Saturday, December 31, 2005

Out With the Old

Here we are, the end of the year. Almost time to put 2005 in the history books. And I think I'll be very glad to do so.

A lot of people I know had their lives totally turned around this year. Fortunately, it seems like almost all of them have put things right back on track, many happier and better off than they were before. But sometimes, even when a change is for the better, change is still hard.

So here's hoping for more of the happy and less of the turmoil in 2006.

And before this post degenerates into a completely maudlin retrospective, I'll sign off by pointing you to the only truly funny sketch that has run on Saturday Night Live so far this entire season.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rabbit Season

Angry Alien Productions proudly presents famous movies performed in 30 seconds by bunnies.

Personally, I like The Exorcist.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

You're Entitled to Our Opinion

Alright, this really pisses me off.

Next week, a new television series called "The Book of Daniel" is premiering on NBC. Being the TiVo loving, commercial-skipping person I am, I have not seen one ad for this program. I actually knew nothing about it whatsoever, until I heard this week that the American Family Association is protesting the show and trying to get it canceled.

Here's their call to arms. It's the beginning of the second paragraph that really annoys me (the following emphasis is mine):

While the public has not seen the program, NBC is promoting "The Book of Daniel" as a serious drama about Christian people and the Christian faith.

They basically acknowledge in their own damn protest that they have not seen the show yet, but then go on to condemn it anyway and call for its cancellation.

This show could be the next great drama on network television. It could be a total piece of crap. God forbid we should evaluate it in its actual context.

Hmm... apparently, the AFA's God does forbid it.

As a footnote on all this: GLAAD, as you might expect, has praised the show in public statements. And I have to say, I'm not really any happier with them, as it seems unlikely that people in their organization have seen the show yet, either.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Before Anyone Knew His Name Was Ben Stein

On January 10th, a new edition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off is being released on DVD, this one tricked out with various special features not available on the previous release. Yes, we're all familiar with this particular scam by now, and I've been trying more and more not to get suckered into buying movies I already own. But I just can't draw the line this time. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off!!! This is #6 on my top 100 movie list!

In honor of this upcoming occasion, I bring to you this link to what claims to be an earlier draft of the movie script. I don't really know if it's for real or not, but it's a fun little curiosity either way, I suppose.

(And yes, I guess this could count as two Matthew Broderick posts in one week. Unlikely, but there you go.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Musical Review

Continuing my movie-going spree, I went to see The Producers this afternoon.

I was more or less indifferent to the original film version. I personally think Mel Brooks didn't reach the heights of his brilliance until the period beginning with Blazing Saddles and ending with Spaceballs. The play version, on the other hand, I thought was pretty genius. Better than any of Mel Brooks' film work.

I was never lucky enough to see the original Broadway production of the musical. I had the soundtrack. I caught a touring version of the production, with no particularly noteworthy actors in the main roles. But I thoroughly enjoyed both, and I was really looking forward to the new film.

And it really delivered. In fact, it really illustrated for me just how important the performances were in creating the perfect mix, because I basically knew every line of every song, but still laughed out loud all throughout the movie. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were both outstanding. Roger Bart (who had a good run as the creepy-stalker-pharmicist on Desperate Housewives) deserves an Oscar nomination for how freaking funny he is in this movie.

My only real complaint about the film was that at times it felt a little too much like a stage production in watching it. Oh sure, they opened up the budget left and right. Songs which on Broadway took place on a single set went indoors, outdoors, in a taxi cab, and through a park in the film. But nevertheless, 90% of the film was made up of long, uninterrupted takes looking into a clearly three-walled set. It basically felt like a front-row seat at a theatrical production of the play.

Not that I'm complaining much. After all, that is what I'd long wished I could have seen. And truthfully, the film probably wouldn't have been nearly as funny if much had been done to adapt it away from the stage play and photograph it in a more "motion picture" sort of way. It worked on Broadway for a damn good reason.

So, I'm giving it an A. And it's making it onto the top 100 list. For the moment, I'm sticking it in at #84, but I am sort of wondering if this is a movie I won't think quite as highly of upon multiple repeat viewings. Will it still generate the big laughs when I'm seeing it for the fourth, the fifth time, like other comedies on my top 100 list do? I'll guess we'll see down the road. I just know I've had the giggles all day since seeing it, and I highly recommend the movie to everyone.

