Saturday, June 28, 2003

  • THE THING: This movie: Hulk.
          Amidst a flurry
              of comic book-based movies
                  another good one!
    OK, the commercials had me worried. The Hulk guy looked goofy! He was way too huge, and seemed to look different sizes in different places in the previews. He seemed over-exaggerated...

    I'm not sure if they were just showing the most outrageous shots of Hulk, or it was different in context, but I thought he looked pretty realistic in the movie itself. Well, as realistic as a man mutated into an eleven-foot growling monster can look.

    I should admit: I am not a comic book junkie at all. I did watch the Hulk show on occasion in the late 1970's, but I was a bunch younger then. I don't remember all of the ins and outs of the characters, but I did enjoy watching some big green guy beat up stuff, and I also enjoyed the confusion the general public shared about why his pants ripped from the knees down, but the rest of it, covering his naughty bits, stayed on.

    Not to ruin anything, but his pants stay on, for the most part, in the movie adaptation, too.

    In short, I liked it. I thought the effects were done well, and overdone just enough to be groovy. The acting wasn't too bad, for a comic book movie. The editing and screen effects were brilliant -- the screen often had a comic-book-page-panel effect, sometimes showing different scenes occurring simulataneously ("Meanwhile..."), and some showing different angles of the same scene. There were dissolves and blends and other transition effects and camera angles that just added to the comic-book styling. There was one tiny stylistic moment that I thought was distracting (look for a guy getting engulfed in flames -- I won't spoil anything by saying any more), but besides that it was great eye candy. The way he jumped through the air was just great -- he would bound from place to place like he had the ultimate control over the muscles he was putting to the test (why couldn't they jump like that in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?!? Why do they flail their legs like they're hanging from strings?!? Oh, wait. They are hanging from strings.)

    If you want to see a big guy break stuff, and actually have some pretty interesting background story, with some large scale battles, you will like Hulk. It was honestly quite a bit more than I thought it was going to be.

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $8.85. That's a bargain if you hit a matinee! It's a perfect summer movie.

  • THE THING: This movie: Manito.
          Starts out very slow,
              Quickens to a feverish pitch,
                  and then just stops short!
    ACK! I just started getting into the movie when it ended!

    This is one of the films I received as part of the Film Movement subscription. They're usually quite nifty.

    This one takes place in Brooklyn, and I think the whole time-period movie is about 48 hours. A kid from the tough streets and a tough background is graduating high school. His brother, Junior, is throwing him a huge graduation party. The first half of the film shows some characters and interactions that don't seem to make much sense... it was a little awkward and odd. But, through the planning of the party, and interactions between relatives and friends, the pieces begin to fit together. It was all rather clever -- and the confusion at the beginning tugged you along in earnest to find out how it all fits.

    The camera work and quality is a little tough to get used to -- it seems hand-held, and a lot of the shots are quite close... but it does lend a sort of realistic quality that helps you feel centered in the story.

    Once things have come together, and the plot has manuevered you into a place of understanding and caring and interest, the movie ends abruptly! This is really my main problem with it. I guess the writer left it open for Manito II...

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $6.00. See it if you can... but you have been warned about the abrupt finality.

  • THE THING: This movie: Waiting for Guffman.
          Unexpected whim
              purchase while shopping CostCo,
                  expectedly great.
    I've wanted to see this film for a while! I've seen Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, and assumed that Waiting For Guffman would be equally amusing. I was wandering through CostCo, and they had it for a low, low price, so I decided I had to pick it up. I was not disappointed.

    The small town of Blaine is putting on a historical pageant for their sesquicentennial festivities. The writer/director/producer (played by Christopher Guest, the main writer guy) takes things way too seriously, but gets the cast really hyped up -- he's actually effective with his effeminate over-professionalism. As they are progressing, they learn that a Broadway producer will be attending the show (the guy's name is Guffman -- thus the title).

    If you've seen a Christopher Guest mockumentary, the format will be unoriginal to you. If you haven't seen one -- shame. Shame on you. Go rent one. Hilarious, funny, touching, clever. The semi-written dialogue gives his films a fluid, natural feel. I tend to talk like some of the characters in his movies for days afterward...

The Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $10.95. You cannot go wrong with a Christopher Guest movie, in my humble opinion. (OHMIGOD!! SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET WHO ACTUALLY WRITES OUT HIS COMMONLY USED PHRASES!!! I'VE JUST FALLEN ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING MY ASS OFF! Really. Is that so difficult?)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

  • THE THING: My trip to pick up a car.
          Thermometer says
              94 degrees; nice day
                  for a long bike ride.
    A little background info:
    FACT #1: I'm home today! I've been taking a bunch of days off to cash in some comp time from work. I work a bunch of weekends and nights (feel free to check out what my job is like).

    FACT #2: My wife's car is in the shop. She's in the middle of a release at work, so she really hasn't had the time to pick it up.

    FACT #3: It is a beautiful day outside.

