Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Review - Halloween II (2009)

Starring Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, and Sheri Moon Zombie
Directed by Rob Zombie


I've never seen a Halloween movie in my life, so all I knew going into this was this guy named Michael Myers goes around killing people. Well, that's pretty much the whole movie. Why does he do this? Who knows...I guess there's something psychologically disturbed about him -- he sees visions of his dead mom and his childhood self wherever he goes, taunting him to kill people. Nevertheless, it's still just a slasher flick with a killer who is super strong, somewhat indestructible, and walks incredibly slow, but still manages to catch up with all the idiots he wishes to kill (no need to waste energy running...need to save your strength for the impaling and stabbing).

There's nothing here worth recommending. The lead actress (Scout Taylor-Compton) is awful. The kills are the same thing over and over again (he just stabs people). Nothing here that you haven't seen before. There are some okay directorial shots, but most of the time Zombie's "weird" shots just scream "pretentious" and "ego-trip."

I will say that I thought it was moderately cool that Zombie set a series of murders to the Moody Blues song "Nights in White Satin." It's not often I get to hear Moody Blues songs outside of my car via my plugged-in iPod. Still, while it made me happy, you don't get any extra points for that, Mr. Zombie.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Movie Review - Two Lovers (2009)

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, Elias Koteas, and Isabella Rossellini
Directed by James Gray

This flick is probably most well known (if it's known at all) because this is the film Joaquin Phoenix was promoting when he went all nutty in the rap star-persona he created (video of his Letterman appearance here). And, unfortunately, it's a shame, because Two Lovers is filled with some great acting and a surprisingly simple, yet engaging story about love.

Phoenix is Leonard, a troubled late twentysomething Jewish guy living at home with his parents. He recently broke up with his fiancé and, because of the pain that caused, has attempted suicide multiple times to no avail. One day, he meets Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of a man who is attempting to purchase Leonard's father's laundromat business. The parental units on both Leonard and Sandra's sides think that the two are perfect for one another -- with the fact that they're both Jewish being a huge plus. Unfortunately, Leonard has also just met Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a troubled semi-drug addict who just moved into his apartment complex, and he falls in love with her instantaneously. Leonard soon discovers, however, that Michelle is dating a married man, so he succumbs to his parents' wishes and begins dating Sandra, all the while longing to be with Michelle. Who does he end up with -- the stable, secure Sandra, or the female version of himself, Michelle -- and who does he hurt along the way?

This is a very simple movie in terms of direction and storytelling. There's no expansive set pieces or expensive shots. Director and co-writer James Gray makes it about these three actors -- Phoenix, Paltrow, and Shaw -- and they all, for the most part, step up to the plate. Phoenix is really quite good here playing the troubled young Leonard. I didn't feel like there was a bum note in his performance. He's hurt and in despair and simply longing to be loved -- willing to jump in and give himself over to Michelle, a similarly damaged soul, whom he's not even sure could even come close to reciprocating the feeling. Also compelling here is Vinessa Shaw. She's not given anything out of the ordinary to do -- she's kind of stuck playing "the good girl" -- but she felt so real to me (I use that "real" thing a lot, but in small character-driven movies like this, whenever an actor can make me believe they're a real person and not an actor playing a role, I enjoy it immensely). Looking at her filmography on imdb, I haven't seen her in a whole lot (although she was in the Rodney Dangerfield-starring Ladybugs that I watched three or four times in my youth -- you remember that one...the guy dresses up like a girl to help their soccer team win some tournament), but I'd like to see her in a whole lot more. The only weak link here is Paltrow. For some reason, I wasn't able to disassociate her from simply being Gwyneth Paltrow. I felt she was too old for the role from the very beginning and she never quite clicked with me. Not that she was bad, but of the main trio, she was the most disappointing.

This film got a very limited release back in February and it came and went with little fanfare which is unfortunate. It's a nice little emotional love story that, while slow moving, works quite well. It's currently streaming on Netflix, so be sure to check it out if you have an account.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Movie Review - The Final Destination 3D (2009)

Starring Bubba Gump, the Guy from "What I Like About You," and a Cast of Nobodies
Directed by David R. Ellis


If you've seen one Final Destination movie, you've seen 'em all. A bunch of people cheat death, but death comes back to collect its victims via some ridiculously complex ways.

Really, there's not a single thing new here. There are one or two moderately cool death scenes, but other than that, it's a retread of Final Destinations 1 and 2 (I don't think I saw the third). Acting is subpar, at best. The film looks like it was shot on a shoestring budget...everything looked incredibly cheap and "set up" -- meaning, everything is in the exact right place at the exact right time...which, in the end, makes everything look as fake as could be.

There's nothing here worth seeing...and the 3D was absolutely nothing special so there's really no reason to see it since that's the gimmick this time around.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Movie Review - Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2009)

Directed by Mark Hartley

As the poster to the right correctly states, if you wanna see boobs and pubes, this is the movie for you. The boob and pube ratio is, by far, the highest per minute of any film I've seen this year. That being said, this documentary detailing the first twenty years or so of Australian cinema was incredibly interesting and I certainly learned something about an aspect of film that I knew nothing about.

Apparently in the early 1960s, the Australian movie industry was nonexistent -- one of the few "modernized" countries that failed to embrace the art form. With the help of some tax breaks created by the government, some folks decided to take a stab at making movies and the results were sex romps, cheesy horror flicks, and biker gang films. While not a single movie presented in this documentary looked good, they all looked hilarious and I'm certainly tempted to rent a few.

Whether it be the sex pic where the lady is lying next to a five-foot purple penis, or the horror flick where a woman becomes a marsupial and a rat-like creature comes out of a pouch in her stomach, or the incredibly cool scene in a biker flick where a guy lights himself on fire and jumps off an eighty-foot cliff, all of these movies provided a pretty neat glimpse into this crazy Australian culture (however "true" it was to the "real" Australia) of the sixties and seventies.

The film moves along pretty darn quickly and the anecdotes told in first-hand accounts by the participants of the flicks were interesting. True, Quentin Tarantino makes an appearance (multiple times, actually) and openly admits to copying things for his movies, but, I even liked him in this. He's a film geek, and, to a certain extent (even though I wish he would be a little more independently-minded in his filmmaking process), I've got to respect that about him. He certainly knows about cheesy cinema and he openly loves it.

So, in the end, if you're looking for a fun documentary where you'll learn about the fact that they actually shot real bullets at actors while making these movies, or that Dennis Hopper was a complete drug-addled nut in the 70s (big surprise), or that when making fake vomit, you need to mix in lemonade for that extra added fizz, Not Quite Hollywood is for you.

