Sunday, November 29, 2009

Movie of the Week

This week,

STAR TREK (2009)

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring- Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Leonard Nimoy

In this reboot/retcon of the original crew's adventures, we see new actors attempt to fill the shoes of their famous counterparts. As a lifelong Trekker, I was very skeptical about the absence of Shatner and the other original crew members in the key roles, but J.J Abrams and his people put together a great cast that honored and expanded on the beloved characters. This film was not perfect, but it did have enough good parts and performances to make you eager for the planned sequels.

The film is really the story of how the original crew came together to their familiar positions on the Enterprise. Abrams uses time travel to great effect to craft his story without having to remain fiercely loyal to Star Trek canon. This technique frees the franchise from the constraints of having to match up with the original T.V. shows and films. In addition to the crew's formation, Star Trek tells the story of a rogue Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) who to sets out to get revenge on Spock from the original timeline, played by Leonard Nimoy. The two stories merge bringing Nero into conflict with Kirk, Young Spock and the rest of the crew. With old Spock's help, they defeat Nero's destructive plans and begin a new five year mission together.

Some moments of the film are very reminiscent of the classic films and episodes- especially Karl Urban's turn as 'Bones,' certain lines of dialogue, Sulu's fencing, Chekov's mispronunciation of w's and v's and Chris Pine's chemistry with Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock respectively. There were other elements that were new, but very welcome including- Bruce Greenwood as the avuncular role model Captain Pike, a re-vamped Enterprise, a decent score by Abrams regular Michael Giacchino and some good old school special effects. Finally, certain things could have been scaled back or eliminated like- the Spock/Uhura love story, the scads upon scads of lens flares and Eric Bana's scenery chewing villainy (leave that kind of acting to Ricardo Montalban).

All in all this film puts Star Trek on the right course for the next decade. I look forward to adventures with the crew as they continue to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Things to watch for-

A toothy Winona Rider as Spock's mom
The tribble
The cool new transporter effect
Tyler Perry as an Admiral (Medea Goes to Starfleet)

"I like this ship. It's exciting."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Things I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving approaches, and as such I feel the need to engage in what many see as the point of the holiday. No, I don't mean the over-consumption of food around a table of hostility with drunken relatives, I mean the giving of thanks. Here now are some of the things I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the end of Jon and Kate Plus 8.

I am thankful for my dog Basil and his cuteness. I am not thankful for his anal gland butt juice, however.

I am thankful for Obama's gift of fourteen more weeks of unemployment benefits. I need to finish that magic eye puzzle, and now I can!

I am thankful for the new Star Trek movie, it is a solid reboot.

I am thankful for our super powerful vacuum. It could suck the bolts out of a submarine's hull.

I am thankful for all my family and friends.

I am also thankful for cliched thankfulnesses.

I am thankful for knowing that the mechanic that I go to doesn't try to screw me.

I am thankful for Cialis, and the two bathtubs they threw in with my prescription.

I am thankful for my witty blog and my two regular readers. You guys rule.

Thanks for reading, and have a great Turkey Day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

People I Can Do With

That last post was kind of negative and bitter, so I will now offer a more positive response to it. Here now is a list of people that I like, love and think are awesome.

My wife, Mary Anne. She is ridiculously good at lots of things, very smart, funny, sweet and talented.

Patton Oswalt. He is the best stand-up working today.

Old people who are really good at using computers, like my grandma.

Teachers. They really are heroes and make a huge difference in many people's lives. I was one, I know.

Women. All women. They put up with stuff that men will never know or have to deal with. If I had to have a period every month I would probably think I was going to bleed to death. Childbirth too, that shit is insane. Ladies, I salute you.

Paris Hilton's murderer.

People who have disabilities or illnesses that maintain a positive attitude despite their condition. I whine about a hangnail or a canker sore, so I truly find you to be great examples to all the giant wimps like me.

Guys and gals who still sport mullets. I love to laugh at your business in the front, party in the back hair.

Janitors. Thanks for mopping up my mess and scrubbing my toilets.

The guy who invents a time machine, goes back and kills George Lucas in 1995 before he can make the Star Wars prequels and the fourth Indiana Jones.

Deron Williams.

That's all, but with some luck, or time machine building skills you could make the next version of the list.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

People I Can Do Without

Here is a list of some people that I would be happy to never see or hear from again.

Paris Hilton

Guys who wear a suit jacket or blazer over a wildly designed t-shirt and tight jeans. It stopped being a good look a long time ago.

Old retired people who go to the grocery store in droves on the weekend. You're retired, you can go any day of the week! Leave the weekends for people who work (not me).

Twilight fans. Especially ones who think Robert Pattinson is good looking- HE LOOKS UNWELL!

Parents who buy booze for and drink with their teenage kids. You are losers, stop trying to recapture your youth and be your kids' friend.

People who think they eat healthy and tell you what to eat, even though they have it all wrong. An all tomato diet isn't eating well.

Smug USC fans.

