28 December 2008

Christmas Vacation


The December movie of the month, as chosen by a horde of Sticht family voters, is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation! This is a favorite of mine and I watched it a week before the poll went up. So I'm ready to go! 

This is the story of the Griswold Family and the attempt of Clark to pull off the perfect family Christmas. This sets the film up for lots of disasters of course. The crux of the story is that the Griswolds are hosting Christmas at their house to include both sets of grandparents. Clark has a big surprise for everyone. For the big Christmas gift he plans to use his annual Christmas bonus to pay for a swimming pool. However, in order to get the work order submitted in time he had to write a check that would have no funds to back it up until the Christmas bonus is deposited. The whole world comes crashing down when on Christmas eve he receives a letter from his boss which for the first time in 16 years has no bonus but a membership to the Jelly of the Month club. As cousin Eddie puts it, "that's the gift that keeps on giving." Clark goes crazy and upsets the family. He says that he wishes his boss was right there right now so he could tell him what he thinks of him. Eddie obliges, kidnapping his boss. When confronted not only does his boss not fire him, press charges etc. he reinstates his bonus and adds 20%. All's well that ends well.

What I love about this film is that everything that goes wrong has happened to each of us on a much smaller scale. But it's all relatable. Visiting family that we have difficulty getting along with, enormous effort put into Christmas displays that don't work (check every light again), having your Christmas tree dry out (we had a tree one year where the lady didn't know what a fresh cut was. After one week we were afraid to even be angry in the same room as the tree in fear it would burst into flames), and the big one: spending money you don't yet have for that one great gift. Most years we manage to have our tax return mostly spent before December is over. So it's all relatable and you just feel so bad watching Clark try so hard to just make the best Christmas ever. Sometimes when we try that hard it is inevitable that there'll be disappointment. Some of the best Christmas memories are the ones that just happen and were not the result of planning at all (I learned that from "Deck the Halls," one of the worst Christmas movies I've ever seen). 

Favorite line : Clarke - Hey, kids, I heard on the news that an airline pilot spotted Santa's sleigh on its way in from New York City!
Eddie: You serious, Clark?

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it. Please tell me what you thought.

The category for the January movie of the month is Buddy Cop Films. It is too bad that so many good buddy cop films are Rated R. My favorites are Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours. Sigh. I thought I was going to go with Starsky and Hutch but I think I'll pick a real american Classic and submit In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. Even if this film loses (I'm sure it will) you should watch it anyway. Great movie.

13 December 2008

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini!

Hey hey hey! Jon was fortunate enough to be able to see the winner of the November Movie of the Month! Here's his wonderful review!

Don't let the name fool you. "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" is not what it sounds. Sure, it has has lots of girls in bikinis and it's plenty offensive, but the actual stuffing of the wild bikini is just one minor mindless song out of seemingly hundreds of mindless songs in the movie.

The action starts with Frankie (who isn't even in the opening credits) on military assignment in an island somewhere in the South Pacific. His duties are to think about his girl at home -- Dee Dee (Annette) and make whoopee with the native girls. One of these girls plants the idea in him that Dee Dee may be just as unfaithful as he is. Initially he blows this idea off, explaining the sexual double-standard of men and women, but then he gets worried. He goes to the island witch doctor (played stereotypically by Buster freaking Keaton!) who is able to see what Dee Dee is up to. Dee Dee proves to be faithful -- for the time being. Just to be sure, Frankie and the witch doctor concoct some kind of black magic woman to teleport back home. In the witch doctor's words: "she's a creature so beautiful -- no boy will look at your girl."

So the temptress appears at home beach, initially as a floating bikini. Then the beach gang sings a song about filling said bikini, which i guess is where the title comes from. Part of the song is explaining that the perfect "filler" should be 36-22-36. Eventually, the bikini is filled by Cassandra (Beverly Adams). Cassandra is pretty cute. She's got a red color of hair that I'm pretty sure only existed in the 60s. She isn't, however, far and away cuter than all the other girls on the beach. Nevertheless, every single guy on the beach gives full attention to Cassandra. These guys obviously have never seen "A Beautiful Mind."

In the meantime, Dee Dee is just sitting on the beach reading and throwing smiling glances to her debauched friends. Not only is Dee Dee fully clothed on the beach, but she appears to be wearing a business suit. Good thing, because two ad-execs show up. They're looking for the perfect girl to model for something and also go on some cross-country bike race or something. One of the execs is played by Mickey Rooney and he decides on Cassandra. The other exec, the one who will actually go on the bike trip, is smitten with Dee Dee. His name is Ricky and he's played by Dwayne Hickman. Dee Dee, of course rebuffs Ricky and asks him why he just doesn't go for other girls like Cassandra or any other girl at the beach who will give it up all at once. Ricky explains that it's a lot funner to work for it.

In the meantime, all the girls are trying to get cozy with Mickey Rooney because they want the gig over Cassandra. They even sing a song saying they're "chicks who know all the tricks" and that they're "ready and willing."

Eventually Dee Dee discovers Frankie's infidelity and consents to wholesome dating with Ricky.


Oh yeah! There's also this motorcycle gang and the lead biker wants to win the advertising biking spot. The lead biker is the goofiest, dopiest, oafiest, nerdiest, oldest character in the movie. It was as if Jerry Lewis was the leader of a motorcycle gang.

Near the end, Ricky and Dee Dee enter the big race, along with the biker leader (I think his name is Zipper) and Cassandra and a bunch of other bikers. It's wicked important. It's also fixed. Mickey Rooney and the bike gang have set up traps for Ricky and Dee Dee to fall into, including a tiger in a pit that only eats men. Ricky and Dee Dee totally win, but Dee Dee breaks up with him afterwards. She explains that the moral of this story is that you should be a doormat to your cheating boyfriend instead of fall for someone who's willing to work toward a relationship. Poor Ricky then solicits Cassandra just before she evaporates away.

There are some other random elements that I need to throw in. There's a subplot about Cassandra's clumsiness explained by male-o-phobia. Dee Dee also wears Dr. Evil's uniform in a club scene. There were SO many songs in this movie and it seemed more than anything else that these songs were in because the movie was contractually obligated to have 30 songs in it. The singing was consistently whiny. This movie came out two years before the Summer of Love, but there was a lot of sex in it. I'm also amazed that the movie didn't set the feminist movement back 30 years. Also, sometimes Ricky and Dee Dee would take walks on the beach and it was VERY OBVIOUS that they're WALKING IN PLACE with stock beach footage behind them.

On the plus side, I couldn't take my eyes off this film. I had to respect it because it's not like it was so bad it's good -- it's more like they tried as HARD AS THEY COULD to make it bad. Maybe bad is a strong word. They tried as hard as they could to
make it annoying. None of the actors had any shame. I guess this was a very spazmatic period of our nation.

08 December 2008

Christmas Time!

OK just thought I'd show you how our tree and village shaped up this year. Tree first.



