Monday, July 9, 2012

Good, But Not Quite Amazing....

In order to give a proper review to “The Amazing Spider-Man”, I must get the basic synopsis of the movie out of the way first.  The movie revolves around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an “average” high school kid in New York City who loses his parents at a young age and ends up growing up with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field).  One day, Peter is nosing his way around an expensive science lab when a genetically enhanced spider bites him.   Later on, Peter wakes up with abilities similar to that of a spider (climbing, jumping, and precognitive abilities).  Peter spends a little too much time chasing a girl named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), behaves a bit selfishly, and puts Uncle Ben in a dangerous situation where he ends up dead.   Peter is then inspired by this tragedy to fight crime dressed as a masked vigilante known as Spider-man.
Meanwhile there is a misguided scientist named Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans) who gets a little overzealous and ends up making a monster of himself.   He has a couple run-ins with Spider-man and eventually plots a huge city-wide catastrophe.   Low and behold, Peter Parker’s personal life mixes with his secret identity and he has to save the city and the girl of his dreams.

Without telling you any great detail, that is what you would expect from a Spider-man movie, correct?  This is where the film’s director (Mark Webb) makes a big mistake.  He tries too heavily to give his audience what they don’t expect.  This leads to what is often known as an expectancy violation.  People predict the future and form expectations based upon pre-established beliefs, ideas, and history.   When someone behaves or something occurs that doesn’t follow the expected path, people can have two very different reactions.  They either take to it favorably or find that it just doesn’t sit well with them.  An expectancy violation isn’t always a bad thing, but it almost always warrants a significant reaction.

(Although I won’t make any direct descriptions of plot, some people might say I am getting spoilery in the coming paragraphs)

In the case of “The Amazing Spider-Man” audiences are likely to be annoyed by the creative liberties taken by the film.  We expect the basic plot as is described above.   However, we expect certain details of the characters and the intricacies as well.  For example, fans familiar with Spider-Man expect that Peter Parker needs to be drastically different than his masked alter-ego.  He needs to be socially awkward, average looking at best, have poor vision, and carry around the personal baggage of losing his parents.  Well, this movie decides that they need their Peter Parker to be an overly handsome young man with great hair, the athletic ability to skateboard like a pro, wear contacts, and appear generally charming.  Yes, I am saying that Andrew Garfield does not come off nerdy enough.  He was three times as nerdy in “The Social Network”.  Also, he doesn’t seem to appreciate everything his Aunt May and Uncle Ben have done for him.  Peter Parkers doesn’t give off the vibe that he owes his aunt and uncle everything.  Anyone who knows Spider-man knows that this is a pretty big component of the hero’s arc.

Now I understand that it is a reboot and an origin story at the same time, so they had to do some things differently.  What may have been more effective for them would have been to just speed up the whole origin aspect of the story and dropped with the dramatic changes to it.  Give the kid his super powers, throw in the new love interest, have the new villain show up, and take it in a new direction from there.  Instead they messed with the foundation of what made the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies work (not the 3rd one.  I won’t admit to that one existing).  That foundation was the ongoing internal struggles of a young man with more power than he should be allowed to have.  “The Amazing Spider-Man” makes Peter Parker look like a show-boat with his powers.   That only works half-way, which is when he is Spider-Man.

From everything I have ever seen and read about Spider-Man, I know he is a smart mouthed, fast talking, almost-comedian while he fights crime.  The comics, cartoons, and video games all have done a great job of showing this.  Webb’s version of Spider-man does this as well.  In fact, this is the one part of the Spider-man story he totally owns in comparison to Sam Raimi.  Kudos should be given to Andrew Garfield for his delivery of the lines behind the mask.    However, when the mask comes off, I felt like it was a clip from the CW’s Tuesday night line-up.  I was warned about this by a colleague of mine before I saw the movie, so I was probably looking out for it.  However, when a friend is right, he’s right.

Also, for those of you who consider yourselves Marvel Comics traditionalists, there is a major swerve from the general accepted histories of Peter Parker’s parents.  They apparently were super secretive and super scientist-like.   Mr. Parker had worked with Curt Conners.  Some of Parker’s work contributes to Conners’ transformation into The Lizard (the big baddie) and if you are connecting the dots, even Peter’s transformation into Spider-man.   If you take this stuff seriously, that won’t sit well with you.

Now I didn’t dislike the movie.   On the contrary, I enjoyed most of it.  I just wanted to like it more.  It deserved to be better.  It deserved to build on what already worked with this hero.  In fact, let me share what I specifically liked about the film.

The movie is visually stunning.  It looked better than any of the other Spider-man movies.  It always didn’t get stuck in the tendency of all the fight scenes taking place at night.   There are some great scenes in broad daylight and even at locations you wouldn’t expect.

Emma Stone shows once again that she has the charisma to steal every scene that she is in.  Also, it appears she may have lost that whole raspy voiced thing she had going on for a while.   Her portrayal of Gwen Stacy makes her the most likable and engaging character in the entire movie.  Also, Sally Field does what she can to make Aunt May likable.  The writing of the character wasn’t the most solid, but she at least plays the part so well that you root for her to bitch slap her nephew.

