Saturday, December 31, 2005

Munich: movie review

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds,
Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler

This is an important film. That’s the gist of it. This is not a film to be forgotten or left to rot on a DVD shelf. This is a film that should be shown in history classrooms and one that leaves a resounding effect long after the credits roll. It is a film, like many of Spielberg’s, which gives insight, depth, and understanding, even amidst all its confusion, to the realities of its subject matter: terrorism and the reaction to it. Unlike the other politically charged thriller this year (Syriana), “Munich” is accessible and open to audiences, almost inviting. This is a film that begs to be seen and understood.

Obviously, the film parallels very similarly to the current state of many countries, including the U.S., which have suffered terrorist attacks. However, most educated people will realize that these terrorist attacks have been going on for a long time and they haven’t stopped. We simply haven’t cared to give them a second look. That is, until September 11th.

“Munich” retells the story of an arab terrorist group called "Black September" (believed to be members of PLO) holding a team of Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, and then takes you on a roller coaster ride through the reaction to that event. While trying to flee at the airport, the hostage situation goes awry and the Israeli athletes are murdered and all but three of the terrorists are killed.

The reaction is quick, although tensions have been high for years. The prime minister decides that action must be taken in order to uphold the rules of humanity, whether they are from one country to another or one person to another.

Enlisting the help of a former Mossad bodyguard named Avner (Eric Bana), the Prime Minister sets out a plan of action to kill every person involved in the murder at Munich.

Avner, the son of a former Mossad hero, is chosen for his anonymity and lack of deep involvement in assassination, the reasoning being that it will be easier for him to work in the shadows. The only problem I had with the entire film is the reasons behind Avner’s decision to take the job. If it was a sense of duty and country, fine, but it’s never truly stated or understood. Avner simply takes the job because he seems haunted by the events at Munich.

Avner is told he could be gone for years while trying to track down and kill every person involved in Munich. At home, Avner has a pregnant wife and an easy life, but for whatever reason, decides this is something he must do.

From here, Avner meets with his teammates, a group of four men all played splendidly by each actor, and they set out to put their plans in motion. It turns out that none of them are specifically crafted assassins, but rather “roundabout” assassins, each having just enough skill and trade to make it happen.

From their first mission, Spielberg lets us know he’s in serious mode and it’s fitting. I am amazed at Spielberg and always have been. Not every one of his movies is great and powerful, but he always holds strongly to his message and portrays it perfectly with the medium he is working in. Spielberg is truly a master of cinema and he once again lives up to that with “Munich.”

Every shot is crafted beautifully with so much depth and detail that you really feel that the film was shot in the 70’s. What amazes me further is how fast Spielberg shot this film (somewhere around three months) and how brilliant it turned out. The speed at which this man works is phenomenal given the results he gets.

Everything Spielberg does with “Munich” feels intentional and that every frame is crafted for us, not catered or watered down. This is where “Munich” succeeds without question. It is a cinematic masterpiece to be sure.

“Munich” is based on the book “Vengeance” by George Jonas and was written for the screen by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Eric Roth (The Insider), both of who have fleshed out the depth in each character extremely well. We feel for these guys as they go through each assassination. The toll it takes is brutal and when they start to question what they’re doing you start to question yourself.

Taking dramatic license, Spielberg takes us into thriller-mode and I can’t think of any other time I’ve seen Spielberg venture down this path, unless you count “Minority Report.” I hate to use clichés, but nail-biting suspense comes to mind while watching “Munich.” I found my heart racing throughout the film, feeling each moment as it passed with full magnitude.

The questions asked in the film are obvious and relevant. At what price revenge? At what cost? Ultimately, there are no easy answers. Every time the agents kill a terrorist another takes his place and they are left to wonder if they’ve made any difference at all. It is very close to what has happened to the United States recently and begs to ask the tough questions.

The last scene of “Munich” takes place in New York and the parting shot leaves us a view of the World Trade Center towers, still standing, untouched, like a premonition hanging in the skyline of the terrorism to come.

So, they ask the questions…is it worth it? I think the real question is: how long do you wait before it is time to take action? I know a lot of people out there think that diplomacy will work with terrorists. They’re morons. Terrorists will take and take and take. They do not want diplomacy. They want their way or they will kill to have it. There is no compromise.

People seem to forget that once you give a bully his way he’ll keep coming back for it and he’ll take more every time until there’s nothing left. The only answer is to fight back or you leave yourself open for more attacks. Throughout “Munich” we see that each time the hit squad takes out a target, Israel is attacked in retaliation, creating a vicious cycle of never-ending violence, which continues to this day. The fight continues until someone gives. This is the nature of war. It is two opposing wills that will not budge.

As the violence continues many feel that there must be some way to make peace with terrorists, whether they be Al Qaeda or PLO. The truth is, these organization’s view of peace is a world without freedom, be that of religion or government. Their view of peace comes at the price of eradicating entire countries. If there is any dispute, it’s time to do some homework.

I’ve read a lot of people’s reactions to the end scene where Avner is having sex with his wife being intercut with the final slaughter of the Israeli athletes as being “off” or misunderstood. My view is that Avner, having finished his mission and returned home, caring only about his family, is haunted still by the incident and what he did to get vengeance for it.

In war, whether that be as an assassin or as a soldier, you do many things you may or may not be proud of and they can haunt you throughout your life. The problem with these “hauntings” is that they come to visit you when you’re most happy, most at peace, when you are at the pinnacle of greatness in your life. Watching your kid play soccer, having Thanksgiving dinner with your family, or yes, making love to your wife.

I think that most critics don’t understand this because they’ve never been in a position to understand it. The point could be raised that the screenwriter, Tony Kushner, has never been in a similar situation either. Point noted. However, when immersed in writing something, especially a historical film, you learn about your characters, their emotions, their thoughts, feelings, and pain. A critic sits down for 160 minutes and then types his thoughts for all to read. There is a huge gap there.

What I loved truly about “Munich” is that it does not try to preach any answers to us, but instead really gets the gears grinding for the receptive mind. It will make you think and hopefully make you care and maybe ask yourself some tough questions about the subject. Spielberg has painted a portrait of history that cannot go unnoticed.

This is stellar filmmaking, an unforgettable tale that resonates through our current state in the world and the battle we are in. There are no easy answers and plenty of tough questions. Films like these may turn the gears in future leader’s heads and possibly conjure up solutions to the forthcoming crisis’s and challenges of our world. The power of influence and thought combined can create something great and Spielberg has given us the tools to work with here.

One last note. If we're placing value on the Oscars and actually care what they vote as worthy of a golden statue then if Munich is snubbed they will get another stamp on their official paperwork that makes them morons. I am sure they'll ignore Eric Bana's terrific performance as well, which is well worth the recognition as he outperforms the majority of this years performances in so many other films.

Movie Grade: A+

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Chronic"what"cles of Narnia

I promise to have something up sometime today or tomorrow as I have some grand adventures coming up, namely a court appearance (she said she was 18 - and my wife carded her).

Anyways, I have a review for "Fun with Dick and Jane" and a Christmas Re-cap, but in the meantime, if you haven't seen it, click the link below to be transported into a world of magic. You'll need the macromedia flashplayer to view it, but honestly, if you don't have that then you must be using an old IBM dinosaur computer, so get with it.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Why I Write

In the course of my life thus far there have been a few constants. One of those has been that I have always been a writer or felt the need to get the words, ideas, expressions, thoughts, and imaginings that rattle around in my brain down on paper.

Not to sound like a new age artist, but I have always felt the need to express myself. Perhaps it’s from my troubled childhood or deep suppression, but I have always had a fire that burned inside me to get it out. And that’s what I do.

A universal rule in writing is to write what you know. Yeah, you can make up entire worlds, scenarios, characters, whatever, but all of that must come from somewhere. It comes from your creative (subconscious) mind, the storehouse of everything you’ve soaked in your entire life. From that you can create anything you want, but it all comes from one place: your head.

That may sound obvious. Well, it should. From this literary rule I have formulated the basis for my writing. I write what I know. Everything I’ve ever written has been created out of true-life experiences and real people, twisted and churned into the story or world I’m trying to create. And it is so with every writer out there. We all draw from our personal lives to create our worlds.

What I have begun to discover is the consequences and hardships of such writing. Good writing involves drawing from key experiences and people in your life and putting it into words. The problem arises when those key people read your work. Depending on how personal, how honest, how realistic you portray these people you run the risk of offending them to a various degree.

Now, you could say that it would be better not to use people, not to use their likeness, and to create someone totally from scratch. And that is done. To an extent. The bottom line is that most great literary characters are based off of real people and then added or taken away from to create someone new.