I had a fun time and certainly recommend this if you're even the slightest bit interested in exploring a typically unexplored genre of film.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Book a Week - One Hundred Years of Solitude

Book Thirty-Two of the Book-a-Week Quest

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

Two folks at work raved about this one, so I figured why not give it a shot. It started out rather promisingly. The story of the Buendía family living in the town of Macondo, 100YoS details seemingly every single family member's struggles and strifes over the course of multiple generations. During the first 200 pages, I was totally with the book and enjoying it.

Then, the next 200 pages were more of the same old stuff, seemingly repeated in generation after generation. Sons and daughters were given the same names as their mothers or fathers or grandparents, and, admittedly, I became confused pretty easily. I'm not so sure it's a good thing when your book has to have a family tree at the beginning of it in order to assist the reader in figuring out which family member is which. While it's true that the last ten pages or so were kind of cool and added a nice twist to the tale, it wasn't enough to save it for me.

I will say that I truly enjoyed the way Márquez descriptively writes...for the first 200 pages at least. Everything was vividly described which is usually something that bothers me to no end (I'm not a fan of super-descriptive details), but Márquez was certainly adept at keeping me interested.

Unfortunately, this book single-handedly set me back on my Book-a-Week Quest by a couple weeks...time to read the fluff to catch up!

Movie Review - Post Grad (2009)

Starring Alexis Bledel, Michael Keaton, Carol Burnett, Jane Lynch, Zach Gilford, and Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by Vicky Jenson

Yet another film where that good old English degree does its recipient no good at all (I know the feeling all too well).

Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel...the younger Gilmore Girl) is a young twentysomething who just recently graduated from college, and, as part of her life plan, aspires to get a job at a prestigious publishing company in her hometown. When she doesn't land the job (and fails to get every other form of employment she applies for), she is forced to move back home with her wacky family, begins working with her father, and starts to fall for her Latin next door neighbor (leaving her best boy friend by the wayside).

This flick was certainly more suited to be a tv movie and I'm not quite sure how it managed to get any type of theatrical release. Problem One is that despite how cute Alexis Bledel is, she's not an actress that captures my attention onscreen. This is a comedy (I shockingly laughed a bit...more on that later), but Bledel is never given much funny to do. Granted, that's not her fault, but it didn't help me to like this character. I'm certainly not one to say that I need a "star" to keep me interested in a film, but Bledel, while not bad, just didn't draw me in.

Problem Two is a simple one -- this movie was pretty poorly directed. Director Vicky Jenson apparently is best known for her work in the animation field...she should stick with that (even if she is the director responsible for the accursed Shrek). I don't know how else to say this, but the film looked crappy. There was nothing here that wasn't by-the-book.

Problem Three is the corny script pertaining to the main plot line of Bledel's Ryden and her lovelife. When your romantic entanglement is resolved by a slow motion shot of someone eating an Eskimo Pie, there's a problem.

That being said, Carol Burnett was in this and her simple presence is enough to make me laugh. I remember watching The Carol Burnett Show as a kid (shockingly enough, it would've been in reruns, folks...I wasn't old enough to watch it when it first aired) and thinking it was some super funny stuff. She doesn't disappoint here. And Burnett is certainly helped by the comedic genius of Jane Lynch. I think she's one funny lady and she certainly has the ability to elevate an otherwise lukewarm movie (see For Your Consideration as an example). Michael Keaton's character was an awful caricature of an overbearing father (in fact, most of the Ryden's family were awful caricatures). However, Keaton manages to sell the role and I laughed a bit despite the fact that I really couldn't stand him (I guess that takes some talent).

There's really nothing here. I mean, maybe if it airs on ABC Family or the CW (which, let's be honest here, it will inevitably air on one of those channels in the future), it may be worth a watch simply for Burnett and Lynch...but other than that, this one can certainly be skipped (and based on last week's box office results, most people decided indeed to pass this over).

The RyMickey Rating: D

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movie Review - Shorts (2009)

Starring Jimmy Bennett, Leslie Mann, William H. Macy, and James Spader
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Giant people.
Giant robots.
Giant boogers.

Giant failure.

Worst kids movie of the year. And to think that I actually really enjoyed Rodriguez's Spy Kids. This had the same feel to it, but it was horrendous. A painful 90 minutes.

No need to dwell on this any more than necessary.

The RyMickey Rating: F


Monday, August 24, 2009

What I'm Listening To - "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues

So I went to see my third concert of the year (I think that's more concerts in this year alone than I'd ever seen prior to this year) last Friday. My pop's favorite band of all-time, The Moody Blues, dropped by the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City as part of their Summer 2009 tour.

The band, while certainly getting up there in age sounded fine, although I do feel they were "perkier" when I saw them last year at the Tower Theater in PA. The sound system at the Borgata Event Center sucked. You had to strain to hear their vocals (had I not known the songs, I would've likely not known what they were saying). The drums and bass just echoed throughout the ballroom -- which is what it was...a ballroom that the Borgata puts bleachers into for their concerts.

Unfortunately, coming off of the Paul McCartney concert just three weeks ago, The Moody Blues were bound to suffer in comparison, but I still enjoyed myself thoroughly. I will say that I thought it the band started off their show in an odd way. After a recognizable first song, the next four things that they played were absolutely lesser known tunes. Part of me was happy that it was a significantly different playlist than the last time I saw them, but not knowing the first songs (and not being able to actually hear what they were singing because of the crappy acoustics of the ballroom) started off the show on the wrong foot. That being said, they definitely kicked things up a notch after song #5. By the end, I was totally into it, though, and it was worth the price of admission.

Below is a music video for their best known tune "Nights in White Satin." The video is a condensed version of the song which in its regular form runs for over seven minutes. Below that is the corny music video for the corny song "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." I realize that it's pure cheese, but it's quite possibly my favorite Moody Blues song for some odd reason.


A Year in Movies

90 movies so far this year...my summer movie quest is almost done and, admittedly, this "see every movie" thing probably isn't gonna continue. That being said, I'm still planning on watching a bunch of good and bad stuff in the fall...but I'm not committing to everything.

Nevertheless, take a look at the long list below with a little bit of analysis at the end.

