Sunday, August 29, 2010

What's up Netflix!

Fame- 2 stars- The entire time I was watching this movie, I kept glancing at my DVD bookcase. Somewhere up there is the original "Fame" (1980), a movie packed with teen angst, anger, lust, determination, and struggle. What I was watching was a white washed version of a Disney channel movie. So disappointing. There is a reason the original is over 2 hours long (and was nominated for and won several Oscars): It needed to be. How can you successfully address 4 years of high school and a primary cast of 7 in 90 minutes? You can't. Some thing gets lost, usually character development and story. Instead of a poignant piece about growing up we get a few scenes linked together with no real feel for how they should connect. If I were you, I would avoid this remake entirely and just rent the original- Better songs, better dancing, better acting, better movie. Period.

The Wolfman- 2 stars- Oh, did this make me sad. Director Joe Johnson ("Honey, I Shrunk The Kids", "The Rocketeer", "Jurassic Park 3") attempts to remake a classic, in this case Lon Chaney Jr's "The Wolf man" (1941). In theory, it should work. The classic leaves room for impressionism and the latest in FX (though come on, Chaney still looks great in the wolf make up!). The updated version follows the original story line fairly accurately. Benicio Del Toro returns to his family home upon news that his brother has gone missing, despite the tension between him and his father. When he arrives, he visits the local gypsy camp to learn more and is attacked by a werewolf. The next month, the wolf emerges and terrorizes the town. Unfortunately, the remake doesn't work. Del Toro is a slob of a brother with an American accent never acknowledged (he grew up in England for Christ sake!) and a demeanor that wouldn't make even the most self-loathing woman swoon. But, swoon one does. This time it's Emily Blunt as the fiancé of his dead brother. Clearly there was no real love lost there as she is ready to jump into bed with Del Toro after a few brief words. Anthony Hopkins plays the father rather well, his acting the more recognizable amid the drek that is everyone else. No one speaks with passion or feeling. It's like you're watching the line reading and at any time the director will say, "Okay, I think we have it. Now let's try it for real". Frankly, I read a book while this was playing I was so bored. The FX by the legendary Rick Baker are supreme and the CGI transformation that takes place in the laboratory is on par with the practical FX of "An American Werewolf in London". All around, I would say skip it.

The Road- 4 stars- This movie has been sitting on top of my DVD player for at least a month. I just couldn't bring myself to watch it, knowing it would upset me. I read the book earlier this year and really liked Cormac McCarthy's stream of consciousness Spartan style. It's told almost as journal entries are written, with few descriptive words and no designation between quotes and thoughts. The film is equally jarring and warm at the same time. Following an unseen and untold apocalyptic event, Father (Viggo Mortensen) and Son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) walk the barren country side in search of food, shelter, and solace from the wickedness around them. They are on the run not just from tribes of cannibalistic survivors but the elements as well. It is a bleak setting, sure, but an uplifting one as well. It is the story of a father and son and what each is willing to do and sacrifice for each other. John Hillcoat's sophomore effort (he previously directed the magnificent "The Proposition") is a fully formed being, free from the constraints of being based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book much loved by the world. He doesn't seem to care; instead carving out his own piece of the legacy. It is a quite movie, but quite with a kind of intense burning that radiates from its core. Newcomer Smit-McPhee could have an amazing career in front of him if he is smart. He will next be seen in the remake "Let Me In" opposite another precocious star Chloe Moretz ("Kick Ass"). While I'm glad I didn't see this with my own father, the idea that he may not love it as much as I or not get it is too much to bare; I do plan to make him read the book. Whichever medium you choose, share this film with someone you love and who loves you.

The Big Chill- 4 stars- I must have seen this movie a dozen times. My parents love it and we used to listen to the soundtrack all the time. Now, it seems to be the butt of cinephile jokes ("High Fidelity" anyone?), but I don't care. It's a good picture. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), it is the quintessential Baby Boomer movie. After their friends suicide, a group of college chums meet for a weekend to remember good and bad times, and question whether the bond that held them together all those years before is still there. Jeff Goldblum delivers the best lines, but each actor is given room to shine. [side note: Where the heck fire has Meg Tilly been?] They play together as if they are old friends, each word spoken holds weight and meaning. Plus, the soundtrack of classic 60s songs keeps the action moving. If you have never seen this movie, do so now. If you have, isn't it about time to watch it again?

And, one that is currently not available on Netflix:

First Born (aka Moving In)- 3 stars- Ever time I hear the title of this movie I get confused. "Is it a horror picture"? No, though you may watch it the same way you would watch them. It practically begs to be made fun of, which may be a shame depending on whom you ask. Teri Garr (where has she been?) hooks up with Peter Weller after her divorce. He is a beast of a man, all fists and no words, who introduces his new squeeze to a life of fear and drugs. Along for the ride are her two children played by Christopher Collet and Corey Haim in his film debut. They don't like the new man in mommy's life and will do anything to get rid of him. [side note: check out Robert Downey Jr's bitchin' hair cut]. If you like MST3K or simply watching dated 80s movies and having a ball, you should check this one out!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Saturday

* So my job decided it would be a good idea to update our software on a weekend. Usually this would be okay , but seeing as how we are open on the weekends and I am working by myself as well; it is a really bad idea. I have no idea what is going on. There is a stack of folders on my desk that I'm supposed to use to manually enter info, but most of them look like the exact same thing. Where the hell's my easy button?