OK so I'm kinda a minimalist (like Yoshi!) for my tree. This is a really pretty, fragrant and very full Grand Fir. In fact I bought it tied up and when I cut the final cord it kinda went poof all over our living room. Anyway when it's lit up it looks real darn pretty. We stuffed the bronze star on top with white lights. That was a really pretty effect. Then the lights "step on." It's kinda like fade in and out but in steps. It's pretty. Trust me. Maybe I should do a video of it at night and post it. We'll see.

Anyway, here's my Department 56 Alpine Village. I decided against showing a picture of the full village. It doesn't work. So here's my two favorite detailed photos.


I decided to go for a mountainous look. It is an Alpine village after all. So here in the hills we have (top to bottom left to right) the Quilt-maker, the Nutcracker Shop, the Wheat Mill, the Game-maker and The Cuckoo Clock shop. Fun stuff!

Here's a shot of the town center. From left to right we see a corner of the Rathouse, the Alpine church in the background, the Alpine Schoolhouse and lastly the Music Academy. If you look up in the background you can see Santa's house and Santa and his sleigh taking off. That cheesemaker had better get his kids to bed cause Santa is on his way!

Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone!

03 December 2008

Back to the Beach and let's Finally Move On


So the winner of last month's Frankie and Annette movies poll was "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini." Unfortunately, HTSAWB was unable to perform her duties as winner (unrentable). Therefore The Vice-Winner "Back to the Beach" was asked to step in as acting winner. It has also proven difficult to rent. Fortunately I saw this film about a million times as a kid. So here goes my review based on having watched it with my mom about 15 years ago.

This is the story of real life Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon who play themselves. They have a black leather wearing rebellious child named Bobbie and a daughter who lives on the beach in Southern California. Frankie, who used to be a surfing legend called "The Big Kahuna" has not been back to the beach since a monster wave dubbed "The Humunga Cowabunga From Down Unda" nearly killed him many years ago. On their way to Hawaii they a layover in Socal where the decide to drop in on their daughter, Sandi. Unbeknownst to them she is living with her fiance Michael. Frankie is determined to have a terrible time in Socal until he meets an old flame named Connie at her bar. She has erected a shrine to The Big Kahuna which includes his own board. Annette becomes upset at the flirting and they have a fight. Needless to say, the end up missing their flight to Hawaii and the time is spent Frankie trying to win back Annette and Michael trying to salvage his relationship with Sandi. Throughout all this their son is trying to find his own identity and falls in with a group of surfer punks. To win back the respect of his son, Frankie has a surf off with the gang's leader. After a few poor attempts he finds himself yet again confronted with the Humunga Cowabunga from Down Unda. This time he surfs it like a pro. He gets his wife back and his son learns to respect him - going so far as to get an identical Frankie Avalon hair helmet.

Writing this up makes me actually want to see it again. Cursed very long wait! This was a fun film with a lot of good musical pieces by a ska band, music by Dick Dale and Stevie ray Vaughn and a stud named Troy. My favorite line of the whole film is "I dig chicks. Chicks dig me digging them. Dig?" Who WOULDN'T fall for that?

Here's a quick clip of Troy:


Awesome.

It's hard to criticize this film when it makes no attempt at being anything resembling a film that should be taken seriously. So watch it. It's good fun. Jon, feel free to review HTSAWB as soon as you get it in the mail.

As for December, well the category is Christmas movies of course! I'm suggesting Fred Claus. Santa should be the most stressed out guy in the world and Paul Giamati does a good stressed out Santa.

Let me know what movie to put in the poll and quick. I want the poll up by the start of next week. Stay cool everybody and Merry Christmas!

04 November 2008

THE BEATLES! OH MY FREAKING GADGET THE BEATLES ON ROCK BAND!



How I missed this is beyond me but apparently on Oct 30th Harmonix (the makers of Rock Band) and Apple Corp announced that they have inked a deal to make a stand alone game featuring (according to some sources) 45 tracks spanning the entire Beatles career. This is huge. This is the Holy Grail of music based video game deals! A close second would be Led Zeppelin but THIS IS THE BEATLES!

The game is set to be released by next Christmas. So how did Rock Band land the deal and not Activision (Guitar Hero)? Apparently they paid through the nose for it. What I am understanding is that most deals made with the musicians favor the video game company because of the increased exposure they give to the band. Well all that leverage goes away when you are talking about the greatest (subjective) and still highest selling (objective) band of all time.

Here is a youtube clip to pump you up!



Just in case you are worried that this is just rumor and wishful uh wishing, you can read the Apple Corps. press release here at thebeatles.com

And here is the press release from Harmonix.

When I play Across the Universe I'd better be wearing the stadium pal because I guarantee I'll wet myself! Anyway, what are the 10 songs that for you MUST be on this game? I'll post mine:

Across the Universe
While My Guitar gently Weeps
Revolution
Helter Skelter
I Am the Walrus
Hide Your Love Away
Twist and Shout
I'm Looking Through You
Can't Buy Me Love
Come Together

Let's hear yours.

01 November 2008

Poltergeist Movie Commentary

I linked to the actual commentary in my Poltergeist blog, but Jon says I need a new post so it'll show up in your reader, otherwise no one will ever know. So click here, here, here, here or here and listen to our movie commentary. REMEMBER TO HAVE POLTERGEIST READY TO PLAY or at least fresh in your mind.

Stay cool.

30 October 2008

Halloween Can Now Begin!



Here is the track list (If you click on the song name you can listen to it):

1. Date With the Night - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2. Disturbia - Rihanna
3. Evil and a Heathen - Franz Ferdinand
4. Vampires Will Never Hurt You - My Chemical Romance
5. Rock the Night - Europe
6. Walking With a Ghost - The White Stripes
7. Is It Scary? - Michael Jackson
8. Back In Flesh - Wall of Voodoo
9. Children of the Night - NosfeROYtu (an original Garageband composition of my own!)
10. Chill Factory - Jondis Featuring Thom Yorke
11. City of Delusion - The Muse
12. Kingdom of Doom - The Good, the Bad and the Queen
13. Witchcraft - Wolfmother
14. Things That Scare Me - Neko Case
15. She's Lost Control - Joy Division
16. Children of the Grave - Black Sabbath
17. Headhunter - Front 242
18. Mad World - Gary Jules Featuring Michael Andrews
19. The Beginning is the End is the Beginning - Smashing Pumpkins

Here is our back insert. Feel free to download the images and the tracks so you can have your very own copy of the best Halloween cd ever made in 2008!



This must be what Santa feels like when he finally returns to the North Pole after delivering all those presents. I wonder if his wife is as upset as mine at the amount of time he spent doing his job too...
Happy Halloween Everybody!

29 October 2008

All Hallow's Eve Eve Eve! - Pumpkin Time!

Here's the pumpkins we've carved so far. I'll finish the rest tonight. By the way in recent year my kids have had me carve insane things in the pumpkins that have frayed my nerves and gotten away from the simple theme of jack-o-lanterns. So we've gone back to basics.


