Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
It's something I've always been interested in, and the thing that most attracted me to the movie Breach. Sure, a talented-as-hell cast and a well-written screenplay is fine and dandy, but it's not always enough. Sometimes, especially when a movie is telling a true life tale, I wanna know The Why.
And it's on delivering this that the film fails.
Chris Cooper is FBI agent Robert Hannsen, a career fed who specialized in Soviet espionage and revolutionized the way the Bureau maintained it's data. Although smart, Hannsen was held back on the career path because of his personality. He was egotistical, obsessive, narrow-minded and more than a bit of a perv. (While those qualities may serve one well in politics, they are typically career busters in most other professions.)
Oh, yeah...He was also a spy. And the FBI knew it.
Eric O'Neill, played by Ryan Phillippe, is the upstart clerk pegged by administration to work with, get close to and ultimately bust Hannsen in the act of making a drop. O'Neill is ambitious, and sees this assignment as his way of getting on the Bureau's fast-track.
What he finds out about himself during the assignment changes who he is at his core, though, and also changes the direction of his life.
Breach has fine acting, and is a mostly-entertaining flick. But I struggled with The Why. Did Hannsen spy because: (a) he was held down by The Man and not promoted when he should have been, (b) he wanted the big pay-outs that comes with the spy-game, (c) he was a patriot, and was trying to show the Bureau where it was failing, or (d) he was a selfish bastard. The movie flirts with all four possibilities, but leaves the door open as to The Why.
And I really needed to know!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The movie is about the FBI trying to protect a highly placed mobster (Jeremy Piven) who is ready to cut a deal with the government to avoid going to jail. The mob has placed a bounty on killing the weasel--$1,000,000 smackeroos--which contract killers salivate after as they try to get past the cops to Piven. The movie is fast-paced: lots of actions, tight dialogue and interesting characters. But something seems to be missing...
Yep, Smokin' Aces has lots of style and very little substance. And that's too bad, because it could have been a really terrific movie instead of just so-so.
An alternative title might have jazzed the movie up a bit. Like Talladega Night: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby did for the Will Ferrell film. You know as well as I do that the cool title made that movie funnier than it actually was. So, here are some title suggestions I'd make that would improve Smokin' Aces:
Smokin' Aces: Spot The Cool Cameo Appearances
Smokin' Aces: Why Jeremy Piven Will Never Be John Cusack
Smokin' Aces: It's In English, But You'll Wanna Use The Subtitle Feature Anyway
Smokin' Aces: Smoke Him If You Got Him
Smokin; Aces: The Ballad Of Characters We Didn't Know Long Enough To Invest In
Thursday, July 26, 2007
If only I had a pet... But, there's still hope.
Although not having a pet keeps me out of that specific part of the audition, I very well could have the skills necessary to be successful in landing a spot on the Stupid Human segment of the show. (At least that's what Mrs. Film Geek tells me.) With her encouragement, I've come up with a list of personal reasons that will certainly ramp up the "wow" factor for the Late Night judges.
1. I continue to drive my Ford Taurus, even though the "check engine soon" light has been on, constantly, since March, 2003;
2. I sat through two-thirds of Basic Instinct 2;
3. "I don't understand why you buy that rap shit. Rap's a fad, and it's gonna die soon, man. Just like disco." ~Me to my younger--and hipper-- brother. Fall, 1982;
4. At age 42, I just discovered that not everyone can fart the opening drum beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You" on command, and at will. And I continue to find that odd...;
5. "How much for that file folder? It's my wife's birthday, and I wanna get her something special!" ~Me to the Assistant Manager of The Office Depot. June 14, 2006.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
50,000 pounds of green beans!
I watched video of crews working to clean up the mess; shoveling, bulldozing, sweeping. How the hell do you put a dent in what amounts to a mountain of green beans?
My grandpa would have made leather britches.
It seemed my grandpa always had several strings of leather britches hanging around his kitchen. After he retired and before he became too ill to garden, he seemed to find a sense of self-worth in what he produced on the farm. Tomatoes, corn, potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beets--you name it, he probably grew it every year.
But he seemed most to love the variety of things one can do with green beans.
Threaded carefully with string and spaced evenly apart, green bean necklaces and bracelets hung all around his kitchen. Long strings, short strings, lengthwise or dangling, the leather britches hung for weeks as they dried out. They looked almost ornate to a 12-year-old kid who knew little about life other than that his grandpa hung the moon.
