Movies and TV Archives
Yeah, so these things seem to be monthly, so here you go for the month of September. ;) I'm just kidding... or am I?
Anyway, last weekend was lots of fun. Sandy flew in from Florida (between all kinds of crazy business trips: we appreciate the stopover! ;)) and hung out all weekend. We went to the Botanical Gardens, and also a nearby collection of animals who had been rescued. Many of them had been people's pets, which makes you wonder about humanity (I mean, who thinks a bobcat would make a good pet?) I did feel bad for the coyote, Martha, though; she had grown up on a ranch with a family and dogs to play with, and now she's stuck in a small cage with no entertainment at all. She just paced back and forth, back and forth, and she really reminded me of the poor dogs at the Humane Society, the ones who keep hoping their family will come back and find her again. Some kids came by while we were watching her, and the way she perked up was kind of heartbreaking. The vultures were kind of cool, though, especially since it was feeding time (yum, rats!). Jen was a little squicked out by that, though.
Anyway, like I said, it was lots of fun. We went to see The Illusionist at the Alamo; I really liked the movie. It was all stylish early-1900's Vienna, and magic, and love, and an ambiguous ending (I love ambiguous endings), and Jessica Beal's te-herr-ible "Generic Euro" accent didn't detract too much, seeing as she didn't have all that many lines. I liked Edward Norton's role a lot, though, and Paul Giamatti did a good job too. Anyway, if magic and intrigue in Imperial Vienna sounds interesting, you should definitely check it out. We hit the Texas State History Museum as well, which had an interesting exhibit on Braggin' (It's not braggin' if it's true!), including a Cadillac covered in rhinestones (the glitteriest car I've ever seen) and an actual, working, VW Beetle made from wrought iron (which was amazingly cool). All in all a fun visit, with a very nice mix of activities and full-out lazy relaxation. My kind of holiday weekend. :)
Lately work has been madly busy. We have a major deadline Monday (I've been working 10- and 12-hour days, highly unusual for us), and another at the end(ish) of October, and somewhere in there we're moving offices. Well, I say "we", but I'm not moving offices, because I already did. I packed up my office at work, including my work PC, and brought it home, and I now work from the dining room 4.5 days a week. (The other half day I have to be onsite for meetings etc.) Working from home is, in a word, delightfullyawesome. It's definitely nice to have separate work and home PCs--easier, at least for me, to keep the two activities separate and be able to "leave" work even though I'm still here. I feel more productive, able to concentrate better; I couldn't imagine working in a cubicle farm again. A private office, maybe. ;) The lack of commute is really, really nice. It does take some discipline, but I guess I don't really find that all that hard to manage.
This weekend we're just kind of chilling. USA Baby was having a huge sale, so we picked up a full-body pillow for Jen and a car seat/stroller system. We also took down the popcorn ceiling in the nursery (which is terribly messy, by the way; there's fine white dust everywhere), I primered it today, and will be painting it tomorrow. We need to do the polka dots soon as well, just to get that room totally done and ready.
Ollie is really active lately, and he's pretty strong. It's very weird (in a cool way) to feel him kicking or punching. Today Jen said she tapped her stomach and Ollie immediately kicked her there, so she may have invented a new game. ;)
Charlie is finally back down to his ideal weight, but Cara managed to put on five extra pounds in the meantime. The dieting never stops here, man; we just take turns. ;)
Anyway, aside from Sandy's visit, my life is all about work and Ollie, so not much else to say. I hope all you guys are having a good time of it. :)
So this entry probably won't make any sense to anyone who actually reads my blog, but anyway.
Okay, I just checked and apparently I didn't actually blog about Jen and my epic quest to acquire (rental or purchase) the original X-Men, which Jenny had never seen, after we saw X-Men 3. (I swear, I remember posting about this..) Anyway, during one of our stops on this quest, we ended up at one of the local video rental stores. They didn't have X-Men, but they did have a "5 movies for $20" special going, so Jen and I picked up several movies. As the 5th movie, I plucked S1m0ne, which interested me for a variety of reasons.
