Monthly Archives: September 2006

Untimely Reviews – “Failure to Launch”

     When in love, all romantic comedies are enjoyable.  I like to think of these Untimely Reviews as unbiased.  Due to the passage of time from a movie's original release and my untimely viewing of it, the previews and overheard criticism have faded from my memory.  This passage of times ordinarily leaves me a tabula rasa.  But alas, I am in love.

     I have been blissfully in love with my wife from the moment we met.  She is my sunshine in the morning and my lover's moon at night.  I could spend all of every day with her for eternity and want of nothing.  Together we live our own romantic comedy and when we see a cutesy movie about finding love, it is only art imitating life.

    So last night, when we curled up together to watch "Failure to Launch", we watched blissfully.  The jokes were funny.  The sweet moments made us smile gleefully.  The sappy moments warmed our hearts.  Best of all, when the protaganists finally have their tender and sincere kiss, we kissed along with them.  In that respect, "Failure to Launch" was actually quite successful. 

    I am not totally in lala land.  Some romantic comedies are so good that they are transcendant and can appeal to those in love but unfulfilled, those only hoping to be in love, and those so blissfully in love that they make the former double over and hurl up their popcorn.  Movies like "Sleepless in Seattle", "When Harry Met Sally", and "Notting Hill" fall into this category.  "Failure to Launch" falls into a second tier, those movies that appeal to the blisfully in love crowd and those hoping to be in love.  (There is no worse fate than unfulfilled love.)  Then of course is the category of movies that only those blissfully in love enjoy.  Why do we blissful folk enjoy otherwise mediocre movies?  Because we get to watch them with our sweeties, of course.  (I told you we make people hurl up their popcorn.)

    So, if you have a special someone or hope to find one, "Failure to Launch" is ready for take-off (Sorry, but punnery is a blessed tradition of movie reviews).  For all others, stick with the classics or maybe all twelve hours of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which is romantic in its own right.

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Rants – All Media Will Eat Itself

I have this theory that all media will eventually eat itself.  This is no anti-media rant; I love media, but the evidence is all around me.  Ever watch a movie about making movies, hear a song about songs, or read a book about writers?  Of course you have because those media are eating themselves already.  And this trend is accelerating.  Eventually all that we watch, hear, and read will be about what we watch, hear, and read.  It will be like the snake that eats its own tail, except the media will never die, it will only poop out the digested bits of better works. 

A glance at the new TV shows premiering this fall fully supports my wicked hypothesis.  You know the show Saturday Night Live?  Well, as bad as it has become there are two shows about it, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “30 Rock”.  These are not competing sketch comedy shows.  No siree bob, these are about all the wretched turmoil that goes into making a comedy show.  All that is needed to complete the circle is a Saturday Night Live sketch spoofing “Studio 60” or “30 Rock”. 

Recent movies further bear the trademark of eating from the industry itself.  Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” was not only an overt remake but was also a story about the gritty business of 1930s movie making.  Hollywoodland” and “Black Dahlia” are both murder mysteries involving stars.  E!, the four stomached cow of media eating, celebrates these films about films in a top ten, but forgets to add my personal favorite, “State and Maine”.

Songwriters have further championed the power and passion of their work.  “Bye Bye Miss American Pie”, “Sad Songs”, “Song Sung Blue”, etc.  I estimate that nearly half of all songs mention the word “song” or “music”.  Do song writers think, "what shall I write this song about, hmm, a song, a song with music, a musical song.  I've got, it will be about getting stoned with my homies while singing a song about hoes making music".

Even the news is now introspective.  Ample time and ink is devoted to commenting on the news itself or discussing the news.  Certain news sources, a.k.a. Fox News, are entirely devoted to reporting other the news from other sources.  Fox is eating the news media hand over fist. 

Blogs, such as this, are perhaps the most susceptible to devoting themselves to their medium.  There are even blogs solely about blogs.  I am even guilty of consuming this particular media on this very blog.  Thankfully, few have read the evidence against me.

I do not believe the quality of the media that eats media is always poor.  Quite the contrary, I have enjoyed many a media eating serving.  Writing about ones own media just seems lazy and no one appreciates halfassery.  It is like when you need to pick a password for your e-mail, look around your office, and end up with the name of your computer monitor.  (My password has been viewsonic for years).  I just urge all would be creators to strive beyond jokes about agents, stories about writers, and lyrics with the word “music”. 

