By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.

A while back I won a copy of Ways to Live Forever in a drawing over at Vulpes Libris. If you know me, a free book is a good book, but I still let it languish on by bookshelf for quite some time. I finally got around to it and finished just a few nights ago. On nights when Anna has a bit of trouble getting to sleep, I’ll read a bit to her until she drifts off. I read this one incrementally over about two weeks or so, and I’m not sure it was a choice on my part. A book about an eleven-year-old dying of leukemia is probably not something you want to fall asleep to. Regardless, it was a great book. Oddly, it is also a kid’s book.

This may seem a bit strange to some, it did a bit to me as well, that in our day and age where we do everything we can to shelter kids from anything unpleasant, let alone anything morbid, someone would address such a book to kids. This is, after all, an era where Rapunzel didn’t let down her hair so charming prince could rescue her from a tower prison, put there by an evil witch. No, no, she merely was a girl told by her grumpy aunt that she couldn’t go out and play. So her friend climbed up inside, with the help of Rapunzel’s extraordinary hair and they had a play date together. This is pathetic, yes, but I seemed to have gotten side-tracked.
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If we hit the Chicken Inn, we’ll be knee-deep in fried chicken.

The Bank Job – This movie caught me completely off guard. I was expecting a throw-away action flick in the same vein as The Transporter. Not so. The Bank Job is actually a very entertaining and serious heist film.

Set in the 1970’s, the movie manages to bring in Government conspiracies and cover-ups, dirty cops, and a brutal torture scene and still made it seem plausible. They even brought in a love triangle without making it feel tacked on to please a female audience. I am still amazed that the producers managed to fit in all the same components as every other heist movie (even the rag tag group of misfit thieves) and still made the movie feel original. It is a great throwback, and really feels as if it could have been made about thirty years ago.

Jason Statham did an excellent job bringing some depth to his character and not churning out another typical Statham film (though I do tend to enjoy those as well). The supporting cast worked well together; not a single character standing out as being out of place or miscast. Another huge praise I have, is the total lack of gimmicky gadgets and tools. The whole plot comes off without ever becoming cheesy or cliché.

I have only two complaints that I can think of: 1) a bit of a throwaway love-scene in the middle of the movie (though it does become important later on), and this is no fault of the movie itself 2) I was a bit lost for a few minutes at the beginning. This is mainly due to the fact that it was late at night and I had already turned my brain off expecting mindless action. Being confronted by an actual plot, I was pleasantly surprised.

I definitely recommend this one.

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The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.

I’ve seen too many collections of ‘Pictures that Rocked the World’ for them to really do much world rocking. The pictures lose so much meaning when they’re dragged out at very chance just to sell another Life pictorial collection. I like looking through the collections, but I usually end up flipping through them rather quickly.

Not long ago, I came across this photo collections. Many of them are too overused to be of any great impact. How many times have you seen the picture of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square? When you last saw it, What did you think about? Did you think about the incredible excitement that everyone felt that day, knowing that the years of death and destruction were over? Sadly, even the picture of a Vietnamese monk burning himself to death doesn’t arouse much emotion. Through over-exposure and commercialization these have all but completely lost their meaning and their power. Still, there were two in that collection that really struck me.

First, the lone student defying the tanks in Tiananmen Square caught me. Maybe it did because two separate but very similar shots of the event were shown, giving me an immediate second look. I stared at the images for quite a while. Continue reading

There’s a reason you don’t live in Trona.

Just Add Water – This obvious piece of festival bait started out with a bit of promise, but by the time the final fifteen minutes rolled around, things had completely fallen apart.  The main characters were decent, and except for a completely flat and one-sided Danny DeVito, somewhat likable.  This movie tried to recreate the feel of movies like Waitress, an abominable piece of garbage in its own right.  The problem with this sort of movie is that it reduces everything and everyone to a single dimension: the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad.  Nothing unexpected happens and no one shows the least bit of intelligence.  These stories show simple people with simple dreams, but they just end up seeming condescending.
I’m actually really tired of the term off-beat being used to justify comedies that aren’t funny. But that’s a whole other post.

The movie is all about a guy named Ray (Dylan Walsh) who lives in the desolate and, incidentally, real town of Trona, California.  He is a parking garage attendant who spends his nights talking to his white trash neighbors and dealing with his reclusive and unloving wife.  The town is run by the local meth-dealer who happens to be about 17 years-old and acts like a dictator.    Ray is completely meek and unassuming, taking abuse from just about everyone in his life.  His only joy is the daily trip to the local grocery store where his beautiful and single high school sweetheart Nora (Tracy Middendorf) works.  If you can’t figure out what is going to happen based on that information, I pity you.
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Report back to me when . . . well when it makes sense.

Something very exciting happened this last weekend. It happened only once this year, and, if everything goes to plan, it will happen an unprecedented three times next year. Yes, last Friday, the incredible Coen Brothers released another movie: Burn After Reading.

Everything about the movie showed promise: a great cast, great filmmakers, even a great poster. We saw it on Friday night, and we were not disappointed. I had been looking forward to it for quite a while, and was a bit worried that I would get a bit too hyped about it and end up disappointed. Not so.

The movie is a ensemble set up, but mainly follows two gym workers (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) as they attempt to blackmail the CIA into giving them money for what they think is classified information they have stumbled upon. The two bumble around, eventually going to Russians to try selling the information there. Everything falls apart as all the characters paths cross again and again. Throughout, plot lines of lost love, divorce, broken dreams, self-obsession and alcoholism are woven together, all treated with the typical Coen style of holding nothing sacred and willingness to send anything up for a gag, laugh or plot point.
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Well… we could go to Taco Bell if that’s more your style.

In honor of yesterday’s post, here’s something that is definitely worth watching. This is a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s spectacular Coffee and Cigarettes featuring Tom Waits and Iggy Pop.

Check it out.

The beauty of quitting is, now that I’ve quit, I can have one, ’cause I’ve quit.

A few years back I quit smoking cigarettes.  It was a good thing.  It was the smart thing to do.  I had already slowed to the pace of the occasional smoker, only with friends and only a night or two a week.  So when my wife to be asked me to cut the habit for good, I was fine with it.  It wasn’t the first time I had quit.  The college I went to had anti-smoking policies, so during the semesters I was nicotine free.  I’ve never had what I would consider an addiction: the hardest part of not smoking was feeling a bit awkward when hanging out with my still-smoking friends.  It was the fidgeting of my fingers that just felt empty, not a nervous need for a smoke.

I distinctly remember one of the times that I quit (don’t judge, most quit at least twice).  I had over half a pack left, but I had decided to drop it, at least for the time being.  I walked out of a grocery store and lit up my “last” one.  I looked down in the pack and saw all those lovely white sticks, those eleven or twelve perfectly recessed filters and wonderfully scripted blue type elegantly letting the reader know that the bit of heaven they are about to enjoy is a Parliament.

Now being the cheap person that I am, I couldn’t throw them away.  That had been my intention, but now that the moment of truth was upon me, the trashcan at my right hand, I couldn’t do it.  I know you’re probably thinking that I was just having second thoughts about quitting, but that really wasn’t it.  I couldn’t just throw them away.  I spent four bucks on that pack, and I wasn’t about to chuck it in the trash.
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