June 30, 2008

WALL·E gets an A

Pixar triumphs once again with their latest offering, WALL·E. It's touching, visually stunning, and even carries a message. But above all, this film works so well, because...well, let me count the ways:

Wall E stars

1. The story is nothing new - boy meets girl and it's love at first sight. Granted this time around they're robots, but you get the picture. It's this simplicity that makes the film universal, and an excellent choice for kids, too. (Also there is a cute cockroach. Yes, I'm serious.)

2. By creating a world beyond our experience, the creators draw us in completely, so that you want to move around and explore with the characters. It's like an animated Life After People.

3. The dialogue is sparse in WALL·E, so we really get to focus on the story and the emotions. In fact, you become so engrossed that you immediately forget the fact that robots expressing emotions isn't really logical.

4. Beneath the enchantment of the story, there's a clear pro-green message going on. But it's subtle enough that you don't feel like you're being preached to at all. Again, a gentle message that will go over well with the little ones.

Get ready to hand this one the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, because it's practically a lock already!

The bigger question - how would I rank it amongst the other Pixar films? Tough call. I'd definitely put it near the top. Maybe somewhere around 3rd, after Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Oh, and as always you get the bonus of an animated short by Pixar at the beginning. This time around it's the very clever slapstick of a magician and his rabbit in Presto. I'd say an Oscar nod is a sure thing!

June 26, 2008

The top 100 films of the last 25 years - modern classics?

Continuing a chain from blog-to-blog, I’m borrowing this idea from Voenix Rising.

Using the Entertainment Weekly list of the top 100 movies from the last 25 years [editor’s note – debatable, at best]:

  • Bold the movie if you’ve seen it
  • Put asterisks next to the movies you’ve seen and really liked. If you saw a film and hated it, cross it out.

I’ve seen a whopping 66 of the Top 100 films, but outright hated only four of them. That’s probably because I’m a bit choosy about what I will and won’t see in the theater. Although the age of Netflix has helped me delve into a lot more so-so movies, I admit.

If I had to pick a single favorite on this list, it would undoubtedly be the LOTR trilogy. But since that might be considered an unfair advantage, I’ll give honorable mention to…The Breakfast Club. A true modern classic!

As for the worst, I think I'd have to say Breaking the Waves. My other crossed-out titles I just thought were overhyped. But Waves was just...bizarre.

  1. Pulp Fiction 1994**
  2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy 2001-03**
  3. Titanic 1997
  4. Blue Velvet 1986
  5. Toy Story 1995
  6. Saving Private Ryan 1998
  7. Hannah and Her Sisters 1986
  8. The Silence of the Lambs 1991
  9. Die Hard 1988
  10. Moulin Rouge 2001
  11. This Is Spinal Tap 1984
  12. The Matrix 1999
  13. GoodFellas 1990
  14. Crumb 1995
  15. Edward Scissorhands 1990
  16. Boogie Nights 1997**
  17. Jerry Maguire 1996
  18. Do the Right Thing 1989
  19. Casino Royale 2006**
  20. The Lion King 1994
  21. Schindler’s List 1993
  22. Rushmore 1998
  23. Memento 2001**
  24. A Room With a View 1986
  25. Shrek 2001
  26. Hoop Dreams 1994
  27. Aliens 1986
  28. Wings of Desire 1988
  29. The Bourne Supremacy 2004**
  30. When Harry Met Sally… 1989
  31. Brokeback Mountain 2005**
  32. Fight Club 1999
  33. The Breakfast Club 1985**
  34. Fargo 1996
  35. The Incredibles 2004**
  36. Spiderman 2 2004
  37. Pretty Woman 1990
  38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
  39. The Sixth Sense 1999
  40. Speed 1994
  41. Dazed and Confused 1993
  42. Clueless 1995**
  43. Gladiator 2000
  44. The Player 1992
  45. Rain Man 1988
  46. Children of Men 2006**
  47. Men in Black 1997
  48. Scarface 1983
  49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
  50. The Piano 1993
  51. There Will Be Blood 2007
  52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad 1988
  53. The Truman Show 1998
  54. Fatal Attraction 1987
  55. Risky Business 1983
  56. The Lives of Others 2006**
  57. There’s Something About Mary 1998
  58. Ghostbusters 1984
  59. L.A. Confidential 1997
  60. Scream 1996
  61. Beverly Hills Cop 1984
  62. sex, lies and videotape 1989
  63. Big 1988**
  64. No Country For Old Men 2007
  65. Dirty Dancing 1987
  66. Natural Born Killers 1994
  67. Donnie Brasco 1997
  68. Witness 1985
  69. All About My Mother 1999
  70. Broadcast News 1987
  71. Unforgiven 1992
  72. Thelma & Louise 1991
  73. Office Space 1999
  74. Drugstore Cowboy 1989
  75. Out of Africa 1985
  76. The Departed 2006
  77. Sid and Nancy 1986
  78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
  79. Waiting for Guffman 1996
  80. Michael Clayton 2007
  81. Moonstruck 1987
  82. Lost in Translation 2003
  83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn 1987
  84. Sideways 2004
  85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin 2005**
  86. Y Tu Mamá También 2002**
  87. Swingers 1996
  88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997
  89. Breaking the Waves 1996
  90. Napoleon Dynamite 2004
  91. Back to the Future 1985
  92. Menace II Society 1993
  93. Ed Wood 1994
  94. Full Metal Jacket 1987
  95. In the Mood for Love 2001
  96. Far From Heaven 2002
  97. Glory 1989
  98. The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999
  99. The Blair Witch Project 1999
  100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut 1999

So how about you - how many have you seen, and what do you think is the best and the worst?