Ultimately, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is hard to swallow if you have any previous experience and/or admiration for the character.  It is by no means bad, but suffers because real fans have expectations.  Overall I give it **1/2 out of 4 *s.  It would get the other half of that star of Andrew Garfield wasn’t so pretty.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My review of "Brave"

Pixar makes movies with great stories, great characters, and great moments.  They tend to do that better than any of the major movie studios and seem to collect Oscars every year.  The best part about all this is that their movies are animated.

There is a paradigm that suggests that animated movies are nothing more than cartoons for children.   Anyone who has seen a Pixar movie knows that is the farthest thing from the truth.  Pixar uses a niche form of media to tell stories in effective ways.  Their latest effort, “Brave”, follows an established tradition of quality storytelling and character building.  I enjoyed it immensely and am about to tell you why.

First, here is the cast:

Merida…  Kelly Macdonald
Fergus… Billy Connolly
Elinor… Emma Thompson
The Witch…  Julie Walters

The story of “Brave” centers around a Scottish princess named Merida.  She is a spitfire to say the least and has a craving for adventure.  She is not the typical young lady of royalty.  This is established early on with a flashback that shows how she got the bow she now wields like a professional.  The flashback also provides us with the glimpse of the movie’s villain, a ferocious bear named Mor’Du.   Merida’s father, King Fergus goes to battle with this bear, which results in the loss of his leg, which is replaced by a wooden peg.  Mor’Du manages to escape death on that fateful day, only to be seen at a later date.   

The story picks up steam when Elinor invites the lords of three neighboring clans to present their first born son in a competition of sorts for Merida’s hand on marriage.  It represents an age old tradition of arranged marriages.  This process is to be respected in the kingdom which our characters live.  Elinor, being the queen and Merida’s mother, believes whole heartedly in this process.   Merida, being an independent and adventurous young lady, doesn’t agree with these plans for her future.  This is the central conflict of the film.

Merida and her mother don’t see eye to eye on much of anything.  It is your classic teenage daughter argues with her mother, but in a more genuine manner than most movies use the concept.  Merida wants to choose her own husband or whether or not she even wants one in the first place.  In a nutshell, she wants to take control of her future.   Eventually she goes off to find a way around her predetermined fate.   That leads her to a witch in the forest that assists with the casting of a spell that will change everything for Merida.  Specifically, Merida asked for the spell to change her mother.  This being a movie, you know it doesn’t go as planned.

I’ll spare you the details as to what goes wrong.  To say more would spoil a bit of the movie’s plot.  What I can say is that the movie forces Merida and Elinor to confront their mother-daughter problems.  That is where the heart of the story is.  A lot of classic questions about the mother/daughter  dynamic come to the forefront in a thoughtful manner.    “Brave” handles these ideas how you would expect them to be handled by Pixar.  They do so realistically and by keeping all the characters likable in the process. 

There are two things that make “Brave” stand out as one of Pixar’s best works.  The first is the musical score/soundtrack.  Right out of the gate the music sets the tone of the film as adventurous.   There is a bit of Scottish flare in the score and the songs, which also enhances the experience.    Every bit of music helps push the story forward and even builds the characters, which is everything you’d want from the music.

My favorite aspect of “Brave” is simply how great it looks.  It is likely the best work Pixar has done in the animation department.  It works wonders with the 3D concept.  Only “Wall-E” compares in scope and detail.   Every time a wide shot of a landscape is shown, you can’t help but be impressed.  Most impressive are the smaller details, especially how they animated the simplest of things, like Merida’s hair.  

Ultimately, “Brave” is another hit for Pixar.  It will enjoyable for both the kids and adults.  However, I suspect that the grown-ups will enjoy it a little bit more as they reflect upon all their parental conflicts as they were growing up.  Hell, they may be going through it on the other end of the situation as well and might find some comfort in knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel.

All in all I give “Brave” **** out of 4.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (My Review)

The end of the world is a very bleak and grim idea.  Yet, it seems to fascinate the hell out of us.  That is probably because everyone secretly wants to know what happens after “all this”.   The quickest way for everyone to experience that next step together would be for the world to end.  Nobody wants to go into the afterlife alone, do they?  If the Mayans knew what the hell they were talking about, we could find out this December.

Were the Mayans onto something?  Probably not.   Well, maybe not.  Most likely not.  I suppose it isn’t impossible.  Regardless, they got people to talk about them for centuries.  They have inspired all forms of media into exploring the end of the world.  The most recent example of this is a little movie known as “Seeking a Friend to the End of the World”.  This is a movie that doesn’t get into the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, but more or less explores what such an event does to the world when we know it is coming.

The movie centers around Dodge (Steve Carrell), a seemingly unhappy middle-aged insurance salesman.  The story begins as an important announcement is transmitted over the airwaves via the radio and news broadcasts.   The hail Mary effort to fly a rocket into space to destroy an Armageddon sized asteroid named Matilda have failed.  There are roughly 4 weeks until impact and inevitable doom.   This news does not sit well with Dodge’s wife (Nancy Carrell), who gets out of the car and runs into the forest, never to be seen again.  Yes, the movie is bold enough to start this way.

