Monday, June 30, 2008

Memos to Morons - part three

TO: Oblivious Cell Phone Guy

RE: California State Law

Attention those of you who can't go two minutes without your Nokia glued to your ear--you have less than 24 hours to indulge your addiction to 24/7 connectivity even while driving. Starting July 1st, California will require hands-free devices be used while driving. As a pedestrian, I applaud the fact that I may be able to cross the street without dealing with some hyper-caffeinated, self-important player attempting to make a right hand turn with one hand holding his cell phone, one hand on the wheel and no attention to what's happening right in front of him.

As a driver I am optimistic that I won't be stranded behind some addled gossip girl gabbing on her cell phone completely clueless to the fact that the light has turned GREEN. Of course, according to studies, the hands-free requirement isn't the solution to improving driver safety since the very act of listening and talking while driving eliminates much needed attention to the road. The law also won't help with the idiots who apply mascara, munch meals or change their clothes all while operating a piece of heavy machinery.

According to the L.A. Times, San Diego and Oceanside police departments are allowing a 30 day grace period. But the CHP is stepping up enforcement for the holiday weekend--so all you Chatty McChatsters out there: Beware!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seth Rogen is the new Johnny Depp

I'm really looking forward to the release of Pineapple Express on August 8th. From the trailer it looks to be pee-in-your-pants hysterical. So recently I catch a glimpse of the poster and think, "Gee that looks familiar--where have I seen that before?"

And then it occurs to me that I remember seeing the same sort of trio coming out of a smoky haze on a billboard on Santa Monica Blvd. last year in promotion for the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, At World's End.

I'm not the only one who has noticed the resemblance; a Google search on "pineapple express poster pirates" turns up over 22,000 hits. So is it a spoof or an homage? Is it a riff on or a rip-off? And if it was a deliberate send up, is it worse that Seth Rogen is the new Johnny Depp or that James Franco is the new Keira Knightley?

Things that make ya go "Hmmm..."

Lend Me Your Ears and I'll Sing You a Song...

My blogging buddy Rae recently had a fun post challenging us to match the lyrical snippet from a theme song with its TV show. I must say, many of them had me stumped--even ones that I regularly viewed. It would have been easier for me to hear a portion of the tune as my most beloved theme songs had no lyrics--the wistful strains of the clarinet in the theme from Taxi, the soulful piano segueing into a jazzy refrain in the theme from Hill Street Blues and my favorite, the irrepressible bounciness of the theme from The Rockford Files.

The era of the great TV theme song seems to sadly have come to an end. A fact bemoaned by Ken Levine (writer for shows like Cheers, M.A.S.H. and Frasier which had very memorable theme songs!) and Paul Farhi of the Washington Post who says:

The reason for this is largely a result of the competitive dynamics of TV: So many channels, so little time to hook viewers. "Executives at the broadcast networks are operating in a climate of fear," says Jon Burlingame, the author of "TV's Greatest Hits," a history of theme music. "They're paranoid that if they haven't grabbed you in the first two minutes, you'll go away."
Actually it seems like great themes from much-loved TV shows stick with us just as much as we stuck around for them.

What's your favorite TV show theme song?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cool as a Cucumber with a Therapeutic Spa Treatment from Verabella

Hey--it's been a tough week! Sweltering weather, job drama, traffic, bills...Fortunately I had the opportunity to take a two hour mini vacation from it all with a salon treatment courtesy of Verabella. The name comes from the Russian word for truth "vera," and the Italian word for beauty, "bella." Together Verabella means "truly beautiful" and, from the ambiance of the surroundings to the therapeutic treatments, that's exactly what owner and skin care expert Vera Kantor strives to impart to her clientèle.

The salon boasts a number of treatments to pamper your body and soul--but their facials are both classically European and individualistically unique. Using natural and almost edible ingredients, you have your choice of the decadence of the Champagne and Caviar facial (a favorite of Mrs. Denzel Washington!), the romance of the Rose and Chocolate facial or the soothing and calming Cool as a Cucumber facial--which was the exquisite treat I got to experience!

In the gentle yet thorough hands of aesthestician Dana Waldie, I had my skin cleansed followed by a mild exfoliation with a yogurt-based mask. The lactic acid in the yogurt provides a non-irritating way to slough off dead skin cells. After cleansing my skin again, Dana massaged lotion into my skin--toning and conditioning and encouraging circulation, as well as kneading the kinks out of my neck and shoulders. Aaaahhh! Bliss...

Lest I get too relaxed, the awesome massage was followed by a meticulous session of extractions. Not my favorite part of the treatment--but Dana competently and quickly cleaned out my clogged pores with surgical precision. After finishing that task, she soothed my skin with a gel containing cooling aloe vera and natural antiseptic tea tree oil. What a brilliant concept! Aloe vera and tea tree oil in a healing gel! All this preparation was the prelude to the main event: the facial mask. A oxygenating combination of cucumbers, lemon and parsley to supply minerals, nutrients and bio-flavonoids to the skin. A perfect antidote for summer overload as it soothes and rejuvenates sunburned-fatigued skin, helps detoxify and lighten hyper-pigmentation, creating a youthful and more even complexion.

Dana massaged my hands with lotion and put them in a pair of warming gloves. Then she let me drift off into dreamland while the mask did its magic. After a 15 minute nap that felt like a full night's sleep, she placed warm towels on my face to remove the mask. A splash of toner, a dab of Citrus Sorbet moisturizer and a coat of Verabella's exclusive new sunscreen and I was good to go! My skin looks AWESOME--like I've been on a two-week spa retreat in the space of two hours! Relaxed, refreshed, restored. Troubles forgotten. Job--what job?

Verabella is a favorite among celebs like Zooey and Emily Deschanel, Catherine Keener, Lisa Kudrow, Diane Lane and Nicole Ritchie. And after experiencing the gracious and generous care of mother-daughter team Vera Kantor and Victoria Bondar-Gael along with the skillful and attentive work of aesthetician Dana Waldie, it's easy to see why. I may not be a Hollywood star, but the people at Verabella sure made me feel like one!

For incredible gourmet facials, advanced skin therapy, waxing or making the most of your lashes and brows, check out Verabella at 301 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, (310) 278-4733.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping It Real

The Washington Post had an interesting article about product placement on TV being targeted by the FCC. According to the article,

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said product placements and integration into story lines have increased as television viewers increasingly use recording devices like TiVo and DVRs to fast forward through commercials. Currently, agency's rules require television programmers to disclose sponsors who have embedded products into shows. Those disclosures typically are done during the credits at the end of the show, which fly by viewers in small script.