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Untimely Reviews – 2 Star Movies “The Core”

      The peach, the peach, the peach is on fire!  Continuing my review of 2 star movies is an honest-to-goodness 2 star effort, "The Core".  Everything that needs to be known about this movie can be encapsulated in one scene.  Two scientists, a young messy haired geologist and an older Carl Sagan-like famous geologist,  are explaining the Earth's impending doom to a panel of generals and cabinet members in charge of the United States government.  While telling the room of decision makers about all of the bad things that will happen when the Earth's core stops rotating, the messy haired geologist asks for a peach and an aerosol can.  At the conclusion of his talk, the messy haired geologist asks the Carl Sagan-like geologist to activate his lighter.  He then uses the lighter to ignite the aerosol spray and shoots fire onto the peach.  The peach bursts into flames and the messy haired scientist says "This is the Earth without its magnetic field." 

     I burst out laughing.  Why?  The flaming peach scene reminded me of the "This is you brain on drugs" commercials.  It is also just ridiculous that these two scientists would do this unrehearsed.  Most sad, though, is that the government audience is more persuaded by the flaming peach than the credible explanations.  We the audience are not let in on how exactly the generals and cabinet members reacted, but I imagine it was something like the following:

     "Fred, did you see that, the peach was on fire."
     "Call the President, tell him about the peach."
     "The peach totally blew up, oh my god, I didn't know that peaches were even flammable."
     "Did you see that peach?  We are in deep sh*t".
     "Flaming peaches, run for your lives!"

Did I mention that this was supposed to be a serious movie.

     There is no point in my spoiling the rest of the fun, but I will add that the depiction of death by shrinking room was equally laughable.  For a more scientific review of this movie's factual foibles, check out Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.  The enjoyment of mockings brings it into 1 star territory, but the eye candy effects and quite good performances shoot this fantasy disaster epic into the 2 star range.  I suggest you do what I did, grab a peach, find it on cable, and don't worry about what you'll miss during bathroom breaks.

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Personal Stories – The End of My Bad Tooth

    Wednesday continued the story of my bad teeth.  This was the big day when the tooth that was being reabsorbed by my body would be removed.  Although my previous tooth removals were horrors, I wasn't very nervous about part of my body being pulled out.  I would have been nervous, but the appointment was postponed for a week and my anxieties sort of wore out.  For the curious, my periodontist had the flu. 

    I took this picture the morning before my appointment.  It is tough to see, but the second upper tooth from the right is a little rosy near the gum line.  That is the color of the pulp pushing through the hole in the tooth that was created by the resorption.  The tooth being hollow, the periodontist warned me that it could break in half.  For the last two weeks I've been cutting my sandwiches into little squares so my tooth wouldn't break off as I bit into them.

    I scheduled the extraction for the afternoon because I would definitely not be back at work once the tooth was removed.  The procedure went really well.  My periodontist, who is great by the way, numbed me up well.  I felt nothing but gentle tugging.  In fact, this was the most painless dental appointment I have ever had.  The tooth broke in half as expected.  In order to remove the portion embedded in my jaw, the periodontist drilled in a screw and then ratcheted the tooth out.  After a few clicks I felt a tug and that was that.  This is what my mouth looks like now.

    After the appointment, I just wanted to crawl into a hole.  My empty socket oozed blood and I was drooling all over myself.  I spent the entire afternoon and evening changing bloody gauze pads.  My dear wife bought me a multi-pack of gauze when the periodontist's samples ran out.  She was a real trooper considering she cannot stand the sight of blood or even descriptions of what blood might look like.  My little baby was a little freaked about by my smile-less blood oozing look.  It was fun to hear my wife read and sing little man to sleep.  As part of my soft and cold things diet, I ate puddings for dinner.  I kept thinking about food getting into my socket and blood trickling down my throat. 

    That night I went back to the office after I was sure everyone else had gone home.  Looking up at my computer monitor kept the blood and saliva off my files.  I was worried that I would bleed all over myself in my sleep so I tried one of the tricks listed on my take home instructions from the periodontist: bite on a moistened tea bag.  Something in tea helps blood to clot.  So I sat at work typing up some legal document with a tea bag in my mouth and drooling tea all over myself.  I was in a bad place night.     