Some people are flattered to be used, some offended. What I have learned is that this is the most difficult balance of all.

I have always been a seeker of truth. Call me idealistic, but the truth has always been a close friend of mine, even when I’ve lied. The truth is what we all seek. We all want to know what is really going on, what others really think, and why things are the way they are. We all want to know and it angers us to no end when we feel that the truth is being kept from us.

In writing I feel I can tell the truth absolutely. I can give a glimpse into the true workings of my mind, whether they’re right or wrong. At least they’re true. I am someone who always wants to know the deep, hard truths. I guess I just want to know everything. I can’t be God nor do I want his job, but to know, unequivocally, what people are really thinking, what is really going on in any given situation, what the real meaning is behind this or that, well, that is what drives me in life. That and a passion to create and to inspire. If I do nothing with my life I hope only to inspire as many people as possible to follow their own dreams, to create their own body of work and continue the trade as I have or simply to be fulfilled to some capacity and given a perspective on their own lives to drive them forward.

That is my hope. However, what I have found in life is that the truth, while it may set you free, can also lock you up. In drawing from my own personal life, experiences, situations and people, telling the truth about said things has gotten me in more personal dilemmas than I care to recount. And why? Because I told the truth.

So, why am I telling you this? Why should you care? Well, I’ll give you the match that sparked my current thought process. An Anonymous commenter left a comment to my “nice little Saturday” blog that said: “Your wife should leave you because all you talk about is other women in your blogs.”

Now, I don’t let things get under my skin, especially from cowardly people that don’t identify themselves or clarify their argument. They’re the people in the crowd that shout an obscenity at someone and then run and hide behind everyone else. I’m always up for a good debate, but obviously not with a coward.

However, this person’s comment did get me thinking, but not about what they wanted. It made me think about how much I share with my audience, however large or small it may be. I have always asked myself if I share too much and at what point to draw the line. There is no doubt that my style is crude, harsh, and unpredictable. I like it that way. It will stay that way.

I have taken into consideration everything I’ve put down on paper and in doing so, allowed my own personal thoughts, however righteous or downright wrong they may be, to be seen and read by anyone who wanted to. I see it like TV. If you don’t like it, change the channel, but don’t ruin it for everyone else. While you may think that Teletubbies suck, as I do, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a multitude of children out there that do enjoy it and it’s not up to you to judge whether or not they should.

What I’m dealing with now as I work to advance my writing to the top, and it will make it to the top, like it or not, is the effect my writing, my truth, has on those close to me. It’s not easy; it’s very personal, and a delicate balance that I have yet to strike. I am doing the best I can, but in the sacrifice of giving my audience the truth (as well as the entertainment) I must hold to my strengths, I must hold to what I know, and I will tell it like it is.

I know I will have my critics. Everyone has his or her critics. But, to anyone that wishes to shine me on or judge me based on what I write, at least bring a solid argument to the table instead of throwing a rock and running away to hide. Have the courage to back yourself up. I certainly have the courage to stand up for myself and what I write.

So, a lesson being learned for me. This is my life. These are my words. I make no apologies, unless libelous, and I take full responsibility for every word that comes from my brain and lands on paper (or computer screen).

This blogsite is not myspace. For anyone looking to start petty, hair-pulling contests, please vacate the premises immediately. For those looking to have a good time, a few laughs, maybe gain some insight and hopefully walk away feeling at least a little inspired, read on. I write because it’s what I do. It’s what fuels me. It gives me strength and it is my strength, amongst maybe a few other things (like caulking and hanging Christmas lights).

I write for you, dear reader, and in doing so share my life with you. Take from it what you want, take from it what matters to you. Believe me when I say that it is a difficult thing to satisfy the masses. And so, I won’t even try. I will continue to write whatever I want, whether that is my unnecessary and bold comments about “other women,” the crazy adventures I share with my wife, or how good the Batman comics have been this past year.

If you seek the truth, entertainment, insight, and personal thoughts/beliefs of a man such as myself, I welcome you to my world. It’s going to continue to be a wild ride.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So, how was your weekend?

A Nice Little Saturday

No matter what state of existence you live on there always comes the task of deciding what to do on a Saturday night. It’s right after Friday so you know you still have a whole other day off before returning to work, meaning Saturday is the night to maximize your free time and do the things you slave away for from Monday to Friday.

With the looming darkness of the Alaskan winter, I slept like a fucking cave bear into the late a.m. Saturday and found myself at the computer, spitting out the highly sarcastic “King Kong” review. Since Saturday morning cartoons are now a thing of seizure-inducing anime and bastardized versions of my 80’s favorites, they are no longer an option.

Around 2 p.m. I am confronted by my significant other, fully dressed and showered and in need of a mission. Any mission. We’re going out, God knows where, for how long, how far, or with what money, but we’re leaving the homestead for adventure and excitement.

In fifteen minutes I’m whipped into a cleansed and fully clothed walking, talking son of kung fu, complete with walking stick, bag of fortune-telling stones, and a tootsie pop.

Out the door we go and begin our crusade to find and create the perfect little Saturday.

We park on 4th Ave and it’s decided that we head into the Grizzly gift shop, for no reason whatsoever as we’ve seen every Alaskan gift that has ever been made. We go anyways and I look at the fucking Happy Hookers shirt and think to myself that I might be able to make it work until I realize that I already have the damn thing and no, it didn’t happen for me.

We skate toward 5th Ave, where the Mall and assorted little shops are. They are calling this area SoNo (meaning South of Nordstrom), which is the most ridiculous thing to try and make happen since Lacey Chabert’s attempts to make “fetch” a catchphrase.

Anyways, my deceptive wife lures me into the Egan Center where, what a surprise, there’s a fucking craft show in full swing. I go along with it and am treated to yet another batch of bear paw salad tossers (no, they’re not hairy homosexuals), personalized ornaments, and hand-made jellies and jams for all your toasting needs.

I almost want to set up a porn booth at one of these things, just to switch it up and catch someone off guard.

“Oh, these are nice looking jams, aren’t they honey?”
“Oh yeah, great, hey what’s that booth over – holy fuck, I’ll be right back hon.”

Anyways, the craft fair sucked like a Hoover with a full bag, so we hopped across the street (yes, like little fucking bunnies in a springtime field) and hit up Karluk’s, which is a quaint little teashop with all sorts of eye candy (and real candy). The shop makes you feel like you’re in a Merchant Ivory Christmas movie, but I guess that isn’t so bad. No Anthony Hopkins though.

The wife buys some Jewish candy shit for her Jewish secret Santa person at work (secret Santa and Jews, yes, somehow it’s possible). I stare at the Asian girl in short jean skirt. We leave. Everyone’s happy.

5th Ave. Mall is the best mall Anchorage has to offer, which isn’t saying much, but it’s not all that bad either. It’s actually quite nice. Comparing it to a mall in Chicago is like comparing the dollar store to the mall of America, but it does the trick and I’m really not that picky.

The very best thing about 5th Ave. Mall for a guy like myself is a trip into Nordstrom. My eyes are able to feast upon the gathering post for attractive females in Alaska. It’s like it sends out a beacon to all hotties in Alaska to converge for tips on how to destroy men and make them eat out of the palm of their hands and to put on make-up and buy $700 purses, all while wearing their most tight and revealing clothing.

The MAC make-up counter is my wife’s place of business and I position myself somewhere in the vicinity, soaking in all the flavors and visuals of the surrounding area like Britney Spears soaking up rays in a trailer park tanning bed.

From there we make our way back to 4th Ave. to pick up the car and roll out. Naturally, we’re treated to a homeless native who, because I didn’t make eye contact, decided to let me know how much he intimidated me by saying, “Yeah, fuckin’ right.”

I hurriedly got in the car, shaken to the core at the threats of the drunken native that couldn’t stand up if I dangled a big bottle of firewater in front of him and thanked the stars for the safety I enjoyed as a little white boy in this big bad world.

As we hit the road, the wife and I decided to play our favorite game. You guessed it. Where Do You Want To Go For Dinner??!!

This is the best game. How it works is like this:

“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know, you decide”
“It’s your turn”
“Well, what are you hungry for?”
“I don’t care, just pick someplace”
“Howabout McDonalds?”
“Fuck you”
“Okay, howabout Chucky Cheese?”
“Now you’re just being an asshole”
“Takes one to know one, babe”
“Pick a fucking place to eat”
“You mean, like a restaurant or a place to take our food and sit down and eat it?”
“You’re such a fucking moron”
“Cause we could just grab a couple sandwiches from the gas station if that’s the case”
“Fuck you, we’ll go to Outback”
“Fuckin’ Right”
“Cheese fries like a motherfucka”

You get the idea. If you don’t, well, welcome to my world.

