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Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie Review - The Proposal (2009)

Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, Malin Ackerman, and Betty White
Written by Peter Chiarelli
Directed by Anne Fletcher

I always kind of thought Sandra Bullock was attractive. Ever since Speed, I always liked her personality onscreen and off, despite the fact that she really hasn't starred in a bunch of good movies. So, I'll be completely honest here...I was looking forward to seeing this movie for some strange reason.

Bullock is Margaret Tate, an editor at a prestigious New York publishing company who is loathed and feared by all her employees. Her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) puts up with her only because he longs to be an editor someday and also wants a manuscript of his published. Maggie gets some awful news and is told that she is being deported back to Canada because her visa has expired. On the fly, Maggie announces that she and Andrew are marrying each other. A reluctant Andrew agrees only because Maggie agrees to help him advance in his career. In order to learn more about each other (and to prove to the INS agent that they truly are a couple), they travel to Andrew's hometown in Alaska (because things are always funnier when it's cold) and meet his wacky relatives.

The worst part of the film (and I must allow my fellow moviegoer to take credit for this) is that Maggie becomes a complete dunce as soon as she steps on the plane to Alaska. She can't wheel her luggage around; she can't walk down a ladder; she can't walk in high heels. Somehow, moving Maggie out of her "comfort zone" of NYC makes her turn into this completely idiotic bitch rather than just a complete bitch. That being said, that was really my only problem with the flick.

I actually felt like there was some chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds and both of them were perfectly fine in their roles -- even though I despised the idiocy of Bullock's character, that's not her fault. Reynolds was quite good and provided quite a bit of laughs with his dry sense of humor. The supporting cast was also certainly above par -- Craig T. Nelson (Coach!) and Mary Steenburgen were both fine as Andrew's parents, and Betty White is always a joy to watch (even if she was given some awful lines to spout). In addition, there's an amusing turn from Oscar Nuñez (best known from tv's The Office) as a jack of all trades in the small Alaskan town.

I did discover a new cinematic crush while watching this film. Joining the club that currently has Amy Adams as a member is Malin Ackerman. She plays Gertrude, Andrew's ex-girlfriend, who still holds a special place in his heart. This relationship between Andrew and Gertrude was actually a very pleasant surprise. Typically ex-girlfriends are simply portrayed as "desperate to get back their man," but this relationship was actually quite sweet.

I could certainly have just been dumb, but I wasn't quite sure where the film was headed at the end...Andrew could have easily ended up with either Maggie or Gertrude or neither. I won't spoil it for you here. The fact that it wasn't spelled out completely ahead of time was definitely nice.

Now, the movie's not perfect. Many laughs fall flat, and, like I said above, Maggie's character is pretty godawful. But, overall, it's an adequate romantic comedy.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Movie Review - Imagine That (2009)

Starring Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, and Yara Shahidi
Written by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson
Directed by Karey Kilpatrick

I don't know what it says about our society when children's movies start to have their stories revolve around the stock market and insider trading. I sure as hell know that I would've had no idea about that industry when I was nine (let alone now at twenty-nine). Unfortunately, similar to this movie, Imagine That is another case of "who are they aiming this movie towards?" There's no raunchiness and it's certainly tame, but there's very little here that would keep kids occupied.

Eddie Murphy is Evan Danielson, a stocks trader who appears to be well on his way to a successful, high profile career. However, in his firm, he's got some competition from Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) for the top spot. Whitefeather has a new approach to the firm's clients, focusing on his Native American background, that they love. When the owner of the firm announces his retirement, he says that either Evan or Johnny will get his spot and they must prove their worth within the next week.

For some reason, Evan begins to fall apart and can't seem to focus. Lucky for him, he brings his daughter Olivia to the office one day and discovers that her imaginary friends are able to pick stocks that prove successful. A series of "funny" events happen before Evan realizes that perhaps it's not the blanket that's helping him and that he's had the knowledge inside of him all along (I know, I know...total spoiler there, huh?).

Honestly, I didn't dislike this movie. That being said, I didn't really like it all that much either. Eddie Murphy could play this role in his sleep. He was acting like he has in every other "kid" movie he's been in since his "resurgence" in the last 15 years. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't particularly good. Thomas Haden Church's Johnny Whitefeather actually provided me with the most laughs. There's one scene in particular with him and his son that I found quite amusing. It certainly helps that Yara Shahidi who plays Olivia was quite good. She never seemed to cloying and she certainly held her own with the adults with whom she shared the screen. Don't even get me started, though, on Bobb'e J. Thompson...I try not to be mean to children, but I hate this kid with a passion. Why people keep giving this obnoxious joker roles (even if the role is less than five minutes long as it in this flick) is beyond me.

The movie is about 30 minutes too long, and the unfortunate thing is that it just isn't a kid-friendly story (the movie is peppered with Beatles covers which also had me asking myself, "Does a nine year-old know who the Beatles are?" Why put only Beatles songs in the movie?). I appreciate the fact that a movie comes out of Nickelodeon Studios with very little bathroom humor and minimal foul language, but this simply isn't a movie kids would enjoy. And, unfortunately, it's a little too basic for an adult to enjoy either.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I'm Listening To - "Whyyawannabringmedown" by Kelly Clarkson

**Reposted**For some reason, this page was making it so I couldn't look at my blog without it freezing up while on vacation, so I had to remove it.**

Despite the fact that it's the highest rated show on television, I understand that's uncool musically to say that you listen to music from artists that have found success from American Idol. But, as you likely know, I'm not exactly the epitome of "cool" (at least musically...you all know that I exude coolness in all other areas of my life). So, that's why Kelly Clarkson pops up as an artist that I'm listening to. She released her newest album -- All I Ever Wanted -- a few months ago, but I just got around to listening to it within the last three weeks or so. The album itself is a mix of pop, techno, and rock that doesn't necessarily work as a whole. As individual songs, however, these lightweight tunes are all pretty good (if you're into that "lightweight pop" kinda thing.

