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Showing posts from 2008

Cannonball Read #1: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell


I have decided (since my life has become a stagnant spiral of crime shows and bad VH1 reality television) to attempt this. I feel like perhaps if I were reading more books, my brain would stop feeling quite so mushy and I might be able to pronounce entire coherentsentences or keep a thought in my head for more than 30 seconds. It's worth a shot, anyway.

For my first book, I read Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I'd been hearing about her work from various trusted sources for a while (while I do not personally listen to NPR because it makes me sleepy, I have some very intelligent and cultured insomniac friends who do) so I decided to give her a spin, although I am not always fond of essayists. And oh, what a spin it was.

The basic premise of Assassination Vacation is that Vowell is a militant history buff who is particularly attracted to locations and memorabilia related to presidential assassinations, specifically Lincoln, Arthur, and McKinley. This immediately …

Return of the King: "The Cell" by Stephen King

In some ways, this was a welcome return to the old Stephen King. In other ways, it was still...not good.

1. Plot more or less made sense.
2. A lot of action and some great scary bits.
3. Starts out in Boston, so the locations were wonderfully familiar.

1. Character development almost nil.
2. None of the gymnastic wordsmithing that I count on from King.
3. In general seems kind of rushed.

The impression I got from this was that someone had made a bet with King that he couldn't write a book with no more than two paragraphs in a row of description or a limit on the number of sentences that didn't include an action verb. The book was all plot and no story, if that makes sense. I never got a clear picture in my head of any of the main characters, nor were any of them particularly compelling. It's not a bad read, but as far as zombie books go, World War Z was 100% better

Jesus Christ Superstar: Do you think you're who they say you are?

I watched Jesus Christ Superstar the other night, and I have to tell you--despite my adamant avoidance of organized religion--it actually made me want to pick up a Bible and read some of it. (Unfortunately, it turns out neither The Boyfriend nor I own one, so I had to let that desire pass.)

As a movie, it's cinematically interesting, though very obviously 70s. The idea of "framing" the production with the travelling theater troupe instead of trying to go for period realism was very smart and makes it easier to accept the costuming and set choices and enjoy the music and acting. (After all, if you spend the whole movie wondering to yourself why Judas is wearing bedazzled, fringed bellbottoms, you are probably going to miss out on the real point of the thing.) Also, I think the very minimalist set design simplifies a production that--being a rock opera with no breaks and no real "dialogue"--could quickly become overwhelming.

The performances from all the actors wer…

A Rant: Hellboy II

Hellboy II: I didn't think this movie was nearly as terrible as some of those I saw it with did. It is not even in the same building, let alone on the same level, as Iron Man or Batman Begins or even The Incredible Hulk. Ron Perlman was good again as Hellboy--despite the pounds of effects make-up and the character's surface wise-assery, Perlman is able to get it across that really, Hellboy is a big old softie. The rest of the returning cast were competent; Jeffrey Tambor was funny, the main villain was sufficiently creepy, and Selma Blair was not terribly annoying, though I did miss David Hyde Pierce as Abe the fish guy. Overall, it was entertaining. The fight scenes were pretty cool, the visuals were impressive to look at, and I got some laughs--that's all I really ask from a movie like this.

I guess this is one of the beefs I sometimes have with people who complain about action, sci-fi, horror, or comic movies. I mean, I am not a "fanboy" who gets riled about th…

Movie Bonanza!

It has been a very long time since I've posted, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been watching movies...oh no, it just means I haven't been WRITING about watching movies. Therefore, I am going to wallop you in the face with several mini-reviews. Lucky you, right?

1. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull: Personally, I liked this movie. It's certainly no Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade but it's a fun movie. Admittedly, it had its flaws. For one thing, the plot was kind of weak. I think this may have something to do with the fact that while the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail are commonly known artifacts, no one (or at least no one who doesn't read Weekly World News) has heard of the Crystal Skulls, and also that there was no cool "I have to put this stick in the exact right spot at the right time and then follow the sunbeam on the map to find the location of the door..." kind of thing. Basically it was like "Here's where we…

A Letter to Nicolas Cage

Dear Mr. Cage,

I know you can act. I have seen you do it. You have put out some performances that have been extraordinary--for example, The Weatherman, Lord of War, Guarding Tess, Adaptation, and apparently Leaving Las Vegas (though that one I have never seen.) And I have certainly enjoyed some of your movies that were...well, let's say they are not going to be contenders in the "Top 10 Films of the Century" contest. I mean, I enjoyed The Rock and Trapped in Paradise a lot, but they are not winning you any Oscars. However, I think you could do even better if you'd take a few pieces of advice from me.