Three handsome Jack-O-Lanterns in a row!


I did this for uh someone else's kid.


And this is for someone else's baby girl.


This one is mine.

28 October 2008

Poltergeist

Wow it is only a few days until Halloween and I am trying like crazy to wrap up this review, watch a few required films (Ghostbusters, Night of the Living Dead, The Sixth Sense and Donnie Darko not to mention Dracula on Halloween), carve pumpkins AND finish the Halloween cd which I hope to have done tomorrow. Songs are picked and artwork is in place. Just need to mix the songs and pick some fonts etc.

Anyway, I love this month but it always gets stressful in the last week. All that aside lets talk about Poltergeist.




So this is the story about Coach and his family who live in Cuesta Verde (what does that mean? Green what?). He sells houses for his company and apparently is very good at it. he has sold 40% of the houses in the area. One night their daughter, Carol Anne, sits in front of the TV (pictured above) and starts to talk to the white noise. Anyway, no big deal. Next night same thing happens and a spectral energy shoots from out of the TV into the house. Carol utters the famous phrase "They're here." AFI voted this the 69th most famous movie line ever. So now things start to happen. Chairs stack themselves. Things slide across the floor. Glasses break. Etc. All good fun until one night when a tree outside the kids' house breaks through and tries to eat their son. At the same time Carol Anne is sucked into the closet and enters a portal. This scene scared the girl who played Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) so bad that Stephen Spielberg insisted that there be no additional takes. Anyway, Carol Anne is now in a place with the spirits of the dead that are causing the disturbances. They are drawn to her life force and this prevents them from moving on.

So some parapsychologists check out the house and have one spooky night. One of the men looks in the mirror and thinks he is tearing his face off (the one scene that scared me as a child). They decide it's time to call in the expert. Tangina is a very short very stout woman who is known for cleansing houses. In the meantime we learn that their house is built on top of where a cemetery once was. Bad idea. Anyway, Tangina arrives and they send the mother in through the portal attached to a rope. She must find Carol Anne and separate her from a dark presence that is preventing the other spirits from moving on. Getting more of this back story makes it worth renting Poltergeist II. Kane is a pretty creepy character and we learn a lot about these spirits that are trapped. but Poltergiest III is terrible and made me mad it was so bad. Anyway, the mother finds Carol Anne after she helps the other spirits move on and all is well. They spend one more night in the house while moving out. For whatever stupid reason they put the kids back in the bedroom of death. And of course they are attacked again, presumably by the dark presence that had no intention of moving on. They escape the house and all sorts of bad begins to happen. Graves come up through the ground and skeletons surface in the backyard hole where they were digging a pool. BTW, real skeletons were used but the actress who was in the muck with them was not so informed until after her scene was done. Sneaky!

So Mr. Plute (the president of the developing company) shows up as the house is imploding and we learn that when the moved the cemetery they only moved the headstones. They left the bodies where they were! Sure it saved money but the you risk a poltergeist. House implodes and the film closes as they go into their room at the Holiday Inn, putting the motel TV outside of the room.

Okay now this is one of the first big non-Rated R horror films. Originally this movie was given an R rating but the producers begged it down to a PG (no PG-13 back then). So it was a big deal. Sort of a family friend;y horror film. In fact the first time I saw this as a kid was with my mom and dad. Shame on you Mom and Dad! Oh J/K. I don't remember any nightmares if that makes you feel any better.

Also of big not is that this film feels like a Stephen Spielberg film. You expect to see his name come up as director but it doesn't. However he did write and produce it. That being said, everything I read says he had a very heavy influence and was more or less the director in everything but name. Now the real director is none other than Tobe Hooper. Who is Tobe Hooper you ask? He directed the cult classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So for whatever reason Spielbergo decided to creat a family friendly horror film and decided that no one could pull it off better than the director of one of the most disturbing horror films of all time! Well what can you do.




Anyway, this really is probably the best film yet made on the topic of hauntings or poltergeists. Seriously. So many crappy films on the subject. Like The haunting with Liam Neeson. Ugh. To be fair, you could say that one of the best horror films of all time is about a haunted hotel. I'm talking about The Shining. If you put that film in the Haunting category then it is the runaway best in the genre (and my favorite horror film of all time!)

Well I hope you enjoyed this well made, rather tame horror film. I did a movie comentary of this film with Jon Madsen. Check out the podcast. What's more I hope you enjoy Halloween!

Steve Bay, who chose Poltergeist has decided to continue the scary film category. He has decided we should choose Frankie and Annette films! Boo! That IS scary! I'm going with Back to the Beach. Let me know what you thought of Poltergeist and what Frankie and Annette movie you want to see. Have a very scary Halloween everybody!

I'm a (Chili) Winner!


I FINALLY won a freaking chili cookoff! It was the first annual Halawa Ward Chili Cookoff (which I've been begging for since I got her in Feb 2007). The recipe I used is clled Bunkhouse Chili and the special ingredient is a bottle of Jack Daniel's Original Spicy BBQ Sauce. I admit it was delicious and I was supremely confident in victory.

It didn't hurt that I was the organizer of the event. I know some will smell a rat in that association but I had nothing to do with the voting. Except for counting the votes. But I swear I was on the level and I only had three dead people vote, I swear! If anyone wants the recipe let me know.

27 October 2008

Poltergeist - Simpsons Style!

Here's the clip from Bad Dream House, the Simpsons season 2 spoof of Poltergeist. For one of my favorite lines ever, go to 4 mins and 20 secs to hear Homer call the real estate agent! Enjoy! video

22 October 2008

Scary Movies I've Watched So Far

Every September I get all my scary movies together and put them in a separate DVD book. I get so excited about watching all of them. But the last few years  it seems like I watch fewer and fewer of them. I think it has to do with increasing offspring...the band of course.

Anyway we've already watched The Wolfman, House of Dracula and The Blair Thumb about 1000 times. I'm glad people here like the classics. Here's a clip from The Blair Thumb:





If you enjoyed that I think you can youtube the entire thing! Hurray for the internet!

Silliness aside I have watched a few good horror films. Wait Until Dark of course. It's Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin and scares my pants off. I insisted on a completely dark house for the last scene.

Also I watched the Others. I enjoy this film. Not to scary. Has a Sixth Sense kind of end, which also means that when watching it again you slap yourself in the forehead wondering how you missed it. They do beat you over the head with clues. It doesn't hurt that the actress in this film is moderately attractive.

On Jon's Advice I watched 1408. Here's the trailer:




Actually pretty scary for the first half. Parts of this film kept me from sleeping for a bit. But the second half turns into self healing for the main character. It's all about how he needs to learn an important lesson about himself and that's when it stops scary the turkey lips out of me. Too bad.

I also have had the pleasure of watching Blacula.




According to the description on the sleeve this was supposed to be Shaftula kicking drug dealer butt in L.A. Instead he just kills some people while try to hook up with a chick that reminds him of his former wife. I did dig skillet though.

