Saturday, January 28, 2006

Heroism And Noble Sacrifice


"The future is not free: the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds. We learned again that this America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last, best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required and who gave it little thought of worldly reward."
--President Ronald Reagan January 31, 1986

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Potty-mouth Elmo??

Well, not quite, but when the electronic voice-chip in the book, Potty Time With Elmo is supposed to say, "Uh-Oh, who has to go," some people are hearing sweet little Elmo monster say, "Uh-Oh, who wants to die!"

I always thought that Elmo had a dark side, but wow!


Monday, January 23, 2006

Jury Duty

Mr. Bays, My 8th grade civics teacher would be proud. I showed up for jury duty this morning. I didn't end up getting selected for the jury, but it was an interesting and educational experience, nonetheless. The charge was driving while intoxicated, but from the sounds of things, the girl who was charged refused the breathalyzer test. I did get seated in the jury box and was one of twelve to be asked specific questions, but I guess they didn't like the look of me or something. What the defense really wouldn't have liked was my answer to a question that I was never asked. The prosecutor asked every other potential juror in the box this specific question, "Do you consume alcohol?" With one exception, every person answered this question in the affirmative varying from "very rarely" to "every evening after work." The exception was a young girl who got grilled when she answered no. Never? Not even on special occasions, the prosecutor questioned incredulously. Turned out, she was 19 and thus, under the legal drinking age. I think I would have had a hard time convincing them that I've never consumed a drop of alcohol of any sort in my whole life. I think I would have had a harder time convincing them that though this is true, I don't have a problem with those who do have a drink now and then within their limits. Oh well. It was interesting to see our Justice system at work, but I was glad to be dismissed.

Random quote of the week:
"It went from cool to Wal-Mart because of Reuben" - Pat Hannon

Films Recently Watched:

King Kong (2005) dir. by Peter Jackson
Christy and I recently had a day off together so we saw this. My second time. Christy agreed to go see this with me if I promised to tell her when to close her eyes. So I told her when, and for the most part, she watched anyway. Go figure! Honestly, I should back off from some of the complaints I had about the length of the film and the length of a few certain sequences. I didn't notice these problems nearly so much my second time.

The Prince of Egypt (1998) dir. by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells

On the Waterfront (1954) dir. by Elia Kazan

Chinatown (1974) dir. by Roman Polanski

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) dir. by Irvin Kershner

Monday, January 16, 2006


Films Recently Watched:

Hoodwinked (2005) dir. by Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, Tony Leech
Sometime back in December we got a flyer from Anderson University indicating that we, as alumni, could get free tickets to a film called Hoodwinked created by some fellow alums, Cory and Todd Edwards, et. al. Interesting. I hadn't been particularly impressed with their previous film, Chillicothe, but this looked like it was in a completely different vein: An animated take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The voice talent they had was impressive: Glenn Close, Anne Hathaway, Jim Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick. It said that it was appropriate for ages 3 and up, so we decided that we would all go. In the meantime, my long-time friend, Stacy called and said that they she and her family were planning to come too, so we decided that we should try to go together. So we did. I am happy to say that all of the kids in our group (including Stacy's 7-month-old) were very well behaved. This was only Hannah's second theatrical movie viewing.

The event was yesterday and I came out of it pleasantly surprised. The story-telling here is pretty tight. The basic concept is a Rashômon-like telling and re-telling of a story from the various perspectives of the characters involved. The way it all comes together is really quite clever and well done. There is no question that the animation is not up to par with what Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky are doing, but it serves the story well enough.

A couple of the songs (mostly written by Todd Edwards) were really good, too. I was especially fond of the song, "Red Is Blue," performed by Ben Folds. That sequence also features some of the best animation of the film, as well, in my opinion.

The Paramount Theater, Anderson, IndianaWe saw the picture at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in downtown Anderson, Indiana. Unfortunately, we had terrible audio during the movie. Though they indicated that they had done all they could to make the audio work in the room, I am certain that there were several gags that we missed due simply to the lousy audio. The DVD will be a "must-buy" for me when it releases.

Naked Red Riding Hood??Co-director, Cory Edwards

As you can see, they did see fit to cover all of the indecent sculpture in the theater with thematic apparel.

One cool thing about the event (besides the fact that it was completely FREE) was that several of the film-makers were there in person (including director, Cory Edwards - above, right) to introduce, meet & greet, sign autographs, etc. Christy and I were a couple of years behind the Edwards' clan at AU and though we didn't know them, we were familiar with their style of comedy from various skits at variety shows and their aspirations to create film. We are happy to see them achieving their dreams.

We did, however, run into several college friends while we were there. Several of them we hadn't seen in years and it was great to be able to catch up with them a little bit.

