wrong. I hope I am.

Update: The on-line edition of Monday's Huntington Herald-Dispatch reports that Warner Bros. has confirmed the movie's release date has been moved back to December 22, 2006. See here for details.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Walk Like An Egyptian

They loved singing the song, and tried hard to do the dance move. I'm pretty sure the boy, though, has his Dad's sense of rhythm.


I'm Writing A Letter To Santa, Too

Years ago, when the new TV season was upon us, the networks used to run a prime-time special featuring clips of each new series in hopes of building viewer interest. My personal favorite sort of preview show was the one for Saturday morning cartoons, like Dick Clark used to do for ABC. Popcorn, ice-cold soda, and previews of Super Friends.

Sigh...

Back in the day this technique was a great way to create public interest. In our current tech-savvy age, though, not so much. TV networks fight hundreds of cable channels for viewership, and compete with other forms of media entertainment like the Internet (you should check it out, sometime, it's way cool).

ABC, according to this article, is starting it's promotion of the upcoming season for uber-hit Lost in an interesting way. Teaming with USA Today, the shows cast will answer selected questions from fans. Email 'em, and they may answer, or so it reads.

I'm a serious fan of Lost. But I don't want to have answers to questions about the island, the story or how the characters intersect, at least not just yet. I like the current pace of the show. Nope, the questions I'd most like to ask the Lost cast are:

How will it be possible to use Malcolm David Kelly (Walt) in future seasons, considering the teen has grown about 12" taller in real life during the past three years? The time on the island for the Lost-ers has only been a short few months, after all.

Are different dogs sometimes used to play Vincent, Walt's yellow lab? Sometimes Vincent looks kinda chubby, and other times he looks sorta sleek.

Will the writers continue to reduce Sawyer to a caricature of the con man's original personality? Sure, his glib one-liners are funny and all, but what I loved about this character was how complicated and dark he was. Glib is cute once in a while. It's rarely interesting.

Which brings me to my final question:

Jack or Sawyer? Which, and why?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Arthur Who?

It appears that Aquaman may be the next comic book character adapted to the big screen. Rumors are circulating on just where the project stands regarding development, and who will direct the feature. Read about it here, if you are interested.

I'm not sure how I feel about an Aquaman flick. I like the comic, and I think the character has really been developed well, especially during the past 10 years or so. But, for some reason I'm doubtful about how this one would turn out.

For those of you Arthur Curry fans who just can't get enough, here is a trailer from a failed Aquaman pilot, which was to be a spin-off of Smallville, until the WB declined to pick it up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Five Things I Know For Sure

With almost-sincere apologies to my spiritual mentor, Oprah.

Just like birthdays, most holidays, family reunions and how I behave when I've had too much beer, summer vacations are a time of reflection for me. (Just go with me on this, please.) A time of personal growth, where I confirm what I think I know, and appreciate new things I've learned.

Hanging out with my family for 24 hours a day, every day, for a full week tests my patience and theirs. But when I finished this most recent test of endurance, I came away with these 5 Things I Know For Sure:

1. When the restaurant hostess asks, "Do you have a smoking preference?" and you respond with, "Yes. Marlboro Lights," be prepared for no one to laugh. You expect laughter, and the silent vacuum that exists immediately after you finish speaking is deafening. Expect it. Embrace it. This too will pass.

2. Sharing a bathroom stall with your three-year-old son may be an emotionally bonding experience, but it can occasionally be hazardous to your personal hygiene. I have two tips: (A) While sharing the toilet, stand arm-to-arm with one another, not on opposite sides of the toilet, and (B) Always carry wet towellettes--anti-bacterial ones, if you can find 'em.

3. Mall clowns named "Spunky" are really mean-spirited, hateful farts who put on make-up for tips.

4. Always confirm with the lady braiding hair at pool-side how many $3 braids she is gonna put in your daughter's hair before going upstairs to use the bathroom. It is now my understanding that by the time you can get back to pool-side, the hair-braid-lady can have as many as 30 braids in her hair. (Cha-ching.)

5. Vacationing with in-laws is fun and interesting, despite what people often say. This is especially true if, while on said vacation, your in-laws discover you write a blog and ask for the address so they can check it out when they get home. (Big wave and a smile to John and Sherry.)

