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July 19, 2003

Belate, Procrastinate, Repeat

Wow, okay, so I’ve been quite a bit behind over here. There’s a lot going on these days, what with Origins gone and GenCon coming. I’ve been retouching Jim’s site and planning to redo my resume page, which is poorly implemented and badly out of date. What do you think of a motif of brown lines and colored squares? That’s what I’ve been tinkering with lately, but it’s unlikely that anything will come of it until August, when I get back on track following my trip to Indianapolis.

I missed out on the annual summer trip to Michigan, in part because it now seems to require between 12 and 14 hours of driving, which means a weekend stay by the lake of about 8 hours, total. Yikes. Did I mention, though, that my folks bought a house up there? So trips may well become more frequent, thankfully. I hope it’ll be easier to find available weekends than it will be to play with the combination lock of weekend and rental availability up between the lakes.

Anyway, lots and lots going on these days. I’m getting back into freelance work with a vengeance, mostly because money is good and I would like some. I’ll have some word on those projects in the near future, including some self-publishing I’m hoping to do with the help of Adobe. We’ll see how that goes.

Cinematic Backlog

I’ve seen a great many movies of late, and yet I haven’t written a word about them. So I’m going to tear through them now with little miniature reviews so that I can feel like they’re not hanging over my head. At least one of these reviews is many months overdue, and for that I have to apologize to Jim. Also, these reviews were written all at once and are first drafts. I apologize for any instances of rough grammer, typos, or overindulgance.

But first, a brief comment on the summer movie season: Sara and I have been seeing movies a little more often than I might’ve expected, which is delightful. We’re also just starting to get back on track with our rentals. We’ll see how long that lasts, eh? It still feels like something is missing from this summer, and I’m thinking that I should either pin this on The Matrix Reloaded or Hulk, the former being a fine enough meal (but not the one I ordered), the latter being the summer’s lobster dinner (maybe delicious, but not to my taste). It’s entirely possible, though, that this craving I have is the sort that can only be slaked with a new Indiana Jones picture, which I hear The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not.

A Mighty Wind
As fine a mockumentary as Best in Show or This is Spinal Tap, but in a very different way. This film isn’t the comedy those movies are, and a I recall thinking that it doesn’t have much a climax. The big performance that closes the picture isn’t any more intense, funny, or alarming than the rest of the picture. Maybe that’s because the whole movie lacks a high-strung grouping of folks on the level of Spinal Tap or the obsessed maniacs of Best in Show. That’s fine, though. The big treat in A Mighty Wind is watching the dynamic between the actors, which is entertaining even when it’s not hilarious. I could watch Mike McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer play those folk musicians for a whole movie, even though they’re never a riot.

Here’s the thing: the characters in A Mighty Wind all have uncommonly complicated relationships. That’s terrific. Rather than the exaggerated comedy arrangements of Best in Show, we get interesting, clever combinations of actors and characters. What’s more, the music is really pretty good. I hear this subject matter is a little closer to Christopher Guest’s heart than some of his previous work’s. I’d believe it, from how gentle this movie is compared to his last. Whatever it is, I liked A Mighty Wind a great deal. I just didn’t laugh so much, I think, because I didn’t want to miss a soft-spoken nuance or a delicate maneuver within the cast. Good stuff. (How’s that, Jim?)

28 Days Later
More than anything, the audience I was with was laughing. It is not “scary as hell.” Like The Beach, 28 Days Later takes a strange course from a strangely fascinating first act to a noisy and confused third act. I felt like Danny Boyle was trying to get a point across to me, but I couldn’t make it out over his screaming. Maybe this movie’s just a genre expedition and there is no message. If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s successful. The movie’s rhythm breaks down and the characters sadly dissolve. The heroine we get in the first act is vanished by the end of the film. A shame.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
I saw this movie on a Saturday morning instead of 28 Days Later because I wanted light action and laughs. Instead, I got cartoon ridiculousness and next to no laughs. Where Charlie’s Angels was a pleasantly absurd, surprising, and sexy action-comedy, Full Throttle is a sadly ridiculous, disappointing, and slutty flick. The first film was fiery. This one burns.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
I enjoyed it. An entertaining and exciting action picture. While it doesn’t delve nearly as deep as its predecessors, I’d like to give credit to Mostow and company for giving the picture a voice that’s related but not identical to the first two. There are several choices made in the story which I don’t approve of, but some very pleasant surprises, too. This movie may come apart if I pick at it, but I don’t want to do that. I liked it well enough. If nothing else, it ends better than most recent action pictures, which is to say I liked the movie better because of the last ten minutes and so left liking it. Which is strange, considering that ending.