To me, the track that stood out is decidedly the most "rock" I've ever heard Clarkson sing. Take a listen to "Whyyawannabringmedown" below.
I will say that the sound quality of the youtube videos I could find of this one were not stellar, so on the actual album, it sounds quite a bit better. Apparently it's one of Clarkson's favorite songs from the album and I'm perfectly okay if she heads for this "rock-ier" direction rather than the techno-ish pop route.

Then again, that techno-y pop thing is where she's most well known. The first single of of the new album "My Life Would Suck Without You" kind of goes that route (not quite techno, but it's got the driving beat of that genre, in my opinion). I must admit that it took me a bit to warm up to the song, but now I enjoy it quite a bit.

Yeah, I realize that these aren't necessarily "classic" pop songs, but I'm enjoying them at the moment and I guess that's all that matters, right?

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Year of Firsts

The year of firsts continues with a bunch of unexciting things...
  • Went to my first "away game" for a Philadelphia sports team -- at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Went to my first sporting event inside of a dome
And, ate the following (to the best of my knowledge) for the first time (I know, I lived a very sheltered life):
  • Key Lime Pie
  • Tofu
  • Rice Noodles
  • Guacamole

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Angry Old Man Rant #2

So, my 16-year old cousin from Hawaii is in town with us for several weeks during the summer. This is not a rant about relatives visiting for extended periods of time...he's a good kid, so no problems there.

However, early one evening I walked in from work and my cousin was asleep on the sofa with the television on. I wasn't really paying attention to what channel it was on, but then suddenly, I hear this guy say something about "talking about sex in front of your parents" and my ears perked up. He then went on to say some moderately surprising things about sex (the details of which I honestly don't remember, but I do recall being surprised at what I was hearing). The thing of it was that I was hearing these things at 7pm at night. I wondered what channel this was on and discovered that the bastion of pop culture, MTV, was the station.

Now, the prude in me is gonna come out here. Do I really need to have (as I would soon discover) relationship expert Dr. Drew explaining sex to teenagers at 7pm in the evening. Okay, I can understand if you put the show on at 10pm, but 7pm? Really?

Whether it be talking about sex or Sacha Baron Cohen's bare ass tipping precariously close to Eminem's face during the MTV Movie Awards (let's not even get into discussing that Twilight-fest), MTV is the epitome of what is wrong with youth and the values they covet.

In this "me-me-me" culture, MTV does all it can to promote wrecklessness (this is the station thought made Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass buddies stars for 15 minutes)...I could go onto the rant about "Where's the music," but I'll save that for another day.

As a matter of fact, I think I may examine this station a little closer. So, for the time being, this is really just a "surface rant." I haven't dug deep enough here to prove my point. Maybe sometime in the near future I may watch a day of MTV and see what I learn. Will I learn about my parents' first sexual encounter (because Dr. Drew said I would if I watched his show)? And, if I did become knowledgeable about such a thing, would I tear off my ears and gouge out my eyes after I learned it?

FYI...No MTV in the most Magical Place on Earth...they know better...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Big Academy Awards Change

The big news today is that apparently the Motion Picture Academy has changed the Best Picture category to include ten nominees this year, rather than five.  On one hand, it's kind of interesting in that movies like Up (undeservedly) and Star Trek (also probably undeservedly, although more deserving than Up) might get an opportunity to vie for the big prize this year.  On the other hand, it kind of dilutes the honor of being a Best Picture nominee.  

Long ago, at the start of the Academy Awards, I believe there were ten nominees, but they dropped that after a few years.

I don't know...thoughts?  One of you might care and have an opinion.

Dome Sweet Dome (Or Not)

[I didn't realize how long this was going to be when I started...seriously...it's like a novel...I realize no one will likely make it through this but a select few of you...sorry...I kinda just want this for my "records/memory/etc." as well...]

So, I went to my first Phillies away game here in Florida this evening and apparently, I need to travel 15 hours to see the Phils win (because they sure as heck never win when I go and see them at home...except when it really matters like World Series games ;-) ).  Old man Jamie Moyer pitched an excellent game and the Phils offense blasted the Rays 10-1.

Anyway, it was certainly an experience at Tropicana Field.  It was the first time I've ever been to a dome stadium, and as I saw it from the highway initially, I couldn't help but think that it looked like a giant baseball cap.  It even had the "buttony" thing you'd find atop a hat.  Regardless, it wasn't necessarily a pretty sight.  But, as we pull into the incredibly small parking lot, we are told that since there are four people in our car, we don't have to pay for parking.  Can't beat that, right?  The joy of carpooling, I guess.  Can you imagine Philly doing something like that?  I think not.  As we got out of the car, it was the only time we were heckled (of course, all four of us -- my dad, two brothers, and myself -- were adorned in Phillies regalia...had to shove it in the Rays' face).  It was a simple, sarcastic "Go Phillies!" followed by a laugh.  Gee, very clever.  Walking up to the baseball cap -- I mean, stadium -- we trekked across a 200+ foot long tile artwork of sea life...kinda effeminate and unsportslike.

After getting our tickets, we walked into the dome and attempted to find our seats.  The problem with the dome is that since there is essentially no seating in the outfield (you see, you've gotta have space for the "pet the sting ray" exhibits out there in centerfield), you've got to trek all the way around the building in order to even find a stairway to get to your seats if you're sitting in the upper decks...and of course, we were sitting in the highest level possible.  A flaw in the design, for sure.  And then, when you finally find the stairs to get up to the upper levels, there is literally only one escalator that you can use to get up there.  One frickin' escalator?  Then again, when you don't have any fans, it really doesn't matter, I guess.

