Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roger Ebert Plays Tecmo Bowl In 1989

Since the dawn of time, Roger Ebert has claimed ignorance of video games and questioned their artistic value. Although he's backpedaled on his dismissive stance of video games as art as of late, he did so because he doesn't have enough experience with games to make an informed opinion.

With that in mind, it's quite a surprise to stumble upon a 21-year-old video clip that reveals Ebert is something of an OG gamer. Click "play" to see him get his Tecmo Bowl on, talking smack as he matches wits with Gene Siskel on the NES:

Ebert may not think games are art, but he definitely thought they were fun.

via Roger Ebert's blog

Like this post? Check out my book.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: True Grit

This is posted at OK.

The Coen brothers are so good at Westerns that anyone else who wants permission to make one should have to get their written permission. Their characters don’t talk, they spit bullets. Their photography doesn’t dazzle you, it opens up and swallows you into its desolate prairie maw. And their stories don’t resonate, they grab you by the scruff of your neck, sit you on their collective knee and spin you a tale that sets your eyes agape with wild wonder.

Drawing on the same earthy, rawhide-tough feel of No Country for Old Men, the Coens take a legendary Charles Portis novel, toss it into the air and shoot eight holes in it before it hits the ground. The movie is so good I the original True Grit has to be considered a crappy premake.

The 1969 version of the film, for which John Wayne won a best picture Oscar, starred Glen Campbell, Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall. The new film boasts an equally impressive lineup of actors, not the least of which is 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who stands toe to toe with physically imposing, magnetic performers such as Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin with commendable authority.

Steinfeld plays 14-year-old Mattie, who is out to set her family’s affairs in order following the murder of her father by a slow-witted outlaw (Josh Brolin). The Coens imbued their dialogue with a David Mamet-like speed, letting Steinfeld thoroughly own scenes in which she negotiates the price of her father’s casket and verbally whips down a conniving horse salesman.

In a world of his own as Rooster Cogburn is a fattened-up, eyepatch-sporting Jeff Bridges, who growls his way through pitch-perfect, oatmeal-thick colloquialisms, making like that scary great uncle you always tried to shy away from at Thanksgiving. A marshal who puts his services up for hire for the right price, Rooster accepts Mattie’s offer of $100 to track down the varmint. Mattie insists on tagging along, pulling her weight through an endless series of shivering nights, grueling horse rides and mystifying run-ins with folks on the trail.

Sometimes joining in as a delightfully awkward third wheel is Texas Ranger La Boeuf, played with grisly angst by Matt Damon. A lout who leers at Mattie and lashes out with insipid rage at inopportune moments, the mysterious lawman hides heroism beneath layers of dangerous buffoonery.

What seems like a boilerplate story comes alive through the passionate performances and finely tuned narrative, which sinks its hooks into you then drags you on a ride that grows increasingly wild, panic-ridden and beautiful. Characters bond and drift apart, bad guys show their softer side, making you feel guilty for cheering the heroes to blow them away, and every line of dialogue sings like soliloquies out of a 19th century poetry slam.

Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld and Barry Pepper. Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the Charles Portis novel. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: How Do You Know

This is posted at OK.

How do you know when you’re watching a bad romantic comedy? When the male lead has to resort to tumbling down the stairs during a phone call to get a laugh, that’s a start.

When Jack Nicholson pops in to overact for a few scenes to punch his time card before he can go hit the Laker game, there’s another piece of evidence.

When the normally adorable Reese Witherspoon contorts her personality into an unrelatable heroine, you’re getting warmer.

And finally, when you long for the exit sign more than you do for the characters to sweep each other away in a victorious, violin-swelling embrace, you know that you are not only a redneck and dumber than a fifth grader, but are, in fact, watching a bad romantic comedy.

James L. Brooks, the once mesmerizing writer/director who delivered Terms of Endearment and As Good as it Gets, shows with this half-hearted, lifeless affair that he’s capable capable of a magnificent feat. Somehow he squanders the talents of a screen legend in Nicholson, a surefire cut-up in Wilson and one of the most reliable comedic linchpins in Paul Rudd.

Witherspoon has been off her game for years now, unable/unwilling to reclaim her romantic comedy throne after becoming a Serious Actress in Walk the Line. Here she plays Lisa, an elite softball player who’s forced into retirement following her inability to make the national team.

Little does Brooks seem to know that the joke is really on Lisa’s teammates, since softball has been eliminated as an Olympic sport.

Despondent, Lisa tries to get her life back together the only way a girl can – by latching on to whatever guys amble across her path, thus validating her dwindling sense of self-worth. Basically, this amounts to a horror movie for feminists.

Lisa spends the entire movie bouncing back and forth between Matty (Wilson), the curiously old baseball player who is said to be the best in the game, and George (Rudd), an executive who has lost his girlfriend and home because he’s being investigated by the federal government. Nicholson plays George’s father, whose purpose is to hang out and wave his arms for a while so there’s another name to slap on the poster.

You’re supposed to root for Lisa to dump Matty and hook up with George, which she does, before moving back in with Matty. Then you root for her to do it again, and she complies. This process is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

As the movie plays on, you grow more and more jealous of Nicholson’s character for staying out of it as much as possible. You long for the camera to switch to whatever he’s doing, even if it’s just sitting around doing crossword puzzles and making crank calls to Diane Keaton.

How do you know you’re watching How Do You Know? When you start dreaming of crossword puzzles and Diane Keaton.

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. Written and directed by James L. Brooks. Rated PG-13. 115 minutes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best Movies And Games Of 2010

TOP MOVIES 2010 (Note -- I will update this if and when I see The King's Speech)

1. Toy Story 3
2. Inception
3. The Social Network
4. True Grit
5. The Fighter
6. Black Swan
7. 127 Hours
8. Shutter Island
9. Nice Guy Johnny
10. Solitary Man
11. Megamind
12. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
13. Somewhere
14. Rabbit Hole
15. Shrek Forever After


1. Sex and the City 2
2. When in Rome
3. Killers
4. The Bounty Hunter
5. Letters to Juliet
6. Waiting for Superman


1. Tecmo Bowl Throwback
2. NBA Jam
3. Red Dead Redemption
4. Heavy Rain
5. Picross 3D
6. God of War III
7. Limbo
8. Alan Wake
9. Super Mario Galaxy 2
10. Halo: Reach
11. Super Scribblenauts
12. Bayonetta
13. No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle
14. Mass Effect 2
15. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
16. Super Street Fighter IV
17. Blur
18. NBA 2K11
19. Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker
20. Monopoly Streets
21. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: The Fighter

This is also posted at OK.

The Fighter is about a real-life dude whose life was a remake of the movie Rocky. David O. Russell directs, Mark Wahlberg stars and Amy Adams Adrians.

Wahlberg’s character is Boston pugilist Micky Ward, the only boxer in history – other than Rocky – to discover the secret to winning all boxing matches is to stand there and get the snot beaten out of you for the entire match before pummeling your tired opponent at the last second for a dramatic ultimate victory.

Micky has got it rough. He lives in the part of Boston so bad, you can major in one of only two subjects: boxing or crack. Micky’s older brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), chose boxer, before changing his mind and going with crack. Bear in mind that if you want to be both a boxer and crackhead in the same lifetime, you pretty much have to do them in that order. So in a sense, Dicky is excellent at prioritizing.

The rest of Micky’s support structure is hardly more effective. There’s his mom/manager (Melissa Leo), whose knowledge of the sport matches that of a mediocre Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out player, and a pack of seven sisters who are useful only when forming mobs to chase down Micky’s girlfriends.

I have to say, Micky’s name weirded me out, being the same as Rocky’s trainer. Whenever someone would say something like “Hey, Mickey’s coming!” I’d get all excited and expect to see Burgess Meredith rise from the grave to take one last crack at training Rocky for the title, but alas, I was let down each time.

That’s about the only way in which the movie disappointed me. It’s a story that could have been schmaltzy in lesser hands, but somehow not only hits every note just right, but bludgeons every note with a right cross that bloodies the note’s eyes and dislodges its nose. Chief among reasons the movie works is Adams, whose version of Adrian – here a spunky college dropout bartender – isn’t the “oh please oh please Rocky stop fighting Adrian” from Rockys 3 through 5, but the badass, “you’d better win or else you’re sleeping on the couch” Adrian from the earlier movies. Adams is such an adept performer that she displays layers of nuance and heartbreaking sentiment in one scene, while bending over in front of the camera as other characters snidely evaluate her ass in another.

Bale, looking more Joker than Batman, is astounding as Dicky. So convincing was Bale as a crackhead that I didn’t even realize it was him until the end credits rolled. I expected the screen to read “Dicky…. Played by ACTUAL CRACKHEAD” but sure enough, it said Christian Bale.

One could easily determine that the title not only refers to Micky, but Bale and Adams’ characters as well. As well as myself, as I continue to duck and cover, insisting to myself “This isn’t as good as Rocky! This ISN’T as good as Rocky!” Only to speculate that if I let down my guard at the end of the fight, this stubborn palooka will floor me and convince me otherwise.

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, based on a story by Johnson, Tamasy and Keith Dorrington. Directed by David O. Russell. 115 minutes. Rated R.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Dear Christmas Card Recipient, Mail Thief or Recycling Industry Sorter,

I'm happy report that 2010 was an excellent year for my subset of Villarreals, meaning that nothing catastrophic happened. No job losses, hospitalizations, robberies, car explosions or locust plagues crossed our paths the entire year.

We added a dog, subtracted a truck and welcomed a Honda Odyssey into our garage. It's a smooth Swagger Wagon, equipped with eight seats, 18 cup holders, electric doors and thousands and thousands of dollars of debt.