"We want to make sure consumers understand and are aware that they are being advertised to," said Martin, who first pushed to clarify disclosure rules last fall. "We ask how we should update our rules to reflect current trends in the industry."
Interesting. Of course some of the product placement is so blatant (the recent My Name is Earl episode which featured Earl's now ex-wife Billie taunting Randy as to what he would do for a Klondike bar. Yeeeshh!), it hardly qualifies as subliminal. But given that a pair of designer jeans or cute pair of shoes worn by Carrie Bradshaw can cause a feeding frenzy, it's little wonder the issue is receiving attention. I know quite a few people who would be ecstatic to know that the pretty necklace worn by Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives was made by Adina or Me & Ro. Coincidentally, John August recently had a blog post about this very issue.

Which then begs the question--was the movie Lars and the Real Girl nothing more than a 106 minute long commercial for the EMA or Eternal Maiden Actualization, the 15 inch, battery-powered robot girlfriend made in Japan? I first stumbled across news of the creation by Sega Toys in a post on Emil Steiner's OFF/beat where he reports that in addition to $175 plastic girlfriend (and you have to admit--that ends up being cheaper than some dates!) scientists are developing a spray-on drug using oxytocin to alleviate shyness.

Not surprising since we have a pill to cure everything. Although it starts to get questionable after while and you wonder if that confident, upbeat, virile guy with the nice head of hair you're dating is a great catch--or a walking advertisement for Prozac, Viagra and Rogaine. Guys, on the other hand, can take heart in knowing that there's at least one positive piece news about the mortgage and credit crisis: cosmetic surgery procedures are down. So they, in fact, may really be real AND spectacular!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

War, Inc.

After reading John Cusack's online discussion at, I was intrigued to see his movie, War, Inc., so I set off to a local second run theater where for the price of $5.00 I could watch the satirical spoof on the new mercenaries of war--American corporations.

At Moviefone, the flick was rated a mere two stars by the critics--but five out of five by the fans. Turns out the movie is somewhere in between. It's a bit of a mess with attempts to be outlandish, outrageous and over-the-top giving the serious subject matter a muffled and muddled telling. Although wildly uneven and fitfully entertaining, I found myself enjoying the movie more despite myself as it got deeper into the story and the characters. But I also found myself wondering how this comic diatribe on the commercialization of tragedy could have worked better.

It seemed to me that in trying to point out the absurdity of outsourcing war efforts--the inherent conflict of interest and lack of motivation for striving for peace--the filmmakers overdid it. With running gags about hot sauce, gift bags, advertising and even a know-it-all GPS system (voiced by Montel Williams), the writers (one of whom was star and producer Cusack) overload the satirical story with everything but the kitchen sink. In an interview, Cusack says of the film's intent:

"When you realize this is the most privatized war in modern history, and that within this Republican ideology, literally everything, every core function of state, is to be turned into a for-profit entrepreneurial opportunity then we're through the looking glass and the nightmare is real. There is no function of the state they don't want to turn into a business. Once you have opened up prisoner interrogation, wiretapping, border patrol, jailing and the services of the military, when this has been turned into a for-profit business in this endless war, then we're in deep trouble."
It's a noble sentiment--and ripe for satirizing--but instead of concentrating their efforts on this hugely important issue, the writers also choose to poke at pop-tart pop stars and wannabe rappers, rampant commercialization, trade shows and expos, Hummers and navigation systems, fast food and power bars and the ubiquitous Hollywood gift bag. Throw in a sly homage to gratuitous hyper-violent Tarantino-esque flicks and you've got a movie bogged down by the weight of its own parody. The film tries too hard to be absurd and it tries too hard to be smart. There's a big difference between smart dialogue--witty banter that sounds off the cuff and spontaneous--and intellectual dialogue which sounds like it was painstakingly written and re-written as an agenda-making speech. The repartee between Cusack and Tomei's character is supposed to be smart and witty, but is dry, dull, professor-lecturing intellectual.

This isn't to say that War, Inc. wasn't entertaining. It certainly had its moments. Cusack plays Brand Hauser, a tormented hired assassin whose cover for his latest assignment is a trade show director in war torn Turaqistan. It's a decidedly similar role to his angst ridden hitman in Grosse Point Blank. His intended target, Omar Sharif (Lyubomir Neikov), is actually one of the most likable and intelligent characters in the movie. For some inexplicable reason, even though I could understand the actor completely, the filmmakers decided to subtitle all of Omar's speeches. Now I can forgive Hillary Duff's uneven Middle Eastern accent and Ben Kingsley's horrific miscasting as Hauser's ex-boss, or an unfunny Dan Aykroyd as the Vice President or the lame pseudo-therapist GPS guy, but one of Omar's subtitles had him referring to "with it's celebration of life..."

Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh! "Its" not "it's"! "It's" is always the contraction of it + is. "It's" = "It is." It's (note proper usage!) bad enough that they felt the need to use subtitles for an actor speaking perfectly understandable English--but then to make such an egregious error! Now, that's a TRAVESTY!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Every Day is Ditch Day

My blogging buddy Elisabeth did a guest post about her love of guided tours. Her obsession dates way back:

"I was the child whose heart filled with glee knowing that her fifth grade class was going on a field trip to Mrs. Baird’s Bread Factory. It wasn’t for the free cupcakes at the end; it was for the tidbits about bread making gleaned from three hours in a doughy smelling factory."
That's so adorable! I, however, was the child who was filled with glee knowing that a field trip or special assembly was the perfect excuse to skip school--with my mother's permission.

Okay, I didn't skip in fifth grade. My loathing of school didn't begin until Junior High. Back then I would PRAY to get sick--even going as far as to sneak out onto our snow-covered back porch in the dead of night hoping to catch walking pneumonia, bronchitis or even a head cold. Unfortunately, I was disgustingly healthy all winter.

So on to Plan B--malingering. This involved sitting at the edge of my parents bed, with my Mom semi-conscious, reciting a litany of symptoms that would prohibit me from attending school that day:

Scratchy throat
Scratchy eyes
Achy joints
Chapped lips
A hangnail

My mom's usual response was to go to school, I'd feel better as the day went on. I argued that I would NOT feel better and after fifteen minutes of wheedling I got what passed for approval--a mumbled "Whatever" as my mom dismissed me and went back to sleep.

Oh, joy! There's nothing better than staying home "sick" in your PJ's--watching soap operas on TV and eating my Dad's Ritz crackers with raspberry jam. Over time, I got more inspired in my malingering--first I avoided the whole waking Mom up ordeal by slipping notes detailing my symptoms under the door for her to find when she woke up. After a while I would alert her the night before that I would not be attending school the next day. Sometimes she knew I was going to be "sick" just by the fact that I stayed up past 10 pm watching a favorite show on TV. Other times I would just appear in the morning to a nonchalant reception of, "Oh--not going to school today?" And there were times when my mom asked me to take a sick day in order to babysit my little brother while she went out.

