Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dark Knight, Schmark Knight, or the Power of Mammy


Much has been made this year of THE DARK KNIGHT almost catching TITANIC in the "most $$ ever made" race. It got close - real close. In fact, when you factor in DVD sales, it'll probably pass James Cameron's sinking ship. But, thanks to the wonderful folks at IMDB (and really, is there a website we take for granted more than IMDB - could you imagine if they started charging?), we now have the Top 25 All Time Box Office Winners - adjusted for inflation! This is a fascinating list. I'll let you read it yourself, but here's a bit of a spoiler for you: Walt Disney was a genius. This list is a kind of paean to what a good family movie can do. Take note, Hollywood!

Check it out here.

Let's discuss...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Self Tracheotomies Are Fun!


The best thing I can say about SAW V is that if you have a deep and abiding hate for Gilmore Girls, then this movie has a happy ending. Also, if you wish that Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewy had been smushed in the trash compactor, then this movie has a happy ending.

Other than that, SAW V has a convoluted plot, filled with unnecessary characters. It's got a timeline that you need an abacus to keep track of. It's got lame traps (which is why we watch the movies in the first place). And neither Donnie Wahlberg nor Shawnee Smith are anywhere to be found. Not even in flashbacks.

I'd love to be able to say that this is the is of movie that made us start this silliness, but it's not nearly that much fun.

In terms of expectation v. reality, it wasn't all that bad. I wasn't hoping for much, and that's exactly what I got. Not much. After doing this movie review thing for awhile, what I've come to learn is that the hardest movies to review are the "eh" movies. It wasn't great. It wasn't terrible. Eh.

That's SAW V. Eh.

2 electric bathtubs out of 5.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JOHN UPDIKE : MARCH 18, 1932 - JANUARY 27, 2009


The ancients said the purpose of poetry, of writing, was to entertain and to instruct; Aristotle put forward the still fascinating notion that a dramatic action, however terrible and piteous, carries off at the end, in catharsis, the morbid, personal, subjective impurities of our emotions. The enlargement of sympathy, through identification with the lives of fictional others, is frequently presented as an aim of narrative; D. H. Lawrence, with characteristic fervor, wrote, "And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flows of our sympathetic consciousness, and can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things that are dead." Kafka wrote that a book is an ax to break the frozen sea within us.

- John Updike - from Why Write?

the death of john updike today, happening today, is odd for me. i am not an admirer of mr. updike. never have been. (although i relish that image in his story "A&P" when the girl pulls the dollars bills out of the top of her bikini right in front of the pubescent check-out boy, and he says, "I uncrease the bill, tenderly as you may imagine, it just having come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had ever known." that is so rightfully pubescent.) however, i up and decided to read some snippets of updike's "Why Write?" today. just this morning. the first time i have read or thought of updike since early last fall. and now, just a few moments ago, my office mate tells me he died. and i had only been with him within the hours.

life is odd in the way it comes and goes, passing without permission in either direction, large and loud and owning the entire road, as if it were the only thing that mattered.

Monday, January 26, 2009

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JUDGE REINHOLD?

Tonight at the pub, it came to the attention of Will and Matt and myself that none of us had ever seen Gremlins. I'm a big fan of Steven Spielberg, and so I'm always glad to find these "lesser" projects in the Spielberg canon. Everyone gets a pass on some things, but after this summer's debacle known as the final installment in the Indiana Jones cycle, I've been looking for some sense of redemption. Sure, Munich, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan all built up enough capital to cover for the sins of Harrison Ford's last hurrah, but I digress.

Did anyone else remember that it was Spielberg that produced Gremlins?
**

"What's in the box, Dad? I hear it moving around."

"It's a plot device, son."


