Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Last King Of Scotland

When I was in junior high school, teachers there talked a lot about Idi Amin. They made him out to be some sort of small-scale Hitler; a ruthless dictator who slaughtered his own countrymen in pursuit of personal and political gain.

I didn't get it, really. I saw Amin on the news from time to time, and he was always sort of a goof. Eccentric. A bit silly, even.

Some time later I read that Amin had killed over 300,000 of his people, tortured political opponents and murdered many who he thought opposed him.

I suppose that resume qualifies Amin as an evil totalitarian dictator.

Forest Whitakar won the 2006 Academy Award for his portrayal of Amin in The Last King Of Scotland. And the trophy is well deserved. Whitaker's performance is inspired, and focuses often on the erratic behavior of the Ugandan president.

Nicholas Garrigan is a young Scot fresh out of medical school who craves adventure and excitement. After traveling to Uganda to provide medical care to the country's impoverished citizens, Garrigan ends up meeting President Amin soon after Amin's military coup. Amin takes a shine to the young doctor, and appoints Garrigan his personal doctor.

Well, of course that was a mistake. A big mistake. Garrigan suddenly had an inside view of how the country is being run: through intimidation and superstition. Decisions are made to satisfy Amin's paranoia. And Amin became so erratic that even Garrigan--whom Amin called "my most trusted advisor"--feared for his safety on a daily basis.

The Last King Of Scotland is a good film made better by the incredible performance of Whitaker. Without Whitaker, the film is so-so.

But with him, it's riveting.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Country Boys

The Frontline documentary Country Boys moved me like no documentary I've seen before when I watched it for the first time last Fall. It tells the stories of Chris and Cody, two male teens living in Eastern Kentucky, struggling against poverty and circumstance to carve out a place for themselves in the world.

It moved me so much that I check the film's website from time to time to see if their stories have been updated. Filmed in three parts, you can watch it online at this link.

I can't recommend Country Boys highly enough.

Friday, April 27, 2007

For The Geek In All Of Us

If you haven't yet, check out Comics2Film. It's so cool, it's talking Spidey 4 already!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Flashback! Bad Movies That Haunt Me: Raising Cain

There was no way Raising Cain could miss, I thought. No possible way.

Written and directed by Brian De Palma? Starring versatile actor John Lithgow and boasting a thriller-type plot that centered on child abuse and the effects of psychological trauma? In 1992 Raising Cain was a movie I was jacked up to see.

I mean, c'mon. De Palma! The genius behind Scarface, and Body Double, two of my all-time favorite films. Not to mention Carrie, for god's sake.

I forgot, though, that he was also the mastermind behind duds like Casualties Of War, Wise Guys and Blow Out.

Raising Cain was worse.

It was 90 minutes or so of the most confusing, senseless cinematic jacknuttery I had seen to that point. And perhaps since.

So confusing, in fact, that I can't even describe the plot. All in know is, Lithgow played four characters, "Carter" "Cain" "Dr. Nix" "Josh" and "Margo."

Oh wait, that's five. See? Confusing.

I'm still haunted by it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The conversation happened while waiting in line at the Scooby-Doo Haunted House.

It's always The Film Geek Family's first stop at King's Island Amusement Park, and typically a hot-spot for debate. The line's long, after all. And it's air conditioned. So, it's a great place to chew the fat.

I'm pretty sure she started the debate because she grew tired of my new bit; morphing the voice of Scooby-Doo with the lyrics of Fergie. Yeah, the Black-Eyed Peas Fergie.

You know, Fergalcious.

"My rody rays riscious

I be rup in da rym
Just rworkin' on my ritnes

Re's my rwitness"

Well, it's funnier when sung in the Scooby voice...

Anyway, a conversation started regarding if and when the television show Scooby-Doo jumped the shark. Both Mrs. Film Geek and I believe it did. We disagree, however, on when. She believes strongly it jumped when guest stars were used; episodes with Sonny and Cher, The Harlem Globetrotters, and even Batman and Robin.

Man, that was some classic Scoob to me!

I think it jumped with the addition of Scrappy-Doo. In fact, I believe firmly that Scrappy can be linked to the downfall of modern television cartoons. I freakin' hated that damn pup! He was the embodiment of commercialized, lazy story telling in cartoons.

"Puppy Power" ?!?


Anyway, we couldn't agree on just where the show jumped the shark. So I thought I'd ask you.

Did the crew in the Mystery Machine ever jump the shark? And if so, when did it happen?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Be Right Back, Gonna Get More Popcorn

I’ve always been a pretty good daddy, I think.

I mean, I’ve always loved to spend time with my kids, getting them to laugh at my funny faces and the Pull My Finger bit that still slightly annoys my wife after 16 years, but makes the kids laugh until they can barely breathe. I loved being daddy; digging through the dirt for worms with three-year-olds, pushing them on the swing just high enough to make them squeal and laughing at them because they can’t figure out which hand the It’s really hidden in.