After they were dried and cooked, they were pretty tasty, too.
I haven't eaten leather britches since my grandpa died twenty years ago. Hell, I don't think I've even seen them since that summer, and that's rather sad. Making the dried beans was more a cultural practice than it was about feeding the family. And the skill to do it shouldn't end with me.
I think my kids are gonna learn a new craft later this summer.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Just don't ask me what it's about, because I'm not certain I know. Hell, check out the Wikipedia synopsis of the flick. It's an interesting read.
Starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, The Fountain is three tales in one. The intersecting stories follow a 16th century conquistador, a modern day scientist and an astronaut from the far future as each attempts to free his love interest from political, biological or spiritual death. Woven together and progressing toward a common conclusion, each story is compelling and complex. Director Darren Aronofsky frames the movie so that much of the complexity is told in a subtle fashion, through imagery and visual effects.
Like Aronofsky's Requium For A Dream, there is no tidy ending designed to make the audience happy. The story stays true, and leaves more questions than answers. Which is mostly the reason I liked it as much as I did.
The Fountain isn't for everyone. If you aren't comfortable being unsure where a movie plot is taking you 45 minutes in, this is not the flick for you. If you enjoy complicated and colorful puzzles, pick this one up.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
One area that I rarely pay attention to is who directs the flick.
Sure, there are directors that create a buzz for a film just by having their names attached to the project. My favorite movies, though, are those that allow the film itself to tell the story, and which avoids the signature devices some big name directors like to embed into the story. In music, that works: I always loved recognizing an opening Joe Walsh lick, and being able to anticipate the auditory miracle that was about to occur. On the other hand, I was always annoyed with Alfred Hitchcock's obsession with finding a spot for himself in his films.
The audience began to look for it, and that "there he is" moment made the film less believable to me.
I admit that on occasion, I'll notice something so special about a movie that my curiosity is piqued about the director. Maybe it was her use of visuals to tell an aspect of the story, or how he paced the film. Those rare instances stick in my mind for some reason, and I have to figure out ways to purge them.
My Top 5: Who Directed That?!? Moments
Duel: (1971) This made-for-TV flick was Steven Spielberg's transition from directing episodic TV to directing feature films. Dennis Weaver starred as a businessman who, while driving through a lonely California desert region, is nearly killed by a driver in a semi-truck. Weaver's character--as well as the audience--never sees the assailant during the cat-and-mouse adventure, except for a glimpse of the driver's cowboy boots. It was that fear of the unknown that caught my attention. It was an unusual plot device at the time, and one that made me look forward to future films made by some guy named Spielberg.
Reservoir Dogs: (1992) The directorial debut of Quentin Tarantino was riveting: amazing dialogue, well crafted scenes and peep-through-your-fingers-so-you-don't-miss-a-thing violence. It was, simply, brilliant. The opening scene of the jewel thieves having lunch and debating the method of tipping the waitress is still one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. Tarantino's work grabbed me by the head and forced me to take notice. And I loved it.
The Sixth Sense: (1999) M. Night Shyamalan's early home run is the flick to which the rest of his movies are compared. While that may not be fair, it's easy to understand. Shyamalan told the story with integrity and patience, allowing the audience to invest in the characters. That's why the ending was such a surprise: we cared about the characters, and were distracted by the emotion. It was a masterpiece.
Raging Bull: (1980) During the 70s, I knew nothing of Martin Scorsese. New York mob stories didn't play long at Grove's Theater, and I was too young to get into an "R" rated movie anyway. So, Raging Bull was the first Scorsese film I saw. And I was hooked. Filmed in black and white, the biopic of boxer Jake La Motta was psychologically edgy with it's themes of guilt and insecurity. It was also the movie that made me search out VHS (and Beta, back in the 80s) tapes of Scorsese's earlier work.
Chasing Amy: (1997) I caught Kevin Smith's flick on VHS, and immediately understood the guy. The flick had tight dialogue and characters that were interesting, but it was Smith's ability to make transparent the angst of twenty-something slackers with which I most identified. (Although I count on my fingers that I was 32 years old in 1997, in my mind I was still 25.) Chasing Amy made me camp out at Blockbuster the following weekend to check out Clerks and Mall Rats. I still identify so much with Smith's perspective of life that I miss his work when he hasn't directed in a while.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
It must be because there is a smell of football in the air, but this site is getting lots of traffic from people looking for information on the release date of the flick.
