Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thursday, November 24, 2011

And an Extra Happy Muppety Thanksgiving

This is Kermit reporting on the Kermit balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1977. Love this picture. Kermit was, naturally, always my favorite balloon at the parade; I had to see Kermit and Snoopy. Ha, and today I've offered you Kermit and Snoopy. Didn't intellectualize that!

Anyway, if you're taking the family to a movie today, might I recommend The Muppets? And if you see it, let me know what you thought, because I'm desperate to see it and can't afford to go yet. Everyone seems to like it, which makes me endlessly happy.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

After sitting on my TiVo for a week or so, I finally sat down to watch the pilot episode preview of Green Lantern: The Animated Series. I have to admit, I'm a little torn on this one.

First, the positives: I love the premise for this. It sees the heretofore-unknown (in the cartoon) Red Lanterns, led by Atrocitus, exterminating Green Lanterns along the frontier. These frontier Lanterns are only known to the Guardians and not to the rest of the Lanterns. When Hal Jordan discovers this, he takes an experimental ship (run by an artificial intelligence) and, joined by Kilowog, rushes in to the rescue. But, during the rescue, the ship's core is damaged, and won't be able to heal itself for nine months. So although we probably won't get to see Tomar Re (my favorite Lantern) or the rest of the Corps, it's actually a great idea to put Hal and Kilowog on the frontier, cut off from Oa and facing a major, unknown threat.

And I liked the script, the characters, most of the vocal performances (especially Kurtwood Smith as a frontier Lantern). I also love that we won't have to go through multiple episodes of Hal whining about his tricky relationship with Carol Ferris. The space cop stuff is the best part of GL.

The negative for me, though, is that I didn't care much for the animation. Although the designs are in the Bruce Timm tradition, the quality of the computer animation is just too cartoony. We see an Earth with backgrounds sparser than a Road Runner cartoon and not nearly as pretty or detailed. Everything looks made of plastic; it made me lament that there's no Lego Green Lantern game. The animators give in too much to the temptation to give aliens stubby legs and have them hobble around cutely. Hal looks and moves like Buzz Lightyear, but at least Buzz is meant to look like a toy. It was distracting at times.

So I don't know where I am with this, or where I'll be when the regular series begins next year. I like the writing. Love the characters. I think that's enough to overcome animation I don't care for. But tell me again why this is supposed to be better than traditional animation?

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

DRIVE (2011)
My favorite film so far this year; the music, the atmosphere, most of the performances which are so good that I can overlook the fact that I like Carey Mulligan less and less every time I see her... This is firmly rooted in early 80s crime films... it's like Michael Mann and Brian DePalma had a baby and then sent it back in time so that it could make an excellent, rough crime thriller in 1982. It's one of those great movies like Thief that is, in its way, actually a Western. It's perfect. I love this movie. **** stars.

TOMBOY (2011)
Beautiful, surprising French movie about a girl who moves into a new neighborhood and pretends to be a boy. It's an interesting observation about gender... I don't want to say confusion so much as dissonance. The young actors are very sympathetic, and I was particularly touched by the relationship between the girl and her younger sister. **** stars.

TRUST (2010)
I never thought I'd say this, but I really have to give David Schwimmer a lot of credit as a director here. This movie is a cautionary tale about the sexualizing of teen girls and how the internet can be used to prey on them, but it actually manages to stay away from the preachy, Lifetime Original Movie tone that that description makes you think about. Here we have a 14 year-old girl who befriends a boy online, only to discover he's in his thirties. Being who I am, I was especially interested in the reaction of her father (Clive Owen), who is working on an advertising campaign that showcases sexy teenagers in various states of undress, and who comes to feel that he's made the world a place that makes it easier for teenagers to be taken advantage of by predators. At times chilling, this is a surprisingly good movie. A lot of that is due to the central performance of Liana Liberato as the teenage girl; she's a realistic character who isn't obtuse merely to keep the plot going. **** stars.

This one took me by surprise. I was expecting one of those oh-so-precious hipster love stories, but what I got was a surprisingly honest (and depressing) story about how love can be chipped away at, compromised, and eaten by such things as distance and hardship. I'm just amazed that someone is willing to tell kids that, you know, it doesn't always work out. It's refreshing. It's honest. It's sad, too, but a well-made movie. **** stars.

Another silly teen fantasy about glamour, romance, and escape. I've seen this dozens of times, and this one didn't really turn the engine over for me, possibly because I'm just kind of tired of Selena Gomez these days. I liked Leighton Meester in it, though. I want to see her do better movies. ** stars. Harmless, but dull.

Roger Ebert describes the layers of this film better than I ever could. I suggest you seek out his review of it. He gets at what makes this film so fascinating: that it's not really "just" a documentary about pet cemeteries, but something more, something kind of mysterious but at the same time really bare. Without hammering points home, Errol Morris simply lets his subjects talk, and in doing so reveals that how we view our pets, the animals we invest our love in, says a lot about how we relate to the central mysteries of existence. But without being precious about it. This is an amazing work. **** stars.

Nihilistic and depressing, beautifully shot, naturalistically acted (very well by Kirsten Dunst in particular) film about the end of the world. I think ultimately the point of Lars von Trier's film is that people who are depressed to the point of melancholy act better in a crisis because they expect bad things to happen. Excellent and highly compelling. **** stars.

