Alice in Wonderland is one case in which my instincts were, unfortunately, correct. The trailers looked too full of CGI and not that amusing. I went to see it because it was a Tim Burton movie and Ric really wanted to see it, but really, I would rather have caught it at the cheap theater.
When we went to see it, the showing was a 3D one. Eww. We gave in and went anyway. It was definitely added on in post-production, and basically, some dust gets kicked up into the air effectively here and there, but nothing else makes too lasting of an impression.
The story jumps in to Alice's life when she is fully grown. She's about to be proposed to by a dolt of a boy and runs away when she sees the white rabbit. She enters into Wonderland through familiar circumstances to anyone who's familiar with the novel or animated movie. From there, the story branches off to more of a Yawn-land than Wonderland. I suppose that's the point; Wonderland has been ravaged by the Red Queen when she stole the crown from her sister, the White Queen. The creatures and people that Alice met on her childhood visit to Wonderland expect her to slay the Jabberwocky, which is under the Red Queen's power. If the Jabberwocky is slain, the Queen's strength and threat will be diminished. Apparently there's a scroll that foretells Alice's purpose, although the origins of the scroll are a bit hazy.
Anyway, Alice is in denial for most of the movie about her destiny, but she does take sides with her little friends, one of whom is the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. His character seems to have been featured simply because Depp was playing him. I didn't mind it so much, save all the talk about Frabjous Day and the terrible dance that just about derailed all respect I had for the movie.
I really liked Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. Wasikowska's matter-of-factness and Bonham Carter's absurdity are nicely contrasted. One gained my respect and one got a few good laughs. The rest of the characters fell a bit flat for me.
The costumes were probably the biggest highlight for me. I loved those, especially the alterations to Alice's clothing as she changed sizes.
The story moves a little bit slowly, but I did warm to the plot in the last half of the movie. Now that it's been about two months since I saw it, I do admit that the movie didn't leave much of a lasting impression on me. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of Tim Burton having to rely on special effects too much. I think when his vision grows more organically, the whole thing feels more creative and heartfelt. I expect more from his creative mind, especially when it comes to the potential one might expect when dealing with Wonderland. Maybe there's a little too much of the Disney influence. I can't quite put my finger on it.
Overall, I did end up liking this movie, though it had much room for improvement. I can't say I was all that disappointed, since I wasn't expecting much, but I certainly wish it had lived up to its potential.
I have to be so careful when I tell people that they should see this movie. I really have to emphasize the t in "writer" so that people don't think I'm recommending that they see a poorly-rated Nick Cage flick.
The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor as he takes over the job of writing the memoirs of the former British prime minister. The Ghost (that's all he's called) arrives to Adam Lang's retirement home on an island and is instantly thrust into the tensions of the household. Lang (Piece Brosnan) has a bitter wife (Olivia Williams) who doesn't like how close he is with one of his staff members. McGregor's character also discovers that his predecessor died under suspicious circumstances. These, along with rising tensions regarding Lang's relationship with the US, leads the Ghost down an increasingly absorbing storyline.
I loved this movie. It feels very much like a Hitchcockian wrong-man story, in which an innocent is unexpectedly thrown into a story much larger than he ever imagined. I like how it starts off without too many obvious clues as to what is going on, but I also enjoyed the moments where one ghost is basically ghosting the old ghost - retracing the events that led to the other's death. The scene where McGregor follows the navigation system in his predecessor's car reminded me of the final act of The Vanishing, although perhaps not quite so extreme.
The music lends so much to the movie, and of course, after it was over, I realized that it was by Alexandre Desplat (aren't all the best ones from him these days?), whose score is probably one of the main reasons I drew a connection to Hitchcock. Some other composer might have turned in music for a generic thriller, but Desplat matches the screenplay's balance of tension and lightness. The tone he sets is perfect for the story, and I'm not sure the end would have worked as well as it does without him.
Brosnan as the grandiose-yet-cunning prime minister, Olivia Williams' brooding and comical role, and McGregor's tempered performance all work hand-in-hand. There are other notable performances, but I wouldn't want to spoil anything.
