Sunday, October 29, 2000


Movie: U-571

WWII action flick. Impressive special effects and performances, with a cool story: a group of American submariners board a disabled German sub in order to steal an Enigma coding machine, but during the mission their own sub is destroyed, so they're forced to try and repair and use the German sub. Exciting with non-stop action. The DVD is fantastic with surround sound -- I loved hearing the creak of submarine metal straining echoing all around me, and feeling the room shake every time a depth charge exploded. The DVD has plenty of extras, like director's commentary and about a dozen short documentaries.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

U.S. Marshalls

Movie: U.S. Marshalls

I figured this would not be good but at least it was an action movie. Sadly, it's bewildered and befuddled, and much too convoluted to function as anything. There's not enough action for an action movie, nor intelligence to be a criminal drama, it bears no resemblance to the original, Pathetic.


Monday, May 26, 2003

U.S. Men's National Team vs. Wales

Soccer: U.S. Men's National Team vs. Wales

While not the full, senior USA team, and competing in a "friendly" (read: exposition) match against a tiny country, this was still an interesting match-up and a rare opportunity to see the national team in action in person. Wales didn't bring their full squad either, but though the U.S. team was mostly made up of MLS players from the Earthquakes (5) and D.C. United (5) who didn't play on the weekend, it still wasn't much of a contest. The U.S. dominated play, and Wales really only had one clear chance on goal (U.S. keeper Nick Rimando blocked the shot). That unbalance was extended when Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick near the end of the first half after Jovan Kirovski was knocked down in the box. The Wales player who did that was already on a yellow and could have been sent off, but wasn't. Unfortunately he didn't learn from that lesson and when the second half started, he promptly used his hand to stop a ball from going past him, and the ref presented him with his second yellow, sending him off. After that the game was really all USA. Landon Donovan had several great chances, including one were he took the ball in his own half of the field and ran with it all the way into the penalty area on the other side, only to have his shot stopped by the Wales goalkeeper. That same keeper, however, made a terrible blunder and allowed a soft shot from former Earthquake Eddie Lewis (now playing in England) to slip under him and into the goal. Earlier Lewis had crossed instead of shooting, and the ball had been harmlessly headed away. This time he chose to shoot even though the angle was terrible, and the grounder somehow made it past the keeper. I wish more players would do that: a shot on goal, even if the keeper stops it easily, is still better than no shot at all or a wild shot that misses the goal completely. At least if it's on goal it tests the keeper who might give up a rebound or allow it through. In the end, there were only those two goals (there could have been many more if all the chances had been converted), but it was an entertaining match and it gave some players who haven't had much of a chance in the national team a way to show coach Bruce Arena what they can do. Final: 2-0 USA.


Saturday, October 21, 2000

U.S. Open Cup Final -- Chicago Fire vs. Miami Fusion

Soccer: U.S. Open Cup Final -- Chicago Fire vs. Miami Fusion

After battling all season long to be the two teams left in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (the oldest soccer tournament in the U.S., founded in 1914), Chicago and Miami deserved to be here. With great chances at both ends in the first half, the Fire finally managed to sneak one in the final seconds on a terrific break by Razov and Stoitchkov, where Razov unselfishly passed up his chance to score by giving it to the wide-open Bulgarian. In the second half one expected Miami to come out fighting, but it was all Chicago, culminating in a penalty kick call. It was up to Razov to score but Nick Romando, Miami's little goalkeeper, blocked the shot, keeping Miami in the game. He made another terrific save a few minutes later. It seemed like nothing Chicago could do would increase the score -- and so Miami's Marshall cleverly put the ball in his own net to save them the trouble. With just minutes left and two goals down, it seemed impossible for Miami to come back, but in a frenetic goal mouth scramble they managed to snag a late goal. Seconds later, however, the final whistle was blown and Chicago, for the second time in their short history, had won the U.S. Open Cup (and $100,000 in prize money). Final: 2-1 Chicago.


