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Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

There was a time when all science fiction movies were just that – fiction. Written and told by future thinkers…storytellers. But the close ties to reality painted by the screenwriters and actors who contributed to “District 9” changed my views of science fiction during the course of the movie.

Having only watched “District 9” once, I’m sure I’ve missed all the subtleties of present-day politics, human rights and persistent (and evil) search for control and power. Oh wait. I caught these three parallels so obviously portrayed in this movie. But there’s more. Much more.

“District 9” brings home the nuances of just how ugly human kind can be when placed in odd circumstances. Not that the war crimes committed by Nazis in WWII could ever be forgotten, but it’s just one instance in which this movie shows through parallel how completely brutal people can be when self-motivation overrules common sense.

This story is unique and unfolds in ways no unsuspecting movie watcher could anticipate. And while there were one or two moments in which I thought, “okay, that wasn’t necessary,” by and large the vast majority of this movie seemed more real and possible than any alien-based movie I’ve seen since “Signs.”

And I’ll admit, I have a thing about aliens on Earth that tends to keep me up at night.

Go see “District 9” and you’ll forget its even about alien creatures and “what if” scenarios. Because, in the end, we are such an imperfect bunch of humans.

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It’s Friday. It’s also the Friday before the three-day-long Memorial Day weekend. Fun ensues.

Tonight, endless options include taking in Alison Scott at Redstone in Minnetonka.  She’s also playing a gig at The Dakota jazz club in Minneapolis on Saturday night, which is a great venue but likely sold out by now.

Saturday entails road-tripping to Albert Lea, Minn., for a meetup of several high school friends – most of whom I’ve not seen since my 10-year reunion circa 1993. Funny how nothing really changes in the first 10 years post high school. But my, how things have changed in the last 16 years. This small group should be a load of fun.

Sunday/Monday options include movies (Terminator Salvation and The Girlfriend Experience are both on my list); mountain bike rides at Lebanon Hills, where even the intermediate singletrack leaves me bruised; and relaxation. I’m thinking some nicely grilled salmon and Leinenkugels new Classic Amber may be just the ticket to top off the long weekend.

Summer is here people. Enjoy and Happy Memorial Day.

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Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder star in this set-in-LA movie about greed, sex, rock and roll and “the industry.” The screenplay, by Brett Ellis, highlights the continuum of those on the pinnacle of success with those in the far corners of darkness and anonymity.

I want to see this movie!

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I once watched a truly terrible movie, “Kabluey.”  (Should have known it was gonna be bad when the flick starred Lisa Kudrow…but the premise of it seemed good). Afterward I thought to myself, “Why would anyone produce such a major waste of time?” Now, whenever I pass that DVD jacket at the local rental store, I laugh inside. Last week while shopping at the rental store, I noticed someone pick up the movie and I had to refrain from shouting, “Don’t rent it! It’s awful!” But I hushed myself.

Moments later in the store, I was checking out a flick called, “Lake City.” Little did I know it was equally sucky. We watched “Lake City,” on Sunday and at one point during the movie, I looked across the living room and said, “This feels like it was made for TV.” It wasn’t, but it was written, directed and produced like it was. Note to self: Sissy Spacek can’t really act and she can’t get by in movies on her good looks. What’s more, Dave Matthews can’t play the evil bad guy. His face is too kind.

Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying season one of “Deadwood,” which I’ve nearly completed watching. I’ve added season two to my Netfkix queue along with Will Smith’s  “Seven Pounds,” something I never saw in theaters.

The occasional bad movie resembles a bad cup of coffee. It’s bitter or weak and gets cold before you can finish it…but it’s still coffee and if you love coffee you drink it anyway.

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Valentine’s Day night found me at the W Hotel in downtown Minneapolis celebrating the 30th birthday of a friend’s friend. I’ve not been to the Living Room bar at the hotel, adjacent to Manny’s Steakhouse, since last October.  And unlike that first experience, which was quiet and comfortable, last night the place was rockin’ with people – beautiful, unassuming couples and ostentatious men and women whom I was embarrassed for because of their crazy costumes on Feb. 14. It’s Valentine’s Day, not Halloween, right?!?

