Saturday, June 26, 2010

What's up Netflix!

La Cucina- 1 star- I rented this movie because it starred Christina Hendricks whom I love on "Mad Men" and "Firefly". It also stars Leisha Hailey (The L Word) whom I like, and then a bunch of people I don't care about (seriously, why is Rachel Hunter acting?). The premise sounded promising: A collection of interwoven stories of a group of friends as they try to make dinner. One for her older boyfriend, an expectant mom trying to learn to cook, and a depressed woman who's partner may be cheating. Okay, it's kinda like "Melrose Place" meets "Babette's Feast"; could be good. Instead, it plays out like a bad regional theatre production. The writing/dialog is forced and seems written by the deaf. Who talks like this? Who continues to make dinner for a person who degrades them or whom you are so obviously in "different places"? I was so bored and put off I turned this movie off after about 15 minutes. Maybe it got better, but I wasn't sticking around to find out.

The Fourth Kind- 2 stars- I remember seeing trailers for this movie in the theatre and getting excited. Then, as is so often the case now, it seemed to be released and then disappeared from theatres within a week. That was really fine with me as I like watching these kinds of movies at home- it's so much scarier! The premise is an interesting one: This is the true story of a series of events in Nome, Alaska (the most remote place in North America? It's accessed only by plane). Anyway, Milla Jovovich (love!) plays a psychiatrist who starts noticing startling similarities in the stories of her patients. Turns out, she's a kind of conspiracy theorist who believes they have all been abducted by aliens. The movie is presented as fact, with "actual footage" from the doctors archives filling in the holes. The actors then portray these real people in dramatic reinterpretations of what was recorded. This stylistic ploy was interesting for a moment, but it ended up dominating the story line. I kept wishing they would focus on the actors and use this footage only where absolutely necessary (i.e. to scare the bejeezus out of us). In the end, this overlap of footage became disassociating and forced the viewer out of the movie. "Paranormal Activity", "Blair Witch", and "Cloverfield" have already proven how to make this type of footage work- you must focus on one over the other. A side by side comparison shot only confuses the audience. I will give kudos to the "real people" who were at times better actors than the stars.

44 Inch Chest- 4 stars- I love this movie, which follows in the same vein as "Layer Cake", "#1 Gangster", "Revolver", "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", and any David Mamet (particularly "House of Cards"). Here, we see how the feeling of a play, a drama, can work for the narrative not against it. The majority of the film takes place in one room where a scorned and depressed mobster (the always fantastic Ray Winstone) has kidnapped and stashed is wife's lover. He is joined by a raggle taggle band of crooks and confidants (including Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Tom Wilkinson). First time director Malcolm Venville displays a confidence and strength with his actors that his more seasoned peers would, and should, envy. Intercut with the tension mounting in the hideaway, are flashbacks to stories told by his comrades and his own account of what happened earlier that lead them to this position. You feel both disgust and sympathy for Winstone; he withers before your eyes as the film progresses. A lesser actor could have made this all about him, but Winstone is generous with his acting and allows, even sets up, the other actors in the room for greatness. There are no egos present, only actors in love with the material and what they do. I'm not really sure who I would recommend this movie to. The above mentioned examples are far more quick paced. Perhaps Mamet is the best example. His films tend to be a slow burn to resolution. It is slow moving, but ultimately satisfying.

They may not be on Netflix yet, or at least I'm just now watching them on TV, but there are two shows I am simply in love with. The first is Saving Grace which just ended its series run. If you have not seen this show, now is the time to add it to your queue. The always formidable Holly Hunter stars as Grace Hanadarko, a Oklahoma City detective who's more prone to self destruction than self preservation. She continually sets herself up to fail and inadvertently drags others down with her. All this changes when she accidently hits a man with her car and her Angel, Earl, is revealed to her. Earl's job is to try to bring Grace back to god, but moreover, to bring Grace back to herself. The religious tones and themes are treated with a respect that makes them seem a natural part of the story telling process (which is certainly is) and less a gimmick to bring in the fundamentalist crowd. Personally, I don't think they would like this show very much- all nudity, swearing, meaningless sex, drinking, etc. The series finale played last week and it wrapped the show up in a bow that while may not have been ideal to many fans, felt correct and real. My only beef is the odd choice of music used during cheesy interludes. Really? You've never done that before. Still, it was one of the best shows on TV until recently.