* Everything I see "Drill Team" on, I think it's a show about dancing. It's not.

* The return of Jennie's Word of the Day: Stitch. (Clearly she is day dreaming about knitting or got in a fight with a wildebeest and needs some stictches. I kinda hope it's #2 because that is a way more interesting story).

* Some songs I need to download if only I could remember to bring my laptop to work:
- Guster- Do You Love Me
- Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeros- Home
- Arcade Fire- Suburbia (Nothing shocks me more than liking this song. Seriously, I may need an intervention)
- Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- I Learned The Hard Way
- Ike Riley- Lights Out
- Anouk- Lost
-April March- the whole album. I simply love her.
- Kate Melua
- Frank Black- Honeycomb
- Laura Marlin- Rambling Man
- Elsa Cross- Zombie For His Love
- Spandau Ballet- True

* Why do little dog people (that is owners of little dogs, not tiny dogs that are people; though I would love to see some art on that one) always try to make big dog people into them? The only little dog I like is my sister's and that's because I've known him his whole life. Until recently I didn't like dogs at all. They confused me with their neediness and ability to eat my face. Now, the idea of a dog is not completely without appeal though I am still a "cat person" (just minus the 30 cats). If I ever got a dog, it would have to be a medium to large sized dog. I want something I can lay on, somthing that could eat a face (preferably not mine), and be intimidating enough in size to an intruder. I want a powerful dog. If I had my way, my dog would be an Entlebucher Mountain Dog, or Akita, or Husky. Something powerful. Something beautiful. So, to all my friends and family who keep telling me to get a schnauzer or chihuahua or other tiny meal dog; the answer is no.

* If only it were this easy to get a baby tiger for a pet.

* Thanks to Go Fug Yourself for this link to 10 characters from the 90s that would be fashionable today. I really like number's1, 4, and 9.

* Design Sponge's "Living In" section. They are a group of ladies bringing interesting fashion and housewares to your attention. In "Living In" they show you how to dress and decorate like your favorite movies. It's perty cool.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Some Music Snobs Simply Suck

An Open Letter

First off, I love NPR. For the longest time it was the only channel I listed to in the car. Then I discovered the NPR music channel. Thank the sweet baby Jesus! A radio station that plays music, and it's music you like and are surprised to hear on the radio and you have to tell everyone you know to listen! In North Texas it's 91.7 but I think you can find your cities station from the NPR website. Example of it's awesomeness: Right now it's playing Billy Idol "Dancing with Myself". I've heard everything from Regina Spektor (live on their Mountain Roads program), Neko Case, Rilo Kiley, Nina Simone, Elvis Costello, John Lennon, Monsters of Folk, Lucinda Williams, and Johnny Cash. Simply, it is awesome.

So today on my way to lunch I heard something different on the station. They played a clip of a song or past program and then a clip of an answering machine message from a listener telling them why their comment was wrong or right. Kind of cool. What struck me was one particular listener who has a big problem with some band called Crystal Castles. The gist of it was: The DJ was wrong in saying they were a great concert, he should know he's seen them four times. They are always late, drunk, have technical problems, and lights glare in his eyes if he's in the front row.

Uh, is this guy crazy? If they suck so hard why have you seen them four times? I can understand twice, but do you never learn? He said he was not going to see them next time they came to town, not because of how horrible he believes the live show to be but because tickets are $30. Dear listener: You are a moron.

First: We've all been to bad shows. Maybe the sound was off, or your seats were bad, or they sounded nothing like the CD. The fact is, this happens. What's amazing is the number of times a person will let this happen to them with the same band. Example: I love Alkaline Trio. When I was college aged and living in Austin they were the best- romantic punk songs with a good beat. Friends told me how awesome their live show was. So, of course, I went to one. It was not awesome. Maybe it was the 100+ degree heat, I don't know. The band was so drunk they forgot the lyrics to their songs. Many times the singer wasn't even singing into the mic, he would just wander off. He fell down a couple times. It was a let down, but I was willing to try again. After all, several people told me they were awesome. The 2nd time I saw the show the same scenario played out. Now, I'm all for drunken rock star antics- who isn't? Another time I saw a singer so drunk she kept hitting herself in the face with the mic. This actually worked in her favor as her music was not getting any great response from the audience (Okay, it sucked). However, I also want to hear the songs. I want to sing a long and pogo. It's really tough when the band is off. So, I never went to see them again. See, I learned my lesson.

Second: What show ever starts on time? The day I go to a show that starts promptly at ticket time is the day I marry a gorilla. It's never happened and I don't care what you are going to see it never will. Be it punk rock, blues, folk, or opera; it will start late and probably end early or run over. This is a fact. So, quit your belly aching and remember to call in sick the next day to work.

Third: Sound problems/technical difficulties happen everywhere and to everyone. Sometimes you're lucky and the sound guy is on it and corrects it within a few songs. Sometimes the sound guy has gone "out to lunch" and you are screwed. Hell, this happened to me at a musical. I've been to this venue multiple times and never had a problem. However, on this occasion the mic volume was so low you couldn't hear anything but background music. This is a real problem at a rock opera, trust me. If it's chronic for this band or that venue then STOP GOING. It's very simple really.