Man, am I relaxed...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Best Movie Endings

Movie endings should be just right, shouldn't they? I mean, an average ending can cause a really fine movie to fall a bit flat, just like an incredible ending can lift a otherwise ho-hum flick to greatness.

Filmcritic.com has this list of the Top 50 Movie Endings Of All Time.

It's an intriguing list, although I don't agree with it completely. While I loved Batman Begins, for example, I don't think that ending should be included. And, I think the original Planet Of The Apes ending should be listed a little higher. All in all, though, it's an interesting list that could create interesting dialogue.

What's your favorite movie ending? Did it make the list, or should it have?

You Sure Do Have A Purty Mouth

First Martha, now Richard Hatch. Our little Mountain State is becoming quite the home-away-from-home for naughty celebs and celebrity wannabes.

Miami Vice

Miami Vice, which stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as the central characters from the hit TV show, succeeds in one area: it makes the 1980s police drama seem brilliant by comparison.

Vice follows modern-day Crockett and Tubbs as they go deep undercover to bust up an international drug operation. Along the way they struggle through personal emergencies, romantic relationships, sexual relationships, double crossing drug lords and members of the Aryian Nation.

Imagine that...

Really, this movie is just God-awful. So bad, in fact, that I've created my list of:

Top 5 Reasons I Hated Miami Vice

5. The movie has no real sense of urgency. I expected, at least, a Bad Boys rip-off, with lots of bombs, guns, explosions and action. Vice had almost none of that. The pace was slow, and the characters seemed monotone and dull;

4. Farrell and Foxx never raised their voices above a moderate level whisper. Farrell, especially, seemed able to growl in a menacing way without really raising his voice. They were going for the brooding cool vibe. It fell flat;

3. The editing seemed haphazard. I never knew if the action was taking place in Miami, Havana, Geneva or some South American country. The characters were in all these places at some point, and it made following the action difficult;

2. The dialogue was too inside and full of shortcuts for me to follow easily. For example, two characters must have said "Give me the lats and the longs" three times before I figured out what was meant. I just ain't that bright;

1. All the characters were stereotypes. The cops were stereotypes, as were the white supremacist and the Columbian drug lords. None seemed to have any real depth.

A bonus reason I hated this film: During the previews my knee hit the back of a chair in front of me. The woman looked back, scowled, raised forward then violently threw herself back into the chair so that she smashed against my knee. I just had to talk to her about it, explain my kneeing her was an accident, and that her aggressive behavior wasn't necessary. She just stared blankly at me, though, as if I was nuts.

I wanted to smack her during the entire movie...Especially during the movie's worst moments.

Miami Vice sucks. See something else instead.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Best Place To Hide Is The Obvious

Squirrelly Shaffer was a legend in my hometown of Summersville, WV. He didn't lead any community efforts that I know of, or make significant financial or cultural contributions to the town. In the late 70s and early 80s (and probably before) Squirrelly's iconic status was created because he was the town drunk. He was Summersville's Otis. And his legend was well deserved.

Once, after being arrested for public intoxication, Squirrelly escaped from the Nicholas County jail. I'm not sure how, or even why, frankly; Squirrelly was such a regular that I'm sure he knew he would be released soon after sleeping it off. Regardless, he escaped and a manhunt ensued. Deputies searched the immediate area, then broadened the search a bit, all the while knowing Squirrelly couldn't get far on foot. Try as they might, the police didn't find Squirrelly for several days. Turns out, Squirrelly went into hiding immediately after his escape in the one place the cops didn't think to look.

Up.

Squirrelly shimmied up a large tree on the courthouse lawn, and stayed there until the commotion caused from his escape died down. Then, he shimmied back down, and hit the local ABC store before becoming so drunk (again) that he became a nuisance, was found and arrested.

Sometimes, it seems, the best place for people to hide is in the most obvious of places.

Like the cultural mainstay that is Hollywood. Or the theater. Or within the onslaught of press clippings and interviews that come with celebrity.

We knew all about Squirrelly, when I was a kid. He didn't have a press rep who managed his affairs and who could put a polite spin on his behavior. Squirrelly wasn't overly attractive, nor the kind of hit with the ladies that allows some folks who misbehave to get a free pass. Nah, he was a poor schmuck who had little to do other than to get a little nuts when he got a whiff of the smack. But we at least knew who he was at his core, and what we were likely to encounter if we got close enough to start a relationship.

I'd take Squirrelly's authenticity over the fake personality bling of some folks any day.