I'm not sure it's a movie for everyone, but The Ghost Writer spoke directly to my movie sensibilities and surprised me by being much better than I expected it to be. From the sets to the locales to the individual scenes, it looks good, sounds good, and feels just right. I'm not sure why I wasn't expecting much, but I'm pleased to say it's my favorite movie from the first quarter of 2010.
CollegeHumor doesn't seem to have embed codes so you'll have to go here to watch the humorous video that will appeal to anyone who ever spent any amount of time running around The Temple hunting for the Golden Gun. The Odd Job scene probably rang most true to me. Thanks to Bill for sharing it with me.
Look at me go - two posts in one day. I'm so proud of myself.
Cyndi and I went to see this one at the cheap theater a little while back. I was very interested in this movie when I first heard about it because I was so happy that Disney was going back to some traditional animation, but then I saw the trailers and really didn't care to see it. As it turned out, the movie got nominated for an Oscar and several critics liked it a lot, so I gave it a go. I think Disney and Pixar in general are bad with movie trailers, or perhaps it's just coincidence that their good movies all have uninteresting trailers. At any rate, while I wouldn't call The Princess and the Frog my favorite animated Disney feature by any stretch of the imagination, it actually was a good little flick.
I'm glad Disney's been going back to the well of fairytales for some of its movies. I always liked the story of the Frog Prince when I was young, and didn't mind Disney's spin on the story, in which the girl is the one who transforms - into a frog - rather than the prince (at least until the movie's end). Louisiana was the perfect setting for their rendition of the story and provided a great atmosphere and inspiration for the music and side characters.
This movie really does look quite nice. From swamps to parties, the colors and little details are great. I especially liked the daydreaming song in which Tiana envisions life in the restaurant she would one day like to own, which flattens the images and looks like old-fashioned Art-Deco posters.
Honestly, though, The Frog Princess does suffer from a lack of originality at times. The character of Dr. Facilier (the villain) might have been more frightening if I hadn't already seen all of his moves by the Oogie Boogie Man in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The villain's threatening monologue song wasn't very interesting to me because I felt like it bore too much resemblance to the other film.
A lot of people liked this movie a lot better than I did, but that's okay. I didn't expect to like it at all, so the fact that I generally liked it was a nice surprise. It still doesn't compare with the creativity or emotional pull that a Pixar movie has, but it's good enough to show us that Disney has the potential to return to good form.
I am a huge fan of Netflix Instant Watch and instantwatcher.com makes finding the good stuff on the ever improving service even easier. You can easily check out what's new, what's popular, and what is about to expire, a feature I have found invaluable. The feature I use the most though is its listing of HD titles. I recently switched over to streaming on my PS3 since I let my Xbox Live Gold subscription expire and I haven't really looked back. Streaming on the PS3 isn't quite as streamlined as on the Xbox but it's a cheaper option and cheaper is good.
Going to see New Moon made me realize that it had been a year since my first movie after my back surgery. I still remember driving to the cheap theater to see the movie that all the girls were screaming at in the theater, and that I had to sit very carefully in the chair at the theater to stay comfortable. Flash forward to a year later and another trip to the cheap theater: it was a much more comfortable sitting experience, although this second installation of the series was more painful than the first.
I can't help going to see the Twilight movies because I just like to know what America's watching and talking about, and to me it's like watching one of those crazy movies about mythological beasts on the Sci-Fi (I just can't spell it the other way) channel. It's a kitsch series starring a bunch of cute teens. The first movie actually did capture some of the wonder Bella experienced at first glimpsing the supernatural world, as well as the angst of teenage infatuation. This second movie doesn't capture anything that feels genuine, but it's entertaining because it's so unintentionally funny!
I'm not sure why the werewolves all need to travel in packs of half-clothed-cuttoff-jean-wearing boys, or why they have to run everywhere they go, but it certainly is amusing. And in comparison, a half-clothed-gaunt-and-pasty Robert Pattinson is even funnier. I love that only evil vampires seem to have red eyes. I love how angry everybody gets out of nowhere. I love it whenever Bella gets flung against a wall. And her sequence of depression and recklessness is entertaining too.
