Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Expendables Are Coming

(because there is so many names and titles in this list, I decided not to link to many of them--just too much work.  carry on)

There is a movie coming out in August called "The Expendables".  This film stars Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke,  with special cameos by The Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.

And I want to give you a short list of the craptastic films that you may have seen these actors in--this is by no means a list of all of their films, just a list of what I deem so-bad-they-are-awesome movies:
Cobra... Over the Top (the finest arm wrestling movie ever made)... Demolition Man... The Specialist... Tango & Cash... Rambo II, III and IV... Rocky III and IV... Judge Dredd... Crank... Crank: High Voltage... Death Race... Romeo Must Die... Cradle 2 the Grave... The One... Masters of the Universe... The Punisher... Universal Soldier... The Condemned... Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man...

Toss in Willis and Ahnald, you get some movies like Collateral Damage, Commando, Red Heat, The Running Man, End of Days, Armageddon, Mercury Rising and The Last Boy Scout...

Each of these films filled with explosions and F-bombs and guns and bombs and car chases and motorcycles and robots and fisticuffs and lots and lots and lots of dead people.  And arm wrestling. 

Anyway, I am so jazzed for "The Expendables" that I can hardly stand it... I mean, its going to be a terrible, horrible film and its going to be absolutely awesome.  I probably have higher hopes for this film than I've had for any movie in a long, long time.   And tonight, I found on Premiere.com's site, an article entitled "15 Things I Expect From The Expendables".  After the trailer, you'll see the column...

This better be awesome, Sly.

The upcoming action epic The Expendables doesn't look like an homage to 80's action porn or an ironic nod to a decades-old genre that prized patrio-sadism. Instead, the heavy metal trailer comes off like a museum exhibit of greasy, head-smashing he-men from yesteryear come to magical life. Think Toy Story 3 with compound fractures, explosions, and macho posturing.

This highly-anticipated opera of destruction is the brainchild of Sylvester Stallone, 64-years young and unnaturally ripped. Sly directs and leads a cast of actors renown for stern looks, and rippling pecks. Grizzled thespians classically weight trained. This includes relative newcomer Jason Statham, martial arts movie pioneer Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren, a man who once had a Fulbright scholarship to MIT for engineering. No, seriously.

Also promised in the movie are cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom purportedly enjoy a small scene with Stallone. This Holy Trinity of Righteous Fury on screen together for the first time will mark a truly historical pop cultural moment. Wrestler Steve Austin and Ultimate Fighter Andy Couture add an extra case of glistening abs to the testosterone party. The plot of The Expendables is simple: a group of battle-hardened mercenaries oh look a chirping birdie! Then, KA-BOOM!

Okay. So maybe "highly-anticipated" is a bit of a stretch. But entire generations of film fans love that specific Reagan-era flavor of movie where rough and ready men visit violence on really, really bad guys. These kind of action movies were the flip-side of 80's horror movies -- instead of our greatest fears stalking our dreams and our campsites, monosyllabic warriors the weak wish they could be stalked our greatest fears.

The word is this movie doesn't parody itself or collapse into camp. It's an honest attempt to recapture a more innocent time. A time when one man could give nightmares to America's nightmares. That said, this gun show had better deliver. It has to live up to it's storied past of movies with three action-oriented word titles. Here's what I expect from The Expendables. If I don't see all of the following essential elements in Stallone's opus, the ten-year old in me will become angry. Angry like a wolf made out of fire.

The Expendables opens August, 13th.

1. One bad guy must be dispatched via rocket launcher. The victorious hero must then say "I'm just getting fired up!" Or "Give pieces a chance." Or "Don't blow your stack. Let me."

2. At some point, one of our heroes has to endure horrendous torture at the hands of the bad guys. The means of torture can include water-boarding, electric shock, or some sort of wild, feral beast with gnashing teeth. The hero must suffer, bravely.When asked if he gives up, must respond "I'll see you in Hell." The torture scene should not be confused with a deathtrap scene. This isn't that kind of movie.

3. Heroes should scowl or smirk. Bad guys should scowl or smirk. When these expressions occur exactly is the difference between hero and bad guy.

4. Cigars must be chomped.

5. The body oil budget must be equal to the ordnance budget.

6. Knife fight!

7. There has to be a scene where our heroes reverently lock, load, and secure weapons to their bodies.

8. The main bad guy must A) have a beard and B) have an accent that faintly recalls Latin America, The Middle East, and Russia.

9. An ally of the action team, who provides a service but does not engage in combat, has to bark "Because you're the best of the best."

10. One of the heroes must outrun a fireball.

11. Wounded, one hero has to say "Go on without me!"

12. Stallone's veins must throb, as if magma courses through them.

13. One of the heroes has to yell "Get out of there, now!"

14. When a bad guy is shot, he shouldn't just fall down. His chest needs to explode into a mushroom cloud of wet, red confetti.

15. The plan must be crazy. So crazy, it just might work. Also: suicidal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pic in a Poo

This entire blog really leads to one punchline using the word "poo" that really only I will think is funny, cause really, many things I think are funny aren't really funny to anyone else... along the way, I figured I'd toss in my growing dislike for large crowds, those great "where we going to eat?" conversations and a trip to The Summit. 

Why this?  Well, I had to have something to talk about while sitting in the living room with The Lovely Steph Leann, who is actually (re)watching "A Cinderella Story" starring Hillary Duff.  Wish I were kidding.

By the way, Rupert Grint was supposed to be the Chad Michael Murray/Prince Charming role, but had to drop the role to make Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Just a random thought.


I used to love crowds.  Seriously, I would totally dig parking, walking and enjoying huge concerts, or festivals or large gatherings.  I don't mean fraternity parties, or church functions where you'd see 50 or 100 people or something, I mean those huge gatherings where 500, 1000, 5000 people are all gathered together.

Now?  Not so much.

This marks the first time in recent memory there was no City Stages here in Birmingham.  City Stages was this large music festival typically held in an early June weekend, featuring hip hop acts, country stars, pop and rock stars, folk and indie acts and even more.  The last time I went, I was able to see Martina McBride, though I vaguely remember it, and I think I also saw Three Doors Down, though it could have been Nickelback--they really are the same band, I think.

I say "the last time I went", though I did go just a few years ago, but only because I was working for a TV station, was there during the early part of the morning and was out after lunch.  Why?  Cause I wanted to avoid the crowds.

Maybe its my old age, or maybe its not wanting to find places to park at large gatherings, or maybe its a huge aversion to two hundred cars all trying to leave at the same time from the same place... I dunno.  I even heard Hootie & the Blowfish was supposed to perform at a local Spring music festival here, and I had a chance to go on the cheap... and I declined.  Too many people, all in a field, everyone standing in a puddle of beer, sweat, urine and Hootie.  Just not my cup of tea.  I think I tossed in "Cracked Rear View" in Tony Rocki Honda's CD player and jammed out to "Hannah Jane" while enjoying the quiet solitude of The Cabana.

College football?  That's an entirely other matter.  I'm there. 


Speaking of avoiding crowds, The Lovely Steph Leann and I went to The Summit today.

We have a small spectrum of restaurants that we frequent, including Baha Burger, Chipotle's Mexican Grill, Dale's Southern Grill, Jason's Deli, Surin 280, Mellow Mushroom and Purple Onion.  Oh, we visit other places too, but chances are if we've gone out to eat, we've visited one of the aforementioned eateries.  We're actually afraid to eat at one of these places with Hurricane Rhett or Amarylis by Morning (up from san antone) because of the fabled Barnett Curse that ruins experiences. 

Now, when deciding what to eat, here's a typical conversation... stop me if you've ever had this...

Me:  What about Baha?
Her:  No... I had a cheeseburger yesterday, and I want something a little healthier this time.  What about Jason's?
Me:  I really don't want Jason's tonight.  Chipotle?
Her:  Well, we're meeting MZ and her reality show at Pablo's on Thursday night, so I don't want Mexican now.
Me (starting to get a little desperate):  Oooh... what about Surin 280?
Her: Too expensive. Mellow Mushroom?
Me: If we can't do Surin, we can't do Mushroom either.  The Purp?
Her (rubbing her tummy): Oh, I don't know if I can handle Purple Onion tonight.
Me: Dale's Southern Grill?
Her: I had that with my parents a few days ago.  Don't want that again, I don't want to get burned out on it.
Me: Yeah, but I had to work, and I haven't had Dale's in like, two weeks.
Her: I know, I know, but I don't want Dale's
Me (getting irritated):  What about Arby's?  Taco Bell?  Zaxby's?  Waffle House?
Her (getting irritated back):  Now see, you are just bringing up places that you know I don't want.
Me: So, where do we go?