And by the way -- stay all the way until the end of the credits. There's a great song that plays over the second half of the crawl, and another great surprise waiting at the very end.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Up Wolf Creek Without a Barf Bag

Roger Ebert thinks that I'm going to hell. Well, I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty much the thrust of it.

I had my Christmas with my family yesterday morning and afternoon, and had a very nice time with them all. And then in the evening, I got together with my "horror movie lovin' friends," because we found it simply way too novel that a horror movie was opening on Christmas Day. We knew we simply had to go see Wolf Creek.

First of all, let me say that I've never seen the movie theater so crowded. We tend to go to this "undiscovered treasure" of a theater in the Denver area (the Belmar, should you ever find yourself in Denver). Nice seats, nice screens, and strangely, no one ever goes there. It's just not very popular. It does cost more than any other theater in Denver, but I'm willing to pay it to just be able to walk up any time and get into any movie I want. The "talking and cell phone" factor there seems lower too. Anyway, this horror movie on Christmas night nearly sold out at this theater that's typically a ghost town. The theater was hopping. The parking lot was packed. I've never seen it so busy at this place as it was last night.

But I digress...

Wolf Creek. This is an imported movie from Australia that claims to be based on a true story. "Loosely inspired by one or more true stories" would be closer to the truth, as I learned upon doing some net research. (I looked at more places than Wikipedia -- but that was one of the more succinct.)

The movie took its sweet time getting to where it was going. I was honestly just a little bit past the point of boredom when things finally started to kick in, about 50 minutes into a 1 hour, 35 minute movie. But once it got there -- DAMN! This movie was everything High Tension should have been, had that movie not taken its bizarre and implausible turn near the end. It was really damn creepy. It managed to move along with a minimum of "why are you doing that, stupid woman?!" moments. (There was one BIG one, I'll not deny, involving an ill-conceived plan to avoid the baddie, but that was about it.) It was unsettling. It was creepy. And it had a creepy and unsettling ending. It managed to redeem my boredom from the first half nicely enough for me to give it a B.

Now, I understand that my review of this film is totally irrelevant to you. This is the sort of movie where you're either a fan of the genre and would have gone no matter what I said, or you would never have gone no matter what I said. But it's not so much my review of the film that's the thrust of this post. Instead, let's get back to Roger Ebert.

In his review, Roger Ebert basically says the movie is so horridly despicable in its misogyny and violence, that any kudos it might earn for its incredibly evocative direction and solid acting are irrelevant. The movie makes him "want to vomit and cry at the same time," and that if anyone tells you that this is the movie they want to see out of all the movies at the box office right now, "my advice is: Don't know that person no more." And he gives it zero stars.

Hey, if you want to follow his advice and navigate your browser elsewhere now, I guess I understand.

Certainly, his opinion was echoed by part of the audience last night. I can't recall the last time I saw so many people get up and walk out of a theater. I was a little perplexed as to why they came in the first place -- did Narnia sell out that night and they just decided to see whatever other movie started next?

But I find Ebert's review to be bad. If he wants to not like it, if he wants to proclaim it misogynistic (and he's not without a case there), if he wants to tell people "don't see it," that's fine. But I don't see how he can give it zero stars. I know I'm making quite a leap to call a slasher movie art, but hey, Ebert himself would no doubt be at the forefront of the "film is art" camp. And the best art provokes an emotional response in people. Joy, sorrow, rage, take your pick. I say that if a movie makes you want to "vomit and cry at the same time", then it must have some serious artistic merit. By all means, hate the film. By all means, discourage people from going. And by all means, listen to him if you think this is the sort of thing that will disgust or offend you. But if the movie made you feel something so strongly, it can't be worth "zero stars," I say. It can't be more devoid of merit than Rob Schneider's latest crap, or some noisy summer sugar like Stealth.

