Thursday, January 31, 2008

Netflix Quick Picks - Round 6

It's that time again! Get ready to update your Netflix queues as I tell you what's worth renting and what's eminently "skippable." Here goes:

1. Finding Neverland - I'm on a major Johnny Depp kick lately and this sweet tale of J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, was enchanting. Depp manages to portray the inner child of the man without crossing the fine line into creepiness. Rent it!

2. Moonlight Mile - Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon--how could you go wrong? Oh, I almost forgot--Ellen Pompeo who is just as drippy and dreary in this flick as she is on Grey's Anatomy. I can't remember much about this movie because it really didn't hold my attention. Skip it.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Goblet of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix - I'll just do one review for my Harry Potter marathon because essentially it's all the same movie. Harry is wizard is training at Hogwarts whose parents were killed by the evil Lord Voldemort and who escapes death and danger with the help of his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. All the movies are good--although not quite "great," but the latest installment--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--was by far the best. Rent them.

4. What's Eating Gilbert Grape? - Another excellent performance by the talented Johnny Depp, but Leonardo DiCaprio is simply amazing as Gilbert's mentally retarded younger brother. Now I may be on a Leonardo kick...Rent it.

5. Shine - I like Geoffrey Rush but had never seen his Academy Award winning performance of troubled piano genius David Helfgott. While Rush is quite good, he doesn't really appear in the movie (except for two brief scenes) until an hour into it. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the excellent Noah Taylor who portrays the young virtuoso during adolescence and specifically during the time of his abusive relationship with his father and his subsequent breakdown. So how is it that the Oscar-worthy Rush was awarded the prize for Taylor's performance? Still, it's worth a look. Rent it.

6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Many Wes Anderson fans were disappointed with this movie. Not me. I LOVED it! Perhaps not as much as Rushmore, but still--the colors, the music, the settings, the characters--pure Anderson. Wes Anderson movies always seem more like a party--a "Hey guys, let's put on a show!"--than high art. And this flick is no exception. Favorite cast members are back--Bill Murray (in an energetic and welcome change from his usual sad sack portrayals of late...), Owen Wilson and Anjelica Huston--and having a blast. The scene where Zissou and company run across an island armed with guns to rescue the "Bond Stooge" is priceless... Rent it!

7. The Tailor of Panama - Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis in an odd little political thriller. My copy was damaged, so I missed out on stuff. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. For Harry Potter fans, Daniel Radcliffe has a bit part and there's a lovely turn by Brendan Gleeson (aka Mad-Eye Moody) as a Panamanian rebel.

8. Whale Rider - There was a lot of buzz about this little indie film about a young Maori girl played by Keisha Castle-Hughes--who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at age 13. Castle-Hughes has an beautifully expressive face, but the movie's mostly scenery. Gorgeous New Zealand scenery, but scenery nonetheless. And you spend an hour and a half just waiting for the freaking whale ride. Skip it.

9. The Magdalene Sisters - Horrifically agonizing portrayal of Irish Catholic young women who were sent to asylums run by nuns as penitence for their sins. Two of the "sinners" portrayed in this film committed the heinous acts of being raped and being pretty. Absolutely shocking. And if the film isn't enough with its depiction of hypocrisy and cruelty by the Church, watch the documentary it was based on included as an extra with the DVD. Appalling. Rent it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hopefully the AMPTP doesn't know about this...

I'd hate to see the talented writers of my favorite shows replaced by monkeys. But I'm sure the greedy bastards of Big Media would do it if they could! (Although, it might be an improvement for Cavemen and Carpoolers. And even According to Jim...)

From Emil Steiner's OFF/Beat:

In the latest setback for aspiring writers, the world's oldest monkey has reportedly been offered a book deal. Cheeta the Chimp, who has stared in 12 Tarzan movies, worked with Bela Lugosi and even overcome an addiction to alcohol and cigars, will work with a ghostwriter to concoct a "funny, moving and searingly honest" autobiography. (Is James Frey available?) It remains unclear how much of Me Cheeta, due out this fall, will be written by the 75-year-old chimp, whose real name is Jiggs.
And I can't even get an agent!

Juno Soundtrack

From the moment the movie starts off with Barry Louis Polisar's All I Want Is while a line drawing animation of Juno swigging a gallon jug of Sunny D treks along the screen, you know this isn't your typical teen comedy. According to director Jason Reitman, the musical sound of the hit teen pregnancy movie came about while he was hanging out in his office with actress Ellen Page and casually asked her, "What kind of music do you think Juno listens to?" and without pause Page answered, "The Moldy Peaches."

When Reitman heard Anyone Else But You he immediately decided the song should be closing of the movie with Page and Cera performing the quirky duet. According to Reitman:

"This song, more than any other, defined the sound of the film: a patchwork of homemade sounds made by teenagers whose senses of humor and honesty rang through the crappy tape recorder they used to capture their chicken-scratch lyrics."
Co-creator of The Moldy Peaches, Kimya Dawson provides eight of the nineteen songs on the soundtrack--including Tire Swing, Loose Lips, So Nice So Smart and Tree Hugger--which all feature the raw, childlike vocals and lyrics and stripped down instrumentation of Anyone Else But You.

The soundtrack also features tracks by The Kinks (A Well Respected Man), Buddy Holly (Dearest), Sonic Youth (doing a moody and sensual cover of The Carpenter's Superstar), Mott the Hoople (All the Young Dudes) and The Velvet Underground (I'm Sticking with You). Also included on the soundtrack are songs by Belle & Sebastian, Antsy Pants and Cat Power doing a sultry cover of Sea of Love accompanied by a zither of all things!

The soundtrack is doing just as well as the movie, hitting number one on the Billboard Album Chart--making it the first number one album ever for distributor Rhino Records. A limited edition orange vinyl release is scheduled for February 18th along with a Juno ringtone--Ellen Page and Michael Cera's cover of The Moldy Peaches Anyone Else But You. I know for many people, the music was the best part of Juno and the soundtrack perfectly captures and enhances the quirky, offbeat sensibilities of the movie.

Found!

It's back! It's back! Well, almost anyway...But in advance of the eagerly anticipated return of LOST, ABC is re-airing last season's final episode which was the Best. Season. Finale. EVER!!! My favorite TV moment of 2007 was Hurley's dramatic entrance with the van. That actually might be my most favorite TV moment ever. I actually stood up and cheered...

What new surprises will this season hold? More information about the mysterious Jacob? Will the Losties join forces with their arch enemies the Others in order to fend off the other Others? Who will leave the island? Who will return to the island? Will Michael and Walt be back? And how about Libby, who figures in the backstories of both Hurley and Desmond--will we be seeing her again this season? And most importantly, who will get killed off this season?

Does Daniel Dae Kim's fairly recent DUI portend the imminent demise of his character Jin? Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse cited the fact the Charlie's character arc was complete as the justification for Dominic Monagham's dramatic departure. I hope that WAS the reason and not catering to all the Hobbit haters. I never had an issue with Charlie. Although I was mighty relieved when Paulo and Nikki were--in inimitable LOST fashion--"voted off" the island.