It's certainly not a good movie, but I had fun watching it. And now that I've learned about Riff Trax from Ryan, I fully intend to watch all of these movies again!
This was a good one:
Continuing in the classic Michael Caine vein, I watched Alfie for the first time a month or two ago (still hoping these five-minute reviews will help me catch up). Caine still plays a womanizer in this one, but otherwise the movie couldn't possibly be more different from Get Carter. He doesn't like commitment and just wants to have fun, and he's quite picky and critical of the girls he's with. When he has a bit of a health scare, aging, and some of his past flings come back to haunt him, he starts to wonder if there might be something more to life.
I loved this movie. The natural way in which Caine speaks to the camera and directly tells us everything he's thinking is both amusing and an interesting way to get to know his character. The movie certainly wouldn't be as effective without it.
The light-hearted tone is balanced well with the more serious subject matter, but the movie doesn't flinch or feel awkward when the serious scenes do occur. The final act definitely packs a punch that I didn't expect when the movie first began.
It's been so long since I saw the movie that I wish I could reference some more specific scenes and details. I certainly loved Alfie's fling with Ruby, played by Shelly Winters. Overall, Caine has great presence and carries the screenplay perfectly.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the greatest flash game in the history of the Internet: Super Mario Crossover.
In this game, you can work your way through the levels of Super Mario Bros. with the heroes from a variety of classic Nintendo games.
Each character has his own attack abilities. You can shoot bad guys with Bill. You can stun and stab with Link. Furthermore, powerups like mushrooms and flowers bestow on the characters the ability upgrades they receive in their own games.
One movie genre I've always meant to catch up with is the classic Michael Caine movie genre. I thought it best to start off with Get Carter, about a gangster name Jack Carter who returns to his home town for his brother's funeral. As he finds out more about the circumstances of his brother's death, he realizes it was not an accident, and he sets out to find the person responsible.
I had no idea what the movie was about going into it and was surprised by the content. I know movies weren't exactly clandestine in the 1970s, but it was a surprise nonetheless. Caine's character is a gangster through and through. He's controlled and ruthless - an interesting combo to watch. He has sex with whomever he pleases, and some of those scenes are surprising too, since they end up being funny or unpleasant, but certainly not about arousal.
Even though the movie does appear to be filled with action of all kinds, Caine's demeanor and the many scenes of his character running around that don't contain dialog make this a more subtle movie. Actually, Caine as a gangster vaguely reminded me of some of Clive Owen's work nowadays.
It's definitely a memorable movie, although for content's sake, I'm not sure I'm allowed to necessarily recommend it. At any rate, now I'll be able to catch references to this movie when I see them. Caine has definitely moved up on my list of ultimate badasses (is there a good synonym for badasses?).
This weekend I saw The Flaming Lips in concert with my friend Danny. Although they've been one of my favorite bands for years, I haven't actually seen them in concert since 2000. Since then they've developed the kind of wild, celebratory concert performance that has earned them a very strong fan following. While I've seen and read all about their antics, I learned that experiencing it all firsthand is another thing entirely.
After the band took the stage in a bizarre sequence that involved them emerging from the birth canal of the woman projected on-screen behind them (don't ask), Wayne Coyne rolled his space bubble out over the crowd and then returned to stage for the opening number of "Worm Mountain," which just happens to be my favorite song from the new album and the reason I wanted to see them on this tour. The band exploded with the insanely drum- and bass-laden song, lights flashed, smoke and confetti poured out of cannons, giant balloons bounced overhead, and I was in ecstasy. It seemed like the band was unleashing everything in their spectacular repertoire in just the first song. I really felt like I could leave satisfied after that: I had already seen everything I had come for.