I mean, A History of Violence was pretty damn violent too, but Ebert gave that three-and-a-half stars. Granted, that movie didn't portray much violence against women, as Wolf Creek does. Wolf Creek doesn't try to make any intellectual point about the price of having a violent past. But seriously, I for one had my emotions provoked far more strongly by Wolf Creek than A History of Violence. And it sounds like Roger Ebert did too. So what gives?

Again, to be clear -- this is not me saying "go see the movie Roger Ebert doesn't want you to see!!!!" This is me saying, "if you like thriller/horror/slasher movies, then you owe it to yourself to see this one, because it is incredibly impactful."

And don't try to claim that art isn't art because you don't like the way it makes you feel.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

O Holy Crap!

Here's another holiday tradition I have: visiting "The Holy Trinity," as my friends have dubbed them.

There are three houses in the Denver area that are basically the Griswold family's Christmas decorations brought to life. All three run it every year, from December 1st to the 31st. One of the houses actually welcomes you inside to view their porcelain collection. The Hummel factory itself doesn't have this many figures, I'm telling you.

It was night, of course, and I didn't have a camera tripod or anything, so this blurry picture is going to be a long way from doing it justice. But I think you'll still get the general sense of just what "The Holy Trinity" is.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Golden Oldie

I was recently involved in a discussion about the world's ugliest dog, the dancing banana (and Family Guy's recent take on it), and various other "internet forwards" I've received.

My conclusion is that in all my years of using the internet, nothing has come even close to being as funny as one of the first chain e-mails I ever received: The Gerbil Story.

The version of it you really have to see is this one (which is what I originally received), the one with the snarky "top 10" list attached. See, I could have sent you to the Snopes article debunking the story. (Uh.... DUH!) But they were missing the all important top 10 list.

Still makes me laugh to read this.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Festive Films

Tonight I upheld a small but longstanding Christmas tradition I have -- I watched the movie Scrooged. Some people never tire of watching It's a Wonderful Life, or some particular version of A Christmas Carol, or what not. But for me, it's Bill Murray that can ring in the holiday like no one else.

Of course, I have some more meaningful, family-oriented traditions I'll be honoring in the next couple days. But now that I've watched Scrooged, I feel like 'tis truly "the season."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

When the Ends Don't Justify...

It's getting near that time when you start doing "year long retrospectives." I was starting small and rather impersonally, thinking back on what has overall been a lackluster year at the movies.

I got to wondering how much, if any of it, has to do with the fact that a lot of the major films this year have been... well, "predictable" isn't even an apt enough word. Many of the movies this year, you have known the ending to before ever setting foot in the theater.

King Kong is of course the best, most recent example of this. But it's certainly not alone. Most people had already read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Jarhead held no surprises. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was going to change a few things from the book/prior film version, but was going to end up in the same place. Most people know how the aliens get defeated at the end of War of the Worlds (hint: Tom Cruise was not around for the Orson Welles radio broadcast). Revenge of the Sith -- you already knew where things would end up. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- you've read it, or watched the TV version, or listened to the radio program. The Amityville Horror -- another remake.

And none of this is counting the movies where the ending (or significant events in them) was ruined by the "shows-too-much" trailer.

There's still enough time in 2005 to squeeze in a few more "you know the ending" films, too. I loved the stage version of The Producers, and I'm looking forward to the film. But, of course, I know the whole thing very well. The events portrayed in Munich are a matter of public record.

I'm not suggesting that "surprise" factor is necessary for a movie to be good. But I do wonder if I'm ready for a break from predictability. After all, the best movie I saw all year was crammed full of surprises.

(That would be Serenity, of course. Available this week on DVD. Plug, plug.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Following Takes Place Between 9-0 and 2-1-0

I was looking at my season 4 box set of 24 the other night, and I notice on one of the discs there is an episode commentary featuring one of the writers and "Shannen Doherty."

I think to myself "oh... well, there must be someone on the show who happens to have the same name. And how unfortunate being them."

But I popped the commentary on, and nope -- it is indeed that Shannen Doherty. Which begs the question:

Why the hell is she giving commentary on a 24 episode?

They pretty much invite the question right at the beginning of the commentary. The two come on and say some crap about how she's a big fan and happened to be in the area and so here she is to give commentary on this episode.