My other new favorite is Gavin and Stacy on BBCAmerica. Series 1 is on Netflix, with series 2 coming soon. I believe the season we're on now is series 3, but I can't be sure. I started watching after seeing Ruth Jones (creator and one if the stars) on Graham Norton. She was hilarious and I was tired of hearing about this show and not watching it. It's the "Friends" replacement we all wished for but never received. Gavin is from Essex, England but is in love with Stacy from Wales. Their romance begins online and via telephone but soon enough they meet, marry, and life ensues. They are surrounded by the most hilarious family and friends, caricatures who play "real" and seem like some of your own mates and family. I literally laugh out loud every episode, though maybe only once. It's that kind of English humor. If you watched the first series of "The Inbetweeners" (and if you didn't, what are you waiting for?), then you will probably love this show as well.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ondine: A Love Story

I had the privilege of seeing an advanced screening of Neil Jordan's new film "Ondine" Wednesday with my gal Friday, shine. Jordan makes movies that read like dreams, or at least my dreams, where reality and fantasy overlap like they do when we were children. He is the auteur of many of my favorite films ("The Crying Game", "Interview with the Vampire", "Michael Collins", and "Breakfast on Pluto"), as well as one of my favorite books ("Shade"- the better "The Lovely Bones").

His latest stars Colin Farrell (with a good West Irish accent) as a disheveled fisherman down on his luck. He's quit the drink but has never grown out of the role of alcoholic. The loner everyone in town knows and pity's but can't be bothered to help. While fishing on day he pulls in the catch of his life, a woman. Veteran cinematographer Christopher Doyle shoots their initial interactions like a fight sequence, which it invariably is. At times this becomes a distraction when the action/actor is out of focus yet the perimeter of the frame is crystal clear. What do they want you to see along the edges?

If Farrell's daughter (fresh faced ingenue Alison Barry) can be believed, the woman from the sea is a Selkie- half seal half human. I grew up listening to these same stories which may be why I feel a connection to this film that is greater than others. The Selkie who can shed her seal coat to walk on land amongst the humans. If she buries her coat she can stay for 7 years before having to return to sea. The legend of Oisin in Tir na Nogh, the land of youth. My father shared these and many more with me, so movies such as "Ondine", and "Into the West", and "The Secret of Roan Inish" (also about Selkies) worm their way into my heart and subconsciousness.

Farrell puts in a good turn as a man not unlike how we the public perceive him. He's been beaten down by life, but manages to scrape things together for the good of his daughter and himself. His daughter, precocious because she must be, spouts wisdom better suited to someone twice or three times her age. Ondine, mysterious and from the sea. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is this a fantasy?

The pacing is deliberately slow and methodical with bursts of action meant to disjoint the audience. When the ending is revealed, you don't know whether to applaud or throw your drink- you've become invested in the characters. Jordan has the power to suck you into his vortex and then spit you out when he's done. It's incredibly satisfying.

A must for fans of Neil Jordan, Colin Farrell (his "In Bruges" and"A Home at the End of the World" performances especially), Irish culture, folklore, and plan old good story telling.

**** (4 stars)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Girl Code

A Primer for Those Not in the Know

There are certain things little girls grow up learning that differs tremendously from little boys, and no; I'm not including the "sex" talk or 4th grade health class. What I'm talking about is the Girl Code. We learn: that sharing is okay so long as the other girl knows the object is now not hers, that gossip is an easy way to pass the time, that short skirts will get us attention, that profanity is funny out of our mouths, and that pinky swear is the ultimate in girl swear.

As we get older, many of these codes evolve and dissolve into new codes (which we will now call "beliefs" or "rules"). We share more with our girlfriends than just our Barbie's. We share clothes, secrets, dieting tips, trips to the bathroom, gossip, toothbrushes, relationship advice, guy talk, sex talk, books, movies, and periods. The major difference now is we're not worried about when we'll get a loaned item back and the stream of expletives that flow out of our mouths is no longer funny.

One thing we don't share (and maybe one of the only things) is boys. Stealing a friends boyfriend is tantamount to treason and the definition of stealing is loosely defined at best. In general, once your girlfriend has gone out with him he's off limits. I'm not saying they went on one or two dates and called it quits (though some girls will define it that way), but more if they were in any stage of a relationship past awkward hugs good bye. If they've slept together, he's off limits.

Can you get around this code? Is it possible not to banish any and all new males from the group simply for taking your friend out? Maybe. Depends.

