Sunday, April 29, 2007

Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun, Steven Spielberg's beautiful tale of World War II victims, was at best faintly praised as another Spielbergian tale of childhood adventure. But this earlier work by the director of Schindler's List emerges on reexamination as a celebration of enduring innocence and imagination in the face of the horrendous desperation and brutal reality of war. Like a deceptively simple symphony, its joys are revealed in repeat experiences, the subtleties that lie beneath the wide-eyed set pieces that often define Spielberg's work. Jim (Christian Bale) is the privileged child of wealthy British merchants in Shanghai in the years before World War II. He idolizes the pilots and aircraft of the war between Japan and China and dreams of soaring through the clouds, blissfully ignorant of the danger so close to his home. But when the Japanese army storms the port city, Jim is separated from his parents and faced with the bleak reality of life alone in a war zone. Falling in with an American scrounger named Basie (John Malkovich), Jim braves the hostile streets of Shanghai before being captured and dragged to the forbidding prison camps of the Japanese army. Jim's struggle to find his parents becomes secondary to the need to save himself and those around him. Adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) from J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun is not only one of Spielberg's most soulful movies, but also among his best. (all movie guide)

Being a big Spielberg fan, I first saw this movie within days of it's release and not only is this one of my favorite Spielberg films, but it is one of my all time favorite films in general. The movie consists of an amazing cast including the wonderful pairing of John Malkovich and Joe Pantoliano but the obvious stand-out performance would have to be that of the 13-year-old Christian Bale. This was Bale's first big production after getting his start on the London stage with Rowan Atkinson and moving on to a few small television roles including commercials. Reportedly, Bale beat out 4000 other children for the role of Jim and, afterwards, the National Board of Review created a special award to honor his performance in the film.

The other huge star of this film, for me, is the direction. This is such a quintessential Spielberg film because every surrounding element seems to have a specific part to play, and practically every shot could be 'freeze-framed' and appreciated for it's intricacy. Through the course of the film, Spielberg creates, with the use of angle, lighting, placement and action, powerful images that remain sharp and distinct long after the initial viewing. This is one of maybe 4 films that I can think of that a person could watch from beginning to end with no sound and have little or no difficulty following the story and still be awed by the beauty and scope of the film.

Granted, this is only my opinion, but I believe an average person of reasonable intelligence would be hard pressed to find a better movie to spend two and a half hours with.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My God, it's Full of Stars

Today, the Hubble Telescope celebrates 17 years in space. Kinda cool. In honor of the anniversary, astronomers have released a newly captured image of the Carina Nebula - one of the largest panoramic images ever taken with Hubble's cameras - more than 423 megapixels' worth, assembled from 48 frames taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys. The image provides a view spanning a distance of 50 light years across the nebula and includes at least a dozen brilliant stars estimated to be 50 to 100 times the mass of our Sun.

As you can see, the image is amazing and when you click it, if you have a slow connection, be patient while it loads. You can go here to read more about the Hubble Telescope or, if you'd like to know more about the image or see it even bigger, go here.

The telescope was named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble whose observations were the first to conclusively prove the existence of other galaxies. Hubble's research also added credibility to the Big Bang theory as well proving that the universe was expanding. Besides having the Hubble Telescope named for him, there is a crater on the Moon named for him, as well. Edwin Hubble died on September 28, 1953 and, interestingly, there was no funeral and his wife never revealed what was done with his body. Evidently, Hubble didn't want any type of service and was either buried in an unmarked grave or, obviously, cremated. To this day no one knows the whereabouts of his remains.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grounds for Improvement

I admit it - I'm one of those Starbuck's people. I really enjoy spending part of a late afternoon/early evening lounging about with a good book and drinking obnoxiously strong coffee. The Starbuck's that I frequent is the first one that opened in West Palm (several years ago) and has been around long enough to have developed a true 'broken-in' feel as well as a large contingent of familiar faces, one or two of which, you are likely to spot on any given visit. I have friends that I only see or talk to when we happen to meet at Starbuck's (which is often) and there's a small group of us who have been known to take over all the comfy chairs, my favorite being the over-stuffed purple (favorite color) velvet club chair, and working 5 or 6 crossword puzzles on a rotational basis with a lot of cross talk and fervent fanfare when a particularly difficult clue is solved.