5/5 *** 0/90 = 0%
None

4.5/5 *** 2/90 = 2.22%

4/5 *** 5/90 = 5.56%
3.5/5 *** 10/90 = 11.11%

3/5 *** 7/90 = 7.78%
Notorious
2.5/5 *** 12/90 = 13.33%

2/5 *** 7/90 = 7.78%

1.5/5 *** 12/90 = 13.33%

1/5 *** 14/90 = 15.56%

0.5/5 *** 12/90 = 13.33%
Obsessed
The Time Traveler's Wife

0/5 *** 9/90 = 10.00%

I would say that anything 3/5 or above would be something that I would recommend people to see. Therefore, based on the above ratings, I would say that of the movies I've seen, I would say that 24 movies -- or 26.67% -- would be worth your watching. Once again, if I'm being really honest, most of those movies in the '2.5/5' section are worth your watching, too, but since I consider them only average, I figured I should only "recommend" things that are above average. If you include the 2.5's that percentage jumps to 40%.

Honestly, that's not all that bad considering I've watched EVERYTHING that came out this summer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Year of Firsts

  • First time in Atlantic City -- slummy on the outskirts, but the casinos (at least the two I went to -- The Tropicana and the Borgata) were nice
  • Ate rice noodles for the first time...didn't get it...they tasted stale. Give me rice, give me noodles, but I don't need to eat rice noodles ever again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Movie Review - The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

Starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams
Directed by Robert Schwentke

I love me some Rachel McAdams...I don't love me Rachel McAdams is this simply awful movie. McAdams is Clare and she's the title character. All her life, she's known that she was bound to marry Henry (Eric Bana) because he traveled back in time, met her constantly when she was growing up, and told her that he was from the future and that they were destined to get married. When they meet up when she's in her mid-20s, Clare and Henry begin to realize that Henry's time traveling (caused by a genetic abnormality) causes strains in their relationship.

The biggest problem with this flick (besides the ridiculous notion of time travel and the inconsistencies involved in this) is that there is ZERO chemistry between McAdams and Bana. Bana is really awful here, reading his lines in a one-note monotone, never showing any passion or emotion. McAdams is pretty much the same way, but at least she looks good doing it (most of the time...there were moments where she was frighteningly made-up here). There was not a moment in this movie where I felt like these two were in love with each other and, considering that this is a movie about love transcending time, that's a problem.

It's not just the two leads that are awful either. The director wasn't able to get a single good performance out of anyone here...all the kids in the flick (playing the young Clare and Henry, and the two girls playing Clare and Henry's daughter) were painful to watch; Clare and Henry's parents were one-note; and the couple's friends weren't given a thing to do. And it's not just the actors that the director had trouble with...he also chose some ridiculous camera shots, angles, and fades to black.

Here's hoping McAdams shines in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes...

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Movie Review - Spread (2009)

Starring Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, and Margarita Levieva
Directed by David Mackenzie

I've seen many movies this year (inching closer to 100) and in the case of the new movie Spread there's something to be said for having both the most sex scenes (showcasing a variety of positions and kinky fetishes...all I'll say is "shaving the papaya"...you imagine what that means...) and the highest boob count of the year. I just wish I could've liked the movie...

Ashton Kutcher is Nikki, a young guy who moved to L.A. and is simply living off of women...moving from woman to woman, sleeping with them, shacking up in their homes, using their credit cards, while, at the same time, sleeping with other women. His latest catch is Samantha (a surprisingly sexy Anne Heche), a lawyer who, despite realizing that Nikki is kind of mooching off of her, can't seem to let go of this boy toy who is paying her loving attention (most of the time). When Nikki's not with Samantha, he's with the younger Heather (Margarita Levieva), a female version of himself.

My biggest problem with the flick is that I felt like it didn't bring anything new to the table. From the voiceover by Nikki at the very beginning, I knew he was going to "change" by the end (sorry, did I ruin it for you?). He was going to fall in love and realize that his whorish ways were wrong. Sure, the ending didn't quite conclude the way I thought it would, but I can't really say I was surprised. I don't know if it's just that I'm so completely the antithesis of pricks like Nikki, but I find it tough to watch movies where ladies fall head over heels for these assholes (Ugly Truth is another example)...why?

Kutcher was okay, but I couldn't help but think of the Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange as Nikki strolled around wearing thin suspenders and rolled-up, cuffed jeans and pants. I just never felt like I wasn't watching him act. Same goes for Margarita Levieva...I actually thought she was fine prior to becoming the female version of Nikki, but once she became the "slutty" girl, I just didn't buy her in the role. The only person I actually enjoyed here was Anne Heche. As I said above, she was refreshingly sexy and definitely drew my attention in every scene she was in. It's a shame she went missing during the final act of the movie.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Movie Review - Lorna's Silence (2009)

Starring Arta Dobroshi, Jérémie Renier, and Fabrizio Rongione
Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

Lorna and her boyfriend long to own a snack bar (odd, I know), so in order to get money, she decides to partner with some Russian mobster. She will marry a Belgian drug addict to gain his country's citizenship which will then allow her to marry a Russian guy who wants Belgian citizenship (and is willing to pay beaucoup bucks to get it). Along the way, not much happens, but when exciting things do happen (and, really, there's only one exciting thing that happens here), they're told to us (rather than shown to us) in a very nonchalant fashion.

Now, this movie wasn't bad, but it was just slow. Not much happens here in the course of close to two hours. Sure, at the end, things start to get a little odd, but I still keep coming back to nothing much happening. The weird thing is that I wasn't bored while watching the film, but I came out of it thinking "What was the point?" Arta Dobroshi as Lorna was fine -- she had two scenes (one where she and the junkie "consumate" their "marriage" and another where she is talking to the police after an unfortunate event) where she really shined. She was in every scene and she kept my attention, but in the end, I just didn't really care. Once again, I can't really pinpoint anything awful about the flick, but I can't say that I liked it a whole lot either, hence the simply average grade.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Review - District 9 (2009)

Starring Sharlto Copley
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Let me state my one big problem with this movie upfront, because, overall, it was a pretty good flick. The film starts off as a faux documentary. Everything that the audience sees is from news footage, security cameras, or documentary interviews. About thirty minutes in, however, it shifts to be a mixture of the documentary style and just a regular movie. Then, about twenty minutes after that, it simply becomes a regular movie. At the end, it shifts back to the mixture of the two styles again. I kind of wish the filmmakers were ballsy enough to go documentary-style all the way through. Now, the way the flick is written/set up, there's no way they could've done that. However, for some reason, I feel like it would've been a little more clever even though we've seen it before (Cloverfield, Blair Witch).

It's tough to discuss this movie without discussing a major plot point that happens about 1/3 of the way through, but simply enough, an alien spacecraft began hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa, about twenty years ago. The aliens seemingly didn't want to destroy humankind, but we nasty humans took them out of their spacecraft and shoved them District 9, a detainee-ish camp where they've remained for two decades (I don't know much about South African history so I could be way off base, but I'm sure there's some correlation to apartheid here [apartheid was in South Africa, right?]). Now, the government wants to move them to District 10, another camp that will be further away from the major South African city. Long story short, something goes wrong during the process.