Fast forward to tonight, when I'm at home by myself on a Friday and bored, and I popped the movie in to watch it. (I'm only about 15 minutes in, but it actually seems promising thus far.) What moved me to post is that, in that first 15 minutes, there's a piece of music that plays which I recognized immediately--the "Adagio for Strings", by Samuel Barber. The reason I recognized this piece is that it is also a part of the soundtrack for the computer game Homeworld, which is one of my all-time favorite games, and a groundbreaking game in terms of both technology (one of the first true 3-D RTS games) and story (one of the few games which actually successfully evokes strong emotions in the player, at least of everyone I know who's played it).
Not that there's any larger significance to it, but I thought all my adoring (and demanding ;)) fans might be interested.
So there, Fiona, that's two updates for me. Your turn! :-P
An update, at last! :-P
Anyway. Last weekend Jen and I went with some friends to see Over The Hedge. Jen and I both had qualms about seeing it; from the trailers, we both expected it to be not-very-good. We were wrong. It was said afterwards that it's the best animated movie Dreamworks has made; better than Shrek, and while I don't know that I'd necessarily give either the nudge myself, OTH is definitely a worthwhile viewing experience. The Grand Theft Auto sequence in particular is awesome, as is the movie version of Ben Folds' "Rockin' the Suburbs". And stay through the credits--it's worth it (partially because the end credits themselves are well-done and interesting), unlike the ending of X-Men 3.
I also watched the first part of Robots this week. Despite the program guide's generous four star rating, I found it completely uncompelling and deleted it after about twenty minutes. I, Robot, on the other hand, was entertaining if not particularly thought-provoking. It's Will Smith, what do you want? ;) Constantine was not terrible, for a comic-book movie. If I see it in the $5 bargain bin at Wal-Mart, I might pick it up. I'm a sucker for storylines involving an eternal war between Heaven and Hell with humans as proxy combatants, though. Tomorrow should result in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (which I had watched approximately half an hour of, while programming on a laptop in a client's home at my previous job) as well as The Maltese Falcon (which I've never seen, but I like noir and Bogart, so...) and even more excitingly, the first episode of the new season of Deadwood. I've missed Al Swearengen's poetical utterances, truly I have. I find it interesting that Robots was something I deliberately Tivoed, while I, Robot was a Tivo Suggestion--I submit to you that perhaps the Tivo knows me better than I know myself. Of course, it also recorded Prince William and Hide and Seek--so perhaps not, after all.
This week we also moved Jenny to College Station for the next two months, more or less. Which isn't much fun. I have plenty to keep me busy, including lots of work stuff (enough that I worked for a few hours today, which is not usual for me at all) and yet more home improvement Activities™, but I am accustomed to intense Jeopardy duels, and it takes all the fun out of an entire category devoted to the Oz books (not the movie!) if Jen's not here. :-P
Our parents banded together and gave us an anniversary present of a digital camcorder (for obvious reasons), so if I can manage to lay hands on a DV cassette sometime soon perhaps I will encourage the pets to do goofy things I can put on the site. Or something. I dunno. It seems like a wonderful piece of equipment, though; I can understand why people do things like this or this, when digital film technology is so accessible. I even know a few people who I'm sure would be happy to be extras in a Firefly fanfic... ;)
The hockey draft was this last week as well. One of the players from my spring team is a captain in the summer league, and had intended to try to keep the team together as much as possible. This is complicated by the fact that aside from himself, he only gets to "protect" a single player, and further by the fact that three of our players got drafted into the next league up (including my defensive partner, all unwitting). Still and all, it looks like the core is there, and it should be fun regardless. I got a little bit of an ego boost when I found out that apparently I was selected in either the third or fourth round of the draft, which seems fairly early for someone in their second season. Not that any OHL or NHL scouts are likely to be darkening my door anytime soon. And it's only a small ego boost, as I can depend on Jenny for a realistic (by which I mean occasionally depressing ;)) appraisal of my "mad hockey skillz", as it were.
This weekend's project, aside from "entertaining the dogs" (via early morning trip to the dog park) and "dealing with crunch time" (viz., working today) is "cleaning the garage". Anyone who has lived in a house with a garage for more than ten minutes knows precisely what I mean by that. :)
Last night I had a bout of insomnia, and ended up out on the hammock in the back yard at about 2am. It's worth noting that, by 2am, the mosquitos appear to have quit for the day and, in June in Austin, the temperature is literally perfect. I almost slept out there, but it on further reflection I supposed that to be a bad idea and merely enjoyed it until I felt sleepy. :)
A final thought: reading the Baroque Cycle sure does turn me into a wordy son of a gun, doesn't it?