Wednesday, September 13, 2000

U.S. Open Cup Semifinal: Miami v. NY

Soccer: U.S. Open Cup Semifinal: Miami v. NY

Wow, what an exciting game! U.S. Open Cup games this year have all gone to the wire, but it seemed like Miami was out for vengeance after missing the playoffs as they came back after the 1-1 tie at the half to quickly go up 3-1. Then New York got a late goal and pummelled the Miami goal for the last ten minutes, but couldn't quite make it a win. So the underdog Miami goes to their first U.S. Open Cup final. They'll face Chicago (which beat L.A. with an overtime goal from sub Josh Wolf). Final score: 3-2 Miami.


Wednesday, August 7, 2002

U.S. Open Cup: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: U.S. Open Cup: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

I'd expected this to be a good game after a week's rest with the All-Star game and the Quakes doing so good at home, and coach Yallop fielded a first-rate team, which was a good sign, and course, playing our rivals L.A., but the Earthquakes were off their form tonight, not playing well at all: lots of cheap give-aways, poor possession play under pressure, and even defensive mistakes. The Quakes had a few chances (including a couple sure goals turned away by the Galaxy's keeper), but in the end this was looking like a clear nil-nil draw. In sudden death overtime, a simple mistake at the back allowed Ruiz in and he did a clever little move to pop the ball over Jimmy Conrad's head, outran him to the ball, and easily beat our backup keeper for the Golden Goal win. Great, that the third year in a row the Galaxy have knocked the Quakes out of the Open Cup. At least we're still top of the league, but not if we continue to play like this. Final: 1-0 Galaxy in OT.


Wednesday, August 3, 2005

U.S. Open Cup: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers

Soccer: U.S. Open Cup: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers

When I saw this game show up on the schedule I knew I had to go. My Earthquakes visiting Portland? A no brainer! Of course it is early in the Open Cup so the Quakes used a reduced line-up (and still won easily), but it was great to see DeRo and Mullan and Brad Davis and a lot of other Quakes play in person again. The team struggled slightly for the first ten minutes, showing a little vacation rust (they've been on the All-Star break), but they soon got going and easily dominated Portland. In the second half, Portland had some good chances, including one pass across an open goal mouth and a header during a scramble that hit the crossbar. But the Quakes squandered a bunch of chances, looking dangerous many times. The two goals were capitalizing on Timber mistakes. In the first half, Davis got in a good cross from the left and Wade Barrett was left unmarked in the Portland box and easily finished. In the second, it was Mullan, on a one-on-one with the keeper (former Quake Josh Saunders), who drew Josh out and deftly flicked it around him for an easy two goal lead. Portland made a big push at the end and while exciting, it was to no avail, as the Quakes move on in the Open Cup.

PGE Park, where the Timbers play, is a weird stadium. It's apparently a baseball stadium and the seats and stands wrap only around one half. That makes it difficult to see action on the far side of the field. Still, the view isn't bad, and I liked the atmosphere (the chainsaw-reving guy was awesome). The concessions were excellent (great pizza) and even the prices weren't bad (not as high as Seattle). The only really bad thing is the parking, which is non-existent. I had to park at least a half-mile away. Not fun. I think next time I'll definitely look into public transportation (which goes right to the stadium). Overall, though, great night for soccer. My Quakes won, but Portland didn't embarrass themselves, and I had fun.


Sunday, September 7, 2003

U.S. Women versus Mexico

Soccer: U.S. Women versus Mexico

Why do they bother with these games? Another blowout for the Americans, and I don't remember Mexico ever having a shot on goal: they were scarcely in the U.S. half the entire game. I worry this will lead to overconfidence when the U.S. plays a real time in the upcoming Women's World Cup. Of the five goals, three were penalty kicks (one shouldn't have been given as an American handball wasn't called seconds earlier). Late in the match an American player was red carded for a bad foul, but the Mexican's couldn't do much better with the extra person. Final: 5-0 U.S.A.