I am going to watch Poltergeist tonight. I'm excited. In a few days I'll review it here. As well Jon and I are doing a live commentary for his podcast. I'll let you know when we are broadcasting in case you want to participate. Until then enjoy this clip:




Anyway, let me know what good scary movies you have enjoyed so far this year or your favorite scary movies or whatever.

18 October 2008

Balm of Gilead Soothe My Soul

So I have been feeling pretty down in the dumps since yesterday's unimaginable (yet strangely foreseeable) atrocity in Ft Worth Texas. I'm talking about BYU getting worked by TCU. BTW I started a blog with a U of U buddy called The Holy War . I would say check it out but this is too depressing a week to do so. The background color of the blog illustrates who is on top in the current week. Well it ain't blue right now!

Anyway, after losing a lot of sleep last night - yes, I lost sleep over a football game - I woke up wondering how I could ever be happy again. And then it happened. My copy of Rock Band 2 came in the mail. It wasn't supposed to arrive until next Thursday so it must have been a miracle sent from angels on tiny olde time bicycles that fly to ease my pain! It worked. I played Eye of the Tiger and things were moving in the right direction but it was when I played Float On by Modest Mouse and Today by Smashing Pumpkins that my spirits were soaring once again. Thank you Harmonix. You saved my life. If BYU loses to Utah on nov 22nd could you release a 20 track pack from The Cure? Thanks again.

13 October 2008

I Am Married?


Did you all know that I have a beautiful wife named Valerie? Most of you did but you wouldn't have guessed from this blog. Aside from my occasional reference to a girl named Valerie, I have kept this blog almost exclusively about myself. But it's not my fault, Monique. Thanks for asking BTW. If it hadn't been for your complaint that Val was never in my blog she never would have allowed it. Let me explain.

Valerie trusts the Internet about as much as you can trust Penny Fathrington in a candy store during a ribbon candy sale. By that I mean she trusts the Internet less than zero. 
A few years ago when we were first married Val went to a seminar sponsored by the Relief Society in Portland, Maine where a policeman spoke about safety. Two things came of that meeting. 1 - It is imperative that we have a cell phone. 2 - No trace of our family would ever EVER end up on the world wide interweb. 

So when I started this delightful blog a year ago (mostly in envy of all my Blogging friends) Val insisted that to my readers I would present myself as a lone man in the world.
I agreed and have tried my best to keep it that way. She has softened some as I posted pics of our last (10th!) anniversary and mentioned her name a few times. This doesn't mean this blog will start covering the every action of my sweet wife. She wouldn't have it but she should get mentioned more often and maybe the occasional picture too!

So we've been married for 10 years. I know what you are saying. Lucky Valerie! I know. I remind her every day. Seriously though I don't think I could have found a more perfect partner. She is kind and forgiving but just pushy enough to get me to do 
the stuff I know I should. I've pictured myself without her "assistance" and it's not pretty. 

Perhaps the thing I love the most about Valerie though is that she is a hopeless romantic. Our first Christmas she was game for whipping out our credit cards and spending a month in Europe. What a ridiculous thing for penniless college students to do. But it was wonderful. New Years Eve in Paris (unwitting victims of jet lag while everyone else was at the Eiffel Tower), train rides through the Swiss-Italian Alps, looking for bathrooms all over Italy and checking out the gorgeous country side of Greece. I love and will never cease to be amazed by Valerie's willingness to do things that don't always make sense in our heads but seem like the right thing to do in our hearts.

I love you Valerie. You are the best.

Happy now Monique?

11 October 2008

The Big Three

I have a bit of a beef with Halloween. Don't get me wrong I love Halloween. I can never decide if I like it better than Christmas but it's very close for me. I love the whole mood. We are allowed to be a bit scary and we also allow ourselves to be sacred. Which is fun. Some people who may or may not be my wife think that it is wrong to want to be scared. That there could be nothing fun about feeling frightened. But it is fun. In fact, our body releases the same endorphins that it releases when we eat chocolate, kiss a pretty Valerie, etc. So our body actually enjoys being frightened. Fact.

Anyway, my problem with Halloween is that all kids go as these years are Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Spiderman, Ralph Nader, Ballet Dancers etc. The whole holiday is based on the celebration of ghosts and goblins and all things scary. Ballet Dancers don't scare me. Maybe if it was a zombie ballet dancer, then I could go for it. My friend Jon often does this. Last year he was a Star Trek character but at least he was the Vampire version of it. Thank you Jon.



So I have decided that costume-wise I am going to go with the Big Three: Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. I'll rotate them around but they are so solid and so what I enjoy about Halloween that I think I'll be set for some time. I hope you enjoy them too. In fact, I recommend that this year you make a point of watching the original Frankenstein, Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr) and Dracula. I watch Dracula every year on Halloween, but all are classics. This is what Halloween should be about - Monsters, Ghosts and the Undead. Not pink power rangers.

One final ramble. I know they are in the process of making new versions of movies with my three favorite characters starting with the Wolfman next year. I know there are directors that know how to make horror flicks. So please can we actually put these characters in real horror (scare my pants off) films? Picture Dracula meets the original Halloween. That could be really scary. Are you reading this Mr. Carpenter?

27 September 2008

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE!

Ok so I have to get some unpleasantness out of the way first. I was accused by 3 different people of rigging this poll. It's just not true. I didn't even vote for it myself. I voted for The Adams Family. In fact I haven't talked to anyone that admited voting for it. I threw it in the poll becuase it was such a terrible movie and I thought people would get a chuckle out of seeing it mentioned.

Now I am the first to admit that it's a terrible film. But terrible films can be a treat. After my mission I spent several glorious months with my good friend J.B. Flinders becoming acquainted with the worst films ever made including Puma Man, The Destroyer, Scanners, every Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel and the entire V series (that was one glorious night!). These movies are terrible but that is what makes them so good.

However, a problem occured. I had no idea this movie would win so I never imagined how hard it would be to watch it. Up until this week it sat at the top of my Q with the words "Short Wait." Well last night that changed to "Very Long Wait." Fortunately while doing my latest Star Trek Podcast I asked my good friend Jon Madsen to bail me out and write this review. Netflix delivered the film to him weeks ago. Harumph!

So without further ado, here is Jon's uncut review of Masters of the Universe.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Masters of the Universe. I never saw it when it came out. All I knew at the time was that the bad guy in Rocky IV would be playing the good He-Man. That must've blown my mind and I never saw it (and also nobody would drive me to the theater). Later in life, a friend of mine would be so desperate to get a free iPod nano that he actually signed me up for a month of Blockbuster Online to get the points he needed. Little did I know that he also filled the queue with movies -- the first three of which were already coming in the mail. On the top of the list -- Masters of theUniverse (followed by Breakin' and Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo). So in a very funny, yet annoying way, I was forced to watch Masters of the Universe instead of any other movie that I may have wanted towatch.

