Thursday, September 30, 2010



Sure the video is four minutes but you might just want to take that four minutes and watch it…

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Survival of the Repo Men

Bad movie alert! Two bad movies in a row.

Survival of the Dead (2009)

As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t resist a zombie movie.  So when I heard that George Romero had a new zombie film out in the theaters (this was actually playing at the Mayan for a few weeks), I knew I had to see it. But not in the theater.  Scary movies are too difficult for me in the theater.  George Romero wrote and directed the both the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead and the 1978 Dawn of the Dead movies. These are zombie classics.  They also have a touch of social commentary as well as humor (well, Dawn of the Dead has humor).

This new zombie film was just bad.  Bad acting, bad dialogue, bad zombies.  The plot strangely centered on these two Irish families and their feud.  The zombie situation was sort of a side note.  There were funny bits but that’s not worth sitting through this.


Repo Men (2010)

I have no earthly idea why I put this in the Netflix queue.  It was mostly predictable and gorier than I expected.

Netflix description:

In the world of this sci-fi thriller set in the not-too-distant future, artificial organs are readily available to anybody with a credit card. But what happens if a buyer falls delinquent on his payments? Jude Law stars as an organ repo man who's now fleeing his ex-partner (Forest Whitaker) after failing to keep up the payments on his own recently installed ticker.

Lots of blood letting and fight scenes.  Liev Schreiber has a supporting role as an asshole organ salesman.  Why is he playing so many bad guys these days?  I first saw him in the 2000 Hamlet (with Ethan Hawke) and The Daytrippers, but this role and his recent roles in Salt and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are exposing his bad guy sides.  He does play the bad guy well, I must admit.


Anyway, many of the reviews I’ve read have hit on the point that a movie about repossession of anything in this economic climate is likely to strike a chord – esp. with the backdrop of healthcare debate and reform. Unfortunately this movie doesn’t deliver. I like this quote from It's sad when a bit of grim futuristic silliness like "Repo Men" falls short on all counts, down to the most basic level of entertainment value.


Monday, September 20, 2010


I got sucked in by a book this weekend – Room by Emma Donoghue.

I fell victim to the NPR story last week on building buzz on books as a way to sell them.  The story used this book as an example. I was absolutely intrigued by the synopsis – not sure what that says about me…

Amazon abstract:

In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son.

I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say too much about the story but I really enjoyed reading this book and couldn’t stop.  I started it on Friday morning and finished on Saturday afternoon.

The story is written in the voice of Jack (the 5-year-old) throughout the entire book, which is very intriguing and opened up a part of my brain that experiences new things – meaning it was easy to feel like a kid and go through his ordeals from that perspective.  It me a bit of a character in Mark Haddon’s  book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I loved and which is also written from the perspective of a child (a 15-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome).

I can tell you that the abstract leads you to believe that this might be a sensational story of triumph over cruel circumstances and tells you the nasty details of the imprisonment, but it’s not that way.  The story is surprising in where it goes and how it gets there.

This book was short-listed for the Man-Booker Prize this year and is “set to be one of the big literary hits of the year.”


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Losers Date Night

We watched two movies this weekend.  Both entertaining but neither very satisfying.

Date Night (2010)

Netflix film abstract:

Who knew simple dinner reservations under a different name could turn one New Jersey couple's date night so terribly upside-down? Claire (Tina Fey) and Phil (Steve Carell) Foster leave their kids with the sitter and head out for a night on the town -- as the Tripplehorns.

At the risk of sounding too much like a stick in the mud, this movie was a little too screwball for me.  Oh, wait, I have to point out that we missed probably 20 minutes because the DVD flaked out.  So, there could have been some pivotal bits that tied it all together that we missed (I’ve just realized that we missed some part where Tina Fey dances with the Rockettes).

As is to be expected in a comedy, there were funny parts, but those specific instances are escaping me just now.  I don’t know…I like Steve Carell and Tina Fey but the movie just didn’t work for me.  But I didn’t entirely dislike it.  Mark Wahlberg was good as the shirtless black ops guy. I’ll end this review with a quote from a New Yorker review:

“Date Night” is depressing: the movie seems aimed at gentlefolk too scared of Manhattan to leave their tour buses, but any such actual families from New Jersey or elsewhere, “boring” or not, deserve to be entertained with something better than stale panic from old movies.


