Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tower Heist

is one of those movies that you can enjoy as long as you never engage your brain and just go along for the ride. If you think at all about it, however, you will be sorry.

The trailer tells you the whole basic story: nasty Wall Street trader steals gazillions of dollars from unsuspecting clients, a group that includes the staff of the luxury apartment building where he lives. One of them (Stiller) decides to assemble a team to steal back their money. It's a decent structure for a story.

The cast is full of good actors delivering good performances. I particularly like Alan Alda playing a bad guy; his normally smarmy nature works extremely well when he's saying evil things. The only actor whose performance was, as always, a vast empty sucking void of nothingness was Tea Leoni. I have never understood her appeal, nor can I recall a decent performance from her.

The problem with the movie is that it can't decide whether to fully embrace its unrealistic nature. Consequently, it alternates scenes of real people facing real issues with those of completely impossible action. The result is jarring, with the ending being the very most troubling part of the movie. I won't give the spoiler here, but suffice to say that after embracing its fantasy side for almost the entire last half hour, the film suddenly decides to hand us a token bit of realism at the last moment.

It's a huge mistake. The film should have stuck to it unrealistic roots and embraced them fully and unashamedly.

Still, I had a pleasant enough time watching it on a night after a good meal. I just can't recommend it unless you're jonesing for a movie, are in need of something mindless, and have a couple of hours to kill.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not a bad answer

As many of you know, one of my favorite films is Richard Curtis' The Boat That Rocked, which appeared here in the U.S. in a shorter (and inferior) version as Pirate Radio. What many of you may not know is that the deleted scenes from the film are often as good as anything in it.

In the deleted scene below, a rather pompous character, the DJ Gavin, explains the end of his quest to find the meaning of life. What Curtis offers isn't an answer, of course, but it'll do nicely on many days until something better comes along.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Great cheeseburgers

Cheeseburgers, really good ones, are among the many reasons I can't seriously contemplate becoming a vegetarian, as good as that would be for me.

In a few weeks, I'll be in Las Vegas again for the UFC show and our annual celebration of Kyle's birthday.

The combination of these factors led me to this article on the top five burgers in Las Vegas. I've eaten only one of them, the amazing FleurBurger (the regular one, not the $5,000 one made so pricey by a $4,929 bottle of wine), so clearly I have a lot to do.

Given that we're eating at Mesa Grill one night, I think a second of these will soon be in my belly.

Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two reasons you need to buy Gift Horse

Gift Horse, if you don't already know about it, is the new album from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. It's a very strong album, with a lot of great songs. Rather than hit the first single they promoted, let me point you to two others, both via YouTube videos.

Start with this admittedly so-so video of "My Favorite Place."

Then, move to this stronger video of "Roots and Wings," which Sarah also touted on her travel blog.

Yes, you need to get this album.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lessons I'm trying to learn right now

Talk less. Listen more.

Talk less. Do more.

Take less credit. Give more credit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Yeah, that's right: I went, and I'm even admitting it publicly. You know what else? It was funny, damn funny.

If you don't know the Harold and Kumar movies, of which this is the third, think Cheech and Chong for the new century, stoner films with fewer censors riding herd on them. Mix in a good helping of Neil Patrick Harris hamming it up, and you have a surefire recipe for dumb humor.

Well, okay, not just dumb humor: frequently offensive dumb humor. This film sets out to offend in every area it can, though mostly in gentle, elbow-lightly-in-the-rib sorts of ways, and it succeeds in doing just that. Whatever your religion, odds are the movie manages to take a gentle swipe at it. Its very fairness in picking on everything helps keep the humor fun and not mean.

It's tempting to label this sort of film a guy thing, but this one is not, or at least it wasn't on the night we went. About 40% of the audience was female, and the women were laughing as loudly as the men.

I should also note that this film never for a minute tries to be serious. It's a stoner fantasy fable from start to finish. That's a good thing, by the way; when this type of movie tries to be serious, it almost always fails badly.

I laughed a lot, and if the film has any appeal at all to you, I suspect you will, too. I even found the 3D effects, over-done and over-the-top as they were, to be worth the extra cost.

I can't wait for the unrated DVD.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Watch the Michigan anti-bullying law situation

If you're not familiar with what's going on in Michigan, you're missing an amazing and frightening American political battle.

It started reasonably enough. Michigan is one of the few states that doesn't have an anti-bullying law, so it decided to address that shortcoming. The situation turned weird, however, when Republicans in its Senate transformed the law from one that condemned bullying into one that condoned it--as long as you learned how to explain your bullying actions. How did the Michigan GOP State Senators accomplish this feat? By adding a few key words to the law and saying that it did not apply to

“a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”
Think about this change in practice. I can call you any name I want, do anything to you I want, as long as I'm willing to say that my religion or morals endorse that belief. Beat you up because you're gay? No problem: my religion says it's wrong. Harass you because you're Jewish? Sure, because my religion says yours is not the one true way. It's a beautifully versatile exemption, because anyone can use it to justify anything.

What utter horseshit.

Bullying is wrong. Period.

The good news is that the Michigan House removed the language in its version of the bill. Though that's not as far as I'd like to see them go, at least it does delete the language condoning bullying. Now, the Michigan House and Senate have to thrash out this disagreement. They will do so with the eyes of the nation upon them.

We can only hope that the Michigan House triumphs in this particular battle.


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