How ironic then, that it's the same Blockbuster Online that suddenly has a scarcity of the same movie now.

Later in life I'm all set to enjoy Maverick as the movie of the month. It may not be the best movie, but at least it's a movie that I have not yet seen. Then, out of nowhere Masters of the Universe, my oldnemesis, rises to victory in the polls. Once again the movie thwarts me.

Perhaps it's more of a hate/hate relationship.

Okay, just kidding. It's not that bad. Anyway, this movie is based on the Mattel toys of Masters of the Universe. Apparently it's not based on the old tv cartoon, which is why He-Man never has a timid alter-ego named Adam who looks exactly like him. Also there's no annoying ghost thing named Orko. Instead, there's an annoying dwarf thing named Gwildor. That's all the justification that not basing the movie on the tv show gets, because some of the other changes made they simply have no excuse for (except for the obvious excuse that the studio only gave them a few bucks to pull the whole production together).

So the movie starts out in the familiar He-Man world of Eternia. The evil Skeletor has won! He's captured the sorceress and Castle Grayskull. BTW, am I the only one who thinks it's weird that Castle Grayskull ISN'T Skeletor's home castle? I mean, it's a big skull, right? Skeletor's also a skull (supposedly). He should be in the skullcastle, not the snake castle. Anyway, Skeletor and his army have also captured the majority of the Eternian forces (which apparently consists of four dudes in the desert who are being held at gunpoint). The rest of the Eternian forces (three people -- c'mon there were abunch of good toys they could've stuck in the movie -- like Mekaneck (see picture)) now regroup. They are Man-At-Arms (who we learn is actually named Duncan), his daughter Teela (who really seems to have nothing going for her) and our hero, He-Man (who wears a cape and NOTHING ELSE). Eventually they meet up with Gwildor (who is played by the cameraman in UHF), a dwarf that makes these weird keys where he can take them anywhere in the universe instantly. So they escape Skeletor's forces to... Earth.

Earth was never a part of the He-Man mythology. I'm pretty sure it was for this movie so that the director could literally film it in his backyard.




While on Earth, our heroes get separated from their warp key. It'spicked up by Courtney Cox and her boyfriend. Courtney Cox's parents just died so she's leaving for New Jersey TOMORROW. She's not waiting one more week for school to finish, she's leaving THE NEXT DAY. Her boyfriend thinks the key is some sort of Japanese synthesizer. Skeletor wants He-Man killed and to get the key so he uses his own key (I think) to send his greatest warriors to Earth. Beast-Man is one of them and the three others are three guys who weren't in the cartoon OR were ever toys. One is a normal human with an eye patch (always classic), one is a melted troll doll, and the other one is a stinky lizard. That's right, they didn't bother to put in Trap-Jaw or Mer-Man or Tri-Clops or even Stinkor (see picture).

Anyway, the good guys make friends with the earthlings and they all fight off the bad guys. The bad guys go back to Eternia and Skeletor kills the stinky lizard. Then he sends Evil-Lyn to "finish the job." She does a pretty good job. She dresses up like Courtney Cox's dead mom and just asks for the key nicely. After that the bad guys capture He-Man. Soon Skeletor himself comes through the dimensional door to Earth. Oh no! Skeletor is going to use his advanced technology to bring the entire war to Earth! He'll take all our natural resources and claim Earth as part of his own domain! Actually... no. He just comes, picks up the key and He-Man and goes back to Eternia. No worries.
Fortunately, Cox's boy friend is a musician and he knows the right tones to open a portal back to Eternia. Our heroes (aided by Principal Strickland of Back to the Future) barge in and free He-Man in time for him to have the climactic battle with Skeletor. Then the earthlings go back to earth. But they don't JUST go back. Courtney Cox asks if Gwildor can send them back in time to before her parents died. He does. They go back a week earlier. I wonder why they weren't using the time travel capabilities of the key the entire movie. Weird.
So in between all this stuff is a bit of fun. Like when He-Man is fighting the guys who fly on trash can lids. Also they fight with guns AND swords. I suppose it's not that weird. We did it in the Civil War. But it just seems that any civilization that masters interdimensional galactic travel would also find the idea of using swords as positively quaint.
I imagine the woman who plays Teela got the part because despite allher deficiencies she probably claimed that she could shoot a gun well.She lied.
I read on imdb that Dolph Lundgren did all his own stunts. A more accurate way of saying that would probably be that the stunt man for this movie also spoke while on camera.
So I can't say the movie was especially good, but it certainly wasn't boring. Often that's even more important. Some cheese, like this, really works. It sort of reminds me of Flash Gordon a little. Of course I think this one was trying to be a little more serious. It only sort of reminds me. Flash Gordon is hallowed ground. I guess it'snot really hate/hate.
Thank you Jon. That brings us to the best month of the year! Please submit your favorite Scary/Halloween movie. I'm going with IT (Gotta love Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown!).

12 September 2008

11 September 2008

He-Man Goodness!

Here's some clips to get you pumped for The Masters of the Universe!





29 August 2008

Stairway to Heaven (AKA The Haiku Stairs)

Today I went on one of the most difficult and amazing hikes of my life. The Stairway to Heaven hike is on the Windward side of Oahu. It is called the Stairway to Heaven for 2 reasons: 1 - It is over 3000 steps bolted into the side of a cliff - at times the incline is so steep it's like climbing a ladder, 2 - The mountain peak is often shrouded in clouds. This hike was murder on my legs. I don't expect to be able to walk much tomorrow. It was essentially 90 minutes of walking up stairs at about a 70 deg angle. Also, the view from the top is heavenly indeed. When any of you visit and would like to do this amazing hike, please tell me and we'll make it happen. I hope you enjoy my slideshow above and the dulcet tones of Big Iz singing what I consider Hawaii's state song. Notice the picture with the circular rainbow. That was awesome.

23 August 2008

Sabrina Fair

Sabrina was Audrey Hepburn's second major American film and one of my favorites. Great story, great cast (Bogie and Holden) and great Audrey. So let's get to it.

Sabrina is the daughter of a chauffeur for the wealthy Larrabee family who lives on Long Island. All her life Sabrina has watched the elegant parties hosted by the Larrabee's and always dreamed of being a part of that life. Furthermore she has always been in love with David Larrabee (William Holden), the youngest of the Larrabee sons. Sabrina goes off to Paris to a famous cooking school. There she gains confidence and a new sense of style and fashion.  In the meantime, David Larrabee has become engaged to the daughter of a businessman whom Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart) hopes to make a major business deal with. When Sabrina returns to Long Island she is so transformed that David initially doesn't recognize her. He is immediately taken with her and it is clear that she has not forgotten him either. David invites her to one of the famous Larrabee parties. His in-laws-to-be freak out when they see David dancing with the beautiful and elegant Sabrina. Linus, in order to save the business deal, sets off to woo Sabrina himself, with the idea that he will trick her to return to Paris. It backfires when he falls in love with Sabrina too. David realizes that this is another one of his infatuations and sees that David really loves her. In the end the right guy ends up with the right girl.