So our small group of eight stood in the midst of all the couples enjoying their evening at a hip bar/restaurant and we drank our Grey Goose martinis or Manhattans. One lively conversation led to another and another, including the topic of Obama’s economic stimulus package recently passed by the Senate and scheduled for signing on Feb. 17.  As I talked with young 30-somethings just getting married and starting their lives, their interest in owning a home is a clear priority. But some don’t have the financial wherewithall to make it a reality. Obama’s plan allows for first-time home buyers to obtain an $8,000 tax credit if they purchase a home by Dec. 31, 2009. Not bad, but wouldn’t this stimulus plan be even better if that a$8,000 could be immediately applied to the downpayment a first-time home buyer needs to make? That would finally enable many who don’t have an adequate downpayment to push their ability over that hurdle. I guess there’s more than one way to stimulate the economy, but in our current woeful economic state, I’m of the opinion the best way to stimulate the economy is to put funds and programs directly into the hands of people who have long-term plans. Homebuyers, for example.

From the trendy and hip W, the group moved west several blocks to a bar along First Avenue called, The Ugly Mug. Here is where I had a quick glass of Blue Moon and then checked out for the night. Not only is this place designed exclusively for Gen We-ers, it’s also excessively loud. At my age, I prefer not to stand in a bar pretending to hear conversation when all I can do is see lips moving, nod in return and smile a lot.  God, I sound old.

Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei make “The Wrestler,” an Oscar worthy movie. I finally got to see this film on Saturday afternoon. The audience was small, but it was Valentine’s Day at 5 p.m., and this movie isn’t really a feel-good kinda show.  Those who haven’t seen Rourke since his pretty boy days of “9 1/2 Weeks,” won’t recognize him. This role was essentially written for him, and I got the impression that Rourke barely had to act to fulfill his part in the film, especially given the past two decades of his life and the hard knocks he’s lived through. Still, the story is a good one, the father/daughter struggle all to painfully real, and the wrestling scenes almost comical in a very WWE kind of way. Tomei, in her role as stripper/single mom, deserves a solid for making her part not just relevant but dominant throughout the movie. Her torn life and dream to make something more of herself become the antithesis of Randy “Ram’s” day-to-day, piss it all away rut that he can’t get out of. In the end it seems they both get exactly what they want.

See “The Wrestler,” in theaters if for nothing else to say you saw Rourke in his comeback effort and Tomei looking beautiful in her plain-Jane kinda way she does so well. Stay for the credits and hear Bruce Springsteen sing the title track to the movie.

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The Thanksgiving holiday brings about many opportunities for epic proportions of everything.

First comes the Thanksgiving feast. Massive turkey combined with plates and plates of carb-laden potatoes, stuffing and other side dishes followed by a row of pies in nearly every flavor, results in even a Jack Sprat-like family feeling obese at the end of the day.

Black Friday provides shoppers with the “biggest shopping day of the year.” Consumers camp out overnight at their local Best Buy store so they can trample employees in a mad rush to buy the specially-marked-down Bette Midler Christmas CD…errrrr…something like that.

On Friday night, more crowds to elbow in order to snap up tickets for an epic movie. This year’s offering, “Australia,” with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. With at least three movies within the movie, the two hour, 45-minute production included far too many slo-mo shots of a shirtless Jackman. But the sell-out audience didn’t mind the cliches and obviousity of the epic film complete with happy ending. What would you expect?!

The gynormous weekend activities continue. Twelve-foot-tall Christmas trees lashed to the tops of Toyota Priuses; massive front-yard light displays; and miles and miles of gift wrap in order to make those purchases from Black Friday look presentable under the tree.

It’s appropriate, then, we get Thursday through Sunday to eat, shop, sleep, eat, queue in check-out and ticket lines, eat, sleep and decorate for the next major holiday. What better way to start celebrating the Holiday Season?

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“F**king F**k.”

In pure Coen brother movie tradition, “Burn After Reading,” starring George Clooney, Francis McDormand, John Malkovich, and Brad Pitt, among others, lives up to all expectations.

The dark comedy centers around a twisted love quadrangle in which even the viewing audience can get lost in quickly if they don’t pay close attention.

When the fitness center’s locker room attendant finds a mysterious CD with data on it, Brad Pitt’s character Chad, an over-enthusiastic personal trainer, convinces his co-worker Linda (McDormand) that it’s CIA shit and can be leveraged for profit. Meanwhile, the newly fired and foul-mouthed CIA agent Osborne Cox (Malkovich) is oblivious to the fact that his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is sleeping with Harry (Clooney) behind his back as he writes his memoirs. And Clooney, a U.S. treasury officer, is sleeping with everyone, clueless that his own wife is preparing to file for divorce.

It’s an “idiots reign supreme” plot in which, in the end, Mcdormand gets her one and only wish granted by none other than the CIA agency itself.

I’ve heard many people say they didn’t laugh out loud while watching the movie, but I did and so did the majority of the theater goers…especially during a particular scene in Harry’s basement, where he’s built a very special chair and unveils it to everyone’s amusement.

