Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Beefcake Double Feature

Movie #20, Casino Royale

Beat-up, sun-kissed Bond?

Or steely, gun-wielding Bond?

Let's have both, shall we?

On the advice of pretty much everyone I know, I high-tailed it to the theater to check out the new Bond. I've seen a little Bond here and there – I even saw the last one in the theater – but I just don't like him. Or, didn't like him, I should say. Daniel Craig's James Bond is different.

Back in high school, my Golden Eye-loving guy friends used to pose the question to us girls: "James Bond or Han Solo?" And every one of us said Han Solo. Now, maybe it's an American thing, but I would posit that girls are just turned off by the smarminess of Bond. Cheesy one-liners and presumptuous grabby hands are really unattractive, no matter how hot the guy. But Daniel Craig managed to strip the smarminess away and replace it with a suggestive mischievousness instead. I would say he added a little Han Solo to James Bond. And it works, baby.

Oh, there was a point to this movie other than the attractiveness of Bond? Well, the only other thing I really noticed was the ham-fisted product placement for Sony and Ford. Damn, filmmakers, try a little subtlety next time.

Movie #21, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

For our second beefcake pic of the night, we were treated to Sasha Baron Cohen in various states of undress. This movie was as hilarious as Maya claimed, but my question is whether I can truly state that I saw it, considering that I watched most of it in the following position: crouched low in my seat, hunched over my knees, hands over eyes, thumbs covering ears. Obviously this was the most uncomfortable viewing experience I've ever had. I imagine that it will be more fun to watch on repeat viewings, but it will never become less terrifying. Jesus Christ, some people are horrible.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

We’re On Movies #88 and #89

#88 – Happy Feet
I only saw this movie in the theater because I wanted to see two movies, and I wanted to see Casino Royale, and nothing else would time out right with the pay-for-one deal. So Steve and I paid for Happy Feet and snuck into Casino Royale. I didn’t like Happy Feet; I loved Casino Royale. Here are the reasons why:
Happy Feet is about penguins who have to go to school for some insane reason and learn to sing. Even though it’s an animated movie, I had a credibility problem from the very beginning (why does it matter if a penguin graduates from school?) There are some great effects, but the color palette and surroundings are overall too bland to sustain a feature-length film. At one point Steve leaned over and pointed out the fact that the filmmakers were really banking on the fact that everyone in the theater had seen March of the Penguins.
Around the halfway point the film went off the deep end. This is when the “plot” supposedly develops. The main character penguin (who can tap dance instead of sing, as you probably know from the reviews and commercials by now) leaves his home and finds a new ice-covered land populated by different penguins. These penguins are half his size, and speak in heavy Latino accents. This was when Steve and I began to giggle nervously. I mean, you know how the characters sound when you’re playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and you accidentally stumble into the Cuban ghetto? This is how these pint-size penguins sound. It was stereotypical and embarrassing. It goes downhill from there: The Latino penguins are more materialistic than the tall penguins; they listen to Reggaeton and flirt with ghetto-fabulous penguin females. They also have a spiritual leader, who is voiced with great abandon by Eddie Murphy (that would be the black preacher stereotype). This penguin also sleeps with multiple female penguins. At this point Steve leaned over and asked me if we were watching a PG-rated movie.
It goes on and on from this point. Overall, this is a message movie, but so hopelessly muddled that I don’t even know what the message really was (other than the clear main message, which was Follow Your Heart). Skip it! I guess I hate kids’ movies, unless they’re Babe.

#89 – Casino Royale
I have never seen a single James Bond movie before in spite of the fact that I’ve seen nearly 2,100 movies in my life. In high school and college I avoided them on purpose because I was a Feminist, and everyone knows that feminists can’t watch shit like Bond movies. Well, it’s true.
I happen to love well-made action movies – this film fit the bill in spades (har har). I can judge a great action film by my heart rate. During virtually every moment of this film, I was leaning forward in my seat with an accelerated heartbeat, wishing that I could jump in and sprint alongside James Bond and somehow help him with his super-spy feats. I can’t critique this movie in light of the history of Bond films, but as a standalone action film, it’s superb.
Daniel Craig also happens to be some sort of mutant stud. He’s not traditionally handsome, but he’s ripped and can really wear a tux. The movie is long, but if you’re a fan of great action sequences, or men who look great in suits, or men who look great out of suits, or perfect biceps, watch this film.
Incidentally, four thugs walked out at the halfway point, announcing loudly to the rest of the theater that “This movie fucking sucks!” We joked with the people next to us that they were probably confounded by the dialog – there was a good 20 minute spell with no running, shooting, or explosions. You're officially warned.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I Can Read, Y’All

