Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crank 2: 100% awesome

As we were discussing Crank 2 on the drive home today, Kyle correctly observed that if you were the kind of person who would even consider seeing this movie, you would love it, and if you wouldn't ever think for a moment of going to it, you would hate it.

I not only considered going to it, I planned ahead to go to a matinee on opening day, so I'm obviously in the first camp. My verdict?

Crank 2 is easily the most amazing thing I've seen in ages.

As a velocity exercise, it out-races its predecessor, with action that rarely lets up.

As a complete and utter insane violent fantasy, it also blows away the first movie. The original Crank seemed at times to be falling victim to several errors:
* trying to be a serious movie
* avoiding going as far as a scene might
* occasionally giving lip service to the notion of making sense

The sequel never makes these mistakes. It screams what it is from every scene, and in every scene you get the strong sense that the only reason that bit of the film wasn't more insane is that the filmmakers simply couldn't think of a way to make it crazier.

I laughed so often and so hard that I hurt. I nearly choked on Diet Coke and almost shot it through my nose at one point. I can't count how many times I said or thought, "Holy shit!"

If you even think you might like to see Jason Statham connecting car jumper cables to his nipple and tongue, then rush to this movie. If not, stay home, because that's about as tame as Crank 2 gets.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Rock needs to kick some ass

When The Rock was still The Rock and had not yet devolved into the more family-friendly Dwayne Johnson (which is, I must admit, his real name), he kicked some on-screen ass in a gem of a weird movie, The Rundown. After watching Race To Witch Mountain today (and, yes, I have only myself to blame), I'm convinced Dwayne needs to get his Rock on and make The Rundown II ASAP.

To be fair to him, he was not the least human actor in this pleasantly entertaining but entirely hollow Witch Mountain escapade; those honors go to the kids, who started out as concrete aliens and ended as concrete kids. Such a transformation!

Carla Gugino, who given half a chance can be smoking hot, managed here only to compete with Dwayne for the award for Most Uncomfortable in a Leading Role.

The truly telling moment came near the end, when the two adults are watching the spaceship fly away. Music is playing, and you can almost hear the director coaxing the actors: Show me sadness, but also give me wonderment! You can do it! Work it! Work it!

What Johnson and Gugino instead delivered was an unfortunately out of sync rapid mood swing between "oh, look, my mother in law" forced smiles and "God, I wish I could pass this huge turd" grimaces.

Having said all that, here's the sick part about my movie-loving self: I had a pretty good time watching and chuckling over this movie.

I just can't recommend it to anyone else, and I sure hope The Rock kicks some ass again sometime real soon now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ANTM: a rebuttal

Sarah felt a pressing need to write a guest blog entry, so here she is:

As an avid watcher of America's Next Top Model, one of the classiest shows on television, I am offended at my father's besmirching of this fine institution's reputation. On tonight's episode, a street preacher named London was sent home for having gained too much weight, and a half-naked Brazilian man presented Tyra with a bowl of nuts as an introduction to his homeland. I frankly can't see why anyone wouldn't want to turn on their TV to this at 8:00 p.m. every Wednesday. It's taught me how to find the light and to smile with my eyes. It has taught me not to mess with bitches who don't make sense because this is a competition and they're not here to make friends.

Also, last week, a girl was astounded that one of her fellow contestants had not been practicing her poses since she was "in the fetus." That is beautiful. I hope my possible future fetuses (I am currently fetus-free) will practice poses within themselves.

Anyway, you should watch America's Next Top Model, because it's fantastic. My mom used to hate it, but now she asks me to call her in every time there's a photo shoot. My friend went to the beach once with his two best female friends and spent all day watching a marathon while it was raining outside. Kyle, whom you may recognize from comments, is a big fan.

Also, you should go and listen to "Strictly Game" by the Harlem Shakes, and then you should go and try to find the lyrics, which you probably won't be able to do, and then you should check if they're playing anywhere near you, because I've heard they're really good live.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ice cream run amuck?

I love ice cream. It's one of my many great weaknesses. I buy specialty ice creams from local dairies and mail-order via the wonderful In ice cream, as in many things, I am prone to overdoing it a bit, or so some folks tell me.

