Archive for January, 2011

I won’t go into the details, if you would like them go here, but in essence the Utah State legislature is considering naming the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol as a state symbol. The Browning family – like the Eccles, Needhams, and Farr’s – are integral contributors to the Utah heritage and culture and the firearm that bears their name was designed and developed in Ogden – Utah’s Armpit – and, from what I understand, is a pretty darn good piece of equipment.

Now, this proposition has gotten a lot of people all worked up in a tissy. They feel that the very idea of a gun as a state symbol sends the wrong idea about who we are as a state – would they prefer a child bride be our symbol? It’s not that the have anything against the Browning’s, or the M1911, they simply don’t feel good about the state of Utah being associated with a gun.

Ok, let’s just say this once and get it over with. Utah is an OVERWHELMINGLY pro-gun rights state.

As this debate has gone on, and on, I have become more and more in favor of this idea. At first I thought “huh, that’s interesting” then as I read more about the Browning family I thought “Ok, that’s kind of cool” and then as the opposition kept on crying about the perceived injustices I couldn’t help but convert to a “Please, pass this and while you’re at it, make a state holiday.”

And yesterday, while I was engaged in a near shouting argument over the phone on the streets of park city the even more glaring realization struck me: You don’t like Utah having a gun as a symbol but you’re ok with a freaking SEAGULL?

Except for a rogue infestation of crickets, I would prefer a handgun to a seagull in just about EVERY circumstance that my brain can come up with.

So, let’s take a look at our state’s symbols. Beginning with the (hopeful) new addition.

State Gun: Browning M1911

The standard-issue sidearm for the armed forces from 1911 to 1985 and developed by Utahn John M. Browning. A popular choice for sharpshooting events and concealed carriers. Thumbs Up!

State Cooking Pot: The Dutch Oven

Is there anyone that doesn’t like Dutch Oven cooking? If so, they’re wrong. Delicious. Thumbs Up!

State Tree: Blue Spruce

A sturdy, reliable, and aesthetically pleasing evergreen. Thumbs Up!

State Animal: Rocky Mountain Elk

A truly majestic creature named for the mountains that it, and we, calls home. Thumbs Up!

State Folk Dance: Square Dance

Waaaaaaaaay better than your average folk dance. This ain’t no Polka, the square dance is a high-flying good time for Utahns of all ages. Thumbs Up!

State Bird: California Seagull

A mostly worthless, ugly, trash-eating scavenger named after freaking CALIFORNIA and often characterized for its stupidity (think, Finding Nemo). A flock saved our ancestors from sure starvation ONE TIME, CENTURIES AGO. I’m over it. Thumbs DOWN!

In all seriousness, one of these symbols is not like the others, one of these symbols doesn’t belong. And it sure ain’t the Browning M1911.


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New Year’s in Vegas

I’ve been meeting to write about the Vegas trip but I’ve had my hands a little full. Now, since it’s almost been a month already, I’ll settle by posting the video slide show I made of the trip.

Cliff’s Notes version, we went to St. George for New Year’s and spend the actual Eve in Vegas. We lucked into finding this awesome lounge on the roof of the Cosmopolitan and had our minds subsequently blown by the awesomeness (including a nearby window full of women in their underwear, there’s a picture kind of in the video).

Oh, and we also hiked around a little and stuff. Watch the video.

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6:10 a.m. Woke up. I told myself that I could only hit snooze once…I snoozed 3 times.
6:30 a.m. Really woke up, threw some clothes in the drier – won’t be time later.
6:40 a.m. Wolf down some breakfast. Staying at my parents house so who knows what’s in the fridge. Something made of fruit and an english loaf of bread. It’s like a giant english muffin cut in slices, delicious!
7:00 a.m. Mandie is outside waiting in the car.
8:10 a.m. In line at the Eccles theater. Refill my Sundance Nalgene water bottle – gotta stay hydrated. Chat with a festival programmer about the festival.
8:43 a.m. Take my seat. I’m a kid in a candy store. My row stays oddly empty around me for quite some time, I swear I showered.