(That's not my video, by the way. My thanks and apologies to the fan who uploaded it)
The concert continued with more confetti, balloons, and now a couple of weird inflatable animals on stage. After several more songs things toned down a bit and Wayne took up his bubble-encased acoustic guitar to play a few solo songs, starting with the traditional "She Don't Use Jelly" (he stopped and restarted midway through because the crowd's rhythmic clapping was throwing him off), an "I Can Be A Frog" sing-along, and "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1." It was nice to see Wayne actually playing some instruments again: in recent years fans began speculating that Wayne doesn't even know how to play guitar because he seemed to only use it as a prop onstage. But his guitar abilities are just fine. Later, he even manned the solo on Powerless (I always assumed that would Stephen's part live).
The Lips closed out their main set with the full band, then came back for the first encore with Stardeath and White Dwarfs for the epic Brain Damage/Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon. It was a deafening performance with two bands on stage pounding away and the whole crowd wailing along at the tops of their lungs. It would seem like a tough song to top.
The best moment for me, though, was the second encore, when the band came back for "Do You Realize??" As he is wont to do, Wayne preceded the song with some rambling stage chatter. Normally I think he overexplains the songs a bit, but here he talked about a young man that was on tour with them who lost his father recently. At the funeral, he said, they played this song. Wayne talked about how the song addresses death, but is really about embracing life and appreciating our loved ones while they're here. He encouraged the crowd to celebrate in the song on behalf of those in the audience for whom the song may conjure up more somber associations.
Then the song began, and although I've heard it at least 50 times in the last eight years, I experienced the full weight of the song like never before. And when it got the line, "Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?" for the very first time ever the words caused genuine tears of joy to well up in my eyes. It sounds cheesy, but in that moment, surrounded by singing fans and awash in lights and streams of confetti, I felt connected with everyone in the amphitheater that night. But that's just what The Flaming Lips do: through their unself-conscious cheesiness, optimism, and love for spectacle, they give people a communal concert experience that they will never forget.
I just want to know who these people are that are still using floppy disks and what they are putting on them. Text files? A couple word documents? A picture? I remember when a friend taught me how to make those annoying AOL disks writable. Free floppies for life!
Sometime around Christmas, I think, we started talking to Daniel about rhyming words. He was interested in the idea, but he really just didn't get it for a long time. That didn't stop him from trying, though. Daniel would frequently come up to us, say, "I have a rhyme!" and then utter two words that in no way resembled each other, like train airplane, bike bathtub, or ceiling pineapple. Each time we had to tell him that no, those words don't rhyme. He showed an undaunted spirit, though, and continually came back to us with, "I have another rhyme!"
With the help of a new game, Daniel moved on to repeating stock rhyming words that we had told him, like dog frog, man fan, etc. When prompted to make his own, though, he still came back to pairs like animal dinosaur.
Then one day he told me, "I have a new rhyme! Boat moat! I was pretty sure no book or game we had contained moat in it, and I praised him for his original rhyme. Since then he's been dazzling us with his rhyming skills. The way I know he's really got the concept is that he's started producing nonsense words with rhyming sounds. Just today he's excitedly informed me that piggy wiggy, train fain, and boing foing are all rhyming pairs.
I present to you... the amazing reusable bag:
In the past year I've definitely become a bit of a crazy lady when it comes to buying environmentally friendly things at the stores. One thing I became obsessed with since my visit to Portland last year was reusable bags. I didn't like any of the ones they sold at the stores here because they were all advertisements for the stores themselves, which prevented me from buying them. In Portland, cool reusable bags are a dime a dozen. When I came back home I was determined to start tracking down good ones. And now I will turn this into a big, fat promotion.
One of the best brands I've found is Flip and Tumble. They sell single- and double-handled shopping bags that are sturdy and pleasant on the eyes.
The 24-7 Bags are available in a rainbow of colors or in some cool prints. Amy and I both have a couple of these. They get compliments all the time, they're easily folded and carried in a purse, and that felt strip on the strap keeps them in place. I like using them for small shopping or carrying things like my workout clothes.
The bag boys at the grocery store weren't fans of the 24-7s, though, because the single handle prevents them from opening the bag wide to stuff items in quickly. So, I recently bought a Shopper Bag, and they were cool with it. By the way, the Shopper Bags can scrunch up into perfect little balls for easy portability. I loooove grocery shopping with these bags. They conserve, they can carry a lot of weight, and they don't break at inconvenient moments like those pesky plastics.