About this time, The Lovely Steph Leann does one of two things... she relents, and says something like "I don't know, I can't decide."  She'll sigh deeply, and say, "Wherever you want to go, that's fine", which puts me in a bad position because no matter where we go, she won't really enjoy it as much as I'd like her too, though this might be a mental thing for me.  I'll ask her later if she enjoyed dinner and she'll say, "Yeah, I was alright."  Then I'll feel slightly bad for taking her to somewhere she didn't really want to go...


She'll pop up with something like "Um... what about Bella's?  Or Zoes?  Or O'Carrs?"  These are three restaurants that aren't in my wheelhouse, and that I don't really enjoy all that much (that being said, O'Carrs has the most incredible cheesecake EVER).  So when she pops up with these, I know she wants to go to one of those.  Much of the time, I shoot 'em down quickly... because whereas she might not want to go to Chipotle, she will still at least partly enjoy her meal.  However, if I go to Bella's, Zoes or O'Carrs, unless I get the hot chocolate cheesecake with the warm whipped cream oozing down the side, I don't know that I'm finding anything I will enjoy. 

But this weekend, I wanted to just make The Lovely Steph Leann happy.  I went and got her a chicken salad fruit plate from O'Carrs yesterday for lunch, and today for lunch (I had to work, so we didn't get to go to lunch until 1) and relented quickly, and agreed to take her to Zoes Kitchen. 

Zoes Kitchen is a little restaurant that specializes in veggie-filled, pita covered, rolly uppy kinda dishes.  But, off we went... to...

The Summit.

Its huge, its expansive, its filled with lots and lots of cars and lots and lots of people and lots and lots of stores and mommies with strollers.  Weekends at The Summit are things I tried to avoid.  And Zoes was usually a place I tried to avoid...

Have to admit, though, I kinda enjoyed lunch.  They have new steak roll-ups, which I ordered, and found myself thinking that lunch was tasty, and as long as this was on the menu, Zoes was a place that I might be able to withstand in the near future. 

We weren't at The Summit just for lunch, though... The Lovely Steph Leann actually did have some things she wanted to purchase, namely at a store named Chico's, which meant I had to drive, which meant I had to deal with the traffic. Randomly, we were turning into the lower part of The Summit where Chico's was located, and on the sign that tells you the stores in that section, there was some small writing in-between Saks Fifth Avenue and Panera Bread that caught my eye.  Sitting in the turn lane, I squinted and said, "What does that say?"

The Lovely Steph Leann said, "What?"  I pointed at the sign and as I turned, I said, "Oooh... it says Peas in a Pod..."  She looked confused, saying, "Yeah, Peas in a Pod."

I replied, "All I know is, a store called 'Peas in a Pod' is something I care nothing about.  I thought it said, 'Pic in a Poo', and I was about to tell you we are going there, like, right now."

I then proceeded to laugh my fool head off, because seriously, any store that is named Pic in a Poo is a store worth a visit.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knight & Day

Speaking of Tom Cruise, and his 25 best movies...

...The Lovely Steph Leann and I just got home from dinner, as we met up with MZ and her reality show.  We came back to The Cabana, and both of us just collapsed into our comfy leather couches. Flipped on the television, and scrolled through the endless parade of channels, all showing the same program:  "nothing on".   And what's on CMT?  "Days of Thunder".  And its just as bad as I remember it being. 

Anyway, as promised, here's Tom Cruise's latest...

Saturday morning, I flipped open the newspaper and scanned the movies.  Found out that The Rave Motion Picture Theater at Patton Creek was doing a sneak preview of "Knight and Day", the latest flick with Tom Cruise, also starring Cameron Diaz.  Cruise and Diaz were together one time before, and that was in "Vanilla Sky", which would be Tom Cruise's worst movie ever, were it not for the existance of "Eyes Wide Shut".

Sent The Lovely Steph Leann a text, asked her if she wanted to go and she gave an enthusiastic "YES!"   We had both been seeing the previews to this one for a month or two now, and had added it to our list of films for the summer we were intending on seeing... so I got off work, headed home, we left a few hours later for dinner at Dale's Southern Grill, and then around 7 walked into a half-packed theater.  By the 730 showtime, the theater was almost completely full, albeit it was one of the smaller theaters.

The movie starts, and right away we are sucked into something that we'd been missing for a while, as mentioned in my previous post... we saw Fun Tom Cruise.

"Knight and Day" is a film with Cruise as a secret agent who has gone rogue, stealing something that is not only wanted by the government, but also terrorists.  He runs into Diaz, though from the beginning of the film you can tell that he's been scoping her out for whatever his purposes are.  Its a typical "things are not what they seem" movie, but really, you kinda know pretty quickly what things are.  Its not a particularly hard-to-predict kind of film and much of the action is formula driven and cliches...

...however comma...

..this film was a winner for me based on the strength of Fun Tom Cruise and Quirky Cameron Diaz.  Cam is not an actress that should ever try drama, she works better when she can be silly, stupid and let her freak flag fly... see "There's Something About Mary" or "Charlie's Angel".

They have good chemistry, and Fun Tom Cruise looks like he's actually having a great time making this movie.  Cameron seems as if she's having a ball just being there, being relevant again (did you see "My Sister's Keeper"?  Exactly.)  The script is a little hokey, but The Lovely Steph Leann and I couldn't help but laugh through much of the movie.  Yes, yes, its a fantastical premise, and some of the stuff that happens makes you think, "Uh... yeah... right..." but go with it.

Now, the critics aren't kind to this one.  Its averaging a "C" score, or perhaps 2 out of 4 stars in some reviews, and its opening day (Wednesday, June 22nd) didn't do it much good either--it only came up with about $3.8 million, compared with the $13.4 million that Toy Story 3 did on the same day.  (source: Box Office Mojo).

Anyway, this kind of reminds me of The A-Team, in that its just a fun popcorn movie.  Don't take it seriously, catch it on a matinee, laugh and enjoy yourself and welcome back Fun Tom Cruise.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Tom Cruise Was Fun

I had every intention on reviewing "Knight and Day", Tom Cruise's new film... but I never got around to it in this post... so I'll do it in a day or so.  Until then... enjoy the Tom Cruise discussion...

Its been a long time since Tom Cruise was fun, I'd put it at least four or five years.  His recent movies have been less than stellar... The Lovely Steph Leann liked "Der Mavericke" a lot more than I did, and both of us thought "Lions for Lambs" was a snoozefest, and I thought Mission Impossible III was absolutely a waste of time.   I mean, let's be honest... ever since the whole "jumping off the Oprah's couch for Katie" debacle, he's been nothing but a bad press garnering, Scientology spewing, Paramount fightin', Brooke Shields accusing, Katie Holmes Brainwashin dork... (Cruise responded to this post by saying, "d$.  d$, d$, you don't even-- you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is.")

And flipping through his IMDb page, I realized something... he's done 33 movies that have been released, and I've seen 32 of them, with only 1983's "Losin' It" to be seen.  Tom Cruise, like him or not, is an icon of Hollywood culture, and an actor that I've practically grown up with.  You can count me on Team Nicole over Team Katie (or Team Mimi, if we're going to go back all the way), but let's rank Tom Cruise's films...

First, we lose "Losin' It", because I've never seen it.  Then, let's knock out the ones I've seen, but really don't remember enough to make any sort of sensible judgement on... that would take out "The Outsiders"... "Taps"... and "All the Right Moves"...

Now, let's cut out the films where he made either uncredited appearances, or cameos, no matter how memorable... that takes out "Endless Love"... "Young Guns".... "Austin Powers in Goldmember" and "Tropic Thunder" (were it not for Robert Downey Jr, Cruise would steal this movie)...

Next, let's remove his latest film, "Knight and Day", which I'll review on my next post, but its still too new to compare to his other films. 