9:20 a.m. Lights dim for “Win Win,” here we go.
11:06 a.m. Film ends, great show. Q&A with Director Tom McCarthy. No Paul Giamatti? Amy Ryan? Lame.
11:46 a.m. Back in line for “Like Crazy.” Talkin’ shop with a guy named Scott who works for NBC. We get to the subject of the Globes, he thinks the nominations were as big a joke as I do. The guy freaking WORKS in 30 Rock and I’m chattin’ with him about the Globes, crazy.
12:01 p.m. Back in my seat. This time I’m sitting next to a couple form Santa Monica, very nice, they ask me about Utah.
2:00 p.m. Q&A with the cast and crew including Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones and some punk from Twilight, glad that he’s finding time to do SOMETHING of value.

2:45 p.m. Stop by headquarter. Free massage? No thanks I’m good. Soda and Granola bars? Well ok, I could use a snack.
3:00 p.m. Not enough time to go to main street and back so I step into fresh market to buy a sandwich.
3:45 p.m. In line at the Holiday Village for a press screening of “The Future.” No one interesting in this line, in hindsight it was a sign of things to come for the movie.
4:10 p.m. In my seat. Press people are apparently not as good as the public on the whole “don’t save seats thing.” Media, hmph, who needs ’em. This is my 3rd time having to watch the pre-show snowflake design and it’s starting to trip me out.
6:00 p.m. Movie’s over, heading to main street to kill some time. “Future” was so-so, odd looking people living odd lives and a very annoying voice-over Cat narrator. Yes, cat.
7:30 p.m. got to main street too late, all the venues have switched over to private parties and I’m apparently not legit enough to be on “the list.” Walk up and down a bit and people watch, huge crowds are pressed against the window of the Bing bar trying to catch a glimpse of ANYONE remotely famous. Maybe I’m just a jaded journalist but seriously, it’s not that big of a deal.

7:35 p.m. Street performer on a piano. He biked it up with some trailer rig. Impressive. More impressive would be seeing how in the world he bikes a piano DOWN a snowy main street. Props dude, and plays well.
8:00 p.m. Give up on Main Street, head down to New Frontier, some crazy “future of film” kind of thing. It actually turns out to be a little more interesting than I thought. Picture below is of movies projected on the surface of CDs.

8:30 p.m. Leave New Frontier, grab some asian tacos from a van. SO FREAKING DELICIOUS. Eat on the street while I wait for my bus and flirt with the volunteer with Blue Hair.

8:45 p.m. Check in at the Press line for “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” I’m early and “The Ledge” crowd is a handful so they tell me to leave and comeback in a half hour. I walk back to the Fresh Market and get a caramel spice cider – mmmmmm – from the mini-Starbucks inside. Two teenage girls with Arizona Ice Teas make a point to walk past me three times. What is the deal with Arizonas? These hipsters are a bunch of quacks, you’re 18! Drink a freakin’ soda!
8:50 p.m. Step into the Yarrow hotel on my way back to the tent to go through some of my notes and enjoy my cider. Enjoy it I do.
9:10 p.m. Back in the tent and back in line.

9:45 p.m. No one in line to really talk to. Turns out the guy in front of me is from The Onion (love it). He’s being interviewed by another journalist about a book he just wrote so I eavesdrop. Sidebar: the interviewers fly was down during the entirety of this interview.

10:10 p.m. In my seat for TGMEV. Fourth time today, little sleep, the Snoflake graphic is beginning to speak to me.
12:00 a.m. All done. Spurlock is the man. Now I just have to kill an hour until Mandie gets out of “Troll Hunter.” I head back up to main street but the crowds are crazy and all the bars are charging covers now.
12:45 a.m. Hangin’ out in the lobby of the Marriot. Refill my water bottle – gotta stay hydrated – and talk to Katie on the phone about all the men in her life. It’s not so bad, I’m actually half asleep.
2:07 a.m. Picked up by Mandie, head for home. It’s about an hour drive and then I’m gotta be up at 6:00 to do it all again.