Wow long plot summary. I'll have to work on that. Anyway, this is a great Audrey movie. She is very young in this film and so it's not her most polished acting but she can't help but shine. What I love about this version vs the Harrison Ford remake (which I also enjoy) is that Sabrina comes back from Paris truly changed and supremely confident of herself. In the remake Sabrina is wiser and prettier but still so insecure. It just feels like all Julia Ormond did in Paris is cut her hair (which she says at the end of the film). 

Also, gotta love the supporting cast. Bogie's acting feels a bit stiff at times and he is painfully older than Audrey, but a strained acting job by Bogie is better than most other actors' best. Also, never really like Holden (although he's great in Born Yesterday), so it works in this film that he's the guy you don't root for. Oddly enough, Holden and Hepburn struck up a real life romance during this film. Go figure.

So I enjoy this film. Not enjoyed because Val and I continue to watch it every now and then. Speaking of which Val's choice (she picked Sabrina) for the September category is: Movies adapted from Television series. Valerie has chosen Mission: Impossible and I am putting forth The Fugitive. So let me know what you thought of Sabrina and give me a movie for September.

*Note: Whoever picks the winning movie for September will choose the movie category for November. I'm sorry but I reserve the right to pick the category for my favorite month (October) of the year.

24 July 2008

The Magnificent Seven


One fine day, Yul Brynner is in a movie theater watching The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa's epic classic. He is so blown away that he immediately decides that it must be adapted for Hollywood and western audiences. This is how the Magnificent Seven was born. Once word got out that the movie was being made, Hollywood's biggest clamored for the roles. Actors cast include Charles Bronson (He cleans house!), James Coburn, Robert Vaun and Eli Wallach (also in the Good the Bad and the Ugly). Steve McQueen was originally unable to be in the film because he was working on something else. So he crashed a car and while "recuperating" he shot the Seven.

Anyway on to the film. This movie is about a Mexican village where the farmers are terrorized by local bandit Calvera (Wallach). He rides in with his gang and takes whatever he wants leaving the villagers just enough to live. Now if you saw this movie (Jake Willis is a stubborn jerk face), you will note that Calvera looks EXACTLY like El Guapo from the Three Amigos. Just a note.

So the villagers decide they are fed up with the situation and go to buy guns. They meet Chris Adams (Brynner) who convinces them it would be cheaper and more effective to buy gunmen. So he recruits 6 other guys and they go to protect the village. The first time Calvera comes he is driven off. But the victory is short lived. Some of the villagers have a weak stomach and their fear persuades them to turn on their seven protectors. Calvera drives them away, but like the good men the west was just full of, they return and drive off the bandits, killing Calvera in the process, though all but 3 of them die in the process. 

So I enjoy this film very much. Great actors, great story, lots of action. And it is a more accessible version of the Seven Samurai, which, while brilliant, is a long and deliberate film. Favorite line: 

Calvera: What I don't understand is why a man like you took the job in the first place, hmm?
Vin: It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him the same question, "Why?"
Calvera: And?
Vin: He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time."

Some fun things about this movie. Although it is a western, three of the gunmen aren't "Western." Brynner was born in Russia, Bronson is Lithuanian and Horst is German. I think Bronson pulls it off best. Brynner's accent is just too strong and Horst is so freaking German that he can't move without it being really obvious. 

Steve McQueen was constantly trying to upstage Brynner during the film. Any scene that includes the two of them will usually find McQueen playing with his hat, or make some kind of distracting action or gesture. Apparently it drove Brynner crazy.

Bronson's character Bernado, in my opinion, is the inspiration for Dusty Bottoms. He has kids following him around and asking about what they can do for him when he dies. I was hoping he would ask if there was anything else to eat besides Mexican food.

Anyway, good movie. So tell me what you think. Also, the August Movie of the Month Category (via Steve Snow Jr.) is Audrey Hepburn Movies. I am way excited. I have to admit I'm semi-obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. I consider her to be the Queen of Hollywood. If I have another daughter, probably gonna slip the name Audrey in there somewhere. Seriously if you have never watched one of her films then I am really excited for you. So I'm suggesting the film Wait Until Dark. Actually pretty scary with an evil Alan Arkin and Colonel Trautman. Let me know what Audrey Hepburn film you want to see and I'll have the poll up on August 1st.

18 July 2008

Heath Ledger's The Dark Knight


Oh my freaking gadget that was so good! Go! Right now! Steal a car and go right now!

So last night I went to the midnight screening of The Dark Knight. I rarely do this. But the reviews were so good and I've been waiting so long that I couldn't bear the thought of this movie showing and me not seeing it yet. However, I couldn't get anyone to go with me (people tell me that they work Friday morning) so I went alone. I hope Jon appreciates that.

So everyone knows the plot. I won't rehash. And no spoilers here. So let me just say that Heath Ledger steals the show. This is HIS movie. He is amazing. Absolutely amazing! There's lots of little details like constantly sucking on the inside of his cheeks, or reinventing the story of how he got his scars to his absolute giddy delight he experiences at anyones pain including his own. Brilliant. He should at least get an oscar nomination. Fine jobs by Eckart, Bale and the supporting cast as well. I just re-read that. It really does feel as though everything else in the film plays a supporting role to Ledger's Joker. Again, amazing.

Plot is well written. All about crossing lines and trying to fight crime in a corrupt world. The way the Joker sets up Harvey Dent in the last portion of the film was a wonderful surprise. 

Quick notes:

There is a major character that dies and I'm pleased that I guessed it right.

There is a major character that does NOT die. That surprised me.

I am still bothered by the Batman voice that Bale does. What can you do?

The movie did not end at all how I expected it to as far as setting up a third film. But I am pleased because I didn't like the prospect of what I thought the third film would be. Wish I could be specific. See the movie and we'll talk! 

The movie is very dark but there is plenty of humor in it to keep things from turning into a bleak abyss of a film. Still no kiddies. Not as intense as I thought, most of the really gruesome stuff occurs off camera and the first really gory act of violence by the Joker happens so fast that you don't really see it. But it got a huge reaction from my audience. I think maybe my oldest could handle it. I'll have to take Val first see what she says. By the way, Dad if you read this, you should know that you are going to hate this film. 

My one tiny complaint. It is a long film and at one point I sort of felt how long it was. Could be just because it was very late and I was very tired. But it IS 2 1/2 hours.

Will I see it again tonight at a more sane hour? Probably. By which I mean yes.