Wednesday, October 11, 2000

U.S.A. vs. Costa Rica (World Cup Qualifier)

Soccer: U.S.A. vs. Costa Rica (World Cup Qualifier)

With Costa Rica in first place and the U.S. in second in our group, this was an important home game for the U.S., though we were missing a number of top players (Reyna, Pope, McBride, Lewis, etc.) and coach Bruce Arena was suspended. Costa Rica was openly playing for a tie, defending with numbers and threatening on fast-paced counter-attacks. The U.S. pressed and played well most of the time, including some terrific chances that were only stopped by the Costa Rican goalkeeper. The U.S. was occasionally weak on defense, and a couple of times it looked like the U.S. would go down a goal. But neither team wilted and the game finished nil-nil. A tie isn't terrible for the U.S. -- if we tie or win in Barbados next month we qualify to the next round (remember, we beat them 7-0 here at home). But it's a bit of an ominous sign that we should struggle so early in World Cup qualifying -- the games are only going to get tougher.


Wednesday, May 16, 2001

UEFA Cup Final: Liverpool vs. Alaves

Soccer: UEFA Cup Final: Liverpool vs. Alaves

Unbelievable game. Liverpool started things off in an ideal fashion, with goals from Babbel (4th minute) and Gerrard (16th minute). But then Ivan, just put in the game minutes earlier, gave life to Alaves in the 28th minute. Late in the first half Liverpool regained domination when Owen was brought down in the box and McAllister didn't miss his penalty kick. But minutes into the second half, Alaves cut the lead down to one with a goal from Moreno. Just two minutes after that he scored again to equalize! Wow! But that wasn't near the end. Robbie Fowler was inserted for Liverpool and proved successful, scoring in the 73rd minute. For a long while it looked like that would do it, but with just one minute left in regulation Cruyff headed the ball off a corner kick to tie the score again and push the game into overtime. Neither team dominated in overtime, and both had their chances. It was "golden goal" -- whoever scored would win -- and then the Spanish team had Mango sent off for his second yellow. Minutes later, their captain was also sent off for his second yellow. With only nine men and several minutes left, it was looking like Liverpool might be able to do it. On the ensuing free kick, McAllister's curving ball caused a Spanish player to jump up to head it away. Unfortunately, his goalkeeper was right behind him and the ball was flicked over him and into the goal for an own goal and a loss of the Champions League final! Wow, nine goals! A tie game for 115 minutes of play! Incredible, very exciting, but while I was impressed by Alaves, I felt Liverpool deserved the win. This is their third major cup this year (earlier they won the Worthington Cup and the FA Cup), making it a triple: the first ever (of this combination) for an English team. Manchester United may have won the league, but everyone will remember 2001 as the year of Liverpool. Great game. Most impressive was that almost all the of the goals were awesome ones of skill, not the results of defensive blunders. Certainly a cup final to be remembered for decades. A classic! Final: 5-4 Liverpool.


Thursday, April 19, 2001

UEFA Cup: Alaves at Kaiserslauten

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Alaves at Kaiserslauten

Kaiserslauten was slaughtered in the first leg 5-1, so they needed a ton of goals to eke this one out. Instead, they got routed a second time! French World Cup winner Djorkaeff started things off well for Kaiser with a goal just seven minutes in, but after that it was all Alaves. Alanzo got one in the 23rd minute, followed by two from Vucko late in the second half. Ganan added one with three left to really rub it in. Final: 4-1 Alaves (9-2 on aggregate)


Tuesday, March 20, 2001

UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Celta Vigo

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Celta Vigo

Awesome game, though Barcelona had the edge going in, leading in the home and away series. Rivaldo started things off with a fantastic long-range strike in the 29th minute, but five minutes later Celta was back in it on an incredible turn at the top of the box shot from another Brazilian, Catanha. Just before the half Rivaldo scored again, this time on an amazing free kick. It looked like it was all over for Celta. But then a penalty was award and Lopez finished to tie the game. Mostovoi got one in stoppage time to allow Celta the victory, but unfortunately for them, the two away goals from Rivaldo took their toll and broke the tie, so Barcelona advance and Celt's out. Final: 3-2 Celta Vigo.