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I’ve been watching movies for a long time. When I say that, I don’t mean “watching” in the traditional sense, there’s just not really a better word. Everybody “watches” movies, it’s like breathing oxygen. I watch movies, and I’ve been doing it for a long time.

So, it is with that experience that I say this: Every year, critics whine that the movies were crap THIS year. Every December I read about declining ticket sales, public disinterest, and old geezers lamenting about “the old days” of Schindler’s list, Gladiator, and Citizen Cane and how “they don’t make ’em like that any more.”

Having said that, 2010 truly was garbage.

There were some greats, don’t get me wrong. But, I went through 2010 with a fine-toothed comb, week by week, checking the releases to make sure I hadn’t missed anything*. I looked at my list, floating around 7, and thought “there has to be 3 more movies that are best-of worthy. I eventually filled it in with what were, in my opinion, my favorite 10 movies of 2010.

(* note: I did not see “The Fighter” or “Black Swan” and judging by the industry buzz those two would have likely cracked this list. Also, for simplicity purposes I kept the top 10 to Wide Release films only. I would like to add that I am a supporter of independent film and there are many great movies that were released this year and I urge everyone to read up on some of the arthouse offerings.)

1. The Social Network

With credit to the geezers, they really don’t make ’em like this anymore. Just so you know my intentions, I admit that there’s a time in place to watch Jason Statham crack skulls and Megan Fox run from robots. While I appreciate escapism, I still can tell the difference between cheap thrills and art.

Social Network is the kind of film that not only tells a story, but captures a generation. With a group of college-age geniuses on the front lines of a changing society, SN gives us emotion in heavy doses, wrapped in crisp biting dialogue and bundled in one flawless package. It is powerful, it is thought-provoking, and its funny, with each character stealing the scenes simultaneously. Every actor shines and in my opinion the Oscars can’t give this film enough nominations.

2. Inception

Christopher Nolan is, as far as film is concerned, a god. If I were to ever teach a film appreciation class The Presitge, Memento and Inception would be required texts with the Batman series being optional for extra credit. The man manages to excel at exactly what makes smash bang directors like Michael Bay fail, he blends satisfying popcorn with deep brain teasing concepts. Case in point, he makes super hero movie and adds a layer of social commentary, pyscho-analysis and just plain blow-your-mind craziness.

In Inception, he gives us the world of the dream. Multiple actually. And then stands them on top of each other like a Jenga game. He gives us eye candy like zero gravity fight scenes and Ellen Page while using his bells and whistles to drive the story forward, upward, downward, backward and any direction he wants to. Now that I’ve seen the making-of featurettes, I only have more respect for the filmmaker and his desire to push the boundaries of story and picture without sacrificing heart and purpose. And, lest we forget, he only uses green screens when he absolutely has to.

Choke on that George Lucas.

3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Story is one of those rare quiet films that make you feel like it’s just good to be alive. It follows a teen dealing with depression who checks into a psychiatric ward. In many ways it’s what you expect, he meets some characters that make him appreciate what he has, he finds out things about himself he didn’t know, he meets a girl (Newcomer Emma Roberts – Julia’s niece).

Not exactly mind blowing stuff. But IKOAFS is just so darn charming in it’s blend of reality and fantasy – during a therapy session the characters, via pseudo-dream sequence, perform Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure, and it is pure gold – and it’s dark humor – watch out for some truly awesome vomit sequences – that you can’t help but smile. I walked out of the theater smelling the air and wanting to go on an adventure.

4. True Grit

Jeff Bridges shows his range in the latest endeavor from the Cohen Brothers. Bridges did country in Crazy Heart, the Cohens did country in No Country For Old Men, but in both cases True Grit is something entirely new.

The dialogue is perfect. So perfect it’s almost unbelievably good but who cares? You’ll want to take your Delorian back to the frontier just so you can spar with LaBeuf.

5. Shutter Island

I’ve always liked Scorsese. His films have a distinct visual style that you can pick out almost as though you were in an art gallery. He uses color, light and contrast to literally paint a scene so that even when the plot is on pause, the image dazzles.