As the movie goes on, we meet Penny (Keira Knightley), who lives in the same apartment building as Dodge.  She breaks up with her boyfriend and ends up having to sleep on the fire escape.  This is where she meets Dodge.  They build a rapport which leads to them making a deal involving their doomsday plans.  Dodge wants to go find a long lost love.  Penny wants to fly home to England to see her family before everything goes black.  Commercial flights have stopped at this point and Dodge says that he knows a guy who can fly her there.  Penny happens to have some wheels to get Dodge to his true love.   It is at this point the movie evolves into a dramedy of a road trip movie that follows the characters into the final days before that asteroid collides.

The previews make the movie to be a fun loving comedy.  That is basically not the case here.  “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a drama that takes a humorous look at a gloomy topic.  The funny portions of the movie will make you laugh, but they are paced out throughout the film.  What the previews could never convey is just how much heart is in the story.  By the time the credits roll, you will be emotionally invested in Dodge and Penny.  I won’t give you any hint to the emotions to will experience as it will ruin the movie for you.  Part of the experience and feeling honest emotions is not knowing where this one goes.  Trust me on that.

The story excels when it is showing the truth.  You might ask how a fictional tale about the end of the world shows the truth.  Well, it shows a lot of honest and genuine behavior that will likely be exhibited when the end is eminent.  People will do some really irrational things.  Some people will let go of their inhibitions.  Some will try to knock things off that bucket list.  Others will want to take advantage of the situation for personal gain.   These situations are shown during the course of the film and lead to the funniest moments.

Steve Carrell gives what may be his finest performance to date.   You knew he was destined for greatness all the way back when he did “The 40 Year Old Virgin”.  Then he did “Little Miss Sunshine” and you saw more of his acting chops.  Then he did “Crazy Stupid Love” which was a performance that got him closer to being an Oscar caliber performer.  I wouldn’t be surprised if something comes of this role next February when the Oscar nominations are announced.   Carrell’s muted and deadpan delivery is what makes his character work.

Kiera Knightley is solid.  I can’t make any complaints of her performance.  She expected to deliver in a dramatic role, however.  Therefore, by relation, her performance isn’t as exception as her counterpart’s.  The real fun performances are the short appearances by the likes of Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Derek Luke, and William Peterson.   All of these people played characters that might seem to over the top in another movie.  Here they just make it work.  I can’t describe it any other way.

Should you go run and buy a ticket to “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”?   No.   See it when you can.  It is one of my favorite movies of the year, so I highly recommend it if you do have the chance.  If that is when it hits DVD, then so bee it.  (I rate it 4/4 on the Stars system) 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Watch this. It is worth your time...

My new Favorite Band, Fitz and the Tantrums.   If you don't like this video, you don't have a soul.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finally, my glowing review of Bridesmaids

My friend Steve looks at me as if I am crazy every time I tell him that Bridesmaids is a great movie.  He seems quite skeptical of my raving review for the movie.  At some point I’ll just make him see it.  The rest of you, however, are going to need to trust what I tell you about the movie right now.

                I was initially skeptical of Bridesmaids.  Hell, I hadn’t even heard a damn thing about it until I was waiting for someone at the theater and noticed the poster for it.   To me it just seemed like another teeny bopper romantic comedy.  It was much to my pleasure to eventually learn that it was neither a teeny bopper movie or a romantic comedy.

                Yeah, I didn’t get a good look at it the first time.  I saw the title in big letters and thought it was some knockoff of lowly girlie comedies like The Sleepover or Jawbreaker.  Had I gotten closer I would have seen the smaller font that indicated that the producer of Superbad, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin was involved.  That is Judd fucking Apatow.  I can’t recall that man being involved with anything remotely near cinematic garbage.  I also totally blanked on the fact that the movie was written by and starred Kristen Wiig.   I freaking love Kristen Wiig.  She is usually one of the few highlights of any episode of Saturday Night Live.   She was brilliant in her small part in Knocked Up.  She has a way delivering very dry, yet lively lines.  Anyways, I was suddenly interested in the movie at this point.  I read some good reviews and decided to go see it myself.

                As I stated earlier, Bridesmaids is by no means a romantic comedy.  Sure there is a side plot with a love interest, but it is not the focus of the movie.  The movie is much more interesting and can best be described as a basic R-rated comedy that focuses on a female lead character.  Basically it is like taking any one of the Apatow comedies and swapping out the cast with mostly women.  There is swearing.  There is some sex.  And there are raunchy gross out moments.  All this stuff happening to a bunch of women is an alien concept for a mainstream Hollywood movie.  Regardless, it clicks on all cylinders.
                Wiig stars as Annie, a down on her luck Milwaukee woman who recently lost her cake making business due to the horrible economic situation.   Maya Rudolph plays her best friend, Lily, who gets engaged in the first act of the movie and thus sets up the basic premise.   Lily chooses Annie to be her maid of honor and we soon meet the rest of her bridesmaids.   First the is Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Lily’s cousin and a married mother of several teenage boys.   Then there is Becca (The Office’s Ellie Kemper), a newly-wed who has only ever been with one man.  Thirdly, there is Lily’s future sister in law, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) who is a strong, independent, and confident woman.  Rounding out the bridesmaids is Helen (Rose Byrne), who is a relatively new friend of Lily.