After watching this gem of my childhood, I may have to reconsider my Christmas top 5. Maybe. I'll sleep on it a few times. But seriously: can you imagine buying something called a Mogwai for your kid for Christmas? It's like if you actually found a unicorn, and bought it for your kids. Sure, it'd be mildly cool....okay, it'd be really awesome...but you'd never be able to tell anyone about it. It's the Christmas present that has to stay perpetually wrapped, which would just be hell. Surprisingly, though, everyone's remarkably cool with this strange animal that's the cinematic equivalent of a Tribble.

A few thoughts:

1) Why doesn't Gizmo know Chinese? He picks up English amazingly quickly, calling out "bright light!" almost from the first moment. Why doesn't he spout Mandarin? Kevin? Thoughts?

2) What's with the heavy--almost OPPRESSIVE--use of the synthesizer in this movie? It goes so far as to have Gizmo playing on a Speak-N-Spell songmaker.

3) Corey Feldman is, once again, a loveable child comic device.

4) Malfunctioning inventions are almost always funny. Exhibit A: Home Alone.

5) Judge Reinhold, once again, is a douche bag.

6) This is an exceedingly dark comedy. This is before the days of the real dark comedies (The Royal Tennenbaums) , but still, it makes otherworldly mayhem and chaos seem, well, just downright adorable. It's the perpetual genius of the visual gag, I think.

7) Stripe's bad demeanor is telegraphed from the start, despite the fact that he looks just like Gizmo. Eyebrows tell you everything with the animated set.

4 Buckets of Water out of 5.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slumdog Trillionaire


Every year or so at the Oscars, a film gets nominated for Best Picture that is an outsider - a film that doesn't really belong with the big boys. A "little film that could," if you will. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was one of these. JUNO got this label. It was SIDEWAYS in '04. IN THE BEDROOM got the honor a few years back. This year, it seems to be SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. No bankable stars. No major studio. Just buzz.

Let's get something straight right from the beginning. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is no little film. This movie is every bit as epic as the best Scorsese flick. It's every bit as magical as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. And it's every bit important as PULP FICTION.

The story is built on an ingenious framework. Our hero, Jamal, tells his story, or rather unfolds the story of his life to a Mumbai policeman, who is convinced that this boy from the ghetto (this slumdog) has cheated his way to the top of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Jamal tells the tale of his youth with his brother Salim and their third musketeer, a girl named Latika, as they move from near poverty to complete poverty, from being loved to being used, from innocence to self-reliance. Their journey is told through brilliantly vivid colors, humor, horror, and music. Danny Boyle's direction (especially through the first part of the film) is innovative and complete in attention to detail - down to the beautifully memorable way he displays subtitles.

One of the best features of the film is the contrast between the poverty of the boys, and the majesty that they are surrounded by. The best example of this is their foray into the Taj Mahal, pretending to be guides, stealing shoes, and getting run off by palace guards.

As Jamal, Salim, and Latika get older, their paths become more winding and more treacherous. The tone of the film gets more serious and the direction becomes more straightforward. As the stakes get higher, Boyle tightens the tension until you almost can't breathe. The final five minutes are ones that call to mind the best aspects of movies, but more than just modern film making. They evoke classic film in the mold of Bogart, Frank Capra, and even a bit of John Hughes.

A quick note on music. The score was done by classic Indian film composer A.R. Rahman and is the most evocative and interesting complement to a film that I can remember. He's no John Williams. Plus, there's a couple of M.I.A.'s tunes sprinkled through the film - one of the most memorable scenes involves her Paper Planes, which is playing as the young Jamal and Salim are riding the trains, scamming and stealing their way across India.

Danny Boyle attacks the senses with gorgeous and tragic images of the slums of India alongside the excesses of a modern society, typified by the wealth of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. His vivacious use of color and grandeur take a simple love story and make it epic. But aren't all great love stories simple and epic?

This is a coming-of-age story in the grandest sense. It's a buddy movie with nods to STAND BY ME and SCARFACE. It's a love story to rival DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. This is cinema, people. This is how movies are supposed to be. I seriously can't be effusive enough. Go see it. Twice.