25... "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999).  I wanted to kill myself. 
24... "Vanilla Sky" (2001).  I wanted to kill myself.
23... "Far and Away" (1992).  The Lovely Steph Leann was delighted.  I, however, wanted to kill myself.
22... "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989).  I probably should have liked this movie more.  I would have killed myself, but I was too bored.
21... "Lions for Lambs", (2007).  Cruise trying to make a political statement.  It failed.
20... "Legend" (1986).  I used to love this movie as a kid.  I watch it now and its a reminder of how easily amused I was at 12 years old. Tim Curry is creepy cool.  Everything else in the movie just sucked.
19... "War of the Worlds" (2005). I really wanted to like this movie, but just couldn't do it.
18... "Valkryie" (2008).  I wasn't a huge fan when I saw it, but I want to see it again.  I think it might grow on me.  However, every time Tom Cruise says "Der Fuhrer", I laugh.  Can't help it.
17... "Mission Impossible III" (2006).  It has some promise, but fails to deliver on several levels.
16... "Magnolia" (1999).  Frank Mackey is probably one of my top five Tom Cruise characters.  Not for everyone, but I liked the large cast, and the odd storytelling.  And Julianne Moore.  I'll watch her in anything.  And I have, because I saw "The Forgotten".  That movie was terrible.
15...  "Days of Thunder" (1990).  Tom Cruise's most Craptastic role, portraying NASCAR driver Cole Trickle (no mention as to any relation to Dick).  Enjoyable guilty pleasure.
14... "Mission Impossible II" (2000).  A pretty good follow up.  It helps that Dougray Scott is so cool.
13... "Interview with the Vampire" (1994).  Saw it when I was 18, enjoyed it.  Not one I'll see over and over.  Cruise's hair is hilarious.
12... "Rain Man" (1988).  Dustin Hoffman is brilliant in this film, and Cruise really just plays sidekick, but still without him, it doesn't work nearly as well.

Which brings us to my Top Cruise Top Ten... we're at 11, you say?  Well, the next two movies, I couldn't decide which I liked more, so they tie for 10th...

10-tie... "Risky Business" (1983).  Tom Cruise's iconic scene where he slides into the living room in his tighty-whiteys, lip-syncing "Old Time Rock and Roll" sent sales of Wayfarer sunglasses through the roof... rightly so, and the entire movie is a great time.  To save money for college, he opens up a house of ill repute in his own home, and Rebecca De Morney is the Woman of the Night with a heart of gold.

10-tie... "Cocktail" (1988).  If "Days of Thunder" is Cruise's most Craptastic film, THIS is his "so-bad-its-awesome" film.  Everything about this movie is terrible, from the hair to the dialogue to Bryan Brown mailing it in.  But it has three things going for it... first, an awesome soundtrack, which I own on vinyl.  Second, Elisabeth Shue, who was so darn cute in "The Karate Kid" a few years before, is all growed up and hot.  I miss her.  Finally, the bartending moves in this flick are just awesome.  Makes me want to toss coffee shots at Starbucks.

9... "Top Gun" (1986).  What about this film isn't dated?  The hair, the sunglasses, the lines, the oiled up, homoerotic volleyball, the disturbing neck licking love scene, Val Kilmer being thin (seriously, in "MacGruber", Iceman looks like he ate Jester AND Viper).  Back then, it was as cool as you could get.  Now?  The Unintentional Comedy Scale is through the roof.

8... "The Firm" (1993).  My favorite of the Grisham novels, my second favorite Grisham adaptation (I dig "The Pelican Brief"), it varies from the novel in several ways, but Cruise shines here, surrounded by an always great Ed Harris, a charming Holly Hunter and Gene Hackman, who seems like he's having fun here.  It does freak me out that the Quaker Oatmeal Man drops the F-bomb.  The fact that Jeanne Tripplehorn can't act her way out of a Band-Aid commercial is inconsequential.  This movie was also the basis for a popular blog written while on missions in 2008, called "Its Not Sexy But Its Got Teeth".

7... "The Color of Money" (1986).  This movie rocks.  Flat out rocks.  Cruise and his poofy hair actually stand tall with Paul Newman, no small order, and the pool playing is outta sight.  Along with Lizzy Shue, another 80s goddess for me was Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and she is awesome too. 

6... "Mission Impossible" (1996).  I watched this movie a few weeks ago for the first time in a long, long time, and I gotta be honest with ya... it holds up.  I mean, we're all spoiled now with the movie technology that has come along in the last 15 years, but MI is a pretty good film.  The security room scene where Ethan Hunt is hanging from a few wires over a floor that he can't sweat on is still fantastic, and being older, I kinda understand the film better than I did when I saw it at 20 years old.

5... "The Last Samurai" (2003).  Perhaps I'm in the minority, I thought this movie was brilliant.  Cruise almost seems miscast here, but somehow he makes it work (better him than Costner), and Ken Watanabe is amazing.  The battle scenes are great, the story is great, and I wonder why more people don't discuss this film, as its pretty much forgotten.  Not "The Forgotten", however.  That was a terrible film.

4... "Collateral" (2004).  Probably on The Dave125, somewhere in that 101st to 125th favorite movie of all time.  Tom Cruise is a bad guy (!) here, and its just a solid film over all.  Michael Mann directed, and its shot in dark tones, dim lighting and Cruise and Jamie Foxx mesh really well together. 

3... "Jerry Maguire" (1996).  My 90th favorite film of all time, I have to stop and watch this movie.  Cruise hasn't done a ton of chick flicks... really, there's this and maybe "Far and Away".  Is this a chick flick, or a sports movie?  Who knows.  Who cares.  He's surrounded by a solid cast, and shines as the troubled sports agent stuck with his only client, an egotistical football player.  And his chemistry with Renee Zellweger is solid too.  Was "you complete me" before "you complete me" was a punchline.

2... "Minority Report" (2002).  Wow.  The opening of this movie is one of my top five movie opening sequences of all time... just the sheer spectacle of the video screens in the air, and moving the pieces with his fingers in the air, just fantastic.  There's nothing about this movie that I don't like, which is why its my 38th favorite film of all time.

1... "A Few Good Men" (1992).  When doing The Dave100, 2010 edition, it was difficult choosing where to put this movie.  I've seen this movie at least three dozen times--three times in the theater when it came out--and its just one of those movies I could watch from any point to the end, and be happy. 

I met Kevin Pollak (Lt. Weinberg) some years ago, and asked him about some of his movies, and he chalks this up to one of his favorites, and rightly so.  The acting is superb, its just language and some violence that gives it the R, and not a gettin-it-on scene to be found anywhere, which was quite refreshing to me.  By far, its Demi Moore's best film, and though he's done several that I like, this is indeed my favorite Jack film... and of course, my favorite Tom Cruise movie, and it ranks as my 24th favorite film of all time. 

  Warning:  Some of the langauge is not Emmy Turnbow Safe... another warning.  This is in Divx.  Beware the inferior video quality.

So there is a run down of Cruise movies.  Like Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts, they are Hollywood Legends to you and me, making movies since we were just old enough to understand movies, all during our childhood, our teen years and now our adult lives.  We've grown up with them. 

Next up... my review of "Knight and Day"...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bean There, Done That

Well, here we are again.  What started out as a temporary job to pay the bills, earn some extra money and put a ring on the finger of one Stephanie Leann Campbell has now culminated into a 7+ year process that has taken me from barista to shift supervisor to assistant manager to manager to barista to shift supervisor... and now, back, better than ever, some may say, back to assistant manager.

One of the most common questions, after the initial "Why is the store closing?" and "What are y'all gonna do with the stuff up top?", is "What are you going to do after The Happiest Place in the Mall closes?"  The answer to that has simply been, "Gonna go back to Starbucks for a while."  I explained this further in one of The Happiest Place in the Mall closing posts, but usually the follow up question to "Gonna go back to Starbucks" is "Oh, are you going to be a manager again?"

Its always said with curiosity, never asked with any malcontent or harm, but its always assumed that I can just say, "I wanna be a manager!' and boom! its done.  However, its not that easy... not only is it hard to get back to that position after stepping down and being away from it for two years, it wasn't something I was sure I even wanted. 

I had a conversation with one of the Bean Kings (aka, the Starbucks Higher Ups) and they asked me if I would consider a return to management one day.  I told him yes, if--and only if--the situation was right.  I managed a store before... I loved it.  I loved leading the team, but it was hard for a number of reasons, some of which were beyond my own control.  I don't mean the work was hard, though it was, I mean the situation was tough.

So, if the situation was right, perhaps a store that I had always wanted, then sure, I'd be willing to go back.  Until then?  Don't need the stress, really.

And the pieces slowly fell into place, like God putting together a jigsaw puzzle that I didn't even know was a picture.  First, I was transferred to the Starbucks on 280, near Highway 119.  Don't confuse that with the store I used to work at, on 280, in front of The Fresh Market and Jason's Deli... no, the store I'm working in is down 280 a bit, near The Fish Market.  Fish, not Fresh.   Say it with me, Fish... not Fresh... Fish... not Fresh... Fish... not Fresh...