                The central conflict of the movie is that the one good thing in Annie’s life, her relationship with Lily, is being threatened by Helen’s involvement in the wedding.  An unspoken rivaly is born as both Annie and Helen try to out-do the other in showing Lily how great of a friend they are.  Now if Bridesmaids were a cliché of a movie, Annie would be imagining that Helen was deliberately trying to one up her.   That is not really the case here and it makes us root for everything to work out in Annie’s favor.  Needless to say, this rivalry is the catalyst for a series of comedic follies and misunderstandings.

                Some really great scenes are created out of this core conflict.  One of them, and I never thought I would say this about a movie, takes place in a dress shop while another goes down on a flight to Las Vegas.  Both are scenes that will, without a doubt, win you over.  After you see those scenes, you should be involved in the movie until the closing credits.  

                Wiig is utterly brilliant in Bridesmaids.  If anything, the movie will be a catapult for her into mainstream success.  She will get more leading roles and will write many more films after this.  She has mastered the art of behaving in a crazy manner, but still keeping her characters grounded in reality.  Wiig is also great doing some physical comedy in Bridesmaids, which is totally a lost art in movie making.

                Mad Men fans will be thrilled to see Jon Hamm in the movie as well.  He has a small bit part that I can’t describe without ruining its awesomeness.  His first lines of the movie are words I never expected to hear the man say.  I look forward to him doing more comedies in the future as he always brings his A game. 

                Ultimately, the real scene stealer in Bridesmaids is Melissa McCarthy.  Her portrayal of Megan rivals the zaniness of Zach Galifinakis in The Hangover.  I don’t think there was a word that came out of her mouth that wasn’t funny.   Right from the moment Megan is introduced all the way into the credits sequence, she owns every bit of her performance.  When you leave the theater, she will be the one you are talking about.

                All in all, Bridesmaids was a solid summer comedy.  I will go as far as saying that it is the best comedy of the year.  Hell, I am putting it up with the contenders for best movie I have seen in 2011 period.  It is the perfect balance of comedy with a strong emotional core.  It is a wonder as to why more movies don’t mold themselves in the Apatow formula.  Oh well, if they did, then Bridesmaids wouldn’t be this summer’s hidden gem.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I eventually got some Vicodin... i think

This originally was written on my Facebook page on Sunday, July 13, 2008

“I have to go to the bathroom”

Those were the words that came out of my mouth. They were nothing too absurd or out of the ordinary. Hell, everyone has made that same statement at least once a day for the past however many years they have been alive. What was absurd about it however, was the fact that I was under the influence of anesthesia and was out of my fucking mind. As the story was relayed to me by my mother and sister, I followed that statement by drunkenly motioning to take off my pants. It was lucky for everyone that I had no god damned motor skills at the time.

Yes, folks, that was indeed part of the post wisdom teeth extraction aftermath. It was a wonderful time full of incoherent babbling, stumbling, and black out fun. Truth be told, I can't recall much of anything I am about to share with you. It is bit hazy with only a few highlights that I can actually playback in my head. Okay, so I am not playing them back exactly as they happened, but in a more faint and fragmented version of the truth. Lucky for us, my mother and sister filled me in on all the shenanigans.

I wasn't initially going to take the knock out gas because I thought I might have to pay up front. However, since one tooth was all impacted and such, I was able to pay for it later. Now, after everyone has done everything in their power to make me scared shitless of the surgery, I was quite open to the idea. I was like, “knock me out, doc, because all my friends tell me this is gonna suck balls”. So, it was on like Donkey Kong. They put the gas mask on me to get me relaxed, put a rubber stop in my mouth to keep it open, and then jabbed me with an IV. Seconds later...

....Well, it was virtually seconds later when I woke up more disoriented than a hooker in a confessional booth. I couldn't believe it was over, but I was totally fine with the fact that it was. I remember looking around, seeing the family nearby, and immediately announcing what we were gonna do next,

“Okay, it's time to go get my new TV!” I exclaimed like a child chasing an ice cream truck.

“I don't think you'll be doing much of anything,” the doctor responded. He clearly didn't know who the fuck he was talking to and what the fuck he was talking about. My new TV was in the works for weeks My sister was helping me buy it because I gave her my old computer. There was no way that this wasn't going to happen.

If I recall correctly, I responded along the lines of, “Oh, we'll see about that now, won't we?” I am fairly certain that the doctor didn't really give a shit as long as I wasn't fucking up my mouth on his watch. He also probably wanted to avoid arguing with a drunk man.

Yep. Drunk. That is the best that I can explain the state that I was in. I don't know what being drunk is really like, so I can only assume that this was it. I was conscious, yet I felt like an observer in my own body. It was as if I had tunnel vision and could only focus on the world directly in front of me, and concentrate on one thing at a time. Also, I don't think I had a lick of judgment going for me since I seemed to be reacting on the first thought that popped into my head. In retrospect, I believe I sat there thinking “gee, that wasn't right, but okay, its cool.” Everything I was about to do, I was fine with, no matter how ridiculous I got.

Truth be told, it took all of 0.0002 seconds for me to disregard what the doctor said entirely. I wanted an HD fucking TV and there was no stopping me. It was time to get my ass out of that damn dental chair. So, I spun my feet off the end of the chair and-

Oops, that shit was good. Almost took a digger there. Apparently my motor skills really were shit right from the get go. I was more stumble prone than my friend Justine after one drink (which to her can include the contents of an entire pitcher of a mixed drink). It was a good thing that the nurses were there to save me from face planting.