10 Foggy Letter 'B's out of 5.

DANNY BOYLE AND DON CHAFFER SING A SONG OF CELEBRATION: A REACTION TO SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE


recently, the wife and i went with some friends to see don and lori chaffer hoop it up at a local baptist church. this particular performance, here at the local baptist church, was a fund raising effort to support a mission that builds fresh water wells in africa. along with the fund raiser, the local texas A&M bsu hosted a two week challenge with some fancy name that asked students to drink only water for two weeks and donate the money they regularly would have spent on sodas and coffee and (Baptist Faith and Message forbid) alcohol towards these wells. the idea being that a little sacrifice increases our awareness and our appreciation of others' needs. i could not agree more. 

a sophomore bsu kid launched the evening with a gloomy, guilt filled explanation of the wells project. he piled on the accusations, seething with bitter vile for american excess and consumption. he charged us with being happy when we should mourn, with feasting when we should be fasting, with having plenty when we should be in want. and he let us know that when the children die in africa, it is because we shop at wal-mart. his speech made me feel gross, especially when i realized that i would have made the same speech at his age. that much religiously fueled zeal for godliness can lead to such fits of melodrama. 

then don and lori stand up to a room grieving the extravagance of rock-n-roll. and don says, "hey, this well project is great." and he goes on about the true gospel need to realize our personal excesses in the face of others' needs. but then he turned the boat a little, and he extolled the spiritual power of celebration. he mentioned his own trips into impoverished places and how each place exploded as much with giving and celebration as with hunger and mourning. and he said something i'll paraphrase: 

"one similarity i have always seen among people of true poverty is their ability to celebrate life. and i'm convinced, even though it may be the old hippy in me, that sometimes the greatest thing we can do here in our homes to destroy all this heaviness and hunger in the world is to lives lives of excessive celebration. and the best way to do that, the gospel of Christ way to do that, is to invite the poor into our excess and into our celebration. sacrifice alone does not complete the gospel."

my friend jon kever leaned over to me when don finished speaking and said, "that was maturity cleaning up the talk."

what i loved about don chaffer's voice that night, so solidly opposing the previous message of accusation, is what i loved about danny boyle's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. there are plenty of films (like BABEL and BLOOD DIAMOND) which depict the depravity of international needs through a manipulative voice of despair and gloom. as a viewer, i do not walk away from these films with a hope to participate or engage in relief; instead, i walk away hating myself for being male and white, overly aware of my gratuitous love for expensive beer and for unnecessary varieties of block cheese. and in the wake of such manipulation i realize that guilt is not a propellent: it's an anaesthetic.

danny boyle's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, although an intensely emotional rollercoaster, stands in direct opposition to the manipulative voice of despair. all at once, boyle's film is tragic and horrific, while also triumphant and beautiful. boyle pulls no punches showing his viewers the squalor and filth of india's slums, where children splash about in sewers and run barefoot over decaying heaps of garbage. boyle does not hide the reality of religious intolerance in india, or the fact that children are bought and sold into markets that capitalize on the perversion of their innocence. and boyle does not shy away from the greed that is born in poverty, or the contradiction between india's true landscape and the western vantage point of tourism. however, boyle shows all of this while simultaneously blinding his viewers with color and laughter. in the squalor, we still see the children rejoicing. in the black markets, we see the children fight back against their oppressors. in the face of greed, we see moments of true redemption. as a viewer, i walked away from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE both exhausted and exhilarated, having received a small glimpse of a poverty that grieves me and of a people that astound me with their celebration. the clashing of the two intrigue me, and i feel hungry to know more.

i easily give SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE 5 latrine dives out of 5. this is one film i will not easily forget.