There wasn't much she could do about my skipping school--I was getting pretty much straight A's. And most times the days I picked to skip were days when I had few classes. We used to have assemblies at school that consisted of seeing a movie for four out of seven class periods. And these weren't historic or scientific or otherwise educational films. One time I skipped because they were showing What's Up Doc? starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal for the second time. My mom got snarky about writing my excuse: "What should I put down? You missed school because you'd already seen the movie?" Most times it was a standard and vague catch-all: "Stella missed class on [insert date here] because she wasn't feeling up to par." I hated that phrase "up to par"--it made me feel like a golf course.

I didn't skip ALL the movies--there were some good ones. I saw Bridge on the River Kwai in High School. That was a worthwhile use of four class periods. But I ended up skipping 20% of my Senior year. My mom figured it was my way of making school a bit more challenging. I got almost straight A's--I even got an A in gym class! Of course, we had the world's coolest gym teacher in Senior High. If you showed up and dressed for class, you pretty much could be guaranteed at least a B. I made up missed classes by jogging around the track or, in inclement weather, the teacher let me take marketing surveys which was her side job. I only got one B thanks to a bitchy French teacher who is the reason that I despise all things French. Except for French kissing, French toast and French's mustard. And Sephora, Catherine Deneuve and Renoir...

Hmmm--where was I? Oh, skip it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Blueberry Nights on DVD 7/1

Norah Jones made her acting debut in Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights and for an actress, she's a pretty good singer. Or so the saying goes. Jones is gorgeous to look at--as is Wong's dreamy tale of broken hearts and fresh starts--but her characterization of Elizabeth, a young woman who sets out on a journey to escape a relationship gone sour, is fairly flat. The camera loves Jones, but she is merely a reflection in the lens--a cipher, a witness and spectator to the events around her rather than an active and willing protagonist. She seems to sleepwalk through the film rather than propel the story forward.

Some of the fault lies in the script which seems to be a fluid, improvisational riff rather than a cohesive and coherent story. Basically, Elizabeth (Jones) suffers the breakdown of her relationship and finds some solace and blueberry pie in the company of a cafe owner named Jeremy(a scruffy but charming Jude Law). In an attempt to escape her broken heart, she travels to Memphis where she comes into contact with an alcoholic cop named Arnie (the always capable David Straitharn) and his estranged young wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz who seems to be doing Sue Ellen Ewing impression...). She then moves on to Nevada where she befriends Leslie (engagingly portrayed by Natalie Portman), a professional poker player with a cynical view of life. Eventually she ends up back in New York and into the arms of Jeremy who has patiently waited for her all this time. With such an exceptionally talented supporting cast, it's no wonder Ms. Jones comes off a bit wan in comparison.

The dreamlike quality of the story is emphasized through Wong's use of color and lights--and colored lights. He has a love of neon, reflections in mirrors, distortions through glass, the glow of a train as it passes in the night. The visual beauty along with the languorous soundtrack give the film a moody, atmospheric quality. If you're a fan of Wong Kar Wai's other works such as In the Mood for Love or 2046, you'll appreciate the impressionistic hyper-visual storytelling technique. It's certainly beautiful to look at, but it's more somnambulistic than sensuous and left me feeling detached and disconnected from the story and its characters.

The DVD is available on July 1st and also contains:

  • Making of featurette
  • Q&A interview with Wong Kar Wai
  • Stills
  • Trailers

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Blog Carnival stocks up at

I may not be an expert on vintage clothing or know how to perfectly accessorize with a pair of pretty earrings, but I do know drugstores. While others may while away hours in Sephora, I get the same "high" trolling the aisle of my local CVS. And what's better than the everything you need experience of shopping in a drugstore? Being able to get that experience without even leaving the house with

For this Blog Carnival outing, we're picking five can't live without beauty essentials we buy from Like Stevie I often purchase my vitamins and other supplements from them--but for this exercise we're focusing on beauty/personal care items. Here are mine:

1. Fallene Total Block Clear SPF 65 - Stevie turned me on to this heavy duty sunscreen years ago--perfect for protecting my skin against the California sun! I've tried other products but I keep coming back to this physical block formula which doesn't irritate or break out my sensitive skin (In fact, I find it really soothing! I think it's the zinc...), offers UVA/UVB protection at a high level of SPF. This sunscreen was formulated especially for sun sensitive individuals, so you know it will work! I especially like the fact that I can usually find it on sale at

2. Johnson's Pure Cotton Rounds - Yet another item that I can't seem to find anywhere else but at These are the perfect weight and texture for removing makeup or applying toner. I buy these in bulk because I use at least two every day. I've tried other brands but either they're not absorbent or break apart easily or leave wisps of cotton behind. These are the best--I cannot do without them!

3. Maybelline Full 'n Soft Mascara - Yet another product that I keep coming back to. Stevie listed Rimmel Volume Flash as one of her picks and I'm sorely tempted to check that one out. But I know for soft, non-clumpy color and definition I'll end up coming back to Full 'n Soft and wondering what I was thinking trying anything else...

4. Palmers Cocoa Butter Body Lotion - I slather this yummy smelling lotion over my body every morning. No wonder I seem to go through a bottle in only two weeks! In addition to keeping my skin nice and soft, I get compliments on the "perfume" I'm wearing! It smells like beach without being to overpowering or cloying. Buy the 13.5 oz. pump bottle for about $6--it's a great deal!

5. Crest Whitestrips Premium Plus - These always go on sale at so whenever I need to give my teeth a boost of whiteness, these are my weapon of choice. The extra strength formula works really fast and lasts up to eighteen months.

points out in her post that you can get free shipping for orders over $49--and that's a big incentive for me because I hate paying shipping costs! Sometimes runs promotions offering free shipping for orders of $25 and up--perfect for restocking when you only need a few items. I also like their "Your List" function which keeps track of everything you've ever ordered making it easier to reorder. It was tough to go through my very long list to cull only FIVE favorites for this list. The other cool thing is " dollars" which is a program where you earn cash back to apply to future purchases.

So that's my list. Check out Stevie's much more exotic picks (That's the great thing about have basic stuff AND specialty items!) as well. It will be interesting to see what the other Blog Carnival selections are as well...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Get Smart

In a summer overpopulated with stupid, silly comedies, Get Smart actually lives up to its title. To be sure, there's some slapstick and pratfalls but overall the laughs don't come as much from the gags and the gadgets but from characters themselves--and most of all from Steve Carell's winning performance as Maxwell Smart.

The movie is crammed full of funny actors. In addition to the main cast of Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin and Dwayne Johnson, we get Masi Oka (Heroes) and Nate Torrence (late of Studio 60) as a pair of techno-geeks, Ken Davitian (Borat) as the bad guy's henchman, stalwarts Larry Miller and Kevin Nealon as a pair of snarky CIA agents, Bill Murray as unlucky Agent 13, Patrick Warburton setting up a possible sequel with a brief appearance as Hymie and Bernie Kopell (the ORIGINAL Siegfried) popping up in a blink and you'll miss it cameo. Throw in James Caan, Terence Stamp and even Ryan Seacrest (thankfully, only his voice...) and you've got yourself quite a cast.