I'm a big fan too. You don't hear me on the any of the episodes.

But hey... if you've been dying to know what Shannen Doherty thinks of 24, then think of this as a little Christmas miracle come true for you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

If All the Other Blogs Jumped Off a Bridge...

I realize that posting links to "what kind of [blank] are you?" surveys is generally considered bad blogging... but it seems like all the other kids are doing it. And besides, this one was pretty good:

Which fantasy/sci-fi character are you?

Mostly what makes this one good (in my mind) is that I know quite a few people who have taken it, and we have yet to see the same result twice. It seems pretty thorough. Not bad for a small number of questions.

By the way, I am Kosh, the cryptic Vorlon ambassador from Babylon 5.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"We Thank You For Your Service"

In case you haven't heard, Friday morning, actor John Spencer died. He's popped up in a few places over the years (for example, as the soldier who won't turn his key at the beginning of WarGames). But he's most known, of course, for playing Leo McGarry on The West Wing.

Not that I'd really claim there was a "weak link" in The West Wing cast, but John Spencer's performance on that show was always top notch. He was one of the best parts of the series, and I was very pleased him back closer to the center of the storytelling this season as Santos' running mate. He'd been on the sidelines a little too much during the sixth season.

Now it appears the show will have to carry on without him. I'll definitely miss his presence.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Major Spoiler: The Big Monkey Dies

Well, I caught King Kong this afternoon. And my take on it isn't much more favorable than Shocho's.

It may be coming out in December, Oscar-bait season. It may be a remake of a classic film respected in cinema history. It may be directed by Peter Jackson, with the credibility of an Oscar win and several nominations behind him. But don't let any of that fool you...

This was a big, dumb, summer action movie.

The film flailed about like a fire hose with no one holding onto the end, moving from "set piece" to "set piece." You could make an argument that each piece in and of itself was pretty dazzling. They certainly looked cool -- no one could fault the production values or effects of this movie. And I'm not saying that the sequences were all boring. A few were actually pretty tense.

But they were big and dumb. No real sense of story... just "run for your lives, everyone." The level of writing, directing, and acting may all have been far superior to the prequel Star Wars films, but King Kong was no less a "stare at the green screen" waste of time. And a lot of time at that. Even when a sequence did come along that was somewhat engaging, it was only to be followed by hours more movie -- 187 minutes in all.

On the strength of the look of the movie, and on those moments that do work, I'll rate the film a C overall. Even though for most of the time, "Z" is the letter I had in mind.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Blogging at Light Speed

Some techno-geeky friends of mine were explaining a little about quantum computers to me tonight. It's apparently the next expected major breakthrough in computer processing, and very cool in a techno-geeky sort of way.

I'm still stuck at the part where I could possibly in my lifetime have a device in my house that actually slows down light. And that I'll only be using this marvel to send e-mail and post to my blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Let's Go To Our Audience

It's funny how you never can quite guess which blog posts will spark lots of comments and which won't get any.

I had a feeling about that last post, though...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

There Was No Water Cooler

One of the players of the Lord of the Rings Online TCG has an amusing concept of new items up for grabs in "The Company's" online store.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

All's Well That Ends Well

It seems like it's rare, but sometimes these reality shows do turn out the way you hope. In tonight's final installment of The Amazing Race, the Weavers finished last of the three teams. That was really all I was looking for, but the Linzes were my pick to win, in a perfect world, and I got that wish too.

The Weavers were horrible to the very end. For the second time on the race (the last being the non-elimination leg that kept them in the game), they totally threw it in and wanted to quit, dismissing the stadium search as "stupid." I was almost feeling bad for Rolly for a minute. As before, when they should have been eliminated, I found myself screaming at the TV: "if they want to quit so badly, then let them!"

Hurling names at the other teams inside the stadium, they bumped into one of them (literally) outside, and then the mother has the nerve, hypocrisy, short-term memory, take your pick, to say say it's wrong of the other teams to call them names. I can't tell you how freaking ecstatic I was to see them come up with the last plane departure time after that.