If the completion of the character arc is indeed the reason for killing off characters, then it would seem that Sawyer's time is just about up. After all, he accomplished his life long goal to kill the con man responsible for his father and mother's deaths. Before you go--"No, not Sawyer! He's way too hot!" keep in mind the writers killed off Boone early on in the series. I still mourn the loss of uber hottie Ian Somerhalder. All we know for sure is Kate and Jack don't die and do make it off the island.

As for the mysteries of the Island--the smoke monster, the Others, the Dharma initiative, time travel, healing properties, miscarriages, etc., I am content to enjoy the ride. I do think that a clue to the answers of many of the mysteries--the fact that wreckage of Flight 815 was found with no survivors, time travel, the healing properties and the pregnancy problems might be found in this Orchid Station Orientation video:



Cashmir effect? Doppelgangers? We've got 48 more episodes until all is revealed. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Cell Phone Woes

After getting a new cell phone and switching to T-Mobile, I thought my cell phone woes were over.

No such luck.

Induced by the sleek Motorola RAZR phone and the promise of rebates (which would more than offset T-Mobile's set-up fees...), I placed my order with Wirefly.com. Big mistake. My $50 T-Mobile/Motorola rebate was rejected by T-Mobile, because my phone had already received the rebate. Huh? I'm a new T-Mobile customer, it's a brand new (or so I was told) phone. How could it have already received the rebate?

After being shunted from one department to another when I called Wirefly to see what was up, I finally got someone from the Office of the President who told me to fax my info and he would get my rebate processed. So I did that. Waited a month and called back for a status report. "Oh, we sent that out a month ago." Um, no--you didn't. They checked again. It's been approved but all rebates are on hold right now. That was two months ago. Called again recently and was curtly told that all rebate payments are on hold with no estimate for when I could expect my check.

So I google "wirefly rebate scam" and come up with thousands of hits. Seems I'm one of many, many, many people who have been screwed over by this company. Wirefly aka In-phonics appears to be the Enron of the rebate world. I'm not pleased with T-Mobile either for associating with such a shady organization.

So buyer beware--do NOT buy from Wirefly!

My New Tattoo - part 2

Finally got a picture (courtesy of work buddy, Elizabeth!) of my latest tattoo. It's located on my right upper arm. It's still healing so it's still a little "peely."

I really like it!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Age is more than a state of mind!

Vindication! Finally proof that exercise helps fight aging! This article in the Washington Post reports on a study in Great Britain using 2,401 twins (hmmm...If they're twins, shouldn't that be an EVEN number?) and studied the telomeres of active vs. non-active participants. What's a telomere? According to the article:

"Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes -- the structures that carry genes. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. When telomeres get too short, cells can no longer divide. Scientists believe that aging occurs as more and more cells reach the end of their telomeres and die -- muscles weaken, skin wrinkles, eyesight and hearing fade, organs fail and thinking clouds."
Apparently, the more active a person is, the longer their telomeres. Does that sound like a gymrat pickup line or what? "Hey, baby--check out the length of my telomeres!" The article goes on to say:
"The length of the twins' telomeres was directly related to their activity levels, the researchers found. Those who did moderate amount of exercise -- about 100 minutes a week of activity such as tennis, swimming or running -- had telomeres that on average looked like those of someone about five or six years younger than those who did the least -- about 16 minutes a week. Those who did the most -- doing about three hours a week of moderate to vigorous activity -- had telomeres that appeared to be about nine years younger than those who did the least."
Now I don't feel so bad about hacking a decade off when I punch my "age" into the elliptical fitness trainer at the gym. Judging my the length of my telomeres, I'm hardly even lying...

The thing about Facebook...

I like to say Facebook is MySpace on crack. MySpace... Yeah, that's so last year people! You need to be on Facebook playing movie trivia and Superpokin' friends.

The great thing about Facebook is it lets your friend keep track of what you're up to--via posted pictures, links, reviews, etc. You can even track what trivia challenges your friends have taken, friends they've added and even wall posts they've left for others. And that's the problem with Facebook as well.

For example, I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago and Facebook alerted my "friends" to that fact. Some of my Facebook friends sent me birthday greetings. But some did not. No big deal-- except one of the people who couldn't be bothered to acknowledge my birthday even by throwing cake at me (it's a SuperPoke thing...), is someone I've known for EIGHT years. In real life--not just virtually. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Facebook allows me to see she just wished four of her Facebook friends a "Happy Birthday!"

Sometimes ignorance is bliss...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

King of California Soundtrack

The soundtrack for the movie King of California has an interesting genesis. Two years before writer/director Mike Cahill even got funding for his offbeat father/daughter treasure hunting fable, he and composer David Robbins (brother of actor Tim Robbins) started brainstorming on the soundtrack.

Said Robbins about the experience:

"I rarely get the chance to work with a director this early on in the movie making process, and with as much musical savvy as Mike, and let me tell you, it was a treat."
This just goes to show how integral the music is to the telling of tale of Charlie and Miranda. Robbins incorporates ukulele, banjo, accordion, musical saw and whistling to create a unique sound. In addition to the variety of instrumentation, there is a diversity of styles among the 19 tracks. Some of the pieces hearken back to the wild, wild west with a twangy cowboy feel while other are infused with a mariachi beat. Robbins collaborated with Jolie Hollard who wrote the lyrics and sings the song Flood of Dreams. Other than the spicy Malambo No. 1 performed by Yma Sumac and the mournful Zari Ritual Lamentation performed by the Lileh Choir of Dmanisi, the soundtrack is all original music by David Robbins.

According to writer/director Mike Cahill:
"Dave and I were working on this thing long before there was even the possibility of being able to record it, or to shoot the images that the music would accompany. My happiest memories of King of California are these: two guys without jobs talking about the music they love, and would love to make."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Earth Science Skin Care

As I've mentioned before, I am a skin care junkie. My new obsession--in addition to finding products that are effective and affordable and simple--is skin care with ingredients that won't harm my skin. I think I may have fulfilled all my requirements with the Earth Science skin care.

Although "earth science" conjures up thoughts of geology and oceanography, it's also an apt name for a line of skin care that incorporates natural ingredients, environmentally safe products with NO ANIMAL TESTING at down to earth prices! Earth Science features face, body, hair, anti-aging and men products free of irritants, soaps, petroleum, toxins, heavy metals, artificial colors, animal ingredients or parabens. That's what you WON'T find in Earth Science products--what you WILL find is high quality ingredients such as sea kelp, avocado oil, gingko biloba, green tea, ginseng, papaya enzymes, bamboo oil and other effective natural ingredients. The Earth Science motto is "Extraordinary results come from extraordinary ingredients" and checking the product labels, you can see the ingredients are impressive.

I happened upon the Face line at Longs Drugstore. I liked the simple packaging with the bright and inviting colors. I bought the A-D-E Creamy Cleanser, Aloe Vera Complexion Toner and Freshener and Almond Aloe Moisturizer. The cleanser is definitely creamy--but it effectively cleanses my skin without stripping it. It leaves it feeling soothed and soft. I love the faintly herbal medicinal smell, too! I follow up with the Aloe Vera Toner which also is non-drying. But my very favorite product is the Almond Aloe Moisturizer. It hydrates my skin without leaving a greasy film. And it has helped calm and protect an patch of skin that has this weird flaky rashy thing going on. Seriously, this has helped improve my skin immensely.