More info from the local newspaper about pre-ordering can be found here.
Friday, July 20, 2007
One of my favorite blogs, The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog, is written by a couple of goofs named Stanton and Chris James. In addition to knowing a thing or two about all-beef franks, both are pretty clever.
And both can be funny as hell.
Stanton recently took a shot at writing a tongue-in-cheek hot dog review in, what he described as, "the manner of The Film Geek." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but the piece sure sounded familiar when I read it.
Check it out here.
I mean, ...If you like that sort of thing.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
There, to the right of the "Where Are They Now?" segment, was a four part video of a Mr. Cartoon episode, from 1994.
It may not be vintage Beeper and Mr. Cartoon. But it's pretty damn close.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
For most of my life, I've fallen way short of believing in things like ghosts, goblins, ESP, aliens and Noah.
But I want to.
I've only experienced one event in my life that even comes close to the supernatural. And if I talk long enough about it, I can come up with lots of other reasons the event occurred. But I prefer to think it involved ESP.
I was ten, and excited that some cousins were visiting from Maryland. It had been a long time since I last saw them. The kids were my age, and they were always up for playing in the creek and having rock fights.
Never had a rock fight? How odd...
My cousins were due to arrive the following morning, and I went to bed excited about seeing them. While sleeping, I had the oddest dream: In it, my cousin Laura was lying in a field of flowers, propped up on her left side. She was alive, but in some serious pain. Although she was clothed, there was a gash in her clothing, just to the right of her navel, out of which was flowing blood. She was moaning from the pain.
I woke up scared. I rarely remember dreams, and one this vivid was really unusual. Even though I was scared, I didn't tell anyone. Telling just seemed sorta goofy. When the family arrived we played together in the creek and had a couple of rock fights. I forgot about the dream.
Until about 48 hours later, when Laura had to have an emergency appendectomy.
Was the dream a premonition? A coincidence? I don't know. But it was kinda cool.
Premonition starts Sandra Bullock as Linda Hanson, a middle-aged wife and mother of two whose life has become stagnant. Her husband, who once adored her, is contemplating an affair. Linda--for the first time in her life--has a vivid, incredibly real premonition that her husband is killed in a car crash. During the off and on again premonition, she also discovers his desire for the affair. Hurt and angry, her dilemma becomes: Does she prevent the car accident from happening, or let her soon-to-be-cheating husband die in the crash.
Premonition is a much better film than I anticipated from its advertisement I saw earlier this year. It's complicated, multi-layered and fast-paced. Bullock's performance has a wide range; many of her scenes have to be acted out alone due to the nature of the story. That makes acting much more difficult, but she carries it off well.
The ending of the movie forces the audience to think about destiny, and how--and if--it's possible to alter destiny's course.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
The laugh was just one.
I think my dad lived most of his life trying to be different than his father. And for years, I crafted my own personality traits to create obvious distinctions between me and the two of them. My dad is quiet, reclusive and emotionally distant; so, in my 20s I was loud, extroverted and sensitive. While I'm much more balanced now, I do sometimes find myself behaving in ways that remind me of my dad. If I'm not thoughtful of my behavior it feels too natural to be introverted, which typically then causes an overwhelming sense of social awkwardness. Because I don't want that to occur, I'm always on guard for signs that tell me I'm acting like my dad.
Like last night, when I heard his laugh come out of me as I watched Norbit.
It was the same that's-funny-as-hell belly laugh I heard when he was watching a Jerry Lewis movie. Or--and I'm sorry to even bring this example up--the bust-a-gut guffaw he'd let loose when he was watching that Urkle show. (My dad loved him some Urkle. The 500th "Did I do that?" catchphrase was as funny to him as the first time he heard it.) The hijinks of Norbit made me laugh so hard I snorted.
And my laugh was his laugh. Whether I wanted it to be or not.
Dad and I don't talk a lot, so I'm not sure if he's seen Norbit yet. But I hope he does. It's politically incorrect and insensitive on so many levels. But it's funny. One word of advice, though:
Watch it with someone. You'll find it even funnier that way.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
But you can never leave... ~Eagles
I have--I mean, Mrs. Film Geek has--a huge crush on John Cusack. Since his days of not wanting to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed, she's been hooked. And so have I.
In a manly, respectful way, of course.
So, as we stood in line at the theater, the debate was quick: "Knocked Up, or Cusack? Cusack, or Knocked Up?" It was a no-brainer.