However, I wasn't convinced that I was really in that bad of shape. Had I taken a dive, I might have reconsidered, but since I was in one piece, I felt like as giddy as Paula Abdul after a trip to the pharmacy. The nurses rolled in the wheelchair they are legally required to put me in and wheel me to the door. I wasn't having it. I argued for a minute or two insisting that I was just fine and could walk out of there with pride. They got me to get in the damn thing somehow. According to my sister, somewhere amidst the madness I managed some minor sexual harassment as I informed a nurse she was good looking. Upon hearing this, I couldn't help but wonder which one I offended. When I went back the following week for a follow up, I took a good look at all of the ladies in the office. No, not to see if I could remember the face I referred to, but to see which one of them was staring daggers into me for acting a mess.

Somehow, the folks at Aurora Baycare managed to wheel me to my mother's car without incident. I cannot remember how, nor was exactly informed how this all went down. The account of the events from my sister seemed to indicate this is where I indicated that I needed to go to the bathroom. I apparently didn't specify if it was a number one or a number too, but if I were to guess, I would say a number two. That is just a guess however. Number two would just have been more interesting. Of course, I was a really just a bold faced liar. I didn't have to go to the bathroom. If memory serves me correctly, I didn't use the facilities until hours later. Yes, that could have been because even I knew trying to stand in front of a toilet was a liability, but it is more likely that I was just trying to be an attention whore.

Really though, I kind of failed at that. If I really wanted attention, I might as well have just pulled down my pants and left a steaming surprise right there on the chair. Why? What do you mean, why? Because that is honestly the one of the rare times in life where you can get away with dropping your trousers and plopping a deuce right in front of complete strangers without anyone being able to judge you. It wasn't my fault that their anesthesia or laughing gas made me more interesting that I will ever be again. They probably bought the stuff from K-mart, so they should have known it was the bad shit. Anyway, had I actually laid a poo or streamed some pee, everyone at that office would have just had a great story to tell when they got home from work. They probably would have been secretly thanking me for making their job legitimately interesting for the first time in their life. I could have been a legend that went down in office lore. They would have warned future patients about the potential side effects.

“Well, you might feel a little funny when the anesthesia wears off. It happens all the time. One time a guy dropped a shit brick in the parking lot, so if you feel like starting a giggling fit, we'd consider that to be quite normal,” they would say to every patient from there on out. Alas, I didn't do anything to that extent, but I couldn't help but feel like I did when I went into the office for that follow-up. I think there was a lot of whispering and pointing going on with a lot of “there he is. That guy was a complete ass hat.”

So, there I was, at the car. As I was getting in, I nearly knocked my own head off because of another “oops” moment. Depth perception is allegedly affected when you are under the influence as well. On the bright side, it didn't hurt when I hit my head on the roof of the car. I couldn't feel shit and I was fine with that. I was on cloud nine feeling as great as I ever had. That was something that I felt needed to be shared, so I pulled out my cell phone.

At this point, there was no legitimate logical structure to my decisions. I needed someone to dial and unfortunately it happened to be the first and only people I seemed to even remember knowing. With that, I dialed the lovely Jennifer Schaar to tell her how everything went. Never mind the fact that I hadn't really had a phone conversation with Jen in a couple months, nor did she even know I was going in to get the wisdom teeth extracted. That didn't stop me since I felt pretty fucking justified in calling her. She did, after all, leave me a message on my facebook wall earlier that day. Basically, it was her own fucking fault for giving me a reason to remember she was a good friend.

It would have been much more harmless had Jen's voice mail just picked up. Oh, but she answered, and almost immediately I think. She was probably wondering why I was randomly calling her in the middle of the day on a Thursday. Even better, she was probably wondering what the fuck I was saying. My mouth was full of gauze, so I can only assume that I sounded like Kirstie Alley pouncing on a wedding cake. I can't recall exactly what I was telling her, but I do know that I managed to inform her that I was going to melt her face (only Jen knows what I really “said”). That much was understood without saying though. Everyone wants to melt a wonderful face like Jen's. That understanding aside, Jen still was confused as all hell when I got off the phone with her. She then called Jason to ask if I had my wisdom teeth pulled or something. She was on to something there as we both had a great idea. I was calling Jason as well.

I got his voice mail, which I didn't mind because I was high as a fucking kite. I managed to mumble to him that everything went fine and I feel good. At this point I realized that I felt better than fine. I was really liking whatever was happening to me. To that regard I informed Jason's voice mail, “this stuff is great. I am seeing things that I have never seen before”. Later that night, I checked my call log and couldn't seem to find the call I made to Jason. He never did really confirm to me that he got the voice mail, so I am not even sure I was really talking to anything. I was probably just hearing things that weren't there, which goes nicely with the things I hadn't ever seen before.

It was at that point that I decided to call my brother, Nathan, but the mother and sister scolded me and made me put my phone away. However, my brother still got a call, but from my sister. She needed to inform him of how much of an ass I was being. It was fine though, because it was funny. The trip across Green Bay continued with me gazing aimlessly out the window.