Monday, January 19, 2009

RULE # 1: DON'T BEFRIEND UGANDAN DICTATORS

One of my favorite discoveries in grocery stores in the last year has been what I affectionately refer to as "the red box". Granted, sometimes these boxes are, in fact, blue, but it's the same reason why every tissue you blow your nose with is a "Kleenex". At these little nuggets of joy, you can rent a new movie for 1$ for one night. That's all I ever want to watch anyway: that movie, once, that night--so, these boxes are total genius.

Last night's installment, an impulse rent on the way home from a pastor search committee meeting, was The Last King of Scotland. I first tried to watch this on the way to Kenya, but when you're flying for nearly 40 hours, you're not going to stay awake for anything, even tales of Forrest Whittaker and Ugandan warlords.


The movie tells the story of a Scot, played by James McEvoy, who wants some adventure before settling down to the life of a physician, traveling to Uganda to work in the foreign medical office. Before long, he's fortuitously made the personal physician to the new president of Uganda, Idi Amin. Idi Amin, as history tells us, was one of the most brutal dictators in history, murdering over 300,000 of his own people in fits of paranoia and control. The movie follows McEvoy, as he is allured by Amin, and comes to terms with how he himself has become implicit in Amin's regime. As a movie, McEvoy did nothing for me--he was honestly a little flat. Whittaker's Amin was a great character study and should have been his Oscar. The film itself--middle of the road.

The film raises good questions about what it means to be a part of a larger regime. In my own dissertation, I'm looking at the draft during Vietnam and asking the question of "the outside", i.e. what happens when there is no place outside the system to be, and what happens to resistance to the system then. And so, apart from Forrest Whittaker's fantastic portrayal, this movie worked for me on a number of levels. For McEvoy, the way out of being complicit is not simply apologizing for a blind eye, but active resistance to that which he has become a part of, to the point of pain. Again, I won't spoil the ending here, but it's pretty gruesome.

I couldn't help but think of my trip to Kenya and Rwanda while watching this. There were several moments when a character would yell "Twende!", which is KiSwahili for "let's go"; there were village scenes or driving scenes that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember. Nearly two years later, that trip feels more like the trip someone else took at times. This is the part that people don't speak of when you go someplace like Kenya: that you will never be able to fully keep those moments, but that they will revisit you when you do not expect them. There are parts of the movie I can't relate to--the brutality, the anguish, the violent danger. But in light of last year's political violence in Kenya, these are parts that are too real for friends of mine.

One of the values of Last King, thus, is being reminded that stories are never just stories: they are lives given enough transcendence to ramp out of the locked recesses of newspapers and into the maelstrom of the living, where they will hide quietly until aroused, when they will speak into the present, creating a clanging gong where otherwise we would have prefered a dim and unobtrusive chime.

3 and a half machetes out of 5.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Mummy: Insert Meaningless Title Here


I realized when I was searching for the above image that I had forgotten the name of the movie. I watched the film about two hours ago. Is there a better commentary than that?

But I guess I'll give it a shot. THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR commits a few venial sins and a major mortal sin. Let's start with the mortal, because it's so severe.

If you've seen the first two installments in the series, you'll remember that the stars are Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. In this movie, the stars are Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello. The two main characters in the first two film are Richard and Evelyn. In this one, the two main characters are Richard and Evelyn. You see the problem? Here's the deal. I like Maria Bello. I'm a fan, seriously. If Rachel Weisz didn't want to be in this one, that's cool. Go ahead and cast Maria Bello. BUT CHANGE THE BLOODY CHARACTER! They could have easily killed off Rachel's character and introduced a new one. Instead, they took Maria Bello (who looks nothing like Rachel Weisz), died her hair brown, have her a bad British accent, and assumed we either wouldn't care or know the difference. It just plain laziness, that's all. It's lazy.

Now I know you're probably screaming at the computer screen "WHAT ABOUT KATIE HOLMES/MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL IN THE BATMAN MOVIES? HUH, BARBER? WHAT ABOUT THAT?" Simple answer. It was relevant to the story. In THE MUMMY: TotDE, there's no plot relevance. It would not have made a lick of difference to change the character.