Simply put, I enjoyed the film, but it's certainly not without its faults. The aliens looked good up close, but when they were far away from the camera, they absolutely looked computer-generated. The film takes a bit to get started as well and there's a surprising lack of tension throughout. And then there's my issue from the first paragraph.

Still, the flick wasn't too bad. The final thirty minutes were pretty darn fun to watch (I'll just say that aliens have cool guns that can do some nifty things). Admittedly, I didn't know too much about this one going into it with the exception that it has a near 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's certainly not that good (although my positive rating wouldn't be a smashed tomato on that website either), but it's a pretty decent sci-fi film.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movie Review - In the Loop (2009)

Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy, and David Rasche
Written by Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell
Directed by Armando Iannucci

I probably laughed as much (if not more) during this movie than in any other movie I've seen this year. It's a little unfortunate that there's not really any story here to back up the humor.

Although not a docu(or mocku)mentary, In the Loop is kind of shot in that style. The camera is always moving and slightly shaky as we follow the lives of both British and American politicians who are debating whether to go to war or not. That's it. That's the whole story. And that's the only thing stopping this flick from being one of my favorite of the year. There just wasn't enough story there, despite the fact that it was incredibly funny.

Acting across-the-board was top-notch. James Gandolfini will be the guy that everyone knows (and he was quite funny), but all the folks (including My Girl's Anna Chlumsky) were really great. In fact, there's not a single actor here to say anything bad about.

So, it's even more unfortunate that there's really no story here (or at least a story that matters in the slightest). When I originally left the movie, I was actually incredibly impressed with how nonpartisan this political flick was, but in retrospect, I almost wish that it had taken sides on war...it might have added some meat to this flick.

Still, this flick is absolutely worth seeking out. I laughed out loud more times than I can count.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Movie Review - Bandslam (2009)

Starring Gaelan Connell, Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lisa Kudrow
Written by Josh A. Cagan and Todd Graff
Directed by Todd Graff

Even though Bandslam certainly isn't a great title, it's certainly better than the working title on the poster to the left. Get it...where there's a will, there's a way (and the main character's name is Will, too)...ugh...let's move on.

Will Burton (played by Even Stevens-era Shia Labeouf look-alike Gaelan Connell...side note: Even Stevens was such a good show) has just moved to New Jersey with his mom (Lisa Kudrow). Within the first few days at his new school, he meets two gals -- loner and bookworm Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens)("the 5 is silent") and former cheerleader/lead singer of a "cool" band Charlotte (Aly Michalka). Will soon becomes manager of Charlotte's band, while at the same time slowly falling for Sa5m. Will he be able to balance both of these things in his life? Will the newly formed band be able to win the northeast Bandslam competition? Will I care?

Admittedly, the film isn't awful, but it just can't rise above mediocrity. The dialogue is poorly constructed (it jumps back and forth from these teens doing some "deep" thinking and then spouting stupid lines within seconds) and the kids, while all okay (with the exception of the pretty darn awful Hudgens), didn't seem real to me.

That being said, the movie takes a serious twist towards the end that actually worked better than I thought it would (although the somber turn was completely unnecessary). Additionally, I actually really liked Lisa Kudrow as Will's mom. I enjoyed the scenes she shared with all the teen stars and her character was actually given some believable dialogue. After her abysmal turn in Hotel for Dogs, it was nice to see her being moderately entertaining here.

So, there's no reason to see this, but it wasn't all that bad.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

A Book a Week - A Practical Guide to Racism

Book Thirty-One of the Book-a-Week Quest

A Practical Guide to Racism
by C.H. Dalton (2007)

Despite being full of completely inappropriate politically incorrect humor, this book had me cracking up and laughing out loud. I'd love to write some of the jokes that made me laugh, but they'd make me look like a jerk. Instead, I'm just going to write down the chapter titles and you can make a decision as to whether the book would interest you from there.

Hispanics - A Practical Guide to Fecundity (my favorite)
Jews - A Practical Guide to Everything Wrong in Your Life and Why It's Their Fault
Whites - A Practical Guide to Racists
Indians (and Injuns) - A Practical Guide to Redskins
Blacks - A Practical Guide to Melanin
Asians - A Practical Guide to Cellists
Merpeople - A Practical Guide to Our Neighbors Beneath the Sea
Arabs - A Practical Guide to a Peace-Loving Race
Gypsies - A Practical Guide to Carnies

If you were offended by any of the above, this book isn't for you. If you found any of it funny, then give it a shot...it's a quick read...I read it over two days in less than three hours. Not really a whole lot else to say here except that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Movie Review - Ponyo (2009)

Featuring the voice talent of Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

I liked the watercolor look of the film and the score.

Now that that's out of the way, let's try and explain why the rest of this film isn't any good.

Sosuke is a five year-old boy who finds a fish-like creature he names Ponyo while exploring the Japanese coastline. He brings Ponyo home and all seems well, but Ponyo's father (a human who lives under the sea in some bubble house thing) is searching for her, longing for her return. He uses his mystical powers to coerce the sea into getting her back. However, Ponyo now has "tasted human blood" and wants to be a human. Lucky for her, she has the powers to simply grow hands and feet, and through some mystical bullshit she swims up to the surface, walks on water, and finds herself back in the arms of Sosuke.

Weird enough for you yet? There's more...Sosuke and Ponyo become good friends, but as we soon find out, Ponyo's existence on the surface has caused the oceans to rise and be pulled upward by the moon's gravitational pull (or something like that). So, a bunch of the land on Earth is now underwater. The only way things can revert back to normal is if Sosuke can pass some kind of test (about love? kindness? I'm not quite sure). I guess he passed it, but not before Ponyo turns back into a fish. Susoke meets up with his mom (who leaves this five-year old unattended for nearly the whole second half of the movie) by traveling under the sea into some giant bubble that at one point is filled with air and then at the next point filled with water...it doesn't really matter what it's filled with, though, because humans can breathe and talk in it regardless of the environment. Anyway, in the end, Ponyo's a human and world order is restored (thank God!).

Odd, huh? I didn't even mention there's some weird god-like creature who I think had sex with Ponyo's father to create Ponyo and the array of smaller Ponyos that swim around like little sperm with faces and flowing red robes (I'm honestly not sure of that sex part, but I do think that this goddess and Ponyo's pop had something going on...cue the bomchickawahwah music).

Okay, so I realize that I just rambled about the story, but that's exactly what the movie does, too. It just rambles...on and on and on.