Flip and Tumble also makes reusable Produce Bags. What an awesome idea! I always feel like it's so wasteful to buy produce in a bunch of separate plastic bags and then just throw it all away the instant I get home. These are clear enough for the cashier to make out what's inside.
Of course, now that I've got all these bags, I need to get a regular system going on in my household, so that I remember to have these stored in my car when I go grocery shopping, or have a couple in my purse when I'm out and about town. If that's the hardest thing about having reusable bags, then what's stopping you from giving them a try? Most likely, you'll end up glad you've gone "green" simply because they make life easier on you; the lack of waste is just the icing on the cake.
So our site's 8th birthday was like two weeks ago and I totally forgot. I really need to start putting it on the calendar. I just wanted to take the time to thank all the people who helped get it going and to all the readers. It's amazing to me that something started out of sheer boredom could become what it has. Here's to all of you!
Yes, I think I'll stick to these five-minute reviews until I get caught up. It's been so long since I've seen some of these movies that it's probably best for me to keep it short anyway, since I can't remember specific details.
In the Mood for Love stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as a man and woman with a similar problem - they realize their spouses are having an affair. They spend time with each other, trying to piece together how the affair might have started. As they spend time commiserating with each other, they form a friendship. That friendship develops into deeper feelings, but the two are determined not to be adulterers like their spouses. What results is a movie full of friendship, longing, and sadness.
I know I often complain about movies that gratuitously repeat a musical theme, but somehow the repeating theme in this movie is just so beautiful that it didn't bother me. It evokes emotion at just the right times, and coupled with Wong Kar Wai's visual style, I loved it. I really enjoyed all of the uses of colors and shadows; each scene is perfectly costumed, lit, and staged.
What I really appreciated about this movie was the idea that, while it's easy for the audience to say that these two are free to be with each other because their spouses have essentially already ended their marriages, they won't allow themselves to be with each other. They have a strong connection, but the hurt that their spouses have caused is stronger, and they will not allow themselves to be just like their spouses. I loved that touch to the story; it's a forbidden love story, but it's self-imposed forbidden love, which makes it all the more interesting.
When I watched Chungking Express, I could see the potential for great things from Wong Kar Wai but was ultimately frustrated by some of his stylistic choices, but In the Mood for Love is where he gets everything completely right. It was interesting, expressive, and so lush. I'm so glad I saw it.
After Smiles' wedding, which was really great, my brother and his girlfriend surprised me by taking me on a trip to Astoria, the town where they filmed The Goonies. It was AWESOME! We went to pretty much every major location we found thanks to this site. The majority of the locations are in Astoria but most of the beach locations were filmed at nearby Cannon Beach, which was really beautiful. The last beach shots in the movie were filmed in Sonoma County, California though so I will have to do that trip sometime. Read on for the rest of the pictures.
I am back from a conference in San Francisco. I was there from Saturday through Wednesday. It was a special treat that Jon was attending the same conference for his own university and that he happened to book identical flights with us. So Ruth, Megan and I traveled with him into town where we met up with Isaac at our hotel and headed straight out to the town! I'll describe highlights as quickly as possible.
Saturday night we had a magnificent Irish dinner at Johnny Foley's. I plan to make some champ for myself now that I've had a glorious version of it there. We took a crazy cab ride to the Golden Gate Bridge and walked a little over halfway across it, then took a claustrophobic bus ride back to the hotel.
Sunday we checked in at the conference and got a good breakfast at the Moscone Center, which is where we spent many hours in the next week. It's amazing to see thousands of college employees filling a room the size of two football fields. In the afternoon it was pouring, but we were determined to go out, so we took the cable car to the wharf and took a drenched walk down to pier 33 and grabbed the ferry to Alcatraz. We really enjoyed our tour of the prison and loved the gardens, and of course once we were done, the rain let up. When we got back to land we bought new socks on pier 39 and got a warm meal at Boudin before heading back. That evening we went out to dinner at a Greek restaurant that we happened to pass by, and that meal was delicious too. SF was a great place for food.