My time, there, spent socializing with like minded friends or alone, absorbed in a world of words is always time well spent but not confined to Starbuck's out of choice. The people I've met through my caffeine addiction do not strike me as the trendy types and I, for sure, am not, however, we congregate in a trendy locale due merely to lack of options. Were there multiple locations for us to enjoy caffeinated concoctions power-brewed to culturally diverse and eclectic music while immersed in a womb of a chair, I'm sure we'd make the rounds and eventually settle into the agreed upon favorite. Unfortunately, for now, we have only one option so we make the best of it and, besides, I truly enjoy the coffee. I order coffee, for use at home, from several places but I always have 3 or 4 bags of various Starbuck's selections because they have become my preferred daily dose, as it were, but, given the opportunity, I would readily experiment with a new establishment for the sake of change and giving the 'new guy' an opportunity since everyone has to start somewhere and because of who I am; I'm more for intimate and creative and less for structured and corporate, anyway.

The pictures that I've included are what, originally, got me to thinking of these things and my intention was to share the photos - not ramble endlessly about my incredibly exciting existence in a level that Dante missed.

Click here for the rest of the photos.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


This debut feature film from music video director Dominic Sena is a romp through the world of serial killing, which in its bleakness and moral bankruptcy looks backwards to Terrence Malick's Badlands and forward to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Michelle Forbes plays hip, Mapplethorpe-esque photographer Carrie Laughlin, who wants to move to California for a fresh start. Her boyfriend, Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), is a writer who has an idea for a new book, a travel tome on the sites of serial murders. The two plan to go on a cross-country tour of the murder sites, with Brian writing the commentary and Carrie taking the pictures. But they need a couple to share the driving expenses; enter Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis, in a warm-up for her role in Natural Born Killers). Grayce is an ex-con looking to jump parole, while Adele is a childlike naïf. Soon the four are off to California, but the yuppie couple doesn't realize how close they are to their serial killer topic. It seems Grayce has murdered his landlord before their trip and bodies begin piling up disturbingly behind them as they make their way across the country. (all movie guide)

This is a rather enjoyable movie (if you're kind of warped) that showcases the acting talents of everyone involved. The interaction between the four primary actors has a very 'natural' quality (given the two, very different, sets of circumstances) and is able to produce the desired 'uncomfortable', 'innocent', or 'chilling' feeling right on cue without seeming scripted.

For me, this was the first movie where I realized that Brad Pit could truly 'act' and, I'm pretty sure, it was also the first movie I'd seen him in where he wasn't designed to be a piece of Swarovski crystal sitting on the shelf of a barn; he actually looked worse than his environment and created a very disturbing character. Juliette Lewis was equally believable as a character that she has since gone on to patent and Duchovny and Forbes were outstanding but, for the most part, ignored for their performances which seems to be their constant fate. I find it ironic that, even in staring roles, Duchovny and Forbes are usually regarded as secondary characters by 'mainstream' viewers when they are both part of a fan base that has kept actors like William Shatner in the public eye and characters like Captain Kirk young and vibrant for over forty years.