So anyway, we arrive at our seats behind home plate (essentially the same 300 level seats we have at our Phils games).  By this point, it was halfway through the first inning and the Phils had three runs on the board and the Rays fans that were there were already mellowed out and done with the game.  By the time the first inning was over, John Mayberry (in for "my boy," the ailing Raul Ibanez) had hit a three-run homer as well, and the annoying obnoxious cowbell ringing by the Rays fans was already being drowned out by the Phillies fans scattered throughout the dome.  (Note: why cowbells?  It has nothing to do with a sting ray.  Why not carry around a bunch of those singing hang-on-the-wall bass fish?  At least that's sea-related.)

Let's examine the innards of the dome for a minute, shall we?  At the top of the dome there's a white tarp essentially.  There are holes cut out of the tarp where various support poles go through, but it's essentially a tarp.  And the weird thing is, from the outside of the stadium, it looks like it's a tarp as well.  So, are there two tarps?  I can't imagine there's not something sturdier creating the dome-like top, but all you could really see from the inside and outside was a tarp-like thing (you couldn't see the sky from inside the building, obviously...so is it two tarps?  I'm sure I could research, but at the moment, I'm not going to).  Anyway, so I remembered from the World Series last year that there were catwalks around the upper portions of the dome and we got to see a ball hit those damn catwalks tonight.  Talk about annoying.  And don't even get me started on the white baseball blending right in with the white tarps.  I don't know how the outfielders see the damn thing.  

As far as the concourses throughout the dome, they were okay, but it didn't feel like a baseball stadium.  They had fake brick façades all around the thing, but they were fake brick façades...it wasn't "real" or "authentic." They had plenty of tvs around, but some of them were showing...wait for it...Access Hollywood.  That's right...nothing like watching Access Hollywood while at a baseball game.  If that doesn't tell how much Tampa fans don't give a shit, then I don't know what will.  I will say that the food selection was better here than in Philly.  There was an Outback in the park with surprisingly moderately priced selections (no steak, obviously, but other stuff from their menu).  But get this...they gave you a bag with handles to carry your food in.  A bag with handles at a ballpark?  Never in Philly!  (I kid...but only sort of.)

Alright, so I've described the look of the stadium, but now let's get to the best part -- the fact that I was essentially watching a minor league Wilmington Blue Rocks game at a professional Major League Baseball stadium.  I'm not talking about the Rays awful fielding (3-4 errors tonight) or their inability to hit the ball.  I'm talking about the stuff that went on in between innings.  Let's discuss...
  • The Chicken Dance-Off -- You all know the Chicken Dance -- you know that awful thing you're forced to do at weddings because newlywed couples apparently think it's funny to force people to participate in ridiculous group dances [Please note Future Wife -- there will be no group dances at any wedding I'm a part of].  Well, here at Tropicana Field, they have the Chicken Dance-Off where one person from two adjoining sections of the stadium dances the Chicken Dance on the big board and whoever dances it the best gets to take home a coupon for free wings from Checkers.  Now, as if that wasn't bad enough to watch it on the big screen, apparently, all Rays fans think that it's fun to do the dance, too.  So, all around us, folks were doing the Chicken Dance.  You really think that's fun?  Never in Philly! (You'll see that phrase pop up often here.)
  • Next, it's these guys:They race from third base to home in a completely pre-staged race.  Last night, Mr. Pepsi made it all the way to home plate, turned around right at the last second to flaunt his victory, and Mr. Aquafina made a bounding leap across the finish line to take the victory.  Someone in some row won something.  Really?  How frickin' ridiculous is that?  The Rays fans ate it up.  In Philly, they'd throw bottles at them (see here for proof).
  • Spot the Cow -- Yep...this one was sponsored by Chick-Fil-A.  Somewhere in the stadium is a giant cow (similar to the Pepsi product bottles above).  There is a Rays fan in the outfield in front of one of the Rays' television cameras.  This fan has 15 seconds to move the camera, find the cow, and zoom in on him.  If he succeeds, he gets a prize pack from Chick-Fil-A.  The guy failed.  No prize pack for him.  Utter dumbfoundness for me.
  • Don't Smoke -- The last two/three innings were filled with "Don't Smoke" PSA's.  "Don't Smoke, Don't Chew [tobacco], Blah, Blah, Blah."  I'm fine with that...I hate the smell of a cigarette.  [Now, a pipe I might be able to latch on to...I can see myself sitting on some leather chair in my study with gray hair and a pipe in my hand speaking with a slight accent and saying things like "fine chap" and "good man" thirty-plus years from now.]  But, the silly thing is they pick some kid out of the crowd to say "I Don't Smoke" and then they kinda sorta ridicule him when he says "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do any of that stuff."  What did you want him to say exactly?  Don't make fun of the kid!  Never in Philly ('Cuz in Philly they'd have a tough enough time finding a kid that could say that in the first place)!
  • And the person that made fun of the kid was our friendly emcee who was with us every frickin' inning, hosting these ridiculous "games."  He was annoying as could be.
I haven't even mentioned the worst part of the dome...not being outside.  You'd think that being in a dome, they'd have the air pumping through that baby.  However, at about the third inning, I turned to my youngest brother and said, "Is it hot in here or just me?"  He said it was hot, which made me feel better since I thought I might've been getting a fever.  When my other brother came back from getting dinner from Outback (with the effeminate bag as I mentioned above), he said that he thought he was getting a fever, too.  You've created a dome, people!  Keep it climate-controlled!  Isn't that the point?