I've also checked out the Azulene Eye Treatment which, as its name suggests, contains azulene which is a German blue chamomile that helps fight puffiness and dark circles. It's very emollient, but sinks into the skin easily. The Papaya Glycolic Skin Peel is a mask that, like the A-D-E Creamy Cleanser, has a slightly herbal medicinal scent but exfoliates without the usual acid stinging. I also like the A/B Hydroxy Night Rejuvenator which combines alpha and beta hydroxy acids along with anti-oxidants like green tea to smooth and even out your skin.

For people with oily, acne-prone skin, the face line also has a Clarifying Facial Wash and Clarifying Herbal Astringent as well as an Apricot Facial Scrub and Mint Tingle Masque to help keep skin clear and blemish free. Rounding out the Face line is an Herbal Tonic Mist, Apricot Night Creme, Placentagen Eye and Throat Creme, Ginsium-C Skin Lightening Creme and Chamomile and Green Tea Eye Makeup Remover.

I also got the opportunity to test some products from the Anti-aging line. The Beta-Ginseng Whipped Creme Cleanser is a thick, rich cream that foams into a lightly scented gentle lather. It also leaves the skin clean without stripping it dry. A lovely cleanser, although I still prefer the A-D-E Creamy Cleanser overall. The Beta-Ginseng Nutrient Toning Elixir contains beta-carotene, seaweed, vitamin E, wild ginseng, green tea and gingko biloba. It's very soothing and refreshing.

The Beta-Ginseng Hydrating Day Creme incorporates extra moisturizing ingredients squalane and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and protect skin. Very rich and soothing--but I still like the Almond Aloe Moisturizer better. The Anti-aging line also includes a Beta-Ginseng Cellagen Renewal Serum which contains 25% hyaluronic acid to plump up epidermal cells.
In addition, Earth Science has a Body care line which features natural deodorants and body lotions, a Hair care line with a variety of shampoos and conditioners and a Men's line which includes several different shaving products.

In addition to their non-toxic, environmentally friendly ingredients, Earth Science products are friendly to your wallet as well. Most of their products cost less than $10 for a generous sized bottle. You really can't beat that! You can find Earth Science at Longs Drugs, WholeFoods, Wild Oats and online at Earth Essentials.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poems to Go

Sometimes on my way to my one job, I see a grizzled black guy on the corner of Bundy and San Vicente in Brentwood. He holds up a crudely lettered sign on a piece of cardboard which reads "Poems to Go." This makes me smile every time I see him, so today I waved him over. He gave me a poem, typewritten on a single sheet of paper. I gave him five bucks which he seemed surprised and gratified to receive.

The poem is called "Go For Gold" and uses an extended metaphor of the Olympics to promote the idea of exercising our souls as it were. A simple A B C B rhyme scheme and Hallmark style platitudes. Let's just say Maya Angelou has nothing to worry about. But still I admire Wendall Brown aka the Poems to Go guy. This world can use all the poetry it can get.

Ugly Betty - It's All Relative

Between Amanda attempts to connect with her biological father (Gene Simmons of KISS), Daniel and Alexis trying to keep newly freed mother Claire out of their hair and Wilhelmina's backbiting with her younger sister, we got a "family-style" Ugly Betty last night. Gabrielle Union joined the cast last night playing Willie's sweet baby sister Renee (or is that RHONDA?) who hooks up with Daniel just to piss Willie off--only to discover later that she actually digs the editor of Mode.

It appears Renee/Rhonda has a secret just as her sister Wilhelmina/Wanda does and Christina just might be the one to discover it. While waiting out the implantation incubation at Chez Willie, Christina is in a position to overhear a lot of dirt. Wonder how long it will take for her to find out that she's carrying the Meade heir? Daniel discovered that his new hook-up was related to evil incarnate when he accidentally happened upon Willie in the shower the morning after. After overcoming reservations about having any thing to do with her (with help from Betty who points out how different he and Alexis are and she and Hilda are), Daniel decides to go for it--much to Willie's chagrin. She warns him he will regret dating Renee--and I think she may be right. It's quite possible that Renee/Rhonda is even more evil than Wilhelmina/Wanda.

Meanwhile, Daniel is at wits end with Claire who has crashed his bachelor pad and is wreaking havoc on his life--love and otherwise. He and Alexis start cooking up ideas to keep their bored and lonely mother occupied. Claire, however, comes up with her own plan--a magazine aimed at women her age called "Hot Flash." She sets off to get her new magazine up and running over her children's objections. That should be interesting...

Betty begs for and is given her first writing assignment by Daniel--to interview author Phil Roth. Betty is ecstatic thinking she's about to meet the Pulitzer prize winning writer, but instead of Philip Roth it is Phil Roth--writer of pickup artist books. "Men want to get laid. I want to help them," the sleazy scribe tells her. He demonstrates the EK technique (esteem-killing) on Amanda--which totally works. Betty is disgusted and writes an article about Hilda's new beauty business instead. Daniel pulls her off the story, using the EK technique which causes Betty to insist she can be open-minded and write the article.

She and Henry read Roth's book together and she becomes more incensed at the techniques proscribed. The basic premise is that by insulting women, you shift the balance of power in your favor. "Genius!" exclaims Henry. "What?!!!" says Betty. "Heinous." Henry quickly replies. Betty and Henry decide the best way to judge the book is to test out the techniques on real women, so Betty enlists the aid of Gio. But while Gio is plotting his moves, Henry swoops in and gets the phone number of a hot blonde using the book's method. Then it becomes a competition between Henry and Gio as to who can get the most numbers. "You have an amazing face. Your doctor did an amazing job!" Henry tells one unsuspecting target. At the end of the evening, Gio has scored 6 numbers, but Henry wins with 7.

This upsets Betty--but Henry explains that it was his ongoing competition with Gio that drove him. And that the way Betty felt about all the phone numbers he got is the way he feels every time he sees Betty with Gio. Betty promises to not see Gio--even though it means giving up his delicious chicken salad. "You will learn to make chicken salad!" she tells Henry. She also discovers that Daniel set her up to write the article, but he explains he did it to make her step outside the comfort zone--and it worked because she wrote a great story. Unfortunately, it won't get run in Mode because while Alex dug Phil Roth's stuff, Alexis thinks he's a pig and pulled the story.

Finally, Amanda has hit a dead end with trying to reach out to her Daddy. Marc suggests she appeal to him through music--write and sing a song for him. Amanda writes a song about her search for her dad which brings tears to Marc's eye as he tells her, "I can only hope one day I'll have an illegitimate daughter who'll sing me a song that's that beautiful!" Now all Amanda needs is a band to help her record her song, while the band Henry manages is in search of a singer. So the two come together for the debut performance with Marc calming the nervous Amanda by saying, "Except for your voice, you're a great singer!"

As Amanda belts out her ballad to Daddy, Gene Simmons shows up in the audience and is duly impressed by his new found daughter's efforts. An amazed Amanda runs up to him after the performance and asks how he knew about the show. "I google myself every morning." replies the rocker. "Me too!" says Amanda. And the reunited twosome exit to catch up leaving Henry's band without a singer. So Betty and Henry jump in to perform an annoyingly cute rendition of the rap version of "It Takes Two."