Consider this example, and judge for yourself.

Saturday night, I'm throwing a belated birthday party for myself here at our house. (In our group, one tends to throw one's own parties.) Somewhere between 17 and 20 of us will attend. We'll have two cakes, but of course we need ice cream. I mean, what's a party without ice cream?

So, I went online to the aforementioned site and started ordering. Here's how my thinking went.

Zanzibar chocolate; hmmm. Everyone loves it, and everyone who wants some should get some, so I'll order four pints. (I actually started with five but talked myself down; such self-control!)

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, of course, is the perfect chocolate complement, as well as a chocolate option for those crazed souls who don't love Zanzibar. Better toss in three of them.

I had a request for cinnamon, and I love it, too; let's grab three of those.

I need some non-chocolate. Man, that maple ice cream we had a while back was dee-licious. Let's get a pair of them.

Scott loves strawberry, and as my son his opinion counts. Throw two in the virtual cart.

Of course, one cake will be chocolate, so I better grab a couple vanillas. Done.

Then again, I do love cherry ice creams; let's take two of those cherries jubilee pints.

What about gelato fans, though? Yeah, a pair of red raspberry pints should serve them.

Okay, might as well have a cherry-off; it's fate. Let's take a pint of that Door County cherry gelato.

And that's how you end up with 21 pints of ice cream and a tab of over two hundred bucks (one-third of it rush shipping).

Now, lest you feel I went too far overboard, I should note that we will actually eat these over four nights, and Kyle is visiting, so I had to lay in some extra for him.

When you think about it, my order really was only sensible. Prudent, in fact.

Maybe too prudent. I wonder if I might need some more; maybe a trip to Maple View Farm is in order.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Relative standards

The other night, three of us tried the tasting menu at Heron's, a local restaurant of great ambition. As the dining room in the local luxury hotel, The Umstead, Heron's, like its host facility, labors under a public goal of earning the very highest ratings possible. For example, it has four AAA diamonds but wants five.

Our meal was quite good, and our service better than most. We had a very nice time.

As I was paying, however, the problem arose: our server spotted us as foodies and asked for our assessment of the meal. I responded by saying we had a very nice time, but he pressed for details. I asked him on what scale he wanted us to judge the place.

He said, the very highest.

On that scale, Heron's fell rather short. To cite just a few of the problems with the food, the pork belly skin wasn't crisp enough, while the interior wasn't juicy enough and was in fact overcooked. So was the tuna, which was also at least one and probably two grades below what it should have been. Several of the lamb medallions were cold in the center and were promised warm. The cheeses did not build properly and one, a feta, was as bad an example of its type as I've tasted in quite a while. And so on. On the service side, two servers did not know to serve from the left and remove from the right, one course went without explanation, the cheese server couldn't correctly name the sources of all three cheeses, and so on.

Did we sound like snobs? Probably.

But he asked us to measure him by the best possible standards, so we did just that.

Again, we had a good time, a very good time, and a delicious meal.

In dining, as in so many areas, standards are indeed relative.

Having said that, I will go back to Heron's for two reasons: the meal was good enough that we want to see where the new chef takes the place, and, more importantly, I love that they are aiming high and want to encourage that practice. If you aim for the stars and miss, often even the failures are worth celebrating.

Well, we went

Yes, despite the Charlie Jane Anders review I cited yesterday, and in part because of it, we trundled off tonight to see Dragonball Evolution.

Wow. This movie was a pinball ball bouncing madly inside a machine full of cliche bumpers, bad CGI chutes, worse actor paddles, and yet long arcs full of amusing moments.

Sarah and Scott, however, could not enjoy it as much as I did, because they actually knew something about the original Dragonball Z and so expected this movie to hew more closely to its source. According to them, I should be glad I never watched any of the originals. (They got that right: I was glad before, and I still am.)

In the movie's defense, I have to say that it is always a treat to get to watch Chow Yun Fat crack jokes and act like a bum. He stole every scene he was in, which is predictable, but more amazing was that he managed to keep a straight face almost all of the time while doing so.

I would have smirked more.

If you must see this one, wait for DVD, or at least pay matinee prices.


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