June 24, 2008

New iPod Singles

One of the joys of the iTunes revolution is that one gets to sample music like a smorgasbord. Not sure if you want to buy a whole album yet? Just buy a song or two and take it for a test drive! It also opens you up to a world of new artists you might never have heard of or tried, but with the store's inventory you have a lot of choices. Here are 3 new artists for me and the songs I downloaded and have been enjoying.

Spotlight - Jennifer Hudson

Yeah, I know - I totally already had J-Hud on my iPod. But this is the first song of her own material, the first single off her new album. I'm not sure I'd pick this as the premiere song if I was her record label, but it hints at the power behind that voice. I consider this a decent appetizer to what should be a hearty main course.

Mercy - Duffy

Several of my co-workers have been talking about Duffy lately, and after sampling a few songs, I downloaded this ditty. It's a really catchy tune in the vein of Amy Winehouse - a movement I'd call retro-soul. Duffy by contrast is far more upbeat than Amy, and thus far doesn't seem to have the deep personal issues.

My Heart - Lizz Wright

I try to catch CBS Sunday Morning whenever I can - it's been a tradition in my family for years. One thing I've enjoyed recently are the music suggestions offered by Bill Flanagan. His tastes touch all musical genres, and he has a particular reverence for the classics. This past week he offered what he thought were the best CDs for this summer, and I immediately latched onto Lizz Wright. She's got a cool pop sound tinged with jazz - think India.Arie after she's had a mojito. This particular track is hard to get out of your head - check it out!

So those are my latest finds - what have you discovered lately? What am I not listening to that I should rush out and get ASAP?

June 22, 2008

Iron Man Rules

I'm a little late to the party on this, but after protestations from ScottE and my family, I finally caved and agreed to go see Iron Man. My primary hesitation was that the trailer, which I'd seen numerous times in the theater, was about as exciting as a Yanni concert. Also the comic book was never one I was into as a kid. And let's face it - superhero movies in the past few years have varied widely in quality. While some were truly super (X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2, Superman Returns), others have been so bad we'd like to forget they even happened (Daredevil, anyone?).

[On a side note, I finally saw the first half of The Hulk. WOW was that bad.]

Anywho, I went with my brother and sister-in-law to go see it last weekend (second time for them). And it was in fact a really great movie. This is the rare case where a trailer undersold a movie!

I believe that the primary reason it is so successful is that the origin story is carefully crafted, and the entire film is very character-driven. There are actually only a handful of action sequences, so when they do come, you can settle in and enjoy. It's not constant explosions and guns, etc. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Transformers!)

But I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Robert Downey Jr. makes the movie. He's a lovable lothario (with a hot body) that draws you into every scene. Surprisingly, Gwyneth Paltrow makes a good foil for him. She's a nice mix of smart and sexy.

And for you die-hard comic fans out there, there are a couple nice winks thrown in for good measure. Terrence Howard sees Tony's other iron suit sitting there and says, "Next time, baby." And indeed, his character later becomes Iron Man - perhaps in the third film? If you sit through those long ending credits, you get a hint of where the Marvel Studios are headed - an Avengers movie! The real question - will they do the other indvidiual character films first? (Thor and Captain America, if you're keeping track. Although I'm holding out for The Scarlet Witch!)

June 19, 2008

Cute commerical!

I've complained about awful commercials in the past on this blog, but it's nice to celebrate a good one on occasion.

Let's give it up to Heinz for this adorable take on the non-nuclear family!

So adorable, it makes me smile every time.

Thanks to Joe for the heads-up on this one.

June 18, 2008

Oh, that tricky Mole!

Well, The Mole has been up to his (or her) dirty tricks the last couple of weeks. It's debatable whether the players keep doing poorly due to incompetence, constant infighting, or devious subterfuge. Right now I'm chalking most of it up to the bickering. I remember back in the day that Kathryn was good at just letting the group implode on their own.

This week's double-elimination was quite a shocker for our players. Personally I think that when the host offers a bribe, you should smell a rat. Anywho, it was a shame to see even-tempered Ali go, as she was becoming quite likable. Of course she totally got the last laugh walking away with the cash and then watching an execution from the sidelines.

But I'm more than happy to see that pathetic loser (Bobby), go home. I hate to agree with Paul, but come on - that kid was pathetic! He gives us skinny guys a bad name. Even I can manage to WALK through a town. Yeesh.