Anyway, overall, despite the complaints, I had a really great time.  It was an enjoyable diversion from this sweet, sugary vacation from the Happiest Place on Earth.  Rays fans were nice (and the Phillies fans there were incredibly pleasant, too).  The atmosphere, while certainly minor league, provided much laughter.  And the Phils won.  What more could I have asked for?  Sure, I missed sitting outside at Citizens Bank Park, watching the good old Septa races and longing for Bobble Red to slide into home on the big screen...but it was fun to shove a victory in the Rays fans' faces again.  When we were walking out to our car at the end of the game, it was a hoot to hear a Rays fan yell, "You Phillies only won the World Series because of the weather!" (obviously referencing this).  Um, as my brother said (and I'm paraphrasing here), I think we kicked your ass tonight in a climate-controlled dome, so shove it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I'm Listening To - "I Get Around" by Dragonette

A buddy convinced me to join last.fm -- a website that essentially tracks the music that you're listening to on your iPod or via iTunes (that link above will take you to my homepage on the site). While it's embarrassing enough to see Hanson's "Where's the Love" or Britney Spears' "Toxic" pop up multiple times (both of which have been "favorited" on the website by me...you will never convince me that those two songs aren't pop classics), it also has revealed one song as a clear favorite of mine in recent weeks.

I had never heard of the Canadian electropop band Dragonette prior to a few months ago, but their song "I Get Around" is my number one played song of the past two months. Take a look at the low budget video below...but be warned of mild lesbianism (I can see the guys clicking on the video as quickly as possible now...just so you're not disappointed, I did say mild lesbianism)...

Alright, so the video's nothing great, but I love the retro pop sound. Had you asked me six months ago, I likely would've hated this song, but I'm probably getting corrupted by outside forces like my brother.

Below is another song of theirs - "Get Lucky" - that has quite a different sound...much more innocent and "folksy" (although not really folksy at all, but much less "electronic sounding" than the song above).

Certainly a different sound than previous "What I'm Listening To" posts have shown of my musical tastes.

Jon Minus Kate Plus Eight Sad Little Kids

So I just posted my Jon and Kate Gosselin book review two days ago, and I get home from an exciting day at The Most Magical Place on Earth and find out they're divorcing.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, I don't really give a hoot, but for a couple whose book focused entirely too much on religion and faith and God, I find it a little hypocritical that they're headed for divorce.  I'm not saying that religious folk shouldn't divorce, and of course, I have no idea of the inner workings of their household and I have not watched any of the show this season, but it was obvious throughout the course of the show that Kate was more than a little harsh on her hubby (oftentimes unjustly so).  Still, where's the counseling?  Lord knows that wasn't shown on television.  

And what gets me even more is that in this Associated Press article, Kate proudly touts that "the show MUST go on."  Really, you don't want to spend time alone with your EIGHT young kids?  It's all about the Benjamins, I guess (yes, I really just used that terminology.  Maybe I'll bring that back along with "chillax").  As a matter of fact, I think that's what pisses me off the most about the whole thing.  Forget about the hypocritical nature of throwing aside the devout religious aspect of your life, but you're really gonna keep doing the show simply because it's bringing in the dough?  You're really gonna keep doing your book tours?  Forget about the fact that those things contributed (largely?) to the downfall of your marriage.  I don't know, but it screams sleazy and cheap and wrong to me.

Please note that I really don't care all that much and the only reason I'm blogging about it is because I just wrote the book review, but it irks me even more now having read the book.  

Lies!  Lies!  All lies, I tell you!

...Maybe I just need to chillax...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day (Sort Of) [A Semi-Angry Old Man Rant]

So I'm on vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth and it's frickin' hot.  Central Florida is breaking records today...hitting triple digits most likely.  Combine that heat with the onslaught of big crowds and obnoxious Brazilian tour groups and the Happiest Place on Earth becomes slightly unhappy.

Nevertheless, the real reason for this post is the frustration (I guess that's the best word) that hit me when I'm walking around the Happiest Place on Earth, strolling by all these chipper Cast Members who decide to wish me "Happy Fathers' Day" today.  I totally get that I'm well into the age where I could certainly be a father, but how am I supposed to react to that?  "Um...no, I'm not."  Which then gets the response from a Cast Member, "Well, you could be, so Happy Fathers' Day anyway."  Wow.  Gee.  Thanks.

I mean, it's not like it's depressing or anything that I'm not a father, but it just brings up the whole "What am I doing with my life" thing again...writing a blog?

I knew I shoulda shaved my goatee before I came down here...maybe it woulda made me look a few years younger.

Anyway, Happy Fathers' Day to those of you who are fathers...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Book a Week - Multiple Bles8ings

Book Twenty-Eight of the Book-a-Week Quest

Multiple Bles8ings
by Jon & Kate Gosselin and Beth Carson (2008)

My younger brother hooked me on the television show Jon and Kate Plus Eight a few years ago.  The kids -- a set of twins and sextuplets -- were just so darn cute, it was tough not to watch.  Over the past year, even before the scandals and threats of affairs and divorce between the two elder Gosselins, my interest in the show was waning.  I don't know why, but my fascination with the inner workings of the family were gone.

Nevertheless, I bought this book as a Christmas present for my brother and I told myself I was saving this for my vacation as I knew it was going to be an easy read.  And I was correct...it certainly was.

I could've written this book -- by that I mean that it was a very simple read that contained a lack of big words and grammatical sentence structure that was utterly normal.  Not a problem, per se, but I just wanted to make it known that it wasn't anything fancy here (I'm assuming that it's possible that two people that read this blog may want to borrow this once I return from vacation).