This is the last original episode until the writers strike gets settled. Let's pray that the informal talks are going well...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cloverfield

We saw this at Grauman's Chinese Theatre last night. The iconic Hollywood landmark is the perfect venue for this special effects laden horror movie. Unfortunately the film didn't quite live up to the auspicious screen on which it was projected. There seems to be two trains of thought when it comes to Cloverfield: one that it is AWESOME, the other that it's awful.

I actually sit between the two camps.

Cloverfield is a monster movie plain and simple. It is shot as if it were "found" footage ala The Blair Witch Project--ostensibly the digital camera of one of the characters in the story. Many people found the shaky camera work off putting. It even made some viewers nauseous--my friend Teri walked out after ten minutes. It didn't bother me. My brother and I debated the technique and I felt it did add immediacy and intimacy to the story.

At 84 minutes, Cloverfield pretty much races along--after the 20 minute long set up anyway. And this is perhaps its biggest flaw in my opinion. Another 15 minutes wouldn't have made the audience squirm in boredom (hell, if they can sit through over three hours of Lord of the Rings, they can hang in for a 2 hours monster movie!) and would have helped with character development and pacing. The only character development we get is the opening setup where the exposition of who's who and what's what is laid out for us in an unimaginative fashion during a going away party being thrown for one of the lead characters. Wouldn't it have been more effective for the amateur videographer to eavesdrop on conversations rather than forcing contrived testimonials? Wouldn't we as the audience have learned more from the unguarded moments?

By giving the film more time to develop the characters--even as they're on the run from the monster--we would have been able to form more of a connection with them and cared whether or not they survived. The pacing was full throttle once the monster shows up on the scene--by inserting moments of reprieve, we could have had time to get to know the heroes as well as time to develop tension and suspense. Think of a rollercoaster climbing up the track slowly--and then releasing into a freefall down the hill, only to repeat the process again. Those climbs, or building of tension, is what allows us to feel the cathartic rush of being scared. There were few builds in Cloverfield and thus, it just wasn't all that scary.

There were a lot of complaints that we don't get to see the monster. Please--there were plenty of shots of the monster. Those who didn't see the monster probably were actually scared and had their eyes shut. Although there really wasn't much that was scary. I thought I Am Legend and The Orphanage were much scarier than Cloverfield. And No Country for Old Man did a much better job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. Beyond the too short running time, lack of character development and general absence of tension and scariness, I had some other issues with Cloverfield:

1. Why poor NYC AGAIN?!!! The beginning scenes of the monster attack looked eerily reminiscent of 9/11--a bit too close for comfort for me. Hasn't the Big Apple suffered enough? It's been subjected to stompings by Godzilla, King Kong commandeering the Empire State Building and overrun by vampire/zombies in I Am Legend. Enough is enough! Pick on some other American city for a change--like Boise, Idaho or Butte, Montana...

2. Personally if a skyscraper sized monster was breathing down my neck, I doubt I'd be wasting time filming it. I'd be getting my ass the hell out of there!

3. The monster was big, but Manhattan is still bigger. So how is it that wherever our heroes ended up, the monster was right there with them? I'm not an expert in monster psychology, but if I just stomped through midtown, knocking over building and leaving death and destruction in my wake, I'd move on to greener pastures. What's the fun of stomping over something you've just destroyed? It's like trying to pop bubblewrap twice. And why is the monster so pissed off anyway? He/she almost seems premeditated and vindicative. Maybe he/she wasted $7.50 on Alvin and the Chipmunks...

4. Two of the male leads and two of the female leads were so similar in physical appearance, it was confusing. (Although to be fair, the male leads were supposed to be brothers...) Add the shaky, blurry camera work and it took me a while to figure out who was who...

5. Lack of resolution or explanation: origin of the monster, status of the monster, did Lily survive, etc., etc., etc. I don't mind ambiguous endings, but it seems too much was left hanging in this movie. For one, I'd love to know how the hell the head of the Statue of Liberty gets catapulted all the way from Staten Island into the middle of downtown (or maybe it was uptown...) . From what I saw, the monster had those stunted dinosaur arms. Not like he/she could be expected to heave a Hail Mary into the middle of Manhattan...

Interesting premise, incomplete execution.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beaten by the rain...

My luck finally ran out today as far as the weather goes. Although the day started out just cool and gray, the rain went from a smattering to a spattering to an all out monsoon.

While James finished up his job, Connie and I went to the Hammer Museum. The Hammer has a tiny collection, but contains works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Rembrandt--among others. By the time we finished, James had finished and by 1:30 pm or so we were on the road to Hollywood.

We took the scenic route along Sunset and James and Connie were able to see some of the stunning mansions that line the route. As we past through West Hollywood, I pointed out Chateau Marmont--infamous for being the site of John Belushi's death. James is a huge Blues Brothers fan. We drove out to Beachwood Drive where Connie snapped a picture of the Hollywood sign. Then we headed back to the Hollywood and Vine area, where we stashed the car in a nearby parking garage.

Then it started raining a bit harder. We walked down Hollywood Blvd. and checked out the stars on the Walk of Fame as we headed to Skooby's which had been recommended by my friend Jack as having the best hot dogs in L.A. Then we walked over to Grauman's Chinese Theater to purchase movie tickets (review of Cloverfield coming soon...) and check out the hand prints and foot prints in the cement. We crossed the street to peer into the Roosevelt Hotel and had a drink in the lounge.

It was raining even harder when we wandered around Hollywood and Highland, so we took refuge in the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley while we waited for our showtime. Lucky Strike is a very hip yet casual, laid back place to hang. There's a dining area, a bar with an area with couch seating and then farther back are the bowling lanes. It was warm, friendly and not too noisy. Even if you don't want to bowl, it's a great place to chill.

We then braved the rain to see the movie. James was duly impressed by Grauman's decor, the large screen and the sound quality. After the movie, it was POURING!!! Neither James nor Connie brought an umbrella with them despite my telling them THREE TIMES that they were calling for rain in L.A. during their visit. Why we would bring an umbrella to L.A.? they asked. To keep you dry when it's raining outside, morons!

We ended up taking a cab back to the parking garage--but since the restaurant we were going to was only blocks away, it didn't seem to make sense to move the car and try to find another parking spot. So we dashed through the downpour and got to The Bowery which was recommended by my sister, Laurie. Laurie warned me that it could be crowded--and boy was it ever! And loud. We got a table and my friend Dave showed up to join us for dinner. James was sulky and sour due to the rain. As if I have any control over that!

We arrived back on the westside around 9:30 pm. James and Connie head back to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning. And no doubt the sun will return to Los Angeles as well.

If I Picked the Oscars

It's Oscar season and while the AMPAS has once again proven they have the attention spans of a gnat by nominating mainly films that were released in the last two months (nothing--absolutely NOTHING for the solid work of The Lookout...), some of my favorites did receive nods. It's likely to be quite an interesting race--and who know whether or not the show will go on due to the ongoing WGA strike. But whether or not there's a red carpet and 14 hour long telecast, there will always be predictions and opinions. Here are mine:

Best Picture

Atonement
Juno
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Of these, I felt that Juno, There Will Be Blood and Atonement were very good but overrated. Not surprised that the mindless Academy bought into the hype. But while Michael Clayton was top-notch, No Country for Old Men just blew me away. In my opinion, it's No Country for Old Men without a doubt.