Along with the superb acting is a great car and incredibly fitting and desolate settings. Even when other people are involved, there's a sense of isolation. All of these factors combine together to provide an exceptionally skewed version of a road trip. If you like psychologically twisted characters, very good acting and non-typical story lines, then this may be an evening well spent. Give it a shot.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


A vacationing couple makes a terrifying discovery about the motel room they have just checked into in this thriller directed by Nimrod Antal (no, I've never heard of him either). Their car broken down and their prospects for finding a tow-truck driver slim to none, David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) decide to make the best of their situation by resting out the night at a nearby motel. Left with few choices of entertainment for the evening, the pair soon settles down to enjoy one of the low-budget slasher films playing on the motel-room television. Upon realizing that all of the films seem to have been shot in the very same room they currently occupy, David and Amy suddenly become the stars of a particularly sadistic fright flick. Now, as hidden cameras track their every move, David and Amy attempt to turn the tables on their would-be killer before they meet the same grim fate as the poor souls being butchered on television. (all movie guide)

Fun!! I had a really good time seeing this flick. Simple story, confining locations, and nothing too off the wall to make you scrunch up your face and say, "Now wait just a minute." Also, the movie's only about 90 minutes long so everything is concise and to the point and it never feels like things are being stretched or scenes are going on too long. Luke Wilson was extremely convincing as an average every-day-kinda-guy and Kate Beckinsale more than adequately conveyed the emotional gamut required of her character (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a big fan of Kate's).

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a 'great' movie but it is good and, as I said, it is fun. There seems to be so many movies with similar premises and many of them try too hard, go to extremes that aren't necessary, or simply become tedious with no palpable tension. Vacancy never crosses any of those lines while keeping an above average tension level throughout the course of a disturbingly plausible scenario. In fact, I've already made a mental note regarding checking for hidden cameras if I ever find myself having to stay in a secluded motel.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Treading the Fault Line

When an event such as the one at Virginia Tech occurs, my first reaction is that of remorse for the victims; my second is wondering when the blame assessment will begin.

From what I could tell, the initial blame-game started Monday afternoon with the campus police and their possible failure after the initial crime scene. By Tuesday I was beginning to see 'news' media personalities blame the campus officials for not contacting victim's families fast enough. Wednesday brought finger-pointing stemming from judge rulings, professor's action and student's concerns. The attempt was made to involve the gun purchases but, unfortunately for the media and Blame Enforcement, both handguns had been purchased legally by the crazy guy as dictated by Virginia gun laws. Now, here we are at Friday and not only are people still looking to find a reason behind an insane person's actions, but one television network is being blamed for displaying material sent to them by the aforementioned fruitcake. And it doesn't end there. I actually heard one reporter focusing blame on the fact the classroom doors could not be locked and had no windows, which prevented anyone from seeing where the nut-job with the guns was located - not bothering to mention that if they could see the lunatic, the lunatic could see them. For me, if some psycho's going to be shooting at me, I'd rather be shot at through a solid door with no line of sight than through a window with decent aim.

Then, on top of everything else, sprinkled throughout the past few days I've heard rumblings concerning gun control, points of view on mental health professionals, and, of course, the usual suspects of violence in music on television and in video games. It's absolutely amazing to me how a vast majority of the population has such a strong desire to find some type of explanation for an event that, in truth, has no solid explanation except for the fact that the event was perpetrated by an unhinged individual. The people who feel the need to make 'sense' of a mentally unsound act remind me of what Morpheus said in The Matrix:

"But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."

The people who need a reason are, for whatever reason, unable to fathom such a demented act as being random and unpredictable. That entire concept would unbalance the neat, tidy and relatively safe (as well as cutoff) world in which they live. They believe that with new laws, better restrictions and more of anything else that could help, they should never have to be reminded that such an event could ever occur, and no event means no failed explanation. Win, win. These are the same people who will now try to stereotype mental illness and place restrictions on diagnosed individuals which will only lead to people who might actually require therapy and/or medication to not seek out help for fear of being placed on some kind of watch list.

Basically, there's always going to be a wild card so, as difficult as it is to accept, we might as well get used to it. The most recent gun toting loony may have fit a pattern but many who fit the same pattern would never go to such an extreme while another individual with an entirely different pattern, would. Some will be judged unfairly and, I realized yesterday, I could easily become one of the judged. For example, here are two descriptions of myself:

1) I've never been married, I live alone in a very clean and looked after apartment, I'm neat (as in appearance), in shape from working out and eating right, I can get a little 'misty' watching certain movies, I love to cook and my best friends have always been females.