I finally sat and watched this flick; I've been trying to for about 20 years now, but for some reason I never do. It's very much of its time, but elevated by Ray Harryhausen effects and some careful plotting. *** stars.

Beautiful movie about Jean-Dominique Bauby, based on his memoir, as he convalesces after a horrific stroke, leaving him paralyzed and only able to communicate with one eyelid. Mathieu Amalric is excellent as Bauby, but I especially loved Emmanuelle Seigner as his supportive ex-wife; there's a lot to her story, trying to help the husband who cheated on her. Excellent film. **** stars.

The second of Francois Truffaut's Antoine Doinel features, with Antoine drummed out of the military and trying hard to find a decent job and learn about women. I like the way Truffaut approaches the film wryly and with bouncy humor. ***1/2 stars.

Cute but predictable, or predictable but cute, one of those. Ali Larter is always so cute. Inconsequentially pleasant. Or pleasantly inconsequential. **1/2 stars.

Very powerful, moving story about Ernie Pyle observing and writing about a company of soldiers as they move through North Africa and into Italy. The film does take a viewpoint of awe in the military, but it tempers it with reminders that the people who put themselves through this hell of combat are human beings with their own dreams and fears. Coming right at the tail end of World War II, it feels less like propaganda and more like a thank you. Either way, it moved me. **** stars.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Something Is Broken

I just read that Jeniffer Fox, the pregnant woman who was kicked and pepper sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle last week, has miscarried. Granted, she was only 2 or 3 months pregnant, so there's no way you can equivocally say that her miscarriage was caused by her mistreatment at the hands of Seattle police, but it couldn't have really helped, either. The fact here is that police should not have been kicking a woman in the stomach and spraying mace in her face at a peaceful protest.

I've been reading a lot of utter bullshit today about the Occupy movement, and whether or not you agree with their cause (or, in fact, even understand what it is), if you think that a paramilitary response is justified or appropriate to drive peaceful protesters off of city streets or parks, there is something wrong deep inside of you.

These people are exercising First Amendment rights of assembly and to petition their government for a redress of grievances. They are being met with violence. This is not right. It may be, pathetically, business as usual, but it's still wrong. No matter how many people push it or support it, it's wrong.

Remember Scott Olsen, the Marine who survived two tours in Iraq only to come back home and get shot in the head by a tear gas canister and end up in a coma? This is the kind of chaos and hatred we offer returning vets? The only way his injuries could have been so severe is if some cop had aimed right at his head and fired. And the cops fired at the people trying to rush over and help him.

You know, there's an old, derisive opinion about cops; that they're guys who weren't fit for real military service, but want to carry a gun and wield their power over others. I've always rejected that out of hand, because I think it's a stereotype and, honestly, for the most part, my experiences with police officers have been positive. Not always, but usually. I treat them with respect because they're doing a difficult job that I sure as hell don't want to do, and they usually respond by being polite and helpful. Again... not always, but usually.

But to see these people descending on people, shooting at them, beating them with batons, pulling them by the hair... the mad glee in the eyes of some of these cops, enjoying the terror they're spreading. Or the cops who just start grabbing and tearing with that look of fervent, righteous anger in their eyes... Or, worst of all, the ones who just casually walk around spraying mace into the eyes of people who are sitting or, at worst, panicking because the police are attacking them.

Seriously, an 84 year-old woman was maced. Unless she was firing a Tommy gun madly into a crowd, there's no reason for that.

If you seriously think that's justified... that that's a reasoned response... You know, you never saw anyone on the left saying that the Tea Partiers should be run off by cops in riot gear and fired on with rubber bullets. And those assholes bragged about carrying loaded guns around and made jokes about assassinating the President of the United States.

And where is President Emptysuit on this whole thing, anyway? Complicit by silence on the Occupy movement, but always ready with a quick platitude about supporting protests demanding freedom in other countries--literally the least you can do, I guess.

I can't even mince words. If you think a paramilitary response to the exercise of free assembly is somehow appropriate, you are a terrible person, whomever you are. I won't be discussing that opinion.

Lexapro Update

I've been looking into a number of options. Thank you all so much for your suggestions, they've been very helpful. Right now it's looking like my best option is to apply for the Pharmacy Assistance Program from the manufacturer; it'll probably take another month before I hear anything, but if it comes through, I'll be able to access (through my doctor) a three-month free supply.

So there's a ray of medical sunshine there. I'm very happy to say that.

John Neville 1925-2011

I'm very saddened to hear that John Neville, the star of my all-time favorite film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, passed away over the weekend. I've seen him in a few other movies (A Study in Terror, Little Women, The Fifth Element), but he was primarily a stage actor. But his Karl Friedrich Hieronymous Baron von Munchausen affected me like nothing else. Thank you, sir, for this magnificent performance in a magnificent film that will affect me all my life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kristen Bell Mondays

5 weeks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Song of the Week: "Say You'll Be There"

Why not, eh? Man, I used to dig the Spice Girls. Yes, I was older than the target audience was supposed to be, but let's be frank, music in the nineties sucked. I was not into the grunge scene, or the house scene, or the techno scene, or whatever the hell was going on with the swing music, so there were slim pickings on the radio in those days if I wanted to listen to anything that sounded remotely like the pop and New Wave I grew up with. So yeah, I dug the Spice Girls. They were fun.

Big Confusion in Little China

Watched this classic last night on Encore HD. I never get tired of this flick, so I dug this loving little tribute to Jack Burton's constant disorientation.