Monday, June 30, 2008

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

The only thing worse than a bad sequel made from a great original is a bad sequel made from a so-so flick.

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets falls into that category.

The cast is generally like-able, but the plot is so contrived that I found myself hoping some of the characters did actually die during the adventure so that I could enjoy an element of surprise.

What was on page 47 of the book?

I don't give a rat's ass.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sex And The City

I'm a little paranoid to say it, but I was a huge fan of the HBO series Sex And The City. Along with The Sopranos, the show--especially the earlier years--was on the must-watch list for Mrs. Film Geek and me. We planned our Sundays around it, and it rarely disappointed.

Mostly, I dug the show because of my serious crush on Carrie Bradshaw, the lead character. That I had a crush or her was well know, although often tempered by Mrs. Film Geek's retort: "The crush is sorta sweet. But to be honest, if you found yourself alone in a bar with Carrie, ...well, you know she wouldn't talk to you, don't you?" We'd laugh, but in my head, I'd think:

"Oh, she'd talk to me, baby. She'd do some talkin'!"


Although I loved the show, I always felt a little uncomfortable around my guy friends saying so. They often made fun of their wives or girl friends for being so faithful to that "chick show on the home box," which several talked about while flipping the channel between an NFL game and whatever race Dale, Jr. was in that weekend. In between yelling at the refs, I was secretly counting down the hours until later that night, when the cool theme song of Sex And The City would lull me into my secret nirvana.

Despite my love for the show, I had misgivings about seeing the flick in theaters. Going up to the box office window, standing behind dozens of women wearing high priced shoes and Carrie Bradshaw-inspired fashion and ordering out loud: "Two, for Sex, please" seemed sorta strange.

So, I [ahem] downloaded a copy off the Internet, and watched it at home.

As we watched the movie on my laptop, I felt sort of sad. It didnt have the same feel as the HBO series. Like the TV show, the movie Sex And The City had a central theme that played out in the lives of all the female characters. But something about the movie was strangely different.

Uncomfortable, even.

The intimacy of the original TV show, which played a significant role in why people were drawn to it, wasn't there. It's harder to connect with an over-sized Carried Bradshaw and Company. And while watching the fem-gang iron out their problems in an hour each week seems acceptable, watching them whine and complain about a single problem for over two hours is just overkill.

It's like having relatives over for dinner, and then they just won't leave.

So, it's probably true that Carrie Bradshaw wouldn't talk to me in a bar. I know it. (And deep down, even though we've never met, you know it too.) But that's OK. Like my love for the TV show my fantasy was just a thing, something untrue and, as a result, bound to pass in time.

Fantasy has it's place, of course; but I never tire of my real-life love and best friend.

(I just hope Mrs. Film Geek doesn't get into trouble because I [ahem] downloaded the movie for free on her laptop.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)

Reuters brings news that a new superhero slash music-themed cartoon is in the works: J-Stash.

And yes, it's about John Oates' mustache.

Some tidbits from the story:

"The show would portray Oates as a modern-day family man who finds himself enticed back to the rock-star life by his mustache, which is voiced by comedian Dave Attell."

"In a cartoon setting, the mustache has its own personality," Oates says from Aspen, Colorado, where he's finishing his latest solo album. "Just as I'm represented as the John Oates of today, the mustache is the John Oates of yesterday. The focus of the music will be on the back catalog, but it's an open-ended situation. There's even talk of the mustache trying to bring new bands into the picture."

The pilot, currently in production, has "Oates opening a new wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that focuses on mustachioed musicians. Suddenly, a dying David Crosby appears, and with his last breath warns Oates of a mysterious secret group of mustache wearers bent on killing other mustache wearers. As actor Tom Selleck attempts to escape from the latest murder scene, Oates summons his own mustache with a fist pump that simultaneously changes his clothes from conservative attire to tight pink pants and white boots."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whatever Happened To...Christian Slater

Seriously. Where is this guy?

Pump Up The Volume (which I contend was a harbinger to the current influence of political and social blogging in America) and True Romance (the scene with Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper rocks!) showed the guy had chops.

Since the mid-90s, though, Christian Slater's been mostly working for the paycheck.

The sad result of studio executives trying to morph Slater into the next Jack Nicholson.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Because It's Raining On My Sabbath

Who's your 80's Movie Icon Alter-Ego?

Find out here.


"Hi, how you doing? I'm Ferris Bueller. "

Friday, June 20, 2008

You Don't Look A Day Over 140

Several Springs ago I needed to get to the other end of the county quickly, so I jumped up on the local portion of the Interstate to avoid city traffic. A little less than half-way there, I realized my need to pull over quickly in order to find a restroom. My bladder is pretty big, but when it's full there's little time to spare. I pulled into the nearest Interstate rest stop, and waddled up to the urinal.