Say one of your friends ex's starts chatting you up and asks you out. Previous to this exchange, you may have never entertained such an idea but now that it's in front of you who are you to turn it down? It's been a while since your last date and that was a disaster. As a girl and friend to his ex, you should immediately decline. The next step is to feel out what she thinks of the whole situation, which I call Asking Permission. Did they just break up? Is she still in love/like/lust with him? Do you value her as a friend in any way? If the answer was "yes" to any of these, Girl Code dictates that he is off limits. Has she found someone new or started dating again? Is she over him (but not hate him)? Then you can ask permission, and that's exactly what you're doing.

"Hey, I saw Joe McCool yesterday. It was really weird, he asked me out. I felt kind of uncomfortable about it though because I know you guys dated/used to be kind of serious/lived together."

Then you wait for her response. In most cases, your friend will remember Code #1 about sharing and since she no longer harbors any attachment to him will give her blessing. Listen carefully to clues that he is/was bad news. However, if she says something like "I hope you told him no/go to hell!"; he is off limits. Heck, for all intents and purposes he is dead to you.

What if it's been a while (I mean years here, not months), and your girlfriend has moved on to someone new and it's pretty serious. What if she doesn't live in the state? What if you've moved and haven't seen her in a while? What if?

Girl Code still dictates you tell her, but now you're not so much asking permission (i.e. being passive aggressive) as you are giving her a heads up. I don't know why I find this to be the most difficult scenario. Maybe because I don't think you should have to seek permission from someone who is living with/engaged/married to someone else. That, if nothing else, should put him back "in limits". Maybe it's also because things don't always (usually) last very long with me and I'd prefer not to jinx it or have to answer for it later. I believe strongly in the jinx and am convinced it has something to do with things turning sour shortly after I start talking about a new beau.

How do you view the Girl Code? What do you do?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Random Saturday

* Tonight I am hosting karaoke for the first time solo. I felt fine until I opened Facebook and found a message from the friend I am subbing for giving me instructions on how to set up the computer, monitors, and sound. AHHHHHHHH! We barely went over that in the flesh. Now I'm super nervous. I'm sending all my good juju to myself and hoping someone at the bar has some idea what's going on. The computer I can handle. It's plugging in cords and microphones that scares the bejesus out of me. Oh god....

* If you love "House" as much as me, check out this list of House-ism's from last season. Priceless!

* I heart Neil Gaiman and cannot wait to get his new book:

* Do you watch Tosh.0 on Comedy Central? No? What the frak! Get in gear. Maybe you don't have cable, in which case I apologize for yelling. You know he's online too, right? I don't know about you, but I'll watch anything that addresses elves, hipster babies, and stupid criminals in one half hour show/blog.

* Hold onto your coslopuses Twihards: "Breaking Dawn" will be split into two movies. I'm not sure what's worse, that they couldn't figure out how to edit down the 900 page (mostly fluff) final book into one movie or the fact that I'm going to watch both of them. Probably twice. Fucking Twilight. You're ruining my life and my street cred.

* Attention advertisers, magazines, and TV entertainment shows: If I see another size 2 or 4 model telling me how to look great at any size, in any colour, on any planet; I am going to go all "Office Space" on your ass like a busted fax machine. Seriously, quit it.

* Why is Liam Neeson the #1 trending topic on Yahoo! right now? I mean, I love me some Neeson and you could play a very successful game of "6 Degrees of Liam Neeson" but it still confuses me. What are you up to Liam? Why is everyone searching for you?

* Dear Residents of apartment communities with control access gates: Pay attention. Ask yourself while driving up, "Is the gate already open?" Chances are it is, and you're wasting time punching in the code while cars pile up behind you. Move it or lose it.

* True Blood premieres tomorrow on HBO @ 8 PM Central. There is a 15-minute countdown show before hand. That's all you need to know. #waitingsucks

Friday, June 11, 2010

Droppin' Some Knowledge

***The following video along with some of the text is NSFW (That's not suitable for work people) and should be viewed with caution. I, the writer of this blog, do not agree, condone, or condemn any of the quoted statements below. So, if you are fragile of heart or mind stop reading here.***

I've got you know huh?

Wednesday is usually filled with nothing more than random trivia questions and answers. [side note: After my two week absence due to illness and such, we (i.e. "Panty Puddin'", and no I did not name our team) are back on top. Now, if only we can hold on.]

This past Wednesday however was the exception. Wednesday was when my little group of ragamuffins met Eddie. Wearing a pair of dirty jeans and red Rangers cap, from behind he would have appeared to fit in with our group perfectly. It wasn't until you came around and saw his lopsided, toothless grin that you knew something was off. Eddie was the kind of guy who was probably 52 but on a bad day looked 65. His life was written on his face and it was punctuated by gulps of a Shiner Bock.

