29 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim had nerd hype galore and great reviews all around. Still, it tanked opening weekend and hasn't exactly been picking up steam since. I've read that it's too insular, the references go over most people's heads, or that the movie just didn't have an obvious audience like Expendables or Eat Love Pray. Actually, here's five theories for Pilgrim's flop, compiled in a nice and neat article. John Scalzi also wrote, "The Dollar Value of Nerd Love (Here's Looking at You, Scott Pilgrim)," which tries to capture why internet geek buzz for a film might not translate into big bucks. Which is sad because Scott Pilgrim was really a fun and frenetic film and now Hollywood won't take chances on this kind of stuff anymore.

The movie was a little bit like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the video game generation. Okay, it's actually nothing like that but there's something very similar going on with Kate Winslet's Clementine and Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Ramona -- I mean aside from their constantly changing hair color. I think Clem's quote, "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours" fits Ramona perfectly. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great by the way, and I mean that in the shallowest way possible as she's just beautiful. I should have remembered her from Sky High but I didn't.

And while I'm no Michael Cera super fan, I couldn't see anyone else in this role. His patented sad sack loser charm seems to fit well as the main character. Maybe it's time for Cera to stop playing these kinds of characters but I think people are just hating. There will be a Cera revival soon after this backlash. The rest of the cast is great too, especially Ellen Wong, who I'd like to see become the next great Asian American actress. Or Asian Canadian I guess since she's from Ontario. She stole every scene she was in and brought so much enthusiasm to the screen.

Speaking of Asian Canadians, the creator of Scott Pilgrim thing is Bryan Lee O'Malley, who is mixed and part Korean I believe. That's just a tidbit though since what's really important is that he's all awesome. I'm so jealous of his premise for the series: "Boy loves girl and has to fight off her seven evil exes." It's so simple and genius. If I had thought of that I would be world famous and a genius too. Okay maybe not.

Anyway, you should watch this movie because nobody else is. And that's just criminal. I leave you with Linda Holmes' article: "Scott Pilgrim Versus the Unfortunate Tendency to Review the Audience."

The Expendables (2010)

Taking the crown opening weekend over Eat Love Pray and Scott Pilgrim, The Expendables was the summer movie every action fan wanted to see. The testosterone heavy cast boasts a ton of big names (where was Wesley Snipes?) and it should have been a gimme. Have the guys show up, have them blow things up, the end.

Instead, The Expendables reminds me of how I'm really much more excited for Red, which seems like a similar movie, at least on the surface. The main difference I can tell is that Red features some ex-assassins back for another mission while Expendables featured a lot of ex-action stars gathered together for a money grab. What tanks Expendables is that we're in 2010 now, not the Eighties, and the film serves to remind us of how far guns and explosions have come since Commando and Rambo. Any of Jason Statham's movies -- as preposterous and thin as they are -- are better than Expendables from an entertainment standpoint.

We're way too familiar with the tropes of the classic action movie and we're able to connect "the girl" with "future love interest" and "motivation to do some killing" without having to waste twenty minutes watching Stallone emote. Just fire up the plane, load up the ammo and go! There is absolutely nothing surprising in any scene of The Expendables and even worse, the dialogue is horrific. There was one good line from the movie amidst a sea of horrible cheese and that one line might even fly over the heads of some teens.

I wish Expendables had been more clever, or had the intelligence to realize that the audience isn't awed by big guns and bigger CGI explosions anymore. If this had a better plot, an actual sense of humor, or some hint of tongue in cheekness, Expendables could have been awesome. Instead, it sucked.

Then again, having said all that, if Stallone and Kurt Russell get together for Tango & Cash 2, I'm so there.

I'm not a MMA fan but one of the co-stars of The Expendables, Randy Couture, absolutely wrecked a former boxing champ the other night in just a few minutes. James Toney didn't even land a punch. Wowza.

28 August 2010

Perfect Imperfections

Listening to: Goodie Mob, "Beautiful Skin."

Look, I like Cee-Lo's new song as much as the next person but watching it go viral has sort of made me roll my eyes. I can't decide if its popularity is due to the at first cool but ultimately derivative video, the sentiment and meaning behind the song, or if people just like singing along to something titled "Fuck You." This is now the official summer anthem -- although maybe the Antoine Dodson remix (and its controversy) has the claim to that title -- and everybody and their mom has been posting Mr. Green's latest hit to their Facebooks and Twitters like they're the first ones who found it.