A traveler--who ignored the space-in-between rule we men have coded into our DNA -- mistook me for an out-of-state traveler, like him, who was just passing through.

"Beautiful state, West Virginia. Don't you think? I'm from Colorado. We have beautiful mountains, but these hills are really pretty. Just incredible."

"Yep," I answered. "The hills are very nice."

He continued: "The thing about it, though, is that the whole place is so damn remote. There doesn't seem to be much in terms of civilization, at least on the stretch of road I'm taking."

I was almost finished.

"Yeah, we natives hear that a lot. There's not a lot of flatland here, so the towns and communities are tucked away in between the mountains. You gotta get off the Interstate to really get the feel of the state."

"Well, I'm just passing through," he replied. "I don't have the time to really stop."

I zipped up, wished him a safe trip and hit the door.

There are some aspects of West Virginia that trouble me, including the never-ending battles with poverty, a general population that's less educated than the average American and the medical problems that are inherent in impoverished societies that are growing older. There are things to love, too. West Virginia is a beautiful state, with good people who, generally, seem to care about community.

Recently, there's been a move by some West Virginia bloggers to create a new archetype for West Virginia. It's a nice idea, and I'm hopeful the effort is successful. My thought, though, is that there's only one way to make that happen:

Make sure those folks traveling through on the Interstates have a valid reason to stop, visit and get to know us. We've had too long a history of people quickly passing through.

Happy birthday, West Virginia. I may not always like you, but I do love you. You're family.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Heartland

For one year, from Spring 2002 until Spring 2003, I lived in Des Moines, Iowa. Moving from my Mountain State to the Heartland was a difficult decision to make, but it was something I needed to do. On a personal and professional level, I was growing complacent: working in the same job for 17 years will do that, sometimes. I was going through the motions at work and in my day-to-day life, and I doubt I was the only one who was noticing.

The events of September 11, 2001 shook me up, and reminded me I needed to refresh myself.

In early 2002 a friend, the CEO of a business that fit my career skills, called and invited me to work with him in Iowa. It took some persuasion, but his call fit the need I had to explore, and to challenge myself. I agreed to stay one year; then, I loaded up the truck and headed to the Mid-West.

The first full day I was there, a small tornado touched down about a hundred yards from where my wife was standing. We were pretty sure at that moment that it was gonna be one year and done for us and Iowa.

My time in the state was a terrific learning experience for me. I met a lot of very nice people, and made some life-long friends. They put up with my non-stop complaining about cornfields, and I tolerated their cultural reluctance to engage in anything perceived as conflict. I traveled much of the state during my year there, and worked with many people who made me a better person for having known them.

I'm saddened as I watch the news about the recent devastating floods, and the horrific tornadoes. Saddened, and worried.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, friends.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Back in the early 90s, a period in which I was struggling heavily with my lack of religious faith, I had a dream. I don't seem to have dreams very often, and this one was a doozy. It was so detailed and so important to me that I've never forgotten it.

(What's this have to do with Kung Fu Panda, you ask? Bear with me, please. It'll come.)

In my dream, I awoke from my sleep in what appeared to be a paradise. It wasn't the Heaven of the Bible I recall reading about; there were no mansions, or streets of gold. It was mostly green pastures, rolling hills and a deep, blue sky. But I recall knowing, just by instinct, that it was a special place.

So special, in fact, that I began looking around for God.

"Welcome back," The Voice said. "It's been a long time."

The Voice wasn't the Burning Bush voice from the flick The Ten Commandments. It wasn't a booming, paternal voice at all. In fact, it might have been less a voice than simply an understanding of the message that was being conveyed.

"Yeah, well, it's been a long time since I believed in you." My answer wasn't smart-ass. It was sincere. As we walked through the pastures we didn't speak for a long time. I recall craning my neck around several times, trying to get a glimpse of The Voice. I never did. The Voice always seemed just out of sight.

"You make it too hard to believe in you," I said.

"No, you make it too hard," The Voice replied. "Here, let me show you."

In my dream, The Voice handed me a large, hard-bound book. It was really huge, and heavy. "It's a book of knowledge," it said, "and it might help."

I struggled to open the book cover, but finally pushed the cover open. Inside, was one fragile page of paper, on which looked like one sentence written in Hebrew. I read it, and instantly understood.

It was the meaning of life.

"That's too simple," I said.

The Voice responded with a bit of a laugh. "That's the beauty of it, Marc. It' s so simple, anyone can do it. Like I said, it's you that makes it too hard."

I recall thinking in my dream that I needed to remember what I learned from the book when I awoke. It was at that moment that I did wake up, and although I could recall every other small detail of the dream, the message I'd learned from the book was lost.

Try as I might, I couldn't remember a damn thing I'd read.

Oh, yeah...Kung Fu Panda.