I stopped being only daddy on Tuesday, April 20, 1999. The events that occurred that day at Columbine High affected me deeply. I was home from work with the flu, and watched the horrible tragedy unfold. My oldest daughter was then three years old, and I couldn’t stop thinking of her. How the actions of those two kids—monsters, sure, but still kids—changed her future forever. They changed how I will view the friends she makes over the years, and the groups that she (and her younger siblings) will join. I’ll nervously eye-up each school they attend to make sure that all the necessary safety requirements are there, and be hyper-observant about possible bullying behavior from classmates.

Sure, those are all things a parent should do, I agree. But since that day in 1999 I do them in an obsessive manner. With an urgent diligence which just didn’t seem that necessary before.

That anxiety changed me, too. Because the behavior doesn’t really fit the term daddy to me.

It’s more like Father.

I’m saddened by this eighth anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, and that the incident seems to have sparked a generation of similar events in public schools, private schools and now higher education. But as my kids progress through those academic systems, I can’t help but be angry at the changes that are the result: the heightened security, the transparent book-bags, armed guards and on-site police. Plus, the fear. That always-present, ever-gripping fear…

And because even though they still call me daddy, I’m just not that guy anymore.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

While catching the TMNT flick this weekend with the kids, we saw the first trailer for Underdog, due for release on August 2, 2007.

Here it is, via YouTube.

For those of you waxing nostalgic (and complaining about the modernization of the super mutt), compare it to the original, from 1967.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Before TMNT:

Griffyn: "Dad, how about Meet The Robinsons instead in engine turtles."

Me: "They're ninja turtles. And we gotta see the turtles. We just gotta."

Griffyn: "Firehouse Dog?"

Me: "Turtles."

Maddisen: "You could let me see Are We Done Yet, while you take the little kids to the super-hero turtle movie."

Me: "No."

Jaden: "Can I get some popcorn now?"

After TMNT:

Me: "Well, what did you think, kids."

Griffyn: "I liked Rapheal best."

Maddisen: "It was pretty good, I was surprised I liked it."

Jaden: "Who would win in a fight: Spider-man, or one of the turtles?"

Me: "I'm guessing you think Spidy."

Jaden: "Yeah. I'd wrap the turtle up in a web."

Me: "May 4th is coming, bud.

Appalachian Film Festival

The Keith-Albee will host the the annual Appalachian Film Festival Thursday April 19 through Saturday, April 21, 2007.

According to the story in Huntington's Herald-Dispatch, "The contest is open to all residents of the 13 states in the Appalachian Region, which includes: West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The films include documentaries, music videos, features and short films, and four guest speakers will host workshops at the festival."

And the price is right: $2 per person!

Anyone wanna go? The festival schedule can be found at this link.

I'll be the geeky looking guy at the popcorn stand.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Good Shepard

The Robert DeNero-produced-and-directed The Good Shepard tells the story of the building of America's Central Intelligence Agency. Recruited by the government for covert work while still a Poetry student at Yale, Edward Wilson spends his entire adult life helping shape the world's political climate during the 1940's, '50's and 60's.

The character serves as a metaphor for the Nazi-huntin', commie-fightin', Cold War particpatin' America that's all about being nothing but the Red, White and Blue.

It should be a fascinating look into a lifetime of intrigue, international espionage and action.

Instead, it's the kind of stuff that would make up a couple of good sessions on the therapy couch.

Wilson's father, who is a Navy Admiral, commits suicide when Wilson is a young child, and there are hints that Wilson has significant confusion regarding his sexual orientation. He eventually falls in love with one woman, only to marry another who becomes pregnant with his child after a one-date encounter. Time and time again he sacrifices family and personal needs to satisfy what he thinks--or is told--are the needs of his country.

The Good Shepard is a perfect example of how a terrific story can easily go bad while being made in bloated, big-studio Hollywood.

The cast is all wrong: Matt Damon (who plays Wilson) is just not believable as a man in his mid-to-late 40s and the father of an adult son. And Angelina Jolie doesn't have the range to play his wife Clover, who seems seriously selfish and immature one moment, then wise and caring the next. Joe Pesci adds some welcome color to the film for the whole 45 seconds or so he's on screen, and Alec Baldwin as FBI agent Sam Murach is a welcome sight, but he's in the flick for far too few scenes. And this in a movie that runs two hours and forty-seven minutes.


That's at least 50 minutes too long.

The Good Shepard is a nice try. Somewhere along the way to getting made it all just went bad. Very, very bad...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Johnny Hart

Cartoonist Johnny Hart died Saturday at his home. He was 76 years old, and died of a stroke.

I used to read B.C. daily as a kid. Hart's perspective made me re-think many a position on religion, politics, war and community. I skipped the comic often during the last ten years or so, mostly because I thought it had developed too much of a religious theme. But every time I opened the paper to check it out, it made me laugh.