Reading the book in light of the recent scandals was somewhat painful.  Passages like "Many times I would explode at Jon...Our five years of marriage felt like a thin crust of ice on a frozen pond" took on new meaning now.  Reading Kate talking about the love for her brother who just recently went on talk shows denouncing the family's involvement in keeping the show on the air was just an odd juxtaposition.  It's just tough to read the book now, read the passages on Jon and Kate's relationship, and believe that it's true.  I understand that marriages can fall apart and I completely get that when this was written maybe everything was true, but reading the book now, certain passages rang false.

The book focuses very heavily on Jon and Kate's relationship with God and while it didn't bother me in the slightest, the fact that it was published by a religious book publisher should probably be known prior to anyone else picking up the book.  I honestly felt like the book leaned a little too much on religion -- I don't mean that in a negative way, except to say that I would've liked to have learned more about the inner workings of their life, rather than reading about how God pulled Kate through the difficult time.  [Reading this paragraph seems harsh and I don't mean it to come across that way -- I'm a religious person as well, so I don't mean that in a negative manner except that it kind of ruined the flow of the book.]

So, if you're interested in learning about the first year of the sextuplets' life (I mean you -- "Anonymous" and Amanda), this book is certainly something to read.  Otherwise, I'm sure you didn't make it this far into the review anyway. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Movie Review - Clue (1985)

Starring Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Leslie Ann Warren
Written and Directed by Jonathan Lynn

It had been a long time since I'd seen this comedy and, as I plugged in the dvd, I wondered if it would hold up after a few years.

The good news is that it does and I found that the comedy is incredibly clever and much of the humor stems from witty wordplay.

All of the actors (who, let's be honest here, you have likely heard of, but aren't exactly stars) are quite engaging. This cast of characters arrives at an imposing mansion and people start turning up dead. Similar to the board game, the goal here is to determine who killed these folks, in what room, and with what implement of death.

If you haven't seen this movie, it's a nice hidden gem that, while nothing incredibly special, is certainly smart. Plus (while I don't want to ruin anything for those who haven't seen it), the way the film ends is genius.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Year of Firsts

It's been ages since I've posted anything under this headline and this isn't anything really life-changing or anything (like eating sushi for the first time was?), but it was really cool nevertheless.

- I saw how an IMAX projector works for the first time. Obviously, I'm around actual film and projectors all the time, but seeing how these massive projection systems work was pretty cool. The film itself is so much larger than normal film and the projector is much larger than a normal 35mm projector. The fact that the projector needs to have both a fan and a water-cooling system in it to keep the temperature at a certain level tells you how huge this system is. I could go on and on about the differences (and how I'd never want to have to deal with it at our theater), but that would likely bore all but one of you reading this now. Nevertheless, it was mighty nifty.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Book a Week - Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here

Book Twenty-Seven of the Book-A-Week Quest

Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here:
Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume
by David Verklin and Bernice Kanner (2007)

The problem with books that discuss technology is that they're seemingly out-of-date by the time they get published. That's not necessarily the case here, as co-authors Verklin and Kanner spend 200+ pages discussing how the public is constantly bombarded by advertisements in the ever-changing billion dollar global marketing industry. Even though it may not contain antiquated info, I never felt like I was reading anything that I didn't already know.

Advertisers are really putting product placement in movies? They're really finding success in such placement since, in this TiVo age, people simply fast-forward through commercials? You're telling me that you can get advertisements sent to your cell phone now? And "spam" is a new advertising frontier? What? Craziness!

By the time I got halfway through the book, I felt like I was reading the same stuff over and over again. Considering that Verklin worked (or works...I can't remember) for a huge advertising company and he was known as the advertising guy for years, he says nothing negative about the insidiousness of advertising in our society today because he's a part of it himself -- he's the one that helped create the calculating methods of the advertising industry of today. In fact, he's constantly talking up this Carat Industries as a leader in advertising. Lo and behold, I read the cover and guess who works for Carat Industries?

Something a little more hard-hitting would've been nice.

NOTE: I could be wrong, but I think this is my first non-fiction book on the list (Yes, I read Night, but I guess I mean non-fiction in terms of "not telling any type of story".)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coming Attractions - Scary Movie Edition

Shutter Island

I've actually never looked forward to a Scorsese movie before, but I'm kinda digging the ghost vibe here. Plus, I'm a big Emily Mortimer fan, so that's a plus, and Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kinglsey are just added bonuses.

The Final Destination

This is The Final Destination (although, we all know that although that article kind of makes it sound like it's the last of the series, you can bet that it won't be)...yes, I know it'll be awful, but I moderately enjoyed this series, despite its utter ridiculousness...


There's something wrong with Esther...sure, it looks like a remake of the Macaulay Culkin "classic" The Good Son, but I'm itching to see this one...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Most Magical Place on Earth

I may be going to the place in the title, but I'll still be blogging...'cuz I know you were all on the edge of your seat wondering that...

At least every other day, I'll be posting something...an "Angry Old Man" rant here...a "What I'm Listening To" post there...a review of a 80s comedy "classic(?)"...and I didn't even get to the Jon and Kate Plus Eight book review yet (poor, poor kids...)...

So, although you'll miss me, it's like I'll still be here. I can't leave the five people that read this with nothing to do...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Movie Review - Terminator Salvation (2009)

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, and Bryce Dallas Howard
Written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris
Directed by McG
Up front, I should say that if you actually sit back and think about this movie, you're going to hate it. There's really nothing here we haven't seen before and considering that this is really a prequel to all the Terminator movies (despite the fact that it takes place in a future after those movies...confused yet?), there's not really any doubt how things are going to turn out.

