Packet has become a TV junkie. Cat Sitter is his favorite DVD so far.
Rodents and birds are not the only things he likes to watch. He seems to enjoy Good Eats as much as I do, and he's a regular Red Eye viewer. He's a big fan of ombudsman Andy Levy.
He's probably hoping to get an autographed picture of Andy's cats, Pixel and Stormy.
Start your weekend at The Modulator's Friday Ark.
The Carnival of the Cats this week is hosted at the M-cats Club.
And as always, for your every day cat needs, a visit to the Cat Blogosphere is recommended.
It's easy in recent years to poke a bit of fun at U2's lead singer Bono as being a bit full of himself. Heck, I've done it myself.
But then today I watched Rattle and Hum which I'd DVRed over the weekend. Say what you want, but those guys were probably the best band of the mid to late 80's. They could blow the roof off any venue, and I'd forgotten just how good they really were.
If you don't believe me, try the live version of Sunday Bloody Sunday on for size. Powerful.
(Directed by Zack Snyder, starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham and Dominic West)
Official tagline: Prepare for glory!
Better tagline: Putting the 'graphic' in 'graphic novel.'
Yips (or would that be orgle-orgles?) go to Robert at Llamabutchers for this one.
1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
The entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Each of the Star Wars trilogy. Many times each.
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Tom Hanks. Seems like a decent likeable guy.
4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Sean Penn. I would pay money to not see him, in anything, ever.
5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At least, I used to know all the lyrics... it's been a while since I've seen it.
7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Man of La Mancha. I don't know it all, and I sing rather less well than Peter O'Toole's voice double did. But it's an absolutely terrific musical.
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go,
To right the unrightable wrong,
To love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.
To fight for the right, without question or pause.
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause.
And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.
I don't know how anyone with a backbone can listen to that song and not get a lump in his throat.
Go ahead, call me quixotic. It is a label I would bear proudly.
8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
Master & Commander - The Far Side Of The World. Most highly rated.
9. Name a movie that you own.
Many many many, so let's go for obscurity here: Crazy Moon.
10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Not terribly many. The last was Red Dawn.
I'd like to see drive-ins make a comeback, but let's face it: cars aren't as comfortable as they used to be, and bratty teenagers are noisier and more disruptive now than they ever used to be.
12. Ever made out in a movie?
In a movie? No. At a movie? Well, ya, of course... but not lately.
13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.
Yojimbo. I've seen a lot of Kurosawa's films (own a number on DVD, even) but I've never gotten around to seeing this one.
14. Ever walked out of a movie?
Not that I can remember. It would have to have been a truly awful movie, and I try to steer clear of anything with even a hint of stink.
15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
The cemetery scene at the end of Saving Private Ryan. It just kills me.
Butter and salt.
17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Once, maybe twice a year. It's got to be something I'm reasonably sure I'll like, and it has to be the kind of visual spectacle that warrants schlepping to the theater... which, for me, is pretty rare.
18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. That definitely warranted a trip to the theater.
19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Science fiction, comedy, mystery.
20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Sound of Music. I even remember the theater — thirty years later, I saw Independence Day in the same theater in San Jose. It must have been a re-release, though, because I was only three years old when it was first released, and I'm pretty sure I was older than that when I saw it; I remember it too well, and I haven't seen the whole thing again since then.
I believe I saw my very first movie at a drive-in. When I was six years old when the folks bundled us kids into the back of the '67 Ford Galaxie station wagon so they could go see Planet of the Apes. It was another 10 years before I saw the whole movie again... and I remembered a goodly portion of it.
21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Star Trek - The Motion Picture. It was utterly awful, though it did have the sole redeeming virtue of enabling the subsequent making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the best of all the Trek movies.
22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Nacho Libre. Went to see it with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. Though unusual, it turned out to be pretty good family fare.
23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
Alien. It still completely creeps me out.
24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
The former makes me a connoisseur of comedy.
The latter makes me a bad, bad man.
(Directed by Tony Bill, starring James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno)
Predictable but somewhat effective (though predictable) WW1 (totally predictable) drama.
Did I mention "predictable"?
(Directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt)
Lesson learned: never travel without a solar-powered satellite phone in your pocket.
(Directed by Ericson Core, starring Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks and Kevin Conway)
Think "Rudy turns pro."
