Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jason watches "It is Fine! Everything is Fine!"

And I can finally answer the question: what do you find after watching just about every movie you possibly can? Answer: Crispin Glover's cripple porn!

Okay, the night started off with Crispin Hellion Glover presenting his "Big Slide Show", where he read along from 8 books he wrote, with titles such as "Concrete Inspection" and "Rat-Catching". Funny stuff. Then the feature was part two in his "IT" trilogy. If you've seen the first, "What Is It?", don't worry this one is much easier to follow. It was written by Steven C. Stewart, a man born with cerebral palsy (who played the dueling demi-god auteur who killed Crispin Glover in "What Is It?"). It's based on his sexual fantasies, his obsession with long hair, his frustration at being trapped in his uncooperative body, and his desire to make a movie where he's the villain. So Glover directed a noir-surrealist film starring Stewart. Stewart seduces women, washes and brushes their hair, but the moment they even consider cutting their hair, he strangles them. Weird, hard to watch (but not as hard as "What Is It?"), but ultimately an affirmation of the dignity of a man with a horrible disease.

Incidentally, this was about 20 years in development, Glover took the job in "Charlie's Angels" to get the money to make this. 1 month after shooting wrapped, Stewart died, so this movie is his legacy.

Jason watches "I Am Legend" in IMAX

I don't know what to say. It's probably better than I expected, but not as good as it could've been. It certainly looks impressive on the IMAX screen. Will Smith does a fine job acting alone for ~90% of the film. The empty, overgrown streets of Manhattan are impressive. But the Dark Seekers (are they more zombie or vampire?) are more noisy than scary. Perhaps I'm just jaded. It was okay.

Oh, yeah. And in IMAX it comes with a 7 minute clip from "Dark Knight" . Looks like it has the same strengths/weaknesses of "Batman Begins". It'll be a well made, well acted, and about as intelligent as a major studio action movie can be. But it'll sorely lack the sense of humor found in Tim Burton's "Batman". Which would be a real shame for a movie featuring the Joker.

Jason watches "Juno"

Perhaps I'm getting old, but it's been a long time since a highly-regarded indie-hipster comedy (a la "Napoleon Dynamite") has actually made me laugh rather than annoy me. "Juno" made me laugh. Kudos to the movie, and double-kudos to Ellen Page. That is all.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Jason watches "The Golden Compass"

And I assume I should just read the book, because God knows there's way too much to follow in there.

Speaking of God, here's a note to all the people out there who are charging that the movie is part of an atheist plot: you're just proving once again that you believe in things that don't exist!

Seriously, for all I know the book is pure atheist agitprop. But the movie has more of an anti-authority message, and the constant talk of souls (in the movie, they're animals called "demons" and they accompany their people everywhere) pretty much makes it hard to take as an atheist story. The closest it gets is the anti-authoritarianism combined with a reverence for knowledge, truth, and freedom (hardly ideals that atheists have a monopoly on). Plus, for a supposed atheist story, there's a hell of a lot of "deus ex machina" rescues.

With that said, Dakota Blue Richards does a fine job in the lead (we're possibly in some sort of golden age of child actors), and eventually the end battle is pretty good. It just takes a long, confusing time to get rolling. But it leaves it primed for a good sequel, and one that I assume won't have all the burden of introducing so many characters. That could be very good.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jason watches a steaming pile of Shat...

...ner movies. Everybody loves good ol' Bill Shatner. "Boston Legal" is one of the best shows on TV right now, allowing everyone to fall in love with Shatner all over again. Personally, I think he and James Spader are the best couple on TV right now.

But last night the good people at the Vortex Room had an all-night Shatnerthon. Rumor has it, it's the first of many. This is Shatner from the 70's, in the brilliant post-Trek pre-T. J. Hooker years. First an episode of Barnaby Jones where Shatner is the millionaire adventurer who fakes his own death to be with his mistress. Then "Impulse" aka "I Love to Kill", which starts with a little boy witnessing a man attacking his mother. The little boy kills him with a sword, then grows up to be Matt Stone (Shatner), who wears leisure suits, seduces women, cons them out of their life savings, and kills them. Evil, evil Shatner. And finally "Secrets of a Married Man". Shatner is a happily married aircraft designer, with a couple of fatal flaws. First, he's kinda bored with his sex life. Second, his commute for some reason takes him past dozens of prostitutes (even in broad daylight). Eventually, he gives in to temptation, sees a few pros, but always goes back to his wife and children committed to being a better husband and father. That is, until he runs into high class hooker Cybill Shepherd (back when that meant something), who scams him big time. Eventually her pimp comes looking for $5,000 (apparently, back when that meant something, too) and things get complicated.