Critics who issue demerits for its obvious sequel possibilities should see The Terminator. It’s the logical sequel to this picture.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Yay! A pirate picture! I grew up with only The Princess Bride and Cutthroat Island to qualify as pirate pictures, and Cutthroat Island is really, really bad. So hurray for Pirates, etc. This picture succeeds because Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush are excellent, gets by on pretty but meaningless action, and just qualifies in its supernatural monster qualities. The zombie pirates are a bland gray (the Monkey Island computer titles do them better, as does this movie’s first one-sheet poster) and the general swordsmanship isn’t what I’d hope for in a pirate picture. The fantastic and wonderful Aztec curse makes very little sense and has less than half the atmosphere that such an idea should be given. That’s too bad. Regardless, the movie’s a hell of a lot of fun and I’m sure I’ll shell out the doubloons to see again at the theater.

The sequel needs only Cap’n Jack Sparrow to be successful. Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, and the parrott poop jokes have done their jobs. Let’s sail the Black Pearl some place new in the next one.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Another terrific pirate picture. Seriously. This movie is a fine fantasy adventure in the tradition of the classic Sinbad movies. I could pick on it, but I’m so pleased with the things that the movie does well that I won’t bother. Especially for an animated feature, there are complexities in the story and the relationships between characters that I am thankful to find in an adventure movie. I’ll be happy to discuss it further, but only if you go see it. Sinbad is a well-animated, well-imagined, funny and exciting adventure movie.

Tape
If you like to watch actors work, have a look at Tape. Richard Linklater directed this little movie sometime around his work with Ethan Hawke on Waking Life. Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman, and Ethan Hawke put on a good show from a fine stage play. Wouldn’t it be great if more small productions were put to film or hard drives this way? Recommended.

Bottle Rocket
Better the second time. Even better after seeing other Wes Anderson films. This movie, I think, is best appreciated in its place in the careers of Anderson and the Wilsons. There isn’t much else to this movie than the joy of watching of them work. Still recommended.

Other Things
I’ll waste some of my busy time writing about this stuff, too.

Best of Friends, Season Three
In “The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends,” Ross (David Schwimmer) is, in several scenes, reading the book by Studs Turkel that would become Schwimmer’s current play with his old friends at Chicago’s Looking Glass Theater Company.

History Detectives
A fun show for research and history geeks. PBS in the Twin Cities for some reason feels it necessary to run this show for five consecutive days, though, making it very hard for me to watch it. Plus, it’s deeply irksome that one of the detectives is an appraiser underqualified in her expertise next to Sara. Hell, they took an artifact to Sara’s old workplace at the Smithsonian for analysis. She should have this lady’s job, I think.

Last Comic Standing
Every summer it seems like there’s some embarrassing reality program that catches my interest. I quite liked The Mole, back in the day. Now I’m hooked on Last Comic Standing from NBC and Comedy Central, even though it’s devolved into a house-of-popularity show. I just love to see comedians talk shop, all the same. Why can’t I get my hands on a copy of Comedian, then?

Until Next Time
Well, that does it for this much-delayed update. I’ll be in touch again before I leave for GenCon. I promise. Now I think I’m off for a pint and an Irish cheese plate, and then in to work for a Saturday evening of Quark XPress and inevitable printer problems.

Noise: Erin McKeown‘s new album, Grand.

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