I forgot about a few things:
Cultural Event #22 – The Mosquitos. I went to this with Kelly and a few other friends. It’s some Brazilian band whose members she met in Madison, and she got the tickets and set everything up. It was pretty fun, but instead of playing high-energy Brazilian dance music, they played really lounge-y stuff (and then complained that nobody was dancing, seriously). They were mainly notable for having two backup singers, one of whom was a gay gentleman in short shorts. The opening bands sucked.
Cultural Event #23 – Piano Recital! Some dude called Fazil Say from Turkey. Patty got free tickets so I went with her. I won’t bore you with my full review of why I had problems with his performance (trust me, I could fill pages with my critique). Basically, he did whatever the hell he wanted and mangled some traditional classical pieces pretty badly. Sure, it’s possible to spin old pieces with a new interpretation, but this guy wasn’t doing that. He clearly loved being the center of attention. Also, it was pretty sloppy (to be fair, the last piece he played was Liszt’s B Minor Sonata which is difficult). But it was sloppy nonetheless. I usually avoid recitals because they make me nervous, and all I hear are the mistakes.
Book #3 – I read Guns, Germs, and Steel months ago. At least I read most of it. I have to admit I skimmed through the end. Pretty interesting stuff. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be doing any more non-school-related reading for the rest of the year.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Déjà vu

This movie was so-so. It was entertaining in parts, boring in parts, and pretty unbelievable overall (and this is coming from someone raised on Dr. Who). If you watch this movie, I would recommend that 1. You don’t discuss problems with the plot, or you’ll be talking for hours and 2. Catch it at the budget theater, if at all.
I actually wish they had spent more time with Jim Caviezel, who’s scarily convincing as a patriotic terrorist and doesn’t get nearly enough screentime. I wish they had spent less time with the bland, generic female lead, whose only reason for existing is to look pretty and get kidnapped. Denzel Washington is fine, whatever, but has been in much better action flicks recently – Out of Time and Inside Man comes to mind.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ha! Forgot one!

Book #14: I'm Not the New Me, by Wendy McClure

I totally forgot that I read this a month ago on a car trip to Green Bay. Wendy McClure is the hilarious mind behind this and these, and she also used to write for Television Without Pity – my personal Alpha and Omega of the internet. Her book covers the first few years she spent writing her online journal, Pound, and the life stuff that happened in that time. Weight loss and gain, painful dating experiences, professional quandaries – through it all, Wendy struggles to find and maintain her sense of self. She is a reluctant internet celebrity – someone who set out to record her weight loss progress, but ended up with an audience of thousands. Even as her readers pressure her to be their guiding light, she doesn't shy away from admitting or even celebrating her slip ups. Even the title seems to be a way of keeping other people's expectations off of her.

Despite the distance she tries to create between herself and her readers, she surprises herself by finding kinship with her readers and fellow bloggers, and this book is as much about those nice discoveries as it is about dieting and dating. This is not a chick lit novel – Wendy isn't buying a size 6 wedding dress at the end. It's a section of one person's life, and happily that person is a damn fine storyteller.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More Kid Lit!

Book #13: The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

I'm SO lazy. All I can handle is YA novels, but in the meantime, I'm reading a 600-page baggy monster, so I don't feel too bad about myself.

This one was like going in the wayback machine. I probably read it when I was 9 or 10, and a few things felt familiar as I read, but for the most part, it was all new to me. It's a murder mystery set in an apartment building where all the characters are somehow connected to each other or to the murder victim (who lived in a mansion up the hill from the apartment). Anyway, it's a fun one. More for younger kids than the usual early-teen YA that I love. Get it for the little kid in your life! Not that I know anyone with little kids in their lives.