2) I'm a white male, I live alone, I keep to myself, I'm a very quiet neighbor, I don't go out much, my windows are always dark, I have no pets, I'm very meticulous and I rarely have visitors.

As hard as it may be to believe, I am not gay, nor am I a serial killer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lake Placid

So what's under the water in that lake deep in the Maine woods? No one is sure what it could be, but a dead and severely mutilated body was found near the shore, and the only clue is a large tooth which appears to be from a prehistoric animal resembling a huge crocodile. Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), the local fish and game warden, is investigating the case when he's assigned a helper, paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda). Kelly generally does office work since she hates the outdoors (a drawback in her line of work) and is recovering from a breakup with one of her co-workers. Jack would just as soon handle this matter without Kelly's help, but with time, the two get used to each other and something beyond a working relationship begins to develop. Meanwhile, Jack and Kelly also have to deal with Sheriff Hank Keogh (Brendan Gleeson), who would like to find the mystery creature and kill it; Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt), a quirky mythology expert who wants to capture and study the beast; and Mrs. Bickerman (Betty White), an eccentric older woman with dubious stories about her missing cattle -- and missing husband. Blending suspense, humor, and romance, Lake Placid was written by David E. Kelley, creator of the popular TV shows Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal and directed by Steve Miner, whose credits range from TV's The Wonder Years to the films Forever Young and Halloween H2O. (all movie guide)

Three words sum up this movie quite nicely: Sarcasm, sarcasm and more sarcasm (oh, and there's a 'big crocodile', too, so I guess that makes 'five' words, total). This movie is a sarcasm-fest from the opening scene to the final moments before the credits roll. Bridget Fonda is surprisingly nimble in balancing her character and delivering cutting, fast and emotional dialog. Fonda is supremely effective as the out-of-her-element female determined to hold her own while Bill Pullman is the right-at-home-laid-back-take-it-easy counter weight with a more subtle sarcastic delivery.

However, for me, the real magic of the story and dialog comes from the interaction and chemistry between Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt. It's an absolute treat watching (and hearing) two characters develop through such heavy volleys of rapier like sarcastic wit. It's also amazing watching an actor like Gleeson who has played such serious roles as Hamish Campbell in Braveheart and Frank (the father in the apartment building) in 28 Days Later portray such a hilarious (and sarcastic) straight-man while sounding so American (he's Irish).

The supporting cast includes Meridith Salenger, who was in the 80's flick Dream a Little Dream with the two Coreys (yes, I saw it), and Betty White in a hysterically funny and unexpectedly verbal role, which makes it even more amusing.

This is, yet again, another one of those stop-taking-yourself-so-seriously-and-have-fun movies and if you're not sure if you'd like it, here's a simple test: If you've ever walked into a room dripping wet after being caught in an unexpected downpour and someone said, "Is it raining?" and you replied with something like, "No, it's National Baptism Day," then there's a good chance you'll enjoy, at least, part of this film.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Privilege of a Sponge

After mentioning Christopher Plummer, the other day, I was excited to read about him opening on Broadway in a revival of Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

Inherit the Wind is based on the 1925 Tennessee trial of teacher John Scopes who was being tried for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which was illegal under Tennessee law. The proceedings became known as the 'Scopes monkey trial'. Plummer portrays the defense attorney, Henry Drummond, who, in reality was Clarence Darrow, and Brian Dennehy plays prosecutor Mathew Harrison Brady who's real world counterpart was William Jennings Bryan. The play originally opened on Broadway in 1955 with the names having been changed because of the prevalent McCarthyism of the times.