That being said, I enjoyed the two hours spent watching this popcorn flick. As we know from previous Terminators, John Connor is going to save the human race from the evil Skynet robots that have seemingly taken over the world. As the head of the Resistance, John Connor (initials=J.C.=Jesus Christ?) will be the leader that will save the people and he needs to make sure that Kyle Reese is around to go back in time and sleep with Connor's mom so that Connor's mom can have Connor. Got it? If not, go watch the first three flicks prior to watching this one.

Director McG did a surprisingly decent job with the action sequences. Right off the bat there's an action shot of a helicopter lifting off and then crashing that is seemingly done with a single camera shot with no cuts (I'm sure computers played a huge role here). That kind of impressed me from the get go. McG manages to create taut action sequences without lowering himself to the nonstop Michael Bay editing or the shaky camera that's been a staple of movies of late.

Sure, the story is lacking and full of ridiculously large holes and improbablities. Towards the end, John Connor is able to infiltrate the Skynet headquarters with nary a robot in sight to take him down. And don't even get me started on the multiple opportunities to kill Kyle Reese that fall by the wayside.

And leads Christian Bale and Sam Worthington are so one-note they are laughable. Bale is just rehashing his guttural growl from Batman, and Worthington (who is this guy exactly?) seriously switched from no accent to an Australian accent halfway through the movie.

Still, despite those pretty major flaws (flaws that would ruin other flicks), I enjoyed myself due in large part to McG's taut direction of the action scenes. I actually thought they were more exciting and just as well shot as those in the admittedly better Star Trek which came out earlier this summer.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Monday, June 08, 2009

Movie Review - The Hangover (2009)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Heather Graham
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Directed by Todd Phillips

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore also penned this summer's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which, if you'll look at my review, you'll see I wasn't incredibly fond of. These guys, unfortunately, didn't improve upon that experience for me with The Hangover. While certainly raunchier, the flick doesn't really have a heart or a soul or a reason to give a damn about these four guys who visit Vegas for a bachelor party, get totally wasted, can't remember a thing that happened to them, and get into all kinds of trouble looking for the groom-to-be who has gotten lost in the midst of their 12 hours of drug-induced mayhem.

I was with the movie for a good 35-45 minutes. I was moderately laughing and kind of enjoying myself, but then I soon realized two things:

1) That all the jokes were occurring in the exact same order that they appeared in the trailer, so I was able to pinpoint "Hey, there's gonna be a tiger in that bathroom" or "Mike Tyson's gonna listen to Phil Collins' 'In the Air Tonight' now."

2) These guys were assholes and I wanted them to never find their friend. I was actually rooting for the guy to be dead (because then, at least, he wouldn't have to hang around with these guys). There's something wrong with that picture. I never for once felt like these guys were friends (they were all so radically different that they just felt like they were randomly thrown together "types" of guys who might be funny if put in the same room).

A few years ago there was a movie with a somewhat similar premise -- Very Bad Things -- that was a little nastier in its execution (at a bachelor party in Vegas a prostitute is killed and the friends begin to turn on each other), but it worked a little better for me (then again, it's been years since I've seen it and it could be horrendously awful to me now). The Hangover just didn't connect for me.

Once again, I guess, it stems back to the need to "care" about the characters (I get ridiculed for this, so I'm gonna explain it again). It's not that I need to like the characters at all, but I need to have a rooting interest in them. Your movie can focus on assholes, but I need to root for those assholes to get what they want/need (note: they can want/need something bad/illegal/wrong, but I need to want/need them to get the bad thing). I need to root for Hannibal Lector to eat that guy's brain. I need the incredibly childish brothers in Step Brothers to succeed in pissing each other off (FYI -- I thought I had written a review of that flick, but that's a recent raunchy comedy that I found hilarious).

These guys in this flick didn't have me wanting or needing anything except for the movie to be over.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Friday, June 05, 2009

Movie Review - My Life in Ruins (2009)

Starring Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss
Written by Mike Reiss
Directed by Donald Petrie

If you ever wondered about the movie-going differences between men and women, this movie is a perfect experiment. I watched this movie with two ladies and another guy and while the two ladies were laughing and longing for the characters to hook up (I definitely heard "Just kiss him already" during a scene), me and my fellow 'Y' chromosome holder were rolling our eyes and longing for the movie to be over (I realize I'm putting words into his mouth, but I think it's a pretty damn safe assumption). There's just nothing here to appeal to the male psyche at all. Are we really that different in our approaches to love? I don't know, but this movie didn't help prove that we're similar, that's for sure.

It also doesn't help that the movie is junk.

Georgia (Nia Vardalos) is an American working as a bus tour guide in Greece. She hates her job, hates her boss, and longs to return to the States. Georgia's boss hates her, too, and gives her the stupidest, most stereotypical group of tourists ever imaginable. You've got the dumb Americans who believe their country is the best (FYI...these two were the worst, most poorly written characters I've seen onscreen this year); the Australians who are never seen without a Foster's (Australian for beer, you know) in their hands; the uppity stick-up-their ass British family; the wise Jewish widow (Dreyfuss); the strung-out American businessman who is constantly on his cell phone; the fat, jolly American kid who makes up for being overweight by being incredibly funny all the time (you know that sitcom character, don't you...we've seen it before); and the "hot" Spanish divorcées (except that they weren't hot at all and one of them looked like a transvestite). Throw in an apparently hunky Greek driver so that our lead can fall in love with him (and then Greece itself, in turn), and you've got yourself a movie -- or at least an awful sitcom which is what this movie really is.