But the movie belongs to Steve Carell. As soon as I saw the teasers for this flick, I thought to myself "brilliant casting!" I wasn't so sure about Anne Hathaway, but she acquits herself nicely in the role of Agent 99. Carell, a gifted physical actor, could have skidded by with bumbling shtick, but he imbues Max with intelligence, humanity and empathy. In a scene where the Chief tells him he scored exceptionally high on his Field Agent exam, but that he cannot promote him because he's too good of an analyst, you can see the pain and hurt flicker across Carell's face. Despite the big action set pieces and the goofy gadgets, Carell plays Smart with (mostly) subtlety and finesse. This adaption of the famous TV series has been ten years in the making and way back when, Jim Carrey was attached to play the role of Maxwell Smart. I like Carrey, but what a mistake that would have been. Steve Carell is by far the smart choice to play Maxwell Smart.

This is a fun summer movie--enjoyable for the whole family. A nice combination of comedy, action and (would you believe?) earnest good-heartedness. I liked it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

John Cusack chats about War, Inc.

The Washington Post recently hosted an online chat featuring John Cusack talking about his latest movie, War, Inc. Perhaps "chat" isn't quite the right word for Cusack's intelligent, thoughtful and passionate discourse about the issue of war privatization and profiteering. During the discussion, Cusack offers this:

"Wars, occupations, disaster relief -- these are the new markets. To the neoconservatives, the state is the final Colonial frontier. Now they have taken that ideology to foreign policy and the making and exploitation of war. We have about 180,000 contractors versus 140,000 troops in Iraq, so when countries like Britain or Poland pull out of Iraq, they leave a vacuum that is replaced by mercenary soldiers, often from the same countries. Sometimes they are the same guys who switch from wearing a flag to a corporate logo."
One participant brought up Eisenhower's prescient warning, which he made almost 50 years during the era of the space race:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this, a modern brick school in more than 30 cities."
Cusack proved to lucid and literate--albeit not an expert typist! No matter...You should definitely check out the chat--and I think I might be making plans to check out War, Inc. next week...

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's happening with The Happening?

A post at Defamer points out that despite the overwhelmingly negative reviews, The Happening has made more than $70 million worldwide in seven days. With a production budget of only $60 million and still some box office gross to capture--not to mention future DVD sales and rentals, the somewhat disappointing latest entry from the director who, as one commenter on this blog pointed out, will forever be known as "the director of The Sixth Sense."

So why all the box office moolah for what is less than a worthy way to spend $10 and 1.5 hours of ones time? Here's my guesses:

1. Good movies don't always do good box office and vice versa. If they did, crap like 10,000 B.C. would never have grossed almost $100 million while the sweet, well-crafted confection of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day should have earned 10 times its $12 million.

2. The M. Night factor certainly played into it. Fans of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and perhaps Signs are still holding out hope that Shyamalan can get his act together and deliver another great movie. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer...

3. The final reason is perhaps the most likely of all: the genre. By shooting a horror movie, Shyamalan definitely deliver less for more. I'm not a big horror movie fan--too squeamish to watch all that blood. But while there are some really well-done movies in that genre--The Exorcist for example--most are schlock shock meant to fill an audience's taste for gore. And The Happening has gore galore. Not as much as say the Saw series, but there are enough grisly deaths to satisfy those who are entertained by pain.

Think about it: most horror movies are generally panned by critics, not noted for great acting, have implausible plots and predictable outcomes--and yet Hollywood keeps producing them because they're low budget and people flock to see them despite their badness. As far as the horror equation goes--if you kill it, they will come.

Russell Brand

The best thing about the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a couple of weeks ago. So funny...


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Passion - part IV

Previously I've written about my friend Jon, whose passion for his World War II documentary project is infectious. Along with my friend Hollie who doggedly is pursuing a career in acting and writing. Today, my focus on is on my yoga teacher, Jessa.

gave up a secure corporate job to follow her heart. Instead of sitting behind a desk all day, Jessa stays active. Not only with teaching and taking many yoga classes each week, but literally running her ass off. A four time marathoner, Jessa started a business to RUN (not walk!) dogs.

Pooch Pacers is her brainchild, which combines her love of dogs and running in growing business venture. The concept has been so successful, it was featured in Runner's World, the Los Angeles Business Journal and now Jessa is in the process of creating franchises in other locations.

I love taking Jessa's yoga class--her enthusiasm and upbeat personality and music selections make it fun! (Although her zeal for ab work and arm balances borders on the sadistic at times...) But what's really inspiring is how she managed to make a living doing something she loves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Keep Yer Shirt On!

I was reading a very funny article in the Washington Post this morning about the new ban at Nationals Park against guys going shirtless:

The Skins cover up all winter long and then consider it nothing short of an inalienable American right to ditch the polo when they think it makes sense. They're not lawless creatures; all but the most fringe of their ilk will wear a shirt into a store or on the subway. But in a small way, they're getting in touch with the part of every guy that thought "Lord of the Flies" was kind of cool, until, you know, everyone on that island started stabbing one another. The Skins recognize boundaries, but they can't fathom why the off-limits mark should include a place as public and rowdy as a stadium.
It made me remember a demonstration numerous years back where a bunch of women were protesting the disparity between how males and females are treated by taking their shirts off. Their reasoning: If it's good enough for the gander, it's good for the goose. My philosophy: Let's EVERYONE just keep your shirts on!

I think this should have been Fashion Tip #6--I can't believe I left it off the list! There are some venues where shirtlessness is appropriate--the beach, the pool, the pages of Playgirl magazine. In fact I stumbled across a blog dedicated to Shirtless Hunks. Unfortunately no Mark Cuban or Tom Bergeron (sorry Elisabeth!). But the average dude needs to keep it covered up.

I remember being out one lovely warm summer day only to have it spoiled by an elderly male jogger. It wasn't his stick figure legs or his knobby knees that got my attention, but the fact he was letting it all hang out--with a little pot belly that was the color and texture of cottage cheese. Ew, ew, ew!

Let's put it this way--unless you look like this:

You should keep your torso covered as much as possible.

Conversely, if you DO look like this:

Feel free to go shirtless as much as you want!

Catching up with the Keywords


1. Name of Hilda's Beauty Salon (Ugly Betty)?

Hilda's Beautilities.

2. Is Lilo the coach's wife (Ugly Betty)?

Hmmm, that would be a good plot twist. Lohan is scheduled for five episodes I think...Initially her character was a high school mean girl nemesis for Betty, but it would an interesting turn of events if she became Hilda's rival for Coach Diaz's affections.