For the record, Theresa was the first one on it, at least in my universe. She was also the person that got me into Cee-Lo years ago so clearly I owe her a great debt. And since I do love Cee-Lo, I should just be happy that this might be the track that pushes him to solo super stardom. Plus, this summer does deserve a bit of a middle finger doesn't it? I mean, I've been walking around flicking people off most of the last month so really I've been leading the movement. Not on purpose mind you, it's just how my finger has been for the past few weeks.

See I came back to San Diego for two things this summer: surfing and basketball. The second time out on the courts I suffered the lamest basketball injury ever. I poked at the ball in a defensive manner and emerged with a mallet finger. Basically the tendon tore and the end of my finger won't go back up on its own. Eight weeks in a splint and no basketball or beach for me. Sigh. And it's not even like the finger hurt at all. No swelling, discoloration, or pain. The biggest thing I've had to suffer through is the inevitable "haha, are you giving me the finger?" jokes. Yes, I've heard that one already, gimme my change already.

Anyway, who cares about me, let's talk music. There's this semi-new site called Shuffler.fm that browses through music blogs in an easy and convenient manner. I would say more about it but the idea is dead simple and the execution perfect. Plus Mashable covered it here.

There are a variety of music channels on the homepage, ranging from indie to hip hop to shoegaze. You just select one and off you go. Shuffler.fm is great for discovering new music blogs -- there are so many! -- and a lot of the tracks are quite recent and the day to day experience is not as predictable as Pandora's tightly curated playlists. The best part of the Shuffler.fm experience is that you can download the MP3 right then and there if you like a particular song.

Some of the stuff that caught my attention in the indie pop section so far have been:
So try Shuffler.fm out and if you have any graphic design or web expertise, please offer to redo their logo and site because it's horrific. Plus the tagline needs some work. "It's the Pandora or MTV for music blogs." Accurate but not exactly catchy right?

Oh and since I'm here, my friend told me about Dirpy, which converts Youtube content to videos or MP3s. Easy to use and quite useful for making sure you own a copy of the newest dance instructional video so you can practice offline. You know, like I'm sure everyone does.

15 August 2010

Step Up 3 (2010)

Here's another in my dance movie review series. You are so excited, I can tell.

The most anticipated movie of the summer for me? No lie, Step Up 3D. Okay maybe I was equally ready for Despicable Me but to be honest, I could have told you what Step Up 3D's release date was from the time it was announced. Why all the excitement? Because Step Up 2 director Jon M Chu was making his next dance movie. Nevermind that he's got the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers going on and it's probably a bigger game changer than any 3D dance movie will be, but I wanted to know what Chu's vision would be.

What I realized while watching Step Up 3 -- not in 3D sadly, because it was too expensive and I'll have to hop it with another 3D movie another time (and then steal some glasses for keeps) -- was that movie reviewers have it rough. Imagine having to take notes the entire time while experiencing a movie during a first screening. I was trying to make mental notes because I didn't want to breech movie protocol by using my iPhone. That didn't work. I forgot everything I wanted to jot down. So I'm just going to review it without a rewatch and possibly revisit the cinematic event of the summer at a later date.

By the way, for my birthday I'd to get one of those movie pens. And some more storage and RAM for my brain. Thanks.

Tagline: "Take the biggest step of all in 3D"

1. Plot (7)
Critics are saying the plot of Step Up 3 is tired and cliched. They are wrong. The way to look at Step Up 3 is through the lens of Chu's work with LXD. On those webisodes, he's connecting the worlds of dance and comic books. Step Up 3 works along the same lines and is vastly more enjoyable if you draw those parallels. Basically Step Up 3 is the story of a reluctant teenage hero recruited by Professor X. It's not about people who are good dancers, but dancers as superheroes. I love it.

While I'll admit there's nothing surprising in the setup for Step Up 3, there is at least one or two twists along the way. Okay, one. But in comparison with previous dance narratives, that's a big step...um, forward. My biggest quibble with the script is that the crew Moose is adopted into is tragically named "The Pirates." And the evil dancers are known as "The Ninjas." I think we could do with some better dance crew names. Pirates versus Ninjas? What is this, the third grade?

Edit: As my fellow movie goer pointed out, "not ninjas...samurai's!!!!!!!!!! right?" And she's right. The bad guys were the samurai. Still, it's a bad name.