The Losers (2010)

Netflix abstract:

After learning that their handler, Max (Jason Patric), has set them up, a group of disavowed CIA operatives led by Clay -- aka the Colonel (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) -- bands together to bring down their betrayers in this slick action thriller. The film, adapted from the comic book series by Andy Diggle and Jock

This movie was filmed alternately as a commercial and a music video.  It certainly comes off as a movie developed from a comic book, which it is. The result was visually sexy yet lacking in mental stimulation.  The visual sexiness was in no small part due to Zoe Saldana.  She was Uhura in last year’s Star Trek movie and Neytiri in Avatar and definitely has a certain magnetism. 

Zoe-Saldana-the-losers Otherwise, Jason Patric played a pathetic evil genius, but Chris Evans was a welcome comic relief (“you like the angle of my dangle?”).  There isn’t a lot to say about the plot. I like how the Entertainment Weekly review wrapped it up:

…basically, it's The A-Team meets Rambo meets Mission: Impossible, with a mission that's one part trickiness, four parts blowing stuff up.

Chris Evans And Columbus Short vs 'The Losers' Interview At WonderCon [RAW VIDEO]

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Night of the Gun

I’ve just finished reading The Night of the Gun by David Carr.  A carefully documented autobiography of Mr. Carr’s journey to hell and back through serious chemical dependency – and I don’t mean endorphins. 

the night of the

Carr is a journalist through and through but takes very seriously the fact that memory is filtered and never exact.  Thus, he travels back in time by capturing on film and tape the memories of others – his lovers, friends, family, and children.  He compares them against his own recollection and against police records and other documented materials.

For at least a decade he was an addict and somewhat psychotic near the end.  He was a addicted to everything in graduating intensity.  Never heroin but crack and injecting cocaine.  He fights addiction right up until the end of the story but it’s generally a happy ending.

While I enjoyed the book and appreciated the efforts to get the facts straight, I found the story to a bit too detached.  That’s not to say that the pain, regret, craziness, violence, and joy don’t come across. It’s just his journalist side couldn’t quite step down long enough to get to the pulsing heart of the story.

That said I read that last two-thirds of the book in basically 24 hours – so I definitely enjoyed it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hedgehog alert

So, I was adjusting my Google alerts a few weeks ago.  I added an alert for my name, which was recommended on various sites.  Unsurprisingly, no alerts have come into my inbox as of yet.  I also wanted to add a Google alert for something silly – hedgehogs! I find hedgehogs to be fascinating and fantastical animals and why not see what the great and might Google brings back on the topic?

First, a definition – what is a hedgehog?

A hedgehog in general is most commonly recognized as a small mammal with a coat of stiff, pointy quills covering their backs. They have pointy noses, and slightly bulging eyes located on the sides of the face. Their ears are typically rounded, though in some species, they are elongated, and located high on the sides of the head. They do have tails, but they are small and stubby, and of very little functional use. They can roll up in a ball when threatened.

 cute-hedgehog005 sonic-hedgehog-ll-year-old-pet-laws-kansas

I have come across some interesting information via the Google alert for hedgehogs. 

In the UK there are so many hedgehogs that there are hedgehog rescue centers like Tiggywinkles.  That’s right – Tiggywinkles.  Ok, Tiggywinkles takes in all kinds of animals but there is a hedgehog in its logo!  There are currently 161 hedgehogs at the center.

It seems that hedgehog couples can have a second batch of hoglets at the end of the summer, which doesn’t allow the hoglets to achieve the proper weight to make it through hibernation (600 grams).  These hoglets need to be collected and fed.  Also, many hedgehogs are orphaned during human gardening.  I mean the hogs live in the hedgerows, so they are in the line of fire (or weedwhacker or what have you).  Some of them are just injured – breaking legs is common.  Luckily they can be fitted with casts – no kidding.


Of course, there are all manner of hedgehog-themed items out there.  For instance the watermelon hedgehog:

hedgehog watermelon There was a youtube clip that was going around for a while – the swimming hedgehog. I did some research and it is quite normal for hedgehogs to swim and it can be good exercise for them.

I get LOTS of Sonic the Hedgehog alerts, apparently there is a Sonic movie coming out in the near future.  Jolly.  I ignore those alerts.

One blog devoted to the joys and challenges of having a hedgehog may have convinced me that hedgehogs are perhaps not for me. Hedgehog Express talks about their fussy and moody hedgehog, Phinneus.  To be fair she also discusses the cuddly happiness of the hog. However, let’s take this quote:

Phinneus is a fiend. He always knows just how to wedge himself into tight places I cannot easily reach and cop a squat. He knows just how to ball up so that I literally have to drag him out and then hurriedly clean up the icky mess.