Looking ahead, here's my latest round of predictions:

Least likely - Nicole

Paul is a close second, but I think at this point Nicole's "strategy" and attitude are completely transparent. I won't count her out to be smart enough to make it to the finals, though. (Paul, not so much.)

Most likely - Craig

Craig probably comes off as an unlikely candidate for The Mole, which is exactly why he could be the one. What I was really watching for this week was subtle sabotage or inside information. I think that he led Victoria into talking after the finish line, resulting in a disqualification that appeared to be her fault. Also his stumbling across the team's laundry was just a bit too convenient.

The dark horse - Kristen

I still think that Kristen is so good she's dangerous, but I was stymied trying to find any situation where she could have caused sabotage this week. Unless she was taking a break from her job... Still, I'm keeping my eye on her. She could be The Mole, but I think it's increasingly likely she could be our winner.

June 07, 2008

Marriage, Sex and Cosmopolitains

Sex and the City: The Movie

I'll put it right out there - I really liked the movie. Is it perfect? No. But for fans of the show it's great fun and brings back happy memories. You'll leave the theater anxious to go sip some Cosmos with your best girlfriends (and gay friends) while watching back episodes on DVD, deciding who amongst your group is a total Samantha.

The critics have been a bit hard on the movie - it's too long, it's too Carrie-focused, it celebrates materialism, too much time out of Manhattan. But I maintain that it's a good time and you'll have a ball. Thus I offer...

The Top 10 Reasons to See the SATC Movie!
10. It's a good time to giggle and frequently say, "Oh, CHARLOTTE..."

9. Have a debate with your friends as to who has aged more gracefully since the series first aired - the men or the women?

8. Outrageous fashion is always a good time to see even if you know you could never afford it.

7. You always want to know what Samantha's next sexual escapade is going to be.

6. Those eyebrows of Big's - you know you've been waiting to watch them arch.

5. Even though her character really could have been fleshed out more, Jennifer Hudson is still lovely. And the only Oscar winner in the film.

4. Hear Carrie intone just one more time, "I couldn't help but wonder..."

3. Miranda and Steve having sex. HOTT! (The second time.)

2. Tear up at Charlotte's unexpected (pun intended) news.

1. Brunch at the girls' favorite place - what could be better?

Enjoy, and if you're in the neighborhood, let's whip up some cocktails, and I can confess why I am sometimes too much of a Miranda!

June 04, 2008

Who is THE MOLE?

In my world, I've seen a lot of reality TV. Much of it completely awful. Some of it a guilty pleasure. And then there are a few "cream of the crop" shows that took things to a whole other level. Project Runway is certainly one of them, and despite a few missteps so is The Amazing Race. And now we have the return of another - The Mole.

Now don't get me wrong - this is a show that has also had some hits and misses depending on the whims of network executives. The first season is a true classic, featuring a mole that few could have predicted, clever challenges, and that devilishly handsome host with the most, Anderson Cooper. The second season was also good and brought us a popular hero in Dorothy, but overall paled in comparison; the general opinion is the producers just picked a bad choice for the mole (Bill was totally predictable).

From there we had the celebrity mini-seasons. The first in Hawai'i was surprisingly good, with a clever mole and an even more clever winner in Kathy Griffin. But from there we descended into the constant antics of Corbin Bernsen and Steven Baldwin, which was boring for everyone (except maybe those two).

At long last the show has returned to it's "regular" format, featuring a dozen people trying to complete challenges and put money in the group pot, all the while trying to ferret out the identity of the saboteur in their midst. The new host is Jon Kelley whom I think is doing a fine job at explaining everything in a slightly ominous but tongue-in-cheek manner, without drawing too much attention to himself. Subtlety is a good thing in a reality show host.

Last night's premiere was pretty good. I liked starting with a slightly daredevil challenge and immediately identifying peoples' suspicions. We've also established a villain really quick, so you know you'll be seeing plenty of Nicole. So where do my own suspicions lie? I'll break it down thusly:

Least likely - Paul

I think his slightly arrogant guido attitude seems very genuine. I also don't see him having a chance at winning. Making a coalition with the first person to be eliminated is not a good indicator of intelligence.

Most likely - Kristen

I think Kristen has the right mix of intelligence, athleticism and cunning. She's nice without being too nice. Exactly what makes a good mole. (Ask Kathryn.)

The dark horse - Ali

On any other show, you can discount anyone that lists his/her profession as "model" or "bartender." But on this one, assumptions are dangerous. Keep an eye on this girl. She could be the mole, or she could be your winner.

So stay tuned each Monday evening - I know I will be watching! And stop by here for updates. You might also want to try the Fafarazzi game to see how well your "team" does each week. Here's my team!

June 02, 2008

Six is an Animal Lover!

Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica is pretty awesome. First of all she's got a great role as our favorite Cylon neck-breaker, Six. And then she hosts Canada's Next Top Model, which makes her fabulous.

Now it looks like she even loves kittens. Isn't she sweet?