15 July 2008

Simply MAVROlous! Our 10th Anniversary Dinner

So for our 10th Anniversary Val and I decided to really eat well. We checked out all the places here in Hawaii and Found Chef Mavro's. This restaurant was named to Fodor's top 10 restaurants in the world in 2006 and to Gayot's top 40. So we made our reservations (way in advance) got all gussied up and went. The restaurant was great although in a seedy location. What can you do. The interior is fine and you can almost not hear the police cars outside. Our  head waiter (we had a team of waiters actually) reminded me of John Locke on LOST. But that's all sillyness. One caveat before we continue. I was gonna take a bunch of pictures but it became evident as soon as we sat down that this was not the place to act that way. So I chickened out. All these pics are stock photos or images from the web. Sorry for being a wuss. Anyway, let's get to the food.



First thing we got was our Amuse Buche. The idea is to give your taste buds a jump start before the real food comes out. I expected it to be sweet but it wasn't. I think our waiter said it had coconut, curry and some sort of grass in it with tapioca for texture. Really tasty but odd. 



1st course: Valerie got the Foie Gras (above) with yellow and red baby beets and other fancy stuff. I was really excited about this but very nervous. Not real big on liver, but foie gras is famous right? Well it was pretty yummy. Extremely tender with a good flavor. The beets were a great addition. My dish was better. Escabeche of Diver Scallops (below). I only understand the last part of that name but it was my second favorite course. That green stuff that the scallops is sitting in is amazing and the scallops just melted in my mouth. I would have like 4 more courses of scallops!


2nd course (Fish Time): I don't really like fish. But this is really expensive fish so it had to be good! Valerie got the Confit Hamachi in Olive Oil Leek Emulsion. Sorry I can't find a picture. Her fish was pretty good but the leek puree that it was in was fantastic. I had the Day Boat Catch Marseillaise in rock fish soup with safron and aioli sauce. My fish was better and the safron sauce was tasty but not as good as the leek puree. So our dishes tied.



3rd course (I wish Pinchy were here to share this!) We both got Keahole Lobster A La Coque (above). I think that means Lobster on Sweet Corn even though there doesn't seem to be any corn in this photo. Well it was there on ours. This was Val's favorite dish. My third favorite. It was really really good! For reals! Next time you cook lobster put it on top of sweet corn.




4th course (manly meat): Val ordered the Roasted Mountain Meadow Lamb Loin (above). She ordered it medium but it came out so rare I thought she wouldn't dare. But she ate it and enjoyed it. I also liked it. There was a yummy curry lemon sauce. Not in my top half but pretty good. I ordered the Filet Mignon and Corned Short Rib (below). This was my favorite course. Both selections of beef were fantastic but the filet was the most amazing piece of food I have ever consumed. I have no idea what that dark sauce was but I wanted to marry it. And the beef was so tender that when it looked at my approaching knife it just split on it's own. Good gadget it was good! My course definitely won. After this course they brought us some sorbet to cleanse our pallet. 


5th course (first dessert): On the waiter's recommendation we both got the Mousse of Brie De Meaux (Below). It was pretty tasty. The Brie was almost too bitter but the mango short bread it was on balanced it out nicely.




6th course (second dessert): Val ordered the Bitter Chocolate Bar in Avocado Sauce with Vanilla Sorbet. OK I hate avocados but this was a fantastic balancing taste to the dark chocolate. Pretty good. I ordered the Lilikoi Malasadas (below). Malasadas are a Hawaiian dessert like donught holes but better. Very tasty and very moist. Also came with pineapple coconut ice cream! Both melted in my mouth. Our dishes tied on this one.


After our desserts they gave us this plate of chocolates(below) and truffles (not pictured) I love truffles so no complaints from me.


They asked if we were celebrating anything and I told them it was our 10th Anniversary. They made this dessert (below) for us as a final treat. I thought it was really cool. Tasted pretty good too.


One of the cool things is that we saw Chef Mavrothalassitis come in and out of the kitchen several times. It felt like being at a movie and seeing the star walk up and down the aisles. I know that sounds silly but it was true. This guy had been so decorated and celebrated that it gave me goosebumps to see him. Not to mention the relief that he was actually in the kitchen that night.


So we had a great time though it cost us a bit. I won't say how much but it was more than $20 and less than $239 before tip. I know all the portions look small (they are) but six courses later and we were stuffed. We planned this as a once in a lifetime meal but now we think that we will make it a tradition to use a chunk of our Tax Return to eat well on our Anniversary. We think next year we will go to Alan Wong's (the other highly celebrated chef here in Oahu) but since Chef Mavro changes his menu on a regular basis we might just go back. Anyway, best meal of my life. If any of you ever come out here and want one really good meal we highly recommend Chef Mavro's. 

05 July 2008

WALL-E!

So I am on vacation in Southern California with my in-laws (having a great time!) and I saw WALL-E the other night. I didn't take any kids cause I heard it might be too boring for the little tykes. While I do think it is geared more towards adults I think kids will probably still enjoy it. More on that later.

I know that WALL-E has gotten a lot of hype so I feel stupid saying it but this is honestly easily the best movie I have seen so far this year and perhaps the best Disney Pixar collaboration to date. That's hard for me to agree with because I really like The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. But WALL-E is just...more.
Quick plot summary. Humans left Earth 700 years ago because mankind made it uninhabitable. But we left behind a handful of robots like WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) to clean up the mess. WALL-E has been taking all the garbage and crushing it into cubes. But WALL-E at some point found a copy of Hello Dolly. All of his knowledge of interaction between individuals, and more specifically love, comes from Hello Dolly. Consequently he has become very lonely. I never really liked Hello Dolly but it is perfect in this film. In fact we see and hear it so much that Michael Crawford probably ought to get his name in the credits. So one day a new robot EVE is sent to earth searching for life. WALL-E immediately falls in love and follows her back into outer space where they find themselves on a mission to bring humans back to earth.

So visually the film is stunning. It ought to be. Pixar has had plenty of practice. But the story is sublime. It really is just a love story between two robots. If you don't like romantic films you probably won't dig WALL-E. I've heard some people say they slept for part of the film. I can see that. Part of that might be due to the very little spoken dialogue. There are human actors but they don't have many lines, especially for the first half. So I'm just saying if romance isn't your cup then, well I'm just saying. Kids aren't really gonna get the relationship stuff, but there is plenty of humor and and action so that most kids should still dig this film.

So what makes this film so extraordinary is that they have created a story and characters that work so well that you care deeply for them. You hope that WALL-E and EVE find a way to be together. There is especially a scene at the end that I won't give away but if it doesn't get you just a little bit then...well I don't know but it just should.
Anyway, highly recommended. Barring 7 or 8 really amazing films this year I honestly expect WALL-E to get a Best Picture nomination. We'll have to see. But in the meantime, if you haven't seen it yet I strongly recommend that you do. Enjoy!

18 June 2008

What "The Living Daylights" Was That?


I would like to start this review by asking a question to those who voted for this film: What were you thinking? Seriously I want to know. So many good 007 films to choose from and THIS won? Most people acknowledge this as one of the worst Bond films, and now I can officially agree. As soon as it was over I had to watch Thunderball to remind me that James Bond movies are actually enjoyable. Anyway, let's get through this.