Now on to the venial sins. First, like every other dying franchise, they add a kid (see Growing Pains and Rugrats for examples). Fraser and Bello meet up with their unmanageable son Alex who is following in his father's footsteps as an Indiana Jones retread. The kid is dumb. The kid adds nothing. Lose the kid.

Next sin - Jet Li. I hope he got a really, really big paycheck for this. It's just embarrassing.

There are a couple of positives. The Yetis were kinda cool, the field goal scene notwithstanding (although it might be worth seeing the movie just for the field goal scene). Brendan Fraser is decent. It's a big fan of his, and he doesn't just mail it in (and yes, that is the highest compliment I'll give the movie). Also, there's a decent battle scene that's an undead army fighting a terracotta army. That's about it.

2 Abominable Snowmen out of 5.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

EVEN SO, BRAD PITT STILL DOES IT FOR ME


great. all i needed was one more film of heroics to make me feel the insignificance and shallowness of my own existence.

3 gospel tents out of 5.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

THE NIGHT I CONSUMED THE GREATEST SUBWAY SANDWICH OF MY LIFE


she had that veggie overlapping technique down to an art. dare i say so, after corporate has removed the "sandwich artist" logo from the uniform shirts. my regular subway sandwich is a foot long tuna on wheat with "the works", a small stripe of spicy mustard and a hearty dash of salt-n-pepper. i feel confident using the abbreviated and hyphenated form of "salt-n-pepper" since the seasoned concoction now exists in a single shaker uniform conglomeration - which i love. so i tell the girl this is what i want. she says they are out of wheat. i feel dismayed and impotent. she says, "but we have oats and honey." i say, "yeah, i'll trust you on that." then she starts building this sandwich like she's building the frickin' rome coliseum, the dedgum sistene chapel, the dern busch stadium, and i'm flippin' the crap out cause this sandwich is growing and growing like it's on steroids, but it ain't, cause it's subway so it's all natural. and then she starts overlapping my veggies: first the tomatoes, then the cucumbers, and then she overlaps each and every pickle. seriously, i didn't know whether to write about all this here or in my journal. this was my dream sandwich, my birthday sandwich eight months early. and so i says, "is your manager here?" and she says, "no." and i says, "when will your manager be back?" and she says, "tomorrow morning." and i says, straight to her, like i don't even feel shy, "hey, what's your name?" and she says, shyly, "marisol." and i says, "marisol, i'm calling your manager tomorrow morning and bragging on you. i've never had a subway sandwich like this." and my friend nathan jones, who's standing right there with me the whole time, is all like, "right on, man. that sandwich is HUGE!" and then we both marvel that marisol can't even close the thing cause it's freaking colossal, and it's right about then that i'm really glad we bought the gooder beers cause i would hate to eat this beautiful creation alongside a can of schlitz.

then we went back to nathan's house and watched WOLF CREEK, which freaked my crap out. this film proves that the greatest horror exists in the imagination. and i guaran-damn-tee that i will not be camping in the australian outback anytime soon. wow. and double wow. this film, for me, was phenomenally more intense and twisted than anything eli roth has hosteled up to date. dang. i'm still reeling. 

my subway sandwich gets 5 banana peppers out of 5. red hook longhammer IPA gets 3.5 piney notes out of 5. WOLF CREEK gets 4.5 eli roth should-have-beens out of 5. and marisol's boss gets a call from the hamster first thing tomorrow morning. sandwiches like this should be framed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tropical Awesomeness

You know, I thought I had it all figured out. I had my movies of the year all figured out. WALL-E and THE DARK KNIGHT were peerless. Nothing else I had seen this year came close. I was satisfied.

Then I saw TROPIC THUNDER.

------------------

I've seen lots of movies in my short 31 years on the planet. There's really no way to put an accurate number on it, but if I had to take a wild guess, I'd say it's in the neighborhood of 500, give or take. On second thought, that may be conservative. Anyway, I've seen a lot. And I have never, ever, ever, seen a movie like TROPIC THUNDER.