I don't get it. If I didn't get what the hell was going on, how the heck is a six-year old supposed to? I honestly can't believe that Disney is putting this out into 800 theaters this upcoming weekend. I can't imagine this thing being successful.

But, hey...it looked pretty...

The RyMickey Rating: D

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movie Review - Julie & Julia (2009)

Starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, and Jane Lynch
Written and Directed by Nora Ephron

This is a movie that has four very good performances, but just can't seem to find itself. Telling both the story of how famous cook Julia Child (Meryl Streep) came to write her first cookbook and of how blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams) trekked her way through all of the recipes in said Julia Child cookbook in a year, the movie just never picks up any steam and relies much too heavily on desperately trying to make comparisons between these two woman's lives. I was with the movie for the first 45 minutes to an hour, but then I just got bored with the same-old back and forth between these two women.

Despite my problems with the story, I really liked all four main actors here. Sure, Streep is simply copying Child's mannerisms and incredibly well-known voice, but I thought she did a great job. Child is certainly presented as kind of an egotistical, full-of-herself woman, but Streep sells the role. I'll be honest -- Streep made me smile multiple times during the movie simply by the way she looked at things or by a facial expression.

Amy Adams, on the other hand, is saddled with a role that's incredibly boring. I didn't give a damn about Julie Powell and her quest to do all these recipes. Adams is as cute (and, at times, hot) as could be, but Powell is a lost woman. She's trying to prove herself to someone, but in the end, I never really felt like she learned her lesson (which, if I'm being honest, I still don't quite know what this lesson was...that she can avoid procrastination?)

The two husbands -- Stanley Tucci as Child's and Chris Messina as Powell's -- were both good as well, although neither of them (Tucci in particular) really had moments that made them stand out. Nevertheless, both Tucci and Messina (who was so good in Away We Go) certainly were better than average in the simply average roles they were given.

So, here's the thing...I really think that all four of these performances were very good. On that basis, I think folks should see this one on video. However, my rating below is not going to make this flick fall into the "see it" category when I post my next "Year in Movies" post. So, rent it, but go into it not expecting a whole heckuva lot.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Movie Review - Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone
Written by ??? (no imdb info)
Directed by Imtiaz Ali

I'm starting to wonder if the fact that I'm not Indian is hampering my enjoyment of these Bollywood flicks. Ideally, a good movie should cross cultural boundaries and appeal to all who see it. This one didn't do that at all.

Jai and Meera meet and fall in love. They've been together for well over a year living in England when Meera accepts a job in India and Jai accepts a job in San Francisco. Jai convinces Meera that long distance relationships never work and they break up only to discover that despite the fact that they've moved on to other relationships, neither is really happy and they still long to be with one another.

Sure, I'll go with the simple premise, but the execution of that premise is awful. First off, when they're first separated, Jai never goes to San Francisco, so why the hell didn't he just travel to India to be with Meera. Second, there's a ridiculous subplot about an uncle relaying his misbegotten love story to Jai, trying to convince him to return to Meera. A complete time waster and it takes up over one-third of the movie. Thirdly, I can't help but think that scenes were cut in this movie for an American release. While I don't actually think that happened, the flick didn't make sense 40% of the time.

The only nice thing I have to say about this movie is that I felt that the "dance breaks" seemed as "natural" as you can get. Meaning, I realize that no one's going to break out into song and have 100 people behind them join in a choreographed dance number, but where they placed these dance sequences in the movie worked pretty well. By far, these were my favorite "dance breaks" I've seen in a Bollywood movie to date. And that's the only reason why this flick is getting the grade it's getting.

I was bored out of my mind during this movie. Granted, it came at the end of a long day of marathon movie-watching (five movies within 13 hours, six within 22 hours...all in theaters), but I'm certain that I had I watched this flick first, it wouldn't have made any difference.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Classic Movie Review - Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Starring Paul Newman and George Kennedy
Written by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
The story here is simple...man gets arrested for a seemingly petty crime, gets sentenced to two years in prison on a chain gang, attempts to escape multiple times, but is constantly getting caught. On its own, the story's okay...however, the flick is just thirty minutes too long and contains one too many escape attempts.

That being said, Paul Newman is pretty awesome. I really liked him in this. There's a charm and charisma that he exudes works extremely well for this character in this setting.

I've got too many other reviews to write to go into much more detail about this. Suffice it to say, Newman was great, but the flick itself was just okay.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Movie Review - Paper Heart (2009)

Starring Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, and Jake M. Johnson
Written by Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi
Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec

I don't like Michael Cera at all. I've seen him in enough things now -- Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad, and Year One -- to know that he hasn't stretched his acting chops at all, playing essentially the same character in every single film. In the fake (and real) documentary Paper Heart (see, it's clever because it's both fake and real!), he's playing himself, which, if that's the way he really is in real life, Michael Cera hasn't really been acting at all in any single movie he's ever been in because this Michael Cera is interchangeable with any other single thing I've seen him "act" in. All that being said and with you now knowing that I'm not a Cera fan, he was far and away the best thing in this painfully unfunny look at love.

Charlyne Yi is a twenty-something actress who doesn't believe in love so she decides to film herself going around and talking to people about this unattainable feeling.

Let me just say that without a doubt Charlyne Yi (who is playing herself for Pete's sake) is the most annoying person I've seen onscreen this year...and I've seen Brüno, so that's saying something. Not even three minutes in, she was already ticking me off. I was going back and forth about giving this a 'D-' or an 'F' (there was one five-minute "segment" of the documentary that I enjoyed quite a bit...go figure Yi wasn't in it), but Yi pushed me over the edge. I hated every single moment that her unattractive face invaded my line of vision (yes, that's mean, but tough shit...I actually paid for your movie, so I'm gonna make fun). I went blind earlier this year for a few seconds (remember?) and I don't want to waste my precious vision on watching anything as awful as her mopey, quirky, weird, odd facial expressions. [Note that I chose a poster without her ugly mug on it.] Sight is a wonderful sense that I'd like to keep, but were I to watch this again, someone would have to bring on the hot pokers and burn my corneas.

The RyMickey Rating: F

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Movie Review - Jerichow (2009)

Starring Benno Fürmann, Nina Hoss, and Hilmi Sözer
Written and Directed by Christian Petzold

I had read The Postman Always Rings Twice earlier this year and loved it quite a bit (it's currently sitting at #5 on my favorite books read this year). A modern reworking of the tale, Jerichow changes enough of the story to keep it interesting, but still maintains the gist of the plot to not be sacrilegious to the source material.

