Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I first decided I wouldn't comment on Bruno until I figured out a way to discuss it without bringing up Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, Bruno's older, wiser and--let's be honest, here--funnier cousin.

But, I just can't figure out a way to do that. Borat, Ali G and Bruno are as inter-connected and inseparable as Jon & Kate and their eight kids.

Mmm..probably not a good comparison.

Bruno works too hard for the laughs, and the character isn't likable. Borat had an innocence about him that was appealing, and even when he was over the top the audience was in on the satire Cohen was sending up.

But Bruno is simply a re-tread of the Borat story that's been dusted off, shaved clean and fitted with a new accent.

He's crass, ridiculous and absurd. Too bad he's just not very funny.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism: A Love Story is, in my opinion, filmmaker Michael Moore's best work. The documentary addresses how capitalism and the free enterprise system has caused the destruction of the middle class in the United States.

In typical Moore fashion, Capitalism shows the effect of his subject matter on real human beings. Americans are shown being forced from their homes, and experts explain how financial deregulation effected the credit of us who are not wealthy, and our ability to save. Interviewees discuss how the politics of economics seems to have been at play in most major decisions of the last 50 years. It's Moore's most personal film yet, and less satire and humor is used by Moore than in any of his previous films to illustrate points.

As a result, Capitalism is intimate, emotional and compelling.

Of particular interest to me was the expose Moore did on Corporate America's Dead Peasant insurance policy making. It was a topic of which I knew nothing, and I found the practice particularly greedy and evil.

I saw the film in Arlington, Virginia in a mall theater. It was packed, two weeks or more after the film was released. At the end of the flick, the audience applauded. Including me.

Michael Moore is a hero.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Here's one of the reasons I know this movie is a success. After the flick ended, and as the audience filed out into the lobby, the young woman behind me said to her boyfriend:

"I have to go home and research what happened to Katie. Do you remember her last name?"

She thought
Paranormal Activity was real. Or at least some aspects of it was real. Enough so that she cared about what happened to the character.

I've heard this movie be compared to The Blair Witch Project, based mostly in how the perspective is from the camera and the film is designed to look like a true story. But it's an unfair comparison.

The difference, to me at least, is that the audience watches the most intimate moments of a couple's lives during a 21 day period. We see them sleep together, play together, joke with each other and be frighted together. We see the couple fight, and we see them make up again. It's the intimacy that allows us to be frighted right along with them.

Quickly into the picture, we care about them; they're family.

That this movie is able to be (sort of) scary without blood, special effects or obvious monsters is a testament to how director Oren Peli develops the relationship between the audience and the characters on screen. Although I don't think the film is very scary, I do think it's more than entertaining.

And it's remarkable that's accomplished in the most minimal of ways.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beauty's In The Eye Of The Survey

Huntington, WV's Herald-Dispatch reports the city has a new distinction: men living in the Mountain State's second largest city are some of the ugliest dudes in the United States. (a site I didn't know existed because, clearly, I'm one of those ugly dudes who doesn't think often about his looks) ranks Huntington as having the 5th ugliest population of men, tied with Mobile, Alabama.

By the way, I've been to Mobile. I have friends in Mobile. Huntingtonians are nowhere near as ugly as Mobilians.

Check out this picture of me (far right) and some friends, taken at my recent high school reunion, for proof!

Here's the Top Nine list put out by the beauty site. (I'm unsure why they came up with only nine):

No. 1: El Paso, Texas

No. 2: Hagerstown, Md.

No. 3: Miami

No. 4: Greensboro, N.C.

No. 5: Mobile, Ala. and Huntington (tie)

No. 6: Detroit

No. 7: Philadelphia

No. 8: Houston

Where's A. James Manchin when we need him?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Coal Bowl Week: Post #3

2009 marks the first year I'll not attend the Mountaineers vs. Herd game since the [ahem] series was renewed. Here are some of the reasons why, republished from 2006:

Dear Diary:

8:30am. Mrs. Film Geek and I slept in this morning. We arrived in Morgantown a little late, so the extra sleep was refreshing.

When I awoke caffeine was whispering in my ear, Dear Diary. Loud.

So I walked down to the area where the hotel serves its Continental Breakfast. (It's funny how that phrase always reminds me of The Continental, the running character Christopher Walken plays on SNL.) Geez...I'm so old, Dear Diary. And sorta lame.

Anyway, there were more Green hats and shirts in the breakfast area this morning than Blue and Gold. So, I stuck around a few minutes and talked to a few Herd fans.