Next, MZ took over.  She's so great, and over the last year, she's turned into such a great manager.  She's still learning, and I think that is part of her charm... she has no problem admitting "Hey, I have no idea.  Let's figure this out together" which is awesome.  And then, the store gets all kinds of attention.  MZ was given Manager of the Quarter for the area/region.  The Bean Kings know about this store, meaning its in the spotlight. 

Finally, its successful.   There is money to be made, You want to be seen, you have a great shot by working at this store, because this store is in the spotlight and is being noticed by people of importance.

And what about this is bad?  I love the company, I love the work, I love the team.  We have a great team at that store, and so after thinking about it, praying about it, and discussing it, I kinda decided that yes, this was the right situation.  The Lovely Steph Leann is so wonderful about everything too... she always says, "Do what makes you happy.  We're fine either way.  I'll support you."  Can't ask for more than that...

I wasn't assuming anything, but the job was finally offered to me recently.  It was a great offer, my questions were answered favorably, my fears were put to rest and... well, here I am.  Assistant manager once again.   Something's always brewing, but it keeps me grounded.

By the way, the foot is fine.  A little scarring on the ankle, but it will eventually go away.

An Eighties Movies Redux

Sometimes on weekends when there are a couple of movies we both want to see--especially if we know that there are even more movies upcoming to see--The Lovely Steph Leann and I will go check out a "double feature"... not movies that show back to back, necessarily, but we'll pick out two movies, get tickets for both and go all afternoon.  Of course, it might cost a little bit for the date, but that's why we've Dave Ramseyed ourselves debt free... so we can watch lots and lots of movies.

Most people my age can vividly remember the glory of the first one... in 1984, a young unknown Ralph Macchio portrayed Daniel LaRusso, who moves with his mom to Southern California.  There he meets a cute girl named Ali (the unbelievably hot-for-1986 Elisabeth Shue), but runs into trouble when he starts getting bullied by Ali's ex-boyfriend, Johnny, who is also the star student at a local karate dojo, led by Kreese, who teaches his students brutal tactics of no mercy.  Daniel is helped, and then taught by Mr. Miyagi, the apartment maintenance man, who's unusual lessons gave us "wax on, wax off" and "Daniel-sahn" into our movie vernacular.  The movie is legendary in pop culture, from "Sweep the leg!" to the famous crane kick... it was and is a movie that will be watched and enjoyed in 2086 as a classic.

Twenty-four years later, Will Smith decided it was time for a re-boot, and that re-boot was to be tailored around his own son, Jaden, currently 11 years old, now portraying a 12 year old named Dre.  The move is still made by he and his mom, but this time they go to Beijing, China, and the cute girl is an Asian classmate and the bully is now named Cheng.  The Miyagi role is taken on by Jackie Chan, in what might be his best movie in a decade or more. 

Many of the plotpoints are the same--the tournament (its actually kung-fu being done in this movie, not karate, but they called it "The Karate Kid" here in the states because people recognize that name) is a chance for Dre to prove himself, the prank on the bullies that leads to a brutal beating (and the first appearance the karate skillz), there is a "Bobby" type character who tells the bad guy that "He's had enough!" during a brutal beating after that prank, and shows reluctance to injure our hero in the tourney, and there is the crazy training sessions--this time not "wax on, wax off" or "paint the fence", its "take off your jacket... hang it up... drop it... put on your jacket... take off your jacket..."  Like "wax on, wax off", I would guess that "take off your jacket" will perplex anyone until they see it in the movie. 

I was extremely happy with this film, even with its 2 hour and 20 minute running time... I'm usually a stickler for unnecessary film, and I figured about 10 minutes of this could have been cut, but overall, it flowed really well.  Fans of the original will enjoy the homage to the first one, complete with the catch-a-fly-with-a-chopstick trick.  Jackie Chan is perfectly understated as Mr. Han, the mentor, with his own sad story to tell (part of which I thought went on a little long).  Dre and Han become friends, with Han not only teaching him kung-fu, but also teaching him to respect himself, others and everything around him.  Han even learns a little on his own.

I think this movie really succeeds because its set in China, not in Southern Cal like the original, and that alone sets it apart from the first one... such a difference in cultures gives it enough separation from the first one that its not a shot-for-shot remake... the love interest, if you can call it that being that its a 12 year old girl, has her own story this time, unlike Ali who was just there to be a romantic character for Daniel.   The kung-fu is awesome, and when Jackie Chan lets loose, you can tell its a Chan scene.  And though Billy Zabka made for an incomparable bad guy in 1986, I gotta say that Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) is fantastic as the lead mean kid.  And when Dre wins the tournament (oh, whatever... you either know he wins the tourney from the original film, or you haven't seen it, and if you haven't seen it, that's not my fault--its been 24 years.  Get with it), Cheng pulls a Johnny with the trophy.  And in this one, it takes it a few minutes more past the end of the tourney, where the first one ends with Miyagi smiling in approval. 

One thing that has always bothered me though... in the first one, Daniel meets a few guys, and when he gets smacked around on the beach, the guys that were his friends say to each other, "Good choice in friends.  New guy is a joke."  And when Daniel is raising the trophy high above his head, who's there to help him celebrate?  His friends.  Or, "friends" (doing the air quotes with my fingers).  In this remake, Dre meets Harry, a blond kid who befriends him... but when Dre is smacked around on the playground, Harry does nothing to help.  And who's there at the end, cheering with Dre?  Harry, of course,  Good job, fairweather kids. 

The movie did leave me wondering one thing though... how do you say "Get 'em a bodybag, yeah!" in Chinese?

In the months leading up to this movie's release, I had been on the fence about it... but The Lovely Steph Leann was fired up about it.  She had been a Face-girl growing up, so she was kinda excited about seeing Bradley Cooper step into the role.  Me personally, I was a "Howling Mad" Murdock kid, and knowing that the guy who turned into the alien in "District 9" was going to be taking on this sacred role... well, big, crazy shoes to fill.

BA Baracus, another sacred character in the minds of those who's childhoods took place amongst the 80s, is filled by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a former MMA fighter (or is it UFC?  I dunno...) and the leader of the group, John Hannibal Smith, was to be done by none other than Liam Neeson... which, to me, was the oddest casting choice of all of them.  Jessica Biel plays the love interest, her being another in my Angelina Jolie Club... you know, those chicks who the entire world tells me I should be all hot and bothered for, and really just can't find much there to be attracted to (see "Roberts, Julia" and "Fox, Megan").

Anyway, The Lovely Steph Leann and I met up with our friends LaShawn and LaCorey to watch it, while MZ and her reality show sat several rows back.  The movie starts, and right away, there are differences... first of all, people have better aim--in the TV show, no one ever died.  In this, bad guys get blowed up, shot up, smacked up and thrown up every which'a way.  The legendary red striped black van makes a somewhat brief appearance, and Hannibal smokes lots of cigars and discusses his happiness with the coming together of plans several times.  The plot is a typical "They framed us, so we have to prove our innocence!" fare, with one heck of a

All in all,you can tell that this movie was made by people who loved the original TV show... it didn't set out to mock the show, or move the show from its original direction, it modernizes the tale, brings it to nowadays and sets up what might be a mildly successful movie franchise. 

Bottom line, if you liked the TV show, you can consider this a PG-13, one hour and forty two minute version of that very show... most people I know liked this movie alot, and those people loved the original show... however, if you didn't like the TV show, you won't like this film at all.  If you have no concept of the TV show, you'll view this movie as a popcorn ride with some interesting characters who's names you might be familiar with.

Personally?  I had a blast during this film.  It was a great popcorn movie, one of those movies you don't try to think about, you just eat your popcorn, drinking your Coke and munch on your Twizzlers, and just have a great, great time.  We did.   Go see it.
By the way, The Lovely Steph Leann and I turned on an episode of The A-Team the other night, and it was borderline unwatchable.  She fell asleep.  I ended up turning it.  Perhaps it was the episode, or the fact it was late, or the fact it was on a network called "Centric" (!?) but either way, I went to bed and she turned it off.