Best Director

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Julian Schnabel
"Juno," Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton," Tony Gilroy
"No Country for Old Men," Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson

I've seen everything but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Again I feel Juno and There Will Be Blood were overrated--although admittedly the direction was outstanding. Still, my choice is the Coen Brothers and No Country for me. Personally, I think siblings who can work together without killing each other deserve an award just for that--much less making the best movie of 2007.

Best Actor

George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"

I only saw the first three and they were all were amazing performances. I'd love to see an Oscar nom for Tommy Lee Jones for his work in No Country for Old Men (but y'all probably guessed that!) and I adore George Clooney more and more every year, but when all is said and done, I'd give the Oscar to Johnny Depp for creating the torment and anguish of Sweeney Todd--and singing to boot!

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Again, I've only seen Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney and Ellen Page. Cate was excellent as always as Elizabeth I--but I have to say she didn't really bring anything new to the performance that we didn't see already in the first installment. Ellen has a long and successful career ahead of her, but the wisecracking Juno wasn't Oscar-worthy in my opinion. So I'd give the award to Laura Linney whose portrayal of an emotionally stunted woman who is forced to grow up when her estranged father is dying had the range and nuance of an Academy winning performance.

Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Yes, Casey Affleck was a revelation as Robert Ford and also did impressive work as the lead in Gone Baby Gone, Javier was the creepiest villain I've ever seen, Philip Seymour Hoffman is always impressive--although not so much in this role in Charlie Wilson's War and I didn't catch Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild. But before this category was even announced, I felt it was a dead heat between Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton and Jeff Daniels in The Lookout. Unfortunately, the Academy overlooked Daniels' amazing portrayal of a blind man who can see more than most people. So that makes it easy for me--Tom Wilkinson hands down. His opening voiceover against black screen is completely captivating.

Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

Of these, I've only seen the last three. Tilda Swinton was engrossing as the lawyer who loses her moral center--if indeed she ever had one, and Amy Ryan was a revelation as the drug addicted mother of a missing child, but Saoirse Ronan's chilling turn as a fanciful teenage girl who ruins the lives of two others with her careless falsehood was uniquely fantastic.

Adapted Screenplay

"Atonement", Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her", Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men", Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood", Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Again, I've seen three of the five. Atonement must have lost something in the adaption because the movie left me (a notorious weeper) cold. There Will Be Blood also was strangely lacking in emotional resonance. But No Country for Old Men was pitch perfect--a great balance of crackling dialogue, layered characters and brisk and engrossing action.

Original Screenplay

"Juno", Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl", Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton", Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille", Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages", Written by Tamara Jenkins

Out of the three I've seen, I thought Juno was smart and witty--but trying way too hard to be so, and The Savages was typical indie fare. Michael Clayton was crisp, engrossing and the sort of screenplay I wish I'd written.

Art Direction

"American Gangster": Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
"Atonement"Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Golden Compass": Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street": Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"There Will Be Blood": Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Let's call this one for Sweeney Todd which was amazing in every way in its attention to detail.

Cinematography

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", Roger Deakins
"Atonement", Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men", Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood", Robert Elswit

The exceptionally talented Roger Deakins has two shots at this award and he richly deserves it. His work on No Country for Old Men was exemplary, but The Assassination of Jesse James was high art. Either way, he should walk away with the Oscar.

Costume Design

"Across the Universe", Albert Wolsky
"Atonement", Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age", Alexandra Byrne
"La Vie en Rose", Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", Colleen Atwood

This belongs to Elizabeth: The Golden Age without a doubt. If any movie could be considered a "costume drama" it's this story of Elizabeth I. Almost as mesmerizing as performance or the yummy Cate Blanchett'sClive Owen was the gorgeous, sumptuous, luxurious wardrobe employed in the film.

Documentary

"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience"
"Sicko"
"Taxi to the Dark Side"
"War/Dance"

Admittedly, I've only seen Michael Moore's Sicko, but I love Michael Moore and I'd always give him the Oscar. Especially in this case with his illuminating look at the American Health Care Industry and the companies who profit from the pain and misery of others. This should be required viewing prior to the 2008 election.

Film Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum", Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild", Jay Cassidy"
"No Country for Old Men", Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood", Dylan Tichenor

I'd give this one to the on the edge of your seat thrill ride that was The Bourne Ultimatum.

Makeup

"La Vie en Rose", Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit", Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Norbit? Are you serious? Should anyone win an award for that piece of crap? Okay, rant over. My award goes to the amazing work on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Original Score

"Atonement", Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner", Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton", James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille", Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma", Marco Beltrami

I'd give this on to Dario Marianelli whose sweeping score even incorporated a typewriter to enhance the understanding of Briony's character.

Original Song

"Falling Slowly" from "Once", Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush", Nominees to be determined
"So Close" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Three noms for Enchanted. Well, in that case it would be surprising if Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz didn't walk away with an Oscar. If it were me, I'd give it to them for Happy Working Song. Absolutely hysterical in a sick and twisted way.

Sound Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum", Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men", Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille", Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood", Matthew Wood
"Transformers", Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Sound Mixing

"The Bourne Ultimatum": Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men": Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
"Ratatouille": Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma": Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
"Transformers": Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

I'd give the sound awards to The Bourne Ultimatum because it was a great action flick and unfortunately action flicks, like comedies, tend to be under appreciated at the oh-so-artsy Oscars.

Visual Effects

"The Golden Compass": Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End": John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
"Transformers": Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End without a doubt. Absolutely fantastic effects!

Beating the rain (almost!)

Although the day started with blue skies dotted with white fluffy clouds, pretty soon those clouds turned gray and then black and hung over us ominously as we tried to do the "beach thing."

James was working installing a floor in Hollywood, so Connie and I went down to Santa Monica. We parked at Santa Monica Place and then headed to the Santa Monica Pier. We hung out and looked out at the ocean for a while--but no dolphins in sight (except the one tattooed on my ankle!), so we headed off towards Venice.

I pointed out the Muscle Beach area as we passed. There were a few diehard guys braving the sprinkles. Can't really be a he-man if you melt when it drizzles, huh? We stopped at Hotel Casa Del Mar so I could show Connie the opulent decor. Resting on one of the plush couches in front of a faux fireplace, I warned her that we were only one third of the way to Venice. Plus we still had to walk BACK. She was game so we continued our trek.

The boardwalk was fairly deserted, but when we got to Venice we managed to find some kitschy t-shirts for souvenirs. Three for $9.99--you can't beat that! Then before we headed back, we stopped for a beer (Connie) and herbal tea (me). Back on the road (boardwalk) again, we reached the car about 5 pm and then slowly made our way through rush hour traffic back to West Los Angeles.

Back home, Connie and I headed to En Sushi for sushi happy hour. James promised to meet us at 6:30 pm. We ordered some drinks and and a couple orders of sushi rolls while we waited for James to arrive. He didn't make it until almost 7 pm (typical!), but when he showed up we had a pitcher of Kirin and an assortment of food (fried calamari, shrimp tempura roll, eggrolls and dumplings, sesame fried chicken, etc.) waiting for him.