All I can say is, if you get a chance to see Hoodwinked, I highly recommend it. If you get a chance to see Hoodwinked for free, in a beautiful 75-year-old theater with several hundred of your closest friends, including the writers and directors, then absolutely don't miss it!!

Rashômon (1950) dir. by Akira Kurosawa

Daredevil (2003) dir. by Mark Steven Johnson
Worst -- Villains -- Ever

What? a dude named Bull's-Eye with the evil skill of throwing darts and similar sharp objects with generally amazing accuracy? With (what else?) a tattoo of a target on his forehead? Are you kidding me? This guy would better spend his time amazing his buddies playing yard-darts or something. Colin Farrell didn't do the character any favors either. What a pathetic hammy performance. Wow, just, Wow. And then John Coffey from The Green Mile? I thought he was supposed to be nice, let alone, dead! He tried to take it back, but it was too late. Yeah, well, I wish I could have my 133 minutes back, but it's too late for that, too!

Speaking of villains, Ben Affleck was not believable, for me, as a superhero. The film didn't seem to abide by it's own rules. OK -- Daredevil is blind but has his remaining senses miraculously enhanced. OK, but where does it indicate how he got his super strength? What about his apparent ability to defy gravity? I'm usually able to "suspend disbelief" for these types of movies, but this was a stretch for even me. And, for what it's worth, I did watch the supposedly improved Director's cut of the film.

Having said all that, the audio on this DVD is amazing. The DTS mix is immersive and aggressive. Perfect for the scenes that put you inside the head of a blind-crimefighting-vigilante!

Elektra (2005) dir. by Rob Bowman
Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. After being underwhelmed by Daredevil, I just had to.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Christmas Story Experience

We had a busy Christmas weekend. We've been busy enough since then that I guess I'm just now getting around to finishing up this post. Here goes...

As I mentioned, Christy's holidays from work were Friday/Monday while mine were Monday/Tuesday, so I took the Friday off so that we could head North after work on Thursday night. We got in at Christy's Folks' place late Thursday or early Friday. We were able to take it easy for the most part all day Friday. Christy and I went to see Narnia with Paul, Christy's brother.

Christy's sister and family arrived Saturday afternoon. We did Christmas dinner and presents that evening. Most of my spare time was spent playing Battlefield 2 on Paul's linked PC's. Very cool!

We left early Sunday to try to get back to Indiana for a gathering with my Dad's extended family. The trip back was interesting. Hannah took a really good nap in the car and we made it all the way to northern Indiana before she woke up. The weather held out all through Michigan, but almost as soon as we got into Indiana, what had been mostly light rain turned into sleet and then snow. Visibility quickly decreased and the snow began to accumulate on the roads. After we'd seen several vehicles that slid off the road, I decided it probably wasn't safe to be going 80mph. Nevertheless, we eventually managed to drive through the storm, but it was right about then that we came to Ft. Wayne and both the car and it's inhabitants were in need of fuel. We found an exit that seemed to have lots of options, but although there were many restaurants, almost all of them were closed for the holiday. Finally, we found an IHOP and rejoiced at the sight of lights on inside and cars in the parking lot, so we stopped and got to the door before we saw the sign that indicated that they had closed at 2:00pm. It was 2:45 and those inside were apparently just finishing up. We were almost resigned to the idea of eating whatever we could find at a gas station when we noticed a parking lot full of cars. Even though we didn't have the roast duck and even though we were disappointed that we were not serenaded with "Fa ra ra ra ra's," we were truly grateful for the Golden China Restaurant where we could sit down for some nourishment on Christmas day.

Meanwhile, the storm had caught up with us and we had to take it easy once we got back on the interstate. We stopped in Alexandria to get the car we had left at my work so that we could return my Dad's car which we had borrowed for the trip to Michigan. Headed south again, but now Christy and I are driving separate cars, I've got a wide awake 3-year-old sitting directly behind me whom I am trying to keep entertained, I'm trying to keep one eye on the road in front of me and another eye on Christy in my rear-view mirror, all the while, the roads are not getting much better and we're running late for Christmas dinner with family.

Finally, the snow let up a little south of Anderson and we were able to make the rest of the trip without disaster.

We arrived at my parent's house several hours late, but were still able to get something to eat and visit with family. We were still a little miffed at not being serenaded at the Chinese place earlier in the day, but were relieved when my Dad and Uncle Billy got out their nose-flutes, providing musical entertainment of another snort, I mean sort.

Since we had arrived late, we also stayed later at Mom & Dad's than we usually would. Christy had to be back to work on Tuesday, so we really wanted to be home all day Monday to relax a little bit, so after transferring luggage, etc. from one car to the other, we headed back to Anderson and got home a little before 1:00am. It was a lot of driving for one day and we were exhausted, but we were glad to be home.