3. Is Karen McCluskey (Desperate Housewives) gay?

Well, Karen had a husband, Gilbert, whose sudden death before he could update his legal and financial affairs caused her to keep him in the deep freeze which was revealed in the season three episode Liaisons. She was best friends with former female baseballer Ida Greenberg and now lives alone with Ida's cat, Toby. Does that make her gay? Does it matter if she is?

4. (Desperate Housewives) In what episode does Lynette realize Tom is having an affair?

At the end of season two, Lynette believes Tom is having an affair. Her suspicions are raised in Episode 21, I Know Things Now when Tom is fired due to some unauthorized expenses to Atlantic City. Secretly following him to Atlantic City in Episode 22 No One is Alone, she spies him in a house with a woman. Believing this is the "other woman," she walks out on Tom and takes the kids in Episode 23, Remember: part 1.

She finds that he has just reunited with the 12 year old daughter he never knew he had courtesy of a one night stand years before he was with Lynette in part 2 of the episode. No affair for Tom, but Lynette did have an emotional (but not physical) affair with hot chef Rick (Jason Gedrick) at the end of Season Three.

5. Darnell "Crabman" Turner (My Name is Earl) backstory?

Darnell, aka Harry Munroe, assumed his "Crabman" identity via the Witness Protection Program and was dropped off in Camden County to begin his new life:

Driver: And remember you can never be Harry Munroe again; you’re a totally new person.

Darnell: Do I still like cheese?

Driver: Not if you want to stay alive you don’t.

6. Why is LOST part 2 and 3 the same?

It was a two hour episode. The first hour was part TWO. The second hour was part THREE. OK?


1. Adam Sandler taking performance enhancing steroids?

Adam was bulked up for his part in You Don't Mess with the Zohan, but he looked more big than buff. Maybe it was from steroids, but it may just as well have been from hummus...

2. Clothing for You Don't Mess with the Zohan?

Costumes were designed by Ellen Lutter. (IMDB is your friend, people!)

3. Mary, Queen of Scots portrayed as dying young in Elizabeth: The Golden Age?

Mary Stewart was only 44 years old when she was executed by Elizabeth for treason. 44 is still young, isn't it? Samantha Morton, who portrayed the Scottish Queen, was only thirty--so I guess the film made it appear that Mary died very young. 44 still isn't old, though!

4. Movie with actress with cut on forehead screaming?

Dude, could you be more specific? You've just described just about every horror movie ever made and quite a number of non-horror flicks to boot...

5. Average salary for Oscar-worthy actress?

On one end of the scale, you have Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon who averages $15-20 million per film. Other the other end, Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated in 2004 for Maria Full of Grace. The film's budget was only $3.2 million total, so no doubt Moreno's Oscar-worthy salary is a fraction of Witherspoon's.


1. Where is Mika from?

If you mean the pop singer, he was born in Beirut, Lebanon and lives in London, England.
If you mean the MSNBC reporter, she is of Polish/Czech descent, but was born in New York City.

2. Novolog Flexpen biodegradable?

It's disposable, but it's made of plastic so it's not biodegradable.

3. Devil's Food Cake induces labor?

Really? I've never heard that. Whether it is or not, if you're overdue and in misery I say you deserve a nice big slice!

4. Sweat too much to work out at gym.

Excuses, excuses...

5. Light weight backpacking secrets revealed!

Um, wrong blog. I don't backpack (although I will go hiking on occasion) and I'm the world's worst over packer.

6. Funny costume of a possum?

Also, wrong blog. But maybe the light weight backpacker knows...

Really Random

1. wombat on a surfboard music (What IS this?)
2. untrimmed penis pictures (YIKES!)
3. real Indian porn actors (Would that be "Ballywood"?)
4. topless dental hygienists (There's something for everyone!)
5. slutty dental hygienists (You tell me: better or worse than a topless dental hygienist?)
6. Chocolate is not addictive to eat/am I addicted to chocolate? (No and Yes)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If you look like this, you can wear a Speedo

With heartfelt apologies to Rae's eyes, I submit this picture of a hunk-a-rific Daniel Craig (the only Bond I care about!) as a peace offering.

Feel better now?

Summer Fashion Tips for Men

The summer solstice is almost upon us and that means shorts, t-shirts and sandals! Miss Manners might give you the 411 about wearing white after Memorial Day, but I'm here to tell you about some fashion DON'Ts that will REALLY make you look stupid if you're caught wearing them:

1. Crocs - OK, can anyone explain these shoes to me? Did some marketing genius say to himself, "Hmmm--Let's design footwear made from ugly synthetic materials using garish colors in a clunky style that will make the hideous Jelly shoes of the 80s look good in comparison!" They have a storefront on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, but trust me--this does not make them fashionable! Crocs should never be worn by people over the age of twelve. And, unless your goal is to never get laid AGAIN, never by adult males.

2. Socks with sandals - People, the purpose of sandals is to let your feet BREATHE! Those white tube socks from the 70s completely counteract that as well as make you look like a doofus. If you really want to up the ante, try pairing those brown huaraches with a pair of BLACK socks. So hot! NOT.

3. Short shorts - The Nair girls can rock short shorts. The Rockettes can wear short shorts. Any male over the age of twelve should never ever ever wear shorts shorter than knee length (and for those of you with knobby knees, make that BELOW knee length!). Even the Washington Post Wise Guys agree with me here. Think Napoleon Dynamite. Yeesh!

4. Speedos - Unless you're rocking an Olympic caliber diver or swimmer's bod (and trust me--you are so NOT!), you should not be wearing a Speedo. Even hottie John Mayer can't pull off the look (although to be fair, the ball sac thong is a look NO-ONE could pull off!). The Speedo requires a hard six-pack--and the Miller Lite you're carrying does not qualify!

5. T-shirts - T-shirts are a staple of summer, but there's a time and place for the slogan t-shirt. T-shirts emblazoned with "Save a tree, eat a beaver," "If you lick them, they will come" and "Polygamy loves company" (OK, that one is really funny!) are fine for the beach and the boardwalk--not so cool at work (even on Casual Friday) or a first date. Even better is to eschew the slogan for a plain solid color t-shirt which says, "I'm an eloquent human being capable of conveying my thoughts and philosophies on life with parading around like a human bumper sticker!"

And speaking of T-shirts: Never, ever, ever tuck a t-shirt into your jeans. I know your Mom always told you to tuck your shirt in, but this is a case where it looks stupid. If, however, looking stupid is what you are going for then by all means tuck in the t-shirt and while you're at it, add a belt!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Tipping Point


A park bench overlooks the duck pond. Next to it, Billy
sits in his wheelchair--his legs covered with a blanket and
scarf tied around his neck. A short distance in the
background, Jeremy is purchasing a hot pretzel from a vendor
to feed the ducks.

Billy stares out at the pond. A small boy races by, almost
careening into Billy's wheelchair. He stops and stumbles
and starts to apologize but is taken aback by Billy's

He stutters and stalls and finally just runs off. Billy
stares after him.