One of my favorite films is the 1960 version of the play which starred Spencer Tracey as Drummond and Fredric March as Brady. The film is also populated with the familiar faces of Harry Morgan (pictured), Dick York (yes, Derwood), Claude Akins, Norman Fell, and Gene Kelley in an early dramatic roll. The chemistry between Tracey and March coupled with the incredible story creates a movie that can be enjoyed, as well as felt, over and over again, and judging from what I've read, so far, Plummer and Dennehy have powerfully taken over the roles.

If you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to see this wonderful play, don't be daft and pass it up and if you're not going to be in the Broadway area anytime soon, at least you can pick up the dvd and see an amazing version in the comfort of your own home.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Take 'er Easy There, Pilgrim

Sadly, Kurt Vonnegut passed away last night. Apparently, a recent fall in his Manhattan home caused irreversible brain damage which lead to his death.

There is a very good article from the Associated Press in the SeatlePI today.

I haven't read all of his work but Slaughterhouse-Five is definitely one of my favorites (and if you read only one Vonnegut book, this one should be it) and I enjoyed Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions as well. The funny thing is, it took learning that my favorite author, John Irving, had been a student of Vonnegut's before I actually picked up one of his novels and once I did, I was amazed at how much he was able to convey in a minimal amount of words and angry at myself for taking so long to read such a magnificent writer. If you have yet to experience Vonnegut, any further delay would be a heinous disservice to yourself.

Interestingly, Kurt's brother, Bernard Vonnegut who died in 1997, was an atmospheric scientist who, in 1946, discovered that silver iodide could be introduced into clouds as a nucleating agent in order to create ice crystals which would lead to the production of rain or snow. In other words, Bernard invented 'cloud seeding' which is a practice still in use today. Two really smart guys at opposite ends of the creative spectrum. Bernard's work with cloud seeding was probably the inspiration for Kurt's 'ice-nine' used in Cat's Cradle. Ice-nine was a chemical element that could freeze all water it came into contact with and would only melt at 114 degrees Fahrenheit, which could effectively destroy Earth's water supply.

Hopefully, right now, they're reminiscing about old times.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Pastoral

A quick recommendation.

The Discovery Channel in conjunction with the BBC has, for the past three weeks on Sunday nights, been showing the 11 part series, Planet Earth, which documents the Earth's nature and wildlife from pole to pole with unheard of photography and unique footage, some of which, having never been filmed before. The first three episodes aired on March 25th followed by 2 episodes on April 1st and 2 episodes last night. The remaining 4 episodes will be split between Sundays April 14th and 21st. If you consider yourself a fan of nature and enjoy the beauty this planet has to offer you should definitely, if you haven't already, see this show.

From what I understand, the series has already aired on the BBC and was narrated by Sir David Attenborough (Richard's brother) while the U.S. version is narrated by Sigorney Weaver who has, so far, done an excellent job, in my opinion. The series is already available on DVD in the UK and the first three episodes are available in the U.S. from the Discovery Channel Store. On April 24th, the complete series will be released on standard DVD as well as high definition Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs which are already available for pre-order on sites like or for US$30.00 less than when they become available in stores.

I've been watching the episodes on Discovery HD Theater, the Discovery Channel's high definition counterpart (for those of you who didn't know), and I must admit that it is really amazing. I have been throughly astounded by each episode thus far and fully plan to buy the series in hi-def when they're released. Even though the series is amazing in any format, I'm sure, I must recommend that if you don't have a high definition television and you know someone who does, you should really consider paying them a visit this Sunday evening in order to fully experience the breathtaking moments.

It's important to remember that much of what is shown are environments that are slowly changing and will cease to exist before the end of some of our lifetimes. The habitat of the Polar Bear, for example, grows smaller each year bringing the bears closer and closer to the endangered species list and, possibly, extinction. It's perfectly conceivable that this series could, in 100 years, serve as a sad reminder of the beauty and wonder this planet once offered.