Some of us changed. Luke evolved from a 2-year-old who made train sounds that drove his mother crazy all day into a 3-year-old who made continuous heavy metal guitar riffs that drove his mother crazy half the day (she earned a 4-hour daily respite by retreating into the calm, quiet recesses of part-time middle school science teaching).

Emma transformed from a screaming, tiny ball of disapproval of all our actions into a slightly less tiny ball of crudely worded disapproval of all our actions. Chief among Emma's list of Disapproved People was one Santa Claus of North Pole, Arctic Circle, who accosted Emma twice in Williams, Ariz. -- first when he requested that she sit on his lap and ask for presents, then again an hour later on a train ride when he crudely handed her a jingle bell. Emma twice screamed at the overbearing clod with sharp fury, prompting Luke to ask "Mommy, why is Santa Emma's greatest enemy?"

Our new dog, Murphy, adopted us from a Human Rescue society. He makes up what he's missing in a fourth leg by producing 35 times his bodyweight in black hair. We can only nod politely when complimented on our new black shag carpeting that complements the tile we had installed by the gentleman Emma refers to as "UhShawn."

On the job front,

-I made a major advance in my chosen field of demolition by volleyball spiking the life out of our TV while playing a video game.

-Jessica really accomplished nothing, at best. She spent half of the year as a stay-at-home mom -- what do those people do all day? And the other half as a part-time teacher in our pathetic failure of an education system that is but a roadblock to the shining success of charter schools, which will not only turn all our children into geniuses but allow us to one day defeat Ghana in the World Cup. But public school teachers, with their exorbitant salaries, cakewalk jobs and evil agendas of filling kids heads with evil lies such as global warming, evolution and the periodic table, are to be reviled and destroyed. Luckily we've put a state legislature in place that will do just that, as quickly as possible.

-Emma prepared for a future in the federal government by beginning a hobby in which she hunts down loose change to throw into the trash can.

-Luke finally settled down on a career choice. After insisting he'd be a farmer, astronaut, Laker, Cardinal, racecar driver, Army man, Joker, dragon and builder, he decided he would become a rock star. "I'm going to be on your iPod, Daddy," he said firmly. "And you better play me loud." Please join me in congratulating the boy in choosing a field that's more stable than that of his father.

So now you're all caught up. Take care, enjoy life and when things get tough, just be thankful you're not the Arizona Cardinals' quarterback coach.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Black Swan

Deep inside every great artist, there is a lesbian ballerina stalker who wants to drug you and take your job. To attain greatness, you’ve got to stab her in the stomach and toss her into a bathroom stall. But not before getting it on with her. Because life is too short not to.

This is the main lessons I learned from Black Swan. Well, I guess it’s not right to say that I learned the lesson, because I’ve always known it, but I just needed the movie to remind me of the great truth.

Oh, and another thing I learned that I already knew: Director Darren Aronofsky is a frikkin’ genius.

Black Swan is a labyrinthine head trip that spelunks through the messed-up mind of an artist in the most fascinating way I’ve seen outside Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. I’m not one for superlatives, but as ballet movies go, this is even better than Center Stage.

By not only making a movie about ballet interesting, but somehow making that movie one of the best movies of the year, and furthermore by making a movie in which Winona Ryder is only the third hottest actress in the movie, and furtherermore having those two actresses make out, Aronofsky proves to be a true master of his craft.

Through just a few films, just about all of them masterworks of the finest order, Aronofsky has established a distinct, powerful voice so strong and probing that every time he releases a new film, it should be regarded as the cinematic holiday of Aronofskoliday. As time passes and euphoria fades into detached contemplation, Black Swan may prove to be his best work yet. It’s got the inner obsessive torment of Pi, the hopeless derangement of Requiem for a Dream, and lonely psychological struggle for redemption of The Wrestler. Most importantly, it’s got none of the sucky pointlessness of The Fountain. But even though The Fountain was terrible, Black Swan is so good I pretty much want to change my mind and like that movie from afar just as a way of paying tribute to it.

I’ll say little of the plot, only to share that it takes the story of Swan Lake, twists it around with psychosexual drama, and makes it seem resonant and exciting. Natalie Portman plays a ballerina who fears she’s nearing the end of her career, exuberant that she has the chance to replace a fading star (Ryder), while carrying on a dysfunctional romance with the company leader (Vincent Cassel) while trying to fend off a challenge from the mysterious new girl in the company (Mila Kunis).

OK, halfway through that last paragraph, it occurred to me that Black Swan, like Burlesque, is pretty much an exact copy of Showgirls. And while the Showgirlsness of Burlesque made me hate that movie, the Showgirlsness of Black Swan is amazing and perfect. Does that make sense? Well, if it doesn’t, don’t worry, because neither does the ending of Black Sawn on the literal level.

The beauty of The Black Swan is that it transcends the realms of logic and contrivance to make perfect sense on a metaphysical level. You watch the movie, recover from the gut punch of an ending and think, “Yes, that’s just right.” Then you gulp down some egg nog, open your presents and start counting down the days until the next Aronofskoliday.

Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder. Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin, based on a story by Andres Heinz. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 107 minutes. Rated R.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: 'Tangled'

I am going to blab on and on, as I always do, but the only review you really need to hear about this terrible movie comes from my 3-year-old son, Luke:

“Daddy, can we leave?” he said in the middle of the endless movie. When I shook my head, he added the death blow: “I never, ever want to see this show again.”

This from the kid who can watch the same episode of Special Agent Oso four times in a row.

If not for the reinforcement by my offspring, I might have cut Tangled more slack out of concern that maybe the problem was more mine than the movie’s. The trailers made the movie out to be an irreverent, Shrek-like deconstruction of a famous fable, oozing with snark and in-jokes. The actual product packs about as much subversive punch as a Hallmark card.

Maybe the problem rests with the Grimm brothers story itself. There are only so many ways you can go in a tale about a girl with long hair stuck in a tower, and this Disney take seems like a bitter Pictionary player who’s stuck with a clue that’s too hard to describe so he ends up drawing a character that looks like a hybrid between a turtle and a question mark, then stares ashamedly at the ground until the timer runs out.

Mandy Moore voices Princess Rapunzel, who was kidnapped as a baby by a cruel old woman who uses the girl’s magical hair to replenish her youth. The king and queen miss Rapunzel so much that they set off an annual display of floating lamps to commemorate her birthday, but don’t yearn for her return so much that they have a search committee check all the towers in the region in which locked-away girls stare out the windows with longing abandon.

Zachary Levi voices Flynn Rider, the con artist adventurer who happens upon Rapunzel’s tower as a hideout, then through a twist of contrivance ends up agreeing to take her to see the floating lamps on her birthday if she’ll hand over a stolen artifact that she stole from him after knocking him out with a frying pan.

Yes, the movie proves that it is possible to get a brain freeze without eating ice cream.

No matter how silly and overly complicated the story, the movie would have been fine had it managed to generate any sense of rhythm – comedic, dramatic or otherwise. The film lacks any soul or purpose, much like a Jersey Shore castmember. But unlike a Jersey Shore castmember, it’s incapable of punching people in the face at random for your entertainment.

When I got home from the movie and put my son to bed, I just had to tell someone about the horrors I’d experienced. So I dialed up my dad, and told him “I never, ever want to watch this show again.”

Starring the voices of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. Written by Dan Fogelman, based on the fairy tale by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm. Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. 100 minutes. Rated PG.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: Burlesque

Burlesque writer/director Steve Antin was watching the movie Showgirls one night and thought, “Man, this is a great flick, but it would even better if I added Cher and subtracted the nudity!” And thus Burlesque was born.

The scenario in the above paragraph may have been completely made up, but it’s better than other possible explanations of how this movie was made, including “on a dare,” “by Mad Libs” and “on accident.”

I don’t want to say Burlesque is bad, but you know all those movie theaters in New York that are infested with bedbugs? Word has it the creepy-crawly parasites have abandoned the establishments for fear of having to be subjected to the movie.

There’s a chance you’ll like the film. Perhaps if you’re Christina Aguilera’s mom or the spirit of Sonny Bono reincarnated as a person who can tolerate awful movies. Or maybe if you’re drunk or high and hanging out with friends and in the mood to laugh at something, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style, for 100 minutes.

Let’s set the stage: Christina Aguilera plays NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali, a desperate, lonely Midwestern girl with no family or prospects who lands on heading west to make it to the big time. Being a woman of modest means, NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali has a loose definition of what constitutes “the big time.”

When she steps into a 1930s-influenced hole in the wall that’s so awful its patrons tolerate a lip-syncing Kristen Bell as its lead attraction, NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali decides that she will dedicate her life, Rudy-style, toward one day being able to sing and dance for minimum wage on that magical stage for a crowd of 15 people. Or make the Notre Dame football team. Whatever’s easiest.

A rational Midwestern NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali might see such a place as a brief steppingstone to something better – maybe a gig as a greeter at Chili’s or something. But to the movie’s heroine, this burlesque club is living the dream.

Understandably, the joint is losing money, much to the despair of its owner, played by Cher, and her gay best friend (Stanley Tucci) with whom she once hooked up back in the day, as revealed by a story that’s about as believable as Cher’s plastic surgery.