In Shutter Island, Scorecese takes his steady directing hand to the Thriller genre, which is hardly known for beauty, and the result is absolutely mystifying. Some viewers complained about the plot, but I remember walking out of the theater and immediately calling a friend to discuss it. This week I was able to watch it again and I caught more intricacies than before and even knowing the end was pulled into this eerie world where nothing is what it seems.

For me, I thought the story was fresh and in the masters hands, it’s simply art.

6. The Town

I’ve never been to Boston, so a lot of the pseudo-romantic talk about capturing the “beat” and “essence” of the city in movies like The Departed and The Town is lost on me. Still, Ben Afflec’s latest is oozing with a particular vibe that is hard to define.

It’s a quiet movie, about bank robbers. In that way it passes on the glitz and bubble gum of other heist flicks like Ocean’s 11 and 13 (there is no 12) and The Italian Job and instead feels more akin to talkies from the production code era, except that every other word is an F* bomb.

The film is one giant juxtaposition, from the tender scenes of romance to the expletive rants to the actual heists where criminals don masks that look like Michael Myers joined a convent. It pulses, like a breathing animal, down on all fours and preparing to pounce; and even though it never quite explodes like you think it might, you come to find out that has been its strength all along.

7. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Great film is like good food. We all know that there are superior culinary arts, garnished and presented flambe in a bed of tastes and textures. Sometimes though, we just want to dump Hershey’s syrup in a bowl of ice cream and go to town.

Watching Scott Pilgrim is like being a kid in a candy store. For two hours you are bombarded almost incessantly with audio a visual stimuli and the more it dips into crazy town the more you find yourself loving the ride.


Now we’re in the minor leagues. Two year’s ago RED (a good movie, to be certain) would never have even scratched the top 10 and certainly would not be in the running for a best picture award (Golden Globes, comedy division).

Alas, this is the year that we are writing about and I loved watching RED. The title stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous and refers explicitly to Bruce Willis but also the combined force of Morgan Freeman, Dame Helen Mirren (she’s a Dame right?) and John Malkovich who dusted off his particular brand of crazy for this one. All of the above named are retired special forces operatives thrown back into action when Willis is targeted by the CIA, personified by the ever-enjoyable and drastically underrated Karl Urban (Star Trek’s Bones).

Add in the mousy-hot Mary Louise Parker as the love interest and civilian audience liaison and you have a recipe for a fresh spin on a tired genre of comedy action flicks, of which we’ve had an abundance this year (The A-Team, The Losers, The Expendables – note, I’m not ragging on these movies, I actually thought they were all pretty good, ok, and awesome, respectively).

9. Knight and Day

I’m not afraid to admit it, I’m a Tom Cruise fan. Sure, he’s kind of crazy these days, but as I always remind my friends I’m Mormon, and it doesn’t get much crazier than that. Tommy Boy, despite his loss of star power, has been delivering some solid hits these days (M:I-3, Tropic Thunder) and this little gem sadly went mostly unnoticed during the doldrums of summer.

In K&D Cruise plays a government agent of questionable mental stability being hunted by his own and lugging around Cameron Diaz for eye candy. That said, Diaz manages to bring the funny, especially during a sequence where she is mildly sedated (actually, there’s 2 sequences like that but only one in which SHE is funny, the other one is all Tom).

This is popcorn entertainment at its best. It doesn’t change your world view, it doesn’t make you switch political parties, it just delivers some fast paste clever entertainment. Some of the supporting players run a little thin and the ending fizzles but Cruise in his off-hilter uber-trained paranoia is an absolute delight.

10. Easy A

I had some qualms going into Easy A. Emma Stone plays a geeky nobody at a high school where having sex makes you the talk of the town … I’m sorry, but what High School in America is that? Eventually, however, I was able to swallow the pill of necessarily contrived plot devices and enjoy the story, which is darned enjoyable.

Easy A is a modern retelling of The Scarlett Letter. Stone lies about losing her virginity, gains some notoriety, then falls into a slippery slope of lying about trysts as favors to other societal outcasts until (ominous music) things get out of hand.