2. Can the lead characters dance? (8)
Casting for a dance movie lead can't be easy. They have to be nice to look at, decent at dancing, and passable at acting. And I guess they have to be white. For some reason, the new lead here only qualifies for the latter. I don't want to bash on Rick Malambri here but he is a terrible actor, he barely has any dance scenes (so I'm assuming he can't dance), and he's kind of good looking until you realize he's a poor man's Eric Dane. As my movie partner said, "He's only in this movie for that one shot of his abs." Which is about right. Joe Slaughter, who plays the antagonist, should have been the lead. He kind of looks like an asshole though so maybe that's why he played Magneto. He could dance though and was a lot more compelling than McSteamy-lite.

The female lead, Sharni Vinson, suffers from basically the same problem. She's a poor woman's Briana Evigan. At a glance you would think that her character had returned from Step Up 2 since they look so much alike. Vinson can dance though, I'll give her that, but Malambri and Vinson together aren't exactly chemistry central. Here's an article and videos with all three Step Up female leads. Vinson is British apparently, so I'm impressed with her accent work.

And the other lead, Adam G. Sevani, returns as Moose. We know Sevani can dance as he showed us in Step Up 2 (and the Miley/Mandy battles). However, he's definitely not the amazing dancer the movie makes him out to be. Which isn't a huge deal but you can tell that he's ducked away during most of the real dancing scenes. Sevani is decent at his particular dance style but he's not super versatile. However, he is charismatic and his floppy curly hair is fun. High points for bringing Sevani back.

3. How're the dance scenes? (10)
Jon M Chu is the master of the dance camera by now right? Between doing LXD, the online battles, and both Step Ups, he's leading the they way for all directors in this genre. Plus he's a super nice guy and I kind of fan boyed him at the Glee party a few months ago. Needless to say, the dance scenes in Step Up 3 are great. There's a ton of different styles, a few wow scenes, and great practice montages. There's a throwback Fred Astair sort of scene that comes out of nowhere but it's charming enough. Chu uses sound effects to their max, giving us whooshes and thumps to reinforce the superhero connection as each move gets displayed.

The dancing here is better than, or at least equal to, You Got Served's. And it might take the crown for sheer volume. Then again, You Got Served had some killer dance bits and more natural energy in the battle scenes so maybe they should be equal. Madd Chadd's scenes are all amazing and even though I've seen him a lot before, his stuff in Step Up 3 blew me away. I've included it in the links below:
The best dance scene in the movie? Definitely the end, where the dancing itself isn't the best necessarily, but the presentation is crazy cool off the charts. You'll see what I mean.

4. How's the love story? (2)
Limp, predictable, unappealing. And that goes for all the romantic pairings in the movie.

5. Rate the sidekicks (8)
The clear winner in terms of sidekicks, if only for Martin Lombard and Facundo Lombard as the Santago Twins. They are from Argentina and are hilarious, infectious, and can dance. Check them out on YouTube. Watching identical twins dance in synchronization? Awesome.

Other than that there's the usual multi-ethnic cast thrown around our two white leads. There's also a murderer's row of people the astute dance show fan will recognize, like Twitch from SYTYCD and of course Harry Shum, Jr. I wish Chu would have broken with "tradition" here but hey, he can't do everything at once. Maybe Step Up 4 can have a non-white lead. Oh dare to dream!

6. Best line (2)
There weren't many good lines in this one. Afterward I racked my brain to think of something that really stood out but couldn't recall any. My friend couldn't either. Both of us swear there was one great line but since we forgot it, it couldn't have been that amazing. I have to give this section a low score until I can watch it again.

7. Music (8)
At this point, "Beggin" is in every dance movie (recently in that other 3D dance movie) and just about tired. Then again, it's such a great song that I find it hard to fault. It's like in the late 90s when every dance crew had to use Outkast's "Rosa Parks" in their routine. You'd see it three times in every show. Sure you almost got sick of it but the song was just too damn good.

Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" makes an appearance of course since the movie is set in Manhattan. It's another one of those "ubiquitous so you should be tired of it but it's so great you just listen to it anyway" songs. Bill Simmons has a theory that Jay-Z knew the song would bring in crazy royalties and licenses and cunningly created the New York anthem. Good one Jigga.

I downloaded Step Up 3's soundtrack immediately after watching the movie but have so far been minorly disappointed. The song credits at the end of the movie listed 40+ promising tracks but it seems like most of the fifteen that made it on the soundtrack are the ones that aren't good as standalone experiences.