An evil land developer wants to buy the club for way more than it’s worth and turn it into something less of an affront to society, such as a bedbug incubation farm, and he’s also dating the Bell character. But then NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali starts singing and shaking it like a genie that’s spent far too much time in the bottle, and he wants to rub her the right way. But the bartender guy likes her too, and so there’s a love tri… uh…

Since I stopped caring about the plot midway through the last paragraph and Antin stopped caring even before he wrote it, I won’t trouble you with any more setup. Just know that the high points involve Aguilera busting out that fantastic voice of hers, the low point involves Cher’s one ill-advised song, and Rudy not only makes the team but gets a sack on the very last play. Oh, and Christina Aguilera is every bit as good of an actor as she was on the Mickey Mouse Club. OK, not quite as good. But she does have boobs now.

Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet and Eric Dane. Written and directed by Steve Antin. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Part I

Like University of Kentucky basketball players, Harry Potter and his pals have decided they can’t wait to finish school before going pro. You can’t really blame them for leaving Hogwarts early. Not only do shoe contracts and multimillion dollar paychecks await, but -- oh yeah – Lord Voldemort and his gang of evil, genocidal sorcerers want to kill them and they’ve installed the guy who killed the school’s previous principal as the new headmaster.

So there’s that. Don’t try and talk to Harry, Ron and Hermione about the importance of earning degrees and enjoying their fleeting childhoods. They’ve got to go get theirs – “theirs” in this case meaning hidden charms called horcruxes that transform into monsters that display smokey underage sex shows and double as Voldemort’s resurrection portals to boot. To destroy the horcruxes, Harry and the Harriettes must find a hidden magical sword that Harry may or may not need to ice-fish out of a random Antarctic lake in the middle of the United Kingdom.

And no matter how efficiently the kids do their convoluted job, they won’t be able to finish until next year, when the other half of their 5 hour movie will apparate into theaters.

The first few paragraphs are my way of complaining how convoluted and ineffectual the plotting of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is. And despite its silliness, insanity and Blue’s Clues-like insipidness, it’s still a fast-paced, fascinating film that’s better than all 32,000 previous movies in the series combined, times two.

Harry Potter flicks have always suffered from a narrative akin to a sugared-up kindergartener who tells you pieces of a story without linking them together or explaining context. “Harry flew in a magic car and then he smiled at Hermione and then Dumbledore came in and showed them some magic and then…”

While the routine holds true in the 32,001st movie in the series, at least now there are real consequences and some chances for the not-so-young-anymore actors to strut their chops. To put it bluntly, I like this movie because instead of whining about possible death at the hands of Voldemort while barely any of the threats come to fruition, this is the film in which Voldey finally gets to pull out his nine and bust some caps. If you happen to be an irritating CGI character, you’d best not make reservations for the premiere of Part II. And oh yeah, retroactive spoiler alert for that sentence.

It’s just fun to watch wizards kill each other, shooting spells like bullets and throwing knives through magic wormholes that come out the other side and continue to get their stab on. I could watch this stuff all night, and practically did since the movie is so needlessly long.

I was actually impressed with the acting. All that time spent making love to horses on the British stage has clearly paid off for Potterboy Daniel Radcliffe, who now displays a full range of emotions rather than the bewildered false modesty that’s been required of his character for the first 32,000 films. The same goes for Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who by now must be so sick of their roles they’d take just about any other job, including head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, just to break typecast.

Well, let’s not get carried away. No one in their right mind would coach the Cowboys because Jerry Jones is a meddlesome owner who sets employees up to fail. But they’re definitely ready to star in softcore Showtime porn or play substitute teachers on Glee. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them, but before the future I need one more wizard slaughtering movie, pretty please with a horcrux on top.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Alan Rickman. Written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Directed by David Yates. 145 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Somewhere Out There Is A TV That Will Love Me

As you may have heard if you've encountered any video game site in the entire world in the last few days, I discovered the hard way that HDTVs are less than capable volleyball opponents. While they are excellent at blocking shots at the net, they can't take a hit and quit playing like crybabies, making you out to be the bad guy by crying rainbow unicorn tears as the world laughs at you.

So as things stand, I'm in the market for a new TV. And no, just to clear things up with those who asked, I wouldn't accept a replacement from Microsoft if it offered because that would unleash an ethical bag of monkeys I'd rather not spank. I will be buying my new TV, hopefully with as little money as possible.

Here are my requirements. If you happen upon a great deal that fits these parameters, leave a comment.

Size: 46 to 55 inches.

Kind: 1080p LED LCD. I would slum it for a plain LCD, but only if it's 55 inches or larger. Plasmas have nice pictures but too much glare and DLPs seem nice and all but I don't want to be buying new lamps every other year.

Price: $900 maximum.

HDMI inputs: 4.

Have at it, army of new readers. You're my only hope.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Yes, I Am The First Moron To Break His TV With Kinect

A public service announcement: Do not under any circumstances play Kinect Sports Volleyball at 1:30 a.m. while standing under a ceiling fan with a dangling chain for a light switch. You could conceivably spike it into your year-old amazing TV, causing it to die with a rainbow LCD teardrop dripping down from the impact wound.

Plus you'll lose the match by forfeit.

Addendum: If you feel sorry for me buy my book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel (makes a great Christmas gift) and help take the pain away.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Review: Due Date

This is posted over at OK.

Zach Galifianakis and Paul Rudd are the leading man-whores in the bromance arms race. Neither has any standards, and will give it up to just about anyone who asks.

All either cares about is giving as many different dudes as possible 90-minute sessions of hot, dirty, unprotected platonic bonding.

Galifianakis gets it on with Robert Downey Jr. in Due Date, the latest shot across the bow, not to be outdone after Rudd added Steve Carell to his harem earlier this year with Dinner for Schmucks.

This round goes decisively to Galifianakis, whose film is funny throughout and the only one to include the necessary element of a masturbating dog.

Due Date is a wholesale ripoff of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Downey as Peter, the snobby, uptight businessman forced to travel cross-country with the pudgy, slovenly Ethan (Galifianakis). Peter hates Ethan, mainly because as soon as they meet Ethan gets Peter thrown off his flight home to see his expecting wife (Michelle Monaghan). Ethan loves Peter, if only because Peter hates him and Ethan likes a challenge.

Galifianakis is so darned adorable as Ethan that it’s impossible to share Peter’s fury. A hapless lug who carries his recently deceased dad’s ashes in a coffee can, Ethan holds dear to his dream of becoming an actor and one day appearing as a special guest on Two and a Half Men. Kudos to the screenwriters for thinking of such a pathetic aspiration.

Downey is the Larry Appleton to Galifianakis’s Balki Bartokomous, putting hand to the forehead as Ethan engages in all sorts of hijinks, such as flipping their rental car off freeway overpasses, getting Peter beaten down by a cane-wielding Western Union employee and chased by Mexican Federales.

The material may not be as inspired as The Hangover, director Todd Phillips’ last outing, but it never bores and keeps the laughs in the theater so loud you’ll miss enough few follow-up jokes to want to see the movie again.

Now the ball is back in Rudd’s court. He’ll have to top that masturbating dog, perhaps with a masturbating monkey or something.

Starring Zack Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. Written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Phillips, based on a story by Cohen and Freedland. Directed by Phillips. 95 minutes. Rated R.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: "Hereafter"

This is posted over at OK.

If you’ve ever brought together two good friends from different spheres of your life together, only to be stunned at how bored and tedious things got when you all hung out, you know what it’s like to watch a Clint Eastwood-Matt Damon pairing.

It’s exacerbated by how much you like both parties on their own, and how hard you try to convince yourself something lively will come out of the pairing. You try to start a conversation.

You: “So, uh, Matt, you know Clint likes the Red Sox, too.”

Clint: “No I don’t.”

“Oh, well, Clint, Matt starred in a Western just like you used to!”

Matt: “Yeah, I did All the Pretty Horses, but that was a flop and I don’t really like to talk about it.”

You: “Riiight. Who’s up for some Parcheesi?”

After suffering through the solidly made but slumber-inducing Vindictus and Hereafter, it’s clear that the duo go together like peanut butter and jellyfish. While it may well be that the writing on both projects is at fault for the lack of any spark, it’s time to cut our losses and stage an intervention to break this pair up before they start gaining more bizarrely undeserved Oscar success and thinking they’re some sort of Scorsese/DiCaprio unit.

To get a feel for the movie, imagine Crash meets Meet Joe Black with an extra dose of unwatchable. The movie spins three equally uninteresting tales about death, alternating from one to the other before eventually smushing together all three in a forced finale that doesn’t so much tie up loose ends as it does fray them with a blowtorch.

Story one stars Cecile De France as a French newswoman who nearly dies when the tidal waves The Day After Tomorrow barges in on her vacation. Story two features Damon as an all-grown-up Haley Joel Osment whose psychic medium abilities prevent him from having sex with Bryce Dallas Howard. And then there’s a tale of a sullen British boy who struggles through foster care after the untimely departure of his twin brother.

Damon’s story is the closest to amusement the movie comes, if only due to his character’s omnipresent confused scowl and obsession with Charles Dickens. The man is so into C.Dick that he falls to sleep to his audio books. What I don’t get is why he needs those audio books, since he obviously has the power to speak to Dickens and have him personally read his beddy-bye stories.

There is symbolic poignance to those scenes, though. They serve as psychic symbolism for this movie’s eventual fate, as a DVD that doubles as a sleep aid.

Starring Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jay Mohr. Written by Peter Morgan. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Clever Dude Wants To Punch Me In The Face

Read about his animosity here.

Movie Review: Life as We Know It

Life as We Know It isn’t so much a movie as it is a social experiment. It proves, through extensive mixture of film formulas, that you can make two people who absolutely hate each other fall madly in love with one another as long as you trap them in a house with a baby.