In between, fabulous Shatner clips and music, including of course his famous "Rocket Man" performance. Rumor has it this is the first of multiple Shatnerthons the Vortex is planning. I'll keep you loyal readers informed. In the mean time, next Friday night they'll show "Omega Man" to "celebrate" the release of Will Smith's "I am Legend".

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jason watches "Bee Movie"

I'd actually meant to see it for a while, because Seinfeld is pretty funny, but other things just took priority.

I fully expected it to strain my patience for corny bee jokes ("A perfect report card--all B's!" is a real groaner), but quite a few bits about the fast-paced all-work bee lifestyle were pretty clever. The celebrity cameos by Sting and Ray Liotta were kinda cool, but the Larry King bit was absolutely inspired! But most of all I was surprised by how darn Jewish it was. Of course Seinfeld's Jewish, and a lot of that comes through in his comedy anyway. And the goyim probably wouldn't even pay attention to lines about bee-ish humor ("with what we've gone through, if we didn't laugh we'd cry") or concerns about whether his girlfriend is bee-ish. But it's there, it's really Jewish, and I loved it. Of course, you shouldn't read too many Jewish parallels into it, or you'll get an Auschwitz vibe from the scenes of the honey farms, and I don't think that was intended. But all in all (and I didn't think this competition would ever exist) I think it beats out Woody Allen in "Antz" and the most Jewish computer-animated movie about insects ever. Now that would be a double feature--maybe the kids program at a Jewish Film Festival?

Anyway, Happy Hanukkah to all my loyal readers!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jason watches "Beowulf" in IMAX 3-D, and then has a big, delicious dinner

It was all part of my plan. One of my co-workers (in fact, my cube-mate) is leaving at the end of the year. So we left work early to catch an IMAX movie. Oddly enough, seeing a movie as part of a goodbye party was not my idea--at least not entirely. I just happened to mention how awesome IMAX movies are, and the person in charge of planning it ran with it. Of course, once it was a suggestion, I certainly helped push it along. Here's my whole group (except for the picture taker) in 3-D glasses:

As for the movie itself, it's big, loud, technically impressive, and a good amount of fun. All the scenes are beautifully rendered, and if nothing else it's fun to look at. It takes a lot of liberties with the original poem (as best as I can remember it, I should re-read it), but when you have to balance "strict fidelity to classic literature" vs. "more naked Angelina Jolie"...well, you know what wins. It also takes a lot of liberties with the boundaries of PG-13 (this really should be an R, I think the MPAA was confused because it's a cartoon). As far as the look, the sets and monsters are more impressive than the characters. Technology has come a long was since "Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within", but we're still in the Uncanny Valley.
Anyway, when we got out it was about 5 pm, and the sun had just gone down. So I was free to fall off the apple cart, as it were. We had dinner reservations at Stacey's at Waterford. It's famous for being Scott "Dilbert" Adams' restaurant. He co-owns it and writes jokes on the menus. This was my first time at either of their two locations, but it's a fairly high-class but casual, fun establishment with some great food. And they take pride in being able to make any changes to any dish to satisfy you (e.g., take meat out for vegetarians, etc.) I know I was pretty much starving, but the food was delicious. I started with the complimentary bread, of course. Nothing special but nice and soft with a good crisp crust. Then we got a couple orders of fried calamari for an appetizer--always a good thing. Then I had the house salad, which was also good (although next time I'd ask for it with a little less dressing). And finally the main course. I ordered barbecued boneless beef short ribs, which came with steamed veggies and mashed potatoes. The ribs were as tender as the mashed potatoes. The phrase "melts in your mouth" is tossed around too often these days...well, you get the idea. It was really, really, really good. And for any veggies out there, they do have veggie options. After all, Scott Adams is a vegetarian.
Anyway, my stomach had shrunk enough at that point that just that sort of average sized meal put me into a good food coma. Or maybe it was the two glasses of Chianti (nice, a little sweet for my tastes) and the martini (perfect). Luckily I planned ahead and had a ride home. Where it was still relatively early (~8 pm), but I just laid down on my couch, watched dumb TV, and sat in stomach-stretching agony/ecstasy (there should be a word for that combo..."agstasy"?) until I crawled off to bed. This morning, I was back up to 214 lbs. I was that full on only 2 lbs. of food? Excellent!