We are all scared. So very, very scared...

10:00am. After a shower and shave I'm ready to hit the road for the tailgate. As we drive, Mrs. Film Geek realizes that WVU's color scheme isn't really Blue and Gold. It's Blue and Yellow, she says.

And she won't stop saying it:

"Notre Dame is gold. This ring is gold. That color is yellow."

Me: "Yeah, well they call it gold. So don't be smarting off the Mountaineer Faithful about their color scheme. That isn't a good idea..."

Her: [perplexed] "But, it's yellow. They're wrong to call it gold."

Me [eyeroll]:"Let it go."

12:00 noon. We arrive at a Marshall tailgate party, Dear Diary, and I've never been happier to see a gaggle of total and complete strangers. Because these strangers wear green, and smiles on their faces. And they offer us hot dogs, and beer (for the low, low all-you-can-consume price of $10). So far, so good Dear Diary. So far, so good.

1:15 pm. I've lost Mrs. Film Geek somewhere in the crowd.

So, I politely excuse myself from the conversation I'm having with my new friend Carl in order to search for her. It takes a few minutes, Dear Diary, and then I hear in the periphery:

"I mean...Notre Dame wears gold. Everyone knows that! This color is yellow."

...I found her.

2:45pm. We make our way into the stadium by shuttle, Dear Diary, and were so excited to run into an old friend, by accident, on the bus. She and her kid will be sitting near us, as it turns out. Thank God! Lots of Marshall fans comment that they are getting strange looks from folks wearing those other colors. Looks of amusement. Maybe. Or evil anticipation. Someone suggests it is going to be a long afternoon.

Our friend and her 12-year old son settle in near us. Within minutes, some ass wearing a Sugar Bowl Champion T-shirt taps the kid on the shoulder, and says: "Marshall swallows." Yep, that's a classy way to interact with a kid.

Have another beer, buddy.

5:00pm. Dear Diary...This looks pretty bad for The Herd. WVU is just too fast, too good. That Slaton kid is phenomenal, and Pat White is going to be. This team is special. And Marshall's isn't. Yet. It might be later, but not now. Not today.

5:45pm. The Herd Faithful have abandoned the team. Why, Dear Diary, are fans so fickle?

8:00pm. Well, Dear Diary, my team lost. It was whipped soundly by a better, more dominant team. Too bad, but the event was fun. It is only one game, and the season is long. The Herd will be OK...There's always next year!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coal Bowl Week: Post #2

Sports talk in West Virginia has focused on how much a rivalry the WVU vs. Marshall University match-up can really be, given that WVU has won each of the nine games played.

From the Charleston (WV)

"West Virginia has never lost in the series, which was played only once between 1923 and 2006. The aggregate score is 369-88 and the combined score in the three years of the current seven-year contract is 117-36.

Thus the inevitable
questions about how such a lopsided series could be called a rivalry."

Perhaps Mountaineer fans should read up on the history of the Backyard Brawl. Despite the Panthers 61-37-3 historical advantage and a 15 game win streak from 1929 through 1946, many WVU fans still consider Pitt its greatest rival.

Maybe it's only a rivalry when one has something to prove.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coal Bowl Week: Post # 1

The big intra-state college football game this week has people yakkin' about which institution of higher education is best: West Virginia University or Marshall University.

I'm not sure which school has the best football team. But, this video may provide evidence as to which school's alumni is smartest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past

Random notes as I *watch* the newest Matthew McConaughey vehicle, Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past:

* McConaughey went deep into character while playing the coach in We Are Marshall. The strange hair, thick accent and 70s-style clothes didn't draw in the female audience. McConaughey looks really handsome in looks as if movie producers may have learned a lesson.

* Damn it, he's so good looking I've become horribly insecure. I'm heading upstairs to get popcorn...

* If Dickens was alive, I wonder if he'd sue for some copyright or trademark infringement. Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past is such an obvious ripoff.

* I once nursed a cup of coffee for nearly 6 hours in Charleston, WV's Taylor Books, where Jennifer Garner sometimes hangs out when in the state visiting family. I'd heard they planned to stop in. They didn't. The coffee was good.

* That first ghost, the chick McConaughey's character Conner Mead first sleeps with, sure is annoying. I'd make it quick and get the hell outta the room, too.

* The answer: 5 times. The question: How many times during the movie will Mrs. Film Geek say: "You know, Matthew McConaughey and I have hugged."