Today we're off to Hollywood. Hopefully the rain will hold off until we've finished prowling along the Walk of Fame...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Curious Case of Mr. Harry Potter

I had seen the first installment of the Harry Potter series when it came out in the theater in 2001. It was a good movie, but not a great one--and not being caught up in Potter-mania I didn't bother to see the other films based on the J. K. Rowling books when they were released.

Until recently when I started Netflixing them to catch up on the series. I am now all caught up having just watched The Order of the Phoenix--which in my opinion is so far the best of the lot by far! Say what you want about Voldemort--I think Imelda Staunton's portrayal of Dolores Umbridge is one of the scariest villains EVER! Unlike the overlong and meandering previous installments, The Order of the Phoenix clocks in at just over two hours and is a taut and fast thrill ride!

Watching the entire series, it seems to me that Emma Watson's acting has gotten WORSE, Daniel Radcliffe is slowly improving and Rupert Grint is consistently the most natural and likable in his portrayal of loyal sidekick Ron Weasley. And although I'm not particularly attracted to redheads, he is becoming quite a hottie as well.

I can't help but wonder about some things after viewing the films. No doubt the answers are found in the more extensively developed plots and backstory of the books...

1. Why, if Harry's relatives hate his so much, do they work so hard to keep him from leaving for Hogwarts? Wouldn't they be happy to get him out of their house and hair?

2. By the same token, why doesn't Harry just stay with the Weasley's over summer breaks?

3. What is the purpose of magic and its instruction? Do witches and wizards have any goals? Right now it just seems like magic for magic's sake...

4. Starting in The Goblet of Fire and continuing in The Order of the Phoenix, Harry has witnessed Lucius Malfoy as part of Voldemort's retinue. Yet, there hasn't been any backlash of Lucius or his snotty son Draco for colluding with the Dark Lord. What's up with that?

5. There are ghosts wandering all over Hogwarts. Why are students so afraid of Moaning Myrtle that they avoid that bathroom?

6. What's the point of casting the amazing Emma Thompson in a role where she is barely on screen?

So far, so good

It rained hard all last night, but as of 8 am this morning it's dry. Some clouds, some sun. Let's hope it stays that way the rest of the day!

It never ceases to amaze me that most of the time when it does rain in L.A., it does so at night.

How does it know?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rain Delay

Still keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will hold out for my brother and his girlfriend's visit to Los Angeles. So far we had a smattering of showers this morning, but it's partly sunny right now. CBS local weather says we're getting smatterings of showers all week, but it will clear up this weekend. ABC local weather says Tuesday and Wednesday will be partly cloudy and the rain will hold off until Thursday. I'm hoping that's the forecast that pans out...

And speaking of delays, I won't be able to post a pic of my new tattoo until Wednesday.

Oh, and speaking of tattoos--while I was getting mine done yesterday, a middle-aged couple came in looking at samples of monkey tattoos. Their plan was to getting matching tats on their ass to commemorate their upcoming nuptials. The monkey in question was to correspond with the symbolic animal of the Chinese New Year.

Except that the upcoming new year is the year of the yellow rat.

Gives new meaning to the expression "I don't give a rat's ass!," doesn't it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Science Fiction meets Science Reality - part 2

In a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine, William Gibson was asked why he stopped writing science fiction.

This article in the Washington Post is probably why.

It IS a brave, new world...

My New Tattoo

I went back to House of Ink to get my tattoo this morning. But first I stopped to see a guest house in Santa Monica. The price is right, the location about perfect, but the actual place was sort of a dump. I'm sort of over living in dumps to tell the truth.

So on to Santa Monica, where I parked my car and headed down to the boardwalk. Hiked out past the Santa Monica pier, Shutters and Hotel Casa Del Mar. Past the volleyball players and the beach-goers. Past the artisans, psychics and musicians selling their wares and plying their trades on the boardwalk. Finally made it to House of Ink where I got a Celtic Tree of Life emblazoned on my right upper arm/shoulder.

I'll post pics later.

It was another gorgeous day in L.A. But wouldn't you know it, my brother James and his girlfriend Connie arrive tomorrow--and so does the rain. For the next three days. Ugh! I have no idea how I'm going to entertain them if it's raining...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Great Closet Purge

Five hours and I'm still not done--but I've got 3 bags to go to Goodwill, one for a friend, one for my sister, a pile of "Will fit better when I lose a bit more weight" and a pile to take to the tailor.

And after all that, I still own more sweaters than any one human really requires...

Video Killed the Radio Star

While driving the other day, My Kinda Lover came on the radio and I thought, "Damn, this song rocks. What ever happened to Billy Squier?" So I looked him up on Wikipedia and found out that after the amazing success of his album Don't Say No which spawned hits with The Stroke, In the Dark as well as My Kinda Lover, Billy followed up with another hit album Emotions in Motion. Then he recorded Signs of Life--which may as well have been titled "D.O.A." since his promising career pretty much ended after its release in 1984.

Not that there was a problem with the album. The first single, Rock Me Tonite, released off the album was Squier's biggest pop hit. But the video for that song effectively killed his career. According to Wikipedia:

Squier revealed that his career as a chart-topping rocker came to a stunningly rapid and sudden end with the release of the music video for "Rock Me Tonite", universally derided by his fans (who saw him as a guitar hero) for its effeminate set (a bedroom dressed in soft, pastel fabrics) and Squier's bizarre, homoerotic prancing and ripping of his clothing, reminiscent of Jennifer Beals' performance in the film "Flashdance". The video was a devastating blow to Squier's image among his fans, who deserted him virtually overnight. Billy confirmed that his career didn't recover after that video. Ironically the same medium (music video) that ruined Squier's career took his former opening act from a year earlier (Def Leppard) to the top of the music world.
Wow. I love the song Rock Me Tonite. And I remember loving the video as well. Was it really that bad?

So I went to YouTube to check it out. I don't know what I was thinking in 1984, but I must have been smoking crack. It's horrendous. Forget the wardrobe--it was the 80s. Everyone was a fashion disaster. And yes, there is an awful lot of pink. But in addition to "prancing," Squier is also writhing on the floor at one point (ala Madonna, who may very have been inspired by his performance) and there's a portion of the video I like to refer to as the Jane Fonda "Feel the Burn!" sequence. The video was directed by Kenny Ortega who went on the choreograph Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing was a breakthrough role for Patrick Swayze catapulting him to stardom.

Rock Me Tonite frequently appears on "Worst Video Ever" lists.

Poor Billy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Filter Magazine presents In Bruges

Filter Magazine's Flicker Film Series presents an exclusive screening of In Bruges with Q&A with star Colin Farrell following the screening.

Date: January 30th
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Arclight Cinema Theater
Address: 6360 West Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
RSVP: rsvpLA@filtermmm.com

Include your name, affliation and number of guests (maximum of 2) in your e-mail
Confirmation e-mail will be sent. Arrive early as confirmation does not guarantee seating!

It all comes out in the wash...

I'm sure Martha Stewart has some neat trick, but I can't fold a fitted sheet to save my life...

