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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Black Snake Moan

Another movie in the hidden gem that nobody saw department, Black Snake Moan is something different. A story from the deep south, about the Blues, and struggle for carrying on, if not redemption.

It focuses on Rae (Christina Ricci), a troubled girl who's known for her nymphomania and partying ways. When her only stabilizing influence - boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) - goes off to boot camp, she starts to lose it. Meanwhile, Lazarus (Samuel Jackson) is dealing with a bitter divorce from his wife of 12 years, not to mention a crisis of faith. After a party night gone wrong, Rae winds up in Laz's path, and he sets about to 'cure' her of her problems after patching her up. His means to a cure are debatable and unique, but together Rae and Lazarus try to learn to live again, but it isn't easy.

Jackson owns his role here, and is doing some of the best acting I've seen from him in a while. He's playing the character instead of just himself (Snakes on a Plane anyone?). Ricci surprises as well, pulling off a rather difficult role and getting you to sympathize with her character. Timberlake is a bit of an unknown quantity here, and while he doesn't completely embarrass himself in his foray into acting, it might have gone better with a more experienced hand in what turned out to be an important role. John Cothran Jr is excellent as Laz's preacher friend that is relied on as the voice of reason in the movie. And S.Epatha Merkerson as Angela brings some light to Laz's life as a new love interest and also sings a great impromptu acapella version of Balm of Gilead.

Which brings us to the real star of the movie - the soundtrack. The music is like another character in the movie and it's worth seeing just to listen to the blues. Definitely a soundtrack album I'll be buying.

Black Snake Moan is one of those movies that are hard to describe and was probably marketed wrong as people didn't know what to expect from it. Contrary to what the movie poster would suggest, it's more about a slice of life and troubled souls unexpectedly helping each other get a little further down life's path. It's something different, but worth checking out.

Verdict: Recommended. Rated R.

Creative Accounting 101

Fascinating article here from about how the summer box office bomb Evan Almighty just managed to cross the 100 million dollar domestic mark with some creative numbers, and why that would be important to the players. It's also an interesting look at the behind the scenes money deals in Hollywood. A movie made strictly for money and no other reason that bombed and then spent money to make money to wind up spending more money. Just weird.

Only in Hollywood...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Night TV...

Looks like Monday nights will have me watching TV again. It's been a long, long time since there was a show on that I wanted to watch on a regular basis - meaning week to week. Sure, there were the first couple seasons of 24 before it started to get predictable, and the last shows I regularly would tune in for were Joss Whedon's Angel a couple years ago and Gilmore Girls last season just to see how it played out.

The biggest problem (besides quality) is that the networks cancel shows now so fast you can't even get into them. Every hit show had a so-so first season when looking back, but it's part of finding it's stride, and canceling a show after 4 episodes is pointless. So I stopped watching any new shows until they'd been on a year. Then of course was the Lost phenomenon. After that became a hit, all the new shows had to be serialized dramas where if you missed an episode you might as well forget it cause you'll never catch up.

Now I've gone and found two shows that I like - which means I'm waiting for the canceled notice any day now. The first is K-Ville, which debuted last week, and has a sort of Miami Vice cop thing going that could turn out good. Stand alone case of the week shows with character and story threads running through them. You could miss an ep and not be lost, and yet there's still character development. A bit of humor, some drama, some action, New Orleans locale - this could work.

The other show I caught tonight was a new one called Chuck. The premise seems to be a normal guy working as a computer tech at the Buy More store (the techs are called the Nerd Herd :) somehow gets an email/info from an old school buddy that winds up with him getting a whole lot of sensitive government intel inside his head (I missed the first bit of it). Thing is, he doesn't really know it. He keeps getting flashes of it. The CIA and other government types descend to take him in and get at what he knows. There's the hot government chick that befriends him and Firefly's Adam (I'll Be In My Bunk) Baldwin is from another agency as well. By the end, it seems the plan is for him to continue his normal life while they protect him and try to get the info he doesn't know he knows out of his head. Sounds bizarre, but it plays out great - there's lots of humor as this isn't 24 terrorist plots solved by Jack Bauer. Chuck is in over his head, but has to carry on anyway. His Nerd Herd buddy Morgan is pretty funny too. Laughs, action, and some good lines steal the show. I'm just not sure how far they can carry the concept though, but it's a pretty fun setup.

So on Mondays now, I've got Chuck at 8 and K-Ville at 9. Why the networks are throwing these up against Prison Break and Heroes is beyond me. Good thing I'm not into those shows, or I'd have to record or download something. I hope Chuck and K-Ville can stick around awhile to get their feet, but against the other ratings hits, it'll be an uphill climb not to get canceled.

Nothin' New...

Yep, I'm still around. Still getting over this month long flu bug...or venomous virus of vitriolic variations. Getting better though, bit by bit, but it's awfully slow going. Cough is finally starting to back off...although I can still hack up a lung if I'm talking. Good thing I'm not verbally verbose. Speaking of which, haven't been too creative lately either, hence the lack of posts. Just nothing to say...