Oh God. I now frighten small

Jeremy starts back towards the bench.

A young girl is cautiously approaching Billy. She is
hesitant, but not fearful. Billy notices her and tries to
shrink down to be less threatening.



She looks at Billy curiously.

Why are you in a wheelchair? Were
you in an accident?

No. I'm just very sick. It's hard
for me to walk.

I'm sorry. My grandma was in a
wheelchair. She fell down and broke
her hip. Now she lives with me and

Ah. And what's your name?


Jeremy has returned with pretzel in hand.

Elisa. That's a very pretty name.

Elisa looks down at her feet, blushing.

And you're a very pretty girl.

Thank you.

Elisa's MOM comes into view. She is not thrilled to see her
young daughter conversing with two strange men.

Elisa! Come here now--we have to be

(to Billy)
I have to go. Bye!

She runs off in the direction of her mother. Billy stares
after her.


He sighs.

I used to be pretty once...

Jeremy reaches out and gives Billy's shoulder a squeeze.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Happening

Say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan, the man definitely has a style and a vision and, as writer, director and producer of The Happening, the means to convey both. It wasn't surprising that his latest release has received a critical thrashing. He's been the popular whipping boy for movie critics since his breakout hit The Sixth Sense. Almost universally reviled with increasing disdain for not following up the plot twisty thriller with more of the same, Shyamalan pretty much proves one of the theses of his movie Unbreakable--we create heroes in order to destroy them.

I will agree with many people who admired the clever storytelling of The Sixth Sense. It's even better upon re-watching to see how carefully the shocking reveal is set-up. Unbreakable was a moody and dark piece that was less flashy and more thoughtful than its infamous predecessor. Signs almost perfectly captured the sense of dread and isolation in this War of the Worldish tale. Yeah, the ending was a bit lame--but so evocative and on point about our fear and need for information in the post 9/11 atmosphere.

The Village fell flat for me. Too many logical and logistical flaws for me. Maybe Shyamalan doesn't want to always be known as the "Prince of the Plot Twist" but why then devote an entirely tortured set-up just for a letdown of a payoff? Really--if I'm gonna isolate myself and my progeny from society to ensure safety, why is it necessary to dress in 17th century clothing and speak in "thee" and "thou"? And would it have been really so evil to have a stash of medical supplies on hand just in case? And if the village was started by like five or seven people in the 70s or 80s, where did the hundred or so other people come from?

Surprisingly, I didn't dislike Lady in the Water as much as the general population. I viewed it as an ode to storytelling and the storyteller with a fairytale quality that was carried off well thanks to the talented Paul Giamatti who plays a man who has lost all faith but learns to believe again through his chance meeting with a magical creature. If the audience could have managed to suspend their disbelief as Giamatti's Cleveland Heep regains his faith, perhaps they would have enjoyed the ride as well. If nothing else, the "creatures" by designer Crash McCreery were worth the price of a matinee ticket. The biggest downside for me was M. Night casting himself in the pivotal role of Vick Ran. Ugh! The man's a talented director but an AWFUL actor. He should limit his appearances to the blink and you'll miss it Hitchcockian cameos.

As far as The Happening goes--it's nowhere near as awful as the critics are making it out to be. It's not The Sixth Sense, but there are some terrifically creepy moments in this horror/eco-thriller. Shyamalan set out to make a B-movie and by doing so sacrificed some character development and emotional resonance with the brevity of film. Remember the opening of The Sixth Sense? We got Anna (Oliva Cross) creeped out by the cold wine cellar, the buzzed celebration of Malcolm (Bruce Willis) and Anna following his award ceremony, their coy and cute striptease in the bedroom only to be interrupted by the ghastly intrusion of Vincent (Donnie Wahlberg) naked in the bathroom? How amazingly elegant was that? We got exposition - Malcolm, a successful and dedicated child psychologist married to Anna; we got character development - the loving relationship between Malcolm and Anna, the deep sense of responsibility of Malcolm to his patients; we got atmosphere - the chill and creepiness of the wine cellar; we got action and drama - Vincent shooting Malcolm and turning the gun on himself; all in the first five minutes or so! Unfortunately there's nothing as elegant in The Happening--it really could have used a more eloquent set up before the horror story started.

In addition, there's a scene at the end that's reminiscent of the Hess Family huddled in the basement in Signs, yet where that scene had tension, emotional drama and depth, the scene in The Happening is fairly flat with little build-up of tension and drama. It's too bad that Shyamalan hasn't learned from his past good work to bring it forward into this piece. Had he included an elegant opening set-up as in The Sixth Sense and an emotionally charged ending scene like that in Signs, we might have seen a much better movie. This one felt like it needed a couple more drafts to really polish it up.

While Shyamalan's got a great sense of story and visuals, his dialogue tends to be clunky. (Following the screening this morning, I overheard two women talking in the bathroom and both agreed that the dialogue was stilted. Note to Night: If you need someone to polish up your dialogue, I'm available!) In one scene, Zooey Deschanel (LOVE her, but thought she was miscast here...) declares that she doesn't like talking about her feelings in public. Uh, but you just DID!!! There is, however, a nice moment of subtext with John Leguizamo's Julian, fraught with fear and anger, tells Deschanel's Alma, "Don't you dare take her hand unless you mean it!" But overall it's too stuffy, on the nose and forgettable.

Shyamalan does know when and where to insert a bit of comic relief ala Signs when Mel Gibson's character came home to find his two children and their uncle wearing tin foil hats on their heads to prevent the aliens from reading their minds. In The Happening he has Mark Wahlberg talking to a potted plant--which turns out to be plastic. Yes, it's the plants who are the bad guys as the film depicts an event where neurotoxins are released into the atmosphere causing the shutdown of the human survival instinct resulting in mass suicides. And while Paul Simon sang of Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover, there must be about the same number of ways to meet one's maker--each more gruesomely graphic than the next (I must admit--I couldn't begin to tell you all the ways Shyamalan came up with since I was looking at my hands during those scenes...).

It's an interesting premise, but it made me wonder--would the elimination of the survival instinct be likely to cause active, violent suicidal actions (guns and lawnmowers) or a more passive I don't care if I die reactions (falling off buildings and hangings)? In my opinion, the more passive suicides were far more creepy and chilling to behold (and less stomach turning as well...). The creepiest part of the movie, however, was Betty Buckley (Abby Bradford? Who KNEW?!!!) as a really cranky old lady. Seriously scary. Freaking AWESOME! The woman deserves a horror franchise (Grandma of Chucky?) of her own. Another good thing about the movie is Shyamalan, although credited with the role of "Joey," does not seem to appear (or if he does I did actually blink and miss him...) in it.