Oh, one more thing... big props to Brian Bloom, the bad guy in this flick... seems like his biggest role to date was a 1988 TV movie called "Crash Course" with Alyssa Milano and Tina Yothers, and though he's done a ton of work up until now, with much of it being video game voice-overs, I feel like he's got a good chance with this film.  Someone hire this guy!  (ps... if you are googling this guy, and see any pics labeled 'Oz', run.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Meal Sadness

Okay, its been a week, and rather than post more movie reviews (seems all I've done is watch movies in the last two weeks...) I found this online and thought it entertaining.  Let's face it, anytime someone is funnier than me, I don't mind talking about it--hence referrals to Hurricane Rhett and President Obama's policies.  Of course, I want to keep you here, so that's why I chose to post the article on this page.

Its from a site called Topless Robot, which is full of pop culture and random lists of junk--making it, of course, right up my alley.  Its concerning one of the greatest institutions of American childhood, that being "The Happy Meal" at McDonald's... and more importantly, the toy that comes in the Happy Meal. 

I cleaned up the language, added the pictures and... The Top Ten Saddest Happy Meal Toys Ever.

The Happy Meal was introduced in 1979, the brainchild of an ad exec working for McDonalds and wanting to capitalize on the then-new success of the drive-through window. Early Happy Meals were pretty lame affairs, but they were only 99 cents too. And the toy wasn't actually that bad -- sure, they were just McDonaldland erasers: Ronald, Grimace, the Hamburglar, and the rest all done up sort of in M.U.S.C.L.E. style -- but that in itself is much more filled with awesomeness than the crap that Happy Meals would try to foist on kids later.

Over time, the idea grew into not just a kid-magnet, but a goldmine of cross-promotion--the first movie tie-in was with Star Trek: The Movie, and while the movie sort of tanked, the toys did pretty well. That led to a focus on more of the same, and once Disney bought in? Game over. The fact is that it's the tie-in stuff that mostly rocks -- when McDonalds was left to their own devices, the quality of the toys dipped dramatically, and so did the play value. (And as this list will show, even the tie-ins sometimes went wrong.) These, then, are the toys that kids complained about from the back seat.

It sounds obscene, I know. And it sort of was, for those kids subjected to this early Happy Meal "prize," usually given out when a store had run out of their allotment of the real Happy Meal toy. Sure, it had Ronald McDonald printed on it, but is that supposed to make you feel better? Combine the baseline lameness of getting this thing as a "prize" with the apparently dark ages of graphic design, in which characters just look too scary for words.

This is a good example of how Happy Meal toys sort of suck when they're about McDonalds. These things look like they belong in cereal boxes, and even then, they'd be a serious disappointment. Toy quality aside, did anyone ever know anyone who actually liked most of the McDonaldland characters as kids? They were there, and they were fine, and once in a while, you might feel sorry for Grimace or something, but that's more or less where the emotional tie ended. How many kids really wanted a Birdie in a Biplane?

This is a good example of how movie tie-ins can go wrong; by supporting semi-collectible pieces of crap that kids don't care about, and are too stupid-looking to really be popular with older fans. This Clone Wars line was just a stupid idea, with virtually no play value. Giant heads erupting from tiny vehicles -- these are not two great tastes that taste greater. Instead of peanut butter and chocolate, they ended up with something closer to peanut butter and gasoline. As a side note, this also marks the four-hundred and eighty-sixth time that Chewbacca has been completely screwed by the Star Wars franchise. He gets an Imperial Scout Walker? Seriously, give a Wookiee a break.


Posters aren't necessarily bad things for kids prizes -- kids like to decorate their room with ridiculous crap just like the rest of us. But a poster that comes in a Happy Meal? Yeah, that sounds like trouble. First, it's going to come all folded up, and second, it's going to sit next to the fries and soak up grease. But all in all, not the worst prize--at least the first time around. See, McDonalds did this promotion twice -- first when E.T. was actually in theaters, which makes sense. And then again three years later, in 1985. When it made no sense at all. Unless you consider that McDonalds probably had a ton of leftover posters in a warehouse someplace.

Okay, first, I have to officially lodge a protest that there are kids dolls that are produced by a company called "Madame Alexander," who frankly sounds like she's working at The Bunny Ranch in Nevada. That said, the 2008 marriage of Ronald McDonald and Madame Alexander just sounds like some sort of garishly colored fake-baby clown funeral. Most horrifying is that this wave was all based on The Wizard of Oz (exactly why is unclear -- it's not like Oz suddenly became at all relevant in 2008) -- and it hit its nadir in this evil winged monkey baby. First off, this is where cross-marketing goes completely off the rails. Second, this thing is just utterly terrifying. The flying monkeys from Oz have seriously creeped out kids for years; sticking a baby-version in a plastic baggie (looking for all the world like it suffocated and died in there) just ups the horror. Here, have a nightmare with your McNuggets, kid. When we get home, maybe I'll let you watch Saw while you play with the clown doll from "Poltergeist".

SIDEBAR... By the way, that stupid clown who drags that kid under the bed in "Poltergeist" is like a one-two punch when you are seven years old... not only made me frightened of creepy clowns (thats a redundant statement) but also wary of looking under my bed when its after midnight...


While the Halloween-themed pails aren't so bad in and of themselves (they're cute, I guess, and actually serve a function, supposedly -- though any Trick-or-Treater worth his glow stick would fill this mother with blackmailed candy several times over). What made these suck was that they didn't include a price -- they were the prize. Kids opened these up, waiting to see what was inside, and they got... nothing. Now, it's important to note that these buckets actually hearken back to the early days of McDonalds, when the activities on the boxes were thought to be the major draws. But were ad-men astute, they would have noticed that this idea fell away in favor of toys in little baggies nestled next to a sack of six fries and a burger the size of a beer coaster. This happened for a reason. And that reason is: no matter how fun the packaging is, what's inside still counts for something.

This mid-'80s promotion must have seemed like a good idea at first. Little cardboard cylinders of Play-Doh -- and what kid doesn't like Play-Doh? Of course, it was a tiny amount of Play-Doh -- about the size of a McNugget. (And strangely enough, healthier to consume.) And you only got one color at a time, which sort of sucked too. But ultimately, what puts it on this list is that this prize ended up being more of an invitation to get yelled at, because you're getting these at a drive-through, opening them up in the back seat of your Dad's company car, and getting it all over the upholstery. Of course, the real idea was that this was an easy deal to make; Play-Doh has had a relationship with McDonalds from way back, selling Happy Meal playsets in the stores, and Play-Doh packs in Happy Meals. Corporate synergy -- (do do do do do!) I'm lovin' it.

The beauty of these frames, of course, is not just that they allow you to show off the fact that you've recently dined at Mickey D's, and that you're doggone proud of it. More importantly, it creates a sort of symbiotic relationship with Ronald himself, as he springs from your head like Athena from the cranium of Zeus. In this, Ronald is sort of acting like your own personal walking-around valet, greeting everyone as you pass. He's like a forehead ambassador from McDonaldland (something you might think that Mayor McCheese would take on, since you know, he's already in politics). Sadly, what Ronald seems to be saying to everyone here is "please beat the crap out of whoever's wearing me." So you know, good with the bad, dark cloud, silver lining, all that.

This idea completely shot the point out of the entire concept, and aimed Happy Meals at health-conscious adults. (Wait... what?) Yes, completely disregarding any demographic success the chain had ever had, they devised a brilliant strategy to put salads, water, and cheap, virtually non-functioning pedometers into Happy Meals. Aimed at people watching their weight. At McDonalds. With tons of extra packaging to boot, just in case these imaginary customers were also concerned for the environment, so that this would be a complete failure and the height of irony from any and all perspectives.

Man, did this Happy Meal end up in the wrong hands. Had this not been discovered by an 8-year-old Chicago girl in 2007, and instead been purchased by a couple of college kids with the munchies, it might've found itself on the list of "Best Happy Meal Toys Ever." Alas, it was not to be. Instead, said pot (along with a lighter and a pipe, of course) led police to arrest the young man (and soon to be former McDonalds employee), who had needed a place to put his stash, and considered a stack of Happy Meal boxes kept right by the drive-through a good hiding place. (This is your brain on drugs, kids.) Of course, this inclusion to the McDonaldland mythoi does go a long way to explain the insatiable hunger of the Hamburglar, not to mention Grimace's very existence.

The original article can be found here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Movies That Are Just Wright

Alrighty... here's some more random movie reviews... this time, its "Just Wright", "Orphan", "Disaster Movie", "The Last House on the Left" and "Crazy Heart"

The Lovely Steph Leann loves movies, which is one of the million reasons I married her.  The fact that I love movies too is one of the millions reasons she said yes to me, so together, we watch a lot of television and movies together.  Sometimes, though, we just want to go to the moving picture show, and so we'll pick out a film and just go. 