But let's see what we've got anyway...anybody like the new hockey jerseys? So much for tradition. And I don't know how many pre season highlights I've watched where I didn't recognize the teams right away too. Guess every team has new uniform designs to sell. Ugh.

Hot rumors going around that there will be new updated Macbooks and Macbook Pros soon. Maybe even coming with Leopard in October, or in the first quarter of '08. The Pro is in much need of an update for sure. I wouldn't mind having one, except I hate the keyboard on the Pro. The Macbook is nice, but it has low quality graphics (if you want to run higher end programs or, ahem, games) as does the Mac Mini and the iMac has the annoying glass screen of reflection. So, each part of the lineup has a stroke against it which is why I haven't bought one yet. However, if they upgrade the laptops with better graphics cards and the bluetooth style keyboard on the Pro, my options get better. The laptops will supposedly be thinner too. October is almost here, so we'll all know soon enough.

Odd temps around here lately too. Right now it's 7 degrees at night - not bad for fall. But on Tuesday it'll be 28 degrees during the day! Where is the cool fall weather I like?! At this rate, the leaves might start turning around Christmas...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Apples...

Well, that was good. I'm aiming for some more fresh fruit and veggies in the diet and so for a snack tonight I chopped up a Delicious Apple, sliced in some banana, sprinkled on the cinnamon, stirred it around, then added the secret weapon - 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup. Yep, that was good.

And speaking of apples, I dropped into the nearby Future Shop before grabbing my groceries tonight to have a quick look at the new 24" iMac. I managed to suppress my coughing fits for a little bit and took a gander at the latest all in one. A beaut of a machine, but I fear it wouldn't be for me. Love the screen size, the new thin keyboard, and the design - but that glossy glass screen is a catch 22. Depending on what's on your screen and the lighting around you, the thing would pop and look stunning. But with any light behind you and/or black on the screen, and it is reflection city. That kind of glare and reflection could drive you nuts depending on the setting. So that's one Mac out of my upgrade equation...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Here and There...

Well that was fun. Two weeks later, I'm coming around again after a nasty flu bug of some sort. I'm still coughing and talking like an 80 year old whiskey drinking smoker, but at least I can breathe again. I figure another two weeks, I should be almost back to normal...

On the upside, I watched some DVD's, got some rest, and watched the Food Network wishing I could reach through the screen to get at some of the creations. Once I get a little better here, I might even try a recipe or two myself...

Did write the 3rd Stranger 10 tale I'm just pondering and rewriting. And rewriting...

Caught the last half of an episode of the new Tv show K-Ville, and it looked pretty good. Think I'll try to tune in for it. It focuses on cops in a post Katrina New Orleans. I believe it's filmed in New Orleans as well, so there's a realism to it. They had a bit much of shaky cam in the action scenes, but they did have a car chase and chained down helicopter and rescuing a drowning victim all inside the last 10 minutes, so I'll tune in for more. The two lead cops are played by Cole Hauser and Anthony Anderson, and the characters have checkered pasts of their own, so that adds more drama too. And who knew Anthony Anderson could play a dedicated cop in a non comedic role? Looks like this show could possibly be good, but since it's on Fox, I'm sure it'll be canceled soon enough...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Finally, The Search Is Over...

Tonight I was back on the divx video site - - looking at music videos and finding a lot of good ones. Clicked on the 'country' tag and was just going through the pages straight downloading anything that caught my eye (didn't even watch first, just hit download. Gotta do that with these video sites. What's here today can easily be gone tomorrow). So, in the process of downloading 2.19 gigabytes of divx quality videos, what do I happen to stumble across?

Tougher Than The Rest by Chris Ledoux! The Music Video!

The album Haywire came out in 1994, and that song has probably been my favorite ever since. (Went out and bought the tape; pretty much ran a hole through it). What got me tuned into Springsteen too. But I always liked Ledoux's version best. With the advent of high speed internet later on, I have been looking for this vid for years now hoping somebody somewhere would upload it. And I finally found it - in excellent divx quality too! Downloaded it right away, and just in time. Next vid I clicked on, the site was down for maintenance or something. If you want to see it, you can get to the webpage here, or try this download link. (Just tried it myself - left click on it, then save it. Don't try right clicking and saving the link.)

That made my night, I tell ya.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Things...

1. Rain storms with thunder and lightning rolling through are really cool.

2. I need an actual digital camera. A VGA camera on a cellphone only goes so far...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Jackie Brown

One of Tarantino's movies that he did before going the way of unedited half movies in theatrical runs, Jackie Brown was the third movie he put out and it comes in as something a little different. I actually quite enjoyed the movie as it is more of a good crime caper flick channeling Elmore Leonard (the movie is based on one of his books - "Rum Punch") than the usual Tarantino experience.

It focuses on Pam Grier's character - Jackie Brown, a flight attendant running illegal cross border cash deliveries for a fast talking gun runner played by Sam Jackson. Michael Keaton plays an ATF agent intent on catching the gun runner and using Grier to do it. Robert Forster is a street wise and world weary bail bondsman that gets involved in the money mess as well. Jackson wants his dirty money in Mexico brought to him in the states, and Grier is his means to an end. Everyone is after something, and the game is on to see who makes out well in the end.

