Thursday, July 13, 2006

Holiday Weekend

The weekend preceding the July 4th holiday was kind of like a mini vacation for us. We didn't travel far, but Christy and I both managed to get Monday off from work and we were both off for July 4th anyway, so with a five day weekend ahead of us and no definite plans for a vacation later this summer, we decided to have some fun.

First step -- get rid of the kid.

Seriously, though, we had a standing offer for some free babysitting from some good friends at church, so we decided to take them up on it. They have two young children of their own, so Hannah always has a good time with them.

After dropping Hannah off, Christy and I headed to Indianapolis with a simple itinerary: dinner & a show.

We ended up at Maggiano's Little Italy in Keystone. Nice atmosphere, good food, though less than stellar service. YMMV.

Currently in theaters is a 'Somewhere in Time-ish' movie about a man and a woman separated by time who fall in love despite the obvious supernatural obstacles. It's called 'The Lake House' and stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. When discussing the movie we wanted to see, this one came up, but Christy said, "What about 'Superman'?" Add this to a long list of reasons why I love my wife. So we saw 'Superman Returns'. More below on that.

Saturday, we took the luxurious opportunity to sleep in and then got brunch at Cracker Barrel (we don't often go there with Hannah).

After I passed slow-poke Christy twice at the local go-cart place, it was time to go pick up Hannah. One of her friends with whom she had spent the night had a "birthday" a few days before and was having a pool/birthday party at her Grandpa's house with a few other friends, so that's where we picked her up. She was very proud of "swimming all by herself," though the vest and water wings she was wearing were probably doing the lion's share of the floating involved.

Later that evening, we went out to the local Putt-Putt place. This was the first time that Hannah actually played miniature golf. She was patient for the first couple of holes, but quickly grew tired of this silly game. I don't think she quite grasps the concept yet. Eventually, she would just hit the ball once, go pick it up, and then drop it in the hole with a look like, "are you happy, now?" :-)

On Sunday after church, we attended our annual Stockwell Family 4th of July celebration. Hannah got to go swimming again, along with lots of cousins. Always fun to be with extended family and I'm so glad that we haven't given up on these gatherings. My brother-in-law, Todd and his adolescent assistants did a good job with our own private display of a few fireworks. This was the first year in a long time that we set off fireworks that fly into the air or explode thanks to a recent change to Indiana's fireworks laws which legalizes all but larger explosives.

Monday, we did some shopping in Indianapolis. We also discovered a deli in Indy called McAlister's. Good food, good Sweet Tea. And - it had been awhile, so we couldn't resist stopping at Coldstone Creamery even though Hannah was tuckered out by then and was already asleep in the backseat. I was very pleased to see that they had their cake batter ice cream flavor back.

Later that evening I took Christy and Hannah to see Cars. For some reason, Hannah was convinced that the main character, Lightning McQueen, was a girl. This created some confusion during the show. I couldn't figure it out until a friend from work suggested that Hannah may have been confused by Lightning's last name, McQueen - Queen = girl; Right? Don't know that's the case, but it makes sense, at least.

Anyway, I was glad to see this film again. There's a lot there. Visually, I noticed several things that I missed the first time, and I am certain that there are more details yet to be seen -- that's Pixar. Another thing that the film has a lot of is - heart. If story is #1 at Pixar, then characters are a close second. The tow-truck, Mater, is among Pixar's best characters in all of their films.

It was also interesting to see this movie again after hearing the recent News stories about the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System since it plays such a big part of the story.

Final item about Cars -- I read about a book called, The Art of Cars, over at Ward's Blog, and was fortunate enough to find the book at my library. It's really cool to see the research that Pixar did for this movie.

Tuesday, we all went to a parade in Chesterfield. Lots of the vehicles, floats, etc. throw out candy, so Hannah had a blast retrieving what got close enough for her to grab. Later, we grilled out. Let's see, it's the 4th of July -- what to do? Parade? Check! -- Barbecue? Check! -- what else would make the day complete? Oh! Fireworks, but we didn't make it to any big fireworks shows on the 4th thanks to our recent arrival into the world of Daylight Savings Time added to our Western location in our time zone which made the start time for most fireworks shows 10pm because it doesn't get dark enough until then to light them up. {grumble, grumble}

All in all -- A good weekend!

Films Recently Watched:

Stalag 17 (1953) dir. by Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder's films are among those that I went too long without seeing.

For me, just about all of his films I've seen within that last couple of years have had that "wow" factor that is missing from many other films, even some that are widely considered "great."

These are several of Wilder's films I've seen recently that I can highly recommend:
Double Indemnity (1944)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Sabrina (1954)
The Apartment (1960)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
--and now, adding this film, --
Stalag 17 (1953)

In this one, William Holden stars as a cynical Prisoner of War among barracks full of Sergeants one of whom is an informant to their German captors. I was expecting that Wilder's hallmark; sharp, witty, and fast-paced dialogue might get bogged down in the setting of a POW camp during WWII, but it really doesn't. The casting is excellent and all of the main actors pull off their respective roles. A potentially confusing plotline is explained clearly to the viewer thanks to Wilder's excellent direction.

Some would argue that this film should not be labeled, "Comedy." I agree that if I was only allowed to put this film into a single category, it would have to be War, but close behind would be Adventure, Drama, and yes, Comedy. To me, the film was clearly intended to be funny -- sounds like a comedy to me.

Sometimes, the best films defy categorization.

Minority Report (2002) dir. by Stephen Spielberg

Superman Returns (2006) dir. by Bryan Singer
I love that Singer chose to use the existing films as a departure point. The new guy, Brandon Routh, nails the awkwardness of the Clark Kent character, and, in many ways pays homage to the late great Christopher Reeve. I really enjoyed the movie. Christy also enjoyed the parts through which she didn't sleep. Poor thing, we got a late start that Friday night and ended up catching a 10:15 show of a 2.5 hour movie. She was awake at the beginning and the end, but missed some bits in the middle. I guess I'll have to get the DVD when it comes out.

Downfall (2004) dir. by Oliver Hirschbiegel
This is in German with burnt-in English subtitles. There is not an English audio dub on this. If this doesn't frighten you away, I highly recommend this film. It's about the final weeks of World War II from the perspective of Hitler and those unfortunate enough to be with him in his bunker.

Cars (2006) dir. by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft

Midnight Cowboy (1969) dir. by John Schlesinger

Fever Pitch (2005) dir. by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Christy and I both enjoyed this. Something for everyone.

Zatôichi (2003) dir. by Takeshi Kitano
This is a riot! There is a hilarious sequence that could be straight out of a Three Stooges episode - if they weren't speaking Japanese, and fighting with swords, and wearing samurai robes -- anyway, it had me laughing. Excellent swordfighting sequences but be aware that the bloodspurts are intentionally overdone throughout. Kind of 'Kill Bill' meets 'Seven Samurai.' I also enjoyed the percussive sequences where a group of extras is working in a field or building a house, but with cool rhythmic timing. A little odd, but it worked for me.

This DVD does have both the original Japanese and an English dub. I watched this with the Japanese audio and English subtitles and I can tell you the humor absolutely comes through.

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