We decide to hit the Dimond mall first, before we eat. The Dimond Mall is a special place as it’s where I watched my wife break into tears when she saw people wearing furs and that there wasn’t an Express. Chicago ruined her.

A person is shot at the Dimond Mall like, oh, I don’t know, every seven to nine minutes, so there’s lots of useless mall cops in body armor and lots of Asian kids that are undistinguishable in gender.

We decide to look at the puppies and get a cookie. The wife squeals like a six-year-old that just found a quarter from the tooth fairy when she sees a Boston terrier. We then head over to Mrs. Field’s to get a cookie and before I can say “Hey, my girlfriend’s workin’” my wife says, “Hey, look, your girlfriend’s workin’”

My girlfriend is, in fact, working. She is a blonde-haired girl who has worked there since I first moved to Alaska three years ago and yes, she is very foxy. We need to say foxy more. Say it a few times before you read on.

Good. So, my girlfriend leaves, without so much as a kiss or a blowjob and we get a cookie. Well, I get a brownie and the wife gets a cookie. As we order, the overweight manager, a well-meaning fellow, gets me to try their peanut butter and jelly cookie, which does, in fact, taste like peanut butter and jelly.

He goes on and on, obviously trying to somehow impress the 17-year-old hotties that are baking cookies in low cut shirts and whale-tail revealing jeans (I’m not bullshitting you). The girls are unimpressed and you know this guy has a mad crush on all or at least one of these girls and masturbates to the point of seizure to these poor, unsuspecting, whore-dressed trollops.

I fuckin’ love Mrs. Fields.

So, brownies, cookies, puppies and hotties behind us, we quickly grow bored and head to the attached Best Buy. I sign up to win an Xbox360 in a military appreciation contest and then stare at the Xbox360 demo and get a boner. Luckily, I’ve had sex with a girl before because if I hadn’t I’d probably fall in love with the Xbox360, marry it, and probably lose my virginity to it.

All right, All right, but it is pretty fucking cool. Not cool enough to stick your dick in, but cool enough.

Tummies begin to grumble and we ship off to Outback. I call ahead for seating but it doesn’t matter. We end up walking right in and grabbing a table at the bar right away. Then we stare at the people waiting to be seated and eat our food slowly, exaggerating our enjoyment in orgasmic moans and groans while they wait with their crying baby and box of crayons.

We then make our way to Fireweed theaters to catch “Just Friends.” My review is below, so I won’t discuss it here. This is how classy Fireweed is: The ticket taker tears our stubs and then tells us that if the theater is too cold for us to let them know and they’ll refund our money.

The wife decides to get our jackets and we bundle up for a good ol’ time with Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart’s crotch shots.

Walking out, it begins to seem that what was originally going to be a lame Saturday has become an event. The wife calls out Barnes and Noble and I walk right into it. Barnes it is.

Barnes is like church to me. Sacred, filled with love, books, and nicely dressed people. Okay, that makes no fucking sense, but whatever.

I buy an exercise book that will help me implement my workout routines for block leave and a couple Christmas gifts. I can’t stop shopping. I’m fucking addicted. I’ll never seek help.

I then join my wife in the Starbucks café and she’s immersed in the new InTouch. It’s her turn to get the goods so she brings back a piece of cheesecake for me to stuff down my throat and a tea for herself.

While sitting there, enjoying the good company of the fellow patrons, we notice a cracked out lookin’ guy dressed in black with hair like Edward Scissorhands circling the café and sitting down, circling the café and sitting down, circling the café – you get the point.

He is acting utterly suspicious and the wife and I begin to discuss this man’s motives. Is he stalking a 15-year-old Starbucks girl? Is he thinking about robbing the place? Is he waiting on a drug buy? Is he waiting for his mommy to pick him up and take him back home to Spenard?

He continues to act suspicious and we both grow uneasy. As is always the case now, I go into Army mode, planning what to do if he pulls a gun, where to go, what to do, what’s the best use of cover and concealment, at what proximity to I take action or seek cover, what amount of force should be used, and man, is that chick really fifteen because those are some nice –

- The wife is up and walking, on a mission. I quickly get up and follow her. She says nothing until I catch up.

“I have to tell someone,” she says. Where I was sitting and planning a full on military operation against this misguided youth, my wife decided that the best course of action would be to…tattle.

So, she seeks out the the most responsible adult she can find, an authoritative figure who will handle the situation maturely and calmly, she seeks out –

- The 18-year-old sales clerk.

The clerk listens to my wife’s story about Edward Scissorhands on crack (I guess that really does make sense) and his suspicious ways. The girl says she’ll tell a manager and assures us that we’re going to heaven for our good deed.

We drive slowly and suspiciously, eyeing Scissorhands through the window as he sits in the same spot. We watch him like two crackers in a country club who just spotted one of them Negros at the golf course bar.

We agree to check the newspaper the next morning for any shootings.

Heading home, it’s 10:30. I toss out a challenge. I dare Fred Meyers. She accepts. Oh, it’s on. We are officially not old anymore. 10:30 and WE ARE STILL OUT.

We start to walk into FM and in front of us is a big black man wearing a jersey that has the name “Simpson” and the number 32.

Being the true white-bread motherfucker I am, I turn to my wife –

“Simpson. Do you think that’s for O.J.?”

I get the eye roll.

Hey, I’m just watchin’ out, man.

We are welcomed into FM with outstretched arms from yet another drunk native, but this one was much more jolly, singing a little song and smiling with his one tooth. I ignore him but he doesn’t shine me on.

We have very little time to enjoy our trip, as the announcement comes that FM is closing at 11:00. Motherfuckers.

We start to head out, disappointed and defeated. As we walk through the grocery area I am met with something I’ve never quite seen before and never want to see again.

Two men, well, I’ll call them boys. Two video-game playin’, Dungeon’s and Dragon’s buyin’, never touched a vagina boys, dressed in the most ridiculous attire I’ve ever seen.

Boy #1 is wearing a black cowboy hat and black trench coat. He has ugly glasses and a mullet and is wearing a bell around his neck. As he rounds the corner I see that he also has a tail. Yes, a tail. From under his jacket, he has a fucking tail, the size of a fucking horse and it’s just dangling there and boy, has he shown me.

Boy #2 looks just as ridiculous, with ugly glasses and chopped blonde hair and yep, there it is, another fucking horsetail.

Other patrons notice and giggle and these guys just keep on truckin’. I can imagine the conversation had I asked them the question everyone wants to ask: WHY?

“Why not?”
“Yeah, we do it because we can”
“It’s a free country and we can do what we want”
“Yeah, it’s free and we can do whatever. And my dad raped me”
“I’m gay and I want to rape him, too”
“Dude, it wouldn’t be rape, I’d let you do it”
“Oh yeah”
“Will you wear the chipmunk costume with the ass cut out?”
“Only if you wear the Panda”
“Dude, we could play some D&D afterwards”
“And drink lots of soda”
“Lets get the cocoa puffs and twizzlers and get the fuck outta here”
“I’m so excited I just peed”
“Holy crap. Me too”

I have no doubt that’s how the conversation would have gone.

So, FM adventure now over, we decide to push our luck. Let’s take it to the next level.
The wife suggests we hit the Castle, which is like the Blockbuster of porn shops. I see her bet and raise it. I suggest we hit the strip club next door afterwards so I can get a lap dance. And she doesn’t go for it. Pussy. I win.

Fuck. No, I don’t.

Anyways, the Castle, a place of clean and presentable porn of every type right at your fingertips; You’re welcomed with open arms and polite courtesy from the staff all in matching Blockbuster-esque uniforms.

“Do you need help finding anything sir?”
“Uh, yeah, the She-Male midget pee-pee porn, where’s that at?”
“Right this way, sir. Now, did you want the 4 hour marathon version or the feature-length?”
“4-hour marathon, please. And the strap-ons are…?”
“Right back here, sir”

I didn’t say any of that shit, but, y’know, I heard some guy say it.

We look at costumes and DVD’s and magazines and toys and everything that our little diseased minds can soak in. There’s really nothing left to see. I’m done. I’ve seen it all. I couldn’t be more corrupted. My mind is tainted with the world’s graffiti.

I give my wife the signal and she returns it. We don our ski masks and draw out our pistols and yell for everyone to get on the floor. The wife busts out the bag of ecstasy and we make everyone take a hit.