Fourth: The lights are bothering you? Maybe the music's too loud for you to. Well Grandpa, buck up. Take a seat further back from the stage. Don't stand next to the monitors. Bring ear plugs. Think a head and learn from the past. You're at a rock show. It's going to be loud, sweaty, and possibly dangerous. I've been stepped on, kicked, punched, and poked in the eye. It's my own fault; I like to be near the front, but I know it's coming and now I prepare myself. I don't wear flip flops to shows. I find the burliest guy I can and stand next to him. I pay attention to fools with backwards facing ball caps.

Finally, concert ticket prices are getting too high. I'll give that one to our fair listener. There are bands I've never heard of charging $30 or more for a ticket at some crummy theatre and it's ridiculous. Learn your place in the pecking order. Arena's can charge big bucks because they showcase big acts- house hold names, top 40, legends. Joe Blow from Kalamazoo is not worth $30 at the run down theatre/club that decided to build a stage. So, venues: Knock it off! Labels and bands: stand up and demand fair ticket prices. Trust me, you'll get more people at $20 a head than you will at $30 which means MORE MONEY.

In closing, 91.7 angry listener: Grow up and grow a brain. It's no ones fault but your own you went to see this band four times. It's no ones fault but your own that you never learned what to expect. It's no ones fault but your own that you came off as a big tool on the radio. Thank god you at least knew not to give out your name.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What's up Netflix!

Yesterday, I briefly reviewed "The Switch". Here's what else I've watched this week:

The Last Exorcism- 3 stars- I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since it was called "Cotton" and all I needed to know what that Eli Roth was producing it. Since then some things have changed; namely, the name. The Last Exorcism (how lame a title) is nothing new to fans of horror but, unlike other films of its ilk, it doesn't try to be. Preacher comes to small town Louisiana to perform exorcism on possessed young girl. Is it all an act? Is it real? Should we care? The acting and writing is top notch, especially Ashley Bell as the possessed. Sure, we must check much of our brain at the door (I mean, who really goes looking for a crazy person in a darkened house or follows voices into the woods), but that's beside the point. At the moment, we believe it. I did appreciate the subtle humor woven throughout the film. Our audience giggled several times. However, only one person screamed out and that is never a good sign.

The faux-documentary style now popular in modern horror is starting to wear on me. The jerky camera movements and "accidentally" exposed jump cuts are no longer new or interesting. It works here and on a lower budget because it can help disguise any short comings. That being said, I wish all filmmakers of faux-docs would watch more real documentaries and study the camera movements in them. Many documentary cinematographers are exceptionally skilled and (I assume) pride themselves on avoiding the "student work" look. If you are a fan of horror, I would recommend this movie. Otherwise, you can take it or leave it.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief- 2 stars- I remember being intrigued by this movie when it was in production. I know nothing about the book series (for kids I think?), but I love, LOVE, Greek mythology. It seemed to be in and out of the theatre pretty quickly, but that isn't necessarily a comment on the quality of the film anymore. Most movies make their money back in DVD, so why not push them through while you can?

Percy lives with his Mom (Catherine Keener- love!) and her slob of a husband. He's popular enough and has good friends. While touring a museum, he is attacked by a Harpy and discovers he is actually a demi-god- that is half man, half god. His father is Poseidon and they have been charged with stealing Zeus' lightning bolt. Off he goes to learn the ways of the demi-god, make more friends, and battle demons and gods. Sounds kind of exciting, no? Problem is I fell asleep. When I woke up, I'd lost 45 minutes and had to start again the next day. The problem that seems to plague most myth based films is how to introduce characters while not boring us with their "E! True Hollywood Story". "Percy" doesn't quite know how to do that and to make matter worse; it's as if Percy has never taken English or History in his life. Who doesn't know who Zeus is? The Hydra? How is he so oblivious to this knowledge yet he knows he can look at Medusa through a reflection? It bothers me.

The adults in the film (oh god, Uma Thurman what were you thinking?) look bored and chew the scenery around them. It proves the fact that just because you've successfully directed another myth based film (Harry Potter anyone?) doesn't mean you can do it again. Lightening, it seems, does not in fact strike twice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- 5 stars- What can I possibly say about this movie? Have you read the book? No? What's wrong with you? It was an international best seller and managed to avoid the grasp of Oprah! It's being remade into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Daniel Craig (don't get me started on that. I will NOT see it). It is one of the highest grossing films in Nordic history. It is, without any pause on my account, an event.

The story is impossible for me to recap in so short a space, but I'll try. Mikael Blomvist is a respected reporter and magazine editor who is found guilty of libel from one of the biggest corporate names in Norway. Before he must serve his 6 month sentence, he is commissioned to look into the 40 year old disappearance of the grand-niece of another of Norway's most respected businessman. He moves to the small island near Hedestad and begins to uncover secrets to a wealthy and respected family as well as his own. Aiding him in his quest is the most unlikely ally: Lisbeth Salandar- master computer hacker and seriously fucked up young lady. The literal translation of the title from Norwegian is "Men Who Hate Women". She is nothing short of a genius and holds a mysterious secret all her own. Don't worry, there are two more movies/books to get through that explain it all. The film is one of the best adaptations I've seen ever, well acted, and well directed. We feel sickened at the horror that befalls Lisbeth and cheer at her revenge. We lean forward in our chairs every time Mikael discovers a new secret.