1408 is the sort of old-school thriller movie-goers see too little of these days. With the current trend toward torture porn, flicks that scare the bejeezus outta you with a good story and a creepy undertone are too few and far between. 1408 aspires to be that, and despite a few minor problems it succeeds.
Cusack is Mike Enslin, a once promising writer fallen into a despair that effects him professionally as well as personally. He pays the bills by writing hack occult books about haunted sites across the country, even though he doesn't believe in ghosts or demons. In fact, Enslin doesn't believe in much of anything; a tragedy that occurred in his life a few years earlier altered him in dramatic fashion. He drinks too much, is highly jaded and has alienated everyone in his life.
While looking for a haunted hotel to stay in so he can finish the book he is writing, Enslin ends up in room 1408 of The Dolphin Hotel. The hotel manager, played in low-key fashion by Samuel L. Jackson, warns Enslin against staying in the room. There are no ghosts or demons, Jackson says. It's just that 1408 is "one fucking evil room."
And it is.
Enslin's stay there is really an exploration into the despair, angst and failings of his personal life. The room taunts him with his failings, and tempts him to end his suffering with suicide. The movie is a roller-coaster type of psychedelic ride where Enslin--and the movie viewer--isn't always sure what's real, and what's not. Even the ending is unclear.
1408 delivers a terrific scare without gore and without torture. I guarantee at least one shriek and one almost-out-of-your-seat jump if you see the flick.
And besides, Cusack rocks.
Monday, July 09, 2007
First, the Disney folks were pimping the hell outta the movie a couple weeks ago when I was there. It seemed the guy in the big rat costume was everywhere I turned. I saw more of the Little Chef at the different Disney parks than I did his smaller and cuddlier counterpart, Mickey.
I just love me some animated movies!
And Ratatouille didn't disappoint. The Pixar computer-generated animation was so breathtaking I was in awe for the first ten minutes or so. (This may also be the effect of the theater I saw the movie in using new digital projectors, and this was the first flick I've seen with the new technology.) The depth and detail of the movie was simply brilliant.
While the story was not as brilliant--it seems a little long in some parts--it was still entertaining. Little Chef is a rat who has the desire to be a chef. He teams up with a kid who is searching for his own path in life, and together they help each other accomplish their goals. It's a nice story with a fine message for kids.
It's just about 20 minutes too long...
That said, see Ratatouille in the theater, especially a theater that uses digital projection. It really is a remarkable visual film.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I saw the original version of the movie in 1986, in the theater. Along with a friend who is a horror/slasher film fanatic, I peeked through my fingers at Rutger Hauer's portrayal of a bottomed-out serial killer who wants to die. The flick creeped us out so much that today, when I run into my friend, we end up talking about that movie.
It's been 21 years!!
And I remember it like it was last month. Where has the time gone? And now it's been remade?!? Remakes--although I'm against them generally, because movies should stand on their own like like any work of art--should be for really old movies. You know, the black-and-white kind a generation before me used to watch.
The remade Hitcher takes some pretty dramatic liberties with the original story, but overall it's the same serial-killer-slasher-thriller you loved from the 80s. It's not as good as the original--the stars are pretty forgettable-- but it's not a bad flick if you have no reference for how terrific Hauer was in the lead role.
Even though it's not a terrible movie, skip it and rent the original. You'll be less disappointed.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
"It's God's number," my grandmother used to say. I never understood why if there is a God, it would be so enamoured with the number seven.
Why not 3? Or 9?
But something about that superstitious belief made sense to me. I have an odd obsession with the number seven: during times of stress I often tap my wedding ring seven times, and I count steps in multiples of seven as I walk. During a basketball game in junior high I once was unable to attempt a foul shot until I dribbled the ball seven times on top of the charity stripe.
(Both shots were perfect swishes, though, so it must have worked.)
But, I've never figured out why. What's so special about 7 ?
Well, ... Se7en is one of my favorite movies.
And today, 7/7/07, is the birthday of one of my best friends. Happy birthday, Cara. I'll think of you as I walk around my living room counting steps and tapping my ring.
Not quite as thoughtful as office supplies, but just as useful.
Friday, July 06, 2007
The flick delivered on none of it.
The plot was too familiar: Rich guy is found dead, handcuffed to a bed with cocaine in his system. His kinky lover (played by Madonna) is arrested for his murder. Her attorney (played by Willem Dafoe) believes in her innocence, and falls for her charms. As the trial ends, however, he begins to suspect she may have committed the crime.