I force them all into the back room and cram all 15 people inside a back room, forcing them to strip. The wife giggles like a schoolgirl (how do they giggle again?) and we take all of their clothes. Naked and with the ecstasy now in their system, we toss in a few bottles of water, lock the door, clean out the cash register, grab a strap-on and some She-Male porn and we’re out the door. I laugh like Robert DeNiro in "Goodfellas" and fuckin' rock and roll.

Okay, fine, we didn’t take the strap-on. Yeesh.

Driving home, we reflect on the day’s activities.

“That was a nice little Saturday”
“It was. It really was”
“Did you get the strap-on?”
“You betcha”
“That one guys ass was pretty hairy”
“Not as hairy as yours”
“Fuck yourself, buttercup”
“Don’t be that way”
“We forgot to go to Home Depot”
“Shit. Do we have any ecstasy left?”
“A whole bag”
“Home Depot. Punch it bitch”

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Just Friends" the movie!

Just Friends: movie review
Directed by: Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Chris Klein, Anna Farris, and other people

Finally, the movie adaptation of my blog! Well, okay, not really, but sorta. Kinda sorta.

The versatility of ipods has gone on to create a bevy of new tricks, from music, pictures, video, and predicting the future. Now, there are podcasts, and like a faithful movie freak, I am a subscriber to Ebert and Roeper. They are a fun batch to listen to when discussing their movie reviews and I was disappointed to hear that they both hated “Just Friends.”

I am a fan of Ryan Reynolds, and not in the typical female way. He’s a funny guy with great potential to become an A-list actor. I look forward to his future work, as I know he’s lined up on some high-profile projects. However, before Reynolds decided to become a serious actor, he was a serious comedian.

His work on Mad TV and the very entertaining “Van Wilder” have garnered him the reputation as a comedian with boyish looks and immature antics. I think where Reynolds succeeds his subtle use of comedy rather than the in-your-face Jim Carrey type (which works great for Carrey). Reynolds implores that everyman humor, one that I think is instantly relatable and accessible to his target audience, which would fall in the 18 – 28 age range.

Anyways, “Just Friends” tackles the story of Chris (played by Reynolds) who, in 1995 is graduating high school and has a great “friendship” with Jamie (Amy Smart) who he is coincidentally head-over-heels in love with. The problem is that Chris is fat, wears a retainer, and has Napoleon-hair (I’ve got lots to say about this later). There is another character in love with Jamie as well, Dusty (played by Chris Klein) who is a long-haired, pimple-faced, guitar-playing dweeb who tries to win Jamie with his awful music.

Now, for you chicks that dig that sorta thing, I guess Chris is in the wrong when he freaks out that, while at a party, everyone discovers that Chris has written a love confession in Jamie’s yearbook, prompting everyone to tease the fat guy in love, alienating him from the town and prompting him to move away and never to be heard from again.

Fast forward 10 years and Chris is a hot, handsome, ruthless music exec who uses his newfound looks to use up every woman he interacts with, thereby getting revenge for his past humiliations. Reynolds is approached by his boss a few days before Christmas in order to take their new pop princess star (Anna Farris) to Paris in order to promote.

Reynolds reluctantly agrees and takes the job. Farris is hilarious as the Britney/Christina/Jessica/Ashlee/Paris clone of self-centered stupidity and she hams the hell out of the role. Farris, most remembered for her work in the Scary Movie series, is a true comic talent and she has a lot of fun here.

On the plane to Paris our bubblegum princess causes an emergency landing when she microwaves her Ahi Tuna with aluminum foil still wrapped around it. As fate would have it, the plane lands in New Jersey, Reynolds’s hometown.

Delayed and tired, Reynolds heads home with his pop princess in tow. Julie Haggerty shows up as Reynolds’s not-quite-there mom and does a fun job. Yes, I said fun job. Eat me.

Reynolds’s brother also shows up in the form of Chris Marquette, who was so great in last year’s “The Girl Next Door.” Reynolds’s and Marquette basically beat the shit out of each other throughout the movie and while some critics may feel this is immature and slapstick, well, they must not have brothers.

I have two brothers and that’s about all we did growing up. We found new ways to terrorize each other, even sinking to the level of using knives and lawn equipment to disable or even attempt to kill each other. I love my brothers.

On the eve of their arrival, Reynolds and Farris head to a local bar where they run into some of Reynolds’s old friends and he meets the love of his life once again. Everyone has the usual reaction to his sudden-hotness and are visibly shocked. Reynolds and Smart have nice chemistry together, never an odd moment or weird pairing (that isn’t intentional anyways)

Reynolds, now confident in his new “skin” asks Smart out to lunch the next day and plans to play the asshole role to win her over. Unfortunately it doesn’t work and he comes off just how he acts. He decides to try again and invites her out to go ice-skating the next day to which she agrees.

Now a really good hockey player back in LA, Reynolds is duped when he gets a bad pair of skates and looks almost as bad as he did 10 years ago. When some kids need a pick-up player for their hockey game, Reynolds agrees and gets his ass handed to him, much to his shock and dismay, especially when it’s in front of the girl he loves.

Reynolds ends up taking a slap shot to the face and the paramedics are called. And who should appear as a newly hot paramedic, but Dusty (Chris Klein) who picks Smart up after she passes out. Smart is marveled by Dusty and his drastic change. Reynolds, strapped into a spine board is flabbergasted.

On the ride to the hospital Smart gives Klein her phone number, writing it down over Reynolds, who inaudibly yells, “This is bullshit.”

Sensing that Smart is now susceptible to the charms of a uber-likeable paramedic, Reynolds decides to be a “pussy” and play the role of the wuss for Smart. So, naturally, he puts on some nerdy clothes and invites Smart out to see “The Notebook.” When Smart comes to pick him up Reynolds is shocked to see Klein in tow, as a friend of course. Klein invites Reynolds mom who agrees to come and the scene of the four of them watching the film is pure comic bliss.

Meanwhile, Reynolds passes Farris off to his younger brother who has a major crush on the pop diva. Their scenes are great and play out well.

The rest of the film delves into the war between Reynolds and Klein to win the heart of Smart. They try every trick they can and Reynolds seems to fail at every move. Naturally, this leads to his recognition of “just being himself” and to be honest with Smart.

In one scene he actually gets her into bed and can’t bring up the nerve to make a move. In his “thought voiceover” he says, “You don’t even deserve a penis.”

There’s a multitude of comic gems from everyone in the cast, which really makes this film stand out. It’s not a revolutionary comedy nor is it the gross-out comedy the critics make it out to be.

The movie tackles the issue of guys playing that friend role when they really want more and the consequences they pay for it, which is both hilarious and too true for some of those sissies. It's great fun, but I would have taken it even further on the issue. But I didn't write the movie. Some dude named "Tex" wrote it. I'm not kidding.

“Just Friends” is just a lot of fun and will be totally hilarious to the right crowd. I could see how some just might not get the comedy. It is not as refined as, say, a Wes Anderson comedy, but it’s somewhere between Van Wilder and Meet the Fockers. The real strength is in Reynolds and his supporting cast who take a fairly by the numbers script and really make it fun with their unique blend of humor and take on the characters.

Whether on a date or seeing this with “friends” this is a fun movie. I had a blast and laughed throughout the whole film, which is more than I can say for many so-called comedies out there.

I look forward to unrated cut on DVD when they can say fuck and maybe show boobies.

Movie grade: B+

"Silent Hill" poster design contest

Alright, so every now and again a contest will come along that's right up my alley. This one is actually more than up my alley, it's parked right in my front lawn.

Columbia/Sony pictures has this really sweet contest for their release of the film "Silent Hill," which is based on the video game of the same name. I've never played the game, but I hear it's actually pretty scary.

Anyways, "Silent Hill" is directed by Christopher Gans, who also made "Brotherhood of the Wolf" which is a pretty freakin' awesome film. So, that makes taking part in this contest even cooler. The script is also written by Roger Avery, who co-wrote "Pulp Fiction" and directed the film "Killing Zoe," two kick-ass films.

The contest is to design a movie poster for the film with supplied photos. Below is my design. I submitted it already and hopefully they've accepted it. If they have, then on Jan. 4, 2006 they will take a vote at the website for the winner. (They did the same contest for the first Resident Evil movie years ago)

So, if you love me, or even just think I'm okay, you'll go and vote for my design on Jan. 4. That would be swell. The prize is 2,500 plus free movie passes. I'd just like to win, but we'll see. If they didn't accept my design for whatever reason, then I guess it's a bust. But, here's to hopin'.