It was exciting to see Chromeo's "Fancy Footwork" but nothing else really stood out to me. The big hit is probably Flo Rida's "Club Can't Handle Me," which is catchy after repeated listens. I think it's the same song as Jay Sean's "Down" but maybe I'm just ignorant to today's hip hop scene. I'd be quite interested in downloading all 40+ tracks from the movie because I'm pretty sure there are a few gems that weren't included on the soundtrack. Still, in the context of the movie, the music was solid all around.

8. Fashion (8)
Remember just four years ago when I said the original Step Up had lackluster costumes? It was probably due to the small budget but the earlier dance movies translated "street fashion" into generic baggy sweaters, jeans, hoodies, and flipped caps. Forget all that. Dance movies have real budgets now and there's been an uptick in outlandish outfits. Watching a dance movie is suddenly as much about pointing out the ridiculous/awesome clothing as it is about the moves.

Step Up 3 has pretty good fashion sense except for the last dance scene when the bad guys come out in hilarious big shouldery outfits. These purple and black monstrosities look decent when everyone is dancing but they are more appropriate for Comic Con than a dance battle. If a real dance crew performed in these outfits they'd be laughed off the stage.

Extra points for the emphasis on sneakers. The semi-secret pirate's den has an entire wall dedicated to expensive sneakers that each member of the crew has to earn. It's such an obvious connection that you'd swear sneaker fetish and dance movies had already been featured together. Nope. And that's the genius of Jon M Chu, he connects all the obvious dots.

9. Cultural Impact (6)
The first Step Up was made on a twelve million dollar budget and banked over seventy. Step Up 2 opened with almost twenty million, placing number three for their opening weekend. After opening just over a week ago, Step Up 3D has already made back their production budget of thirty million and will likely be the highest grossing film of the trilogy. That number was probably helped by the surcharge on 3D tickets.

While Step Up 3 wasn't the first 3D dance movie, it is so far the best. Here's a short NPR article that talks about how 3D could potentially be a game change for dance movies. Again, I've yet to see the movie with limbs poking into my face but I bet it's pretty cool. I guess I'll give it slightly lower marks for not being the first 3D dance movie.

By the way, if you haven't been watching LXD, you should check it out. Mashable had an article about "Why Hulu's New Dance Show is a Game Changer." If I could rate LXD's cultural impact, I'd give it a full ten points. At some point I need to review the LXD series so far, but I haven't actually seen them all yet.

10. Miscellaneous (8)
After viewing the Step Up 3 Dance Featurette, this is what I need to say. "Hey Adam Shankman, you are too old to be wearing a fat gold chain and a Run DMC T-shirt." The only explanation is that he was dancing in the background and hopped into a chair for the interview. Still, as a producer of the movie, maybe he should've removed the chain before he got on-camera. You look silly man.

We'll give Adam some leeway though since he's a judge on SYTYCD and he's choreographed for Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Plus, as Wikipedia tells us, "he is Brendan Frasier's exclusive choreographer." I have no idea what that means or when Brendan Frasier danced in a movie. And I'm too afraid to Google it.

I also want to point out Chu's really fantastic use of lights in the film. He really carries out a theme and stages some of the plot and dance scenes around the use of lights. It's a small detail but I fully noticed and appreciated it. And let's not overlook the angles he takes with his camera, which is something I think he really got good at with this video. Dance never looked so good.

A little thing that struck a sour chord with me was how Asians were portrayed in the film. With a lot of Asian dancers and people in the background, not to mention an Asian American director, there was one scene that seemed a bit over the top to me. The Pirates battle a crew from Japan but for some reason the set and the crowd struck me as a bit too Oriental, if you know what I mean. All the insert shots of people side betting seemed like they were inspired by Bloodsport and featured stereotypical old Asian men. I'll give it a pass for now though.

Something is clearly wrong with my rating system. Step Up 3 only got five points higher than the original Step Up despite being five times the movie. Part of that can be attributed to the absolute dud Step Up 3 pulled in the love department. Still, don't let that 68 score fool you. Step Up 3 was awesome and a contender for the best hip hoppy dance movie. The plot and non-dancing sections move fast and don't drag like You Got Served, and the dance scenes are frequent and worth getting excited about. Let me say clearly: Step Up 3 is a must see for dance movie fans, a must see!