And a few nights ago, she up and says, "I kinda want to see that Queen Latifah movie."  I looked at her funny, and replied, "You mean 'Just Wright', the one with Common?"  She said, "Yeah.  It looks like fun!"

So a day later, after a good dinner at Baha Burger, we were on our way to the Rave Motion Picture Theater at the Patton Creek Shopping Plaza, purchasing our ticket for "Just Wright", starring Queen Latifah, rapper Common and a few other names here and there.

"Just Wright"
Okay... so the story goes that Common is Scott McKnight, an NBA superstar with the New Jersey Nets, runs into Leslie Wright (Latifah), invites her to a party and ends up falling for the, unbeknownest to Scott, gold-digging yet still good at heart childhood best friend and current roommate Morgan (Paula Patton).  When Scott gets severly injured, Morgan leaves him, and he falls into the hands of Leslie, who is a renowned physical therapist, to try to salvage his career.  Well, Scott gets better, Morgan comes back and things are not happy times for Leslie. 

Much as I hated to say it, but I actually kinda enjoyed this film.  Don't get me wrong, this film will be nowhere near The Dave100, or even The Dave1000, but its an decent way to spend 90 minutes at the movies.  The problem was not only this movie being predictable, but the trailer giving away the entire plot.

However, this movie has a few things in its favor... first, Latifah and Common are both very likable in this movie.  Both roles are not very hard, so both have lots of room to wiggle in this.  Its fun to see Mrs. Huxtable playing what she does best--loving mom who isn't afraid to tell you what she thinks.  Also, Paula Patton is the "villain", even though she's not really a villain at all... she's not all that likable, but she does have a very final scene.  And in one scene, where she is told to "get out", a few of our darker skinned brothers and sisters hooted and hollered, and one stood up and clapped.

The Lovely Steph Leann and I both laughed, and I whispered, "I'm guessing its like that at a Tyler Perry movie, huh?"

Anyway, the final reason I liked this film is simply... its clean.  Very, very little language (a few "damns" and I think one "bull****"), no violence at all, other than aggresive play on the basketball court, and as far as sexual situations, there's one single scene where you know Leslie and Scott did the deed, but its the next morning and they are lying in bed looking at each other, completely covered by sheets.  I can deem this movie completely Emmy Turnbow Safe.   Its a good first date movie. 

By no means spend $20 on this film, unless you are in fact on a date.  At best, catch a matinee, wait for the $1 theater, or get the DVD or watch it online this summer when it will probably come out.  For now, The Lovely Steph Leann will be stocking up on Common CDs. 

Okay... so Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard have two kids, an older son and a younger deaf daughter, and since they lost their third child in delivery, they decide to adopt. And they get this 9 year old Russian kid named Esther who is really just a mean, mean kid.

Bottom line, this movie is pretty terrible. Best thing about it? Only thing about it? Vera Farmiga. This movie is a great example of why The Lovely Steph Leann and I will be very cautious about adopting any Russian children. Especially those named Esther. Or Leena Klammer.

"Disaster Movie"
Okay... so this movie is awful.  I didn't get all the way through it, not only because it was so terrible, but because it was so terrible I didn't want to spend more than the 40 minutes on it than I did.  I laughed not one single time.  There is a reason that, as of June 10th, it was the 23rd worst movie of all time according to the IMDb Bottom 100.

"The Last House on the Left"
Okay... so, based on the 1972 film directed by Wes Craven, this flick stars Tony Goldwin and Monica Potter as parents of Mari, played by Sara Paxton, who are vacationing at a lake house.  Mari meets a chick named Paige, and they end up going with a guy named Justin to his hotel room (warning, warning, danger Will Robinson, danger!) to smoke some wacky weed... Justin's family comes home, they are absolutely insane, as well as escaped convicts, so they do some horrible stuff to Mari, including leave her for dead.

The rainstorms come in and the insane criminals, as well as Justin, seek refuge in a nearby lake house currently being used by... Tony Goldwin and Monica Potter, who take them in as a good samaritan act!  Go figure!  Anyway, Mari crawls back to her house, and they figure how the insane criminals that did this to their daughter are... staying in their home!!!

This plot sounds ridiculous, but I have to be honest with ya... I didn't dislike this movie nearly as much as I thought I would.  Actually, I thought it wasn't that bad.  It might have been the veteran presence of Tony Goldwin (Ghost, The Pelican Brief) and Monica Potter (Con Air, Saw) that gave it a little bit of credibility, but this movie doesn't try to be anything other than what it is--a nonsensical popcorn flick that is good for a random afternoon when you are flipping channels and nothing else is on.  Don't go buy it.  Don't spend money to rent it, unless you can get it on Netflix... actually, no, don't even do that.  That takes effort.  But if you see it's on tv, watch a for a few.

There is lots of language, violence and a rape scene, though that part is thankfully not graphic. 

"Crazy Heart"
Okay... so, as I pointed out with Robert Downey Jr in "Iron Man", there are some actors who are just irreplaceable.  You take him out and plop someone else in that role, and "Iron Man” is not nearly as good or even the same movie, and the same with Denzel in “The Book of Eli”… Heath Ledger is definitely irreplaceable in “The Dark Knight”. Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart” is like that.

The story is rather formulaic, with Jeff Bridges playing country legend Bad Blake, a guy who has fallen on drunken times lately. He tours bars and bowling alleys, performing to get a few bucks here and there, spending much of it on booze. Things change, though, when he meets a small town reporter Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who ends up falling for him and all his flaws.

Of course, it’s not as easy as Country Bad Boy meets Good Girl and happily ever after… never is. Things happen, both good and bad, and Bad Blake’s story of redemption is told. My issue with the film is that I just didn’t see the chemistry between Jane and Bad Blake—as in, what is a pretty 30-something single mom doing falling for a 50-something, overweight, aged and withered old man? Its possible, for sure, but the love story presented in the film didn’t make me believe it, but maybe it just happened too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, Maggie Gyllenhaal is great, as she always is, but the romance part of the story is just a little out there.

What is to be marveled, though, is Jeff Bridges. His performance as a broken down, filled-with-regret country artist who used to be someone great is breathtaking and completely believable. When he won the Oscar for Best Actor for this picture, I know there were some people who thought it might have been a “lifetime award” rather than for the merits of this film, but having seen it, I’d totally disagree… he deserved it this time around.

Also making an appearance is Colin Farrell, playing Tommy Sweet, an up and coming country star that was mentored by Bad Blake—and now is by far more successful, much to Bad Blake’s chagrin. Farrell is good in his role, and isn’t needed more than the brief times he’s shown, and there’s a great appearance by Robert Duvall who himself played a troubled country artist in the film Tender Mercies , for which he won the Best Actor Oscar—never seen “Tender Mercies”, its on my movie to do list, which is probably in the thousands by now.

The movie has lots of drinking (the main character is an alcoholic), a did-not-show-them-doing-it-but-you-know-they-did scene and lots and lots of language. Its worth a viewing, though not one I’ll watch repeatedly.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Don't "Turn Around"

Tonight was going to be a few more movie reviews--we just saw the movie "Just Wright", starring Queen Latifah and Common (!), upon the request of The Lovely Steph Leann, so I'll make sure we discuss this at length....

However, in the car tonight, something happened that I want to discuss, and I want to make sure that we understand something, you and me.  Tonight, The Lovely Steph Leann and I were on the way back from the movie show (we'll get to that), and I flipped a few channels on the radio until I came to 96.5, which is soft rock, and more importantly, in the evening, its the home of Delilah (deee-liii-laaaah... love someone to-niiiight...). 

And the song that was playing immediately hooked The Lovely Steph Leann and I, as we both jumped right in... "Turn around, bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart... turn around, bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart... and I need you now tonight and I need you more than ever and if you only hold me tight We'll be holding on forever and we'll only be making it right 'cause we'll never be wrong, together we can take it to the end of the line, your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)... I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark, we're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks... I really need you tonight, forever's gonna start tonight, forever's gonna start tonight

"Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I'm only falling apart... there's nothing I can do... a total eclipse of the heart... once upon a time there was light in my life, but now there's only love in the dark... nothing I can say... a total eclipse of the heart..."

I wrote out half that song, partly because I like to sing it as I'm typing, partly because I know you like to sing it and are doing it now, and partly because I wanted there to be no mistake about what song this is.   This song is called "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and its by a chick named Bonnie Tyler, from her 1983 album "Faster Than the Speed of Night".