Ugly Betty - Betty goes Berserk

Last night's episode of Ugly Betty dealt with the trial of Claire Meade for Faye (or is it Fey?) Summers death and Wilhelmina's evil plan to insert herself back into the Meade family. Let's start with Willie, shall we?

Christina flat out refuses her offer of $100k to be a surrogate telling Willie and Marc, "My womb is officially closed to devil spawn!" This is because Christina has another plan to raise the money for her husband Stuart's experimental treatment--sell a Jackie O. vintage couture piece. But when the sneaky Marc overhears her plan, he and Willie steal the piece forcing Christina to capitulate. The episode ends with the implantation of Wilhelmina's egg fertilized by the deceased Bradford Meade sperm into Christina's uterus with loyal Betty at her side. But neither Betty nor Christina realize she's carrying the Meade heir.

I wonder when Willie will spring the news?

Meanwhile, Amanda is royally pissed to find that all of Mode has found out about Faye's secret sex room and is using it as a hangout. She stomps off with a portrait of her late mother--only to discover missing diary pages on the back of the frame. Reading them she realizes that Faye concocted a special perfume (which was poisoned with toxins) for Bradford to unknowingly give to Claire to cause her death. Instead, the perfume made Claire irrational, causing her to cut Faye's brake lines, which caused the fatal accident killing Faye instead. I'd say that was justice, eh? Unfortunately Amanda doesn't see it that way and orders Marc to burn the pages which would exonerate Claire.

Although the missing pages hold the key to Claire's freedom, another piece of evidence could sway the jury to Claire's insanity plea as well--the perfume. Claire--not realizing it was the reason for her actions and the key to her defense--gives it to Betty. Betty agrees to take Claire's beloved perfume, but only for safekeeping until Claire is freed. Tempted by the pretty bottle, Betty squirts some on and immediately feels the effects of the toxins which cause her to be hyper and uninhibited. Most people are confused by her behavior--like Christina who says, "Look who's gone from flirty to dirty?" after witnessing Betty's over-the-top goodbye kiss to Henry. But Justin says he likes it--"She's sassy."

While Betty is fascinated with colors and flavors--and sometimes mixing the two telling Gio his sandwich tastes purple, Claire's sympathetic judge recuses herself from the case after Daniel's innocent attempt to make change for her coffee is twisted to seem like a bribe (really, who bribes a judge with $20?) and is replaced with Judge Biotch who is--well drop the "O" and you've got it. Not too subtle, but then what about this technicolor show is? Gio innocently (or maybe not so) plants the idea in Betty's mind that Henry going home for the sonogram of the ex-girlfriend who's pregnant with his child might lead to another kind of reunion which sets Betty off in a big way.

After going on a rampage that culminates with throwing a trash can through Gio's Deli shop window, Betty ends up unconscious on the floor and wakes up handcuffed. Gio declines to press charges and takes Betty to a doctor. Hilda, Ignacio and Justin show up as well with Justin announcing that "Grandpa pulled me out of gym!" and mouthing "Thank you!" to Betty. The doctor runs tests and discovers that Betty is either taking drugs or being drugged as there is toad venom, among other chemicals, in her system. Betty makes the connection with the perfume--but so has Amanda. So when Betty races back to the office to get the perfume, she finds it missing. She tracks down Amanda and convinces her to return the perfume to free Claire. Amanda, still upset at her mother's death and blaming Claire, reluctantly agrees.

In court, Betty testifies for the defense (Claire Meade's attorney played by the terminally cute Barry Bostwick) but is dragged through the mud by the prosecuting attorney (Paul McCrane who followed his child acting career up by specializing in arrogant assholes...). Turns out Amanda switched the perfume and replaced it with water. She orders Marc to destroy it as well, but he refuses telling her that she's making him do her dirty work because deep down she's knows that Faye was responsible for her own death. Amanda realizes this is true and shows up at the courthouse with the poisonous perfume and the missing diary pages. Claire is found not guilty and celebrates with her children, Mode and especially Betty.

But there's still the issue of Gio, who has a crush on Betty who knows it thanks to Amanda. Although I think Henry is a cutie, I much prefer the rough around the edges hottie Gio. Looks like next week's episode is a showdown between the two. As well as the last original episode until the writers strike is settled.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Today is My Birthday!

...and I'm gonna have a good time!

First off, I should point out that it's not just MY birthday today. I share it with:

Benjamin Franklin
Muhammad Ali
Joe Frazier
Jim Carrey
Al Capone
Betty White
Eartha Kitt (now THAT'S a Capricorn name!)
Vidal Sassoon
James Earl Jones
Maury Povich
Andy Kaufman (Cappies are noted for their twisted sense of humor...)
Michelle Obama (OK, now I like Barack just a little more than I did before.)
Naveen Andrews (Yes, there's a reason Sayid is such a hottie!)
Kid Rock
Zooey Deschanel
Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Dancing with the Stars--yet another Capricorn hottie!)
Dwayne Wade
Joshua Malina
...oh, and my sister Laurie!

The idea was to make a day of it--since Thursday is usually my day off. But the idea was thwarted a bit when my plan to sleep in was scotched by a 7 am phone call. Who the fuck calls at 7 am? Was it east coast birthday wishes? Nope. Someone from the Letterman show saying that if I was still interested in tickets, to call them back. I had submitted a request for tickets for my brother's upcoming--not realizing that unlike Leno and The Tonight Show, Letterman tapes his show in NEW YORK CITY. Yeah, I don't think we'll be making the taping.

The other part of the plan that got nixed was to catch a flick. I had a gift card for the Landmark Theatres, a free AMC ticket--surely there was a movie I could see on my birthday. Unfortunately, I have seen just about every film worth seeing over the last couple of weeks. So unless I wanted to catch a matinee of Alvin and the Chipmunks (I didn't...), I was out of luck in the movie department. Instead, I headed down to the beach for my big birthday gift to myself--a new tattoo. I hiked all the way out to House of Ink on the Venice boardwalk only to find my favorite tattoo artist, Teri, was not working today. Drats!

Still, I had a lovely day. Birthday greetings from my friend Ann Vanino as well as Tami, my boss Mitchell, my co-worker Elizabeth and an e-card from my co-worker Peter from someecards whose motto is "When you care enough to hit send!" My friend Hollie gave me a shout out on MySpace and my blogging buddy Elisabeth threw birthday cake at me and posted on my SuperWall via FaceBook. I got a $30 iTunes gift certificate from my fellow Capricorn pal John and a cute card from my other Cappy bud, Dave and his lovely wife Kat (on the front of the card, "Rainy days and morons get me down." Does Dave know me or what?!!!), Laurie sent an e-mail promising to call tonight as did my brother David.

Although I didn't get my tattoo today (going back on Sunday!) or see a movie, I did get some shopping in. Gap is having a sale with an additional 25% off the markdown price. I got a red cashmere sweater for $28, a pretty ivory cardigan for $22.50 and a black polar fleece pullover for a little over $5! Then I got an additional $15 off with a Happy Birthday discount coupon, used the balance of a gift card I had and ended up shelling out less than $15 for all three things!