My only wish is that dance movie premiers could be held at a place that's less physically restrictive than the movie theater. How are you supposed to get up and dance when people are sitting all around you? Don't be afraid to go to that weekday matinee showing of Step Up 3 and bounce around to the dancing parts. That's what I'm gonna do when I rewatch it. Who's with me?

12 August 2010

Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

A remake of the French film "Le Diner de Cons," Dinner for Schmucks had all the signs of being a terrible movie. I assumed it was another in the long line of Apatow, Meet the Fockers, Ben Stiller, etc. sorta comedy that I absolutely detest. The good news is that there was no Stiller, Ferrell, or Sandler in sight. The better news is that the movie stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who are both winsome actors. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that this movie was horrible. I know now that director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents films) makes movies that I never want to see. If I see "Jay Roach" displayed anywhere, I should just walk out.

But wait, I will restrain myself and try to talk about this movie's good parts. If I were to really study it objectively, Dinner for Schmucks is a good film. The plot moves fast, the gags are way out there, there's quite a few good lines, and at no point are you not entertained. While Carell is a bit too Ben Stiller-ish, he has a lot of built up audience karma with me through The Office. I guess if you like crazy, slapsticky, makes no sense comedy, then this movie is for you. Me, I'll laugh along and just keep reaching for the popcorn.

11 August 2010

More Than a Feeling

Since I've been home lately, my mom has tasked me with cleaning out our garage. This isn't an one time chore but something that she always reminds me to do -- and I never quite get around to it. Well if I was genius like Raina Lee, I would have shifted through its contents and written an amazing blog about the experience of going through a lifetime's worth of stuff. Asian parents are serious packrats and you never know what can be found in their treasure hoards.

While I'm saddened to hear that Raina inherited The Infinite Garage because her mother passed away recently, it's kind of an amazing project she's doing and probably quite an emotional journey too. As she puts it, "The Infinite Garage is an attempt at examining life through objects however mundane, useless or beautiful. It's a history of my family through things. But mainly it's a personal purging project because I can't move out of this house and on with my life until I get rid of the stuff."

Infinite Garage was started March-ish and Raina's already got 100+ posts on there, as well as an Etsy shop to move a lot of the stuff she's found. Here's a special item: the instruction manual for Super Mario Brothers 2. Or check out this Han Solo fax machine. Yeah, you better just get over to the site and find your own favorites.

Raina, who is actually repped by my same agency, wrote an awesome book on karaoke called Hit Me with Your Best Shot: The Ultimate Guide To Karaoke Domination. As an avid karaoker myself, this book is kind of amazing and you need to pick up a copy. I don't know how I've never had the great fortune to meet Raina since she is obviously one of the coolest people ever. Lilly, we need to plan a karaoke night out with Raina, quick!

10 August 2010

Aw Hell No

If you haven't seen any Fuck Yeah Tumblrs flying around, you seriously haven't been doing enough Internet surfing. Basically the meme is creating a Tumblr that focuses on just one subject and then adding "Fuck Yeah" as a prefix to the web address. For example: Fuck Yeah Tattoos, Fuck Yeah Freckles, Fuck Yeah Indie Girls, Fuck Yeah Sharks, Fuck Yeah Hanson Brothers, Fuck Yeah Fishnets and Robots, Fuck Yeah Modernism, Fuck Yeah Fuck Yeah, you get the idea. The meme has been around for awhile but despite it clearly having jumped the shark, new Fuck Yeah's are being made hourly.

In trying to research the origins of this meme, the best I could come up with was a MetaFilter post from June and a Slate article from 2009 that delves into the Fuck Yeah thing for a paragraph.
"There is a subgenre of single-themed tumblelogs that aim for hagiography -- they want to celebrate rather than tear down the subject at hand. These often go by the prefix "Fuck Yeah"—as in, among others, Fuck Yeah Rachel Maddow, Fuck Yeah Leonard Nimoy, Fuck Yeah Conan O'Brien, Fuck Yeah Skinny Bitch, Fuck Yeah Puppies, and Fuck Yeah Cilantro. But none of these -- which are just collections of pictures of the titular subject -- are much fun, and in general the best tumblelogs are also the meanest. That's why, among the Fuck Yeah blogs, Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling and Fuck Yeah Anne Hathaway, which superimpose bizarre captions on pictures of their stars, are the most irresistible."
-The allure of crowd-sourced, single-topic blogs-
I fear that the true start of the meme was from Team America's "America, Fuck Yeah!" phrasing but I don't want to find out if that's actually true because Team America was the worst movie ever. And I've never even seen it. I just know it's bad.