Jen and I saw two movies this weekend, one on Video on Demand and one in the actual theater. Brief reviews follow.
Napoleon Dynamite is the worst movie I've seen in at least six years (the benchmark being used there is The Velocity of Gary which, if you haven't seen it, I am tempted to recommend just so we're all using the same "absolute zero" mark). Honestly. People apparently love this movie; I cannot fathom why. Jen and I kept watching it, hoping against hope that there would be some brilliant reveal at the end to explain it. Let me save you two hours of excruciating, confused boredom: there is not.
By contrast, X-Men 3 is merely awful. Badly written, badly directed, badly acted, badly FX'ed, and--to top it all off--badly viewed, because there was something casting a shadow on the screen at the theater throughout the movie, and the world's most ADD child seated directly behind us. (The last scene in the movie involves Magneto, the major antagonist for the entire 3-movie arc: the child's question? "Who's that?" If the kid isn't old enough to remember the major villain, they may not be getting much out of the movie--just a thought.) And the "so secret the theater employees tell you about it on the way in" secret ending after the credits? Bad. If you haven't seen this film yet, pull a Highlander 2 and pretend it never existed. On the plus side, complaining about the shadow to a manager netted Jenny a pair of free movie passes, and I snuck in an absolutely delicious rice krispy treat from Whole Foods. Unfortunately the previews (Ghost Rider, Snakes on a Plane, The Omen, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, etc) were nearly as bad as the movie.
We also saw Mirrormask recently. It was visually fascinating, but the story was remarkably passive and the ending was flat as a freshly baked crepe, which is too bad since I like most of Neil Gaiman's stuff. I think the problem is that the passive type of story (where things happen to the protagonist, rather than the protagonist doing things) works better as a book (Jenny would say "as a short story") than it does as a movie, at least for me.
However, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 comes out soon. Hopefully Johnny Depp doesn't let me down.
Yesterday Jen and I and several of Jen's compatriots from UT went to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was one of those movies where you enjoy it while you're watching, but the minute you get out and start actually thinking about it, it becomes a disappointment (at least for me). There were huge subplots that never got resolved and seemed entirely pointless, whole facets of characters (e.g. Trillian) that got removed for no apparent reason, and a lot of slapstick humor that really missed the point of DA's writing (ironic, since DA helped write the screenplay). I didn't mind that some of the jokes were removed, but I definitely minded that some of the jokes were bizarrely truncated. Either do it or don't, but don't tease me.
Some of the movie was really good (Allen Rickman was genius as Marvin, and the Magrathean planet factory was brilliantly beautiful), and the rest of it was fine for a light afternoon movie. I did like the cameo by the original (from the BBC series) Marvin.
In other movie news, my company is taking all of us to see Episode III later this month. It's sad, at this point I'm violently cynical about it, but the trailer (which they showed before HHGTTG) still perceptibly raised my heart rate. Ah well; I'll watch it for the pretty fight choreography and the starships. At least I'm not footing the bill for this one. ;)
Jen and I stole a little free time last night and went to see The Incredibles. It wasn't, perhaps, the most original storyline ever--there are, it seems, a finite number of superhero story arcs in this world--but it was very well executed. All the things we've come to expect from Pixar: Great animation, witty dialogue, a very well-spent two hours. I'd say this one was even worth the non-matinee price.
The trailer for Cars, though, isn't very illuminating. Oh, it shows off some fantastic animation (some of the shots are very hard to tell from live video), and again the characters are very clear even in a 2-minute trailer. But what the heck is the plot? If I had to guess I'd say it's set in the south and there's something in there about car racing, but that by itself isn't necessarily enough to make me really want to see it.
And yes, they played the Episode 3 teaser. I might go see this one if they keep the amount of stupid dialogue under 10 minutes total; that's really all there is to say. If Ep 3 actually turns out decent, that would be the only one I'd buy. I wonder for how many other people that's true...
...Because I'm pretty sure they generally tell you that action stories need to have a climax.