It was gorgeous and sunny in L.A. today. I got to take a nice long walk and see the ocean. Now I'm gonna kick back, order a small pizza, scarf down a couple chocolate covered peanut butter treats thanks to my sis, watch Ugly Betty and download me some iTunes! All in all, a pretty decent birthday...

Two Weeks 'til LOST!

I am so excited! I am also so John Locke apparently...



Find out Which Lost Character Are You at LiquidGeneration.com!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

King of California

Arriving on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray on January 29th is this offbeat indie comedy starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood. I was excited to review it, since I missed it when it was out in theaters. It has a promising premise: Charlie, a recently released mental patient convinces his prematurely responsible teenage daughter Miranda to join him on a quest for treasure--Spanish gold he believes to be buried under a local Costco.

Unfortunately the film doesn't quite live up to its great concept. The role reversals of dutiful, reliable Miranda vs. her mad-cap (or perhaps just plain MAD) father Charlie aren't drawn very well. In fact, Miranda and Charlie barely seem to be related--much less father/daughter. Too much voiceover and the character development takes place mostly in flashbacks rather than real time. The film is barely 90 minutes long, yet plods in places and stumbles and stalls in others.

But there are things to recommend it--Michael Douglas' performance as the bipolar Don Quixote-like Charlie is wonderful. A far stretch from the cold, calculating Gordon Gekko of Wall Street, Charlie is warm and fuzzy. Literally. That wild beard Douglas sports deserves a screen credit of its own. Charlie is a force of nature--fiercely opinionated, wildly optimistic and dreamily delusional. And Miranda comes to realize that while he may not always be right, he's not always wrong either. Written and directed by newcomer Mike Cahill with Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) as one of the producers, King of California is sweetly satisfying--even if it doesn't quite live up to its potential. The tagline for the movie is "We're all searching for something."

Ain't that the truth...

My Sister and Me

That's me--the little blonde girl--getting whacked by my baby sister, Laurie. Ah yes--the siblings in their natural state! Matching clothes, paired together, me getting smacked around...Okay, so that's not TOTALLY true. I did once tell Laurie that since she was born on MY birthday, that made her MY birthday present and therefore she was MY slave. She bought that for a while--then she turned four. No problem--she didn't make a very good slave anyway!

Then there was the time where I told her, in a fit of anger, that I wasn't going to let her be godmother to my children (We weren't even teenagers yet, childbearing years were a long ways away. Ironically, neither of us has had children...) causing her to run out of the room sobbing.

Good times, good times...

Being born exactly two years apart made us close--but at times too close for comfort. Sharing a birthday--and the attention--irked us both. Adding insult to injury is that it came a mere three weeks after Christmas, at a point in time where everyone is pretty much partied out. period of Laurie dealt with both those issues for a brief period of time by moving her "birthday" to the summer. That way she could have a pool party. It didn't matter that we didn't have a pool. Summer birthdays give you more options...

But in January, we had fondue parties and slumber parties and once we had a dress-up, sit down dinner with London broil and a bouquet of carnations (the official flower of January) on the table. No Chuck E. Cheese for us, man! Maybe this is where Laurie gets her gourmet tastes. God only knows what happened to mine...

Anyway, we've pretty much accepted the midwinter birthday and even sharing it. Laurie sent me a gorgeous gray cashmere wrap, the Walk the Line CD, some delicious chocolate covered peanut butter treats and 3 jars of natural peanut butter. Not surprisingly, there were eerie overlaps in the gifts I sent her. I had to laugh because our tastes are as alike as our birthdays...Not even a card from either of my brothers. Hmmph--boys!

So here's to you Sis! No hard feelings for years of being smacked around. And since kids are pretty much out of the question, if I ever adopt a goldfish I'd be proud for you to be its godmother...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

El Cid arrives on DVD January 29th!

When the Weinstein Brothers first formed Miramax, they were the premier name in indie films with releases such as The Thin Blue Line, Sex, Lies and Videotape and--one of my all time favorites--The Crying Game. Miramax got bought out by Disney and Bob and Harvey Weinstein formed their own production company, the aptly named The Weinstein Co. They also formed an alliance with Genius Products to distribute DVDs. Ironically, the debut release in The Miriam Collection (a premiere label named for the Weinstein's mother) from the wonder boys of indie cinema is the big budget sweeping epic El Cid.

Originally shot in 70 mm, the DVD version of the acclaimed 1961 historical adventure has been digitally remastered--both picture and sound--and is available as a Deluxe or Limited Collectors Edition two DVD disc set which includes:


  • Reproduction of Original 1961 Souvenir Program (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Reproduction of Original 1961 El Cid Comic Book (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Six Color Production Stills (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Written Introduction by Director Martin Scorsese
  • Feature Commentary With Bill Bronston, son of producer Sam Bronston, and historian/author Neal M. Rosendorf, Ph.D., assistant professor of US International History at Long Island University
  • 1961 Promotional Radio Interviews with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren
  • Introduction Interview with Charlton Heston
  • Samuel Bronston: The Epic Journey of a Dreamer
  • Behind The Camera: Anthony Mann and El Cid
  • Hollywood Conquers Spain: The Making of An Epic
  • Maestro of the Movies: Miklos Rozsa and El Cid
  • The Importance of Film Preservation and Restoration: A Conversation With Gerry Byrne
  • Trailer Gallery
  • Filmographies
  • Still Gallery

Now I'm not a big fan of epic movies--didn't like Titanic or Gladiator or even Forrest Gump. And I'm definitely not big on Charlton Heston's other epic roles in Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments. But I have to admit that every cent of the $6 million that was spent (over forty years ago which would equate to approximately $40 million today. A bargain as far as epic film budgets go!) is there on screen--from the gorgeous cinematography, the swelling musical score, the period costumes, the locations, the sets. Every detail is authentically reproduced. Unlike another Heston period piece, The Agony and the Ecstasy, which looked small and cheesy and somewhat pathetic, El Cid looks every bit as lush and elaborate as an intricately woven tapestry.

The film is long. Three hours. You've got 3.5 minutes of overture music and another 2 minutes or so of opening credits. Two hours into the film, you've got an intermission and then finally an hour later, the story of the heroic Spanish knight, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, who succeeds in driving the Moors from Spain becoming a legend, finally wraps up. It's a lot of movie. But the making of featurette included on the DVD will make you want to re-watch the film with all the details of what was involved in bringing this extravagant epic to the screen.

Especially interesting was the fact that the two co-stars, Heston and Loren, hated each other. Now this was useful in the beginning of the movie when their characters did, in fact, hate each other. But as the commentators noted, it became difficult later on in filming when Heston couldn't even bear to look at the lovely Sophia who played Chimene, the love of El Cid's life. It was theorized that the animosity may have been due to the fact that Loren was paid a million dollars (the second actress to receive that salary after Elizabeth Taylor for Cleopatra) for the film and Heston was not. I also noticed that Loren doesn't age throughout the film, while Heston's character most definitely does. This was also noted in the commentary and was also a bone of contention for Heston.

El Cid will be released on January 29th. According to film critic Leonard Maltin, "'El Cid is high on any film buff's list of most-wanted movies on DVD. It is considered one of the most majestic and intelligent of the epic films of that period, as directed by Anthony Mann, with one of Charlton Heston's best performances."