The movie may drag more than it entertains, but at least it’s aware of the universal truth that despite common wisdom, babies bring parents closer together rather than push them apart. Raising a child is like being thrown into an insane reality show in which contestants are faced with inhumane challenges to the body and soul, driven together in moments of constant crisis and chronic sleep deprivation. It’s somewhat like what drew Boston Rob and Amber together in Survivor.

Any reality show setup would be more convincing than the sloppy plotting that turns bitter enemies Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Eric (Josh Duhamel) into parents of their mutual best friends’ 1-year-old girl. Following a fatal car crash suffered by the infants’ parents, a lawyer tells the protagonists that they must live together in their deceased pals’ mansion and raise their child together.

This part of the film highlighted a little-known fact about last wills and testaments: Whatever you put in there, no matter how stupid and harmful to others, it becomes law. You can will your best friend to have to jump on one leg for 25 years after you die, and he has to do it. You can will the Air Force to conduct a bombing raid on the Moon, and they have to go through with it or answer to the Make a Wish Foundation. You can’t will the Cubs to win the World Series though, because some things are just impossible.

I nearly sobbed at the funeral scene, sullen in the knowledge that I’d spend the next 90-plus minutes watching a painfully forced romance emerge. You watch bickering turn into flirtation, which leads to hot-and-heavy glances, which turns into sex-signifying fade-outs followed by screaming matches drummed up by contrived late-film fights. Such are the ways of love when conducted by complete morons.

At least I got to enjoy the long-overdue comeuppance of Josh Lucas, who plays Sam, a pediatrician who has the hots for Heigl. In the 2 billion romantic comedies in which Lucas has starred, he’s been the roguish free spirit who managed to sweep the heroine off her feet, derailing her from a life of blissful boredom with the nice but boring guy.

Not this time, sucka. Sam is forced to stand by idly as the nice but boring guy who’s powerless to stop Duhamel from taking the entire movie to decide his hate for Holly is really love because of the evil magic cast over him by the baby.

If only Sam had seen Knocked Up, he would have realized that Heigl was susceptible to bad romances with baby daddies.

Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas and Christina Hendricks. Written by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson. Directed by Greg Berlanti. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Movie review: The Social Network

This is posted over at OK.

If The Social Network is to be believed, Mark Zuckerberg is a truly remarkable individual. Not because he invented Facebook – or at least managed to swindle close friends and business associates into owning the company that has collected 500 million members make him worth $7 billion – but because he is the world’s first rich
@hole who is incapable of getting any chicks.

Word has it that Zuckerberg is furious that the movie is making him look like a shyster who stole others’ ideas and ran with them all the way to the bajillionaire’s club, but what he should be angry about is how the movie makes him appear to have as much game as Screech from Saved by the Bell. As played by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is a tunnel-visioned, shrewd businessman and genius computer hacker who can’t even muster up the nerve to send a friend request to the unrequited love of his life
who drove him to make something of himself.

The flimsiness of the central character is the only fault I can find with the cyberninja drama, which tugs you along with Farmville-like addiction into its
torrent of backstabbing and betrayals.

Shocks and surprises abound in the brilliantly directed film by David Fincher, pepped up by Aaron Sorkin’s silky dialogue and a spine-tingling soundtrack by Trent Reznor:

*Justin Timberlake can not only act, but he’s so charismatic as Napster founder-turned Zuckerberg partner Sean Parker that he may earn an Oscar to go with his Grammys.

*A movie about people standing around yelling at each other and occasionally typing can be as riveting as Rocky 3. Did I stutter? Yep, that’s Rocky 3, the one with both Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T.

*A key to Facebook’s success was making Baylor students jealous of it. Baylor!

*Someone actually remembers what Friendster is.

The best aspect of the movie is just how delightfully trashy it is. There are more “oh no he di-in’t” moments than in an episode of Jersey Shore. Characters treat each other like verbal punching bags, and the scenes you’d expect to be the least engaging – those featuring Zuckerberg and his former business partners sitting around a table meeting with lawyers – are often the most engaging. This despite the fact that many of the other scenes feature Timberlake hosting parties where people do coke lines off of tummies of stripping co-eds while covering up just enough skin to keep the movie in the PG-13 range.

Eisenberg has just enough of a soft touch to keep his ruthless, obsessive character relatable, while also ensuring that Zuckerberg’s virginity will continue to remain intact. Which is nice, because if this movie is true, we really don’t want this guy reproducing, because little Zuckerbergs would undoubtedly be smart enough to create death-dealing robots who enslave humanity while showing your girlfriend photos of that party you swore you didn’t go to the other night.

Or at least steal the idea to make those robots from giant twin frat boys.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by Ben Mezrich. Directed by David Fincher. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie review: Legend of the Guardians

This is posted at OK.

Shot on location inside the part of Zach Snyder’s brain that’s addled by owl opium, The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole certainly has its share of owls. Nice owls, mean owls, owls who can fly, owls who can’t, and owls who start off not being able to fly but can once the plot requires it to be so.

The cinematic equivalent of the meme “I like turtles,” the movie is director Zack Snyder’s way of saying just how much he loves owls. Well, not just any owls, mind you.
The owls of Ga’Hoole. The ones who can talk like Agent Smith from The Matrix, and dive bomb and carry around magical blue things that make other owls freeze. Those owls.

The most exciting drama had little to do with what was going down onscreen – you know the drill: mean Nazi-like owls kidnap nice impressionable owls and preach to them about “purity,” only to have their whole system torn asunder by Coalition Forces – but what was going on in the aisles.

This is the first movie to which I took my 1-year-old, and she was fine watching the movie for the first 70 minutes before deciding to pretend she was an owl herself and hooting while running back and forth across the sides of the theater. It must have just felt like the thing to do. While chasing her likely caused me to miss key moments of visual splendor late in the movie, I’m not going to lie to you. By then I was willing to start running around the theater as well. There’s only so much owl-on-owl violence, owl philosophy and owl arguments you can take before you need to start running around the theater like a crazy person, you know?

From what I saw and listened to of the movie, I was reasonably entertained but a little disappointed by the weird but not-so-weird-it’s-awesome CGI puppet show.

Director Zack Snyder is one of the most exciting, unpredictable filmmakers around, and after watching this one, well, you can still say he’s unpredictable, if not always exciting. Here’s hoping his next effort is something akin to the subversive madness of his Dawn of the Dead remake, the unassailably brilliant 300 or the underappreciated Watchmen.

My 3-year-old sat calmly with my wife throughout, enjoyed the movie, then when he saw a commercial for it the a few days later, asked what movie that was for. He’d completely forgotten about The Legend of the Guardians. It’s best of Snyder and all of us follow suit and pretend this never happened.

Starring the voices of Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving. Written by John Orloff and Emil Stern, based on the novels by Kathryn Lasky. Directed by Zack Snyder. Rated PG. 90 minutes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Movie Review: The Town

This is posted at OK.

And the Academy Award for most generic title goes to… The Town! One can only guess Ben Affleck and his team of writers came up with that gem only after discarding The Departed But Not Quite As Good, The Bank Robberies, The Movie and The One Where Ben Affleck Sexes A Drugged-Out Blake Lively.

The title is a work of unsurpassed genius in bland insignificance, much like Affleck’s acting career after Chasing Amy. But lo and behold, the writer-director-star makes a comeback worthy of the 2004 Red Sox in the stunning crime thriller. The movie is nearly mesmerizing enough to wipe away painful memories of Affleck leaping rooftops in red tights as Daredevil or stinking it up in Jersey Girl.

Chiseled down, bulked up and bursting with a fiery, I-may-not-be-Matt-Damon-but-I-still-got-skills screen presence, Affleck seizes the moment and re-establishes himself as a lead actor capable of carrying a film. And his dark horse Oscar-caliber performance as Doug, the ringleader of a Boston bank robbing gang melds as part of an elite commando force. Mad Men’s John Hamm is smoothly authoritative as an Inspector Javert-like FBI agent who tracks the gang’s every move.

Jeremy Renner brings a block-headed toughness as Jim, Doug’s best friend/sidekick who’s bitterly protective of his trashy single-mom sister (Lively), but not protective enough to keep Doug from stomping all over her heart. And Chris Cooper is chilling as Doug’s bitter, incarcerated father.

The only weak point is Rebecca Hall, who does what she can in the thankless role as Doug’s oblivious girlfriend, who also happens to be a hostage the gang seizes in the opening-sequence robbery. It’s a dopey, contrived character who is little more than a device to infuse Doug with some humanity.

The character is unnecessary because Affleck’s torrid storytelling and heartfelt acting make it easy to root for him and his brilliant-yet-ignorant cronies as they pull one ill-advised heist after another, begging for Hamm and his rules-bending gang of feds. The cat-and-mouse game succeeds despite its predictability, thanks much in part to the authenticity of the setting. The dialect, distinctive slang, Beantown delivery and distinctive city architecture meld together to create a tapestry reminiscent of the scary-yet-invigorating Bostons of The Departed and Good Will Hunting.

There are two or three jaw-dropping car chases in the movie, one of which Jim punctuates with the line “Now that’s how you f-ck-n’ drive a car.” Affleck shows this is how you f-ck-n’ direct a movie.

Starring Ben Affleck, John Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively. Written by Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard, based on a book by Chuck Hogan. Directed by Affleck. 125 minutes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

No 'Go' for Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep

A PR rep handling Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep says Square Enix has no plans to release the game as a download, bucking the trend of PSP publishers releasing games as downloads alongside UMDs with just about all PSP games that have been released in the 11 months since the download-only PSP Go came out.

A representative from Ogilvy, which handles Square Enix games writes:

"Just found out that there unfortunately are no plans to release KHBBS on PSP Go. If that changes, I will certainly let you know!"