My title for this post refers to Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F major which was completed in 1808. This music has come to mind several times during the viewing of Planet Earth because of it's association with the movie Soylent Green. In the movie, our planet has become overpopulated and undernourished and there is no longer any natural beauty left in the world. Near the end of the film, one of the characters, Sol Roth (portrayed by Edward G. Robinson in his last film role), finally succumbs to his despair and relinquishes himself to a government euthanasia center. In these centers, as people are being peacefully put to death in private rooms, they are shown video of the world as it once was in all it's glory with lush forests, green and flowered meadows and abundant wildlife all under a beautiful blue sky - none of which exist any longer. As Sol is dying and watching the Earth-as-it-was, the video is accompanied by several pieces of music, one being Symphony No. 6. The symphony is known as the Pastoral Symphony and at it's first performance was entitled "Recollections of Country Life".

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Joss Whedon, the executive producer behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, reached for curious new heights in the fall of 2002 with the Fox series Firefly, and the fruits of his labor are collected in this four-disc set. Set 500 years in the future, Firefly falls in the category of sci-fi space adventure, yet its flavor is rooted in the Wild West. Earth is pretty much spent, and a totalitarian government known as the Alliance rules the planets where most of its earlier inhabitants have spread. Nathan Fillion stars as Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, who fought for independence from the Alliance in a civil war, and now captains the Serenity, a ship of outcasts. His crew includes his second-in-command Zoe (Gina Tores), a pilot named Wash (Alan Tudyk), engineering maven Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and career soldier Jayne (Adam Baldwin). Also aboard are Inara (Morena Baccarin), a highly respected prostitute; a preacher known as Shepherd Book (Ron Glass of Barney Miller fame); and a mysterious pair of siblings -- Simon and River Tam -- portrayed by Sean Maher and Summer Glau, respectively. Although Whedon's Farscape- meets- Bonanza concept clicked straight away with many fans, the series failed to meet Fox's ratings needs, and crashed after 11 episodes, all collected here, in addition to a trio of unaired episodes. Fox could not permanently ground this crew, however; Serenity, a big-screen reunion movie directed by writer-producer Whedon, opened in theaters in September, 2005, drawing generally favorable reviews.

This one is extremely simple. If you like well written stories sprinkled with a variety of humor in multiple guises along with well filmed action and enough drama to 'keep it real,' than you've already watched this and I'm not going to be able to tell you anything you don't already know. On the flip side, if you have seen all the Firefly episodes but didn't like the show - you have my condolences and I recommend a complete psychological profile because you're obviously missing something. However, if you do happen to fall into the minority of people who have not seen Firefly and yet feel they have a good sense of humor and, on most occasions, choose not to take themselves (or anything else) too seriously, then please dash out and pick up a copy of this fun well written show that was definitely too short lived. I'm convinced there's a Browncoat in most of us.

This show is one of the few examples of movies/shows that, while I wish everyone who might enjoy it could have to opportunity to see it, I'm extremely jealous of those who haven't because of the simple fact that they get to have the fun and surprise of the 'first-time' experience that I remember so well from my first viewing but, unfortunately, rarely get to experience on any kind of regular basis.

Saturday, April 07, 2007



Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino and Sin City director Robert Rodriquez join forces to offer a cinematic tribute to the blood-soaked exploitation epics of yesteryear with this hyper-violent coupling of two 60-minute features punctuated by a collection of outrageous trailers. In "Death Proof" -- director Tarantino's take on the slasher films of the 1970s and '80s -- Kurt Russell stars as an engine-revving psychopath who prefers to take out his victims hit-and-run style. Rodriguez's segment -- entitled "Planet Terror" -- details the violent struggle between a ravenous army of zombie-like humanoids who have taken over a planet not so different from our own, and the remaining survivors who refuse to go down without a fight. Its tantalizing title borrowed from the term frequently used to describe the seedy, 1970s-era inner-city movie theaters that screened excessive, low-budget independent films containing copious amounts of violence and nudity as a means of offering counter-programming to the decidedly more restrained big-budget studio films, Grindhouse takes its love for these unabashedly sleazy efforts one step further by offering an intermission which showcases a jaw-dropping collection of fake exploitation trailers. (all movie guide)