Good football/underdog/inspirational/true-story movie, excellent family fare.
(Directed by Todd Phillips, starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn)
The world needed a definitive "old people acting like college students" movie.
This ain't it.
Back to School, on the other hand, is.
Wilson, Ferrell and Vaughn couldn't have carried Rodney Dangerfield's jock.
I have to leave Mycah alone in the house for about 12 hours a day on work days. Though she may only have a brain the size of a walnut, I figure she might have just enough synapses to experience boredom.
It isn't hard to tell that Mycah gets bored while I'm away; when I pull up into the driveway in the wee hours of the morning after work, I can see her silhouetted in the front window, sitting on the back of the living room couch, keeping an eye out for my return. I suspect it's mainly because she wants to be fed the minute I walk in, but there's a strong likelihood it's also because she has nothing better to do. It's not like she has many ways to amuse herself.
I do give her a lot of attention when I am home — her favorite game seems to be "hunt the hand moving under the blanket/towel/newspaper" — but
while my red cell count is recovering during my work week, she is forced to spend the majority of her time alone.
Ideally, I'd get her a playmate; I'd certainly like to have another cat in the house, and I figure it would be great for Mycah to have a companion, but unfortunately, she doesn't have a history of playing well with others.
At least she doesn't run with scissors.
Still, a way had to be found to keep her little grey cells from shutting down, something to get her attention, something to interest her, some way to keep her as mentally sharp as a middle-aged cat can be. Ultimately, I took the yuppie parent way out: I bought her a DVD that I leave running when I go to work.
Cat Sitter is a DVD that features scenes of rodents, birds, and fish doing what they do. Mice scamper in a terrarium. Birds flutter around a feeder. Fish swim in an aquarium. Squirrels run around in a park. For Mycah, it's like video crack.
No, strike that. It's like video crack, steeped in heroin, with a meth chaser.
I suspect that in her mind's eye she is a sabre-tooth, stalking a wildebeest.
I'll be hosting the CotC here on Monday, June 5th (a day later than usual because of my work schedule.)
Big Night (1996)
(Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, starring Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Ian Holm, Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini)
Timpano? Wow. I have got to find a good Italian restaurant.
Phantom of the Opera (2004)
(Directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Gerard Butler as The Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul)
I really identified with the Phantom. Almost completely.
Except for being French.
And all the singing and strangling, of course.
Suppose you're a young but solidly established — indeed, award-winning — star in Hollywood who, as many actors are wont to do, would like to direct movies yourself. You have a few TV projects under your belt, but the silver screen is where you'd like to go next. What would you pick for your first film project?
An edgy thriller? A schmaltzy romance? A crime drama? When Tom Hanks directed his first film, we can all be glad it was none of the those, but rather a tribute to the spirit of a time when no dream seemed unattainable.
1996's That Thing You Do! will not go down in history as a great film, but it deserves to be remembered as a good one — a simple tale told in a straightforward and engaging way, about people just like people we all know, getting a shot at greatness.
In short: an early-60s going-nowhere garage band makes a change, which leads to their song becoming a hit locally, and then nationally. The film follows The Oneders from their humble beginnings in Erie, PA to their peak of success as The Wonders and thence to their ultimate destiny as a group and as individuals.
This isn't High Art, folks — just the telling of a story. The characters make mistakes big and small, achieve successes big and small, and are variously cruel and kind. You know — just like real people.
Unlike much of real life, however, this movie is almost entirely suitable for family viewing. Very little bad language — none "blue" that I can recall — and no sex or drugs, despite the rock-and-roll.
There's drama, albeit not terribly heavy. This isn't a film that requires deep thought; you might be disappointed to find that the most profound point of the movie is that sometimes people use other people for their own ends. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much like real life.
There's a fair amount of humor as well (much of it inspired by the bands poor initial choice of a name) but it goes by so quickly that it seems to have been included in the movie in order to set a general light-hearted tone rather than to inspire laughs... but I laughed often enough to want to see it over and over.
This is a movie that is simply made to be enjoyed for itself, and I certainly did.
Some notes:* Tom Hanks, fresh from Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, is the big name on the playbill, but he's not the lead. The part of Mr. White, the agent, could have been filled by many people. Hanks works so well in the role because when the character has anything to say, you have to pay attention to him — his interjections are often important to understanding where the movie is going.