Fans of Notre Dame football, Michigan Football, and the New York Yankees who think it is their birthright to have their teams be winners every year. Guess what, there is much more parity in sports now and other teams got better. Stop whining and realize it isn't 1960 anymore.

Utah drivers who don't know how to use a four way stop.

That fat kid from 2 and a Half Men.

Guys who don't wash their hands after they pee. You're costing the rest of us creditability.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

Goodfellas is in my top five films of all time. This film should have won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director in 1990, saving us from The Departed in 2008 and the smugness of Kevin Costner after he won both awards for Dances with Wolves. I think this is Scorcese's finest film, and yes, I have seen The King of Comedy. He uses narration and montage to great effect, and this film did it before it became a Scorcese cliche. It is a unique look at the life of real-life mobster Henry Hill (Liotta) and his cadre of "wiseguy" friends. Unlike other mafia movies, this one really takes you inside and makes you understand the inner-workings of the wiseguy lifestyle.

It begins with a young Henry Hill aspiring to work with the wiseguys in his neighborhood, and then meeting the men who will become the major players in his life. Among those men are Jimmy Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci). These three embark on a very flamboyant, active life of crime that involves stealing, drug dealing and murder. The thing about it is, most of the time it looks like so much fun that you want to join. Unfortunately, the fun is stuck between stays in jail, drug paranoia and threats of snitches ratting you out. Hill eventually has to rat out his friends in order to save his own life- thus ending his dream life as a gangster.

Every scene in Goodfellas sparkles with realism and wit, and paints a very engaging picture of the lives of his characters. Liotta's work in anchoring the film is very good, and he does a nice job of walking the somewhat narrow tightrope of family man and wiseguy. DeNiro is also great, but the real kudos go to Oscar winner, Joe Pesci. Pesci's portrayal of Tommy is funny, tough and terrifying all at once. It is hard to know whether he will make you laugh, or make you dead. Sometimes he does both with terrific results. Goodfellas will take you on a first class trip to mobtown- a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

Things to Watch for-

The amazing soundtrack
Billy Batts and the shinebox
The longest steadycam shot ever
Morrie's Wigs
Martin Scorcese's Mom as Tommy's Mom
A Cutty and Water

"The paw?" "The hoof."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cop Out

Here is a cop out blog entry. I have not posted in a little while, and I am sorry to the two of you that actually read this. I don't really have time for a real blog right now, so here are some facts I know and unrelated photos.

James Brolin was almost James Bond.

Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert got their start on the short-lived, but hilarious Dana Carvey Show.

Hitler's favorite movies were Snow White and King Kong.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

You can help yourself sneeze by staring into a bright light.

My dog, Basil is adorable in a sweater.

Here now, are the unrelated photos.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bond Chronicles Part II

Today's 007-centric post will focus on the six actors who have donned the tuxedo to portray James Bond. It is difficult for me to pick a favorite Bond because in my study of the films I can appreciate something about what each actor brought to the role. I know some people are die-hard Connery people, or Roger Moore followers, but after you read this maybe you can re-think your opinions on this group of distinguished actors.

SEAN CONNERY (1962-1967,1971) 6 Films

Connery is the standard by which all Bonds who follow will be measured. Some measure up better than others, but one thing is certain- Connery was a great James Bond and he built the character into a screen icon. He was discovered for the role by Dana Broccoli (Producer Cubby Broccoli's wife) in Darby O'Gill and the Little People and most everyone agreed he would be a good choice. Connery was not as suave as his on-screen counterpart and needed some polishing by Director Terence Young. The results were terrific as he debuted in Dr. No in 1962. Connery went on to make 5 more films, the best of which are From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. Following the release of You Only Live Twice, he retired from the role, saying that he was tired of all the attention and time it took to make a Bond film. He would return, however, in 1971's Diamonds are Forever for one film only. It was nice to see the man back in action, even when it was clear it would be his last official Bond film. I love Connery's work, and I think the best thing he brought to the role of 007 was the balance of wit and cruelty.

GEORGE LAZENBY (1969) 1 Film

The somehwat unknown Bond, George Lazenby had the unenviable task of filling Sean Connery's shoulder holster following his departure in 1967. Lazenby, an Australian, had been a model and T.V. actor, and won the role over thousands of other hopefuls by emulating Sean Connery. The one film in which Lazenby starred is one of the best of the series. On Her Majesty's Secret Service boasts a terrific cast, strong story and great action on the slopes of Switzerland. While not a great actor, Lazenby has some fine moments in the film that make you wonder what kind of Bond he would have blossomed into had he stuck around. Stardom and ego proved to be his downfall, and his constant on-set tantrums soured the producers. I really wish he could have had another film or two because his work in OHMSS, especially in the action and fight scenes, was decent. I do not think it is fair to judge him too harshly because following Sean Connery would be tough for anyone.