Thursday, April 19, 2001

UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Liverpool

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Barcelona at Liverpool

The first game ended 0-0, so all either needed was a win. Liverpool had the most chances, but couldn't finish. Finally a somewhat questionable penalty was called against Barca at the end of the half, and McAllister put it away. That was the only the goal of the game. Not great football, but impressive defense on the part of Liverpool, to hold Barca's potent offense to two shutouts. Final: 1-0 Liverpool.


Thursday, April 5, 2001

UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Barcelona

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Barcelona

One word: boring! Liverpool played defensively and Barcelona couldn't break it down. Good first leg result for Liverpool, bad for home team Barca. Final: 0-0.


Thursday, November 9, 2000

UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Slovan Liberec

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Slovan Liberec

Liverpool has been lackluster in the UEFA Cup to say the least. They inched by Liberec 1-0 at home so they had a slight lead coming in, but we really needed to see them perform well to have confidence for the future. Things started off poorly right off when Liberec scored with a glancing header off a corner kick. It looked like everything was going against the English club. But then, on a cross from a free kick, Nicky Barmby put in his own header in almost a duplicate of the Liberec goal. In the second half, things were mediocre until late when Liverpool came to life with a goal from Heskey. Clearly in control, 20-year-old hero and international superstar Michael Owen was put in the game with less than ten minutes to play. He's been out injured and there were questions regarding his form. But within thirty seconds of coming on, on his first touch, he dribbled the ball at the top of the box past several defenders and put in a beauty that the keeper, while he got a touch to it, failed to stop! Brilliant! Liberec answered moments later with their own "Owen," as substitute Breda put in a wonderful arching shot from outside the penalty area with his first touch, but that left the score 3-2 Liverpool, meaning that they advance to the next round. Finally, some life at Liverpool. Great to see Owen back. He's awesome.


Thursday, September 14, 2000

UEFA Cup: Liverpool vs. Rapid Bucharest (1st leg)

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Liverpool vs. Rapid Bucharest (1st leg)

I only got to see the last half, but the goal had already been scored by Liverpool's Nick Barmby, and what I saw was rather boring and defensive. Liverpool missed a few good chances and should have won by more. Bucharest fans booed their own team most of the second half.


Friday, December 8, 2000

UEFA Cup: Olympiakos at Liverpool

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Olympiakos at Liverpool

The game started off competitive, but soon Liverpool dominated. Finally, in the 28th minute a through-ball to Heskey allowed him to go one-on-one with the keeper and he easily scored. The Greek club fought back, but other than the occasional free kick, didn't threaten the Liverpool goal much. In the second half, Liverpool started off mostly on the defensive, but then fifteen minutes in Nick Barmby headed toward the enemy goal with the ball at his feet. The keeper came out, pushing Barmby toward the corner. Barmby dribbled past the keeper and put in a shot from a ridiculous angle... and somehow the ball curled, hitting the near post, then bouncing to the inside of the far post and in! After that, the game was in little doubt, though the players on both sides fought hard. Final: 2-0 Liverpool (they advance on aggregate).


Thursday, March 15, 2001

UEFA Cup: Porto at Liverpool

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Porto at Liverpool

Great game, with Michael Owen in amazing form. He took the Portuguese team to task! Gerrard was also amazing, involved with both goals. His sharp cross set up Murphy for the first goal, 33 minutes in, and just five minutes later he crossed the ball to Owen who headed the ball down perfectly to beat the flailing keeper. Porto forgot to bring their offense and never even threatened Liverpool. Final: 2-0 Liverpool, who advance to the quarter-finals.