Bad news for the 7 PSP Go owners out there, myself included. The game comes out Sept. 7.

Review: Going the Distance

This review is posted over at OK.

Justin Long’s character in Going the Distance is a Mac and Drew Barrymore’s is a PC. He lives in New York, she’s a NorCal girl. He takes two steps forward and she takes two steps back. But they go together like Janet Jackson and animated music video cats. And they overcome the travails of their long distance relationship to get together every 15 minutes to make sweet PG-13-rated love in a movie that’s rated R for no reason.

The rating is one of the many confusing things about the movie, which underuses It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia genius Charlie Day in a throwaway role as Long’s dirtbag roommate and gives Christina Applegate far too much screentime as Barrymore’s disapproving nag of a sister. The movie has some wildly funny moments, such as all of Day’s lines, a scene in which Long gets a comeuppance for texting too much at a driving range, and the part in which wannabe newspaper reporter Barrymore is denied a job when her would-be boss tells her he just laid off 100 people.

I was the only one in the theater who laughed at that one, possibly because it wasn’t meant as a joke, but Barrymore’s crack that she thinks the newspaper business is about to rebound drew big chuckles.

The funny stuff is canceled out by too many story-intensive stretches, which dispense with the humor and make the movie feel as long as Braveheart. Director Nanette Burstein expects you to dangle in suspense, wondering whether Long and Barrymore will be able to settle on a place to live together and sort out their trust issues. Meanwhile, Day sits offscreen with nothing to do, waiting for the chance to come back into the film, breathing life into the otherwise dull affair before slipping back to crazyland.

Long and Barrymore lack the chemistry that makes you believe they’ll run away together after filming to start adopting African children. Long, who is better in supporting roles as a put-upon straight man, struggles to stay interesting as a put-upon music promoter who’s forced to recruit boy bands instead of striving to uncover the hipster garage bands he loves.

Barrymore conjures up a mix between her Wedding Singer waitress character and the Never Been Kissed reporter. Her character earns your sympathy for her tireless efforts to strive for low expectations. She goes to Stanford with the goal of becoming a print reporter, hoping to land a job that won’t pay off her student loans for four lifetimes. She stays single, fending off advances from a British coworker to pine for a self-hating, directionless commitmentphobe who lives on the other side of the country.

Much like her sister does, you glare at the character with scrunched eyes, wondering why she can’t do better for herself. Or maybe you just stare through the character, at Barrymore herself, wondering why an actress as talented as her signed onto a mess like this.

Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Charlie Day. Written by Michael Geoff LaTulippe. Directed by Nanette Burstein. Rated R. 102 minutes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

Oh, to be Nanny McPhee. To travel early-20th century England, using your magical powers to torture bratty kids into behaving at will. To be able to command your pet bird to disarm Nazi bombs with a wink of an eye. To possess the benefit of inexplicably vanishing your unsightly blemishes whenever you correct a family crisis.
What we truly need as a society is an Aliens vs. Predators like extravaganza in which McPhee goes nanny-a-nanny against Mary Poppins.

But until then, we’ll have to settle for McPhee sequels such as Nanny McPhee Returns, which one by one grant the good Nanny Google-search superiority over her American Idol descendant, Katharine McPhee.

This time around, screenwriter-actress goes all out with the poop and flatulence jokes, as though she’s just discovered her inner 1990s Kevin Smith. If you ever wanted to see a close-up of a cow heeding nature’s call, a geriatric woman use manure as a picnic seat cushion or a bird lay waste to a wheat field with a titanic gas blast, this is your film.

This second dose of McPheever covers the bases of the first movie, peppering in a little more humor while removing some of the sentiment. Set during World War II, a ranch-at-home mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggles to corral her three wild kids and live-in niece and nephew as her husband battles it out against Hitler’s cronies.
The farm kids despise their city-slicker cousins and make mommy want to tear her forced British accent out, but in comes McPhee to save the day with her snaggletoothed witchcraft.

McPhee clearly holds herself in high moral regard, ignorant of the fact that she’s truly a tyrant who forces others to bend to her will by tossing around her supernatural heft. Believe me, you’d start sharing your toys too if the alternative was to be stuck in a perpetual zombie state spanking yourself over and over until you finally tell McPhee “sorry.”

Luke, my 3-year-old, enjoyed the movie while also becoming mildly terrified of the heroine. Only time will be able to tell whether or not the nightmares he’ll have about Nanny McPhee coming in to trap him in his room with a wild elephant until he agrees to share a bed with his cousin turn out to be worth it. Until then, I can always warn him that if he doesn’t pick up his Legos I’ll revel in the ability to send Nanny McPhee and her farting shoulder bird after him.

Starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rhys Ifans. Written by Thompson, based on characters created by Christianna Brand. Directed by Susanna White. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This is posted over at OK.

If you allow video games to warp your brain enough, you start to view life as series of pixilated levels to be conquered. When you get out of work, you see the fireworks that Mario gets when he slides on the flagpole. On the drive home, stuck in traffic, you dream about clearing the way with a lightning bolt that makes everyone in front of you shrink and spin out. On payday, you hear the “dingdingdingding” of jumbo-sized coins accumulating in your bank account. When you go to sleep you see the outlines of falling Tetris pieces inside your eyelids.

OK, so maybe it’s just me. Well, me, Scott Pilgrim graphic novel author Bryan Lee O’Malley and his legions of fans.

If you haven’t wasted a significant portion of your life on video games, particularly those in the 1980s and 90s, the magical realism-infused Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may seem about as relatable as a non-subtitled Czech comedy. But if you have, discovering the movie is as blissful as hitting a random coin block to see it spawn a fast-growing vine that launches you into coin heaven.

Michael Cera stars as the same waifish, insecure bundle of post-adolescent nerves he always plays. Some are tired of the schtick, wishing he’d branch out and try different roles, but not me. When you do something well, I say run it into the ground until the paychecks stop coming in. Cera’s characters are some of the few leading men in movies who make you feel better about yourself. You think, hey I could take that guy in a fight.

Except you’d be wrong, at least in this movie, because Scott Pilgrim is an unstoppable dynamo of ass-kicking fury. He’s tasked to defeat the seven evil exes of
his dream girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth WInstead).

Sometimes the fights are Street Fighter-like throwdowns, with yoga flames and tiger uppercuts, while other times they’re guitar hero bass battles and Tony Hawk rail sliding challenges gone wrong. Each tangle ends with Scott dispatching the mini boss into a poof of disappearing pixels, and naturally, a pile full of coins.

Director Edgar Wright, who’s proved to be an ace of offbeat humor in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, maintaings his niche momentum in the movie, collaborating on a ridiculously quotable script and peppering the screen with infinite sight gags. It’s a movie you could probably watch five times and still find new sneaky references on each additional viewing. It’s filmmaking that makes you feel –well – not smart, but well informed on a trivial, arguably pointless topic.

The only knock on the film I can fathom is that the theater seems like way too formal of a setting to watch it. It’s destined to be playing in the background at bars and house parties. It will be worshipped in pot-smoke filled dorm rooms and cause rubber-necking when played on commuters’ iPads. The movie taps into something shallow and false that too few will be able to relate to. It’s an obnoxious, navel-gazing, uproarious tribute to a life well wasted.

Starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel. Directed by Wright. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How To Survive Stay At Home Dadhood

I wrote a guest post for the Noob Dad. An excerpt:

Lesson 3: Trick the Poop Gods. Toddlers, much like grandparents, do not control their own bowel movements. Instead they’re determined by the Greek or Roman, I forget, god of poop. What’s his name? Always skips my mind. Oh yeah, Satan! Satan waits until you’re about to head out somewhere before giving your child’s lower intestine the go-ahead to start filling the diaper with stinking waste. The goal of Satan is obviously to trap you at Costco or Barnes & Noble story time with a putrid load that somehow doubles your toddler’s weight, rendering you a Keystone Kops-like mess of madcap 1920s silent comedy as you grab Luke by the scruff of his neck (or ankle) with one hand into the bathroom while hauling the crying post-baby in the other. Once inside you’ll have to use a spare elbow or knee to tae kwon do open the ancient changing table that was installed in the 1970s as a token nod to the women’s lib movement but never intended for actual use. Then you will change Emma’s diaper with one hand and half an eye as you unsuccessfully verbally warn Luke not to pick up the urinal cake with both hands.

To avoid this situation, simply say you’re going to take the kids somewhere, wait until Satan has you on record, and then pull a fast one on him and say “Tricked ya, fool! We’re not going any damn where!” And then call up Sesame Street from Comcast On Demand for like the fifth time that day. Once Emma has finally been tricked into pooping, you can be on your way.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: The Other Guys

This is posted over at OK.

The people who cut the trailer for The Other Guys had an interesting strategy: Rather than show all the funniest moments in order to sucker people in, they chose to make the movie seem as terrible as possible, lowering expectations so much that even if the movie was only sort of bad people would still be happy because they were
expecting ludicrously awful.

So since the movie -- a buddy cop comedy teaming Will Ferrell as an uptight Murtaugh to Mark Wahlberg’s testosterone-bursting Riggs – is actually pretty good, I’m pretty much ready to declare it will sweep the Oscars, cure cancer and repeal Arizona’s SB 1070.

Director Adam McKay is master of the first half hour. Each of his previous movies – Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – is rib-shatteringly funny in the first act, golf-clap, half-smirk OK in the second act and get-me-out-of-here-now bad in the finale. McKay breaks his routine in The Other Guys, which is impossibly funny for the first half and half-smirk OK in the second half. With comedy being one of the most difficult arts to accomplish in moviedom, that makes The Other Guys a breakthrough on the level of Lethal Weapon or Pineapple Express.