With an epilogue that both celebrates the tenacity of life as well as portends ecological doom, M. Night gives us both a happy (relatively speaking) ending and a strong warning as well. I wish a bit more of the havoc we as a planet are wreaking upon ourselves had been expressed. It's not one of the best movies I've seen (The Sixth Sense ranking up there among them...), but it's definitely not the worst either. I'd give it two and a half stars out of five--it falls short of being a solid, well-crafted piece. It falls well short of being as brilliant as The Sixth Sense. But with a projected opening weekend take of over $30 million, it seems quite a few people disregarded the negative reviews as well. Perhaps Shyamalan's next horror flick will be about movie critics choking to death as they're forced to eat their own words...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There is no "I" in "Team"

There is, however, "Me" in "Team."

And, while there may be no "I" in team, there is also:


Santa Monica - Everclear

You know this song actually inspired me to move to Santa Monica. I mean I was already planning on moving to Los Angeles, but the question was where--Hollywood, the Valley, Culver City. But as I shivered through an east coast winter, I would take heart in my imminent escape to the sunshine, clear skies and beaches (OK, more like sunburn, smog and traffic...) of my soon to be adopted hometown whenever I heard this song.

Then, after not hearing Santa Monica for forever, I heard it three times on the radio in the last week or so. It must be a sign. Just like the five white compact cars that drove through the intersection of Federal and Ohio the other day! Hmmm, maybe I am superstitious...

Santa Monica

I am still living with your ghost
Lonely and dreaming of the west coast
I don't want to be your downtime
I don't want to be your stupid game

With my big black boots and an old suitcase
I do believe Ill find myself a new place
I don't want to be the bad guy
I don't want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to see some palm trees
Go and try and shake away this disease

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

I am still dreaming of your face
Hungry and hollow for all the things you took away

I don't want to be your good time
I don't want to be your fall-back crutch anymore

I'll walk right out into a brand new day
Insane and rising in my own weird way
I don't want to be the bad guy

I don't want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to feel some sunshine
I just want to find some place to be alone

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

Friday, June 13, 2008

Living Online

I've come across a spate of great articles related to the internet lately. If you're reading this, then you (like me) spend a good deal of time online. The Washington Post had an article about how dependent we've become to accessing information online, that disabled power lines can be akin to being stranded on a desert island. I know I get antsy if I don't check my e-mail every hour at least!

And what would the internet be without Google? Slate wrote about the behemoth's dilemma regarding the whimsical changes to their homepage they make to celebrate things like Earth Day. Turns out they're damned if they do, damned if they don't...

Have you added Superpoke or Flixster to your Facebook page? Turns out that innocuous little ap may be exposing your personal data for all to see according to this article in the Washington Post.

Finally a great little piece in Slate about reading online and how writing has to change to accommodate it. Really good info for bloggers. The sum up?

* Bullet-points
* Lists
* Shorter sentences
* Highlighting text with bold or italics

Are You Superstitious?

Friday the Thirteenth. International Holiday of all things spooky, weird and warped. A day dedicated to papercuts, lost cellphones, fender-benders and other manifestations of bad luck. A day so evil they named a horror movie franchise after all. A day so dark M. Night Shyamalan released his latest critic feed frenzy fodder (The Happening) on it.

I don't put much stock in the inherent adversity of the thirteenth. Although while trying to compose this entry somehow Blogger (black?) magically posted it with only the title written. The Huffington Post has a piece about the thirteenth. Turns out, it's a much safer day than others--probably because most people decide to stay safe and snug in their beds rather than venture out and tempt misfortune.

I'm not really all that superstitious--although I often adjust my gait so as not to step on cracks in the sidewalk and coincidentally there did seem to be a period of less than stellar luck after I accidentally broke a mirror. But I actually like Friday the Thirteenth (the day, not the scary movie!), have no issues with walking under a ladder (although not with someone on it...), have never tossed salt over my shoulder or knocked on wood, and will black cats (any fuzzy creature actually!) to cross my path.

In fact, I'm getting ready for work now--at a place where a black cat resides. Maybe he'll cross my path and some of his luck will rub off on me...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's like a condom via cable...

NBC has a new reality series called Baby Borrowers--a so-called social experiment wherein teen couples get a taste of parenthood. While high school health class may have accomplished this with a doll programmed to cry every hour (or in a famously funny episode of Frasier, Niles practices with a sack of flour: "Oh the feedings every two hours. Constant monitoring where he is, I can see how parents can be obsessed with worry. Last night, I actually had a dream my flour sack was abducted and the kidnapper started sending me muffins in the mail."), NBC is using real live babies.

The advertising pitch for the show? "It's not TV, it's birth control."


If Supernanny, Nanny 911, My Super Sweet Sixteen or the bobble-headed Olsen twins on Full House haven't scared teens yet, I don't know how this show will.

Speaking of Righteous Bloggers...

I've stumbled across a few new (well, new to ME anyway!) blogs lately that I've taken a liking to and thought I'd take this opportunity to share with y'all:

1. Craigslist Blog - Whoohoo! Combines two of my favorite things--Craigslist and blogging! Started in March 2008 and written by CEO Jim Buckmaster, the blog features stats and metrics, selected Best of posts and news and updates regarding all things Craigslist.

2. L.A. Metblogs - According to their mission statement:

"Metroblogging started off as a more locally focused alternative news source in Los Angeles and has turned into the largest and fastest growing network of city-specific blogs on the Web...This idea didn’t stay in one city for long and before we knew it there were Metblogs in Chicago, Portland, Karachi, and Vienna. Today there are over 50 Metblogs in countries all over the world. Local politics, event reviews, lunch recommendations and ways to avoid that big traffic jam downtown. If it’s happening in our cities, we’re on it."
I stumbled upon this one as a result of a trackback when they linked to my post about going to see The Tonight Show with my brother, James. Just further proof of their awesomeness!

3. Seth Godin - I know, I know! I'm so behind the curve on this one. The well-known marketing guru waxes witty and wise on subjects ranging from customer service to personal finance to Danny DeVito.

4. Accordian Guy - I came across Joey deVilla's blog via Darren Rowse's de Villa (a self-proclaimed "Nerd Wrangler" for global blog network B5 Media) posts about local stuff (Toronto being "local" for him...), techie stuff and whatever strikes his fancy off-the-wall stuff. Prolific and consistent, with a terrificly warped sense of humor, the Accordion Guy hits all the right notes with me.

How about you? Any great blogs (including your own!) you'd like to share?

Low Tech Blogging

Before there were blogs, young girls kept a record of their thoughts, dreams and experiences in diaries. Perhaps one of the most famous of these hopeful diarists was Anne Frank, who was born on this day in 1929 and started her renown journaling on this day as well in 1942, at age 13.

Had she been born say fifty years later, I like to think she'd have been a righteous blogger!