The Living Daylights stars Timothy Dalton as James Bond. James Bond helps Russian General Koskov defect to Britain. Once there he is recaptured by what looks like the Russians, but it is a ruse so that he can team up with Mitchell. More on that later. Meanwhile, British agents are being killed with messages pointing to the KGB. But it's not them. It's General Koskov and Brad Whittaker, an arms dealer, who are trying to get the US and Russia to go to war with one another. All so that they can smuggle diamonds out of the country and use them to buy drugs in Afghanistan. It's just easier to do that sort of thing during a World War I guess. James Bond figures it out with the help of General Koskov's old girlfriend. Together they foil the plan and help those brave Afghan Taliban defeat the forces of Koskov and Whittaker. That's basically it, I'm sorry to say.

Poor Timothy Dalton. I actually like him. Pretty good in Flash Gordon and I think he could have been a decent Bond. Well maybe. Problem for him is that this script was written for Pierce Brosnan who was stuck in his Remington Steele contract. Dalton isn't great with the one-liners and it's painful to watch. 

This film also suffers from what I call Ladyhawk Syndrome. Let me explain. Ladyhawk is a good story, decent actors (Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pheiffer both faves of mine) and plenty of action etc. But there is a terrible 80s synth soundtrack that is present throughout the entire film. Who ever thought that the Dark Ages and the keyboards from Strange Brew would be a good match? So same problem here with Living Daylights. Terrible synth soundtrack. I'm not talking about the theme song written by a-Ha. It was OK. Not nearly as good as A View to a Kill by Duran Duran but not bad. It was the constant really early depeche mode sounding stuff throughout the action sequences. The opening credits were also pure 80s and equally terrible. Now don't get me wrong, I like 80s films. But this is a James Bond film, not an 80s film. I thought, well I can look past that if the story is good. And it started out just fine. Then it all collapsed as the evil plot unfolded.

The evil plot is so subpar in this film. World domination shmorld domination! Who needs that when you can just buy cheap drugs and sell them for profit? What kind of weak James Bond plot is that? When I figured out that was what they were really after I wanted to put the dvd in the microwave. But Blockbuster might not have liked that.

Now let me get to one of the few redeeming aspects of this film: Mitchell. 



By that I mean Joe Don Baker playing the part of Whittaker. Everytime I saw him all I could think about was him grabbing a 6 pack of beer with his toe, or asking for some more butter on his gravy. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Joe Don Baker was in a film called Mitchell. He plays the worst cop ever. It is one of the funniest not-supposed-to-be-funny movies I have ever seen. Right up there with L'Uomo Puma(Puma Man)! I highly recommend you watch the MST3K version of it. It has the most intense car chase ever with HOT MERGING ACTION! So I did enjoy that. But that's about it. I'm sure I'm being too critical, so tell me what else I should have liked about this film.

Alright on to July. The category of the month as suggested from Jon Madsen is: "Westerns or Tron". So you can either suggest your favorite Western or you can suggest Tron. I think that's a good American category for the month of July. I hope to see a good ballance of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Tron movies. My suggestion is A Fistful of Dollars. Tell me what Western or Tron movie you want in the poll and I'll put it up on July 1st.

19 May 2008

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Here's the trailer. Watch it or else.




So this month we honor the passing of our friend Charlton Heston by watching and discussing Ben Hur: A tale of the Christ. I hope everyone enjoyed it. So here we go.

Ben Hur was made in the day when huge epics with elaborate sets and thousands of extras were the norm. Back then people had no problem going to the theater and having an intermission. Can you even imagine that today? What would you do for 15 minutes? Probably steal someones seat while they are in the bathroom. So in an age of Epics, to me this was the Epic film. Ben Hur tells the tale of Judah Ben Hur, a Jewish prince. His childhood friend Messala returns from Rome to be the tribune in Judea. He asks Judah to help him put down local unrest. Judah refuses and loses Messala's friendship. The new Roman governor, while entering town, is struck by a loose tile from the roof of Ben Hur. Ben Hur is condemned to be a galley slave. En route to his ship Ben Hur is given water by a man that he does not know but who is obviously Jesus. Then, while at sea his ship is lost but he saves the life of Quintas Arrius who adopts him as a son and teaches him to be a great chariot driver - 5 time champion at the Roman Circus. Judah returns to Jerusalem to find his mother and sister and to exact revenge on Messala who could have freed all of them. Judah teams up with an Arab horse owner to race against Messala. In this race Messala is defeated and mortally injured. Ben Hur visits him on his death bed and declares to Messala "I see no enemy." Messalla with his last breath reveals that Ben Hur's mother and sister are lepers who live in the valley of the lepers. Judah finds them. He brings them into Jerusalem in the hope of finding Jesus who is known to heal the sick. they come too late and find Jesus just as he is being led away to his crucifixion. It is only then that Judah realises that this is the same man who offered him water while he was a slave. Later, while reflecting on who Jesus was, Ben Hur's mother and sister find themselves healed.

One of the first things I want to bring up is the title of the film: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. I really wanna hear your comments on this. Why go with that title when we only see Jesus (and never his face) for more then 2 minutes in the entire film? The most important scenes are the ones that mirror each other: As Judah is dying of thirst Jesus gives him water to drink. Then as Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross he is bearing Judah returns the favor and offers him a drink. The other times we see him from behind as he preaches to a crowd but he seems to follow Judah with his eyes as Judah walks away. We also see him lifted up on the cross. So why call it A Tale of the Christ? Why not call it Ben Hur: Chariot Racing Barrel-Chested Hunk? My own take is that story of Jesus is perhaps best told on the role he plays in the lives of those who benefit from His great gift. Judah's life is touched several times as his life is sustained by miracle after miracle, but perhaps the greatest miracle is that Ben Hur learns to forgive. There is also a great image in the end where the rain washes away from the crosses and (it may just be my poor quality copy) but there seems to be blood washing away with the rain. How appropriate since it is the blood of Christ that washes us clean from our sins, as rain washes the earth. Anyway, let me know what you all think.

Charlton Heston won Best Actor for this role. Deservedly so. This is probably his best acting work. He kinda get's John Wayney in his later films where he just plays Charlton Heston no mater the role (which is fine with me), but he really pours himself into this role and it shows.
Ben Hur won 10 other academy awards. So, good for it. I also learned that despite what I had always held to be true, no one was killed during the filming of the chariot race. In fact there was only one minor injury. The footage of Judah flipping over the front of his chariot and climbing back over wasn't supposed to happen, but it looked so good they kept it in. The stuntman got a cut on his chin. Anyway, great film.

On to June. The category, ala the Chapman Family, is series films. For example the Police Academy movies, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. The way this is gonna work (sorry Monique but I'm about to take some licence) is that everyone will suggest a series. For example I am going to put forth the Jason Bourne movies. I will do a poll and one film series will win. From that series I will do a new poll with all movies from that series (Ex: Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum) and we will choose the best one and watch it, perhaps commenting on it's place within the series as a whole. So suggest away.