The plot is good and you're not entirely sure who is going to make it. The characters are great, especially Grier, Keaton, and Forster. Jackson does his usual thing, and its fun to watch. There is the odd casting of Robert DeNiro in a throwaway part as a stoner partnering with Jackson. It could have been played by anybody, and is basically used to bring in some of the more Tarantino moments, and there are certainly those noticable bits (obscure movie trivia, lots of talking, and of course a close up of a woman's feet), but it works overall.

In the end though, it's more about the well acted characters and the crime caper plot than Tarantino's ego, and it's a fun movie to watch. I may not be a hardcore QT fan, but I do like QT's films for the most part, and can appreciate his enthusiasm for movies. Jackie Brown may not be his most popular flick, but it may be the most solid and straight forward and watchable movie for those that aren't into the QT oeuvre. It's certainly worth the watch for crime caper fans.

Verdict: Recommended. Rated R.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Time For Hockey...

Ah's that time of the year - Hockey! OHL camps are going, NHL camps start soon, and hockey yearbooks are on the magazine racks. Brings back memories of getting excited...

Last week I saw The Hockey News yearbook on the shelf at Sobeys, and it used to be tradition for me to always buy a yearbook every year. I've got them going back to like '89 or so. But somewhere along the line I stopped buying them, and this time when I looked at the price (something north of 10 bucks!) I put it back and kept going. There's few players left in the league that I really know anymore from back when I did follow it, and save for a few, most of them don't really have any personalities anymore. They're all names you can't pronounce and play and look the same. I remember back when I was really into hockey in the 90s - I knew every player off by heart. The goalies in particular - I even knew the AHL backups. And they had different styles and equipment and brought something different to the game. Allen Bester, Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford, Kirk McLean, Ron Hextall, Peter Sidorkiewicz, Tim Cheveldae, Clint Malarchuk (came back from having his throat cut by a skate!) and even Patrick Roy (who talked to his goal posts). They all had their own style. Now think about this - when was the last time you saw any stand up goalie in the NHL? They all play the same butterfly style made famous by Roy and Brodeur.

Even the other players had personalities and styles. Now its all systems and game plans. Remember Denis Savard, Wendal Clark, Doug Gilmour, Rick Tocchet, Pavel Bure, Phil Housley, Pat Lafontaine, Domi & Probert fights, Mike Foligno, and many others? Before seeing the jersey number, I knew who it was by the way they played. Now I watch a game and they all seem to play the same.

Guess I'm getting old. And then I go to Best Buy's website and see NHL '08 is out. I used to get excited about that too until the series blew well past my meager computer's abilities. And even the ones I did play never came close to capturing the sheer fun of the game that was NHL '95. Got my money's worth out of that one.

Anyway, guess everything changes in time, but at least there is hockey coming back for another season soon. And that's always a good thing, even if it is a bit homogenized. I can laugh at the losing Leafs, see if Ottawa can make another run, wince at Edmonton's 30 million 3rd liner, and hope like everything for an all Canadian final :)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good, Bad, and Ugly...

Well, this sucks. First a bump up in hours - which is good - then I of course get sick four days before my quarterly kidney checkup - which is bad - then 2 movies I have been anxiously waiting to see open on the same weekend and I can't go see them - which is ugly.

On the up side, I took one day off from work and managed to get sick, get a wicked sore throat, get worse, get a fever, sleep all day, break the fever, get some more sleep, and get back to work for a half shift all inside 24 hours. Weird. But at least I'm getting better - I think.

So I can't go to the theatre this weekend, gotta rest for the checkup on Monday, then with my night shifts I can't go for the rest of the week. Besides, I could catch a flu bug or something in a crowded theatre anyway - oh wait, got that covered already. I guess it'll be another week before I can catch 3:10 To Yuma and Shoot 'Em Up. After a dismal summer of movies, I was looking forward to these two. Of course they'd both come out on the same weekend that I can't go.

So, instead, I'll keep working through my sizable (with lots of unseen) DVD collection. Tonight I watched The Driver. Cool movie - a couple good car chases the way they should be done - no CGI. Cool characters, minimal dialogue, and good driving. Worth checking out.

And now back to bed to power rest before the next shift...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Boss Is Back.

First single here from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's upcoming album Magic - coming Oct 2. Song is "Radio Nowhere".

I just wanna feel some rhythm...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Nothin' New...

Well, with my hours bumped up at work plus overtime, looks like my anemic posting rhythm goes on. Plus, I just don't have much to say these days.

On the upside, I should be able to pay for a Mac in October without worry. And apparently there is an announcement coming from Apple on Sept 5. Rumor has it new iPods will be debuting featuring a version of Mac OS. That should be interesting. All I know is that my little blue Shuffle is the best 60 bucks I ever spent...

The Famous Potato Prank

20 years since the greatest baseball prank ever.

The Potato Ball.

'nuff said.