Happy Birthday, Anne!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Netflix Quick Picks - Round Eight

It's been quite a while since Round Seven, so without further ado the movies I watched so you don't have to:

1. Idiocracy - You know, the title really kind of says it all. Some critic wrote about this being an underrated gem. I can't remember who, but that's good for him because if I do I'll hunt him down and kick him. This movie was such a waste of time that even typing about how much a waste of time it was is a waste of time. SKIP IT!

2. Once - Oh, the haters are gonna come after me now but I didn't really like this indie favorite. Even the Oscar winning song Falling Slowly left me underwhelmed:

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now

What the fuck does that MEAN?!!! The tune is pretty, but pretty much all of the songs are lyrical disasters and the alleged conceit of the film is that the music arcs the journey of the protagonists. Um, NOT! Still I did appreciate the filmmakers giving the story a more realistic instead of trite happy ending. Overall I have to say, Skip it.

3. Ira & Abby - Loved Jennifer Westfeldt in Kissing Jessica Stein which she co-wrote and co-starred with Heather Juergensen. In Ira & Abby Westfeldt ditches the neurotically perfectionist Jessica character for free-spirited, whimsical Abby and it really doesn't work. Playing the part of the uptight neurotic this time around is Chris Messina and he nails it. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out if the movie was a treatise on marriage and relationships, therapy and analysis or neurotics and the girls that love them. Lots of great cameos: Robert Klein, Judith Light, Fred Willard, Jason Alexander and Darrell Hammond but ultimately this movie was a dog. Chasing its tail. And going nowhere.

Skip it.

4. In the Valley of Elah - A war film about the horrifying aftershock type effects of war. Tommy Lee Jones essentially plays the same world weary and worn character he did in No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah basically portrays the same theme. It's about the struggle of an honorable man to come to grips with an increasingly chaotic world. Tommy Lee can do no wrong in my book (unless of course he signs up for Men in Black III...) so RENT IT!

5. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - I can't even begin to say how entranced by this book I was as a child. The film version, however, while staying fairly true to the book sucks out most of the charm. New Zealand as Narnia? I always imagined it more quaint and picturesque--like a classic line drawing illustration in a book of fairy tales. I love James McAvoy but his Mr. Tumnus just made me think he looked cold. Couldn't they have given him a waistcoat? It was disturbing seeing him walking around in the snow half naked...And what was up with that hideous dress Tilda Swinton was wearing? It was worse than the horrible Hefty bag she wore to last years Oscars! Skip it and read the book instead...

6. Music Within - This story of the man who helped create of the Americans with Disabilities Act was in theaters for all of five minutes last fall. Ron Gallagher plays Richard Pimentel, a hearing impaired veteran who makes it his mission to help veterans and the disabled find employment and to change the way Americans view those with disabilities. It was a bit uneven and I had problems with the fact the story evolves over 20-30 years and yet the characters don't appear to age. Hello? Make-up anyone? It's a small quibble for what is worthwhile viewing. Rent it.

7. Rocket Science - Filled with weird, quirky characters and yet never cloying or overdone. Much more engaging and heartfelt than the highly overrated Juno. "It's one of those two, love or revenge, I'm not really sure which one. But it's one of those two that made me throw a cello through somebody's window, so you figure it out." RENT IT!

8. Better Luck Tomorrow - Slow. Boring. Pointless. The story of overachieving Asian kids who get their kicks as they increasingly engage in more and more illicit activities lacks foundation, motivation or any sort of appeal. If you want a good kids gone wrong tale, rent the underrated Alpha Dog. If you want insight into Asian-American cultural issues, rent The Joy Luck Club. Perhaps someone will make a decent movie that combines both themes. This isn't it. Skip it!

9. Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth - This 2 DVD set is broken into six one hour interviews with Bill Moyer. I couldn't get past the second interview--I kept falling asleep! Great for insomniacs, not so good for those who want more than your basic, boring lecture. I did read Campbell's book (The Power of Myth), however, and found it much more engrossing. Life altering, in fact. So skip the DVD and read the book!

10. Weird Science - I was confused as to, between Real Genius and Weird Science, which was the cult classic. It's not Weird Science. This is a horribly juvenile and banal movie. I did love how the mid 80s computer technology was portrayed. Basically you were dealing with monochrome CRTs and "Pong" back then. Yet the computer graphics on a high school geek's computer would make a special effects programmer weep with joy today. So funny how little we understood about technology back then that it looked even plausible due to our ignorance. But I'm giving this stupid movie way too much credit. Skip it.

11. Real Genius - THIS was the cult classic and after viewing it I have one question:


Val Kilmer frantically races around as a genius slacker. Frantic slacker--how's that for an oxymoron? And moronic is exactly what this movie is. Oh, it has a couple of moments: the running gag where students in a math lecture increasing dissipate replaced with recorders until the lecture hall is filled with recorders--and a recording of the professor giving the lecture is quite smart and, while the set-up of the giant JiffyPop finale was lame, the payoff was pretty ingenious. But in a movie manically trying to be Animal House meets Revenge of the Nerds, there's very little ingenuity to spare. Skip it!

12. From Hell - I'm really into Johnny Depp these days but the stinker From Hell really ought to have stayed there. Depp sleepwalks through his role as a Scotland Yard Inspector investigating the Ripper murders and to be fair, he does portray an opium addict in the film. But it's still a lackluster performance and a strangely dull and predictable film given the salacious subject matter. At one point in the movie, Depp's character is having a conversation with a commanding officer and I know the next words out of his mouth will be, "With all due respect, sir..." And the next words out of his mouth? "With all due respect, sir..." There's no suspense--you know exactly who the next victim will be (I'm going out now to walk around in the London back alleys all alone now!!!) and even though there's an attempt to keep you guessing as to the killer's identity, there's a fairly obvious tip-off. I give the Hughes Brothers some credit for some unique stylistic choices, but they've made a slasher movie with no thrills or chills. Skip it.

13. Paths of Glory - Early Kubrick film recommended by my friend Dave. It was a decent telling of a story of military power and misuse thereof. I thought some of the shots and blocking odd given Kubrick's much vaunted visual sensibilities: the opening scene basically has two characters walking in a circle inside a French palace. I gave it a solid three (out of five) stars. If you like Kirk (Douglas) and Kubrick, rent it. Otherwise you're not missing much by skipping it.

14. Starter for 10 - This fairly innocuous but charming romantic comedy is thoroughly predictable. Hero meets two women: one smart and brunette, the other vapid and blonde. We know he will initially fall for the wrong one and ultimately end up with the right one (see Some Kind of Wonderful and others of that ilk...). He comes home for Christmas and walks in on his mum in the tub with a guy. Yeah, saw that coming too...He visits wrong woman and has an encounter with her naked parents in the kitchen (it sounds outlandish but trust me, it's so predictable...). He rushes to tell wrong woman of his love for her and finds she's hooked up with his best friend (Quelle surprise!!!). And yet, if just for the many diverse charms of James McAvoy and the soundtrack of killer 80s tunes, you should RENT IT!