Anyway, a Fuck Yeah Tumblr can be created to lionize or mock your target. As I'm more into lionizing than mocking (publicly anyway), I've jumped onto the Fuck Yeah meme. Introducing Fuck Yeah Jubilee and Fuck Yeah Colossus!

Why those two? Because in the great pantheon of Marvel mutants, Jubes and the real Man of Steel were without proper Fuck Yeah representation. A not so dirty secret of mine is that I enjoy looking at X-Men related images. I even save a lot of the cooler photos in a special folder on my desktop. That kind of image digging naturally led me to Fuck Yeah Marvel, Fuck Yeah X-Men, Fuck Yeah Mutants, etc. There's actually an entire list of Marvel-related Fuck Yeahs available on Fuck Yeah Marvel's site.

Yes there are people out there who dedicate their time to digging up photos of fictional heroes and then re-Tumblring them for the world to see. I can't tell you how proud I am to have joined their ranks. Initially I wanted to do a Fuck Yeah Nightcrawler but that was already taken. Then I moved on to the first Asian American X-Person, Jubilation Lee. She's the bubble gum blowing, yellow coat wearing, sarcastic and spunky sidekick to Wolverine.

Jubilee made her first appearance in 1989 but has been shifted on and off various titles as she's never quite overcome cult favorite status to become a series regular. But one thing Fuck Yeah Jubilee will do is celebrate Jubilation's role in the X-canon. Toward that end I'll be posting photos, quotes, links, videos, articles, and anything else Jubilee related.

(Actually, there was already a Fuck Yeah Jubilee Tumblr -- thus I had to settle for jubilationlee.tumblr.com -- but that owner hasn't updated since January so I made the executive decision to take over.)

After setting up FYJubilee, I quickly set about recruiting some friends to make more X-Men Fuck Yeahs. Surprisingly, nobody bit. I have a friend who is like the only Excaliber fan I've ever met -- obviously he's not from this country -- and I tried to rope him into doing Fuck Yeah Excaliber. No dice. I shared my enthusiasm with a few other comic book friends. They said they were too busy or some variation of "yeah right, I have a life, dork."

Finally, I took it upon myself to start another Fuck Yeah, this time for Colossus. See, photos of Colossus just look awesome and if anyone needed an online scrapbook of images, it was Piotr Rasputin. After a bit of convincing, I browbeat my friend Jimmy into running the Colossus site while I ran the Jubilee one. So please visit them okay? You don't know how long I've spent scouring the web for great Jubilee and Colossus pictures. It's been worth every minute too.

If this has inspired you to start a Fuck Yeah something, here's a quick way to check if your Fuck Yeah idea has already been taken: Is it a Fuck Yeah? Alternately you could just Google your term and that would probably be more efficient but it's fun that someone made a site just for checking Fuck Yeahs.

Apologies for all the swearing, it was unavoidable.

06 August 2010

How Shaq Gave Me My Groove Back

Listening to: ceo, "Come With Me." Apparently any music coming out of Sweden right now is bets on to be good. This is a solo project from Eric Gerglund of Tough Alliance and here's an interesting interview with him from Pitchfork. What I really need to know is whether "ceo" is to be pronounced as one word or if the letters are to be spelled out individually. Either way it makes it hard to Google.

The last time I posted about the Celtics, they were on the verge of getting into the Finals after taking the first three games from the Orlando Magic. Then a dream matchup of Boston versus Los Angeles materialized (again) and soon after the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead. Ahead by double digits going into the last twenty four minutes of the season, I literally skipped down the block during halftime of game seven, thinking about the night's upcoming festivities. When the Celtics won, I would drink some whisky and celebrate in macho style -- even if I can't drink whisky without coughing like an amateur.

This unexpected championship would launch my slow moving 2010 into proper orbit. Two victories over the Lakers in three years and nothing could have been dreamier. Life would be triple rainbows and pouring sunshine. This second Celtics-Lakers matchup was doubly exciting because George and I were cheering together each game, going so far as to make shooting sleeves out of socks to help the team's shooting woes. She even named an eggling after Rajon Rondo.