It’s not the most original plot, but the performances of Stone and supporting players Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci ARE original and dynamite. It’s the funniest high school script since Mean Girls and the best adolescent identity movie since the John Hughes Era (which receives healthy shout-outs during the movie). I wouldn’t give the movie an A, but it stands out amongst many comedy offerings this year.

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One of the more interesting ideas, for me, in Ayn Rynd’s Atlas Shrugged is how she carries her ideas of objectivism to everyday emotional relationships. Like all aspects of life, Rynd suggests that we should be motivated by our own self-interest and only give value for value.

The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, at one point asks the “Strikers” who live in an objectivist society, what role husbands and wives play and they explain to her that Love is still free to exist in objectivism but instead of being demanded by those in the outside world, it is given as an exchange of values.

At first, gift-giving seems contrary to objectivism in that someone is receiving a gift with nothing in return. This is not true. For example, a man loves his wife and buys her a beautiful dress. The man is actually acting in his own self interest. By giving the dress to his wife HE receives the value of seeing her in that dress. HE receives the value of being the person who, as the result of his productivity, has the means to use his money in the way that he sees fit, purchasing a beautiful dress and gifting it to the woman he loves.

As I was reading the book, there were a few times when the attitude of the characters toward charity (being very contrary) created a conflict with my Christian/Mormon upbringing where charitable acts are thought of as being of utmost import in Christ-like living. It was only near the end of the book when Rynd reconciled this as the lead Striker explains that giving a toy to a poor child is fine. It is only when that toy is given at the expense of your own child’s happiness that it becomes wrong. Wronger still, is when those in power DEMAND that you take the toy out of your child’s hands (a toy that you purchased with the result of your productivity) and place it in the hands of a poor child.

My favorite character, Hank Rearden, is the most tortured of this principal, as his immediate family seek over and over again to essentially eat his carcass while simultaneously riding on his shoulders. His wife DEMANDS his Love while berating and degrading his achievements. His brother DEMANDS his pity while contributing nothing and seeking through political influence to destroy Rearden. His mother DEMANDS his support while insulting him for his ideals and drive to succeed.

Another character, James Taggart, demonstrates the wrong form of Love perfectly. He is a man of means, means he received through no ability of his own and in fact litterally stole from the ability of others. He meets a girl in a state of poverty and marries her, under the assumption that due to her lower-class status she will be forced to Love him because she is dependent on him. He has no value to offer, except his social status, and seeks to receive his love by obligation rather than earning it. His wife, strives to educate herself in the ways of sophisticated society, for which she receives resentment from her husband James because he can no longer demand her affection if she ceases to be a street rat.

Now, in real life. I see James Taggarts every day. Little did I know I’ve been living personal objectivism all along, unconsciously.

I remember a while back some friends of mine were having a movie night. I invited a girl, and she said that she needed to pack. I suggested that it had been some time since she had spent time with this particular group and since college-age adults are known to stay up to reckless hours of the morning, she could easily do her packing after the movie.

“Don’t try to guilt-trip me,” she said.

I didn’t understand when she first said it. To me, I was merely presenting that if the value of attending the event were great enough to make up for the loss of sleep then it would be advantageous for her to do so, if not, stay home and pack.

It didn’t occur to me until later that her reaction was not due to my individual statement, but a result of a hole society’s tendency to demand un-earned attention. Simply put, she didn’t realize that I was an objectivist, she thought I was a looter.

Every day I see pathetic (faux-hawked) young men GUILTING women into spending time with them. “Come oooooon,” they say “we haven’t hung out in sooooooo looooooooong.”

Ask yourself why? If she wanted to hang out with you, she probably would. If you have not earned someone’s time, affection, love then you have no right to demand it.

If you haven’t earned my time, I will not give it to you. If there’s no value for me to gain from interacting with you, then I will choose not to.

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As I was glancing through the newspaper showtimes today I realized that I had left a film out of my holiday capsule reviews. Since adding another section to my last post would make it horrendously large, I figured I’d just set this one apart. As such, I am here yet again to rectify the situation.