3 hours and 25 minutes (including the real trailers) of over-the-top guilty, guilty pleasure with a large portion of the time spent laughing. I'm a little twisted, so I had an absolute blast. Rodriguez's sci-fi/horror fest (Planet Terror) was reminiscent of the 70's zombie films, but funny intentionally, and Tarantino's turn (Death Proof) proved to be equally funny with a psychopath in a muscle car up against tough girls with good dialog. The most brilliant part of the combined experience was the fact that each movie had a "missing reel" around the halfway point - meaning there was no real boring part because the perfunctory explanations, dramatizing and hypothesizing were skipped.

All of the actors involved seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their roles which means there were a lot of actors having a good time. It was great to see Naveen Andrews (Sayid!!) having fun along with Bruce Willis , Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Freddy Rodriguez and Michale Parks in the first segment and then getting to watch Kurt Russell play the kind of guy he's probably been wanting to play for so long that he did this movie for next to nothing. For me the standout performance was that of Rose McGowan and while she was a primary character in Planet Terror, she also had a significant role in Death Proof playing an entirely different type of character and doing it well.

If you're familiar with the 'Grind House' type of movie and an excess of really fake gore doesn't bother you - this might be right up your alley. One piece of advice - if you can't make it through the entire show without a restroom break, watch the fake trailers online so when they come on between 'movies' you'll have the opportunity for a quick relief.

Friday, April 06, 2007


All things considered, this is easily one of the funniest things I've seen (and heard) in quite a while.

The headbut has to be my favorite part.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Size Does Matter

Continuing with yesterday's theme, I thought a visual representation might be in order.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's All a Matter of Perspective

I, like most people, have been known to let things get to me, on occasion, even though I try desperately to remain an easy going individual. I firmly believe that this hurry-hurry, rush-rush society we've established makes it so easy to get caught-up in the stressful demands of work, personal issues and merely 'living' in general that we can reach a point where we have difficulty proceeding from one day to the next because of the quagmire we create for ourselves by taking everything so very serious and not stopping to realize there's only so much we can do, take on or keep up with - and that's only for the average person. The people who truly have issues are doubly screwed and I can't even imagine what it's like for people who deal with the real pressure of having other people's lives depend on them. I have a variety of things that I do to relieve the pressures of 21st Century living and help me remember that I'm not as important as my ego would try and lead me to believe I am. A couple of years ago, I ran across something that truly helped my perception and and I still refer to it from time to time.

The image below was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope during the period of September 3, 2003 to January 16, 2004 and is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field or HUDF. The area of sky that the Hubble was pointing to is about 1 tenth the diameter of the full moon as seen from Earth and was chosen because it was relatively dark with very few bright stars close to the viewing field. For Hubble to capture the image, 400 orbits around Earth were required with 800 exposures (pointing to the exact same spot) combined for a total exposure time of 11.3 days. From our perspective, the image covers 11.5 square arcminutes, which is smaller than a grain of sand held at arm's length, and is looking back in time roughly 13 billion years.

Every point, smudge or notion of light is another galaxy.

This single, infinitesimally small area of our universe is displaying (at best count) 10,000 galaxies containing hundreds of millions of stars, each. (Click on it - it's big)

Suddenly my issues seem very small.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Kinder Softer (and responsible) Soldier

One of the biggest movies from the past few months (and probably so far this year) has been "300" which, since it's release on March 9, has grossed US$180,000,000. In case you've been living in a hole, the movie is about a group of heavily outnumbered soldiers who sacrifice their lives for their country and what they believe in. "300" has performed very well at the box office and while a majority of the reviews have been favorable, from what I've heard (I don't read reviews), the film has been criticized for being overly violent, exaggerated and barbaric.