Then tragedy struck. The Celtics fell apart after halftime, Ron Artest became a hero, and now history will have to accord Kobe some measure of respect as a slayer of his demons and a five time champion -- even if he played horribly that last game. Following the four point loss, I collapsed on the floor and ran my tongue over the gash I'd opened in my lip earlier. Yes, I was cheering so hard that I somehow slammed my head on the ground in frustration and bit myself. George shed a few tears for the huge loss. I would have cried if I wasn't a robot incapable of human emotion. Our friend, who had come over to help us celebrate, was instead tasked with trying to cheer us up. Just an hour before we were ready to tear up the town. Now I was inconsolable.

After that night, I decided to swear off caring about sports. It's just the same old, same old, over and over. "A soap opera for guys." Why is life about winners and losers anyway? Why tie my emotions into the fortunes of some far away team that I've never even seen play. What am I cheering for exactly? A specific combination of colors on a uniform? Bleh.

But then the offseason started and the promise of another contending season lured me back in. While Lebron James took his talents to South Beach to form the Super Friends, the Celtics reloaded. Doc Rivers came back. Ray Allen came back. Paul Pierce restructured. Nate Robinson came back. Marquis Daniels came back. Kendrick Perkins is recovering after a horrific knee injury. The walking corpse that is Jermaine O'Neal signed. And finally, earlier this week, the one and only Shaquille O'Neal became a Celtic. It's a strange world we live in where enemies from the last decade are suddenly part of your team.

I know there are skeptics out there who point out that a thirty eight year old Shaq will clog the lane. I don't care. His sheer immenseness will help alleviate the rebounding woes Boston displayed last season. They still need a backup swingman to replace Tony Allen and round out the roster but they're looking good. The Heat are the new front runners in the East, and the hated Lakers also made some quality off-season additions, but there is hope that Boston has one more run in them. My lip has healed, my heart has scarred over, and I'm ready to cheer again.

So I guess it is true. You can love and lose, and love again.

01 August 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Mark Ruffalo is one of those guys who's in every movie but you couldn't name a single one of his characters. He's like Peter Sarsgaard in that way, but much more likable than Sarsgaard. Well, this is Ruffalo's best role to date. As a big bad bike riding, leather wearing, organic food restauranteur, Ruffalo is incredibly charming, can make denim on denim actually work, and has the sort of macho and sensitive appeal women swoon over. Julianne Moore's character cheats on her wife with Ruffalo's Paul and from the perspective of an audience member, it's totally understandable. He's just that damn likeable and irresistible.

The Kids Are All Right is an actor/actresses' movie and while the dialogue isn't exactly blow your mind stellar, and the characters are drawn a bit broadly, the general appeal of the cast makes it worthwhile -- and Ruffalo pushes it from a high B to a low A. The movie has been marketed as a lesbian-marriage comedy, and that has brought its share of fans and detractors. Some differing viewpoints from Racialicious, Slate, and Jezebel. And an interview with director Lisa Cholodenko.

I declare Mia Wasikowska, who was Alice of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, as the new Claire Danes. There's a very slight facial resemblance but it's more Wasikowska's energy, her expressions, and her presence on-screen that is so eerily similar to Danes'. My friend turned to me immediately after The Kids Are All Right and commented on the resemblance before I could get it out. Someone needs to give her an amazing part asap. I might have to write it for her if I can ever get my act together. Mia, have your people call my people!

Salt (2010)

The anecdote being thrown around about Salt is that it was originally a Tom Cruise vehicle but when he turned down the role to do Knight and Day, Jolie jumped in. The movie itself is full of plot holes and motivations and I lost interest in the "Who is Evelyn Salt?" question about forty minutes in. But since I had read so much (Check out Malinda Lo's post "Salt and the F-word: Femininity") and heard so much about the movie going in, I was committed to watching it.

Think about how often an action movie is headlined by a female. Outside of Milla Jovovich -- who is strangely perhaps the preeminent female action star these days right? -- it's true, they're few and far between. So go see Salt because even though it's mostly mediocre, it's better than watching another Jason Statham retread.

I looked up Angelina's box office grosses to see if she was worth her twenty million price tag. Surprisingly, she pretty much is -- if you don't factor in her non-action oriented movies. I wonder if her upcoming role as Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged will be the great dramatic role she needs or if "Girl, Interrupted" will remain her acting apex.

Also, I couldn't take August Diehl seriously as Salt's loving and caring German husband. He was just too good in Inglorious Basterds as an evil guy. I kept waiting for him to turn bad.