The background vocals, the part that goes "turn around, bright eyes" is by a singer named Rory Dodd, who's claim to fame is this song, dozens of other songs doing background vocals, and the lead voice in an old Hungry Hungry Hippo commercial.  You can't make this stuff up.

The original song is a 7 minute opus of music, a monumental song that must who's choruse must be sung loudly until you get to "once upon a time there was light in my life...", upon which your voice must drop to an almost whisper.  If you hear this song on the radio, particularly on 96.5, you'd probably hear the criminally shortened 4 minute version...

...when I'm president in 2028, I'm going to expound an idea I've already discussed--that is to introduce legistlation that will criminalize and heavily fine any radio station that chooses to shorten "American Pie", "Lyin' Eyes" or even "Total Eclipse of the Heart"... Magic 96.5, I'm talking to you...

...anyway, this brings me to my point. 

This song gained more popularity when a chick named Nicki French did a cover of it... The Lovely Steph Leann admitted, "I actually heard the remake before I heard the original."  To which I replied, "Oh, the Nicki French version that came out a few years ago?"  A few years ago was actually 1994, but recently, this song came to light when GLEE did a version of it as well. 

And on Facebook, I saw a dozen people say something to the effect of "Oh, I loved it when they did 'Turn Around'!" and "Who sings that 'Turn Around' song?" and "I love that 'Turn Around Bright Eyes' song!!".  And I just cringed.

This song is not called, nor has it ever been called "Turn Around".  Or, "Turn Around Bright Eyes".  Yes, that is an oft-used phrase in the song, but that's not the title.  The title of the song is "Total Eclipse of the Heart".  The original is called "Total Eclipse of the Heart", and subsequent remakes are called likewise.

After this song was over, I said to The Lovely Steph Leann, "It kills me that people get this song wrong.  This song is too great, too amazing to be called 'Turn Around' by kids who don't know any better."   The Lovely Steph Leann just nodded, in her own way that says, "You're really goofy for worrying about this, but I'll agree..."

I continued, "If we don't teach Campbell Isaiah and Lorelei Addison anything else, my kids will know to their core that this song is called 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Bonnie freakin' Tyler from Nineteen Eighty freakin' three.  And I will teach them to mock incessantly anyone who calls it 'Turn Around'."  The Lovely Steph Leann looks at me, smiles and nods again. 

Any song that you and your beloved can immediately dive into together and sing together, no matter how off key (I speak of myself, not her) is a song to be embraced.  Because after "Total Eclipse of the Heart", up came Lionel Richie's "You Are", which we sang all the way into the garage of The Cabana.  

By the way, one of my favorite posts is when The Lovely Steph Leann said the line, "Lionel Richie is universal."  If you never read it, go check it out... its from 2007 and some of the references are dated (like news of a new Harry Potter park being built at Universal Studios in Orlando)... but nonetheless, the part with Lionel Richie is, in fact, a hoot.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Slew of Movies In Theaters

Reading this on Facebook?  Then I'd invite you to head to Clouds in My Coffee's website, where you'll see the pics that go with the posts, the video that go with the movies and a few other fun things you won't get on Facebook.  But before you go to Clouds in My Coffee... click the "like" button here on Facebook.  Do it for me. 

I had one really long list (and subsequently, long post) of movies that I've seen in the last few months--some are new and recently in theaters, some are just on dvd, and a few are movies that I haven't seen in a long, long time that I gave another crack at.

So, I figured I'd break this up into a two part post in that very fashion... today, its the movies that are currently in the theaters and maybe Monday, a few new movies I've seen on DVD and a few random movies I've (re)watched and can give my now somewhat refined movie critique on...

But let's start with ones I've seen in the theaters in the last few months... you can read my review of "Iron Man 2", which I thought deserved its own post, by clicking here, and in this post, we're going to talk about "Losers", "Kick A**", "Robin Hood", "Date Night ", "The Book of Eli" and my favorite movie of the year so far...

"How To Train Your Dragon"
Okay... so, this was a film that I wasn't sold on leading up to its release date.  Call me a Disneyphile, or a Pixar snob, but DreamWorks animation doesn't do it for me.  From "Antz" to "Shark Tale" to "Over the Hedge", then toss in movies that everyone tells me I should love but don't, that being "Madagascar" 1 and 2 (and 3 when its released), and Shrek 1, 2, 3 and Fourth, and you've got a studio that I'm just not wild about.   Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Dreamworks, as I enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda" and have heard good things about "Monsters vs Aliens", but put it all together, and "How to Train Your Dragon" was a film that I'd just see when I got around to seeing it.

And if the opening numbers were any indication, I was right.  It opened slow and seemed like another also-ran in DWA's studio.  But... as the weeks wore on, the gross for the film kept going up and up and up, and everyone and anyone who told me about this movie didn't just like it, they loved it.  Kids, adults, old and young, everyone I know liked, if not loved, this film.  So, at some point, I figured The Lovely Steph Leann and I should go see it... we were even told that this is a rare case where 3-D enhances the film, not just enhances the ticket price.  "Avatar" was the only other film I'd seen in 3-D where that was the case, but we went ahead and went 3-D.

"How to Train Your Dragon" follows the story of Hiccup, who lives in a Viking village where the life of a Viking is to hung and kill dragons of every size--and they are aplenty in this movie.  Hiccup is a loser that is made fun of by most of the clan, mostly because his heart is not into hunting anything, much less dragons, but to please his father--who happens to be village chief, no less--he does what he can.

Hiccup ends up taking down a rare Night Fury dragon, but upon finding it in the woods, cannot bring himself to finish him off... and there, the adventure takes flight, pun intended. 

I loved it.  I loved every single second of this movie.  I loved the main character, Hiccup, I loved his love interest, a spry pixie named Astrid, I loved the dragons, including the main one nicknamed Toothless, I loved the setting, I loved the creativity, I loved the story... I thought this movie was brilliant.   This was the first time I'd ever seen a non-Pixar animated movie and thought, "This should have been a Pixar film."

The Lovely Steph Leann loved it too.  As the credits began to roll, she piped up and said, "Wow.  DreamWorks finally got it right."

Its one of those rare movies that I feel like was just the right length, and had very little, if any, wasted minutes.  And, in another rare instance, I fully recommend 3-D glasses on this one, even if you have to see it in a matinee.  Its vividly colored, and I don't feel like the 3-D dampens that, but there's something about the depth of the film and the scope of the picture that you get from the 3-D that you might not get otherwise... again, like "Avatar". 

Great movie, my favorite so far of the year. 

“The Losers”
Okay... so, this group of guys who make up this elite fighting force are framed for a village slaughter and left for dead. And what do they do? They are on a mission to find out who framed them.

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the best thing about “Watchmen” not named “Jackie Earle Haley” or “Malin Akerman” (mmm), is Clay, the leader of this group of “Losers”. Based on a DC Vertigo comic of the same name, its full of guns, explosions, cool vehicles and betrayals, and seriously—it’s a hoot. I think all the actors, including Zoe Saldana (“Avatar” and “Star Trek”), know this movie isn’t to be taken too seriously, and in knowing that, they can really camp it up with not just the one-liners but even with the action sequences which are improbable, ridiculous and at the same time, just plain fun.

Two standouts in this movie make it worth a glance, one being Chris Evans, who played The Human Torch in another comic book adaptation, “Fantastic Four” and its sequel. He’s right on par with the snappy come-backs and comic relief. The main villain is Max, played by Jason Patric, who I can’t decide if he’s mailing it in completely or having the time of his life cause he’s got a job. Either way, Jason from “The Lost Boys” has come a long, long way.

You might remember the director of this film also directing the Oscar winning classic that rivals “Avatar” in its splendor and majesty, that being “Stomp the Yard”, and like his actors, he films in a classic comic book camp style. I’ve never read the original material, so I don’t have a reference point as to how true this film is to the graphic novel… but if you can catch it at the Ghetto Buck Theater, or pick it up on cable, do so. Its worth a 90 minute viewing.

“Kick A**”
Okay... so, for every reason I shouldn’t, I thought this movie was hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Its title that I feel very uncomfortable saying (and don’t, especially on a website that I like to keep PG), its got the same language you’d find in equally as funny movies like “Superbad”, its got comic-book style violence that still produces blood spatter like crazy, and it’s got a bunch of teenagers trying to get some. There is no redeeming quality to this movie.

But still… man this was funny. Dave Lizewski is, like most protagonists of movies such as this, a dork. A nerd who has nerd friends and does nerd things. He decides that there is too much evil in his own hometown, so what better way to combat it than to make himself a “superhero” suit and become a superhero. Never mind that Dave has no skills of any kind, no athletic ability and really no fighting training of any sort. He just wings it, to sad and funny avail.