To visit the site:

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Lord of the Kong: Return of the Spectacle

King Kong: movie review
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody, Jack Black

I wasn’t entirely thrilled to the core when I heard they were remaking King Kong. Although having Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) at the helm would certainly be a bonus. Jackson is very much a filmmaker in that truest of form, as opposed to an uninspired Hollywood Hack directing the new Eddie Murphy disaster.

Typically, films such as this get a lot of fanboy attention and a build-up of expectations that haven’t been met since Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. For some reason, even though I cannot fight the fact that I am a fanboy as well, it annoys me when these overzealous dorks start their own website for a film and treat it like Biblical history being translated as doctrine for all the world to follow.

Okay, that has nothing to do with the movie, anymore than the poster of my dog as Kong. Bo really does remind of Kong, though. I’m gonna buy him a Barbie doll with a white dress and really drive the image home.

All right, the movie. I’m getting there. Hang on. Sit back, relax, and settle in for a nice little review.

King Kong is a spectacle of adventure filmmaking. It is, in essence, what you go to the movies to see. It is a visual feast, complete with over-the-top stunts, dizzying camera moves, and saliva-inducing special effects. I drooled all over myself. Bring a bib.

The first hour of Kong is kind of plodding and you’re just rolling with the set-up. The shots of 30’s New York are beautiful, yet still feel a little gimmicky, due to the film’s content. It’s a movie about a giant gorilla and I’m not talking about Russell Crowe in the boxing ring.

Jack Black plays Carl Denham, an obsessed filmmaker who is trying to finance a risky film shot on a remote island from a “treasure” map he has procured. The problem is the studio doesn’t want to back him, his lead actress has fled the picture and he has no money. Minor setbacks.

Black finds hope in Anne Darrow, played by Naomi Watts, who is a struggling actress whose play has just been shut down due to lack of funds. Black persuades her to join his film and she agrees with nothing to lose.

Enter Adrian Brody as a screenwriter/playwright who is doing some “charity” work for Black’s character in order to quickly come up with a script for his island movie.

Fleeing the studio and the law, Black begins the voyage to the island, complete with a crew of colorful and questionable characters.

We splash around on the ocean for a while and watch Anne Darrow’s obsession with Brody’s screenwriter blossom as their mutual attraction builds. We learn about different crewmembers and their checkered pasts. It’s all set up and exposition and it’s not necessarily boring, it’s just what it is: set up.

Once they hit the island the film kicks into high gear and the race begins, never stopping until the credits roll.

We meet the local tribe crazy people who bounce up and down in what looks like orgasmic ecstasy with their eyeballs rolled in the back of their head. They kill some crewmembers and decide that the blonde-haired Anne Darrow is perfect for…something. Not that it’s a big mystery to us.

The crew manages to escape their short incursion to the island and make it back to the ship. However, just as they cast off, those crazy white-eyed orgasmo tribe’s people hop onboard and kidnap their little blonde sacrifice and haul her back to the island.

Brody sees she’s missing immediately and calls for the crew to go back and rescue her. And without hesitation they jump on paddleboats and head to the island, complete with a nice stock of Tommy-guns and rope.

The tribe’s people waste no time in tying Anne up and hanging her out in a big sacrificial ceremony (I’m guessing this sacrifice keeps Kong from mass-slaughtering the tribes people – who knows, I don’t read enough National Geographic I guess). The crew moves at light speed and paddle like the Flintstones to get to Anne.

The scene is very edge-of-your-seat, again reminding you that you are here for the adventure, not plausibility or grounded reality. Sit back and enjoy.

Anne is lowered down to a cliff where, finally, we meet Kong. He snags her up and takes off, running like gorillas run and heads off into the island.

Naturally, the crew goes after her (This chick is like gold or something) and head off. The captain gives them something like 48 hours to find her, which is fair I guess, but they really have no idea how big the island is and you’ve got a huge fucking gorilla that can leap two miles faster than they can walk (I don’t know if that makes sense, but you can tinker with it. Get out a scratch sheet and a calculator).

The island scenes are, to say the least, amazing. Jackson has truly thought out the details and really creates another world full of danger and intrigue, much like you’d imagine a prehistoric-themed island to be. It is a magnificent vision to see on screen.

From here we watch Anne’s relationship with Kong develop as she goes from scared captive to entertaining-to-save-her-life to forming a bond of mutual understanding and compassion. Kong is curious about his new “pet” and toys with her, however Anne stands up for herself and lets it be known that she is not a toy. Kong seems to appreciate her strength and courage and comes to care for her as if she were truly his mate (minus the fucking, as that would surely kill her.)

Meanwhile, the ship's crew, along with Black and Brody, are faced with their own dangers, including a Brontosaurus stampede, which is pretty amazing, complete with jaw-snapping raptors.

When the crew comes to the fateful tree trunk crossing, they are faced with an angry Kong (sans Anne) who pushes the trunk down the cliff, leaving the men to battle for their lives against all kinds of fucked up insect creatures. This is creepy stuff here and great fun. You’ll be wincing like a little bitch, just like me.

A surprise rescue from the remainder of the crew leaves Black with the idea that they should capture Kong. The idea is completely far-fetched, but it’s a movie about a giant gorilla and an island of prehistoric creatures. Get over it. Brody decides to go after Anne and rescue her with his skills in writing scripts and wine tasting.

Back to Anne and Kong. And before I continue, I must say that Naomi Watts should win one of those golden statue things for her portrayal of Anne. She has got to be the best green screen actress in history. Never once does she feel out of place or out of character. She is completely immersed in this role and someone should give her a pat on the back and marvel at her in those skimpy dresses and let her cut to the front of the line or something.

The danger that Anne faces in the course of fleeing from Kong in her first window of escape is beyond comprehension. I probably would have just shit my pants and rolled off a cliff or something. No, no, I’d be Indiana Jones and swing off vines and build a gun out of bamboo and blow darts and save the motherfuckin’ day. Whatever.

Anne is terrorized by crocodile like creatures, huge flying insects, huge millipedes and finally, by three T-rexes (or whatever kind of rexes scientists are now calling them – make up your fucking minds science bastards!)

I’m calling them T-rexes, so fuck off. So, Kong vs. the T-rexes is the baddest ass part of the movie. It’s showdown like a motherfucker and raises the stakes in CGI-related clobberin’. What bothered me though is Anne getting tossed all over the place like a little rag doll. Surely her neck would have broken or something by the sheer force of which she is tossed about.

Minor infracture. The scene is amazing and you find yourself rooting for Kong to “whup that T-rex ass.” And he does, but it is truly a battle and Kong doesn’t come out unscathed.

In the end, Anne rescued, Kong victories they head up the mountain and watch the sunset and come up with their own code for what beautiful is. (Hand to heart, baby, beautiful) Then, out of the cave behind them comes a small, hairy-footed creature holding a shiny ring and behind him a slimy little creature with big eyes. Before they can do anything though, Kong smooshes them both and puts the shiny ring around his neck and all of a sudden a flaming eye appears on the moun-


Okay, but they did watch the sunset and come up with code beautiful. At this point Kong and Anne are like, in love and shit, and Anne lies down in Kong’s hand and is out like a light.

Brody somehow finds Kong and Anne and climbs up the mountain with his strong screenwriting hands and makes it to the top where it’s now getting dark. We see what at first looks like typical bats flying around, but they’re actually huge vampire bats that look like they could be in Dracula’s army.

Brody, unfazed by killer bats or giant gorillas, goes to save Anne. Reaching out to her, Kong wakes up and is immediately enraged, thrashing about all gorilla-like. This pisses off Dracula’s army big time so they start to attack Kong, giving Anne and Brody a window to escape.

So, naturally they grab one of those bats and sail down into the river where they plummet in and then get to land and are suddenly running toward the entrance to the island and the boat. All without a GPS, hiking boots, food, water, or a map. SIGN ME UP FOR THEIR FUCKING BOOT CAMP!

I love it.

They get through the gate, Kong right behind them and Kong walks right into a chloro-whatever trap (you know, that shit that knocks you out – yeah they had a shitload on the ship – stay with me) They drop a net and struggle to hold Kong down while tossing bottles of the chloro-whatever at him.

After a long struggle and near misses, they finally subdue Kong. He is captured, beaten. Anne is in tears and it is surprisingly understandable. The fucking gorilla saved her ass from some serious shit. She should be peeling his bananas.

Flash forward to New York City (and my second pee break) and they’ve got Kong all chained up and being presented on Broadway. The audience is all dressed up and sitting in a theater to watch the 8th Wonder of the World. I guess the zoo is too dirty for the elite-class that paid to see the giant gorilla.