Eddie invited himself to sit down at our table and immediately my Stranger Danger went off. Thankfully, my buddy Smalls doesn't have the same problem. We were talking about something un-PC and Eddie just chimed in. He was ready with some wisdom and a joke on any taboo topic. It got to a point that I don't remember what he said, I was laughing so hard. It didn't even occur to me to start writing some of his gems down until half way through. Luckily, my other buddy Moe kept his head and captured almost every moment with his iPhone. The following video is one take from the evening. Apologies in advance, at one point Eddie was so funny Moe dropped the phone:

A few, un-PC, often racist dropped knowledge from Eddie:

"Put your white train in my chocolate sundae."

"I'm not into cougars, I'm into saber tooths. Hum it and gum it."

"Take out your dentures, I'm ready to go."

[side note: Eddie seemed obsessed with toothless women. Perhaps because he himself had such a grin.]

"I'm conquering my ass some Incas, 'cuz I'm not wearing pants!"

The worst story Eddie knew when prompted. It truly is gross:
"This girl wanted to go to the latest popular movie so she asked her dad for $7. 'Sure,' he said, 'If you suck my dick.' 'Oh, come on dad!' the girl protested. [This went on for a while]. After an hour and a half (that's one hour and 30 minutes to you guys), the girl gave in and her dad pulled down his pants. 'Ew! Why does your dick taste like ass?' 'Cuz your brother was here half an hour earlier wanting to go to the same move.'"
[I really needed a shower after that one.]

Eventually, Eddie began repeating his stories and we wondered off (more like scurried) to greener pastures. It certainly was a sight and a hell of a good, awkward, politically incorrect time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What's up Netflix!

Splice- 4 stars- Vincenzo Natali is best known to me as the writer/director of one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time, "Cube". His first feature film was a gripping psychological exploration of human behavior and relationships. It was damned scary too! "Splice" follows many of the same themes that "Cube" first brought up- experimentation, observation, human destruction and relationships.

Sarah Polley (LOVE!) and Adrien Brody (super LOVE!) star as rock star scientists working to splice multiple animal DNAs together to produce antibiotics for livestock. The question quickly surfaces: If we can splice animals, why not humans? The creation born of their god complex is Dren, half human, half something else. What follows is at times predictable, but you never lose interest. Natali works to seamlessly blend humor with horror. I laughed several times, sometimes uncomfortably. My hand stayed over my mouth of at least half the film. I won't ruin the surprise for you (though if you saw Brody on Jimmy Kimmel it's already ruined), but I will say there is a scene that will divide audiences immediately. A collective groan of horror swept through the theatre we were in. Polley's acting is a bit rusty but very reminiscent of the work she's done with Hal Hartley. Brody proves why he's an Oscar winner- his eyes betray every emotion, as if he can see through you. The FX (led by genius Greg Nicotero) effortlessly blend practical makeup and CGI. Splice is a beautifully shot by C├ęsar winning cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata ("Ma vie en rose"). A must see for horror/sci-fi fans. It is rated R for a reason- nudity and sexual situations.

Leap Year- 3 stars- I have to admit right off that I haven't finished watching this movie yet. I was so bored the other night I turned it off and went to bed. The only reason it gets 3 stars instead of 2 is because it stars one of my secret boyfriend Matthew Goode. Leap year is about Amy Adams following her boyfriend (the wonderful Adam Scott) to Ireland to propose to him on leap day (when tradition says a woman can ask a man). Along the way she meets Goode who serves as her guide/chauffer/confusing love interest along the way. The biggest problem with this premise is Adams. Her character is so unlikeable, domineering, tight assed, that it's a wonder anyone can stand being around her for more than a minute. Why would laid back Goode fall for her? Where does she demonstrate anything worthy of attraction? I wanted to smack her in the face and say, "Snap out of it!" [side note: seriously, just rent "Moonstruck". It's so much better.]