* The cast rehearsed as a band for weeks before performing on film, though most (if not all) of their performances were dubbed. Nonetheless, the members of the band clearly loved what they were doing. I suppose it could have been good acting, but I don't think anyone is that good an actor. Seeing the band onstage in their suits, singing and playing their hearts out, the one emotion that came through clearly to me was Joy.
* I don't imagine the big record labels are much different today than they were in 1964, in the way they treat people.
* Liv Tyler's role as Faye could have been played up a bit more, but she made good use of the part. There was one point at which Faye becomes ill, and I expected there to be a hard choice to be made along the lines of "if you stick by your girlfriend and get sick yourself, you risk your career." The setup was there, but the script took a different direction. Tyler, however, did a rather good job for an 18-year-old. Oh, and yeah — she's totally cute in the part.
* Charlize Theron made one of her first appearances in this film. Brief, and ultimately forgettable.
* The four main cast members have all been working steadily since TTYD, but I don't think I've ever seen any of their other films. Sahara, which co-stars Steve Zahn (guitarist Lenny), is in my NetFlix queue.
* One of the main reasons I wanted to see this film was for the music. I enjoy early-60s music, and got quite a good dose of it in the movie. That none (or very little) of it is authentic product of the 1960s is of little consequence to me. Good is good.
* I wonder if the cast might have thought they were being set up to be a retro version of The Monkees?
* The DVD is nearly devoid of extra features, though it does include music videos for the title song and a second Wonders song, Dance With Me Tonight. Both are quite enjoyable.
* The title song, had it been written and performed by an actual 1964 band, could indeed have propelled that band to stardom. It's catchy, memorable, and tight — not a wasted note. Funnily enough, the song did indeed propel a band to a certain degree of stardom, more about which later.
I enjoyed That Thing You Do! quite a bit, and though it is not going to go down in film history as a classic, Tom Hanks nevertheless deserves credit for directing this little gem. I highly recommend this movie as an addition to your rental queue or even to your DVD library.
[Updated and revised.]
One thing those of you who have read my occasional TV, DVD, movie or music reviews might have noticed is that I don't do in-depth reviews of anything after viewing or listening just once. Usually, that's because I don't partake in entertainment in order to write a review. I simply try to enjoy it.
Add to that the fact that I rarely actually go to the movies, and I don't buy, willy-nilly, every CD that comes out, nor do I watch the "popular" TV shows. Most of them are utter dreck. (Well, I do watch NCIS and CSI and its variants. Good stuff, but I don't ever expect to write reviews of them.)
Nonetheless, there is quality entertainment to be had. One aspect of quality, per se, is the ability to stand the test of time. Perhaps that's why the CDs I occasionally buy were usually released a few years before I buy them.
Sometimes, however, the label "instant classic" really does apply. Something need not be twenty or more years old to have demonstrated qualities that will let it hold its own in the future. By way of example, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is now just two years old, is one such film. I recommended it here, and received some very good feedback. It is, I think, a film that will be eminently watchable for generations to come.
So if you see an in-depth review of mine, it will probably not be something that aired on TV last night, it probably won't be something you can still go see in the theaters, and it probably will not be something currently on the Billboard top-100 list. Probably not.
Furthermore, I don't intend to review too many things I would not recommend. My time is too valuable to me to waste becoming familiar enough with something I don't like, just to write a full review. If there's something don't like, I'll say so and move along.
Rather, I intend my reviews to be justifications for my recommendations. (Again, refer to M&C.) If I recommend something, you can be sure I either already own it, or it's in my shopping basket — putting my money where my mouth is, you might say.
It seems like it's not often, these days, that a "war movie" can be made without its characters devolving into introspective weepiness, riddled with self-doubt and prone to questioning the point of the conflict. Either that, or the protagonist is an abominable sort of character.
Master And Commander – The Far Side Of The World has no such problems.
Being something of an enthusiast for the whole "Age of Sail" genre — I grew up reading my Dad's Hornblower books — I made a point of seeing M&C in the theaters when it came out in late 2003. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I need not have worried. I was hugely impressed, and as soon as the DVD was available, I snapped up a copy. It may be that a better film about war at sea has been made, but if so, I've not seen it – and I've seen most of them.