Of course, this film is in Norwegian but the subtitles are excellent. It annoyed me how they seemed to jump ahead, a line appears on the screen before it's uttered, but I ended up liking that mistake. It allowed me to watch the performances more closely. This is a must see for everyone!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Return of Random!

It's been a while since I wrote my Saturday recap. In truth, I hadn't even noticed until word-of-the-day Jennie pointed it out. Poor thing, she thought she had been replaced.

* The other day on "Chelsea Lately" they were talking about body parts again. Chelsea argues that the penis is ugly, but balls must be stopped. In response, one of the round table guests (I forget which one) said the vagina looked like something out of "Aliens".

First off: Fuck off guy! I'll never be able to think about my intimates the same way again. Sure, we weren't really friends, more like acquainted neighbors, but still... I always thought that would change. One day I'd wake up a bit sluttier and in love with my body. Now, I just have the image of Sigorney Weaver a foot from my crotch yelling, "Get away from her you bitch!"

Second: Can't we all just agree that sexual body parts look weird and are mildly unattractive regardless of the sex? If not for the pleasure they can bring, who would really want that coming towards or in them? They are god's (or Darwin's) cheapest trick.

* Overheard at the bar (NSFW): "It's Cinderella fat," pointing at his beer belly. "At midnight, all this turns to dick".

* A friend was telling me a story about this girl she knows who broke a glass coffee table. She was just sitting on it, and it shattered. "She had a big ass," my friend said. To which I responded, "Who sits on a glass table? She was clearly raised in a glass barn". Seriously though, how thick must you be (no pun intended) to think you can sit, stand, lay on a glass coffee table?

* Word of the day: fuss·bud·get \ˈfəs-ˌbə-jət\:n: one who fusses or is fussy especially about trifles

* My new favorite word: Sailish (sail-lish): n: 1. One relating to a sailor 2. a person who isn't really a sailor, they just kind of dabble.

* I am going through my notebook looking for interesting things I haven't posted on before when one word on a blank page caught my attention: "Dinosaucers". ( I am awesome)
* I took my Mom to an advanced screening of "The Switch" Tuesday. Predictability isn't always a bad thing, especially in a rom-com. We all know the guy will get the girl or vice verse, and we know it will be an awkward process getting there. We, the audience, have accepted that. Sometimes a movie comes out that breaks the mold ("(500) Days of Summer") or is so good it ends up epitomizing the genre ("When Harry Met Sally..."). This is not one of those movies, and that's okay. Jennifer Aniston's character wants to have a baby and can no longer wait for the "traditional" path to pregnancy. Her BFF, Jason Batman, used to date her but is now in the friend zone and not even considered a viable doner. One thing leads to another and BAM! he's the daddy. What makes this movie work is the top notch writing from Allan Loeb and Jeffery Eugenides (author of "The Virgin Suicides" and based on his short story "The Baster", also a better title). They make the friendly banter between Aniston, Bateman, Juliette Lewis, and Jeff Goldblum (friend and boss, respectively) believable and funny. The ease with which they tease each other hints at the long relationship they're supposed to have. New comer Thomas Robinson as Aniston's son is also a joy to watch. He is typically New York, all neurosis and sad puppy eyes wrapped in a 6 year old's body. My mother and I both enjoyed this film. It's a good one for ladies night or to rent. I think I'd steer clear of any pregnancy movie (save "Juno") on a date, but that's just me. A big thank you to "Red Carpet Crash for the tickets.

Monday, August 16, 2010

So Take Off All Your Clothes

So, I'm taking a page out of my friend shine's book and broaching a rather unpleasant topic: The heat.

Here in the great Lone Star State, the current temperature is :
Here's what I want to know: I understand that there is this mythical idea called a "heat index", and I understand that it raises the temperature. What I don't understand is why I should care. Why don't you just tell me it 111 degrees outside? What exactly am I supposed to get from the knowledge that Texas is trying to kill me by arbitrarily raising the temperature 10 degrees? Just tell me what if feels like outside and leave your voodoo ways at home!

What bothers me most about this heat is that I am sticky. All the time. Everywhere. As a former grunge head and punk rock girl, cleanliness and I have often been at odds. I enjoy being clean but not the process (really the time) I have to go through to get there. Where is my Jetson's technology?! Don't they know I'm a busy girl, or at least play one on TV? I've got very important TV watching and book reading and drinking to attend to.

Being a bit smelly doesn't really bother me. I know that's not very "girly" of me, but I've never claimed to be one. Sure, I love to put on 50s style dresses and can paint me face to match, but I curse like a sailor and drink you under the table at the same time. Isn't this why god invented deodorant and perfume?

What I want to know is: How did people get intimate before the invention of deodorant, indoor plumbing, and soap? We all know how smelly the world was back in the day. You know those beautiful bouquet's and oranges you see the well-bred carry around in Renaissance and Victorian movies? That's because everyone reeked! Now here I am, in 2010, and I can looking desperately for a pocketful of posies. It is impossible to feel sexy when you've sweat through your pants. When your bra is actually trapping sweat beneath your breasts. It's not pretty.

Enter, Playtex and their Cooling Comfort bra. It may be one of the most hideous bras I've ever seen, but if it can keep my "personality" cool I don't really care. [side note: Dear Playtex, What is the point of advertising this revolutionary new bra if it's not available on your website? Discuss] Can they make underwear like this? Or pants? Or socks? Or full space outfits? What does a girl have to do to avoid schvitzing in her delicate's????