* Scrooge, from A Christmas Carol, was more likable than Conner Mead.

* Michael Douglas has officially moved into the category of Actors Who Take Roles That Pay The Bills. Shame...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

Once in a while a movie comes along that is so endearing, so enjoyable and so likable that one simply has to overlook its faults.

Sunshine Cleaning is that sorta flick.

Alan Arkan is terrific, Emily Blunt is fun and Amy Adams makes you fall in love with her.

Sunshine Cleaning is funny, sincere and compelling. The message about living life in the moment is subtle enough to avoid being annoying, and true enough to hit home with the audience.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Body Of Lies

One of the most subtle--yet most important--statements made by Body Of Lies is about the use of technology in war. More specifically, how technology can be used every minute of the day to observe and manipulate the enemy from afar.

It's easier, after all, to carry out a mission that involves aggression, torture and killing if one can dehumanize the enemy. And what better way to dehumanize others than to monitor them on a TV or computer screen, where they become something similar to a video game.

Ridley Scott's CIA thriller compares old-school spy strategies with modern digital wizardry. Field agent Ferris (DiCaprio) needs human connections to carry out his job in the Middle East. His boss, Hoffman (Crowe), is as cold as the technology he uses to gather information. Hoffman is calculating and distrustful, and highly effective.

The most chilling scenes show Hoffman giving orders via cell phone to Ferris while Hoffman is at his son's soccer game, or at another child's birthday party.

Polar opposites, Ferris and Hoffman combined talents make for a successful team. They don't, however, make for a very successful movie. The pace is a bit slow and the plot slightly too complex.

Slow and complex is not a good combination.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Informant

My favorite part of blogging is the interaction with other bloggers. (Well, that and the great lookin' blogger groupies who like to hang around backstage.) This movie commentary is provided by my friend, Hoyt. Check out his blog at Donutbuzz.



Last Friday afternoon, I played hooky from work to see "The Informant," a film that I greatly anticipated watching after seeing its official trailer
(see it here
). Unfortunately, my expectations far exceeded their fulfillment, and in hindsight I now wish I had spent that afternoon in the office working on a brief of a case that I have only a snowball's chance in Hell of reversing on appeal.

Don't get me wrong. Matt Damon rocks. I dig Scott Bakula. And Thomas C. Wilson + Clancy Brown = awesome casting in my book. In fact, I can't fault Steven Soderbergh's direction of "The Informant" or really complain about anyone's performance. So what went wrong?

Well, in a nutshell, the official trailer for "The Informant" ruined any laughs that this flick might have prompted from me. I mean, I expected to get at least a couple good "belly laughs" from this flick, but I think at most I might have cracked a smile over the nearly two hours that I sat in the theater--and even then I suspect it was because I was really savoring my nachos with the extra jalapenos. I'm telling you, when the best joke in the whole flick occurs halfway through its official trailer, you're in real trouble, folks.

I'm pretty sure, in fact, that--like me--most people expected to see a Coen brothers farce after watching "The Informant's" trailer. But if we've learned anything from watching "American Idol" all these years, it's this: You can't imitate the superstars without setting yourself and your audience up for a major league disappointment and being voted off the island the next week. Or to paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen, "Matt Damon, you're no Wiliam H. Macy."(Hell, with "The Informant's" screenplan, I seriously doubt that even William H. Macy could be William H. Macy in this one.)

In the hopes of resolving unfulfilled expectations created by previews for films like "The Informant," therefore, I have a simple proposal. I think that until Congress can figure out a way to provide us all with affordable health care that what it really needs to do is to focus its energies on passing legislation mandating that only the Coen brothers make Coen brothers films. That way, when we see a preview for a movie that seems to play like a Coen brothers film, we'll all know we're really getting a Coen brothers film and nobody will be disappointed.

And best of all, we won't ever regret playing hooky from work.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The He-Man Woman Haters Church Service

"Short sermons, donuts, no singing and no women."

According to the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship church in Arizona, that's the makings of a Man Church!

"A service just for men."

While I'm certain the Arizona church has the best of intentions, I'm doubtful this effort will be highly successful in luring He-Men to church. While donuts are terrific bait, the absence of women seems prohibitive. The possibility that I would meet a young woman at church was the most important reason I attended services as a youth, followed distantly--and I mean distantly!-- by (a) I lived with my parents and they forced me to go, and (b) in pre-cable 1980s West Virginia, there was nothing better on TV.

In that order.

Of course, I may have felt different if the church I attended served donuts...