1. YOU CANNOT DO ACCENTS. PLEASE STOP TRYING. I don't care what accent it is, don't do it. You are not fooling anybody. New York, deep South--no. Just no no no. You suck at them and it's time you admitted that and stopped trying. I think Moonstruck, Ghostrider, and Con Air would all have benefited from this advice. Weak or stupid dialogue is easier to camouflag…

"Yeah, I can fly now." : Iron Man

On Friday night, The Boyfriend and I (as well as a few of the usual suspects) ventured out into the wilds of Boston proper to go see Iron Man. I will admit that I was not originally stoked about the idea, seeing as it was a chilly, drizzly, graduation weekend in Boston which leads to larger than usual movie-going crowds, and when combined with it being opening weekend of the first of the summer superhero blockbusters, I was sure there would be far too many of "the humans" to allow me any cinematic entertainment. And at first, I was right. We were herded into a little corral for the 25 minutes leading up to the theater opening (though it seems kind of extreme, I think Loews's management of the crowd was pretty reasonable) with the rest of the deranged and slavering fanboys. But as we were standing there waiting, the previous showing of the movie let out, and everyone looked...happy. I mean REALLY happy. They were all talking and gesturing and a couple people were actually…

"I love you too, but I'm going to mace you in the face!"

This weekend, The Boyfriend and I ordered up some Indian food and settled in to watch The Darjeeling Limited. As a fan of Wes Anderson, but also a person who can admit that I find some of his work very uneven, I wasn't sure to expect.

The film follows the meandering story of the Whitman brothers (played by Owen Wilson [my favorite Wilson!], Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) who travel across India in a train on a reluctant spiritual journey. I was pleased with the casting--obviously Wilson and Schwartzman are Anderson favorites, but Brody fit in rather nicely to the Anderson asthetic and was perfect as neurotic, kleptomaniacal middle brother Peter. Owen Wilson, usually known for his wacky stoner-type characters pulled back a little to play the bossy but fragile oldest brother Francis. Schwartzman was also good as youngest brother and peace-maker Jack. The brotherly dynamic was great, and it was interesting to watch the three of them play off one another. It was also sort of fas…

Accidental Double Feature: True Romance and The Langoliers

This weekend I ended up with an accidental double feature--didn't even realize that the two movies had anything in common until we started watching the second one. Can you guess what the common thread is between True Romance and The Langoliers?

Give up?

Bronson Pinchot!

Yeah, okay, so that's not actually exciting. As a matter of fact, I have often said I find Mr. Pinchot (or as The Boyfriend calls him, "Hey-it's-Balky!") brain-splinteringly annoying. The mere sound of his voice is kind of obnoxious and gives me headaches. However, what we have here is one good solid performance from him wherein he did NOT annoy me.

I will first point out that I LOVE True Romance. It's the only movie of Quentin Tarantino's that I actually like, probably because he neither acted in nor directed it. When I first saw it several years ago, I didn't even KNOW it was a Tarantino movie (although seeing it now I can definitely point out a few spots where the Tarantino comes throug…

Careful Or You'll Be Bored to Death!: Scare Jessica to Death

This past weekend, The Boyfriend was out of town and I happily had the place all to myself. Obviously, what I did was hang out, eat pizza, and watch terrible movies OnDemand. One such movie that I found was Scare Jessica to Death. (In case you are thinking of watching this movie--which I don't know why you would, but some people are funny that way--there are going to be some spoilers. Be warned.)

First of all, there's the most important factor: 1971. Yes, this movie was made in 1971, and it was NOT a high budget blockbuster. In fact, when watching it you may suspect that the director simply rounded up a couple friends, his grandparents, and a video camera to put this thing together. Also, he may have written the entire script in two hours while he was stoned. You know the kind of stoned: the kind of stoned where you're like "Hey, let's order a pizza!" and everyone's really psyched and thinks it's a most excellent idea, and then an hour later you're…

Did They Actually PAINT Someone?: F-Troop

I was so excited when I saw that the show F-Troop had finally been released on DVD. I remember watching it on Nick @ Nite with my grandparents, and in my memory it was a hilarious show. Why, I wondered, had it taken this long to get released? Why wasn't it still being shown on TVland or late at night on the Western Channel or something?