OK, time to find a new fluffy book to read alongside the heavy one.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sex Flick in the Afternoon


What better way to spend a Monday afternoon than seeing a movie containing a ton of hardcore sex? Ryan and I were initially wary because everyone else in the theater was a slightly creepy old man by himself. There were a few gay couples, and one older lesbian. I felt like I was about to watch a porno.
Anyway this movie was really great. Once you get used to the explicit sex (and there’s a lot of it), it’s actually quite heartwarming. It definitely exists in an alternate film universe - I find it very hard to believe that there could a community of New Yorkers so accepting and emotionally open with one another, under any circumstances at all. It’s an interesting treatment of fluid sexuality, and felt somewhat surfacey, but I was elated by the (literally) climatic ending. It’s like spending a couple hours with a bunch of adorable gay people with all the fun and none of the drama (again with the alternate film universe). Sure, some of the people have pretty serious problems, but it ends up feeling light and cheerful nonetheless. Overall well-filmed, fun, and definitely worth watching – plus an outstanding soundtrack.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The title pretty much says it all. This movie is hovering just above 40% on the Tomatometer, with most critics complaining about how violent and unpleasant the main character is. Considering that’s the point of the movie, it’s no big surprise. What most people aren’t mentioning is that it’s full of super-funny moments, including many laugh-out-loud ones. It’s satirical and contains black comedy elements that must have eluded certain critics.

The basic gist of the movie is that Christian Bale’s character returns from war in the Middle East and can’t secure a job with law enforcement. He spends his days driving around the ghetto underbelly of L.A. while drinking heavily with his friend (Rico from Six Feet Under), engaging in various petty criminal enterprises, being psychotic, and basically getting ripped. I’ve seen him play psychos before many times (pop quiz! How many times?), but this is the first thuggish psycho, and he’s scarily convincing. The cinematography and dialogue are pulsating and immediate; I was reminded a little of the atmosphere of the television program The Shield. There are a lot of interesting ideas about war and violence and the male psyche – and it’s all wrapped up by Bale’s perfect performance. This guy is pretty much at a 100% success level, and still most people have never heard of him…

As an added side note, Christian Bale’s Spanish is really great. I don’t think he speaks Spanish, but he has the natural delivery and accent of a real Spanish speaker. I know he’s an actor, but this is one of the better accents I’ve heard. The acting is great all around, and once you get past the disconnect of seeing Christian Bale hanging out with Rico, everything is smooth. Even Eva Longoria is good – I was dreading seeing her with Christian Bale, but don’t worry! She’s Rico’s girl in this flick!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Three Movie Sunday

Maybe the last three movie Sunday in awhile, since I should be working by next Sunday. Joined by my movie buddy Steve, I saw:


We saw this first because we suspected it might suck. Much to my surprise, I actually liked it, although it was longer than it needed to be. Beautifully shot, gorgeous costumes, and even Diaper-Face herself does a decent job. It’s enjoyable simply because it’s not a standard historical biopic. My boy Mathieu Amalric even has a part in it! Only about two lines, but still…
I didn’t even have a problem with the 80s New Wave music, it was used well for the most part and seemed to fit somehow. Occasionally it was a little distracting (I hear New Order and I really have to sing along). The score was excellent too – overall not a bad way to start movie day.


Another surprise, because I was prepared to be underwhelmed. It’s not a staggering achievement like Amores Perros, but it’s a damn good film nonetheless. He squeezes some excellent performances out of the actors, and the cinematography is stunning. One scene in particular, the nightclub scene in Tokyo, was really outstanding. Gael Garcia’s part is quite small, but it’s a juicy one – a greasy Mexican who gets wasted on cerveza and shoots his gun into the air! Finally! Even as a greaseball, he’s totally cute. Gonzalez Innaritu’s use of non-linear storytelling is well known by now, but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve for this movie. Definitely worth watching.


I wanted to see The Queen, but Steve convinced me to see this. I never, never, ever go out of my way to see children’s movies, unless there are talking baby pigs involved. This was actually not bad, some good British humor, clever little visual tricks and a fun story. It was nice to see something like this for a change, but children’s movies and animation are two things that I’m not a big fan of. The kids around us seemed to really like the movie as well. Also, a bag lady came in with apparently all her worldly possessions and sat down a few seats away from us. It was a little confusing – I’ve never seen anyone bring so much stuff into a movie theater before.
On our way out, we saw the masses lining up for Borat – apparently the showings are still out of control and sold out.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I saw the Borat movie with the long title I can never remember on opening day. I thought I wasn’t going to because all the evening shows were sold out at all of the locations before Friday even rolled around…. But I caught a 4:30 show with Kelly – which was also sold out, but not until the movie actually started. Which executives were worried about this movie’s performance again? I doubt they’re worried anymore.
Anyway, this movie is absolutely hilarious, as everyone seems to agree. It’s a must-see. It’s pretty crude and tasteless, and I’m still shocked and horrified at some of the things I saw and heard in this film. You’ll know what I’m talking about later. Two things I already knew which were reinforced by the viewing are: 1. Frat boys are awful 2. I’m glad I don’t live in the South.
What are you waiting for? Go see this movie already!