Even if the story weren't so damn awful, the direction of this movie was pitiful. There were scenes that were shot through a blurry lens. The director/editor simply didn't care here...there's no excuse for you to have blurry, poorly lit shots in your film. No excuse at all. Plus, this movie should be a love letter to Greece and the director did nothing to entice me to go there. All the shots of the temples and beaches were so bland and boring. At least make the place look pretty.

The only thing that remotely saves this movie is the fact that Nia Vardalos is actually okay. Don't get me wrong, she does nothing to impress here and her comedic timing is simply middle of the road. But were it not for her, this would've been even more of a trainwreck than it already was.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Book a Week - The Glass Menagerie

Book Twenty-Six of the Book-a-Week Quest

The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams (1944)

Play #2 in the Quest...this one by a famous American playwright whom I had never read before. Overall, it was fine, but I didn't feel like it was overly deep.

The play has four characters only -- Tom Wingfield is the play's narrator and the son of Amanda. While Tom longs to be a writer, he is stuck working in a warehouse to help support his mother since his father walked out on them. Amanda is incredibly overbearing and wants her children to live a better life than her. However, she is obnoxious in her desires for her kids. Amanda's other child, Laura, needs to wear a brace on her leg and it has caused her to be shy throughout her whole life. While her mother wants to find her a man, Laura would rather sit at home and stare at her collection of glass animals. The fourth character is Jim, a gentleman caller who comes to the Wingfield home one evening. Amanda hopes that Jim will fall in love with Laura, sweep her off her feet, and create a better life for her daughter. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned.

To me, the symbolism I see is that Laura and Tom are like caged animals, pinned by the idealistic dreams that Amanda has set up for them. I mean, even their last name "Wingfield" conjures up the notion of flight and Tom wants to fly away, while Laura is much too nervous to do so.   That symbolism is fine (and I'm sure there's much more in the play, too), but I didn't find it overly deep or interesting.

Apparently, this is a somewhat autobiograhical story for Williams, who takes on the role of Tom here. He longed to be a writer and ran away from his family in order to pursue that dream. That's all fine and good, but this may be a play that you have to see performed to fully appreciate. I felt that the dialogue seemed a little forced and the way Williams set the stage (with some incredibly odd "projections" that oddly [and unnecessarily] tell the audience what is going on right in front them) didn't really "work" in written form. Should a revival of the play take place in the area, I might venture out to take a look at it. But for the most part, I'm not enthusiastic about this one.

Movie Review - Land of the Lost (2009)

Starring Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, and Anna Friel
Written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas
Directed by Brad Siberling

I'm keeping this brief because this one was horrendously bad.

The problem with this movie is that it doesn't know who it wants its audience to be. It's not raunchy enough to be aimed at an adult PG-13 crowd, but it is certainly too risqué for anyone under the age of 11 to see it. To me, they were marketing this to kids, and parents will be sorely upset if they take their kids to see this. Sex and drug references abound and, while they fall flat on adult ears, they shouldn't be heard by kids.

The worst "big budget" film of the summer by far at this point. Really, everything is awful here...Will Ferrell...the direction...the story...the set design...I could keep going...

The only thing saving it from an 'F' is that I laughed three or four times, Anna Friel is kinda hot (and she was completely wasted in this role...didn't they see her charm in tv's Pushing Daisies?), and the end credit sequence (with music by Michael Giacchino) is kinda cool. Other than that, a waste of time.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Book a Week - Night

Book Twenty-Five of the Book-a-Week Quest

by Elie Wiesel (1960)

Apparently, everyone read this book in high school or college but me. So, based on the recommendation of one of my employees, I ventured into this short memoir.

There's really no need for a summary here as everyone knows that it's the true story of the Jewish author's life at Nazi concentration camps when he was a teenager. While there he witnesses horrific events and begins to question his religious beliefs in light of the atrocities that unfold before his eyes.

It's certainly a good book, but if I'm being honest, I was left wanting more. The writing style is almost too simplistic. Now, I feel awful saying that...I'm sure I would not want to relive the experience had I gone through it. And, don't get me wrong, there were certainly passages that got to me (the one that stands out is the child who was hanged, but because of his small size, was not killed immediately after the hanging and was forced to die in slow agony for 30 minutes while everyone had to watch).

Yes, a good book, and one that was easy to read (easy in terms of style, not in subject matter). I just wanted it to be a little more in depth...I wanted to learn more about this man's journey (maybe that's what his book "Dawn" is about, so I may need to check that out). Note: This is my third(?) Oprah's Book Club Selection...much better than "The Reader", that's for sure.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Movie Review - The Reader (2008)

**Available on DVD**
Starring Kate Winslet, David Kross, Lena Olin, and Ralph Fiennes
Written by David Hare
Directed by Stephen Daldry

I read the novel this flick is based on early on in my Book-a-Week Quest and I didn't care for it at all. I found the book quite melodramatic and I hoped that the movie would not have fared the same.

Copying the summary from my book review, a fifteen-year-old boy, Michael, falls in love with Hanna, an older woman in her 30s, and they begin a torrid love affair. Years later (after they have since separated), his former lover is on trial for crimes she committed as an officer at a Nazi concentration camp. Michael watches the trial as part of a college class and it brings all his feelings for his former lover back to the surface, only this time he is seeing Hanna in a much different light.

The movie followed the book very closely. Unfortunately, that's not such a good thing. I just don't get the emotional arc of this story. It seems like two separate tales -- a story of a "forbidden" love affair and a brief history of one aspect of the aftermath of the Nazis -- that just so happen to be related by a tenuously loose thread. I just couldn't get into the story in the movie or in the book. However, the only thing I found odd is that I enjoyed the love affair much more in book form and I enjoyed the trial much more in movie form...go figure.