Anyways, Kong is teased with an actress playing the role of Anne in a ridiculous recreation of the island’s events. He is given hope that it’s her but is repulsed to find out it isn’t and suddenly he has a mission. Find Anne.

Kong breaks free and all hell breaks lose. He tears ass out of the theater and starts grabbing every blonde woman he sees to see if it’s Anne. He just tosses them away when he finds that it’s not. Surprisingly funny.

Super screenwriter Brody grabs his magical typewriter and decides to lure Kong away from…I don’t know what, it’s fucking New York, maybe he was gonna drive to the Hamptons, I don’t know…but he lures Kong away (Kong recognizes Brody as the cockblocker that stole his Anne). Kong finally catches up and bashes Brody’s car.

And then, out of the shadows comes Anne, who has heard the commotion and as fate would have it, they are now on the same street. Kong instantly recognizes her and snatches her up, heading into central park for some quiet time.

In central park the trees are lit up Christmas-style and I turned to my wife and said “Ooo, it’s a Christmas movie!” She wasn’t amused.

So, Kong steps on ice for the first time and slides around and Kong and Anne enjoy a nice little escapades moment of beastiality-love-on-the-ice, which is the cheesiest moment of the movie (but by no means “bad”) but is interrupted by an explosion from the good ol’ U.S. Army (God, we just ruin everything)

From here Kong is chased by machine gun fire and finds solace in the Empire State Building, climbing to the top to admire yet another sunset and to do the beautiful sign with Anne. They look at each other with compassion and thankfully never with sexual lust. It’s actually done very well and quite innocent, yet deep enough to cause you to feel for each character (even if one of them is a CGI-gorilla)

Then come the planes and you know Kong is doomed. He gets shot up and takes out a few, but ultimately he’s out of his element and accepts his fate, proving to be more rational than animalistic than his counterparts. We’re the fuckin’ monkeys!

The shot of Kong falling to the ground is a dizzying slow motion shot that is just great. And there are a lot of shots like this throughout the film. Jackson has accomplished his fanboy opus with satisfying glee, creating a true compassionate adventure film with believable characters in unbelievable situations. King Kong is a masterpiece of spectacle cinema and I look forward to seeing Jackson venture forth in his already stunning career.

Movie Grade: A

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Apprentice Finale:
My Two Cents

All right, so probably none of my seven readers watch The Apprentice. Well, too bad for you. Having invested an hour every Thursday night to Trump madness I must express my opinion on the final moments of the 4th season.

I’m not going to go over all the candidates or any of that shit, but I will talk about the final two. We have Randall, a Rhodes Scholar (I don’t know the significance of this, but those of you that want to look it up, have at it) from Jersey who has a degree from MIT and lots of other junk. Runs a consulting firm with three others and does lots of business-type things.

Then, there’s Rebecca, a 23-year-old financial journalist who has done quite a lot for such a young woman. She’s been involved in fund-raising since she was 15 and is also well educated. She’s also hot.

Anyways, Rebecca and Randall both endured two significant challenges that none of the other candidates had to endure. Randall’s grandmother died somewhere in the first few episodes and he chose to continue with the show. Rebecca broke her ankle around the same time and also chose to stay. With these two significant challenges, one physical, one emotional, they both pulled through and made it to the final two.

In their final tasks, they each had their own share of hoops to jump through, however I did feel that Rebecca’s task was done much more professionally. Randall plodded through his task and didn’t pay enough attention to details.

Now, here’s the clincher. Randall is a black man. In the past three seasons of The Apprentice, Trump has hired two white males and one white female. The crack-headed media decided that this must be racially motivated, which is just ridiculous. Entertainment Weekly did a two-page spread on this after the third season, blasting the show and calling it racist. Personally, I think Entertainment Weekly is racist for its attempt to create a controversy of race that didn’t exist.

So, with the outcry of not hiring a black man as The Apprentice, the pressure was put on and I have no doubt that the issue was addressed when seeking candidates for season four. It almost seems like they handpicked Randall to win. Rebecca never stood a chance.

After they dragged through the live two-hour finale, the moment came and Trump hired Randall. Ecstatic and jumping up and down like a Mexican jumping bean, Trump called Randall back to the table and asked him if he thought Rebecca also deserved to be hired.

Just before that, my wife and I thought for sure Trump would hire them both, as it would fit with the theme of his mass firings over the season as opposed to just firing only one candidate per episode. I thought this would be a great way to go and set a great trend for the next season, giving the next bout of candidates both new and false hope, creating a great air of uncertainty. It would’ve been perfect!

So, Trump tells Randall he trusts his opinion and wants to know what he thinks about hiring on Rebecca as well. Randall basically holds Rebecca’s career at his fingertips and what does he say?

He says, “Fuck that bitch.”

Okay, not in those exact words, but he says no. There should be only one apprentice, not two and that’s the way it should be. Trump can’t argue as he set himself up to agree with Randall’s response and lets it stand at that.

Rebecca, shattered, browbeaten, the carpet pulled out from under her has now lost not only once but TWICE.

Now, the argument could be that, hey, it is THE apprentice, not the apprentices. Sure, but in that one second, when Randall could’ve shown his true heart, which he played up all season long as his great attribute, he showed a really nasty side and completely changed my opinion about him and my feelings toward watching the show the whole season.

Yeah, perhaps he was more qualified. I felt that he should’ve been one of the final candidates to begin with, but man, talk about a turnaround. In just a few seconds, Randall went from upstanding guy to fiendish asshole.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that applaud that he said no, I’m the only one and that’s it. And perhaps they’re right. Perhaps it’s my own personal outlook on the situation that sways me to feel otherwise, but I think that Randall displayed more cutthroat antics than he did admirable leadership skills.

So, fuck Randall. Let’s not forget that Rebecca is smokin’ hot, which has nothing to do with her qualifications, but…wait, where was I goin’ with that?

Damn woman, clouding my judgment. Yeah, fuck Randall. And fuck Trump for not putting Randall in his place and hiring her like he wanted to. Had I been an executive producer on that show I would’ve pushed to hire both candidates, as it would’ve provided such a great base for the next season.

So, tomorrow I’m going to get a “Fuck Randall” t-shirt made and nobody will know what the fuck it means. I’ll explain the whole fucking thing. I’ll wear it to the mall and give it to homeless people and write the explanation on their cardboard signs. It’ll all work out.

I will inspire a movement to get Randall fired and Rebecca hired. A) She’s hotter B) She’s hotter C) what?

I’m really not. My point is, you should watch this fucking show. It will fire you up like crazy. You can come to my house and watch it. Apprentice party all the way. Even if I don’t know you. Even if you’re homeless and wearing a “Fuck Randall” shirt.

Syriana: movie review
Directed by Stephen Gaghan
Based on the novel “See no Evil” by Robert Baer
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Christopher Plummer, etc.

I really expected to love Syriana. I read, “See no Evil” by Bob Baer and I also read his other (and much more relevant to this film) book “Sleeping with the Devil.” Baer is a true American Spy. He is the real American James Bond only without the overblown action sequences.

Although he’s not an “action hero,” Baer is and has seen his fair share of hairy situations and unfortunately Clooney doesn’t capture any of it. Clooney plays Baer like a depressed and wounded CIA soldier, which is not what Baer portrays in his books at all. Yes, Baer felt betrayed by the CIA and had some serious tussles with the organization, but he was a proud soldier and did his job the best he could.

Now, Clooney didn’t butcher the role, but he didn’t impress either. He just put on some weight, grew a beard and played sad. Surprisingly, the rest of the cast outshines him by a mile. At one point, after Clooney had been missing from the screen for nearly 15 minutes I started to wonder who the movie was really about.

The argument is that Syriana is only for really smart, well-read, well-educated people who think they know what’s going on in the world. Well, yeah, they’re right, but that doesn’t mean that Syriana is some kind of secret code movie that only “smart” people will get.

Syriana makes itself “so smart” that it pretty much alienates a wider audience. It’s not a dumbing down of information that it needs, it’s a deeper explanation and understanding to certain aspects.

The gist is that a major oil company has bribed Kazakhstan to drill for exclusive drilling rights and corporate investigators try to dig up some dirt to stop a major merger between that company and another. This is very hard to follow and, much like Gaghan’s “Traffic,” may take multiple viewings to take it all in.

Baer’s “Sleeping with the Devil,” details much of the current state of oil in the Mideast and terrorism, which gives you a greater understanding of it that won’t be found in Syriana. I highly recommend reading this book over seeing the movie.

There are multiple storylines, one involving an oil broker (Matt Damon) becoming emotionally involved in a Saudi prince’s fight to become emir over his U.S.-friendly brother who is set to take the mantle.