Based on the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian, and taking its name from the first and tenth books in the series, the movie is a blend of elements of the entire series, rather than just one of the novels put to film. Those familiar with the novels will recognize the general plot outline as being from "The Far Side of the World," with incidents and dialogue (including a fair amount of humor) taken in pieces from the full range of books and blended into a seamless whole.
Over at Llama Butchers yesterday, Robert had the temerity to criticize the casting of Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey, calling him "broody and moody." I beg to differ. By curious coincidence, I had watched the DVD the night before, and suggested in the comments that
Crowe didn't play Aubrey as originally written (for starters, Aubrey was severely obese....) But more to the point, I can watch the movie over and over, and I never think "that's Russell Crowe" – he completely subordinates himself to the role.
Having watched it again last night, I'll stand by that.
Some further observations:
• The movie is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, related images, and brief language. The language is in fact very brief. There are plenty of "damns" to go around, but only one very quick interjection of anything harsher; the use is apt, given the context. If someone had stolen two years of my work and burnt my ship, I'd swear, too.
• Master and Commander won two Oscars and was nominated for eight others. [Every one of those eight was won by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.] The award for cinematography was well-deserved – this film is simply beautiful.
• This is a man's film, about manliness and duty among men at war. There are no women in the featured cast. A few women appear on screen for a few seconds early on, but they are quickly passed and the film continues.
• The role of Dr. Maturin in the film is primarily that of Aubrey's conscience; unexplained in the film is that Maturin is more than Aubrey's best friend, a physician, and a naturalist – he is also an intelligence agent. The character, being a naval neophyte, also occasionally serves a useful purpose when nautical matters need to be explained for the benefit of the viewer, who might not be likely to know what the "weather gage" (for example) might be.
• There is a lot of violence, of course – it's war on the high seas. Blood, a bit. Lots more gritting-of-teeth than actual gore. Mostly, it's violent action without a lot of organs and limbs flying about.
• There is some death, of course; this is a war movie. It's handled very poignantly, however, without the characters getting overly maudlin. Sometimes death cannot be avoided, and may be necessary. After the death of a sailor in an accident that could have been avoided if Aubrey had not been doing his duty as he saw fit, the following exchange takes place:
Aubrey: This is a ship of war, and I will grind whatever grist the mill requires in order to fulfill my duty.
Maturin: Whatever the cost?
Aubrey: Whatever the cost.
• One thing I found particularly impressive was the portrayal of the midshipmen. The film does a astoundingly good job of presenting teenage boys as something other than trash-mouth self-centered whining snivelling little turds. This film should be mandatory viewing for all teenage boys.
• Max Pirkis, as the 12 or 13 year old Midshipman Lord Blakeney, is especially noteworthy. Despite suffering a grievous injury early in the film, his character soldiers on, and in the climactic battle is simply remarkable, demonstrating leadership, initiative and resolve far above the capacity of most people many years older. That Pirkis won two acting awards for his performance is entirely appropriate. That neither of those awards was an Oscar is a shame.
• The musical score is perfect. 'Nuff said.
Master and Commander is destined in years to come to be looked back at as a classic. If you haven't seen it, rent it. If you have seen it and don't own it, buy it.
As that unnamed blogger might say, "heh."
My all-time favorite TV series (which, in the Grand Scheme Of Things, ranks in importance somewhere between a favorite grandparent and a favorite flavor of icecream) is Babylon 5. (The full set of DVDs is in my wish list... but I may pop for it myself one of these days.)
Yes, I'm a geek.
Yes, there's a connection. Bear with me.
Babylon 5 was smartly-written: gritty, suspenseful, thrilling and realistic (well... as realistic as science fiction can reasonably be), with grand themes surrounding the day-to-day action. Characters had failings, flaws and deep dark secrets — no prissy Jean-Luc Picards anywhere to be seen. The problems of everyday life intruded into the characters' lives. The tip-off for me was that the space station had bathrooms, and characters actually used them.
[I'm convinced the missions of Star Trek's vessels were mainly concerned searching for planets with decent lavatory facilities, since no commodes are apparent on Star Fleet's ships.]
As the saying goes, for science fiction to be good science fiction, it must first be good fiction. By any standard, B5 scored on that count. It was such a good show that, given Hollywood's penchant for killing quality projects, I still think it's a miracle it made it to the airwaves at all, much less made it through its complete 5-year storyline.