Well, I think it's just lovely that the 15 British sailors and marines who were captured by Iran have decided to show exactly how far the modern day soldier has come in comparison to their 480BC representations. Not only will they admit to their errors (substantiated or not), but they'll diagram their mistakes, with military precision, on a conveniently provided map (with pointer). Given the opportunity, they'll even write a letter and wax philosophical concerning troop withdrawal from other countries or condemn their own government for getting them into such a situation. The new 'sensitive' soldiers are also quick to remind everyone how friendly, informative and accommodating their captors are (and have been) because we wouldn't want to confuse them with the other folks from that region who cut off people's heads while they're screaming or use women and children as suicide bombers. In fact, I'm sure that at this very moment they're all sitting around, hand in hand-flowers in their hair, with their captors humming some Iranian version of "Kumbaya" while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reads a poem about peace, love and everyone getting along (unless, of course, you're Jewish).

It really does my heart good to know that the military has evolved beyond the callous and unfeeling standard of, "Name, rank and serial number" and I can't, for the life of me, believe that some people actually think the British soldiers may have been coerced by threats into saying or writing the things that they have. Shocking! Everyone knows that soldiers are trained to ignore threats of personal harm and withstand inflicted pain for days and even weeks at a time in order to protect the greater good of that which they represent and while these new 'feeling' soldiers may have evolved to a higher and less barbaric plane of existence than their Spartan ancestors, I'm positive they still carry the same rigid faith in their leaders, their country and themselves.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Night Watch

Two bands of warriors, one good and one evil, battle to keep the peace in Moscow in this cat's cradle thriller from Russia. In 1342, the Warriors of Light (led by Gesser, Lord of Light) and the Warriors of Darkness (led by Zavulon, General of Darkness) declare a truce under which each side will form a law enforcement team to monitor the other side's activities. The Warriors of Light, who enforce the powers of good, patrol the Night Watch, while the Warriors of Darkness, who openly embrace evil, staff the Day Watch. Each watch group also contains "Others," mortals with supernatural powers from both sides that include vampires, shapeshifters, witches, and the like. Prophecy suggests that one day, a Great One will surface and permanently extinguish the threat of an apocalyptic war between the two sides by upsetting the balance, lending greater power to either good or evil (depending on his or her choice) and thus determining the future of mankind forever.

In 1992, Night Watch member and Warrior of Light Anton Gordesky (Konstantin Khabensky) discovers he's an "other" amid a sting on a witch. Cut to twelve years later. In 2004, Anton still works the Night Watch, but now he's a vampiric warrior who drinks blood. One night, while on patrol, he rescues a young boy named Egor (Dima Martinov) from a handful of Dark Warriors, but in the process, he encounters Svetlana (Maria Poroshina), a woman who acts as a "funnel" -- a conduit for the powers of evil. Anton reflects on the prophecy regarding "The Great One," and begins to suspect that Svetlana and Egor may be harbingers of this fateful event. As the first installment in a Russian trilogy, Night Watch (aka Nochnoj Dozor) was a massive box-office success in its native Russia, and is followed by the second installment, Day Watch; it was released in the U.S. with a heavy prologue and epilogue, and animated subtitles that alternately scuttle across the screen, dissolve, shudder, and explode. (all movie guide)

The only thing left for me to say is that this is one of the most original and inventive movies that I've seen in quite some time. The movie is based on a series of popular books by Sergy Lukyanenko with a second film already released and a third in the early planning stages. The release of Night Watch actually set a new box office record (in Russia) which was previously held by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The story borrows from classic material while, at the same time, re-imagining old and creating new techniques of 'vampire' story telling.

Another thing that really appealed to me was, because of not being familiar with any of the actors, the story and each individual are of equal importance and given time to develop. As anyone who's read a few of my movie picks could tell you, I'm not big on 'celebrity' movies or movies that simply function as a vehicle for one particular actor (but I do have my guilty pleasures).

Anyway, if you like twisty vampire have-to-pay-attention-and-think trippy kind of action flicks with very very cool subtitles, this dvd is right up your alley. Just don't forget to bring a mirror with you.