Another storyline involves two Pakistani teenagers who are taken into one of the many fundamentalist camps in Saudi Arabia and brainwashed into suicide bombers. This is one of the most interesting aspects of Syriana (and is highlighted in “Sleeping with the Devil”), however there is a major problem I have with it. Although I understand that Gaghan tries to humanize these teenagers as “misunderstood” or “misguided” there is a point where I felt that I just didn’t care. Perhaps it’s just my personal feelings, but I don’t need to sympathize with suicide bombers anymore than I need to sympathize with Timothy McVeigh.

Misguided, misled, misunderstood, whatever the case may be, they’re still murderers. I appreciate that not every murderer is a bloodthirsty serial killer, but why should I accept the intentional slaughter of innocents as a tragedy on the part of the killers? I won’t.
And neither should you.

In the end, the wannabe emir is on a mad chase to stop his U.S.-friendly brother from becoming the true emir by enlisting the entire Saudi ruling cabinet in his favor. Along this journey we are shown how wonderful this emir is and without flaw. This is in an attempt to get us to feel for this guy who wants to change his country for the better and basically oust the U.S. by cutting off support.

The problem is, the guy is too clean. I’m sorry, call me a pessimist, but I think every politician, whether they are an emir or a president, has a certain level of corruption or wayward ways. It has always been so. Please, by all means, show me the career of an uncorrupted politician. We’ll tussle.


The U.S., sensing that the wannabe emir could possibly stop his U.S.-friendly brother from becoming emir, of course, decides to assassinate him. Clooney’s Baer races to their convoy to warn him of his imminent death and is killed by a strategic laser-guided bomb, killing all hope and diminishing Bear’s fight, sending the world deeper into corruption and death.

That’s the message of Syriana. Now, certainly there has been some crazy shit that has happened in the world of late. To say the least. But, I don’t know of any air strikes against would-be emirs in Saudi Arabia by the CIA (enlighten me if I’m wrong). And Bob Baer is alive and well, retired from the CIA and still living up his contacts. He didn’t die in an LGB attack.

What troubles me about this movie is that it takes so much truth from Baer’s work and turns it into something else. I wouldn’t call it completely left or even close to right. It’s somewhere out there, trying to get us to decide on something by tossing a bunch of convoluted information at us.

Syriana would be a much stronger film if it respected its audience a little more and instead of inundating them with over-the-top information, they could have used a little more storytelling and explanation. Satisfying performances don’t make up for a film that is completely inaccessible to the majority of viewers.

Some may argue that it’s too bad people are too stupid to understand the film. I understood the film, and certainly don’t consider myself stupid, and am also quite immersed in the politics of the world, but found my brain scrambling to understand what they were trying to get across. Was it a message about the content or just storytelling banter? The lines between truth, fiction, and plain understanding are lost in Syriana.

Movie Grade: C

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Year in Review

This year saw some really great pieces of work, but sadly, not enough. It wasn’t difficult to narrow down my choices at all. Hollywood has struggled this year with a massive drop in theater-going sales, while DVD, most notably TV-on-DVD, made a huge jump in sales.

As for TV, there were a lot of series finales, and a few really great new and recurring shows.

Comics, for the few of you that read them, are much like music. There is always quality stuff coming out. You just have to be choosy.

I’m not gonna throw book reviews in because, sadly again, I haven’t finished but a few this year. I’m slackin’.

Without further ado:

Best of Movies
(In no particular order)

Batman Begins – Christopher Nolan did an outstanding job of crafting a film that fans have been clamoring for all along; a true representation of the Dark Knight. Drawing from Frank Miller’s early Batman work as well as current history, Nolan focused the film on Batman rather than the rogue’s gallery who seemed to be the spotlight in the early films.

Christian Bale is great as Bruce Wayne/Batman and plays him vulnerable and determined. You can see the transformation in the character and it truly brings you into the mind of Batman, rather than the antics of his villains. A great supporting cast adds even more clout to the film. The action sequences and special effects/design are outstanding and ground the film in a world where you can believe that Batman could really exist.

Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith – While not a perfect film, the third and arguably the most important of the Star Wars saga, the material and storyline are handled with a level of maturity that has never graced a Star Wars film yet. Yeah, there’s still plenty of cheesy dialogue and some still don’t like Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, but I feel he did a nice job.

The true star of the early prequels is Ewan McGregor who brings great depth to his Obi-Wan Kenobi, giving a lasting resonance to the Alec McGuiness version in Episode IV. The special effects are obviously great and the end lightsaber duel is awesome. In the end, Revenge of the Sith both ends and begins a great journey and does so in a classy and admirable way.

Domino – Tony Scott’s hyperbolic, flashy, and style-crazy film is way ahead of its time. I loved the way this film was done, whereas many didn’t. Scott builds on his over-the-top style that originated in Man on Fire (and an early BMW film) and takes it to a whole new level.

For those that dig the style like I did, the rest of the film is a great ride. It’s no secret that I love Keira Knightley and probably the coolest thing I heard all year was her yelling “Put your fucking weapon down!” in that hot English accent.

The story is crazy and it’s meant to be. Written by Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) it opens you up to a world of craziness and gives you a peek into a life that is violent and unpredictable. The cast is awesome (another great nod to Mickey Rourke – keep it goin’ man) and Edgar Ramirez. Having Christopher Walken doesn’t hurt either.

A great, chopped up score by Harry Gregson-Williams is featured here and it’s a shame it isn’t released on CD. Gregson-Williams has done some outstanding work in the past few years and I love the style he used in this film. Underrated and Overhated, Domino is an exercise in style-to-the-max and in a few years it’ll be a cult hit.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Holy crap, this movie rocks! You can read my more in-depth review below, but the gist is a great detective story told with tongue-in-cheek and with a great array of flawed characters that will have you rooting for them throughout.

Shane Black, my own personal hero, has written and directed a clever film with bits of comedy, drama, action, and mystery. It’s one of the best rides you’ll have all year without being inundated with special effects.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer are a reluctant duo with a sly chemistry. Michelle Monaghan is beautiful and surprisingly great in her role, which is so rare to find in most movies today. Quite possibly the perfect flick of 2005.

Cinderella Man – How did I miss this in theaters? Oh, wait, everyone did. I bought this on DVD and watched it two nights in a row. It is the perfect formula film. It’s almost like you’ve seen it before. However, with such a strong cast and crew, Ron Howard at the helm, Russell Crowe in the lead, it’s a great ensemble.

Crowe plays boxer James Braddock, based on the true story of the man’s life and times from being way up to hitting the depression and sinking lower and lower into poverty. There are scenes where you truly feel for the man, who resets his priorities and through the luck of a second chance, surprises everyone, including himself, with what he has left.

It is a feel good film in the best sense. You want to feel that you can predict the end, and probably you will, but you never quite know for sure, and it’s just great to see things work out the way they do. A completely satisfying film with great performances throughout and yet another fantastic music score by Thomas Newman.

Sin City – Robert Rodriguez should be given an award for the most faithful comics adaptation to date. Capturing Frank Miller’s hard-boiled comic capers in faithful black-and-white (and a few splashes of color) Sin City is a wild ride into the mind of Miller, where audiences can finally feel the essence of his work from comics to screen.

An unbelievable cast leads this film of three separately interwoven stories, all filmed shot-for-shot from the original graphic novels, retaining Miller’s black and white art style perfectly. Violent, over-the-top, and full of style and pizzazz, Sin City is a hallmark of filmmaking as well as a staple in the comics-to-film machine.

Wedding Crashers – I can’t forget the comedies and Wedding Crashers was a blast. I was the loud, obnoxious laughing guy in the theater on this one and I didn’t give a shit. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were a dream team in this film, which hits all the right marks and leaves you with a comic high. This is comedy at its best.

The 40 Year Old Virgin – Steve Carrell, who is hilarious in the TV show The Office, shines as the virgin who is trying to pop his cherry. Not as laugh-out-loud funny as Wedding Crashers, but equally on level with talent, this film is funny and sweet at the same time, coming off much like a romantic comedy made for men. Great fun, great cast, great comedy.

Best of TV

Now, a lot of people say, “Oh, I don’t watch TV,” and think that I care. I don’t need to talk to them. Most people that say they don’t watch TV say that because they think they’re being a martyr for all the “fried brains” that do watch TV. Stick it up your ass and turn on channel 2 you haters!

The fact is many TV shows, especially cable TV shows, are better than most movies out there. If you’re missing out, then you’re missing out.