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fair thee well, Holiday

Day 7

Ugh. Monday. I don't want to go home. Can't I just stay here? I'll be a really good house guest. I'll cook and clean and give back rubs. Can I just live on your futon? No? Oh well.

Today was take Graygrrl to work day. We got up early and commuted with everyone else into the city. My friend works in the financial district and it was really lovely. They have a cafeteria in the building and everything was so cheap! I had 2 eggs over medium, whole wheat toast, and home fries for about $4. Yea New York!!
Her office is a few blocks from "The Pit", i.e. World Trade Center, and I decide I'm finally ready to see it. I've avoided that area like the plague every time I go to NY. It's too depressing; not just because of what happened there but because of how little has been done in the years since. You would think several of the 7 planned buildings would be up by now but there are only halves of 2 buildings. The cranes still stretch into the sky and a tall covered fence surrounding the area reminds me of the Wizard of Oz hiding the reality of what is actually going on.

Across the street is St Paul's Chapel, the cities oldest public place of worship. It's staggering to think how it survived the devastation that took down much larger and supposedly stronger buildings. Out front is a time line of the events that took place that day. Inside there are photos of the dead and monuments to the activities that happened inside the church- a makeshift hospital bed, prayer cards and memorials, a huge banner hangs from the ceiling:
It's a quiet place. A somber place. Behind the chapel and facing where the twin towers once stood is a cemetery as old as the church. It's in amazing condition considering the age of many of the tombstones, many still legible. I love cemeteries. For the several years they have been my location of choice to photograph. I love how wherever you go, they're always the same yet different in subtle ways. Some are falling apart, some seem new, some have crypts built into the sides of mountains, others above ground. Even in the middle of the city, in the hustle and bustle, they seem tranquil. As if the wrought iron gates can keep out noise. I find them very relaxing.

Across the street is the 9/11 Progress Museum. Inside is a scale model of what they are planning to build as well as a video playing the background, survivors and rescuers telling their story. In a far back corner is a sound proof room where visitors can record their own memories of that day to be used later as a video instillation at the memorial plaza.

I walk a great deal of this part of the city. From WTC to City Park to the Tweed Courthouse and the French Embassy, to Pace University, past the Woolworth building, and down Broadway. City park had an interesting sculpture instillation and a beautiful fountain.

I headed back to meet up with my friend, her husband, and my sister and her boyfriend, who were also in town for a few days, to eat lunch. We went to Harry's Italian and had an amazing lunch! We all split the "5 leaf" salad (a mix of Romain, arugula, dandelion, etc) and a stuffed artichoke. We ordered a half and half pizza. One side was the Old Fashioned White with roast garlic and olives, the other half a traditional red sauce with sausage and pepperoni. The crust was so thin and crunchy!
I had about half an hour to kill before catching my train to the airport, so we walked my sister down to the WTC and I pointed her in the direction of things to see. I was very grateful that my friends husband offered to come with me to the airport to make sure I got there safe. He became my lifesaver when we got to the airport and the security line was wrapped around the corner and down the hall. Thank god for my place holder so I could squeeze in a smoke before boarding. Thank you thank you thank you! I took the PATH train from WTC/Port Authority to Newark Penn Station, than transferred to another train that took us to the airport. Somehow, my timing was off and I barely made it onto the plane! Once again, I heart you Continental and your free meals (even if I can't eat half of it). This time we had hamburgers (which I gave back), pretzels, real fruit strip, Doritos, and something else I just can't remember. Oh well.

All in all, I had the most amazing time on my holiday and did NOT want to come back. I hope I don't have to wait another year to go again. Anyone wanting to contribute to my vacation fund, please email me :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Last night was our first WWQTW (What would Quentin Tarantino watch?) on a Friday night and I think it went pretty well. In honor of it being Friday the 13th, I decided we should watch something scary or at least in the horror vein of things. My choice? "An American Werewolf in London". I love this movie!
Released in 1981, "Werewolf" is directed by John Landis (Love!) and stars David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and Jenny Agutter. Landis first wrote the script in 1969 but had to shelve it when no one would give a "nobody" money for a horror pic. [side note: Thank god he didn't go to Roger Corman. No offense, I love Corman pictures, but they would not have done this film right] After making "Kentucky Fried Movie" and "The Blues Brothers" he was able to dust off the script and give it a go. Naughton was most notably known as the Dr Pepper guy and went on to appear in TV ("My Sister Sam"). Dunne has had a more illustrious career, appearing regularly in TV and film ("Johnny Dangerously", "My Girl", "Quiz Show").

While backpacking through England, friends David and Jake find themselves lost in the moors. They stop into a local pub to escape the cold but are quickly sent away as outsiders. Out on the moors, something attacks them killing Jake and injuring David. When David awakes, he finds he is to become a werewolf and his friend is forced to walk the earth as a ghost until the wolves bloodline is severed. Agutter plays the nurse who takes a shine to David and invites him into her home.