Or not. I’m probably getting a little too carried away, and the more I think about it the more I’m sure the movie isn’t quite good enough to one day notch a spot in my crowded DVD case, but then again, maybe it just might sneak in. Moments from the movie keep playing in my head in a cycling highlight reel:

*Ferrell sprawled on the ground, wailing that he needs an MRI.

*Ferrell smacking Wahlberg in the face with a wooden gun. OK, that was the one funny part of the trailer.

*Ferrell spontaneously pretending he’s a pimp, referring to himself as “Gator.”

*Two important characters plunging to spontaneous, unexpected death.

*The background revealing an approaching, impossible-to-avoid car accident that no one onscreen is aware of.

The movie is pretty much a shameless ripoff of Lethal Weapon, aping its ludicrous, though amazing, set pieces and relentless banter. But that’s just fine because big, fun, grown-up action flicks don’t come around often enough. The Other Guys is everything I hoped Cop Out would be but ended up being the complete opposite of. This thing sings. Wahlberg’s angst-ridden thuggishness clashes nicely with Ferrell’s tactless buffoonery, and the plotting actually surprises you as it rumbles toward its inevitable conclusion, with the partners solving the big case.

This is the sort of movie that will turn up on Spike or TNT in a few years. You’ll stop channel surfing, give it a few minutes and before you realize what happened it’ll be two hours later and you’ll be reciting Will Ferrell quotes in that special method of yours that renders them in no way funny. A true sign of a great film.

Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Written by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. Directed by McKay. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Dinner for Schmucks

In Dinner for Schmucks, wealthy Wall Street types invite stooges to a dinner, holding a contest to see who has found the biggest moron.

The M. Night Shyamalan-style twist is that the movie ends up awarding the prize to you. The movie scoffs, “I suckered you into paying $10 to re-watch the few funny moments I already showed you in my trailer! Now sit there for two hours of misery, sucker!”

Based on a 1998 French film, the movie makes you wish Steve Carell would retire from movies instead of his role on The Office. His character, an IRS agent named Barry who moonlights as a taxidermist with a specialty of crafting dioramas with mice dressed in human-like clothing, is meant to be grating and unnerving. Carell does too good a job at making his schmuck an intolerable annoyance. A cross between Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber and Jerry Lewis’s madcap stooge schtick, Barry is a miscalculation that makes the movie implode.

Paul Rudd is a game straight man as Tim, a corporate climber who recruits Barry to the big, film-ending dinner despite his morals and the nagging of his distant live-in girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak). The most entertaining character by far is Kieran (Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords), a pretentious artist who is Tim’s rival for Julie’s affections. I wished the movie would have stuck with Kieran, who graphically describes himself becoming one with nature while living with goats and delivering baby zebras with his bare hands.

Director Jay Roach tries hard for a Planes, Trains and Automobiles vibe, pairing the doe-eyed, eager-to-please Barry with the poker-faced, ever-flustered Tim in an evolving relationship that develops into mutual devotion. Rudd has a few moments of hilarity when he launches into angry tirades, showing hints of the brilliance he displayed in Role Models, but too often has to step into the background as Carell goes for slapstick gags that seem tired enough to be from a movie from half a century ago.

By the time Tim sees the light and gives Barry the obligatory apology and accompanying respect, you smack your head and just wish the movie would stop with the moralizing and get back to its floundering attempts at jokes.

There’s no excuse for this thing to stretch to nearly two hours. The movie could have benefited from some serious editing, maybe to get it down to 90 minutes, or better yet, that 30 second trailer that will earn the movie any success it manages to steal.

Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman, based on the film by Francis Veber. Directed by Jay Roach. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The New York Times blogs my book

I hassled them for months and months and months about this and my badgering has finally paid off. Now I'm looking at you, Newsweek and Maxim.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Movie review: Salt

This is posted at OK.

I’m fairly certain Salt is not a fictional drama, but instead an insider documentary on the secret life of Angelina Jolie.

Just look at those eyes of hers. You can just tell she’s up to crazy things in the dark of night. So it stands to reason that she’s a triple agent superspy capable of assassinating multiple heads of state within a 24-hour period, start and end a nuclear war before it begins, murder hundreds of gun-toting cronies with hand-to-hand death grip kills and dye her hair black just because.

And what a perfect cover it is to make a movie about this secret life. Now if anyone were to accuse her of being superspy Evelyn Salt, people will just laugh it off as mistaking movies for reality. That is, unless you’re as smart as me, and know that everything you see in movies – especially spy movies -- is exactly true.

The movie does solve one other mystery about Jolie’s life, which is why it is she adopts approximately 700 kids per day. The reason, my friends, is guilt. See, on a daily basis she offs at least 388.888 mindless goons who foolishly stand in her way, so being that the goons are family goons who have an average of 1.8 goonchildren each, Jolie takes it upon herself to raise the innocent youngsters. Which seems nice and all, but is actually obscenely cruel, given that if Angelina Jolie is your mother you can’t think of her in, you know, that way.

It’s a small condolence for the kids that they’re likely given free passes to their mom’s movies. They’re in luck with Salt, which is as exciting and wonderfully ludicrous a spy thriller as I’ve seen in a while. It’s basically the Bourne movies without all the calmness and stark attention to reality.

Remember the scene in one The Bourne Identity in which Bourne races around in a Mini Cooper and wrecks a city? Yeah, Salt doesn’t need a Mini Cooper to do that. Girlfriend is intense. She’s an unstoppable hurricane of fists, feet and bullets.

Let me cite an example of just what a badass she is. Early in the movie, a Russian dude tells the CIA that salt is going to kill the Russian president when he comes to the U.S. The CIA, Secret Service and basically every ninja warrior fed in the country bands together to prevent this from happening, but guess what? In comes Salt, hair dyed black because Salt with black hair looks nothing like Salt with brown hair, and, well (spoiler alert) they don’t make movies about superspy assassins who can’t make their targets fall through giant holes in churches she makes with improvised explosives.

From there it just gets crazier. Salt meets up with an ex Soviet spy guru who trained her to become a sleeper agent by, no joke, making her watch Brady Bunch and kiss his ring. He has even crazier plans for her, but Salt has her own plans, one of which involves dressing up like a dude who’s about as convincing as Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants. Why? Because nothing in this bat-doodie crazy movie makes a lick of sense. But don’t blame the writers, blame Jolie, live-er of what Ricky Martin once referred to as “La Vida Loca.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Inception

This is posted at OK.

We've all seen these opaque, befuddling Inception trailers for months now, and everyone knew it would be mind-blowingly awesome because it's directed by Christopher Nolan, maker of the two amazing Batman movies, The Prestige and Memento. The guy is so talented he could make a blockbuster if you gave him a still camera, a monkey, a beach ball and a glitter pen.

The thing is, no matter how much you read up about the movie, you had no idea what it was about. I can't tell you how many times over the summer I've had conversations that went just like this:

Person: Hey, have you seen Inception yet?

Me: No, but it looks awesome.

Person: Yeah it does. What's it about?

Me: I have no idea. But it will definitely be awesome.

So now I've watched Inception, had my mind splattered all over the theater just like I knew it would be, and I still don't really know what it's about. That's just how amazing this movie is.

The movie is so good that I feel superior to you for having seen it though you haven't. Sort of like how your grandparents lived through the Depression and can always shoot down any sob story you've got by saying "Well, I lived through the Depression." This is the exact opposite of that. You can tell me you've won the lottery and are going to be a back-up dancer in the next Beyonce video and I can top it with "Well, I've seen Inception."

Without giving too much away, here is what I learned from the movie:

-"Inception" means implanting an idea into someone's brain. The act is believed, in the world of this movie, to be impossible. Which, of course, means that it totally IS possible, but will take an entire 2 1/2 hour movie to prove that this is so.

-Leonardo DiCaprio and his sidekick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, play dream-hackers who travel the globe sedating targets -- secret agents and big business types -- and siphoning secrets from their subconsciousness as they sleep.

-Secret agents and big business types would rather not have their dreams hacked, not only to protect their secrets but because then they'd have to wake up and explain to their wives, girlfriends and therapists why they were dreaming about Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all night. So they purchase Norton Utilities Dream Security 7.0, which puts lots of skiing, white-camouflaged, machine-gun toting assassins in their dreams. They're pretty scary but not so great at aiming. Which is good because if they were the movie would have been a lot shorter and ended not as happily.

-Everything, and this is the most important, is not what it... wait for it... seems.

Ellen Page checks in later as a Padawan dream Jedi in training, Ken Watanabe is the billionaire businessman who bankrolls the heroes' latest expedition and Cillian Murphy, the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, plays the billion-heir energy corporation scion whom everyone is hacking with a dream within a dream within a dream.

Confused yet? Good, because Inception totally inceptions the idea of confusion into your brain. Along with unrelenting awesomeness and many "there is no spoon"-like moments of profound bewilderment that will get you philosophizing, arguing, pontificating, hoping for a sequel and praying you don't dream about Leonardo DiCaprio tricking you into thinking your dream is a reality so he can make you fall asleep into a second dream which you think is yours but is actually his and find out your ATM pin number and by the way my brain is melting so I should really stop.

In sum, the most important thing to take away is that I have seen Inception and you have not.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ken Watanabe. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Rated PG-13. 148 minutes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Best Video Games Of The Year So Far

1. Tecmo Bowl Throwback

2. Red Dead Redemption

3. Heavy Rain

4. Picross 3D

5. God of War III

6. Alan Wake

7. Super Mario Galaxy 2

8. Bayonetta

9. No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle

10. Darksiders

11. Mass Effect 2

12. Super Street Fighter IV

13. Blur

14. Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Review: Despicable Me

This is also posted at OK Magazine.

