Monday, March 26, 2007

Normally I wouldn't waste time reviewing "Zoom, Academy for Superheroes." It's a kids/family movie, after all, slapped together for a few bucks, but the "Making of Zoom" special feature requires a response... it really does.

First, the producers thought they'd made a great movie and spent a lot of time bragging about the great story, wonderful effects, the fantastic costumes, the hilarious actors... I understand the need to talk up your show, but when your story is about an "Academy where young superheroes train" there should probably be some training involved. They should use their spectacular powers once in awhile, or at least have spectacular powers (invisibility, telekinesis, strength and speed... yeah, spectacular. The inflato-kid was kind of clever, though).

And the costumes. Y'know with so many superhero movies out there, this should be a no-brainer - colorful, form enhancing suits that look cool. Not bright yellow bulky, quilted jumpsuits for training, and certainly not white bulky quilted jumpsuits for the real thing. It was terrible.

And then there's the hilarious actors. Tim Allen sums it up well in the outakes "we're funnier on television." Yup. He's phoning it in, Courtney Cox tries, and the most intriguing thing about the movie was the doctor who almost looked like Chevy Chase. In fact, it looked like they tried to use makeup and bad appliances to make him look like Chase, only he was too big and not funny. Except it was Chevy Chase, which just makes me sad.

"Princess" the 6-year-old strong girl was the only high point in the movie, and she was worth the whole shebang. She stole every scene without looking like a too-cute kiddie. I thought I was going to split a gut when she came out dressed as a poodle.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

New look, same content.

I enabled anonymous users for Dammi, but added symbol recognition to prevent auto-spamming. Hope it doesn't bother anyone.


Friday, March 23, 2007

I miss Mike and Malissa (and I'm not just saying that because I can always count on Malissa for a comment or two on my blog).

As two of the most encouraging people in our lives, it's very apparent when they're gone. A cruise here or there for a week is fine, but three weeks is just too long...


Thursday, March 22, 2007

I realize that a lot of the readers of this blog don't yet shave, so this post may not mean anything to you, but for you older, hairier folks, do you feel like medical insurance is a form of extortion?

Medical Insurance is a catch-22. If you have it and don't need it; it's maddening. If you don't have it and need it; it's potentially devastating. If you have it and need it; it's still annoying. If you don't have it and don't need it; it's still too much like dodging a bullet...

And when you throw that "pre-existing condition exclusion" in, then it's really maddening. "You finally know you need it, so you can't have it."

With medicine so expensive these days, another question is begged: If something medical exists, does that mean we have a right to it? You hear about these exotic, psycho-expensive drugs that cure disease X. Does the fact that you have Disease X mean drug companies should give it to you? Does everyone have a right to high-tech medical technology? If it didn't exist, you're out of luck; but by virtue that it does exist, does that mean you should have it?

Insurance companies feed off our own inability (or unwillingness) to plan and budget. I spend about $4500 a year on medical insurance (which isn't bad, really, but throw in the deductible if I need it, and we're up to $10,000 a year, which still isn't terrible, I guess, but I hate paying three bucks for milk, y'know?). If I don't use it, it goes into the insurance company's wallet to keep all my home insurance company.

If I were smart, I'd start looking at purchasing a catastrophic policy and salt away that $4500 (and deductible) in a Medical Savings Plan.

Seems like there's a business opportunity there. Sell just catastrophic and MSPs... hmm...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Guardian with Costner and Kutcher

Did you like Top Gun and Officer and a Gentleman? Then watch them and forget about Guardian.

The heroes of the Coast Guard deserve a better movie than a ham-handed retread of other, better movies. It had neither the charm of Top Gun nor the emotion of OaaG. The director took risks with the action sequences, but none with the story or characters. Sad, sad, sad.

What it did have was Kevin Costner; always a good choice for a swimmer because wooden actors float. Ashton Kutcher was surprisingly good, but his back story was unbelievable given his character - earnest, gung-ho, desperate; sure - too cool for school; no. Clancy Brown was a supporting actor who was ignored by a poor director (too bad, because he has the acting chops to take over the movie).

I honestly have no problem with formula movies - which this was. Formula is about structure, which movies are all about. The goal, though, is to hide the rigging. Craft performance and story to find fresh angles and hidden depths of the formula. Guardian didn't do any of that. It was liking watching Superman fly with the cables and green screen if full view.

The end -- which normally I wouldn't spoil, but it's already spoiled so why not? -- made me get up and walk out. Costner hanging by the fingertips of Kutcher heroically and woodenly let's go to fall to his death where he could be a ham-handed legend introduced at the beginning of the show. Maybe a better actor (like say, Gary Coleman) could have sold this moment, but Costner can't sell socks on a cold day. One-note-Kevin displays the same emotion whether he's getting divorced, getting in a bar fight, or committing suicide. He's supposed to be tragic and inhumanly noble - instead he's the wooden Indian handing out wooden nickels. (He really has to understand that the only roles he can play well are the goofballs with understated charm like in Field of Dreams or Bodyguard, or where he's playing a corpse like in The Big Chill.)