"Werewolf" is an important film for several reasons. First, the make up artistry of Rick Baker is genius. Films like this (utilizing practical make up and appliances) will always hold up to their CG brethren. Baker was the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Make up (many say the category was created to honor him), and would go on to win 5 more. His other works included "Star Wars", "Videodrome", "Thriller" music video, "Batman Forever", "Men in Black", and "Hellboy". It's safe to say I have a bit of a crush. When I was younger, there was a travelling show of movie FX that came through Dallas. It was amazing! We got to see the alien queen from "Alien", the grandmother from "Psycho", and the werewolf head from this film. Up close it was just as impressive as on screen.

Second, the writing and direction of Landis is smart, funny, and never panders. It sets the tone for comedy in a horror setting that has become popular with more modern filmmakers. I love the recognition that in fear comes comedy. Landis utilizes medium and full shots, saving the close ups for David's transition and close ups of the werewolf only. It's smart and the British mentality perfectly captured.
Third, I love anything from John Landis because he always gives a wink to the audience. I always thought if I ever made movies I would insert little homages to films and people I love. Most of his films feature the tag "See you next Wednesday" (from a "Dr Strangelove" quote), popular music that relates to the film (in "Werewolf" all the songs featured the moon in it's lyrics), and cameos from other people in the industry (look for Frank Oz, the voice of Miss Piggy, in several of his films). They go unnoticed to most people, but these built in Easter eggs are the bread and butter of movie fans the world over.

The film is rated "R" and even taking into account the way films were rated 30 years ago (I mean, "Jaws" is PG people), it remains an "R" rated film for some nudity, sexual situations, language, horror violence, and gore. That being said, I must have been 13 or younger when I saw it and look how I turned out!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What's up Netflix!

A Single Man- 5 stars- It never occurred to me that there was something different about a fashion designer turned filmmaker. Both require impeccable taste, patience, a keen eye, the ability to manage others, a cool head, and talent. Anyone aware of the work Tom Ford did for Gucci and later his eponymous label would know in an instant the man is an artist. His attention to detail lends itself beautifully to moving pictures. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, which Ford has said was a huge inspiration to him when he was younger, and stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, and Nicholas Hoult.

George (Firth) wakes up one morning and decides today is the day to die. His long term partner was tragically killed and he has been unable to pick up the pieces of their former life. He visits his oldest friend (Moore) and entertains a student (Hoult) throughout the course of the day. Firth has always been good at demonstrating a feeling without words. His facial expressions, mannerisms, hell, his eyes; all work to entangle the viewer into his bruised psyche. The beautiful thing about this movie isn't the costumes, or the score, or even the acting (though all of those are marvelous); it's the silence between things that makes the film seem to breathe with life. Ford's decision to pause on a cuff link, a painted eye, an empty room; fill the audience with the same feelings that must be pulsating through George. It is a truly wonderful film, possibly even more wonderful given it was the directors first, and a must see for all.

Eden Lake- 4 stars- I rented this movie for one reason and one reason only: Michael Fassbender. He is delicious! Also starring Kelly Reilly (Pride & Prejudice), it's a pretty typical horror movie. Young couple try to get a away for the weekend to go camping in the woods (always romantic), but they run afoul of a pack of teen thugs who terrorize and torture them. What gave this the extra star (which Fassbender already rendered) were the great performances, writing, and general lack of too much silliness. The kids talk the way kids talk, the couple speaks the way a long term love would, things just make sense. What would you do if in this situation? Personally I was raised not to taunt the lion, so to speak, so would not have ended up in this movie, but if I did I think I would respond (mostly) similarly. I love human horror movies, those flicks about the atrocities we inflict upon each other. The scare factor is so much higher. For fans of horror or shirtless Michael Fassbender.

Chloe- 4 stars- Atom Egoyan is one of my favorite directors of all time (The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, Ararat). The work he has produced in Canada is indicative of the indie movement there. He has influenced countless directors and writers and is famous for his moving portraits of society. Again, the writing is brilliant. Here, Egoyan tries his hand at someone else's script (and a remake of a French film at that) to mixed results. The story itself is timeless: Wife (Julianne Moore, again) thinks husband (Liam Neeson) is cheating so she tests his fidelity. The test she chooses comes in the form of a young prostitute played by "Mama Mia's" Amanda Seyfried (proving her chops as a young ingénue). Things go out of hand as they are wont to do in this kind of film and tragedy ensues.

I really wanted to give this 3 stars but just couldn't. I wish Egoyan had grabbed the script (from the writer of "Secretary") and run his red pen all over it. The conversations may have made sense in French, but American women don't speak to each other that way. Everything seemed forced or told for shock value alone. Neeson doesn't seem to understand what he's doing in the picture (part of which may have to do with the death of his wife during filming). Moore has played the troubled housewife before and with better veal ("Far from Heaven", "Short Cuts", "Safe"). Seyfried has a grand career ahead of her if she can keep picking layered and varied projects. I think Bitter Balcony said it best: "'Chloe' makes sex boring". So, why 4 stars instead of 3? I've almost talked myself out of it! Really, it goes to Egoyan's mastery of film making, Seyfried's performance, and the result of all this on the marriage, that warrants a better rating.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell- 2 stars- Ugh. I was expecting a "boys just wanna be boys" movie and what I got was an hour and a half of bad acting, poor writing, and disjointed direction. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, we follow Tucker Max; self diagnosed misogynist, sexist, and asshole; as he hosts his friends bachelor party with horrific results. Sounds interesting. New York Times bestseller. Should be good. It isn't. Not even the charm of Matt Czuchry ("Gilmore Girls", "The Good Wife") and save it. I remember movies with long, rambling monologues about nothing. They happened in the 90s and were a hell of a lot more interesting. Even the hazily memorized musings in "Clerks" came off more genuine. Oddly, I'm still curious about the book. Could it be good? Minus 1 point for using the title of the movie as a line in the movie, plus 1 point since I finished it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Queen's Bound