This amateur crime fighting doesn’t go down to well with two real superheroes in town, Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy is played to the hilt by Nic Cage, who you’d think based on recent works, would be in this for the paycheck… not so, I would say, as Nic Cage is an avid comic book fan—this one really might be a labor of love. The controversy comes in with Hit Girl, who is Big Daddy’s daughter and is played by 11 year old Chloe Moretz… and who says some things in this movie that no 11 year old, nay nay, no 21 year old or anyone who keeps a clean mouth, should say. She doesn’t swear a lot, but when she does, its kinda uncomfortable.

Let’s skip that part, shall we? Anyway, Dave calls himself “Kick A**”, a… well, a stupid name for a superhero, but a name that… okay, well, it kicks… you know. Through the course of the movie, Dave figures out he’s in way, way over his head, when a crime boss comes after him. His son, Chris (a “don’t call me McLovin, even though all the characters I do now are like spin offs of McLovin Christopher Mintz-Plasse), fosters his own secret identity as Red Mist. Violence and hilarity ensues.

Anyway, I cannot in any way fathomable recommend this film. It is NOT Emmy Turnbow Safe, and sez Wiki: Australian Family Association spokesman John Morrissey, "the language [was] offensive and the values inappropriate – without the saving grace of the bloodless victory of traditional superheroes". In response to the controversy, Moretz stated in an interview, "If I ever uttered one word that I said in Kick-A**, I would be grounded for years! I'd be stuck in my room until I was 20! I would never in a million years say that. I'm an average, everyday girl.” Moretz has said that while filming, she could not bring herself to say the film's title out loud in interviews, instead calling it "the film" in public and "Kick-Butt" at home. Christopher Mintz-Plasse expressed surprise that people are angry about the language but do not seem to be offended by the many people killed by Hit-Girl.

Let's be clear here... this movie is NOT for children.  As a Christ-Follower, this movie is a prime example of the topic of "what do you place in front of your eyes?", which is another conversation for another day.  I've tried to give you the rundown on the film as best I can, so now its up to you as to whether to see it.  Cindy Jo is probably not going to see this film.  Hurricane Rhett might go out tonight and catch it. 

“Date Night”
Okay... so, the Lovely Steph Leann and I were in Pensacola recently, and that evening, were desiring something to do. We had just had dinner at a restaurant called Hemingway’s Island Grill, and it was fantastic. The best calamari I’ve ever, ever eaten, and I’ve eaten lots and lots of calamari.

Anyway, we decided to catch a movie, one of our favorite things to do as a couple (I say that, and half the movies on this list I saw alone…). “Date Night” was one we had our eye on, and after shooting down “Letters to Juliet”, despite my slight affinity for Amanda Seyfried (is she pretty? Is she not? I dunno).

“Date Night” stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a married couple who love each other, but just need a night out, something special, away from the kids. They try to get into an exclusive uppity restaurant named Claw, and after being laughed at when they ask for a table, they sneak in and take someone else’s reservations (the idea of which becomes a running gag throughout the movie)… but when the bad guys arrive and think they are the people of who’s reservations they stole, things get crazy.

What follows is kinda formulaic, kind of been-there-done-that sort of plotline… but Carrell and Fey are awesome. Both are just plain looking enough to be believable as an average couple, but good looking enough, and likable enough, to root for. Throw in the fact that Mark Wahlberg shows up as a former client and former security agent, plus he’s not wearing a shirt, making for total comedy, and you’ve got a winner.

You know how there are movies that you can turn on, and just use for background noise, knowing that if you look up at any point, you’ll enjoy whatever you see because you kinda liked all of it. This would be “Date Night” for me when it comes on HBO in March of 2011.

I really, really enjoyed this film, and The Lovely Steph Leann laughed heartily all the way through. Its got some language, including one F-Bomb dropped at the expense of Mark Wahlberg not putting a shirt on, and the violence is cartoony and silly… catch this one on a matinee.

“Robin Hood”

Okay... so, before this film, there were versions of Robin Hood that I’m familiar with… Errol Flynn’s 1938 original version, the 1973 Disney version, 1976’s “Robin & Marian” starring Sean Connery and one of my favorite women ever, Audrey Hepburn (this was one of her final four movies before her death in 1993), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, the 1993 Mel Brooks parody, and finally, the most well known version of our generation, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” from 1991.

And now, there’s “Robin Hood”, from Sir Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe.

This was the story of Robin Hood before he became Robin of the Hood. Russell Crowe broods through this film like he does most films, and Cate Blanchett, so ravishing and Sydney Ellen Wade-esque in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, merely passes as Maid Marian. It was rather enjoyable to see LOST’s Martin Keamy and his creepy yet wildly fascinating grin as Little John, though, and in the credits playing “Will Scarlett”, I saw the name of none other than “Critters” and “Critters 2” star Scott Grimes. Looking at his iMDb page, the not often recognized Grimes has made quite a career for himself in bit parts and television appearances, even getting a recurring role in ER.

Neither The Lovely Steph Leann or I loved it, but she liked it more than me I think. Of course, she digs any story that takes place in old England where dudes are wearing chain mail and carrying big swords, while the chicks are in frilly, frumpy dresses and do things like wash clothes in a basin. Not saying she wants to live there, but she loves that crap.

Best Robin Hood? Dunno… never seen the Sean Connery version, but I’d have to give it to Errol Flynn, the original, though Kevin Costner’s merits could be argued. Best Maid Marian? Would be a tough battle between Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio, Audrey Hepburn (because she’s Audrey Hepburn) and that foxy one in the Disney version.

Best Sherriff of Nottingham? Alan Rickman.

End.  Of.  Discussion.

"The Book of Eli"
Okay... so what an amazing movie... the only thing I knew about this going in was Denzel Washington was a man protecting the last Bible on Earth.  And the setting was some sort of a apocalyptic, everything-as-we-know-it-has-been-destroyed, cars burned up by the side of the road and rotting kind of civilization.

Denzel is Eli, a drifter who is following a vision to go to the coast, taking with him the last copy of the Bible... all others have been destroyed.  If it had been said what happened, I might have missed it, but this is a world now where books are scarce, grown people can no longer even read, and communities are many times held under rule by whoever has the most power.  Sex is a bartering tool, and violence is the answer for most conflicts.

We see right away that Eli is not a guy to be messed with... he's got somewhere to be, and he's headed that way.  And when people try to stop him, he stops them from trying to stop him in the most convincing "don't bother me" way possible.   Trouble comes when he drifts through a town and its discovered by the town's "ruler", Carnagie (played by Gary Oldman, who excels in this type of role), that Eli is carrying with him last copy of the Bible. 

Carnagie then determines that he must have this Bible... not because its a collectors item, not because he is a Bible scholar... but because he declares it "a weapon, and civilizations have been built on this book." That is... well, refreshing.  I'm sure the producers of the film didn't intend on making a religious statement, but they did.  The world sees the Word of God as a work of fiction, but this movie hits it dead on--its a weapon.  A holy, righteous, hope filled, Christ inspired weapon used to tell the stories of our Creator and guide those wo follow Hiim. 

Denzel Washington, a Christ follower himself, is fantastic in this movie, and like Robert Downey Jr being irreplaceable as Iron Man, so to is Washington in this film... you take him, out, the movie falls apart.  The supporting cast, though perhaps not irreplaceable, it still strong, including Oldman, Mila Kunas and Jennifer Beals.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to see the ending coming, with the final twist.  Most people I know predicted the little surprise in the last few minutes, but that doesn't make the journey there any less entertaining.

The film is bleak in color, as many of the movies with this setting are, and language pervades throughout.  The sexual moments are very few, with only a couple of allusions to it, mostly within the context of the town's danger.  Violence is also heavy in this film, so expect lots of knives and gunshots and big armored vehicles.  All that is to say that this movie is NOT for kids.  I dare say its not Emmy Turnbow safe, but at the same time, I think Emmy Turnbow would like this movie--at least, an edited version that might come on the USA Network in June of 2012 or something.

My third favorite film of the year, following "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Iron Man 2".

Another take on this movie can be found here, by Chandler Wallace, a staff member at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship)... he also liked the film immensely.

Tomorrow... reviews on "Crazy Heart" with Jeff Bridges, "Orphan" with Vera Farmiga and a few older films that I've re-watched... including... "Money Train"...