Thomas (Benno Fürmann) is a German guy who, after returning home from the war, finds himself jobless without any money. He soon meets Ali and Laura (Hilmi Sözer and Nina Hoss), a married couple who offer him work helping with their fast food supply business. Thomas soon realizes that Ali and Laura don't have the best marriage and he begins to fall for the battered wife. When the feeling is reciprocated by Laura, the two begin a secret affair and soon decide that they need to get rid of Ali in order to live happily together.

In some respects, I'm happy that I found out immediately prior to the movie that the flick was based on Postman. It was certainly interesting to see a modern take on the 1930s pulpy novel. On the other hand, I did find myself thinking as the movie was wrapping up that there was so much left to cover in the movie that was in the book. Sure enough, they end the movie quite differently from the novel, but in some respects, this knowledge hampered my enjoyment of the pretty darn interesting final 20 minutes. (Don't misunderstand...that isn't a criticism of the movie at all. It's a criticism of my mind for thinking about the book while watching the movie. I really liked the changes that they made, however, knowing the book, I kept expecting things to happen...when they didn't, I wasn't disappointed, but I was surprised).

The flick is short -- under 90 minutes -- and, while it doesn't necessarily move quickly, it certainly kept my attention the whole way through. In the movie, there's essentially only the three characters mentioned above and I was definitely interested in all three of their arcs, in part because all three of the actors were pretty darn good. Fürmann's Thomas is essentially emotionless throughout the entire movie and you would think that would be boring for a main character, but he sells it.

The film's final scenes are actually moderately exciting and tension-filled and, knowing the way the book concludes, I loved the way the movie changed up the ending. The book certainly doesn't end in a happy way, but in some respects, I think the movie has an even unhappier ending -- I actually really loved the final shot and last line of the movie...a real sense of despair and hopelessness was felt by me as the credits began to roll. As I look back on the flick now, I feel like this is the kind of movie -- a suspenseful character-driven drama -- that Hitchcock would be making today were he still around. And if that's what I'm thinking (with Hitchcock being one of my favorite directors of all time), kudos to the makers of the flick for making me feel that way.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Movie Review - Shrink (2009)

Starring Kevin Spacey, Dallas Roberts, Keke Palmer, Mark Webber, Saffron Burrows, Pell James, Jesse Plemons, Robert Loggia, and Robin Williams
Written by Thomas Moffett

Directed by Jonas Pate

Moderate spoilers ahead...although these plot points are discussed within the first 20 minutes of the film...

Right off the bat, let me say that I have a few problems with this movie, most important being that one of the most pivotal plot points felt incredibly forced. However, this little flick that I had heard next to nothing about won me over because of some winning performances and a great combination of humor and pathos.

Kevin Spacey is Henry Carter, a shrink who has written a book about how to be happy in life. Guess what? He's not really happy. His wife has recently committed suicide and he has turned to marijuana to quell his emotional pains. The flick is one of those multiple-character arc movies (like Crash but on a much lesser scale) where several patients come into Henry's office and then end up interacting with each other. In some movies, these interactions feel forced, but here, for the most part, they work. Patrick (Dallas Roberts) is a Hollywood talent agent/producer who is afraid of everything. Jemma (Keke Palmer) is a high school student obsessed with movies and unable to emotionally come to grips with her mother's suicide. Kate (Saffron Burrows) is an aging Hollywood actress (if being in your 30s is aging...I'm in trouble in a year...) who is having trouble in her marriage to a rock star. As I said above, eventually, several of these folks will find their story arcs combining by the film's end.

My biggest problem with the film is that I never felt the connection that I felt I should between Henry and Jemma, two people who lost those they loved to suicide. The movie is definitely pushing this as the emotional peak, but I never really got there with it. It doesn't help that the film gets to that high point via a weird interaction between Jemma and Henry's godson, Jeremy (Marc Webber), a struggling screenwriter who finds inspiration in the young troubled girl.

You would think that if I had issues with a major plot point, I wouldn't particularly care for the film, however, the flick still worked for me for some odd reason. In part, it's due to some winning performances. Spacey, whom I haven't seen since 2007's Fred Claus (and let's not go there...I'm not counting his pretty darn good voiceover work in Moon), is impressive as the struggling doc. His opening scene had me doubting the role, but he won me over within minutes. Jesse Plemons as Henry's pot supplier provided quite a bit of laughter, as did an extended cameo from Robin Williams (he was still kind of doing is off-the-wall schtick, but it worked for me). However, the star of the show was Dallas Roberts. His neurotic Patrick was a hoot and this (to me anyway) unknown actor stole the show from the talented Spacey.

Obviously, the film isn't perfect, but I liked it. It was a nice mix of comedy and drama, and it certainly kept my attention throughout thanks to those performances mentioned.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Review - A Perfect Getaway (2009)

Starring Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Milla Jovovich, and Steve Zahn
Written and Directed by David Twohy

This is one of those movies where they advertise a twist ending in the commercials and you can guess it before the movie even begins (Note to my brother...ding! ding! we have a winner! [sort of..]). Through some silly (or clever) writing (you be the judge if you see it), writer-director David Twohy (who also wrote The Fugitive...one of the best flicks of the last twenty years) managed to get me to doubt my initial thoughts, but I was right nonetheless. Regardless of the bitterness I hold for doubting my thoughts (and I'm a bitter, bitter man), the movie's failure lies in the fact that for a suspense flick, there's very little suspense to be had. A severe lack of tension is the flick's downfall.

Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are a honeymooning couple in Hawaii...Zahn's the nebbish worrywart and Jovovich is the slightly more adventurous one (we know this because she talks about oral sex in front of other people...such great writing on display here). They plan to trek along some trail through the forests. They meet another couple played by Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez. He's the kooky war veteran, she's the daft Southern belle. When Zahn and Jovovich hear of a honeymooning couple being murdered on another Hawaiian island, they begin to wonder whether this new couple that they're hanging out with is the culprit.

It's tough to talk about this flick without spoiling anything (and the mere fact of me saying that there's a twist will probably ruin the flick for anyone that plans to see it, but hey, it's in the advertisements). Acting-wise, everyone seemed to be acting -- everyone felt like a character. Sure, there were a few good one-liners and Olyphant was the stand-out of the quartet, but even he felt like a caricature of a real person. Writing-wise, like I said above, Twohy tries to hide the twist, but in the end, his trickery just seems rather silly. I felt like nothing happened in this movie for the whole first 70 minutes (and nothing did happen). The final 20 is somewhat interesting, but even then I never felt like I was on the edge-of-my-seat.