After last year's 10+ inches of Christmas snow and treacherous driving on Christmas day this year, I'm ready to go on record saying that "White Christmases" are definitely overrated.

Here are a few pictures from Christmas family gatherings:

Films Recently Watched:

Double Indemnity (1944) dir. by Billy Wilder
I love the dialogue in this picture.
For Example (Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, an unhappily married woman; Fred MacMurray is Walter Neff, a fast-talking insurance salesman):
Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He'll be in then.
Neff: Who?
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him weren't you?
Neff: Yeah, I was, but I'm sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Neff: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around ninety.
Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Neff: Suppose it doesn't take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Neff: That tears it.

For completely unrelated films, the plots of Double Indemnity and this next one, A Place In The Sun are strangely similar. Boy falls for unattainable girl. Unattainable girl falls for said boy. But there is an obstacle to boy and girl being together. Boy plots to remove (i.e. murder) said obstacle. Boy believes that he has successfully removed obstacle and gotten away with it. Just then, everything unravels.

A Place In The Sun (1951) dir. by George Stevens
Based on a true story (which I've already spoiled, for the most part for you, above), George Stevens' A Place In The Sun stars Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters. The film really puts you in the mind of George Eastman (Clift's character). You feel his angst, paranoia, fear, desires, etc. Well done.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) dir. by Stanley Kubrick

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson
This was my second viewing of this uncharacteristic Adam Sandler movie. There is something beautiful about this film, though I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) dir. by Terry Gilliam
Between this and Clockwork Orange, I think my little mind might be blown. I don't even know what to say. Anybody else seen this? This one may have been best summarized by a quote I saw on the IMDb, "It is as if Fellini directed a Cheech and Chong movie." Did I laugh? Yeah, a couple of times. Did I get it? No, I don't think so. But that's about what I get from what I've seen of Fellini, too, so, there ya go.

Goodfellas (1990) dir. by Martin Scorsese

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Page-a-day Madness!

My Dad Got me a Dilbert page-a-day calendar for Christmas. I've got it on my desk at work.

It's driving me crazy! I'm having a hard time only looking at one per day.

Am I the only one who has this affliction? Anybody ever give in and read weeks worth of pages in one day? Did this action meet with swift doom? I haven't given in yet. Just wondering.

I had my last page-a-day calendar a couple of years ago and it was origami and I didn't have this problem. Maybe I should fold yesterday's Dilbert page into a swan or something.

What about weekends? Do you read them Friday evening or Monday morning? Are there rules?
If there is a series of strips with cliff-hangers, I might just keel over!

Oh, and don't miss the Dilbert Blog.

Films Recently Watched:
Cinderella Man (2005) dir. by Ron Howard
Christy and I tried several times to see this when it was in theaters last year, but it never worked out. Christy got the DVD as a Christmas present. My girl loves her some boxing movies! We both liked this one, actually. I don't think it did very well at the box office, but it is really a pretty solid film from director, Ron Howard. Russell Crowe pitched this hard to Howard when they were making A Beautiful Mind a few years ago. You can see why right away. It's a good part for Crowe and he does an exellent job playing down-and-out boxer Jim Braddock. Other than Crowe and Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti (pictured, above right) is particularly strong in this one. The inspirational sports story set during the depression reminded us both of Seabiscuit. Definitely worth a rental.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) dir. by Mel Stuart

King Kong (1933) dir. by Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
After seeing the new Peter Jackson remake, I really wanted to see this. This is another one of those classic films that is such an icon -- so much a part of our popular culture, that one might believe there is no need to actually see the movie. Having seen the newer before the older (we won't discuss the 1976 version), I can say that I wish I'd done it the other way around. There is no doubt that Peter Jackson is a fan of Cooper & Schoedsack's original as there are several references to it in Jackson's new film. These were lost on me and would probably be lost on anybody not familiar with the '33 version. Overall, I've got to say that I prefer the 2005 Kong over the original. I hope that I can appreciate the feat of accomplishment in visual effects that is represented by the original, but even beyond the advancements in technology, Peter Jackson's Kong is simply a more nuanced presentation of the story. More accessible; yes, but also more moving, though I'm sure, some would say, emotionally manipulative. For me, it works. I recommend you see both and decide for yourselves! The recent 2-disc DVD is the first for this film on DVD and leaves only 2 films from the AFI's 100 Films list that are not yet available on DVD: The African Queen (1951--#17) and The Jazz Singer (1927--#90), though both are said to be in production.

The Spiral Staircase (1946) dir. by Robert Siodmak