The Tourist

Johnny Depp has made a career out of playing eccentric characters (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pirates of the Carribean) and even when he plays “normal” there’s still seems to remain a hint of strange in the neurosis that he fabricates for his roles, like the fantasy-creating J.M Barrie or the tortured and titular Gilbert Grape. In “The Tourist” we see Depp giving his best shot at an everyman — in this case a community college math teacher named Frank on holiday in Europe.

The film opens with Elise (Angelina Jolie) under heavy surveillance by some unnamed yet understood police authority. She receives a communiqué which sends the fuzz atwitter and they proceed to scamper around as she evades them and slips onto a train bound for venice. The note tells her to choose a man and pose as though her were the note-sender which she promptly does in the form of the anxious, electronic cigarrette smoking Frank.

Arriving in Venice Elise whisks Frank away to her posh hotel accomodations and makes sure to plant a kiss on him in full view of the surveilance, thrusting Frank into a game of cat and mouse running from both the law and underworld gangsters. Paul Bettany plays the obligatory police chief who wills stop at nothing to find his man and a handful of secondary character fill up the chorus, including a rather dejected-looking Rufus Sewell who does offers one line of diologue after posing mysteriously for about 6 total minutes of screentime. Apparently his career isn’t blasting off at the moment.

For most of the film, Tourist is merely entertaining. The plot itself is nothing spectacular but it is enough to allow you enjoy all the pretty scenery and wonder, casually, if everything will work out in the end. Jolie is absolutely boring in her flat portrayal of the elusive Elise, torn by loyalty and love and doing little more than striking the pouted pose that made Jolie famous. Depp is fun to watch if only because his character is so average it seems unusual.

The strongest point of Tourist, however, is how french director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck doesn’t rely on cheap flashy tricks to save his characters from peril. In the movies most drawn out chase seen, Depp runs barefoot in his pajamas across venetian roofs, slowly and awkwardly as I suspect any of us might do if we were woken by men with large guns. He doesn’t jump over treachorous gaps, dodging bullets, setting of explosions and parkour-ing to safety. He mostly ambles around like, well, a dumb american in over his head.

And, while most of the plot offers little by way of mind-bending surprise, von Donnersmarck does have a trick or two up his sleeve that manage to elevate the film out of what would be an otherwise uneventfull demise. B-

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As is custom, the holiday’s brought me home for an extended period of time which, inevitably, coincided with an increase in film consumption. You all know the drill by now.

1. True Grit

I knew nothing of neither the book upon which this movie is based nor the original cinematic interpretation starring John Wayne when I walked into the theater. What I DID know, was that The Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man) had used their two-headed super powers to conjure up yet another holiday release brimming with Oscar Buzz.

Oscar Buzz can sometimes shoot a movie in the foot, driving up viewer expectations to a point where they can’t appreciate the filmmaking achievement for lack of raw entertainment value. In a way, they can’t see the forest for the trees and all around them loudspeakers shout “WOAH, LOOK AT THIS F***ING FOREST!”

True Grit, however, did not disappoint and will surely land on my 10 Best films of 2010 (coming soon). It tells the story of a young girl, played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who hires a U.S. Marshal – a one-eyed Jeff Bridges – to track down her father’s killer. Along they way they join forces (kind of) with a cock-sure Texas Ranger named LaBeof (pronouced, hilariously, La-Beef) played by Matt Damon.

The bones of the story are what you would expect. Three travelers in unfriendly terrain tracking down killers and encountering any number of obstacles along the way. What elevates Grit from the pack, however, is brilliant diologue that makes you wonder “did they really talk like that?” but not really care because it’s just so good. The Coen brothers also weave together bits of whimsey and surrealism with tense action and a fair dose of gory violence. Steinfeld is pitch-perfect as the pushy-tenacious Matti while Bridges and Damon spar with brilliantly defined characters.