So as Jen mentioned, we watched Hellboy last night. It was really kind of a strange movie, plot-wise. I mean, you have an over-the-top couple of heroes, Nazis trying to open a portal to Hell, Ian McKellen-look-alike as the wise, sage-like old man--it seems like you have all the components there for a silly, fun, summer movie--sort of Men in Black meets Indiana Jones or something. And the movie did have a couple of moments, I suppose (it probably would have been better on the big screen).
But sadly, whoever wrote the script sort of left out the climax. The climactic battle with the Great Big Hell Beast From Hell (which also owes something to the Alien movies, and quite a bit to MIB 1 and 2--I mean, come on, the monster bursts out of someone's chest, is huge and tentacley, and swallows the hero... you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out where that came from) takes all of thirty seconds. What the heck?
Actually that's kind of the movie in a nutshell. It could have been amusing, but there was just too little of everything (possibly too many things, so no one thing got enough resources). Too little character development. Too few really good action sequences. Too little exposition. Too little climax. It just left me wondering why they apparently cut out the actual good parts of the movie.
Ah well. On to School of Rock! ;)
Last night I was folding laundry, so I flipped on the TV in the bedroom. There's only analog cable and no Tivo in there, so it's a very different experience from watching TV in the living room. Anyway, USA was playing Jurassic Park (the
first one), which I haven't seen in years. My family actually went to see it on the big screen--I remember we saw it at the Oxmoor theater--since we're all big science dorks. :)
Anyway, since USA takes 15-minute commercial breaks, I was also flipping over to SpikeTV, which was showing several episodes of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge in a row. I don't know anything about the show except that it's hilarious... my favorite part is the names the commentators give to the various predicaments the contestants get themselves into, as if they were actual regular happenings. Last night on the log rolls they mentioned both the Willing Participant and the Scary Uncle (whence the quote that titles this post), both of which had me howling.
As far as Jurassic Park goes, it's still a good movie, though Jen's (accurate) comments were that the special effects (specifically the dinosaurs) haven't held up particularly well. Not that that's anything extraordinary--it's really the only part of a movie that really becomes obsolete--but it was really kind of startling. 11 years ago, when I saw it on the silver screen, it was one of the most amazing movies I'd ever seen. Today, after years of full-on CGI and improvements in robotics etc, the dinosaurs just don't seem as impressively fluid and real as they did. It's a little sad, I guess.
There's an article up on MSDN titled Can ?Star Wars: Episode III? be saved? worth reading if you're a fan of the trilogy (and by "the trilogy" I mean the three movies made in '77, '80, and '83). The basic recommendations?
Fire Lucas, fire Christensen and resurrect Ed Wood from the grave.
I couldn't agree more. Well, at least with the first two :)
Okay, so the Kokai-Means family has returned from Winter Break and I'm sure you're all dying to hear about it. :)
Christmas this year was really good. I got some very cool gifts (such as a gift certificate for classes at the Texas Culinary Academy, a nice table saw, and a Tivo). We spent a good day at my Grandma's house. Ryan was unexpectedly really nice, which made me actually feel a little bad about not giving him a really nice gift. For the first time in a while I actually have a little hope that he'll turn out to be a decent person.
Jenny just got back from a jaunt to Florida; she hung out with her grandma, ate a bunch of bad food for no discernible reason, and rode the new Mission to Mars ride at Epcot (I am so jealous.)
The Tivo fascinates me. It reminds me of the way the Internet felt when I first discovered that, and even the old phone BBSes before that; in some ways it's a little primitive (for god's sake, stop recording BET) but, in a similar fashion to the way the Internet brought information, entertainment, and communication to my fingertips, any time I wanted it, the Tivo brings me whatever I want to watch, when I want to watch it. It's fantastic. I don't have to miss the (rare in Austin) Blues games, I don't have to go out and buy the Family Guy DVD set (though I probably will anyway, at some point), I don't have to remember to scan the TV listings for Band of Brothers reruns. I just tell Tivo to do it for me. Now I just need to triple the capacity and wait for the new service that lets you burn shows from the Tivo to DVD via a PC, and we'll be set.
Apparently, it's okay to use the word "fuck" on live television as long as you don't mean it literally:
[T]he Federal Communications Commission … ruled without fanfare Friday that it's OK to use that word (for which we will substitute "feep") as long as you're not being literal. Follow the logical bouncing ball: You can say "feep" or "feeping" if you don't really mean "to feep."
