Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Loose Cannons

Loose Cannons (1990) ***
Director: Bob Clark (A Christmas Story, Porky's series)
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Gene Hackman

Buddy cop comedy with Aykroyd in top comedic form. Not a great movie by any means, but Aykroyd's performance is amusing enough (also supported by the comic talents of the late Dom DeLuise) that it's at least worth the rental if you're a fan of his work.

Review: Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful (2006) - not even worth half an asterisk
Director/Writer: Richard Brandes (who also wrote/directed/produced/acted in several other low-budget B-movie thrillers)
Starring: Rachel Miner, Mimi Rogers

"Dreadful" describes this flick perfectly. It's a boring mess of a horror movie about a teen who's trapped in a car and terrorized by... something, I guess. It's difficult to decipher what the heck's going on: the plot is awkward and nonsensical, and you spend most of the movie waiting for something to happen. But the suspense never pays off. In the behind-the-scenes featurette, the director says he wanted to give the audience "the sense of being inside the car." Well, if I'd wanted to experience that, I'd have just gone out and sat in my car for 90 minutes instead of watching this movie.

Review: A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan (1998) **** (out of 5 asterisks)
Director: Sam Raimi (Evil Dead trilogy, Spider-Man trilogy)
Starring: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton

Fascinating moral tale about greed and how it can corrupt even good,
decent people. Great thriller. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review: Still Breathing

Continuing my series of recommended Valentine's Day romantic movies...

- Still Breathing (1997) ****1/2
Director/Writer: James F. Robinson
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Joanna Going

At the risk of sounding dangerously un-masculine, I'm not ashamed to admit I loved this movie. It's a beautiful modern fairytale about how a truly odd couple -- a con artist and a puppeteer -- find "true love." Yes, it's sheer romantic fantasy but it's presented in a way that's refreshing and hopeful without being cliché. Highly recommended for helpless romantics.

Additional thoughts:

I'm expanding on this capsule review since this is both a very watchable film and a great DVD package too.

There's something very calming, peaceful and comforting about this film. And it's intelligent, well-performed and full of nuance -- subtle details, symbolism, foreshadowing and a color palette all deliberately and strategically placed in the film that you might not even pick up on them during the first viewing. So if you love films I suggest watching it more than once.

And the director's audio commentary is hands-down the most insightful presentation I have ever heard for a film on the careful thought, effort, and painstaking attention to detail that went into crafting this genuine gem of a film.

I loved this movie so much, I ended up buying the soundtrack too.

It's disappointing that writer/director James F. Robinson has only this solitary film to his credit on I'd love to see more from him. Where the heck are you, James? Please, Mr. Robinson, give us more films like this one.

Review: Happy Accidents

Continuing my series of recommended Valentine's Day romantic movies...

- Happy Accidents (2000) ***
Director/Writer: Brad Anderson (Session 9, Fringe, Transsiberian)
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Marissa Tomei

Offbeat romantic drama with a sci-fi twist, and Tomei and D'Onofrio are convincing enough in their roles and relationship to make you want to believe. Worth watching for a "date night" with you and someone special.

Review: Every Time We Say Goodbye

I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy the occasional romantic movie provided it's well-acted and produced and not too predictable.

In light of Valentine's Day, I thought it appropriate to recommend some romantic films I have personally enjoyed. This is the first of three I'll be posting consecutively.

- Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986) **1/2 (out of 5 asterisks)
Director/Writer: Moshé Mizrahi
Starring: Tom Hanks, Cristina Marsillach

This is a little like Fiddler On The Roof, only without the singing. It's the ol' Jews-must-not-marry-Gentiles cliché of forbidden love. (Forbidden!) As a romantic drama it's fairly average and I can understand why some might rate it lower even than I did because it's fairly slow and predictable. However, Tom Hank's performance is solid as always, and Cristina Marsillach is just plain adorable and charming. Recommended for you incurable romantics out there. Good date movie.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Political Transformers

GMANews.TV reports:
Two days before the start of the campaign period, posters of candidates running for national and local posts have begun to litter parts of Metro Manila.

In Manila and Quezon City, posters of a presidential bet and his running mate [Richard Gordon and running mate Bayani Fernando] sprouted in several areas, including parts of main thoroughfares such as España Avenue and Quezon Avenue.

While the posters did not tell people to "vote" for the candidates, the images of the presidential bet and his running mate, along with their nickname "The Transformers," were prominent in the posters.

It makes one wonder if they really thought through that campaign slogan. Such an easy target for parody. What a fun presidential race that will be.

So which one is Bumblebee?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Walkin' in Memphis - is a dangerous thing to do

In January, I visited the family in my hometown of Memphis, TN. It was the first time I'd been "home" in 3 years, and I was amazed how much the city has changed over the last decade...and not for the better.

My younger brother informed me that the Hickory Ridge Mall had closed after a tornado devastated it in 2008 (2 years ago this month). It was our favorite hang-out when we were younger. We didn't do the kind of social hang-out with groups of teens like you normally see at malls. It was usually just to get out of the house and girl-watch. We also watched a lot of movies at that mall, and I used to go there after work regularly to watch one before going home for the night.

A lot of purchases were made at that mall for my collection of TV/movie cartoon memorabilia. And it seems like I bought my very first DVD at that mall too. Good times. And just to give you a sense of the history I had with that mall, I remember when Weird Al's "UHF" and "Transformers: The Movie" were showing at the theater there.

And then today, my friend and Memphian Dave Lambert (of fame) tells me that The Mall of Memphis was bulldozed several years ago. Holy crap. Guess my family failed to mention that, but the mall seemed doomed anyway due to weekly gang fights which led to ever-dwindling mall traffic.