If you never followed it, I can only say: it's not too late.
Not only was B5 one great big terrific story, but almost all episodes (there were a couple of stinkers) were good stories in and of themselves. Throughout the series were moments that would have any normal person shivering with anticipation, cheering, saddened, or laughing out loud.
Hence this post. We began with ducks, and end with one of my favorite "gems" of dialog from the program.
Londo: "... I think I will stick my head in the station's fusion reactor. It would be quicker. And I suspect, after a while I might even come to enjoy it. But this — this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by... what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet .. go 'quack'...?"
Londo: "Cats. I'm being nibbled to death by cats."
Cracks me up every time.
[I always thought the expression was "nibbled to death by cats" rather than "by ducks." A quick Google of both phrases yields 2,910 hits for "cats" and a mere 695 for "ducks," but that's beside the point....]
[Point? What point?]
About a month ago, I wrote
whoever put the DVD version of Zulu on the market needs an assegai stuck squarely into his chest.I wasn't kidding.
Zulu, for the uninitiated, is the story of the Battle of Rorke's Drift. Told with the usual in-filling of artistic license, the film nevertheless conveys a pretty good picture of the battle, 22-23 January 1879, in which some 150 British soldiers held off about 4,000 Zulu warriors, forcing them to withdraw with heavy casualties. Redcoats of the 24th Foot, a mostly Welsh regiment, were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses for the action.
[By way of comparison, only four men received the Medal of Honor for the D-Day landings at Normandy. And yes, the British are notoriously stingy with the V.C. - in 1879, there was no allowance for posthumous awards, for instance.]
The DVD release of Zulu which I had was put out by some outfit called Diamond Entertainment. I bought it because it was the only DVD release available in 2000.
It profoundly sucked.
In every way a DVD could be awful, this one was. My heavily-worn VHS copy from 1988 was better than that craptastic DVD. Extra features: nonexistant. The video quality was appallingly bad, as though someone had videotaped it off a screen in a theater - complete with "pan and scan". The sound was equally bad - a particularly awful flaw for a movie so heavily reliant on singing.
At the local Circuit City yesterday, I spotted a Zulu DVD on the shelf... but it was different. This one was from MGM Studios - and at $10, worth picking up just on the off chance that it was better than what I already had.
Oh, yeah. Clean clear widescreen video - possibly remastered, but more likely taken from a clean print of the film. The audio was spectacular - I kept hearing things in there that I'd never heard before. Bear in mind that this is one of my all-time favorite films - I know it backwards and forwards... or I thought I did, at any rate. Add to that a bit of hearing loss I've suffered since 1988; the fact that I'm hearing new things speaks very well of this edition of the film.
[Diamond Entertainment execs still deserve assegais in their chests for producing what has become my newest coffee-mug coaster.]
The TV aspect of the cable system in my area - the entire county, apparently, and perhaps beyond - went out last night, and is still out. My cable modem is fine. Odd.
I've replaced a fair amount of my VHS collection with DVD, with mixed results. Many older films make good use of the DVD format - crisp clean images, excellent sound, and occasional bonus features. Others... well, others seem to have been rushed to the marketplace, made from any old print of the film on hand, and have no qualitative advantage whatsoever over their VHS predecessors, and are sometimes actually worse.
I started the movie... it was absolutely beautiful. The video was as clean as I've ever seen, the sound much richer than the VHS. The flying and aerial combat scenes were magnificent - far better than I remember the tape being, even when it was new. (And there is very little that will make me drool quite so much as a Spitfire.) The subtitles for the German dialog have been re-done, and included much dialog that had been ignored in the original.
[I don't know what some of those reviewers at Amazon are thinking. I've seen both the VHS and DVD versions, and the DVD is far superior.]
The movie has the additional virtue of being a true story, recorded on film at a time when a great many of the participants in the historical event were still alive. Many veterans - British and Germans, both - assisted with its creation. There's no historical revisionism going on in this film. (Oliver Stone, take note.)
Watching it was like seeing an old "tee-shirt & jeans" friend neatly turned out in Sunday-best clothes.
Oh, and... whoever put the DVD version of Zulu on the market needs an assegai stuck squarely into his chest.