It's pretty difficult to put into words a movie that manages to satirize the hands that feed it quite like this movie does. From the opening notes (fictional movie trailers starring the stars of the movie, and one commercial - for the lovely-named energy drink "Booty Sweat,") to the jaw-busting, explosion-laden, stabbing-baby, awesomeness of the climax, every drop of this film pokes fun at Hollywood.

A quick synopsis that will do no justice to the film: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black et. al are on location in Cambodia making a movie (based on a true story, of course) about the Vietnam War. Only they aren't actually making the movie, they just think they are. Meanwhile, back in H-wood, Matthew McConaughey is Tugg Speedman's (Stiller) agent whose sole purpose in life is to get his client the Tivo he is contractually obligated to. Lots more stuff happens, too. And it's all funny. And Jack Black passes a lot of gas, but it's satirical gas. Nick Nolte is a national treasure - his Four-Leaf Tayback should be Oscar-worthy - of course it won't be, because Robert Downey, Jr., playing Kirk Lazarus, playing Lincoln Osiris (who is, of course, a black man) will get the nod.

TROPIC THUNDER is a film that will be studied in film class 40 years from now as an example of a tidal shift in Hollywood, I think. Maybe it's the moment when H-town became self-aware. Maybe it's the signal of a new age in which the film community stops taking itself so dadblamed seriously and can take a joke. The best part of all this, of course, is that it's done well. Stupid satires come out all the time, but TROPIC THUNDER is one for the ages.

5 Simple Jacks out of 5.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"TYPICAL IN-BRED REDNECK STUFF." - john barber's wife's husband


"I'm just thinking West Virginia - trespassing:
not a great combination."

"Look, I need to pee."

"Well, I need to remind you
of a little film called DELIVERANCE."

*****

the jokes start flying when i tell folks i'm from arkansas. particularly south arkansas. evidently, we south arkansans have a reputation for not wearing shoes and being birthed by our sisters. i hear it everywhere. even in texas, these aggies love a good arkansas goof as much as any midwesterner or yankee. nevertheless, i've learned to take it in stride. after all, i wear chuck taylors religiously, and my mother's maiden name does not match my own.

however, once at a family reunion hosted at lake degray state park south of hot springs, my second cousin propositioned me. i was twenty-one at the time, and she was only five years my junior. i vividly remember that she wore a leather mini-skirt, fishnet hose, leather boots, and black lipstick. i thought she was quite ahead of her time: the whole emo scene was still a good four years away, and goth was not yet mainstream. regardless, she made the look work, as i was completely frightened to sit near her. and when she put her hand on my thigh, asking if i would like to come stay with her in her "very own personal trailer", i made the only use ever of my true-love-waits commitment card by mentioning that i was saving myself for marriage. they promised it would come in handy.

but, really, i digress. 

with this matrix of existence, you can only imagine my utter delight (yet again) at finding a film about woods-bound inbred-cannibal-maniacs who are NOT from arkansas. as a proud representative of the natural state, i declare that we arkansans are tired of carrying the full-brunt of inbreeding! i have never procreated with a blood relative, and i can boldly proclaim that i never will! we arkansans are a proud race, even if our family trees boast few branches!

alright, alright ... enough about me, let's get to this almost fabulous film about inbreeds and wayward campers. WRONG TURN tells the unfortunate story of six ultra-pretty gen-Xers apprehended by biological warfarers while trolloping through the west virginia countryside. (which, by the way, is lovely terrain. when the latonyanator and i finally got around to watching DELIVERANCE, i was so taken by the scenic beauty that i could not adequately feel the twistedness of ned beatty's piggy impressions.) one by one, WRONG TURN's pretty people are dwindled down to heaping messes of southern-style chili while escaping to the safer edges of ohio. what ensues in the meantime is a fanciful double-helix twist of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and CROUCHING-TIGER HIDDEN-DRAGON. WRONG TURN offers my first glimpse into horror survival tactics waged in treetops. the novelty was so titillating that i actually forgot to be afraid there for a moment. 