I have so many great memories of that mall. Going there with my family was an event that I always looked forward to, especially during the holidays because it was guaranteed that my parents were going to buy a gift for me there. I would visit my favorite stores with my Christmas wish list and mom would have me show her the top items on my list. Then dad would take us to the food court for ice cream while mom bought our gifts.

I also became a movie fan there. I watched my first theatrical Ernest movie there. I remember my grandmother taking me to see "The Great Muppet Caper" there for my birthday, which she fell asleep during but I loved going with her nevertheless. And when I finally turned 18, I watched my first R-rated movie there too (it was "Total Recall").

I think I even bought my first Transformer there, a hobby I've had ever since.

My family used to go there nearly every Saturday night and eat in the food court and watch the ice skaters, but we stopped going when it seemed like every weekend there were cops chasing kids and shoplifters through the mall and far too many cop cars patrolling the dark areas of the parking lot.

I don't know where Memphis ranks currently in top crime cities in the U.S., but it's bound to be in the top 5. Seems like every time my wife and I watch "COPS" or "The First 48" they're filming in Memphis.

In 2004, when my wife and I were dating, her dad who was also a trucker offered to take me with him for a quick run to Memphis so I could visit my family. We stopped at a popular truck stop just inside the Memphis city limits and a "lot lizard" (that's trucker-speak for "prostitute") knocked on the window and asked if we "needed any company." three o'clock in the afternoon.

And the downtown area has deteriorated over time too, largely from rampant crime and afternoon hookers. My family who still lives in the Memphis area and other Memphis natives tell me they leave downtown to the tourists.

I guess that's why I find Marc Cohn's 1991 radio hit "Walkin' In Memphis" so woefully ironic. To begin with...well, Cohn is from Cleveland, but that's another topic. What makes the song so ironic is that if you follow the course of a walking tour as Cohn describes in the song, it will take you the greater part of a week to accomplish on foot.

...and that's only if you survive the experience. Walking anywhere around the iconic Memphis tourist attractions Cohn mentions in the song can be hazardous to your health. People have been beat up, stabbed or shot by gang members and petty crooks in those places, and also many wallets and purses have been snatched and many cars stolen and/or broken into as well.

It's sad to see the home of my childhood and so many good memories now tainted by the current conditions of the city. I love my family, but I wish all the safety and happiness in the world to them and friends who still live in the Memphis area. The cliche "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" is replaced with simply "It's a nice place to leave."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Facebook is Full of Fail

The following was originally posted February 6, 2010 and has since become a mostly dated rant.

I hates the new Facebook changes.

The Live Feed has become a nightmare cluttered with posts from Fan Pages and Groups and every single little bit of activity by my friends (which I only want to see if I actually look at their profiles).

My organized friends lists have disappeared. Thank you so much, Facebook, for letting me waste my time setting those up so you could purge them in your update.

You can't even view your Groups at a glance now -- it redirects to your feed, which is complete nonsense.

And you practically need a tutorial to understand how their new privacy controls work. I really don't want every single post to friends' profiles, fan pages and groups showing up in my feeds, and there's no reason everyone in my networks should see that either (nor do most of them even care to). Seriously, there's no legitimate reason why Facebook can't put that setting back to the way it was before.

If this continues, people are going to get fed up w/Facebook and someone(s) will make something better where users' recommendations and requests are actually priority considerations for format and content instead of being ignored.

I pray for that day to come quickly. If I was married to Facebook, I would get a divorce. Or hire someone to break Facebook's legs with a lead pipe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Movie Review: Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls (2006) **** (out of 5 asterisks)
Director/Writer: David Von Ancken (Cold Case, CSI: NY)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson

A somewhat slow but satisfying western drama which deftly illustrates the futility of war and revenge and the healing power of redemption and forgiveness. Features great cinematography, an intriguing plot and solid performances. Heartily recommended if you enjoy westerns.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Burgers and Math

Nolan Rubin loves hamburgers.

He loves hamburgers so much that he was willing to go on record for a Wall Street Journal article on Burger King "Super Fans" and admit publicly that he would "wolf down bacon cheeseburgers three or four nights a week at Burger King, Jack in the Box and local bars."

And then burger-lover Nolan Rubin was laid off from his job, forcing him to change his eating habits and dine on a tighter budget.

Nolan says now he and his fiance "cook at home using organic vegetables and dine out only on weekends," and "figures he is saving more than $100 a week by eating fewer burgers."

Nolan Rubin may love hamburgers, but he's not so good at math or at being frugal. You can eat 100 Whopper Jrs off the value menu at Burger King for $100...if you were so inclined. You could even add bacon and cheese for pocket change.

And I don't know what those "local bars" were charging for their burgers, but I know BK and Jack's burgers aren't $25 each.

Props to Nolan and his fiance for changing their eating habits and living on a budget, and maybe he'll live longer too since he's backed off the bacon.

But maybe in the future Nolan should leave the math and the finances to his fiance since I think maybe he doesn't know the value of a burger.

Dangit. Now I'm hungry and I have the strangest craving for Burger King...

I guarantee you I won't be having one of their $1 double cheeseburgers they've been advertising. They're awful. BK's double cheeseburger made web headlines recently because their franchisers were complaining they were losing money on the burger.

I should hope so. Their burger made me lose my appetite. BK's $1 double cheeseburger is like eating two kitchen sponges that have been soaked in cheese and beef. At first, I thought it was just poor quality control by the BK location where I first tried one. But unfortunately, it was the same case with TWO other locations.

And what's worse, the meat has a very non-flame-broiled taste that made the Whopper famous.

Burger King's $1 double cheeseburger = Epic Burger Fail.