Day 6

My culinary adventure continues today with Dim Sum at my friends favorite place in Chinatown. What I didn't know before arriving was that the restaurant was vegetarian and kosher! Yea! There was such a mix of people and everyone was very nice. I can eat everything on the menu!! I have to say, Dim Sum is officially my new favorite thing. I love lots of little plates crowding the table and getting to taste a bit of everything. The best thing, according to me who ate most of it, was the veg. meat bun. Lovely little pillows of dough surrounding (what I think was) TVP in a sweet red sauce. It makes me dreamy just thinking about it. Also amazing were the crullers- puff pastry topped with rice sheets in a sweet soy sauce. Heaven!

Afterward, I really wanted to go to Babycakes, a vegan bakery I keep hearing about. If there is one thing I love (especially in NY) it's cupcakes. When they achieve the perfect balance of cake to icing I am hooked. The store is located on an unassuming street on the Lower East Side. Inside there is just enough space for 4 people to squeeze in, order, then get stuck. They are constantly making cupcakes, donuts (baked!), and cookies all day. They even wear 50s style peppermint striped blouses. Even better, the cupcakes are delicious! Besides being vegan, they also have gluten free options. They were also recently named New York's best place to stop for a sweet bite (out of all the places to stop- vegetarian, vegan, and "regular" alike!) A must stop!

We walked around the mostly residential neighborhood in search of life, finally finding it in Nolita. From there, we caught the 7 train to Flushing, Queens. Just over the bridge, there is an amazing mural covering 3 sides of a building. Apparently, they sporadically paint over it and start again. very cool.

By the time we got to Queens it had started to rain. On a positive note, it did lower the temperature. We ran down the crowded streets to Tai Pan Bakery. I had the red bean bun (yes please) and a mango smoothie. Even better, when you spend $5, you can buy a great big umbrella (advertising the bakery) for only $3. Of course I bought one! It's even UV protected so I can sit under it at the pool and protect my skin. God, I'm such a nerd...

We wondered up to the big Asian supermarket there and had so much fun looking at everything and photobombing each other. Next up was Flushing Mall with a really cool Manga store. I just had to have a bubble tea before we left (how do you go to Chinatown and not get one?). In my previous life (approximately 1 year ago), the thought of drinking a milky tea with tapioca balls would really turn my stomach. In reality, it is a nice treat and great for in between meals. I got a green tea flavored on with black tapioca balls. The medium turned out to be too much and I had to share!

Back in Brooklyn, we're debating whether or not to hit up the "Man Men" launch party in Times Square. I'm mostly worried it may rain again, plus it was already 7 PM by the time we got back. No way were we getting a good place to stand or any cool free stuff. Not to mention, walking really takes it out on you! We were exhausted so we called it a night.
Tomorrow, I get ready to leave and (finally) visit The Pit.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Walking Talking (& Eating) Robots!

Day 5

We're off to a bit of a late start today but that's okay. It is totally worth it when you're eating savory crepes! Mine was stuffed with goat cheese and basil, served with a salad of mixed greens, red onion, yellow peppers, almonds, and dried cranberries with a Balsamic dressing. So delicious and so filling!
Once we got motivated (and believe me it was hard, another 95 degree day), we head into the city to check out the Union Square Green Market. It was packed, not only with people but with the most amazing produce I have ever seen. It certainly put the Dallas Farmer's Market to shame. Already we're sweating and burning up, so we head across the street to Whole Foods for sunscreen and a bathroom.
[New York Survival Guide Tip #1: When you see a bathroom, use it!]

Next we went in search of the mythical #1 falafel. I wasn't sure how that would be something I wanted to eat (really? Only $1?) but I was intrigued. When we got to Cheeps in the Lower East Side we discovered that not only had they undergone renovation but the falafel's were now $2. Not a problem! The were so delicious! A medium sized pita is stuffed with 4-5 falafel and served with your choice of marinated lettuce, onions, tomatoes, olives, pickles, tahini, etc. The hot sauce will blow your mind and probably get all over your pants. A couple doors down is Pomme Frites, a Belgian fry place with at least 20 different kinds of dipping sauces. I recommend the roasted eggplant.

We needed to walk off our food coma, so we wondered around, looking into interesting shops. We checked out an Asian market I've been to before (just don't ask me the name), then around the corner to Panya for snow balls- try the lychee. It's heaven! I rode my first NY City bus (!) My recollection of the afternoon is a bit hazy (not sure why- honestly) so this may or may not be the order in which it appeared.

We set off for H&M (a must stop when on the East coast) but was disappointed by the selection. I had to buy shoes as my flip flops tried to kill me (you know it's hot when the tops of your feet are sweating) and it took FOREVER to find my size. Oh well. We walked down to City Bakery where I had some mac & cheese then is was off to Asian Pub and an amazing happy hour. All drinks were $1 off, so my double only cost $5! We munched on edamame and I marveled at the culture clash interior (think Irish pub with a kimono on the wall- brilliant)then wondered the Bowery looking for somewhere else to go. We discovered this amazing Irish Pub called Slainte.