The suspense genre is my favorite, so I often wonder whether I'm too harsh on these kinds of flicks, but when you don't have any sense of anxiety or dread in a movie like this, there's a problem. It wasn't awful, but, in the end, it was pointless.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Movie Review - Phoebe in Wonderland (2009)

Starring Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Pullman
Written and Directed by Daniel Barnz

This is another one of those indie movies with characters that are too smart for their own good. However, what saves this movie from the downfall of recent flicks I've watched like Gigantic and Sherman's Way is that the story is interesting and nearly every actor is strong, particularly a winning performance by Elle Fanning.

Phoebe (Elle Fanning) is a nine year-old girl who lands the lead role in the school play Alice in Wonderland. Phoebe has some psychological issues, the biggest being obsessive-compulsive disorder (and a moderate case of Touette's, too). Phoebe loves the play and excels at it, but her imagination oftentimes gets the better of her and she envisions the play literally coming alive all around her which oftentimes causes problems with her fellow classmates. Her parents (Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman) seem to be in denial about their daughter's issues and it certainly seems to be putting a strain on their marriage.

The film belongs to the young Elle Fanning and there is something so beautiful and simplistic about how she plays the difficult role of Phoebe. The role could easily have veered towards over-the-top and showy, but Fanning is something special. From the opening scenes, she conveys so much with a simple raise of a lip or eyebrow. There must have been something in the water that those Fanning girls drank as babies (Dakota is her sister), because they both have amazing talent. There's one scene, in particular, where Phoebe breaks down completely in her mother's arms that was amazingly powerful. Speaking of Phoebe's mother, Felicity Huffman is touching and I was quite surprised by how well-written and thought-out her role was (kudos to the screenwriter).

In addition to Fanning and Huffman, Patricia Clarkson takes the clichéd role of the over-the-top drama teacher and makes it her own. Although her role wasn't without its faults (she falls into that "too quirky" indie character category and is forced to play that inspirational teacher role), Clarkson brings something special to the table. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie belongs to Clarkson -- when the word "fagot" [spelling is correct] is found written on a young male member of the play's costume, her anger is real and visceral. After criticizing the culprit for not spelling the word correctly, she makes them read the definition of the word -- "a bundle of sticks" -- and then says one of the best lines I've heard this year -- "Does anyone want to own up to idiocy as well as cruelty?" Although I had slight problems with her eccentric character, Clarkson can deliver a well-written line with gusto and meaning.

In addition to my slight problem with Clarkson's character, the school's principal (played by Campbell Scott) was a guy that was so inadequately able to run a school that the character took me out of any type of reality that the film was trying to create. The same could also be said for Phoebe's wiser-beyond-her-years sister. Once again, it's that pet peeve of kids being too smart for their own good...why not just make the kid normal? It's disappointing that the screenwriter who created two stellar characters in Phoebe and her mother wasn't able to continue the quality with the other folks in the movie.

Despite its faults, Phoebe in Wonderland is a perfectly "nice" movie filled with some winning performances. Fanning, Huffman, and Clarkson alone are worth the price of the rental (or the current streaming via Netflix). Sure, it's warm, sentimental, and a bit treacly, but sometimes, you're in the mood for that sort of thing and this movie's good at it.

The RyMickey Rating: B

A Year of Firsts

Not important...just keeping my list going...

  • I'm growing a beard...because why the hell not...who knows how long it'll last.
  • Saw my first concert in a stadium venue

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Completely random posting...

Let me just say that I love the Netflix online viewing player. The last three movie reviews I posted were watched via the player. If only it would work on my Mac, I'd be a happy camper. That being said, it's absolutely the best online video player I've come across. I never had to wait for a segment of the movie to load. The computer I was watching the movies on shut down (good old Microsoft technology!), but the Netflix player knew right where the movie stopped, so it started right from there.

Alright, the commercial for Netflix is done now...

Movie Review - Sherman's Way (2009)

Starring James LaGros, Enrico Colantoni, Michael Shulman, Lacey Chabert, and Brooke Nevin
Written by Tom Nance
Directed by Craig M. Saavedra

This is one of those movies where the characters are so ridiculously cliché that you can tell who people are from the first second you see them. That guy's reading a book in a suit on the grass at a college while everyone around him is playing frisbee...I bet he's an uppity nerd! That guy's got shaggy hair and has a cat on a leash. A cat, not a dog...hah! I bet he's kooky!

Sherman Black (Michael Shulman) is the nerdy one...he actually shakes hands with people instead of doing that "pound it" fist thingy! How dorky is he? I could keep discussing the blatant characterization of the main character (the movie certainly pounds it over your head multiple times), but let's move on with the plot. Anyway, the nerd ends up meeting up with the kooky guy Palmer (James LeGros) after Sherman treks across the country to meet up with his girlfriend, only to discover that his gal has left him for an edgier guy. After a "funny" stay in the backwoods, Sherman finds himself. Shocker.

This movie quite possibly has the two most contrived characters I've seen on film this year. Absolutely awful. Nothing nice to say about either of the two main guys. The rudimentary characterizations lacked any type of believability and since the movie focuses solely on the two of them, the movie fails. The only positive is Brooke Nevin who plays the girl that brings Sherman out of his shell. I've never seen her in anything, but she's been in a lot of tv stuff apparently. For some reason, even though she was playing the "funky, artsy gal in a stodgy small town" that you've seen in a ton of other movies, Nevin was the only person that breathed life into this awful pic. Other than that, there's not a thing to recommend. How this movie failed to go direct-to-dvd is beyond me.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Movie Review - Donkey Punch (2009)

Starring a Cast of Seven Attractive Unknown Young British People
Written by Oliver Blackburn and David Bloom
Directed by Oliver Blackburn

Three British ladies are on holiday in Spain. They meet four British guys who take them back to their yacht. A few drinks and several drug hits later, two of the ladies find themselves involved in a group sex encounter with three of the guys. Unfortunately for one of the girls, it doesn't end well, as she's killed due to some freak sex act known as a donkey punch (look it up...I'm not explaining it here, nor do I even pretend that I had clue as to what it was prior to hearing about this film...disturbing to say the least). When the men want to cover up the crime, the two remaining ladies begin to fear for their lives and are determined to fight back at whatever cost.

This is a nice, taut little thriller that would not have worked had the seven actors not sold it. Since we're stuck on a boat for essentially the whole movie, these actors are all the movie is about. We're not looking at scenery, we're not exploring other characters...it's them and them alone. While none of them were anything special, it's a testament to them that I enjoyed the film.

Now, the film ends kind of silly, and it's absolutely one of those movies where you can tell who's going to make it out alive from the opening shots, but it kept me entertained and, at times, on the edge of my seat. The director certainly knows how to ratchet up the tension, in particular during the lengthy sex scene that leads up to the titular act. If we know anything about the movie, we as viewers know what's coming and the sex scene, while incredibly alluring, makes us extremely uncomfortable. There's some talent on display by the director for being able to hold our attention and keep us tense despite our knowledge of the outcome.