“Despicable” is too harsh an evaluation for the animated 3D kid magnet du jour. I’d go with “Bland Me” or “Direct-To-Video-Worthy Me.”

The anti-hero, voiced by Steve “I’m Leaving The Office To Star In Forgettable Movies” Carell, is a pointy-nosed Dr. Evil clone named Gru who wants to pull off the biggest heist in history. Something even bigger than what Sex and the City 2 did to throngs of unwitting Carrie devotees. He wants to launch a rocket skyward, zap the Moon with a shrink ray then keep it for himself.

Gru treats the world the way LeBron James does the Cavaliers. He makes kids balloon animals just to pop them in their faces. He laughs in the faces of minions who demand raises. He’s the kind of guy who , if left to your own devices, would fill up your DVR with MTV reality shows so there’s not enough room left for True Blood.

I’d have been content with watching Gru continue to spread his brand of palatable evil for 95 minutes, but the filmmakers see fit to give him a heart of gold. Gru adopts a trio of sisters with the sole reason of sending them to a rival’s evil lair to help him steal that shrink ray he needs. But they bring out his softer side, and you don’t need to take your 3D glasses off to see where this decidedly
one-dimensional story is headed.

Carell lends little of his personality into Gru, and instead blends an Eastern European accent with a series of grunts, joining with the writers to make Gru the least interesting character in the film. The sisters, Annie-like scamps who have the best lines, are more watchable, but the real winners are the minions, runt-sized yellow blobs of slapstick incompetence that resemble Pac-Man ghosts. Whenever the little guys leave the screen you long for their return.

Usually Luke, my 3-year-old, and I see eye to eye on kid movies. But our roads fork here. The little man cackled endlessly at jokes intended and not, and was genuinely interested in the utterly nonsensical story that didn’t whip up as much drama and tension as the too-slowly-advancing numbers on my cell phone clock. So parents, you’ll definitely want to spare yourself some boredom and send your 3-year-olds out alone to watch this one.

Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand. Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, based on a Sergio Pablos story. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Rated PG. 95 minutes.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Little Known Fact

Before 1997, wide theater screens did not exist. You may think you remember seeing them before that point, but that's because you're nothing but a contradictory agitator with a fuzzy memory who is foolish enough to challenge my authority.

No, before '97, theater screens were perfect squares, just like your TV screens, or at least the way they were before HDTVs existed.

Like all inventions, the creation of the widescreen format was born out of necessity. See, this was the year the movie Titanic came out, and Kate Winslet was so unbelievably fat in that movie -- contrary to popular belief, the film was called Titanic after Winslet's character, and not the ship in the film -- that scientists had to come up with entirely new technology to accommodate her overwhelming girth without having to crop part of her image out of the screen.

So hence, widescreen. We all get to see more of our movies than we otherwise would, all thanks to Kate Winslet. And Twinkies. A whole lot of Twinkies.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Luke's Jim Crow Laws

Discrimination in Arizona isn't limited to HB1070. Luke (3) has tried to restrict access to the backyard playhouse to Emma (1) because of her still-developing speech abilities.

"The castle is only for people who talk easily," Luke says.

He's been overruled by the Supreme Court, me, but sadly reflects the biased sentiments of half the child populace in my household.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Call Offsides On Soccer Offsides

Mexico, I have no pity for you that Argentina scored against you on a goal despite the shooter being offside. When you pull that goal zone trap nonsense, sending a defender up the field despite a striker headed past you toward the goal without the ball in the hopes that the referee will bail you out of your defensive stupidity, you DESERVE TO BE SCORED ON.

Soccer really needs to change its offside rule in order to stop encouraging such weak defensive tactics. From now on, offside should only be called behind midfield. If the ball is around the goal, it should be a free-for-all.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Grown Ups

I missed my high school reunion, but Grown Ups is exactly how I pictured it would have been: You see a bunch of people you used to get along with and admire, but the years have worn away your bonds. You’re left with awkward conversation, forced pity-chuckles at lame ice-breaking jokes and a whole lot of pulling your cell phone out of your pocket to check the time.

Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Chris Rock have all made brilliant comedies before, but all have lost most of whatever comedic magic they once had. Maybe they said all they had to say. Maybe time, wealth and comfort dulled their edges. Maybe they stayed the same and I grew up.

The latter explanation is doubtful, but maybe.

For whatever the reason, Grown Ups is a painful, unfunny slog that manages to make time stand still as you suffer through a reunion comedy with all the panache of a vacation slide show. The movie fails to vault even the pathetically low bar it hits for itself, relying on poop jokes, groin injuries, farts and one-liners with all the originality and punch of a greeting card to liven things up. They actors seem to be making it up as they go along, which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that they’ve got nothing interesting to say or do.

The motif is that the five friends – Kevin James, whom I intentionally left off my list of people who have made funny movies before, is also along for the ride – who reunite 30 years after they won the city basketball championship as kids. They gather for their coach’s funeral in generic “New England” – it’s actually labeled as such onscreen – setting up a pointless running gag in which Sandler wears a rotation of shirts and hats from several colleges in the reason.

All but Spade, who plays an eternally drunken bachelor, bring their wives and kids in tow, muddying up the movie with way too many characters who serve only to sap screentime away from the stars. James, Schneider and, to some extent, Sandler, all play straight while only Spade retains his comic persona, cracking wise in the usual hit-and-miss routine he fell into once he lost comedy team partner Chris Farley.
These guys expect to be funny just by showing up, and only Sandler has that ability, and he chooses to use as little of that as possible in this outing.

It’s a good thing the Sand-man made that remake of The Longest Yard a few years ago, because otherwise Grown Ups would stand out as the comedic mastermind’s worst effort by far.

Starring Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock.
Written by Sandler and Fred Wolf. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Rated PG-13. 102 minutes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Review: Toy Story 3

This review is posted over at OK Magazine:

To me the most commanding sign of the power of this great and beautiful film is the way it managed to make my 3-year-old son cry. Luke is not a sensitive child. It takes a lot to get to the boy. You usually have to deny him ice cream or clip his fingernails against his will. To get to this child abstractly, using only images and sounds, takes a tremendous amount of emotional heft.

Toy Story 3 accomplished the task with just a line of dialogue and a whimper. I don't want to spoil the scene beyond identifying it as one that involved one of the movie's more distant and funny characters -- a noise-emitting baby doll. And damned if it didn't have me clutching my son and willing my lower lip to stop trembling as well.

This movie is by far the best I've seen this year, and I'd be willing to bet my laptop that it snags one of the best picture Oscar nominations and is a strong contender to take home the best picture prize, no matter what other works of genius come along this year. Toy Story 3 feels like a once-every-five-years confluence of perfection in tone, delivery, timing, humor and drama. The movie dwarfs the two awesome previous films in the series and somehow manages to elevate Pixar's stratospheric reputation even higher.

Like Up, last year's Pixar masterpiece, Toy Story 3 stares the concepts of love, dedication and mortality in their dagger eyes, refusing to blink as it sends you down a difficult and wrenching road, coaxing you along gently with humor and understanding. The toys are no longer a rascally gang of wise-cracking buddies who get into misadventures suitable for a sitcom, but are rusted, worn-down tools passed over by life, staring into the existential void.

Woody runs around like a revival preacher, trying to convince his friends that their owner Andy will still have some sort of use for them at some point down the road. The movie cleverly prods at humanity's need to rationalize death with concepts of an afterlife. Things only get deeper from there. The movie analyzes the march of the time in a way Ozu or Kurosawa do, taking on a feel you'd expect to find in a Miyazaki film in terms of plot development, as the toys wind up in part of a day care center that becomes a prison camp.

As Woody plans the toys' great escape, you wonder along with them to what end their best laid plans will reach. Even if they win, they lose, and will surely end up discarded by the only owner who has ever loved them.

There are bad guys who stand in the heroes' way, but as in a Miyazaki movie, they have their reasons for behaving the way they do, and may or may not be willing to see things the way the heroes do, even when they inevitably wind up in the same mental place.

The movie starts off fantastically, gets better as it rolls along and reaches an apex at the end, with betrayals, tearful partings, terrifying dilemmas and swashbuckling rescues.

It ends predictably, but only because this is a great and unique story with an epic footprint that could only finish one way -- the way you knew it would when you walked into the theater. Don't expect foreknowledge to make it any easier to choke back the tears, no matter your age.

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Written by Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich. Directed by Unkrich. Rated G. 103 minutes.

Frugal Festival

My book made it in to the goody bags given away at the Frugal Festival. Check out the evidence here and here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Girl With the Red Balloon

She reviews my book and gives it away here.

Karma Doesn't Exist

Well, maybe it does in some sort of afterlife way, but I don't believe in on-earth karma though -- as in, you do something good and get rewarded and do something bad and get punished.. I think it's hell for both the nice and cruel and everyone scraps for whatever joy they can before the lights go out. If you're rewarded for anything in this world it's for keeping your eyes open.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Top 10 Things That Will Suck About Missing E3

10. Not getting to see and talk to people whose stuff I read every day the one time of the year it's possible to do so.

9. Not getting to walk around pretending to be important, playing any game I choose that won't be out for several months.

8. Not getting to whisper smack talk to whatever strangers are sitting next to me during press conferences about overenthusiastic developers talking about silly, stupid games.