Pirate Radio- 3 stars- I totally understand why so many of my friends (mostly male) loved this movie. The music rocks, the actors are great, and the clothes are far out. Unfortunately, what should have been an amazing story was only so-so. Set in England in the 60s, "Pirate Radio" tells the story of outlaw radio when rock was banned and DJ's were forced to take to the high seas to broadcast their music. Except it doesn't, not really. What we're left with instead are a bunch of questions: Why was rock banned? Who banned it? What was played on the radio? Who were these DJ's and how did they get boats? How did British teens learn about these stations and music? The whole story was 2-dimensional and left little for anyone to do except drink and dance and look stern (in the case of Kenneth Branagh who may make the best stern face in history). These guys were rock stars it seems, but why? I didn't really get it. If you're looking for a history of rock music in the UK in the 60s, this is not the movie for you. If you like listening to classic rock, bopping your head, and don't care much about story, you'll love this. If you're indifferent, as I was, I'd just rent "High Fidelity" or "Almost Famous" instead.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Too Electric Boogaloo

* It's so secret I love chickens. I've almost bought a baby chick twice. It is only through the voice of reason (usually whoever's with me) that I have not succeeded in my purchase. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a sign for The Brand Hatchery right next door to La Madeleine where I was having lunch. Clearly it was a sign that I needed a chicky. Imagine my dismay when I discovered The Brand Hatchery did not sell chickens or eggs but advertising. What a rip off!
[side note: Their website is a bit confusing but there are some cool photos on it, including one of Gael Garcia Bernal- hot!]

* I want this.

*I want to go to The Meatball Shop when I'm in NYC this summer. Come on- fresh, made in house, meatballs of chicken, pork, beef or vegetable; served with amazing sides (polenta! risotto! rigatoni!) and salads. They even have house-made ice cream (I wonder if I can mix mint & espresso). Yum!

* I'm not a big fan of "women's magazines" in general. They are written for women with a lot more money and vanity than I have. However, having spent several years in the cosmetic industry, one magazine I just can't seem to shake is Allure- The beauty bible. If it's new and exciting, they'll tell you all about it. It's also nice that several budgets are recognized by its editors. They recommend and review everything from Neutrogena and CVS name brands to Cle de Peau and Givenchy.

Now, I've got a bone to pick with you Allure.

Every year, Allure devotes a majority of it's issue to "looking better naked". Inside it's glossy pages are photo after photo of tall lanky models and celebrities telling us why they love their body. Uh, thanks. Not really helpful. In the same issue, there is usually a photo spread of nude celebrities to confront this issue head on (no pun intended). Here is where I have a couple gripes:

#1- Heterosexual woman are not interested in looking at nude ladies. Why would we like that? It doesn't turn me on or make me feel better about myself. Can't they talk about the love of their bodies in a bathing suit? A carefully tailored dress? It just seems like a bit of a waste and unproductive. Now, if you are a girl who likes girls, this is the issue for you!

#2- How about some variety? All 5 of the woman profiled this year are size 6 or smaller (I'm being generous, I doubt there's a one over a size 4). Does this mean that larger ladies don't or shouldn't love their bodies? I couldn't be less interested in how each of them starved themselves ("Oh, I don't really get all that hungry") before the shoot or worked out religiously for 3 months straight. Good for them, but come on! The most honest of the celebs, if it's real honesty, was Regina Hall who admitted to eating a Snickers. This bit of news was reported as exclamatory- OH MY GOD! SHE ATE A CANDY BAR! CRAZY! Least we forget the point of this article, they immediately followed their "surprised" statement with the fact that she had been working out really hard before. Gag me.

* 'Nuff said:
How many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight?

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Season of the Witch

Not sure who I pissed off in another life (surely, no one from this one is mad at me /sarc), but I was sick again. I'm really tired of talking about it, but it's the only thing that's been happening to me for what seems like months. I've been eating well, taking my vitamins, and staying out of trouble. Okay, maybe not the last part.

The key to this dilemma, I think, is Modelo. I don't really drink it, though I'm sure I have before, but Monday I decided to be "fancy in a can" for the holiday. Is it possible to be allergic to certain types/makers of beer? Let's see what google has to say:

"You may have an allergy to malt or hops"
"You are now allergic to gluten"
"You are covered in hives"

Unfortunately, none of these addresses my symptoms or the reason why only Modelo (and no other Mexican beer- god bless you Bohemia) would make me sick. Which leads to option two: food poisoning.

Can you get sick eating the same things as everyone else and none of them get sick? Somehow, I don't think a few unwashed grapes did me in.

Thought three: You have the stomach flu. Guess what? Doesn't really exist. Thanks WebMD! Way to ruin my favorite excuse. What you have is a virus or bacterial infection that lasts a couple days. Fits most of my symptoms and I am finally feeling 100% today. No tummy squirrels!

However, being me, I also thought numbers 4-6: You are dying, Your appendix has burst, You've been a victim of immaculate conception. Thankfully, none of those is true.