In many ways, the plot itself is merely the device that allows you to take a journey through an artistic interpretation of the Wild West. In Grit, this little history lesson in Americana takes on a form and feel so uniquely constructed that it rivals Last of the Mohicans in pure grandeour, even while it revels in its own simplicity. A-

2. Megamind

I’m not really one for cartoons. I understand and appreciate their role in our cinematic society and simply put I am not their target audience so I usually do everyone involved a favor and avoid them entirely. From a critical standpoint, the average cartoon is a contrived cookie cutter form of entertainment designed for family-friendliness and younger audiences who ask nothing more than to be dazzled for 80 minutes or less by flashing colors. Again, that’s not me.

So, in a holiday spirit I joined my sister and her children for a viewing of MegaMind at the discount theater.

For every “Toy Story” that blends genres and transcends itself to provide clever refreshing entertainment to all ages, there’s about 9 “Shrek the Thirds” that seem to be phoned-in box packages that come equipped with their own punchlines and provide a “satisfactory” taste in the mouth. MegaMind is the latter.

The premise is cute enough, alien kid lands on earth and is reared in a prison, destined to be the bad guy. His rival is superman (essentially) and they battle until one day superman dissapears and bad guy wins once and for all. He soon becomes bored being a yin with no yang and seeks to create a new counterpart to do battle with but in the process learns that he’d rather be the good guy blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Perfectly adequate in every way. B-

3. How do you know

James Brooks’ latest is having a rather rough time at the box offices. After a fairly aggressive marketing campaign HDYK failed to find its audience and seems to have puttered out after 4 weeks with about $25 mill. For those of you who don’t talk Box Office, that’s not very good.

Then again, anyone who has ever seen a movie directed by George Lucas knows that success DOES NOT equal quality.

In HDYK we find George (Paul Rudd), a shlubbishly charming boy scout of a man suddenly under the strain of a large-scale fraud investigation. In a swift progression George finds himself increasingly down-trodden by fate, losing his job, his apartment and his girlfriend.

Sidestep frame, and we encounter Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) a plucky olympic-level softball player who has just been cut from the U.S.A. team, but doesn’t know it yet. She begins dating a cocky, yet admirably honest baseball star (Owen Wilson) and then the world drops out from under her feet just as she meets George. He is smitten (who wouldn’t be) but he’s also falling apart at the seems. She’s confused, and tries to navigate the changes in her life without breaking down and screaming.

I found HDYK charming. For me it was one of those rare occurences where a romantic comedy brings something fresh to the table and in the vein of reigning champion 500 Days of Summer it’s humor is built on the wrenching awkwardness of everyday encounters and miscommunications rather than the cliched idiocy of contrived rom-com trash. There are many scenes where Rudd’s behavior as the nice-to-a-fault George make you squirm in your seat the way that Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott did in the glory days of The Office, begging the movie to end the suffering while simultaneously causing you to giggle unceasingly.

Jack Nicholson, in a supporting role, is as magnetic as ever as George’s father and corporate employer. He brings just enough crazy and just enough heart to make you wonder what he’ll do next and is solely responsible for the films funniest and most admirable gag: an intentional GOTCHA that winks its eye at the very genre you’re watching.

I doubt this movie will be in theaters much longer, but catch it if you can, or grab it on DVD when it’s out. B

4. The Fall.

It’s hard to put “The Fall” into a box. It tells the quiet story of an injured stuntman in a hospital, befriending a young girl and telling her the fantasy story of 5 heroes on a quest for vengeance. The story, through her imagination, is shown in fascinating visual style via mesmerizing cinematography.

In many ways, it reminded me of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. Not in the actual product but in the way that the scenes seemed like thinly connected artistic segments. There’s an an underlying story, one that is represented both literally and metaphorically through the story being told, and yet you get the feeling that what your seeing is supposed to represent something larger that is not expressed directly through the events.

It is a visual treat, and a beautiful film, but at times the plot seems to be sacrificed to the visuals like Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones”, not enhanced by them like “Hero.” The Fall is a singular film, in his review Roger Ebert worte “You might want to see for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it”

In the end I would certainly recomend it, but it left me wanting more. B

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