It's funny how nerve-rattling that last challenge, simply putting together a geographical jigsaw puzzle, turned out to be. For one, it appeared to be a really close finish. How much pressure would be on you, to be the one working the puzzle? How horrible would it be to be one of three stuck on the sidelines, unable to do anything to help in the one challenge that was going to ultimately decide it all? Ugh.

And as a fun little coda on the whole thing, I had a small thrill with the scenes of the next installment of The Amazing Race. It looks like the next Race begins (began, technically, I suppose) right here in Denver, in Red Rocks Amphitheater. Neat!

"Hey... listen... I'm starting in The Amazing Race tomorrow. Do you mind dropping me off on your way to work in the morning? It's only 10 minutes away."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mayan Musings

I was visiting friends down in Colorado Springs last night, so it was only this evening that my "Survivor buddy" got to come over for both of us to enjoy the finale of our guilty pleasure.

For the first time in a long time, I'm content with who won. I knew looking at the final four that I was gonna be happy with whoever won. (Because I knew Lydia had no chance.)

But, I also think that a month or two from now, I'll be hard-pressed to remember much about this Survivor. Jeff Probst was saying at the reunion show, "thanks for giving us a great season," but I'm wondering how sincere he really was. Yes, it was certainly more physically demanding, but there wasn't much else going for it besides that.

Those three women in the back row at the reunion? I'd totally forgotten about all of them. Between "firefighter" and "Butthole Surfer," I couldn't remember a single distinguishing thing about any of them. And most of the people who stayed on longer weren't much more memorable, really.

Judd, a total, buried-in-denial, giant, whining baby until the very end.

Bobby Jon and Jamie... strangely getting along now. I was seriously getting just a bit of a Brokeback Farmstead vibe from them. (My Survivor bud said "Bobby Jon is totally the bottom in that couple.")

Rafe, who just didn't know when to stop being a "good guy." He totally lost $1,000,000 because Steph cried.

And the rest... I'm already starting to forget.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Theory of Magnetism

It was not long ago that I remarked how some people take their Lost way too... minutely.

Not a day or two later, a friend points me to a particular thread on that Lost fan site detailing one guy's "Ultimate Lost Theory." This thing is completely out of control.

I don't know how many of you happen to watch Stargate as well, but suddenly I'm hearing Richard Dean Anderson explain to me how it's all done with "magnets."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Swingin' Santa

Brian Setzer (of the Stray Cats, and front-man of the oh-so-humbly named Brian Setzer Orchestra) use to do "rockabilly" music. Then he did big band swing.

But now, apparently all he does is Christmas albums. One right after another.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Trivial Concerns

My Thursday night trivia crowd has been going to a new venue for the last month or so. The atmosphere is better, the food is far better, and we just generally seem to have a better time.

But one complaint I must make is the difficulty of questions within certain categories. It seems to me that the "hard questions" in certain categories are much easier than the "easy questions" in others. Some of this you could chalk up to the particular strengths of our group, of course, but I think this goes much deeper than that.

For example, last week, you'd net 4 points for naming the coach for whom the NBA Coach of the Year award is named. This answer to this supposedly middle of the road question was Red Auerbach, which got enough "who?" stares around the bar that I got the feeling this was a far more difficult question that the score would suggest.

By contrast, tonight's penultimate question, worth 10 points, asked which of Shakespeare's plays contains the line "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Okay, seriously?

I'll admit, Shakespeare would be "one of our categories," and is likely more difficult for the average bar patron than a basketball question. But seriously, 10 points for Hamlet? It seems to me if you just said to somebody, "name any one play by Shakespeare," you're gonna get Hamlet more than half the time. (You'd probably get Romeo and Juliet from every other non-theater geek that could name any at all.)

My point is, you could easily know almost nothing about Shakespeare and pull Hamlet out of your ass for 10 points. But where is someone who knows nothing about basketball going to pull Red Auerbach for 4 points? There's just a total lack of parity in the scoring here, if you ask me.

I suppose I should be grateful that some of the questions we know nothing about are worth less -- it's fewer points for us to miss out on. Still, I feel more strongly that one of the most valuable questions in the game should require at least a little bit of special knowledge in the category.

Next week, "what is the name of the Vulcan science officer played by Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek?" (20 points.)