Body Of Evidence made Basic Instinct seem like an Academy Award winner. Madonna's stiff acting and the over-the-top sex stunts--do even the kinkiest among us wanna have sex on a bed of broken light bulbs?--made Sharon Stone's leg cross look genius in comparison.
Like a virgin indeed...
I'm still haunted by it.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, my opportunity to be a star has finally arrived! A local, independently produced film will soon be shooting in the area, and the producers need talent. Auditions will be held at the Cabell County Public Library on Saturday, from 11:30am until 4pm.
I gotta memorize some dialogue!
According to the press release, lots of male actors are needed. When I read this, my first thought was that the film may be a porn production. I'm no Scrooge, so that didn't dampen my enthusiasm too much. (Although I'll admit auditioning in the buff on the Reference Floor of the library is a little off-putting.) But upon further reading, the casting call sounds legit. The producers need:
- Male lead, aged 18-34. Described as being a very physical role, involving a lot of running, action, etc.
Well, I wouldn't want a lead in my first gig as an actor anyway.
- Several 18-35 year old males (more physical roles, all of which involve running)
- One 35-55 year old male, described as a "crime boss type."
Let's see...[ahem] "You dirty rat! You'll never take me alive, you dirty rat!!" Nah, can't pull that off either.
- One 25-35 year old male, a "police officer type."
As I said, I know what I'm gonna be doing on Saturday. The lawn needs a good trim.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
The Thinking Blogger Awards.
The team at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog--Stanton, Chris James and Kevin Smith--were included as blogs-that-make-you-think by our friends at Hillbilly Savants who were, earlier, included on the list as well.
(See, that's what a meme does. It replicates. On, and on and on. And on.)
How did I get involved, you ask? According to the rules, when a blog is placed on The Thinking Blogger Awards list--as all bloggers will eventually, as the meme plays out--the blogger is obligated to create his or her own list of blogs that make him think. And it seems my friends the weenie wonks think I belong on their list.
I'm humbled, and honored.
I'm obligated now to create my own list. Here are the rules, as I understand them, from The Thinking Blog:
- If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
- Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
- Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.
Choosing only five blogs for this list was a difficult chore. Most of the blogs I read daily challenge me to think. Some bloggers make me re-think a political positions, others cause me to consider alternative religious, legal or cultural perspectives. A few that I read help confirm my personal opinions and views about the world, and about the state in which we live.
Here are the 5 Blogs That Make Me Think. I've limited the list to blogs written by West Virginians.
Donutbuzz: Simply, Donutbuzz is written by the most thoughtful and sincere person I've ever known. Whether Hoyt is writing about a day at work, his family, attorney elevator etiquette or his favorite TV show Lost, I wanna be along for the ride. He has an preternatural ability to find humanity in the smallest moment, and the writing talent to make a point with metaphor and analogy.
Don't Print This: I wish I was Bill Lynch. Really. I'm envious of his ability to write about life with honesty and artistry while maintaining a sense of integrity. His take on the unusual--he's currently contemplating a decision to donate his body to science--is refreshing, and his writing about the mundane is simply brilliant.
Don't believe me?
Go back and read how the guy blogs about a typical day at work.
The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog: Stanton, Chris James and Kevin Smith like to pretend they are writing about hot dogs. But I know better; they're writing about memories and mountain culture. The dog at the local hot dog joint tasted much better when you were ten years old, and your grandfather took you there for a special occasion. And the hot dog is a terrific analogy for the differences in cultural practices that occur between the mountain regions of our state.
I mean: can you believe they don't eat slaw on a hot dog in Fairmont? [shudder]
Saved By The Torso: Jackie Lantern likes to say his blog is about "the most ridiculous things." Read post by post, it might look that way. But on the whole, Torso is filled with sublte references to social and political thought. Jackie and I would likely disagree on many of the hot-button political debates of the day--I'm a near commie lefty, after all--but his writing often makes me think and re-think my positions. Jackie can say more about his mood and what's going on around him by posting a video from youtube than I can by writing a long paragraph.
DC Comictician on Star Trekiology: The best new blog in West Virginia, in my opinion. This blog takes on the important issues of the day with humor, sarcasm and intelligence. DC Comictician can't easily be described; check it out, though, and I guarantee you'll become a regular reader. You might disagree with author Elvis Drinkmo's conclusions, but you'll think. And think hard.