as a horror film, WRONG TURN offers the goods. i watched this whole thing at my dining room table in the middle of a sunny tuesday afternoon, sipping community coffee on the rocks, and i still felt nervous. truth be told: i not only grew up in south arkansas, but i also grew up near the woods in south arkansas. i have feared pine trees since the first time i stuffed dead brown needles into my toddler slobbered mouth. WRONG TURN has given me one more reason to decline camping trip invitations. 

i viewed WRONG TURN for free at www.hulu.com. my hamsterian recommendation says it's worth a hulu visit or a netflix queue request. easily, WRONG TURN receives 3.7 barbed wire mouthpieces out of 5. just please remember, the inbreds in arkansas eat roadkill, not vacationers. at least, i've heard so from some reliable sources. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

LOVE LANGUAGE #1: WORDS OF AFFIRMATION


"Encouragement requires empathy
and seeing the world from 
your spouse's perspective.
We must first learn
what is important to our spouse."
 - Dr. Gary Chapman - 

the first love language is best illustrated in conversations i had with a young couple from philadelphia many years ago. rocky and adrian met while rocky was a small time boxer and adrian worked in a local pet store. the ever boisterous rocky swept the quiet and timid adrian right off her feet. however, times quickly became tough in their relationship. 

"i mean, you know, it's alls i know," rocky said of his former boxing career.

"but his right eye was going bad," adrian said. "i didn't want to marry a man who would be blind in one eye before the end of the year. i loved him too much for that. so i asked him to stop fighting."

"you know, she asks me to stop fightin', and i did. i stopped cause, you know, she's adrian and stuff. but workin' wif paulie down in tha docks, you know, i wanted to pack punches on tha beefs insteada packin' t'em up. it's alls i know."

adrian didn't realize that rocky's primary love language was words of affirmation. when adrian told rocky that not fighting would make her feel loved, he gave up fighting. she complimented him on his time at home, on his lack of bruises and scars, on him looking straight at her with his right eyeball. but what adrian didn't realize is that fighting is all rocky knows. when rocky repeatedly says, "you know, it's alls i know" - and when he says this in reference to boxing - what he's saying to adrian is that boxing is the only occupation that makes him feel worthwhile and good about himself. in a perfect world, rocky would occupationally box with adrian sitting ringside cheering him on in his endeavors; however, such a sacrifice was difficult for adrian to make. she wasn't sure she could see rocky beaten every night of the week. that all changed in the coma.

"when i was in the coma, i had long conversations with myself," adrian said. "as you may remember, rocky had just started training again with mickey."

"yeas, i was trainin' with mickey and stuff to fight creed again, but i couldn't, you know, get my head in tha ring. i was all standin' there, throwin' the punches, and mickey's yellin' at me to eat some lightnin' and crap some thunder, but, you know, adrian wasn't happy 'bouts it. so i wasn't happy 'bouts it."

adrian continued, "when i was in the coma i realized that rocky loves two things in this world: me and boxing. and i realized it was unfair to ask rocky to give up one for the other."

rocky became excited at this part of the story, "yeas, and i'd been sittin' there, you know, watchin' her in that coma and t'inkin' how beautiful she was all asleep and stuff, and i'm t'inking, with mickey sittin' right there and all, that i'm ain't fightin' creed no more. but then adrian, you know, she flutters her eyes and i'm like, whoa! adrian's awake and stuff! and then she says to me, oh, and i'll never forget it, she says, 'rocky, do something for me' and i says, 'what, adrian, anyt'ing.' and she says, 'win, rocky. win.' oh, t'em words felt better than all t'em kids hopping around me on tha museum steps."