I recommend “Burn After Reading.” The Coen’s have, again, written and directed a movie designed to amuse and confuse.

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I’m not ashamed: I like Batman. I’ve been a fan of Batman since the ’60s when I started watching the live-action series on television and letting Adam West, Burt Ward, and all the villainous characters enter into my world as a five-year-old. Batman always intrigued as a super hero who relied on his mind, physical capabilities and technological prowess to defeat The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and other bad boys of the era.

The Batman movies have always captured my attention, again starting back in the ’70s when West and Ward starred in a feature length, schmaltzy take off of their highly successful, but short-lived TV series.  But from the first real Batman movie in 1989 to the most recent Christian Bale feature films, I’ve been hooked. The premise of each film makes me shudder. The music and high def productions of a mere trailer for the latest offering, “The Dark Knight,” (which you can see here) gives me goose bumps.

The Dark Knight will, of course, be dedicated to actor Heath Ledger, who for unknown reasons accidentally overdosed on sleeping pills and pain medications last January. Ledger was nominated for an Academy Award when he starred in “Brokeback Mountain.” The critics are saying his role as the Joker in the latest installment of Batman movies surpasses all villain roles ever played on the silver screen.  Here’s a great review of Ledger’s portrayal from the Canadian Press.

On July 18, when “The Dark Knight,” is released to the masses, I’ll be in line ready and eager to pay my $9 to see the latest Batman movie; to discover just how Batman, my super hero of all comic book heroes, manages to dispose of the Joker and save Gotham from utter destruction once again.

Here…we…go.

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Friday Philosophies

I’m in a lyrical mood this morning. The sun is up, the sky is crystal clear. It’s the type of sky that couldn’t even be replicated in a painting. A sky blue sky that’s limitless.

This week I’ve listened to one CD and, more specifically, one song from that one CD.

The artist is Alison Scott. You can catch a glimpse of her music here. She’s a Minneapolis-based singer and song writer who performs with a jazz-rock-R&B sound. I first heard her music at the Dakota Jazz Club at an event I attended for displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The song that continues to roll through my gray matter is from her CD, “Wish On The Moon.” I can’t find the song on YouTube, but here are the lyrics.

“Saturated,” by Alison Scott

Saturated.
All the lies and pain you hide have taken over.
You’re drowning away the memories just to forget her,
the way she left you stranded.
Saturated.
One more drink and you won’t have to think anymore,
You gave her everything you had and can’t remember what for.
All you need is time.

Time to heal, time to feel like everything is gonna be alright.
All you need is time to find that this pain you can’t
describe will wash away, a little more every single day
’til it’s gone, and you can move on.

Saturated.
Looking for answers in the bottom of a bottle that will never be empty,
Blaming yourself for problems that aren’t even worthy
of staying on your mind.
Saturated.
Wondering just what you did to drive her away,
but nothing you could have changed would’ve made her stay.
So take a little time.

I know it seems a broken heart is enough to end your life,
but someday soon someone will come along and make it right.
She’ll hold you and she’ll love you ’til the end of time.

Saturated.
But it won’t be long ’til you’re standing strong no pain in your eyes
You only have to give it one last try.
Time is on your side.

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Did you notice how few words the Coen brothers had for the masses on the Oscars Sunday night?

Their movie, “No Country for Old Men,” (NCFOM) won four major awards including two directly attributable to the St. Paul St. Louis Park, Minn., writing duo who also won an Academy Award for their original work, “Fargo,” but they barely could get out a thank you to the millions watching the tome-length, dinosaur-ish awards show.

I’m a fan of Coen movies from the get go. “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and NCFOM all could easily make my top 100 list of all-time favorite flicks. The brothers got game when it comes to adaptations of Cormac McCarthy’s novels or writing their own schtuff.

And apparently they still have a little Minnesota Modesty within them from their hometown roots, which keep them slightly bashful and soft spoken on the stage and in the lights of their peers (imagine giving an acceptance speech with Jack friggin’ Nicholson sitting 10 feet away from you). So saying a simple, “Thank You,” seems to fit quite well…even given their mighty success.

As for the Oscar production itself, the show’s host, John Stewart, did his best to keep it light but the pure length and boring productions make it impossible to really enjoy. And the songs nominated this year all blew chunks. The only real surprise of the night was Tilda Swinton’s best supporting actress award for her character in one of my favorite movies of the year, “Michael Clayton.” Swinton was humorous and charming accepting the award – which clearly surprised her as well.

Now I’m off to my first screen-writing class. Since the Coen’s have their mantel full of Oscar, I’ll let that Midwestern modesty work its magic on me.

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