The week after, "name the only U.S. state that starts with the letter F." (14 points.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Sloppy Seconds Here

I freely acknowledge that of all the TV shows I watch, Survivor has to be most devoid of any real quality. It's total fluff. It doesn't hang with you like a good episode of say, Battlestar Galactica -- or even a bad one. (Quick, name the winner of Survivor: Amazon. See what I mean?) It's cotton candy.

But one aspect of Survivor that is worthy of some praise is the "second unit." The second unit of a film or television production is the group of people who film "other stuff" that doesn't necessarily involve the main actors (or "contestants," in this case). Close-up shots of hands opening bags, establishing shots of the city in which a story is set -- these sorts of things are the domain of the second unit.

The second unit on Survivor totally kicks ass. We're getting some interview about how "Player A" thinks "Player B" is a total jerk that could turn on them at any minute... cut to footage of a huge spider eating some hapless insect. "Player C" is explaining how her strategy is to try and lie low, waiting for the others to screw up... cut to some crocodile sinking down in the grass. Yea, second unit! They are always there with the on-the-nose animal kingdom metaphor for the current situation in the game.

Not to mention, the second unit is always providing the footage explaining how a challenge is going to work before it is run. You'll often see members of the second unit (not their actual faces, of course) walking an obstacle course during Jeff Probst's explanation, or depicting how tiles of a puzzle will look when assembled, or what-not.

The second unit on Survivor totally kicks ass.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wardrobe Malfunction

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. A title as unwieldy and long as the movie that bears it.

I caught a sneak preview of the film tonight, and I am extremely grateful not to have paid anything to see it. In truth, the film clocked in at just 2 hours, 10 minutes. But just as time passes differently within the land of Narnia, so it felt like an age elapsed inside that theater.

I vaguely recall reading the book many, many years ago. I might have been somewhere around 10 or 12 at the time. The point is, I have so little recollection of it, I was basically coming to the film new. So I'll have to leave it to those who have read the books more recently, possibly those who are fans, to tell me whether the fault lies in this film's adaptation, or whether the book is that way too.

It's going to get somewhat spoilery from here on out... but if you've read the book, you can probably safely forge ahead.

The story seemed gravely lacking any sort of connective tissue. It seemed as though about 10 characters had dialogue, and the rest were mere scenery. The motivations driving the few characters to get any play were left almost completely unexplained, and it seemed to me like they don't actually do anything to warrant having a story centered around them.

The children just have to show up in Narnia and everything starts thawing out and going right again? They don't actually have to do anything? I guess it's a good thing, because they don't do anything. They're chased around for half the story, finding Aslan only thanks to the help of others -- they do essentially nothing to help themselves. Oh... well, there's this moment where Peter kills a wolf that stupidly just jumps on his sword without a real fight.

Aslan is played up as this great and wonderful hero of the land. If he's so wonderful, then what are the kids for? Could it be because Aslan doesn't actually do anything either? Aside from his being a lion, which I guess carries some level of gravitas, we see him do nothing to explain how he's risen to be such a great leader before he simply hauls himself off to the Stone Altar to be sacrificed. He's good at dying. (Really good, since he comes back to life.) I guess that's why he's the leader.

Susan and Lucy are there to witnesses Aslan's death, but instead of going back to personally warn the army that trouble's afoot, they send some tree messenger to do it so they can stick around and cry for a while instead. (Never mind the fact that we were told earlier in the story that trees were in service of the White Witch.) These two girls themselves are supposed to be these wonderful saviors of Narnia, but they spend most of the battle crying over Aslan's body when there's a war being fought without them.

Fortunately, Aslan returns. Not that he gives the girls anything meaningful to do. Instead, he gives them a ride to the Witch's fortress, where he unfreezes all the statues the Witch has made of various citizens of Narnia. Now at least we're starting to get an answer for what makes him so special. But what the role of the children is supposed to be in all of this is foggier than ever.

Then some CG creatures crash into each other, a deus ex machina or two resolves the plot, and the story ends. Can I go home now?

NOPE! Because there's a little extra crap stuck in the credits, about a minute in. Just worthless exposition laying pipe for the sequel I now have no interest in reading. (Or seeing, should they film it too.)