    SO, I decided to hop on my bike (which I've used about 3 times total), and take a bike ride! It's about 5 miles to the STS Tire and Auto where the car is. Not too bad. Also, most of it is downhill. If I had to come back, there would be NO WAY I would try to make the trip. And I really can use the exercise. Apparently my cholesterol is a little higher than it should be (maybe I should blog about that, too). It will be a nice trip there, and then I can throw the bike in the car and head on home.

    I grabbed the water bottle which attaches to the bike, and filled it with ice, and covered that with cold water, so the water would stay cold for the whole trip. I made sure my helmet was adjusted properly, and headed on out.

    It was just beautiful. It's a hot day, but while you're riding you can feel the breeze. I've been on a bike about a dozen times in the last dozen years, and I had forgotten how nice and fun it is. It was really energizing, and exactly what I needed during my quasi-vacation.

    About half way there, down the worst of the hills, I passed something called "Park Lake". It's a park with a little lake in the middle of it (apropos name, no?). It's strange, because they have little decoy geese in it. They appear to be mangled and dead. This lake is covered with fake, mangled, contorted, dead geese. It's not very attractive, and the only thing I can think is that they do it to prevent geese from landing there. The real geese must fly over, nitice that there is geese carnage below, and decide to move on.

    As I was admiring the horrid geese, I noticed an odd sound... sort of a "POP!" followed by a "FLUP! FLUP! FLUP! FLUP!"


    Flat tire.

    The best laid plans of mice and men, often result in a STINKIN' FLAT TIRE!!!




    So I doff my helmet, swig about half of the water down, call the tire some inappropriate names, and start heading home.

    By the way. walking uphill in near-100 degree temperatures is not nearly as fun as riding downhill.

    Things I noticed on the walk: I passed at least 7 empty Skoal cans thrown on the side of the road... In a 3 mile stretch of road!! Actually, much less than 3 miles, it was all along the main road that passes by Park Lake. I didn't think there was that much chaw being chewed in New Jersey. Perhaps it's just one person who rides that stretch of road, and chucks his tobaccy container out the window of his rusted Ford pickup on his way home from the K-Mart.

    I'm pretty sure I spent a bunch of time trudging through poison ivy, as well. I dove into the shower as soon as I got home, perhaps it all washed off. Or maybe that just spreads it around -- I'm not too poison ivy savvy, actually. I might be after this.

    At the base of my street, at the bottom of the largest, steepest hill I needed to climb, there is a small field. In it was a deer. It was standing less than 15 feet away, just starting at me. I said some nice things to it, asked it to come over so I could pet it, but it just stood there staring at me. I started to walk on, and I SWEAR the deer glanced down at my flat back tire, saw me sweating through my shirt more than Frank on Trading Spaces, and started laughing. Seriously, this deer was having a hearty chortle at my expense. Or I might have been hallucinating from the heat exhaustion by that time.

    To pass the time, I counted footsteps as I went. I might have lost count a smidge once or twice, but by my best guess, it is 4,674 steps from Park Lake to my back door. ALL UPHILL.

Monday, June 23, 2003

  • THE THING: This book: Milky Way Marmalade, by Mike DiCerto, © 2003
          Funny and spacey,
              Wild characters and sets.
                  This guy loves music.
    The reviews for Milky Way Marmalade, which is available in both eBook form and regular old paper form, that I read all suggested it was a Douglas Adams-style sci-fi adventure. I'm not sure that was real spot-on. Douglas Adams had an original, free-wheeling sort of style and flair that, though it took me a little while to get used to, is still unmatched, I think.

    One said "If you read and enjoyed Douglas Adams but felt that it was a little too sane and well grounded in reality then you might find yourself in for a treat."

    I think the most important word in that review is: might.

    It was fun, don't get me wrong. And had some very out-there characters. And some cool sci-fi type stuff.

    But this guy loves his 1960's/1970's music a little too much. It was really distracting. REALLY DISTRACTING. Really. Each chapter is named after, and has a quote from, some classic song. The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Foreigner, The Beatles, Rush, The Moody Blues, Yes... and bunches of others. Basically the main plot was that the universe was slowly having its music removed. And the main character, Quark Caffrey, has been thrown into saving the universe from being devoid of music. Especially music by the people mentioned above.

    But the author REALLY likes "Stairway to Heaven". This is the song that the universe was made for and will, eventually save us all. Apparently.

    OK, it's a decent song, but it was leaned on, and used, and mentioned, and abused, and quoted a smidge too much.

    The space travel, and time travel, and different species, and different bad guys, and different planets, and different spacecraft were all VERY cool. And generally funny.

    But this book kind of just used the sci-fi as the vehicle for delivery; it was the cracker. It was really all about the music -- that was the cheese and pepperoni -- that was the main flavor.

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $4.95. I just can't give it any more. I spent to much time screaming at my eBook: "Get off the music! I get the idea!!" I'm still recommending it if you like goofy sci-fi romps, but not without the slight disclaimer mentioned throughout.