Monday we had sessions all day long. The highlight was when the power went out at the beginning of my first afternoon session, which turned into a man describing his software without being able to demo it. Boo. That night we got together with all the other employees from our university who attended the conference and had dinner in the Pope room at Buca di Beppo. We weren't all that excited about eating something we could eat at home, but it turned out to be a good time of camaraderie and inter-university networking. Afterward, several of us went to the W hotel to play some games in one of their crazy lobbies, which eventually led to a crazy photo shoot since that place is filled with decorations that just beg for interaction.
Tuesday we had sessions all day again, but managed to go to the Ferry Building for breakfast before the first one. That night my nephew, who goes to school in SF, picked us up to go to North Beach for dinner. We got there early, so we stopped at an Italian cafe for pastries and coffee, then had dinner at the Stinking Rose with my sister and two more nephews. It was good to see the fam! We all went to get gelato as well. After a few of them left, my nephew took us all up to Coit Tower, down Lombard street, and walking around Ghiradelli Square. Unfortunately, that night I started getting sick; it may have been food poisoning. At any rate, I threw up on and off for the next ten hours and missed the rest of the conference.
We headed back home on Wednesday afternoon, and I was so glad to have Jon around, since he took care of my luggage for me going to the BART station and the airport. I ate Tic Tacs for my meals and gradually improved throughout the day. Today I'm still a little wobbly, but definitely on the mend.
It was a good experience to go to the conference and I have a lot of ideas running around in my head right now, but it sure is good to be home. I was blessed to come home to a clean house and the results of Ric's productivity - our office is 100% clean with no more condo-work items left in it!
Now if only they'd include the beaks and feet.
(Picture taken outside the Kirksville KFC)
If you're not using Google Reader to keep up to date on everything, you're missing out. I'm still surprised when I find out folks still check tons of sites every day manually. I don't know what I would do if I still had to do that. Now there is a cool new feature of Reader called Google Reader Play that uses your subscriptions and things you mark as "Like" in Google Reader to present a slide show chock full of pictures, articles, videos, and other assorted awesomeness that you will enjoy. It seems to be an even more intelligent version of Stumbleupon.
Speaking of Stumbleupon, I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but it has become completely unusable for me thanks to the friend shares feature. In my Stumble heyday, I was adding everyone as a friend who asked since I figured that was a good thing to do and I didn't see any reason not to. Then they added a sharing feature where friends could send articles to their friend's toolbars so that the next time they hit the Stumble button, they get the shared article. I get so many shares now that I can't actually Stumble. Every time I hit the button, I get a shared link from someone that is usually something lame and/or some kind of spam. There is no way to turn this off. As far as I can tell, there isn't even an easy way to remove people from my friends list. Is anyone else experiencing this?
I got invited to a D&D game. I am super excited. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons with other people. I've just read the books and the rules, created characters, longing for that chance to finally let my geek flag fly. When I was a kid my dad was way into Avalon Hill games and some of the serious Milton Bradley games like Shogun and Axis and Allies. We played tons of those games and one Christmas we got a new game called Hero Quest. It's the closest I've come to D&D and I loved it. I just never had the time or the geeky friends to take that next step. Thanks again to Josh for finally making that happen.
There's no way to know what Charles Shulz was thinking when he made this strip in 1963, but it's such a perfect metaphor for the health care debate that if someone made this same joke today there would be no doubt about its intended meaning.
But then, the debate over government-paid health care plans goes back decades, so who knows? Maybe Shulz really did embed a commentary on the paranoia of anti-Socialism in Peanuts.
In my Google Reader rss feeds I saw the Onion headline, "Virginia Governor Declares April Confederate History Month." I thought, "Ha ha, good one, Onion!" and clicked on the link, only to discover that this is not a fake article, but one of their American Voices pieces in which their fictional people-on-the-street make snarky comments about real world news items. Apparently, it's not only real, but has existed for several years.