After that we decided we should probably eat more (!) so we took off back to the East Side and a Korean place called Song 7.2. There we noshed on kimchi pancakes (my new favorite thing), dumplings, and some kind of stew. It was all really good. Down the street was a karaoke bar where we sang. It did not remind me of any karaoke bars in Dallas and I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing. There is no real DJ, you read a mammoth (bound) book and tell the bartender. The arrangements were a bit cheesy, but I had so much fun. There was such a diverse crowd and some of the older clientele really got into it.

The plan was to head to Veselka, an East Village legend that we all wanted to try, but we were so tired and a bit inebriated that we just went home. However, we couldn't bored the train to Brooklyn without stopping at Mr Frosty first! Everywhere you go in NY the ice cream trucks serve soft serve instead of the cheep novelty treats we're used to. You can get a cone dipped in almost anything!

I had so much fun, but it was exhausting. In all, I think the most I paid to eat at one sitting was $12. Pretty darn good! Tomorrow, we're off to Queens.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Northeast by Northeast

Day Four

What says "travel" better than a torrential down pour? Upon waking up, it was lovely. The air was cool, the sound of the rain on the roof, dripping off the branches that framed my windows, the smell of cedar and pine and dew. Lovely.

Then I woke up and realized I was leaving today and a trek to the train station and later through the streets of New York was not what I had ordered. So, what do you do when it's raining? Play Candyland of course! We also played Scattergories, where I schooled everyone in the art of same letter words.

Finally, it was time to leave my family and head into the City. I always loved travelling by train until I was stuck on one for 9 hours from Washington, D.C. to Boston. That kind of killed the love affair, although I can now say I still love the short trips even when you have to change trains. The total travel time from the Poconos to NYC is about 2 hours. Not bad at all. You go most of the way before you have to change trains in Secaucus to NY Penn Station so there is plenty of time to read or whatever else it is you do to occupy my time.

Current love that I brought Stephen King's magnum opus: 5 (out of 5)

The current plan is to head to the Clocktower Gallery where James Franco has a very avant garde art show running, then to the boroughs to eat and be merry.

The NJ Transit smells like perm.

I've been to New York City several times. I don't claim to be a connoisseur or have the knowledge of say, a local; but I do stare at the MTA everyday (as it is my shower curtain) so I think I know my way around. I am wrong. The platforms must be at least 100 degrees. It is so hot and I am dragging god knows how much weight behind me (King's opus is now at a 3). I catch the A downtown and get off at Canal to walk to the gallery. It is 4 PM and the show closes at 5 PM. I have no idea where I am. In my mind, Canal St is Chinatown and Chinatown only. I call my friend for directions to the gallery but they sound complicated and I'm starting to sweat through my shirt so I give up. I'll just catch a cab. Surely there are cabs on Canal. There aren't. It's shift change, not to mention rush hour and I wander all over Tribeca trying to flag one down. No luck. Eventually, I've been at this at least half an hour; I've sweat through my shirt and my pants are sticking to me (It's just as hot topside as it was on the platform), my suitcase has broken (though I won't discover the wheel has a huge chunk missing along with the bearings until later), and I'm dragging dead weight. A black sedan tries to pick me up. Fuck it, I'm going to Starbucks. 10 minutes later, she arrives (out of the subway entrance right in front of me!) and off we go to change.

Praise be! The subway entrance at Starbucks is the one we need to head to Brooklyn. She lives in Prospect Heights on the most wonderful street ever. Maybe I just have a soft spot for poorly names neighborhoods or maybe I'm delirious from the heat. Either way, I fall in love instantly. Has that ever happened to you? I hope so. The four (street) blocks to her apartment are hard on me with the broken suit case and Stephen Fucking King in my bag (love of "Under the Dome": 1), however they are lined with all kinds of things to see. The bakery, the coffee shop, the dry cleaner, the 24-hour green grocer, the pizza place, several mom & pop restaurants. I'm in love! I don't even mind the 2 flights of stairs we walk up to her apartment. My friend and her husband are awesome! "Every thing's coming up Milhouse!"

After I change, we head to a really adorable bar near their house (the one thing I didn't take a picture of so I have no idea what it was called- help!) and meet up with their neighbors. I would definitely go back here, though be warned: a lot of places are cash only. While we finished our beers, a giant chicken walked into the bar. No really. Literally. It was a candy gram, delivering (dirty) birthday wishes to another patron. Fun!

After that, we headed to what I'm told is the only good Indian place in Brooklyn, Bombay Masala. I couldn't believe how inexpensive it was and moderately busy at 9 PM. We split the vegetarian dinner for two which easily fed the three of us with left overs. We started with the samosas (I've been craving them something fierce) and vegetable pakoras. Then the owner brought all of us some complimentary soup (I think it was just a veggie soup) which was okay but in no way compared to the Mulligatawny- so yummy! For our entrees we had the Alu Motir Gobi (potatoes, cauliflower, and peas) and the Chana Ponir (homemade cheese and peas) with a lot of garlic naan. For desert, the owner brought us all some rose infused rice pudding. I could have kissed him it was so good!

After that, it was late so we watched TV an drank Asian beers I had never heard of while watching "The State". Tomorrow is a big day, and we'll need all the rest we can get!