And think.

Thanks, Mr. Hart. Send me a message in a bottle when you get there.

If Only It Stayed So Simple

We're not so prayerful at The Film Geek's house. More specifically, we're not so into the out-loud kind of prayer one hears more commonly during religious holidays. So, I was a bit surprised when my soon-to-be four-year-old insisted he say grace at the in-law's Easter Day Dinner.

They take the pre-meal prayer of thanks pretty seriously, so I wasn't sure if that was such a good idea.

Me: "Should we let him?"

Mrs. Film Geek: "I guess so. He seems really excited about it. Go ahead, son."

Jaden: "Dear Easter Bunny, thank you for the food that you brought to our family this year. Amen."

Amen, indeed.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Please, Make It Stop: Part 11

I think it started with Bennifer, and caught fire with Brangelina and TomKat. Portmanteau words: Sounds and meanings from two different words merged into one new word.

Please! Make it stop.

Now comes the Celebrity Couple Name Maker. Not since the Bass-O'-Matic has such an invention been so unnecessary. Nor as annoying.

Plug in your first or last name, then the same for your significant other, hit click and discover what you two would be called if you were beautiful, wealthy and a celebrity. Talent not required.

Although I qualify as none of the above, I did try the Namemaker. Not because I wanted to, of course, but because I felt obligated to before writing this post. Yeah, ...that's the ticket. It was professional obligation.

TheFilm + MrsGeek = TheFeek

Not exactly TomKat, but far better than Spederline.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Up Late With Marshall University

Marshall University's School Of Journalism just launched the new Up Late talk show, which can be seen on local cable in the Huntington area, or via youtube. (On youtube, the first episode is divided into three separate 9 minute segments.)

The show--particularly for a new production--is entertaining and well produced for an initial venture. There are obvious Letterman influences, a laugh track that is used sparingly, and Coach Mark Snyder is the first guest (and ends up playing old-school Techmo-Bowl with a female student named Kassi). "Herd Homes" in segment 2 is particulary

I like it enough that I'm gonna add it as a link, and check back from time to time.

Episode 1: Segment 1

Episode 1: Segment 2

Episode 1: Segment 3

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When I'm Not Watching Movies

It never ends.

By Brendan McDermid, Reuters
Being a 63-year-old rocker is pretty weird. Being a rocker with a publicly known affection for blow is weirder. Telling people you mixed your father's cremated ashes with some toot and snorted the concoction for the hell of it?

Dude, that's just jacknuttery.

Keith Richards
is backing off the story now, but I don't buy his take-back. You and I both know how it went down.

By Kevork Djansezian, AP
... ...

I'm sorry. What were you saying about Halle Berry? I wasn't listening.

By Michael Caulfield, 2001 AP file

John Goodman, sued by a German production company for allegedly backing out of a movie deal.

Remember when Goodman had a movie career, and he didn't have to [allegedly] back out of movie deals with German production companies?

I'm sad.

Where's that Halle Berry story again?

Look, I don't give a rat's ass if Sanjaya Malakar wins this season of American Idol or not. Really. I won't buy the CD either way.

What I am pissed about, though, is that the little bastard has a Wikipedia entry, and I don't.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


It's been a slow movie month. For more than a couple of reasons, but all having to do with time limitations.

Although I did have time to reorganize the blog recently, on a wet and rainy Saturday.

Doing that made me realize I need a good picture of me in the header. I've yet to show a picture of me overtly on these pages (although there are hints here and there), mostly because I just ain't that pretty.

I'm a geek, after all.

But I do want to post a picture, I think. Something that will provide some insight into me. Some reference for people to have as they read my ramblings. A picture that demonstrates my essence, that shows who I am at my core.

So, whattaya think?
Is this a bad shot?

(I kid, I kid...This is actor Scott Valentine at the recent Dressed To Kilt fashion show. Photographer unknown.)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Transforming The Keith

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington's local daily newspaper, announced today that David Tyson has been named it's 2006 Citizen Of The Year.

(Someday I'm gonna have to nominate myself for that award. No one else seems to think of me during the nominations period.)

The honor was awarded Tyson for his efforts in transforming the Keith-Albee, the former cinema built in 1928, into a performing arts venue. Crews have removed the dividers that separated the theater into three separate facilities, revamped the Green Room where performers await cues to enter the stage and added new carpet. Some additional work is needed before the transformation is considered complete.

I'm happy that Tyson--who is considered a go-to guy in Huntington--is leading the efforts, and I'm ecstatic the Keith will continue to be used as a venue for cultural and entertainment experiences.

I was, however, annoyed with one quote used in the story. This, from Penny Watkins, the Executive Director of the Marshall Artists Series:

"David is one of the few people I've met in Huntington who genuinely cares about the quality of life in this community. If he sees a need and signs on to address that need, he goes at it full steam ahead."

One of the few who cares about quality of life in the city?

She needs to get out more.