So, overall, a decent movie. There's certainly nothing new brought to the table here, but what is on display is fairly good.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Movie Review - Gigantic (2009)

Starring Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Ed Asner, and Zach Galifianakis
Written by Matt Aselton and Adam Nagata
Directed by Matt Aselton


I don't know that I've wanted a movie to end this year more than I wanted Gigantic to end. It's not that it was even the worst movie I've seen, but it was full of those "quirky" characters that do wacky things that people would never do in real life simply to try and provide laughs for the movie-going audience.

Paul Dano is Brian Weathersby, a 28-year old mattress salesman who has wanted to adopt a baby from China for his whole life. One day, he meets Happy Lolly (Zooey Deschanel) whose father has just bought a mattress from him. They fall in love. That's pretty much it (except for the weird subplot of a homeless guy played by Zack Galifianakis who is constantly beating up Brian...why? Because it's weird and edgy, that's why). Brian and Happy both have that solemn, emotionless indie characteristic that we see in indie movies where the writers don't know what to write about. The two of them are so blah that I never once felt anything but boredom whenever Dano and Deschanel were onscreen. Dano and Deschanel were playing characters I've seen them play before...they brought nothing new to the table here. Sure, they weren't helped by the awful script, but they certainly were poor on their own merits.

The only thing saving this movie from complete failure are the performances of John Goodman and Ed Asner as Happy and Brian's respective fathers. Goodman's character is a completely unbelievable "quirky" rich guy, but he plays it with gusto and was the only person that breathed life into the movie. Asner was the only "normal" person here and I enjoyed the performance probably for that reason alone.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Friday, August 07, 2009

He Had High Hopes...

So the Philadelphia Phillies inducted Harry Kalas into their Wall of Fame today, an honor that heretofore was only allowed for players and coaches. I was at the game and there was a nice little tribute to the great announcer in a ceremony prior to the first pitch tonight. Mike Schmidt (whom I supposedly modeled my stance after when I was a youth...there apparently was a moderate butt shake involved that I copied from Schmitty [wikipedia calls it a "waving of his posterior while waiting for a pitch," but let's call a spade a spade -- I shook my ass in the batter's box apparently]) gave a short but sweet speech about Kalas and then Kalas's family was shepherded around the stadium in a car. Granted, it wasn't anything exciting, but Phillies baseball really is missing something without him. I find myself not listening to radio broadcasts nearly as much anymore (I realize he did the tv broadcasts, too). Anyway, the Phils' lack of any type of offensive strength when runners were in scoring position led to a loss (haven't seen a winning game at Citizens' Bank Park this year), but the tribute was nice.

Below is both the tribute video that Comcast SportsNet aired immediately following Kalas' death. And below that is my original post from back in April the day Kalas died.




***Originally posted 4/13/09***

As owner David Montgomery said, the Philadelphia Philles have lost their voice today, with the announcement that Harry Kalas has passed away.

Kalas was with the Phils since before I was born and he was the Phillies. Players came and went, but Harry was always there, singing "High Hopes" whenever the mood set in (which, to be completely honest, I never really understood, but now I feel guilty for thinking it was odd).

I guess my Kalas memory would be anytime he said "Michael Jack Schmidt" when I was growing up. I mean, I don't remember any specific time he used the name (heck, Schmidt stopped playing before I turned 10), but I really do remember his staccato reading of "Michael Jack Schmidt." Definitely fun (and certainly sad) to hear that repeated during the reminiscing today on Comcast Sportsnet.

It's fitting that he got to see the Phils win the World Series last year, and fitting still that he threw out the first pitch the day of their ring ceremony.

Harry, you will be missed.

What I'm Listening To - "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney

UPDATE: 4:00 PM 8/7/09 --

All I can say is that should you ever get an opportunity to go and see Paul McCartney in concert, I wouldn't hesitate. This guy's 67 years old, yet he showed no signs of slowing down. He played for over two hours straight (not taking a swig of water the whole time), then came back for two encores.

Playing a mix of Beatles, Wings, and solo music, Macca was a joy to watch. He had a great rapport with the audience, telling little anecdotes in between songs. He certainly hadn't lost any of his well-known charm as the middle-aged women all around me were seen smiling and swooning over the guy.

He kept things simple -- he had a drummer, keyboardist, bass player, guitarist, and himself. The stage was flanked by two large vertical rectangular screens which showed live video of the concert (so we could actually see facial expressions). There was also a large rectangular video screen behind him, but from my position, I couldn't see the screen very well. Despite the stadium setting (the show was held at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.), the show was kept low-key...with the exception of some fireworks during the kick-ass "Live and Let Die," it was all about the music...nothing flashy.

In terms of music, I obviously was most familiar with the Beatles tunes. He started out with "Drive My Car" and hearing the crowd go "Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Yeah!" was a hoot. I enjoyed the acoustic start to "Something," which then got kicked up a notch when the second verse came around. Along with the rocked-up version of "Paperback Writer," my other favorite was the Wings classic "Live and Let Die." That cheesy song is always a winner in my book. His use of pyrotechnics, the video screen rapidly flashing between pictures, Macca on the piano...something I'll never forget.

The place was electric. I certainly haven't been to many shows, but I wonder whether I'll be able to see anything that will match the "feeling" that was generated in this stadium. Thousands upon thousands of people singing "Hey Jude" may seem incredibly corny, but it really was awesome.

So, Happy Anniversary to my parents (my dad surprised my mom with tickets for their anniversary), and thanks for letting my brothers and I tag along with you. It was certainly something that I will always remember.



UPDATE: 3:40 AM -- 8/2/09 -- Sir Paul kicked ass...update forthcoming later this week, but suffice it to say, I'm not sure any future concert I attend will be able compare with this...


ORIGINALLY POSTED: 8/1/09 -- I'll be in the presence of (rock) royalty this evening. I'll update upon my return...I gotta say, I'm moderately excited about seeing honorary knight Paul McCartney in concert. I mean, like or dislike the Beatles, there's no denying their effect on music. Admittedly, I fell into the "the Beatles are overrated" category for a long time, but I've grown to appreciate them much more in the past few years.

Here's a little taste of Sir Paul, singing his Oscar-nominated James Bond tune, "Live and Let Die" (see, I'm trying to keep it movie-related here). The song is incredibly cheesy and feels like three different songs mashed together into one, but I love it for some unknown reason.



Anyone wanna place bets as to whether they think they'll be the requisite Michael Jackson tribute with a little "Say, Say, Say"?