Eventually we stopped at Walgreens a block from my house. It was a good thing that my mother used the drive through because I was ready to get out and get my own prescription for hydrocodine. While that was being taken care of, we drove over to Culvers to get a bunch of food that I couldn't eat. I was a little pissed off about that. There was pissing and moaning when I got home. That didn't last long however because I remembered again that I needed to go get my new TV. Mom and Tiffany reminded me again that I was in no shape to get a TV. I said “Sure I am!” and then proceeded to demonstrate by doing the Ric Flair strut towards the couch, which I stumbled onto and stayed for the next two hours.

By that point the good stuff had worn off and I was back to the confines of reality. That fucking sucked.

And that was that. There was a happy ending though, since I did get to go buy the new TV. It is a beautiful 32 inch Samsung LCD. TV shows broadcast in HD look so fucking amazing that I don't even care what I am watching. The next day after the operation I found myself mesmerized by the “Pooh and Tigger” show on the Dinsey HD channel and some really silly show on Discovery HD where they just show you the sun rising in random parts of the world. Sure, it was boring as fuck, but god damn it looked better than real life.

Holy shit! I somehow managed to write 2,000 words about my ridiculous day of surgery. How the hell did that happen? That is cool and all, but now I am getting a little tired.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Laughs and Heart, a rare combo in movies...

Question.   How long has Anne Heche been a total fox?  Seriously.  Have I just missed it all these years?  This weekend I definitely took notice when I saw her in a supporting role in the comedy Cedar Rapids.  Ms. Heche was mighty fine and sexy in the movie.  Now, this was by no way the reason I will give my stamp of approval on Cedar Rapids, but it sure was an added bonus.

Many of you probably don’t even know what movie I am talking about.  So, because of that I will allow you to take a moment and Google the shit out of it.  Hit up Apple for the trailer or IMDB for the details.  Come back and skip a paragraph because I need to rant for a second.

You know, part of my job involves me giving customers web support when they can’t seem to get our site working for them.  A lot of it is just helping them reset their passwords because they forgot.  That’s not so bad.  But then I get the people who shouldn’t even be allowed on the internet.  I can’t even tell you how many times someone calls with some confusion about the website, only to discover that I can’t fix it because they aren’t anywhere near a frickin computer.  That’s like going to a mechanic without your car.  Really people?  Really?  Next week I will rant about the dumb asses who don’t know how to use their web browser.

Okay, so we are caught up now.   Cedar Rapids stars Ed Helms as Tim Lippe, an insurance agent from Brown Valley, Wisconsin.  Tim is a sheltered man who has never really experienced much of the world outside of his home town.  Hell, he is even banging one of his teachers from middle school (played by Sigourney Weaver), and is in a delusional state of “love” with her.  Needless to say, he has a shell of a life and doesn’t even know it.

When a colleague of Lippe’s dies in a tragic and comedic way, he is thrust into the spotlight when his boss sends him to a conference in Cedars Rapids, Iowa.  Lippe’s mission is to go to the conference and wow his peers enough to win his agency’s fourth consecutive Double Diamond Award.  He is on strict orders to stay focused and do his agency proud.  Specifically, he is told to stay away from a known client poacher by the name of Dean Zeigler (John C Reily).  Zeigler is a brash and vulgar man with many vices who is not afraid to let loose.  He clearly has a lot of stories to tell, which makes him a polar opposite of Tim Lippe.

Lippe’s goal is sidetracked by the fact that he quickly befriends Zeigler and two other agents named Ronald Wilkes (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Heche).   Ronald is a sensible man and may be the first black man that Lippe had ever seen in person.  Joan is a married mother of two who attends weekend conferences as a way to unwind.  The long and short of the plot is that Lippe is introduced to a lot of stimuli that he was not privy to in small town Wisconsin.  There are some drugs, some alcohol, and some sex thrown at him.  Needless to say, his life and mission are thrown upside down.

The long and short of it is that Cedar Rapids is a typical story about a guy from a small town who goes to the big city and is a fish out of water – but with not so typical results.   The movie does not move along like it is just another cookie cutter comedy.  When it is funny, it is superbly hilarious.  When it is awkward, it is pleasantly uncomfortable.  When the movie wants to have some serious moments, they are full of legitimate heart.  Rather than just throw together a series of jokes, the filmmakers of Cedar Rapids told a story that was actually funny.  That’s something that Adam Sandler should consider for his next movie (besides leaving Kevin James out of it).

Most of you will know Ed Helms from his role as Andy Bernard on The Office or as Stu in The Hangover.  He hasn’t really had himself a lead role before.  In The Hangover, he was still second fiddle to Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifinakis, but showed his potential.  In Cedar Rapids he shows that he has the chops to carry his own movie.  Also, Helms shows that he has range in his performance and will not be typecast into any particular role.  Most of all, Helms is likable which plays off nicely with the questionable nature of John C. Reily’s morally ambiguous Dean Zeigler.

Reily steals the show.  In a movie full of laughs, he brings the majority of them.  As the movie goes on he crafts a character from being an overzealous asshole into a guy you can’t help but like.  The one scene that will have you talking involves Dean Zeigler drunk in a swimming pool and wearing a garbage can lid as a helmet.  I laugh just thinking about it. 