Now, whether or not you think the 7 dirty words should be prohibited on-air or not, I think you pretty much have to admit that this ruling is truly fucked up.
Wicked! I missed this when it hit the web (July-ish), but apparently Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are making a Band-of-Brothers-style miniseries based on the Pacific Theater. As a kid I was more interested in the Pacific war than the European, so I'll have to watch for this.
It is not much fun to come home to an apartment empty of dogs and Jenny. Not much fun at all.
House hunting was not quite as productive as we had hoped; we saw about 20 houses on Saturday, revisited 5 on Sunday, and picked 3 we wanted to make offers on. Made the first offer on Sunday night, and Monday the fellow came back with an offer that was a) more expensive than his original asking price (?!) and b) wouldn't appraise anyway. People are weird about selling their house. To make a long story short, we passed on even trying to negotiate with him. Made the second offer yesterday; haven't heard back yet. Hoping for the best, but trying not to be too hopeful in case we get shot down. :-P
I had a job interview Saturday as well—a completely informal not-really-an-interview-but-really-an-interview lunch, anyway. Came out of it very excited about the job. I was the first person they'd talked to, as they had seized the opportunity to talk to me while I was in town anyway. Like I said, I would be delighted to take this job if it were offered. Again, trying not to be too hopeful…
Tonight I went and finally saw Matrix Reloaded. As for whether it was a worthy successor or not, I'm reserving judgement; I just don't think anyone can really say until the third movie comes out. It's possible that some of the slightly disjointed stuff will make more sense once some of the meta-mysteries get resolved (assuming they do). Overall it was reasonably enjoyable.
Okay, I have to respond to Lileks' post about M:R. I actually have two parallel responses to his criticisms, one of which spoils the plot twist and one of which doesn't (for the spoiler versions, hit this).
Start with a trite, shallow plot. Add Steve Martin as every other role you've ever seen him play. Mix in a little Eugene Levy working those bushy eyebrows to reprise the wannabe hipster we saw in American Pie 1 and 2. Stir vigorously with a Queen Latifah playing a role which, after her work in Chicago, can only be described as "meh". That's pretty much Bringing Down the House in a nutshell.
At one point the deus ex machina character tells the fictional Kaufman to at all costs avoid a fucking deus ex machina, and the fur coat brigade hastily whispered to each other, "What's that?" Sigh.
She leaves out the best part, which is that the fellow sitting next to me knew the literal translation of the phrase—"god out of the machine"—and still didn't know what the phrase meant. Didn't these people ever take a high-school level English class, for crying out loud?
Anyway, the movie itself: Very complicated. Almost fractal in a way, in that the major structure of the movie is replicated several times on smaller and smaller scales. I thought it was clever, but I'm not sure if it had any real value aside from pure cleverness (structure-wise, anyway). The ending was very surprising. There were a number of what I felt were fairly profound statements in the movie, but I think the cleverness of its structure might actually have detracted from them—but then, that might have been intentional as well. Who can tell?
Back in September I posted this bit about advertising in the age of DVRs. Today what do I find but a New York Times article entitled 'Skipping Ads? TV Gets Ready to Fight Back', which starts thusly:
A leading television producer and two major advertisers have joined forces to present a live variety show with no commercial interruptions. Instead, the advertising messages will be incorporated into the show.
So since we're losing our DSL, I went down to Charter a few days to pick up a cable modem to tide us over till we move. Picked up the self-install kit after about an hour wait in line, brought it home, forgot about it for a few days. Yesterday I went to open it and start looking at installing it… and there is no cable modem in the box. Geniuses. Better yet, when I went to take the box back and demand an actual cable modem today, one of the bad blinkenlights in the Passat started going off. So now I don't know how I'm going to get to Charlie's class tomorrow (probably, I'm just not), and I get to spend my Monday morning getting towed to the dealer.
So rather than going out tonight, Jen and I rented MIB 2 and Goldmember. MIB 2 was merely a pathetic rehash of the original, with some random plot inversions. Goldmember, on the other hand, was actually painful to watch. I'm serious, this one goes on the Movies To Avoid list right below The Velocity Of Gary. :shudder:
Today's only upside is that the apartment is now squeaky clean, top to bottom, as that's pretty much all we did from 10 this morning to about 7 this evening. Though there is still laundry to be done. :(
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