7. Not getting blown away at the same press conferences with stunning, out-of-nowhere announcements.

6. Not getting to pick through the rack of free crazy British game magazines I've never heard of.

5. Not getting to meet my L.A. friends for lunch.

4. Not getting to play my DS when I'm waiting in line for something and have no one else look at me like I'm weird.

3. Not getting to ride shuttles to off-site press conference. The process give you that same feeling of wonder and anticipation as grade-school field trips.

2. Not getting to walk behind G4 stand-up broadcasts in a cheap effort to get my face on TV.

1. Just because.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ass Backwards

Every day is the same. You wake up, shave, go for a run, eat your Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, take your shower, head into the office, zone out at your computer for the first hour or so. The usual 8:30 a.m. urge to pee lures you into the bathroom, and then you unzip and reach for what needs to be reached for and... nothing!

Whoah. Is this some sort of dream? A life lived in zombified stasis shocked out by the realization that you suddenly have no penis. Perhaps it's emasculation by the subconscious, making some sort of comment on your lack of resolve and self-determination by seizing your virility. All that filters through your mind in a split second of nervous frenzy, and then your index finger brushes against cloth.

This is reality. No dream. Your manhood is still there, not vanished but covered. You just put your boxers on backwards.

What can be done to correct such an error? Nothing immediately, for nature's call must be answered. In an act of contortion worthy of Cirque du Soleil, you yank up the right leg of the shorts, twist to the left and let flow. Only midstream does it occur to you that a simple pull-down would have not only taken less physical exertion, but also decreased the risk of splashage on the side of your pant leg, which teeters all to close to the base of the raging flow, which channels like the output of a firehose, extinguishing an imaginary blaze with fury before gracefully, morosely, sliding down to the base, where its sulphuric pungency is mitigated by the brave pink pisser freshener disk. You wait it out 30 seconds, then 60, and finally the Splash Mountain surge throttles down into a lazy It's a Small Word drift, and intense concentration manages the changing trajectory so it doesn't defile your Levi 501s. The nervous beads of sweat on your forehead facilitate chills of euphoria as the inner water ceases without incident. You are relieved that the catastrophe from Mrs. Carvinger's first grade class was not repeated, and you will not have to go to the office to change into a ratty pair of shorts from the lost and found, and you would not have to grudgingly fold your disgracefully soaked pants into a paper bag, to be left by your desk the rest of your day like a brown-bagged scarlet letter as you learned the finer points of addition and vowels, then shielded the bag from your mother after she picked you up, spotting, as mothers do, what you were trying to hide within the first seconds, and unknowingly rubbing in the pain by asking, "What's in the bag?"

No, you live to pee another way. But still you are confronted with the problem of having your underwear on wrong, causing a Rubik's Cube inside your pants, taunting you with its complex web of impossibility.

Your right brain screams for you to just rotate the boxers around as if they were a sock, but the leg holes prohibit that technique. It occurs to you that there that the only option is to start from square zero. You must hole up in a stall, untie your shoes, take the pants and underwear off, double check you've got it right before you zip up again, then try to resume your day. All the levels of bureaucracy to right your disaster crush your very essence, pinning you into paralysis. For though you'd like to have your underwear on correctly, the steps it will take to get there are all too discouraging.

No, you will not retool, for the same reasons you are not an FBI agent or a lawyer. You have spotted an easier route and taken it, reasoning that the relief it will yield to attain the ideal boxer formation is not worth the effort. You will plug through your day with drawers on backwards, confident that since you survived the first trip to the bathroom without incident, you will surely survive a second. You sit back down at your desk to space out at the computer once again, downstairs senses amped to a higher level. Yes, you can feel it. You can't imagine that everything is all right, not with such unfamiliar constriction upfront and terrifying unshelteredness in the back. That slit in the front of the boxers - it most certainly matters. But your decision is made, and nothing shall be done. Your heart longs for tomorrow, when you'll get to start over and set things right, like the prayers for resurrection in a church, wishing defeated lives out of boredom and poverty into an ethereal promise of rapture. Dreams of tomorrow are only an opiate escape from your current doom, which you have not only originated on accident but chosen. Irrevocably, backwards underwear is your reality, your eternity, your lot. You adjust your pants and start typing away.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Review: The Karate Kid

This is posted at

The fact that this movie exists infuriates me. The fact that it's good
makes my head explode in anger.

The good news about The Karate Kid remake is that it may lead the
young and dumb to the original 1984 film, one of the finest pieces of
cinema ever constructed. Did I stutter? That's right, The Karate Kid
is one of the best movies ever made, and if you don't believe me or
disagree it's because you haven't watched the movie in a quarter
century. I refuse to let you even proceed in reading this review until
you go back and watch it right now. Seriously, don't come back until
you've done so.

OK, now that we're all on the same page, let's all sigh and accept the
fact that it's unreasonable to expect any movie, let alone a remake,
to match the magnificence of Joe Esposito's You're the Best Around and
crane kicks that win the heart of Elisabeth Shue and put that
terrifying bastard Johnny in his place.

You've gotta take this new Karate Kid for what it is - a community
theater repertory version of a Shakespeare classic. It's cute and
harmless and lasts too long but your cousin's friend is in it so you
just sit there, smile and clap.

Jaden Smith, the androgynous 11-year-old offspring of Will Smith and
Xenu, volcano god, plays Dre, whose auto-worker mom gets transferred
from Detroit to China because that happens all the time. Dre is
foolish enough to talk to a girl his own age, and the racist Chinese
kids whose parents are totally gonna invade us in the Red Dawn remake
(as a provision of the Patriot Act all 1980s remakes will retrofit the
Chinese as our one-size-fits-all enemies) give Dre an MMA beat-down.

The bullying continues for scene after scene after scene until it's
like OK we get the point these kids are mean -- someone come and teach
this boy how to pull off comical prop-fu humiliations on these brats
before my bladder explodes. So enter Jackie Chan, who plays apartment
superintendent Mr. Han, who knows good kung fu -- the kind that can
only be learned by doing mundane things such as putting on and taking
off your jacket over and over again -- as opposed to the evil Cobra
Kai bully fu these kids are taught in a fancy dojo.

Han provides big laughs in the movie's funniest, least appropriate
scene, in which he delivers a manual annihilation to the gang of
12-year-olds. Because when you step to Dre, fool, you step to death

Never mind that Dre's mom lets her boy spend an inordinate amount of
time with the creepy guy a couple doors down who could very well be a
child molester for all she knows. Through the ancient training
technique known as the training montage, Han teaches Dre to punch so
hard that "whoosh" sound effects emit from his swings, as well as
execute elaborate scorpion kicks that can only be completed with wires
and CGI, which magically make bullies be nice to you and transform
racist people into colorblind fans. Despite the corniness, it's
joyous, exuberant stuff, and I am ashamed to admit that during the
final tournament I rooted for little Dre with actual, unreasonable
fear that he would lose.

A final word to parents: This is an excellent movie to take your
3-year-old to if you want to have him laying continuous hi-yah
beatdowns to that punk 1-year-old sister of his who totally has it

Starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Written by Christopher Murphey,
based on a story by Robert Mark Kamen. A remake of a 1984 film.
Directed by Harald Zwart. Rated PG. 135 minutes.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sports Illustrated

Quoted me in this NFL Network story.

Read The Law, Idiots

Everyone who disagrees with Arizona HB 1070 has not read the law. If you read it you will be included among all smart people who know the law is a golden ray of sunshine that will fix all the state's problems and eliminate all crime instantly. Also, you will know the reason for the Arizona Diamondbacks' recent suckage.

I quote:

The Arizona Diamondbacks shall no longer win nor score runs. Failure to comply will subject the team to lawsuits and be cause for its deportation.

So there you have it. Reading teaches stuff.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

10 Things That Are Worse Than BP's Oil Spill

Sure, the spill is a horrendous, nonstop flood of awful that will not only destroy the Gulf of Mexico, turning it into a new Black Sea, but will surely eventually turn all oceans into something resembling a McDonald's fry vat, but it's not THAT bad. Here are some things that are worse:

1. Watching a San Antonio Spurs game.

2. Finding out your TV broken so it only plays NASCAR.

3. Waking up from a dream that your dead dog is back alive, and still is nice, not a
mean Pet Sematary zombie, then waking up to find out he's still dead.

4. Eating Cheerios. Without milk.

5. Going outside to get the mail wearing only your underwear then realizing you've accidentally locked yourself out.

6. Eating at Wendy's.

7. Forgetting to buy a copy of Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel.

8. BP drilling in the ocean and springing an endless leak of Vanilla Coke. Because seriously, think of all that wasted deliciousness!

9. A massively coordinated attack by the birds of the world.

10. The Golf Channel.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


When I erupted into a sneezing fit Saturday night I was sure it was allergies. Jessica told me I had a cold, and I thought she was an idiot for suggesting that because the inside of my head was all itchy and I felt fine other than the constant sneezing. To prove to myself how great I felt despite my machine-gun allergy sneezing fit, I stayed up all night playing Tecmo Bowl.

It turned out that I had a cold, of course. I woke up the next morning not sneezing quite as much but feeling awful. I could barely move most of the day and let the TV watch my kids as I laid motionless on the couch and Jessica installed a ceiling fan in Emma's room.

So I was the idiot. But at least I got my Tecmo Bowl in.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

7 Sentences You Never Want To Hear

-Can we talk?

-The test is positive.

-Why was there a dead hooker in your hotel room?

-Oh, look -- Red Box has When in Rome.

-Can I see your license and registration, sir?

-Don't worry about Kurt Warner retiring, you'll be fine with Matt Leinart.

-Your princess is in another castle.