Six Feet Under – The fifth season was to be the series’ last and it was sad to see it go. SFU has been consistently excellent throughout its entire run. The creator, Alan Ball, has crafted a series of complete originality, beauty, heartbreak, truth, dark comedy, and deals in the harsh lessons that life has to teach us.

Built on tragedy and death, the show revolves around the owners of a funeral home and the intricacies and catastrophies of their lives. There are so many hilarious moments of blatant honesty and realistic portrayals of raw, human emotion, that the show brings you into its world as if you were part of the family.

If you buy season one on DVD, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. This is stellar stuff and it will be a good, long while before another show comes along to match the complex originality and fresh, innovative writing done on this show.

24 – You couldn’t ask for a better action/adventure/thriller/drama show than Fox’s 24. Kiefer Sutherland has built a character out of CTU agent-extraordinaire Jack Bauer, encompassing a hard-boiled professional who never plays by the rules but always gets the job done, no matter the sacrifice. Now, that may sound like your prototypical “bad ass” character, but you really have no idea if you haven’t seen the show. Whereas the “normal bad ass” would maybe slap a few guys around, Sutherland’s Bauer kills, maims, tortures, and lies his way through every possible scenario, all in the name of duty.

The liberal minded probably hate this show as it stands for everything they’re against. However, able-minded people will recognize its cognizance of today’s issues and 24 makes no apologies about that, which I strongly admire.

Full of twists and surprise, 24 is the edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed. This guy right here watched every episode of the 4th season EXCEPT the last episode, which breaks it all down, because I was moving. DAMN! At any rate, I’ll buy the DVD set and re-watch gleefully.

Season 5 starts in January with a FOUR-HOUR PREMIERE. Sweet.

The Apprentice – Yeah, yeah, I know there are a lot of haters out there and most of them have never even watched the show. So, if you haven’t seen it, shut your fucking pie hole.

Anyways, Trump’s Apprentice is awesome. Watching his gathering of hopefuls jump through hoops to get a job working for him is entertainment at its best. Watching each group perform their tasks and fucking up royally is like having an insider’s view and its great to see them drop the ball (especially when it’s not you).

With sagging ratings, The Apprentice seemed to be in trouble, but it’s been renewed up to a sixth season and I’m ecstatic. This season has got to be the best yet, as Trump changed up the rules this time and started mass-firing people. No longer were people safe when one person was fired, now they all feared for their jobs. Great stuff.

Watching four people fight for their lives in the boardroom and having Trump fire all of them was beautiful. To say that you could predict this show would make you a liar in the vein of Ms. Cleo.

The Office – Steve Carrell fills in for Ricky Gervais in this American adaptation of the famed British show and it is perfect. I’ve seen the old and the new and I absolutely love the new. Carrell is hilarious as the boss everyone hates and his weekly antics are cringingly funny.

The supporting cast is just as great, adding that flavor of favorites that are easily recognizable and representative of normal people rather than the glossed up Hollywood vision of normal people. Paul Fieg, creator of the short-lived, but much beloved Freaks and Geeks, directs many episodes of The Office and his touch his ever-present to those familiar with his work.

Following the gossip, attitudes, and personal lives of each character in The Office is a blast and brings an air of recognition to our own lives that resonate with each episode. Not to mention that it’s funny as shit and you’ll laugh your ass off from start to finish.

My Name Is Earl – Perhaps the best new series on TV, Jason Lee has created a character of Earl that is instantly likeable and unforgettably mischievous. Coupled with his brother, played by Ethan Supplee, we follow Earl on his journey to create good karma in his life by making up for every bad thing he’s ever done in his life.

Kudos especially to Jaimie Pressley as Earl’s ex-wife. Pressley has always demonstrated great strength (and supreme hotness) as an actress and she is perfectly fit for her role in this show. Each episode features an odd assortment of guest stars and everyone seems to be having a blast making the show.

Much like The Office, Earl gives a resonance that allows the audience to relate to it, rather than forcing themselves to believe in it. It’s easy to accept Earl and his family and friends, because they’re just like us, to an extent. What Hollywood normally forgets about is something strictly adhered to in this show and that’s the relationship of the show to its audience. Great and funny stuff.

Rome – What a knock out of the park for HBO. I approached Rome with much skepticism but after giving it a shot found that it was absolutely brilliant. Retelling the age-old tale of Julius Ceaser’s rise to power and fall from glory, Rome interweaves fictional characters with real-life ones and tells a powerful story of the men fighting to rule the world and the women who stand behind them.

Kevin Kidd as Lucious Veroenus is perfect as the do-good soldier who rises through the ranks to become a senator and his relationship with Titus Pullo, a trouble-making, risk-taking soldier is much like the ancient times Lethal Weapon duo of Riggs and Murtaugh.

The stories are emotional, raw, and excessively violent and sexual in nature. While not necessarily glorifying these traits, the show focuses on showing the reality of these elements rather than the hyped-up vision of it.

The second to last episode features a Gladiator-esque fight that far surpasses Gladiator itself. I saved the episode in my Tivo for further re-watching in the future. This is a show that gives you a peek into history without trying to sway you one way or the other, but rather to give you the most in-depth and realistic view of what it was like to live in ancient Rome.

There are a few others that I think qualify as some of the best of the year, but I wasn’t able to catch them all or watch them on a regular basis.

Best of Comics

Yes, I’m a dork and I read comic books. No, I don’t live with my parents in the basement and yes I’ve had consentual sex with a woman. No, I don’t believe that superheroes are real, although I have been able to sense when I’m not wanted.

Get over it.

The Punisher – Those of you who actually still read comics should be familiar with the team(s) involved in this title and the reputation that precedes it. If you aren’t reading it, shame on you. This is the most intense, violent, compelling, and edge-of-your-seat storytelling in comics today and that’s no stretch. Garth Ennis has been writing the Punisher for a while now and has graduated the book into Marvel’s MAX format, meaning it is basically an unrated comic book.

What a leap the loss of ratings allowed this book to take. Ennis is now able to tell stories the way they’d very well happen in the real world, with real dialogue and real violence. The Punisher is more finely tuned and relentlessly entertaining than any movie or TV show out there.

Ennis has brought on Leonardo Fernandez and his work captures the grit and depth of what you’d expect from such a dark and violent book. His artwork shows the age and emotion of the Punisher’s face in picturesque fashion, taking you deep into his tortured soul. This book is simply amazing and I keep waiting for Marvel to cancel it, as it always seems that something so good can never last. If you’re an avid comic reader or someone just looking to start out, The Punisher is essential reading and the best you’ll get.

Batman – The Hush storyline by Jeph Loeb was an amazing piece of work that seemed to work in every key villain from Batman’s history and even snuck in some surprises while they were at it. Certainly Loeb played to his artist, Jim Lee, who has proven to the world that he really is the best penciller working in comics today.

The action and energy are in high gear and the story retains the intrigue and mystery that matches the tone of the “world’s greatest detective.” With the introduction of a new key villain and the most surprising resurrection in years, the stories have continued past Hush’s run and put Batman at the top of his game once again.

Superman – Once again, Jim Lee tackled one of DC comic’s legendary (if not THE legendary) characters, highlighting a few famous villains, introducing some new ones, and even reinventing one of the greatest.

The story takes an approach to Superman’s own fears and dilemmas and gets to the core of his being, which makes the Kryptonian alien more human than he’s ever been. The entire story gave a great sense of foreboding and darkness, something not common in Superman tales and sending the “boy scout” soaring to great heights.

Daredevil – Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have created the modern-day Miller storyline and that’s not a small feat. The Murdock Papers is the greatest Daredevil tale of this generation and is tackled in such a mature and real-world way that you almost feel like you’re watching breaking news.

This is true storytelling and it does such a great credit to the character of Matt Murdock. In rare form you can actually feel that the character has evolved, changed, and grown, while still retaining the traits and characteristics that make him great. The final showdown has been ticking away all year and has been one of the wildest rides in comic history.

The Ultimates – Marvel’s Ultimate line has had great success, so much so that DC has now copied the formula with their All Stars series. The Ultimates is THE Ultimate book. Once again, Bendis is writing and although his liberal-minded propaganda manages to splash onto the page too much, the stories are still tight, fun, and in the fashion of most books today, realistic.

Bryan Hitch’s artwork is simply astounding and he has to go down in history as the world’s greatest splash page artist. His sense of size and magnitude put on the page is like watching a big-budget Hollywood popcorn flick. And really, that’s what the Ultimate’s is. It’s like a James Cameron directed superhero epic with sharp dialogue and colorful characters, all fighting against imminent doom on earth. This is what comic books are all about.

Next up: My DVD and Music picks of 2005. See ya then!