Cedar Rapids is by no means on the same level as The Hangover or The 40 Year Old Virgin, but it is as good, if not better than any other comedy released in 2011.  It may not have been promoted that heavily, but that is not indicative on the quality of the movie.  If you have a brain, a funny bone, and a heart, you’ll give this one two thumbs up.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

See you at the White House: The 2010 Green Bay Packers

The Super Bowl is tomorrow.  Hold on a moment while I let that soak in.  It has been nearly two weeks since the Packers won the NFC championship game and I still don’t think I have comprehended the gravity of the situation.  My Green Bay Packers are in the freaking SUPER BOWL.  It has been quite the experience with it happening while living in Green Bay.  This is something important to this city and its people.

It has been one hell of a season, right?   I have quite a few talking points to go over, but first I must throw out a little shout out to a friend of mine.  My co-worker and friend, Jillian, entered a contest with a local radio station to show that she is Green Bay’s biggest Kenny Chesney Fan.  How does this tie into the Packers?  Because Kenny has a concert here this summer at Lambeau Field that will be the first of its kind at the stadium.   The radio station wants to send a local fan to Tampa to be a correspondence on Kenny’s tour before he brings the show to Lambeau.  Jillian can be that person if we show her some support.

So, what am I getting to?  I’d like you to click the following link.   When you do so, please find the “Like” button at the bottom of the page.  If Jillian tallies up enough votes, she gets to go to Tampa.   It takes a total of 4 seconds to do.  If you are reading this blog, you can spare that time.

A Reflection of Destiny

At the beginning of the NFL season, everyone expected the Packers to go to the Super Bowl.  They were supposed to make it there.  The expectations were high and the Packers nation wasn’t going to be happy unless that result came to light.  By mid season, those expectations were burned to ashes.  The Packers didn’t look like the contenders we expected them to be.  They couldn’t close the deal on many close games.  The special teams looked as nice as a Lindsay Lohan mug shot.  The offense was sporadic.  The defense was the only constant.   And they came through every time we needed them to.  It took 13 games and an ass kicking by the Lions to put things in perspective.  The Packers weren’t meeting expectations and it wasn’t going to be easy.  It took the 14th game of the season and all the odds stacked against them for this team to realize their true destiny.

The Best Game of the Season
The odd thing about this season is that the most important game the Packers played all season was one in which they lost.  Week 15 versus the Patriots is what made this Packers team what they are going into Dallas tomorrow.  That game changed everything.  It may not have been the best game they played, but it was the one they very well may have put the most heart into.  They were just seconds away of upsetting the Patriots .  Hell, they were beating them for most of the game.  That wasn’t supposed to happen with a banged up team and a backup quarterback who had never started a game in his life.

It was in this game where you could see that the Packers really believed that they were something special.  You could see that they were unified on a cause.  It was this game that showed that Mike McCarthy really does have the respect of his players.  He coached the best game of his life and it showed with the play calling and the effort by his team.   They lost this game, but they found themselves.  Their true character showed.

Up until this game, the Packers all but asked everyone to doubt their legitimacy.  However, this game changed all that.  It was a turning point.  Their potential started to shine.   You could start to feel that they were capable of doing great things when all cylinders were firing.  The Packers’ destiny was looming.  Not everyone could see it.  One man did, though.  His name was Lovie Smith.  He wanted nothing to do with the Packers, so he was going to try everything to eliminate them from the playoffs.  The Bears played the Packers hard in week 17 and I have no doubt that Lovie would have went for the dagger with a two point conversion had his team scored on its final drive.
Best Play of the Season
The onside kick at the start of the Patriots game was the best call of the season by Mike McCarthy, if not the best he ever made.  Nobody ever does that.  The Packers had nothing to lose.  They weren’t even supposed to be in the game, so kicking it onside was a risk they could take.  It worked like a charm and set the tone for the intensity they were about to bring.  This kick blew my mind.  I am still awed by it.

Most Important Performance of the Season
Most people might point to Rodgers and his game against the Falcons during the playoffs.  That was an epic performance, but it would not have been possible if this other guy didn’t bring the game of his life.  I am referring to the week 17 performance of Erik Walden.  His stats were a clear indication of his impact.  He had 16 tackles and 3 sacks.  The man was all over the place and the main reason the Bears couldn’t score more than a field goal.  He was chasing around Jay Cutler all day and making his life a living hell before Twitter took a shot at the guy.  This performance by Walden was the indication that the team was finally past all of the injuries.  The players all knew their roles and were following the game plan to near perfection. 

Erik Walden showed that they didn’t need the “elite” players in there to make an impact.  Everyone on that defense had their own part to play.  Any player could make a play at any time.  This was apparent in the playoffs and I expect it to ring true during the Super Bowl.

The Team MVPs

Aaron Rodgers is the easy pick.  So, that is why I won’t be choosing him.  First, I must acknowledge how much better Tim Masthay has been punting the past couple months.  He seems to have found the golden leg.  He managed to keep Devin Hester from making an impact twice in four weeks.  He kept Desean Jackson at bay as well.  He was putting balls inside the twenty like it was his job or something.  Like it or not, he made a big difference down the stretch.  For that, he gets one of my MVP awards.