    The next day did not involve any bleeding and it was my first day wearing the temporary denture.  The temporary denture is like a thin plastic mouth guard with a single plastic tooth stuck in it.  When I wear it, my teeth look a bit shinier than normal.  Th temporary replacement for my missing tooth is a little whiter than my other teeth.  (One of the many blows to the ego from visiting the dentist is the rating of your teeth on the yellow scale.)  As attractive as the temporary denture is, it scratches the insides of my mouth and is generally noticeable 95% of the time.  However, I do not look like a hillbilly or a pirate when I wear it, so I will begrudgingly put up with it for now.

    The moral of this story is this: keep your teeth.  Losing my tooth really sucked and still sucks.  I feel bad about it, I cannot eat crunchy foods that could get jammed into my socket, and the cost of a replacement tooth has totally ruined my families' budget.  It is better to keep the teeth you have.  

    This is not the end of my saga.  In two months the periodontist will insert a titanium screw into my jaw and two months after that my regular dentist will glue a permanent replacement tooth onto the titanium screw.  Should be good times.

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Untimely Reviews – “Rent”

 

"Rent" the musical is getting dated.  Aids is now called "HIV" and the drugs used to treat HIV are now much more advanced than AZT.  isn't the crime filled cesspool it once was.  New Yorkers are as worried about terrorists as they are the homeless.  There are no "cyber" studios.  Americans live in at the beginning of the millennium.  But "Rent" is still on the cutting edge even after cutting edge more than a decade ago.  The tragic stories of "Rent" and its vibrant mix of rock, dance, and showtunes endure to this day and like Shakespeare's plays or Michelangelo's ceilings, "Rent" will is a classic that will remain a part of our culture for a long time to come.

I saw "Rent" the musical at its home in NYC about 4 years ago.  "Rent" had been around a long time by then, but it was new to me.  A friend and I bought the cheap seats to the left of stage.  We couldn't see all the goings on, but it was nonetheless a blast.  For a show about living with HIV in the material '90s when you either sell out or die off, it was really fun and inspiring.  The theatre was packed and after the show, in a twist of irony, the bulk of the audience flocked to the chain restaurants that now infest .  My friend and I hit Applebees® and shared a veggie patch pizza and a riblet/chicken finger basket.   Only in !

Last year, "Rent" premiered as a movie.  My digital cable service rates "Rent" as a two star movie.  There are two things wrong here, (1) "Rent" does not need to be a movie, (2) now that "Rent" is a movie, it is actually a three star movie.  For number one, "Rent" the musical is very minimalist, it has only one set.  Part of the fun is seeing how far that one set can be stretched into multiple locations.  The movie's use of real locations or studio set makes "Rent" appear lazy.  For number two, "Rent" as a movie is nevertheless very entertaining and moving.  The music,  is performed in surround sound by the original cast, is top notch.  You will not hear that quality of music in a traveling show or the umpteenth revival on Broadway.  The story also hits home just as it did on stage; I'll admit I got a little teary eyed when it looked like the junkie HIV infected stripper was about die in the roofless squatters apartment.

 

     I think the reason that "Rent" garnered a paltry two stars is because of the audience.  "Rent" has been around long enough that it has divided the nation into two kinds of people, those that have seen "Rent" and those that never cared to.  If you have seen "Rent" on stage, the movie version is second rate at best, like vinyl flooring.  The locations in the movie, as real as they are, were boring: a realistic subway car, a realistic country club, a realistic city street.  *Yawn*.  I also think the movie version over-extended some of the non-singing-and-dancing story parts of the show.  Blah, blah, blah, who cares.  The funniest part of the stage version was Maureen's one-woman act.  It was hilarious because her act was terrible.  In the movie they play her act out as if Maureen was trying to garner laughs.  It was more fun laughing at her than with her.  If "Rent" the movie were still in theatres, I would tell everyone to just go see it live on stage.  However, "Rent" the movie is now cheaply found on digital cable or it can be "Rent"ed.  Heck, for the cost of one third of a Broadway theatre ticket, you can own a copy of "Rent" on DVD.

 

I haven't forgotten about the musical haters.  I too used to despise musicals.  Even as far back as the "Muppet Movie", when I was four or five years old, I hated when the puppets would all break into song.  I just wanted them all to get back to regular talking.  What I was missing then was an appreciation for the music in and of itself.  It can be a tough transition from pop to showtunes, but "Rent" makes that transition a little easier with its popesque sounds taken straight from that musical bridge between the 80s and the 90s.  I suggest cuddling with your sweetie (or find someone to cuddle with) and giving "Rent" a chance.


    

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