The extras on the DVD are great, though. Learn about the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers and their amazing work during Hurricane Katrina. These guys and gals are unsung heroes who deserve a lot more respect than they get. Unfortunately, this dog of a movie wasn't it.

Bottom Line: C-

Monday, March 19, 2007

Amazing Grace - Well named...

I recently read a review on another movie that seemed to lament "all these faith-based movies." It seems to me that Hollywood might accidentally be catching up with reality, instead. I don't know if AG was an indy or not, but you don't have to be Christian to be blown away by this movie.

Let me nit-pick just two things: This is so completely unfair of me, BUT... casting Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four horrible movie as Wilberforce was a little off putting. For one thing I don't think he's a very good actor, not bad, just not good; for the other thing - as much as I hate stereotyping - I kept getting pulled out of the movie because I'd think "wow, this is fantastic" and get slapped in the face by an associative memory of rubber-guy in a bad movie.

Second nit-pick was using Wilburforce's illness to symbolize the on-going, toll-taking journey of the abolitionists. He did historically struggle with great pain, but it was his determination over years of failure upon failure that needed more development. As many MP's were brought to the light by Wilbur's unceasing argument - they all wore down long before he did - and I would have liked to see that. A few subtle touches like their wigs being more frayed as time went on while Wilbur remained kempt; eroding arguments (in the beginning, the opponents would drone on and on in argument. As time went by their arguments got shorter and shorter. In one instance, Wilbur ranted beautifully, and his opponent stood wearily up, searched for words, couldn't find them and just said "no."

Fox and Newton stole the show. In fact, the whole cast was stunning (except for the star. Daniel Day Lewis would have been incredible as Wilberforce), but they made up for him.

The audience applauded at the end, and so they should have.

A+ (I can't even bring myself to ding the rating for Ionne). A must-see for every American old enough to appreciate it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Swanson family has grown by one, yet again. Unlike the Wilcox's who like to do things the natural way, we buy our additions ;)

RJ is a dachshund/besinji mix. If you'll recall, Rainey was the same mix, though they have different proportions of breeds.

Rainey was a bit longer, with the deeper chest of a Dochy, but his ears stood up strait as did his tail. Rainey was also all black until his age caught up with him and salted his beard and eyebrows. And he could bark, despite the African Barkless dog of the Besinji.

RJ, a year old, is shorter in length, longer legs (though still smaller than Rainey), and has the tightly curled tail of the Besinji. His ears flop over in the middle like the Dochy, and he has the brown and black mix of that breed. We've been told that he is barkless, though. So far, that's been true. He can whine and growl (once, in protection of Ben), but not bark. He's fairly docile, too, but still likes to mix it up with Grizzly from time to time.

Grizzly is not so sure, though. They get along, but Grizzly is a bit prickly.

We got another dog because A) Grizzly could use a mentor and playmate, and B) because Grizzly is Lynette's dog, whether she wants him or not. I wanted a dog who liked me as more than the maintenance man.

No such luck. He loves Lynette and Ben and tolerates the rest of us. So now Lynette, who barely can handle one dog following her around, has two in constant attendance. She can't complain, though, because she picked RJ out (and named him. His old name was Anubis).

Meanwhile, I'll still be alone in my office.

Maybe I'll get a Chia Pet...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A public "Thank You" to home group leader, Erik (not to be mistaken for Eric, who is also a great home group leader, but I'm speaking of the little Nordic guy). You always put a lot of thought, prayer, and time into home group. They are thought provoking, spirit lifting, and all around fun evenings.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Wild Hogs

Needed to see something funny this week, so we caught Wild Hogs with Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and a really familiar character actor who's name escapes me.

It's a mid-life crisis on motorcycles. City Slickers was mid-life crisis on horses, and it's the benchmark of all mid-life crisis comedies. This wasn't a City Slickers, but despite what the critics say, it's an enjoyable movie that goes over the line from time to time just a bit (more naked male butts than I ever want to see again... which wasn't many, but I don't want to see any...)

Look, Tim Allen isn't Billy Crystal, so set your expectations accordingly. The cast was full of likable characters, doing what they do best. Yes, the trailer is funnier, but all trailers are, so get over it. City Slickers had it's message scene ("the key to happiness is just one thing, doesn't matter what that one thing is..."). Wild Hogs also has it's message scene, and it's a good one, though it gets a little lost.

The ending was a little Deus Ex Machina for me; had they made one simple decision earlier in the script, it would have provided motivation for the bad guy and a more satisfactory ending.

Bottom Line: Enjoyable, Funny, Crude... B+ (this grade is based on the kind of movie it is, and is not be construed to make it on par with B+ movies of other genres. It is what it is what it is...)

Friday, March 09, 2007

One Night With the King - A Movie Review

Curious name, since she had quite a few nights with the King... This movie was vaguely based on the book of Esther. Vaguely.