As for defense, the easy pick is Clay Matthews.  Nope.   He was great, but the guy I am thinking about was consistent all season.  I don’t even think I saw him make a bad play.  Who?  Tramon Williams, that is who.  He brought his game to the next level.  Hell, he was so great that the Packers let Al Harris go.  He played so damn awesome that it freed up Chuck Woodson to run amuck from all angles.  Williams was able to cover anyone.   You could barely throw his way.  Hell, you rarely heard his name because he wasn’t being burned.  Plays weren’t being made his way, so that is the best you could ever ask from a cornerback.  Oh wait, he brought more than that to the table.  Clutch plays in the playoffs?  You are damn right!

My offensive MVP was John Kuhn.  He never was razzle dazzle, but he was tough.  He converted for first downs in short yardage.  He was a threat on the ground and in the air near the goal line.  He took on the burden of being the lead back when Ryan Grant went down.  His stats never would wow people, but he was always managing to make plays.  In the process, he became a cult hero.

You Should Send Brett Favre a Thank You Note
I can feel the disdain you all have pulsating through your veins at the mere mention of the man.  Don’t close the window just yet.  Let me explain myself.  I really do believe that Brett Favre contributed to this year’s Super Bowl run.

Love him or hate him, Brett Favre’s waffling allowed this team to be what it is today.  Had he rode off into the sunset in 2008, the Packers would not be the team they are.  So his wishy washy act actually did some good for the Packers and I am going to tell you why.

Brett Favre’s need to return to football left Ted Thompson with a decision.  Release him or trade him.  They couldn’t release him because he would end up in Chicago or Minnesota faster than a text message travels.  Ted traded Brett. 

The trade was a conditional 4th round pick.   The round increased based on performance.  Brett, because he came back, played every game for the Jets.  This was enough to bump the pick up to a 3rd rounder.   This gave the Packers 4 picks in the first three rounds.  This also gave Ted Thompson something to work with.

Ted had a plan in the 2009 draft and he put it into motion.  He had the freedom to take the best guy on the board when the Packers’ pick came up.  So, he took a little guy by the name of B.J. Raji.  He undoubtedly took Raji as part of a master plan to solidify the 3-4 defense that was being put into place.   This gave him some room to trade around.

Ted decided that he could part ways with the team’s 2nd round pick and his two third round picks for the Patriots late 1st round pick and a 5h round pick.  The trade was put into place and the Packers selected Clay Matthews. 

So, as you can see, that 3rd round pick the Packers got for Favre translated into the Raji/Matthews first round surprise.  In simpler terms:  Favre’s antics turned into Clay Matthews (and to some extent contributed to the pick of BJ Raji). 

I appreciate this weird twist of fate.  As much as Favre is hated, his ugly divorce with the Packers was written into the team’s destiny.  Fate never intended for a clean retirement.  Had Favre rode off into the sunset, the Packers defense would look drastically different.  And yes, I will go as far as saying that they wouldn’t be as good as they are now.

The Favre debacle left a bad taste in my mouth as a fan.  I hated how it all went down.   I spent three seasons trying to make sense of it.  Now I understand.  It was meant to happen that way.  It had to.  This team of destiny was nudged in this direction the moment Brett changed his mind.  As a fan, I am not at peace over the situation.  It had to be this way.  Thank you for, your antics, Brett.  They may have tarnished your legacy, but in the end, they were for the greater good.

My Thoughts on the Big Game

The experts have been beating this to death for two weeks now.  I don’t want to point out all the strengths and weaknesses since it has been done over and over.  We all know what the Packers theoretically need to do.  They are more than capable of winning this thing.  Vegas seems to agree.  How astounding is it that the 6 seed Wild Card team is favored?  That has to be unprecedented.

The Packers earned that respect from the odds makers though.  They are on the hottest of streaks as we have ever seen.  Some would argue that the Patriots were also on a hot streak during their 16-0 season.  Well, this is different.  The law of averages caught up with New England.  The Packers got their ugly shit out of their system.  I expect the best of their performances to come during Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers will have a good game.  I wouldn’t expect anything else.  Big Ben will avoid a few sacks like they were rape charges.  The announcers will talk a lot about hair.  These things are givens.  But let me give you a few predictions of things I think may go down.

First, I really believe that Raji will get to touch the ball on offense.  That elephant package will come out on short yardage that isn’t near the goal line as well.  When they need a yard, they just need to get Raji in there to show the world who he is.  He will also give those Glee kids a hard act to follow once he gets those dance moves going.

The wide receivers that shine for the Packers will be named Jones and Nelson.  They are going to be the ones with the best matchups and Rodgers likes them.  Look for one of them to get some serious yards after the catch.  Jones seems to be focused now that he got that ugly drop out of his system.  Dare I say that one of these guys could be MVP?

I expect the Packers to run a whole not more than expected.  They may utilize the same game plan that they used against the Patriots.  They were running out of 4 WR sets quite often.   And out of the shotgun formation.   This may be the surprise of the game.

I expect at least one defensive touchdown by one of the teams.

It is a given that I am picking the Packers, right?   Not only because I have to, but because they should win.  So, I am going with a historical score.  35-21 Packers.  Raji as game MVP(because I bet money on this)

See you in the White House.