It's a very pretty movie, I will at least say that. But in total, I must grade it a D. Unless you're a fan of the books, I can't fathom what might be there for you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Feast is Over

It took me a little while to carve out the time for it, but yesterday I finished reading A Feast for Crows. I did quite enjoy it. I'm not sure if I "three years of waiting was worth it" enjoyed it, but it was still a great read. Not at all what I hear from fans reading the Robert Jordan series "The Wheel of Time," which as I understand it has been spinning its "wheel" (ha!) for about five books now to little effect.

Without getting too spoilery, I'll simply say that the "mammoth plot developments" of the book were not up to the high water mark of A Storm of Swords. But it still took some exciting twists. I think perhaps I was feeling the absence of some of the characters a bit too strongly. I knew going in that some characters would not be featured again until book five, A Dance of Dragons. Unfortunately, it turned out to be some of my favorite characters.

In the interest of remaining as spoiler-free as possible, I won't explain any further than that. I'll just plug away on behalf of this series one more time, for those of you who haven't read it.

This is the last you'll have to hear of it from me until the release date for A Dance for Dragons is announced. Some very, very distant day, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lines That Divide Us

You've all probably heard hundreds of ways to divide people into two categories. Here's my latest realization along those lines:

There are two kinds of people in the world -- those who regularly make use of a soldering iron, and those who don't.

I have two key fobs for the auto-door locks and alarm of my car. In the last couple weeks, both of them have started flaking out on me. Turns out both of them had bad solder joints inside, and both of those were going bad at about the same time.

I had a helpful friend over tonight who offered to take them home with him and bring them back to me next time I see him, better than before. And I thanked him for the service, because I am one of the people in the latter category -- I can't think of anything I've ever needed a soldering iron for in my entire life. But he falls into the former category -- he owns a soldering iron because he uses one on quite a regular basis.

By the way... whoever decided that an English word could have a silent "L" in it is having a big laugh at everyone's expense.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Barber Banter

Ah, the ritual of the haircut. Specifically, the ritual of having to banter uselessly with the person giving you the haircut.

What are your plans for the day? they'll ask. What do you do? Do you have family in town? What are you doing for the holidays?

Does the person really care? Somehow I doubt it. But there's this charade the stylist has to go through, and somehow you are expected to participate, thus perpetuating the belief that the charade is necessary.

Friday, December 02, 2005


In my opinion, the people in these forums are missing much of the point when they watch Lost. To my mind, if you're scrutinizing every frame of every episode so thoroughly as to:
  • Figure out what "drippy Walt" is saying in reverse,
  • Spot the Dharma logo on the shark in the one frame of screen time it's visible, and
  • Counting and cataloguing all the times the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 43 appear,
then it's likely most of the actual drama -- the heart of the show, I think -- is flying by you completely.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Elton John Meets The Lone Ranger Meets Bill Cosby

Soon, the movie Brokeback Mountain will be hitting theaters. This is the independent film of growing notoriety, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall as gay cowboys.

I don't think I'm going to be seeing this movie. Not because of the subject matter, mind you. Well, wait... it's exactly because of the subject matter, but it's all South Park's fault.

Some of you may recall the rather well-known South Park episode, Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls. It used to be well known for Chef's titular song. But now, I'll always think first of Cartman's prophetic statement, that all independent films are about "gay cowboys eating pudding."

I don't care how amazing the acting is, or how good the story is... if I go see Brokeback Mountain, I will be waiting for the scene in which one or both of the main characters starts eating pudding. Hell, if I went, I might have to sneak a cup into the theater myself. But there's no way I won't have a horrible case of the giggles from beginning to end, thank you very much Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

It turns out, of course, that not all independent films are about gay cowboys eating pudding. Here's one entertainment web site's opinion of the 50 greatest independent films ever. I was somewhat surprised to find that I'd seen many more of them than I'd have guessed. 14 out of 50, in fact. (Which is a way higher percentage than the number of films I've seen on the AFI Top 100 list.)

I don't know that this list makes me really want to make an effort to see the others, but hey... there you go.