Before I go on, let me state that I understand the need to amplify Bible history for the screen. Movies have different requirements than Biblical stories. To shoot an accurate rendition of Esther would be a tad boring. The only ticking clock in the real story is Haman's proclamation to kill the Jews - several months distant. A good movie has a ticking clock to heighten urgency, high stakes to make losing dangerous, and collision course characters to make it dramatic.

I just didn't care for the Director's choices for all of these. First, he tried to make it a love story with a dash of intrigue. Esther isn't a romance, it's political intrigue with an unlikely heroine. The movie confused the conventions of both and was so neither. I did like most of the characters, I just didn't like the directorial choices.

I thought the changes to Haman were interesting. I don't know if the vengeance angle had any merit, but he was an Agagite, so... okay. The actor spoke so gutturally, though, that I couldn't understand him most of the time (which was a problem with the whole thing. I couldn't hear the gutturals of Haman and the neat eunuch, nor the whispery voice of the King. So figuring out what was going on was quite tricky). Other than needing to gargle, he was a good actor. His actions, though, were perplexing. They took forever to set things up, then flew through the important stuff like they were rushed at the end. The whole war thing, and slaughter the Jews for their possessions was just silly. It caused more problems than it solved (it was the ticking clock decision - and a poor one).

Xerxes looked like he'd been ripped off the cover of a Romance novel. Still, I liked him. He did the whole wounded expression very well. I just don't think the real Xerxes was such a wimp. Nor do I think he was all that in love with Esther. Liked her, maybe, but bodice ripping love? Probably not. He was playing Hamlet, not Xerxes.

Mordachi: Great. Love this guy. He's lost a lot of weight since Raiders of the Lost Ark, though. Hope he's okay.

Esther. An engaging young lady who acted well, but again, I don't think the real Esther was anything like this girl. She was too strong. Still, she and Xerxes did have nice chemistry, and they made me believe their love for one another (until he came back from wherever and suspected Esther was unfaithful - right, she'd be dead if he did. And she's mad because she thought he had a concubine? Didn't all kings have them???)

The Eunuch. My favorite character, if only I could understand what he was saying... More could/should have been done with the wonderful relationship between Esther and him. I could see this relationship raising the stakes more than the war.

Beautiful costuming and sets. Flowery script that told too much and showed the wrong things. Muddled directing. Good cinematography.

I've noticed a bad trend in Christian/Bible movies: Poor directing (exception: Facing the Giants). It used to be bad scripts, actors, directing and tech. Actors have improved (exception: Facing the Giants and any Left Behind). Scripts are pretty good to great. Tech has even improved, sometimes drastically. Just bad directors (to stave off the inevitable thoughts, no, I wouldn't direct well. I think I could get the story and actors working, but staging and cinematography? Not a hope).

So, my bottom line on One Night With the King. Confusing, a little boring, pretty to look at... C-

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Going from East coast to West coast is fairly easy.

Going from West to East is very difficult. When the three hour time difference is working against you, your body clock gets completely messed up. Can't sleep at night, can't wake up in the morning...

I am discovering that if you can force yourself out of bed and exercise, that helps. Hopefully we'll be fully acclimated by Saturday, only to struggle some more with Daylight Savings Time.

Ah well, if that's all I have to complain about, I'm doing pretty well...

Friday, March 02, 2007

A new low for airlines...

But first, the adventures of flying on AmAir. As we walk through the airport, notices that the threat level has been elevated to Orange assault us. Then we get on the plane, settle in and notice a tick-tick-tick sound coming from the ceiling. Sounds like a count-down, if you know what I mean. A stewardess says, "what's that sound? I've never heard that before." A passenger notices that the transponder light is blinking in time with the ticks. "Oh," she says. "that must be it."

A steward walks up and hears it and worry wrinkles his brow. He starts to reach for the overhead rack handle and the first stewardess says, "don't worry, it's just the light out there."

This soothes our steward who says, "huh, over a 100 flights and I've never heard that before." And he walks off.

Maybe they didn't know the threat level was Orange...

So we take off without incident and we discover the new low for airlines: Stewardess offers us a drink. We accept and inquire about peanuts or crackers, the usual snack on a flight. "We do have snacks," I'm told. "Would you like to purchase some?"

You pay for snacks now on a six hour flight (probably on all flights, but you get hungry in six hours and $2.00 for a small bag of chips is hard to swallow after plunking down $700 for tickets, y'know?)

We got in okay. Got our car and headed out on the highway.

Then it started snowing.

In Stanwood it was really coming down. "Don't worry," my sister says, "It's not going to stick." Maybe not, but the inch of white stuff on the road sure looked like sticky snow...

We arrived without incident to my parent's house. We got another couple inches in the night, but it melted the next day.

Things are going apace for the funeral. My sister is an amazing woman and she's doing better than I ever could in her circumstance.

Rule of thumb: Pack snacks for all future flights.