I ordered it from Netflix and anxiously awaited my chance to reconnect with something from my childhood.

Then, the DVD arrived, and I suddenly realized why the show had all but disappeared.

The show is about a western fort sometime during the civil war era. The commanding officer is typically clueless, and his underlings get up to all sorts of shenanagins under his nose. Nothing wrong with that, right? The first indication of a problem comes during the theme song (an infectious little ditty, written in the days when shows had theme songs that actually provided information about the show.)

The end of the Civil War was near,
When quite accidentally,
A hero…

Prison Football Double Feature: Gridiron Gang and The Longest Yard

Often, when I pick out what movies Netflix is going to send me, I like to set myself for a double feature. I pick out two movies that are somehow linked (at least in my mind) whether it be thematic, subject matter, genre, or even by actor. (In college, we used to arrange movie nights like this, except we'd pick out four movies and sometimes a food...for example, Tim Curry night--three Tim Curry movies...and curry.) This past weekend, the unifying factor was pretty specific: prison football.

The first one I watched was Gridiron Gang starring The Rock and Xibit. I know that doesn't sound particularly promising, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's a story of a man (The Rock, of course) who arranges a football team in a juvenile detention center, and how being on that team effects the lives of those who participate. It's pretty much your standard sport film--there are montages, there are wins and losses, there's some pretty blatant heart-string-plucking, …

Hans Grubering It Up: Die Hard & Die Hard 2

Last weekend, as part of my quest to actually see the films that everyone else in the world already saw 2-3 decades ago, I watched Die Hard and Die Hard:2.

The first thing I have to do is admit that I love Bruce Willis. I love pretty much anything Bruce Willis does. I realize that he's really not the best actor in the world, and I'm okay with that. And I am also aware that he should avoid most serious films (aka things that don't involve explosions or handguns) because his lack of acting skills can be a problem. However, he's great in Sin City, Pulp Fiction, The Fifth Element (one of my favorite movies), and passable in Sixth Sense. I'm also a big fan of the little known 1988 movie Sunset, in which Willis plays Tom Mix, James Garner plays an aging Wyatt Earp, and the two of them solve a murder mystery in 1929 Hollywood. Bruce Willis is good at that whole "tough and laconic action hero" thing, but he's also (as many macho action stars seem to) got a kna…

Dear Netflix: I love you, but sometimes you suck -- Taking Lives & Rambo

This weekend I sat down with my anxiously anticipated Netflix movies, Taking Lives and Rambo. I started with Taking Lives because I have what might be an unhealthy fixation on Angelina Jolie. Besides, as we are all aware, I loves me some crime movie. Unfortunately, I missed the entire first two scenes (the ones I imagine must have set up the whole plot and would have given me vital clues to the mystery) due to a scratch on the DVD. That was okay though, because I actually often prefer to start a movie after the intial exposition--I'm just as happy to leap in at about the 10 minute mark and figure out what's going on, rather than having it all spoon-fed to me. Anyway, the movie was not terrible, though I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone I know. Angelina was all right in her part, but it's not anything that challenged her in any way, thus I don't think she was all that interested. I will admit that I don't like Ethan Hawke, so that was another strike aga…

Did You Miss Me?

So we've been watching some movies lately, and since I haven't given you a good solid review post in a while, I figured I'd oblige for all one of you who actually cares:

1. Cube, Cube 2: Hypercube, and Cube Zero: Those who know me will realize that I am not in general a fan of the sci-fi genre. However, these were (with exceptions) pretty good movies. Cube is okay, and for the first movie in the series, the premise is cool and kind of interesting. Plus, it twists and turns all over the place to keep you interested. However, there's not a lot to the characters--the movie is pretty much totally plot-driven. Cube 2: Hypercube was in my opinion the best of the three. The characters (though there was not a ton of character development) were a little more fleshed out and at no point during the movie did I find myself bored. The premise of the first movie is definitely amped up in the second, and the twists are even more aggressive. The special effects were also pretty awesome…