Incredible animation, and terrific voice work by the actors. In fact, the voice acting is by far the most impressive feature of this movie.

The best part of the movie, though?

Three-quarters of the way through the flick, I was reminded of what I'd read in that book. When Po (the Panda) unrolled the scroll to read what was to be his destiny, I realized the message he received and the message from my dream were the same.

We make our own destiny, and shouldn't rely on superstition to map out a destiny for us.

It really is that simple.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is It Just Me?

Something about this public restroom made finishing up more difficult than usual.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Comic Book Lady

I bet I shopped at Comic World, in Huntington, WV, for ten years before I knew the owner's name was Kathleen Miller. "The Comic Book Lady" was what we all called her, even when referring to her in conversations with other people.

Wanna get me a cool gift certificate for my birthday? "See the Comic Book Lady at Comic World," I'd tell the person ponying up the gift.

Hoping to unload a couple stashes of comics, because the collection is getting out of hand? "Wonder what The Comic Book Lady will give me for this issue?"

Kathleen Miller was always friendly, and forever polite. But in an endearing sort of way, she was simply The Comic Book Lady to me and my friends.

Turns out TCBL has the actin' bug!

Kathleen and Comic World employee Shayne Barker have completed shooting and production on The Comic Book Lady, a fictional dark comedy about the life of, well...the comic book lady. Shot in black and white, the film has been selected for the International Film Festival in England and the San Antonio Film Festival. Both screenings will occur later in June.

According to the story written by Paul Sebert of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, "The movie was based on a lot of different things that happen working in retail," Miller said. "You meet a lot of interesting people. I always joke that I was going to write a book, 'Another Day in the Life of the Comic Book Lady,' but then we just sort of had the idea to make a movie. This is entirely fictional. Nothing's really real other than the fact I own a comic shop."

Now, here's the coolest part: Harvey Pekar, of American Splendor fame, traveled to Huntington to play a role in the flick.

The trailer can been seen on the film's MySpace page.

UPDATE: The folks at Comic World have added as second trailer to their Myspace page. Also, a detailed and very positive review, by a real film professional, is available at Messages By Light. The blog's author also has an embeded interview with the film's writer/director, Shayne Barker.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Old School Fun

"Daddy, what did you do for fun when you were a kid?"

I think they were bored.

"You mean, before cable TV, video games, high-priced gaming systems, personal computers, videos, DVDs, gameboys, scooters you didn't make yourself, Mp3s and iPods?"

"Uh...yeah. I guess."

They didn't seem to get my sarcasm.

"Let me grab my hatchet, and I'll show you."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Movies I Couldn't Live Without

Charleston radio-man and Internet podcast superstar Spike Nesmith has posted a really interesting question on his Blog! The Musical:

Should you be stranded on a deserted island and able to take only five movies with you (presuming, of course, said island had electricity and something to view the movies on), what five movies would you choose?

I'm trying to put together my own list in preperation for joining Spike soon on his show. (Is it too politically incorrect to add on my list of five a porn flick? I'm just asking...)

What's the five on your list?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

My entire life, I've been disturbed by "selfishness." Not necessarily the I-gotta-get-mine everyday act of being selfish; rather, the decisions some make to gain a measure of power for themselves, or the acts carried out which effect horribly the lives of other people. Some quick examples, from film:

12 Angry Men: Jurors originally begin to debate the life of an accused man in a flip, superficial manner based deeply in their selfish perspectives. It's only after those perspectives are exposed and challenged by the lone hold-out do the jurors truly begin to discuss the case in an honest fashion;

Running On Empty: Danny Pope, played wonderfully by the late River Phoenix, grows tired of being on the run with his fugitive family and makes decisions designed to give him performance even while jeopardizing his family's security;

Serpico: The classic story of one man's fight against selfishness and corruption within his occupation, and how he struggled to stay true to his moral convictions despite overwhelming odds;

Dog Day Afternoon: A movie that depicts--as well as any-- how trying to have it all can lead to both selfish acts and desperate measures.

Not so coincidentally, each of those films --like the movie Before The Devil Knows You're Dead -- is directed by Sidney Lumet. Lumet seems attracted to stories that center of acts of selfishness, and how decisions leading up to the act and the results of the act play out. Lumet's work always gives a very honest, transparent view into those small moments where the selfish decision is made.

This is also the aspect most important in Before The Devil: the selfish actions of two brothers that lead them into the desperate act of staging a robbery at a family-owned jewelry shop, and how the reactions of the family members play out after the plan goes tragically wrong. The robbery itself isn't that interesting, but the events leading up to it and those which occur after it are fascinating.

Ethan Hawke and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are brilliant as the distinctly different but equally desperate brothers. Marisa Tomei gives her best performance in years. And Albert Finney, the father of the main characters, gives a performance that will break your heart.

It's a Danny Gut film, but it's worth the viewing.