I don’t think I’m going to actually get a hedgehog but I’ll keep the Google alert!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Single Man


A Single Man (2009)

Netflix description:

This stream-of-consciousness, 1960s-era drama centers on a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), an English-born, Los Angeles college professor reeling from the recent death of his lover of 16 years.

I really enjoyed this film.  I liked the rumination on what life is about and why we’re here and the subtle focus on what we don’t say in our daily life – e.g. the main character is telling people sincere things that he normally wouldn’t because he thinks it will be the last time he’ll see them. 

Living in the past is also an ever-present topic. Why can’t we move forward and forget the past?  Is it worth living now without the things in the past that were good?


Visually the movie was very appealing as well.  The shot outside the liquor store is exemplary with the young, Spanish guy (as in from Madrid) and the mural and the setting sun – it was very sensual.  The whole film had a lush feel but a focus that was both crisp and foggy at the same time.

Probably many will disagree, but I think the best actor Oscar should have gone to Colin Firth instead of Jeff Bridges. His performance was so complex with really very little dialogue.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

* for Dummies

I’m intrigued by the whole “for Dummies” book series, which is billed as a “reference for the rest of us.”  I have to admit, I’ve read Google Apps for Dummies and Knitting for Dummies and am currently going through Photo Shop Elements 8 for Dummies and have been educated by these volumes.  I’m not offended by the “for dummies” part because I was (admittedly) a dummy when it came to Google Apps (and other topics) when I read the book.  There are, however, some “for Dummies” editions that make me laugh.  Some of these include:

  • Weight Loss Surgery For Dummies and Weight Loss Surgery Cookbook For Dummies amaze me because there must be a market for this topic in order to put the effort and resources into creating these books.  I also find it a bit sad that so many people feel like they need to turn to this option.  But this post is not about my opinion on weight loss options.


  • Happiness For Dummies and Success for Dummies are must-have books, which I clearly have not read. If I had only know it was so easy all these years – just get the book!  I can’t wait to read it myself, the blah life has been only somewhat satisfying lately.


  • Existentialism For Dummies is definitely a companion to Happiness For Dummies.  It covers such topics as “Living a meaningful life in a meaningless world” and “Moods are the flavor of life.”  Indeed.



  • Raising Goats for Dummies:  There are lots of animal-based volumes in the for Dummies series – Labradors for Dummies, Beagles for Dummies, Cat Care for Dummies, etc.  But raising goats seems so specific and not pet-oriented.  I’m certainly not saying that there is no value in the book but I was surprised that there is a tome specific to goat raising.

That is all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tron’s Crazy Heart

In anticipation of the December release of Tron Legacy, we watched the original Tron today.  We watched Crazy Heart a few weeks ago but the Jeff Bridges connection between the two creates an opportunity to combine reviews.

TRON (1982)

In this typical good vs. evil story, Jeff Bridges, as Kevin Flynn, is sucked into the digital world. In this digital world, all is dictated by the Master Control Program (MCP) and “users” (computer programmers) are gods.  This digital world where he is stuck is a kind of purgatory for “appropriated” programs.  These programs are personified, literally. 

Flynn and his program companions (one of which is Tron – a program created by his real world friend Alan) are on a journey to defeat the MCP and free the appropriated programs and allow them to communicate with their users once again.


A much younger Jeff Bridges was goofy and barely a flicker of the actor he would become. But he was an upbeat and fun hero in this campy yet amusing movie. 

Everything was accompanied by odd video game-ish music, think Kraftwerk meets Pac Man, which is a bit different from the music in Crazy Heart.

Crazy Heart (2009)

About 27 years later, Jeff Bridges is surrounded by a different kind of music – Country!

When a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) interviews Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) -- an alcoholic, seen-better-days country music legend -- they connect, and the hard-living crooner sees a possible saving grace in a life with her and her young son. But can he leave behind an existence playing in the shadow of Tommy (Colin Farrell), the upstart kid he once mentored?

Jeff Bridges plays a talented country singer as well as an incredibly believable drunk.  For most of the film it’s a sad story about a “country music legend” who has let himself go in just about every way possible.  He smokes non-stop, he drinks until he passes out or throws up, he sleeps with the women who (inexplicably) throw themselves at him at his shows at dive bars and bowling alleys. 

While I enjoyed the movie I felt like it was something of a predictable feel-good story that was overtly pulling at the heart strings of the audience.  I mean you have an underdog protagonist, a single mom struggling to be a respected journalist, a cute kid, and redemption with a backdrop of heart-plucking country songs.  It could be a problem of high expectations going into the movie but I thought it was a good but not great movie.