ROGER MOORE (1973-1985) 7 Films

In lieu of hiring another unknown to replace Connery, the producers asked well known T.V. actor Roger Moore to play 007 in 1973. Moore, a veteran of spy shows, The Saint and The Pursuaders, was a very solid choice to become Bond, and he showed confidence stepping into the role. While Connery had been a Bond of the 1960's, Moore would be a Bond of the 1970's. Moore's portrayal of Bond was more light and comedic than his predecessors, and it fit his personality well. Some Bond purists say that this interpretation of 007 was not in keeping with Fleming's original creation, but I think it worked for the time in which the films were made. Roger Moore made 7 films as 007, and the quality of his work ranged from excellent and thrilling (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me) to campy and stupid (Moonraker). I really enjoy what Roger Moore brought to the Bond series, and even though you may not love him, it can at least be said he did it his way and he did not copy Sean Connery.

TIMOTHY DALTON (1987-1989) 2 Films

With Moore's departure in 1985, the producers wanted to go back to a more hard-edged Bond that was truer to the character in the books. When Pierce Brosnan, who was tapped for the role, became unavailable, the part of Bond went to Welsh actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton had auditioned for Bond before, but had felt too young for the part at the time, but now he was ready. In his two films as 007, Dalton shows a vulnerable and harder side- making Bond like a bomb who could go off anytime. Dalton benefitted from what I feel are two of the series' finest scripts, and he carved out a nice niche in my heart with his work. For whatever reason, fans did not embrace him the way they had Moore and Connery, and so his tenure as 007 was short-lived. Also, legal trouble at the studio prevented a film from being made after 1989's Licence to Kill, and so by the time the wrangling was over, it was 1994, and Dalton was no longer interested in playing James Bond. I give kudos to Dalton for his work in grounding Bond in the real world and for the fact that he did many of his own stunts which was a welcome sight after Roger Moore's turn as 007.

PIERCE BROSNAN (1995-2002) 4 Films

It was no surprise in 1995 that Pierce Brosnan was to be the next James Bond. Having lost the role in 1987, Brosnan was eager to take on the role as the world's most famous spy. Brosnan's work was very much a fusion of the Dalton and Moore portrayals. He was good at the witty one liners, as well as the brutality and vulnerability that make Bond dangerous. His best film was his first, Goldeneye. Following his fabulous debut, the stories he was given got more fantastic and over-the-top with each film, so that by his swan song, Die Another Day, Bond had gotten too campy. I credit Brosnan for reinvigorating the franchise, and making Bond a viable character for a new generation. I will never forget seeing Goldeneye in the theatre as a kid, and realizing that I would grow up with Pierce Brosnan as my Bond.

DANIEL CRAIG (2006-Present) 2 Films

I have to admit, like many, I was skeptical when the producers cut Pierce Brosnan loose after Die Another Day, but I was wrong. Daniel Craig became the sixth actor to play 007 amid terrible press and reviews that slammed him as a bad choice and "James Bland." Despite this media onslaught, he turned in what many call the best performance the series had yet seen. I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but Craig's gritty, realistic turn in Casino Royale convinced me that Bond was in good hands. Even though Connery, Dalton and Brosnan showed flashes, Craig's work as 007 is the closest to the original Fleming creation. Following, Casino Royale, Craig again did fine work in Quantum of Solace. I do hope that in the next few films we see a return to some of the humorous aspects of the character, but there is little doubt that Craig is here to stay as James Bond.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Bond Chronicles

I love James Bond. If I could be someone else, I would be James Bond. With that said, I am an authority on Mr. Bond- the movies, the books, the characters, the style, etc. This time of year is usually when a new Bond film comes out, but this year there isn't one. We will have to wait until November of 2011 for the follow up to last year's Quantum of Solace. So, in the absence of a new film, I will try to satisfy my Bond addiction with a series of blogs about 007. Here now is the first installment.

There have been 22 "official" James Bond films made, starting with 1962's Dr. No. I say "official" because there was the parody, Casino Royale made in 1967 starring David Niven and Peter Sellers, as well as the rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, made in 1983 with Sean Connery. I am a purist, and even though these films have some nice moments, they don't count. With that preface, I now rank the 22 films in the official series from 1 to 22. One being the best, 22 the worst. Get it? I hope so.

1. From Russia With Love (1963) Sean Connery
2. Goldfinger (1964) Sean Connery
3. For Your Eyes Only (1981) Roger Moore
4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Roger Moore
5. Dr. No (1962) Sean Connery
6. Casino Royale (2006) Daniel Craig
7. Thunderball (1965) Sean Connery
8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) George Lazenby
9. Goldeneye (1995) Pierce Brosnan
10. Octopussy (1983) Roger Moore
11. Licence to Kill (1989) Timothy Dalton
12. The Living Daylights (1987) Timothy Dalton
13. Quantum of Solace (2008) Daniel Craig
14. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Roger Moore
15. The World is not Enough (1999) Pierce Brosnan
16. Live and Let Die (1973) Roger Moore
17. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Pierce Brosnan
18. A View to a Kill (1985) Roger Moore
19. Diamonds are Forever (1971) Sean Connery
20. You Only Live Twice (1965) Sean Connery
21. Die Another Day (2002) Pierce Brosnan
22. Moonraker (1979) Roger Moore

There you have it, the definitive list. Try to dispute me, just try.