Although Kate Winslet got much buzz and an Oscar for her role as Hanna, I found the young David Kross to be the star here. I believed in his childlike innocence at the beginning of the film, his sexual awakening in the middle during the love affair, and his conflicted feelings during Hanna's trial. He was definitely overshadowed by Winslet in the run-up to the 2009 Oscars and that is unfortunate. As far as Winslet is concerned, she was much better in Revolutionary Road (rent it...now!). In this, I felt that she was a little weak -- at times, I felt like I was watching her "act" (which is rarely the case with the talented Winslet). Additionally, although this isn't her fault, I didn't believe her as she aged...the make-up was poorly done.

A quick side note about another supporting actress in this one -- I was quite impressed with Lena Olin in one of the film's final scenes where she discusses the aftermath of the trial with Ralph Fiennes (who plays the elder Michael). That final scene, simple as it was, actually raised the bar of the movie for me a little. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to make me feel that the film's nothing more than a much more expensive made-for-television film.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Oscar Note: So, having seen all five 2009 Best Actress nominees -- Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie in Changeling, Melissa Leo in Frozen River, Meryl Streep in Doubt, and Kate Winslet in The Reader, the winner without question to me is Anne Hathaway. Had Winslet been nominated for Revolutionary Road, it would've been a much tougher decision.

Movie Review - Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

**Available on DVD**
Starring Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johannson, and Rebecca Hall
Written and directed by Woody Allen

This was honestly the first time I saw Scarlett Johannson onscreen and found her attractive. Unfortunately for Scarlett, I found relative newcomer Rebecca Hall much more beautiful to look at.

Hall and Johannson are Vicky and Cristina, friends who are visiting Barcelona for the summer (hence the title). While there, they meet artist Juan Antonio, who manages to seduce both ladies and lure them both into bed with him (though not at the same time, much to his chagrin). To Vicky's dismay, Juan Antonio chooses to spend his time with Cristina because Juan Antonio does not want to step between Vicky and her fiancé. Add Juan Antonio's ex-wife (Academy Award winner Penélope Cruz) to the mix and it's one big love fest with everyone sleeping with everyone.

Surprisingly, Woody has created quite an interesting movie here. Sure, everyone's kind of shallow and I don't quite get the "love the one you're with" mentality, but Woody made me not hate these people for cheating on one another. (Then again, is it really cheating when the people that you're cheating with are okay with the fact that you're cheating?)

Acting is top notch here...especially the two titular roles. Rebecca Hall is a find, for sure, and I hope to see her in many other things. Scarlett Johannson has been incredibly weak onscreen to me after her star-making role in Lost in Translation. Here, Woody is able to draw out a naturalness from her that is very refreshing. Javier Bardem is the perfect ladies' man and -- I don't know why -- but I could see why these ladies would be hanging all over this sleazy guy. While I'm not quite sure Penélope Cruz was worthy of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (I feel like that should've gone to Viola Davis of Doubt), she was quite good...the best I've seen her actually. And, the movie has a narrator! And that narration works! I loved that fact! (Why, I have no idea.)

In the end, the movie's about nothing and the characters are all kind of unpleasant and moody, but Woody keeps the flick moving at a quick pace and he shoots it in such a manner that the sights of Barcelona and the people inhabiting the city look stunning. So, overall, it wasn't a bad moviegoing experience...One of the better Woody Allen movies I've seen.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Movie Review - Angels and Demons (2009)

Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, and Armin Mueller-Stahl
Written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Ron Howard

So I recently watched The Da Vinci Code and didn't think it was anything special. I said that Angels and Demons wouldn't have to do much to be better than it.

Unfortunately, Angels and Demons isn't able surpass its predecessor (but it wasn't any worse either).

Tom Hanks is "symbologist" Robert Langdon again in this apparent sequel (although I've been told that the book is a prequel), but there would be no need to see the original flick in order to understand this one. Langdon is called upon by the Catholic Church which is facing a scary predicament. The pope has died and the Church's Cardinals have convened to select the new leader of the Church. However, a rogue Catholic group has kidnapped the four Cardinals who were to be the most probable successors of the papacy and plans on murdering them. Adding "tension" to the mix is the fact that this rogue group has stolen some anti-matter particle that will blow up the Vatican at midnight. Langdon's working against the clock in order to save the cardinals...will he succeed? Will we care?

The major problem with the first movie -- that the story was incredibly convoluted and slow-moving -- is not really the problem here. The flick moves quite quickly and isn't bogged down by backstory like the original. The movie takes on a "race against the clock"-type tension, which, although ridiculous at times, is able to provide much more excitement than The Da Vinci Code. However, the movie still is prone (like the first one) to over-analyze and over-talk everything. Every single detail needs to be explained (because we, as an audience, are too stupid to get things) and the expository nature of the dialogue bogs down the narrative.

In terms of acting, everyone's okay, but no one does anything special. Hanks is helped with moderately better dialogue in his one (the first flick had him spout some ridiculous lines...not that this one doesn't either), but he's still a very bland leading guy. His leading lady (Zurer) is certainly attractive, but she goes missing during the middle hour and is nothing more than a person for Langdon to bounce ideas off of. Secondary actors are all fine, but, once again, not given a whole lot to do.

Despite the better story, Howard's direction is weak. Everything is very heavy-handed, and, like I said above, overly (and unnecessarily) explained. The film's final hour is laughable...the "big reveal" at the end is obvious from the get-go (I'm not sure that's Howard's fault, though, as I'm sure the screenwriters were trying to stay true to the original source).

So, overall, while the movie is more exciting than the original, the poor direction and ridiculous ending are enough to make this movie simply be on equal footing to the original film.

The RyMickey Rating: D+