rocky went on to beat apollo creed in the championship fight, going fifteen rounds after creed promised to beat rocky in two rounds. this example shows the power of a spouse's affirming words. adrian knew that rocky loved boxing, and she also knew that rocky could not succeed at what he loved without her support. by speaking rocky's primary love language, affirming his success with her words, rocky become more than the champion of a single fight: he, and his love for adrian, became american icons.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Following the Trail of the Hamster

I've seen three movies in the past two days. And they are all movies that the hamster has seen and liked... So I'm gonna slap all three together into a single review. Here goes:
THE STRANGERS
I don't know what Bryan Bertino's story is. All I know is that this movie is his first shot at writing and directing, and based solely on that evidence, I can infer a few things. First, he's a fan of the original HALLOWEEN. Second, he knows how to scare the pee out of even a horror movie buff. Third, he's got chops. And fourth, I can't wait to see his next movie.

Oh, it's got problems. The narrative is a little convoluted. We had to go back and watch the beginning again to understand everything that happened. [Memo to Mr. Bertino - the voice of a twenty-something woman and that of a pre-teen boy sound very similar] Also, the villains are a bit too superhuman to be believed, but that's being nitpicky.

But when it works, oh boy. The scene that the above picture comes from is a horror fan's dream. Bertino understands, better than almost all other modern horror movie directors, that the scare doesn't come in the BOO!. The scare comes in the quiet. Some of the best parts of THE STRANGERS involve no sound but a scratch on a record player, or the sound of one person breathing. And there is no doubt that the main conceit, that idea that if a bad guy wants to get into your house and hurt you and no dead bolts or cheap window locks are gonna stop him, hits very close to home. It takes a lot to make me check around corners and turn on the lights before walking into a dark room, but I won't deny that I did it a few times later that night.

Three and a half potato sack masks out of five.

BOLT
There's nothing quite as satisfying as going on a date with your five-year-old daughter for sushi and a movie (which is kinda like Siouxsie and the Banshees, only different). In this case, the sushi was just ok, but the movie was great. I feel a little sorry for BOLT (the movie, not the dog). In just about any other year, it would have a shot to be the best animated film. This year it has to compete with WALL-E, and while BOLT was great, it just doesn't compare. But that says more about the greatness of the little grey robot than anything negative about the white dog with the lightning bolt painted on his side.

Is the story ridiculous? Yes. Is it a little cliched in places? Definitely - how many times have we seen the traveling across the country with the superimposed dotted line on a map thing? Probably too many. Did I care? Not at all. There's something about a hamster channeling Chris Farley and a dog with heat-vision that push past convention and travel from the ridiculous to the sublime.

This is definitely the most fun of the three movies. It's a better action movie than the one I'm about to review below, and it's got more heart than any romantic comedy you'll see this year or any. And not even John Travolta can ruin it.

4 Super Barks out of 5.

WANTED
Ok, let's get it out of the way - WANTED blatantly and unapologetically rips off THE MATRIX like Jesse James on a money train, like P. Diddy samples 70s funk, like D.B. Cooper jumping out of an airplane, like, well, I'll stop now. Had to get that off my chest.

WANTED is a 2009 MTV music video. It's fluff - gorgeous, gorgeous fluff. There is no redeeming value to the story. There is no character development worth mentioning. The performances by the big stars are not ones that they'll use of their demo reels 20 years from now. Morgan Freeman, in particular, is just plain ridiculous. Angelina Jolie should be ashamed for collecting a paycheck for this. I think she had three lines (and they were all "Why are you here?!". Did Common even speak? I think the fat knife guy had the most lines, and I couldn't understand most of them...

All of that being said, I like the movie. The visual stuff is rad and the guns are sweet. If you can turn your brain off, the final shoot-out is pretty awesome. Overall, it's the definition of a popcorn movie.

Oh, and why did they have a big meat locker at the textile factory?

2 and a half exploding brains out of 5.