Thursday, September 28, 2000

UEFA Cup: R. Bucharest vs. Liverpool (2nd Leg)

Movie: UEFA Cup: R. Bucharest vs. Liverpool (2nd Leg)

One word: booooring. Zero-zero games can be so dull sometimes, especially when nothing else happens in the game. Liverpool goes through based on their weak 1-0 away victory, but without any momentum.


Thursday, February 22, 2001

UEFA Cup: Roma at Liverpool

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Roma at Liverpool

With a two-zip result in the first leg, Liverpool was sitting pretty. But if people thought Roma was going to take an English loss sitting down, they were mistaken. Roma came out fighting and set an incredible pace, forcing Liverpool into some frantic clearances. But by the end of the first half, it was still zero-zero. An hour in, Liverpool were given a gift penalty kick, but Michael Owen rushed his shot, sending in an easy sidefoot for the Roma keeper to block. That energized Roma, and soon the Uruguayan Guigou took the ball outside the penalty box and put in a stunning shot that curled into the goal. Amazing. Stunned, Liverpool fought back desperately, but it looked like it might be Roma's day when they were awarded a penalty for a handball. But seconds later, the ref changed his mind and gave a corner kick instead. Roma players protested violently and the ref gave out a slew of yellow cards, but he didn't change his mind and give the penalty kick (which was questionable). One of those yellows ultimately resulted in a Roma player being ejected for a second one toward the end, and the last few minutes of the game were incredibly exciting as ten-man Roma gave everything they could. But though Roma won, 1-0, it's Liverpool who advance to the quarterfinals, on the merit of their two away goals in Rome.


Thursday, October 26, 2000

UEFA Cup: Slovan Liberec at Liverpool

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Slovan Liberec at Liverpool

For an unknown reason, Liverpool seems to want to make their UEFA Cup games as boring as possible. This one was all routine midfield play, with neither keeper having to do any work. Liverpool was more offensive than the Ukrainian team, but that doesn't mean much. In the end though (the very end), Liverpool came out ahead with a goal in the 87th minute. A tiny lapse in Liberec's defense and Heskey put in a dropped ball a few feet in front of the net. 1-0 Liverpool.


Sunday, February 25, 2001

UEFA Cup: Stuttgart at Celta Vigo

Soccer: UEFA Cup: Stuttgart at Celta Vigo

Good game. Watched the first half last night, where Celta started things off quick with a goal from Karpin, but Stuttgart came back with a goal in the dying seconds from Blank. But though the German team controlled the second half, they couldn't score, and it was Mostovoi who made the most of his slight chance to put the Spanish club ahead. Final: 2-1 Celta Vigo.


Monday, July 28, 2003

The Ugly Duckling

Book: The Ugly Duckling
Writer(s): Iris Johansen

Better in concept than in reality. The idea is cool: an unattractive woman with low self-esteem is almost murdered, and gets a new face during her recovery. She finds strength to live through desire for revenge and sets out to kill the killer. Unfortunately, the novel goes on much too long, as we must endure months of the woman's recovery with her, and the book takes a long time to get where we know it's going. Once we do get there the resolution is well done and satisfying, but it feels like a lot of work for minimal gain. Iris does characters well, perhaps too well in this case, for we're faced with too much psychological damage and healing for mere entertainment.


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Movie: Ultraviolet

I'd heard this was horrible but I actually found it visually interesting. The plot's waaay over done -- any time you need to start a film with five minutes of narration to establish the situation is a warning sign for trouble -- but the action is fun and the visual effects of the futuristic world are cool. Could have been made into a decent film with a little bit more effort, but it's a mild diversion now.


Sunday, July 29, 2001


Movie: Unbreakable (2000)
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan

Not bad. Interesting film, though nothing like The Sixth Sense. Night overbuilds the suspense a little, making minor things seem more significant than they really are, but it's still an well-done and interesting film. I liked the characters -- Bruce Willis as a superhero ignorant as his superpowers, and Samuel L. Jackson as a comic book expert. Still, the ending throws in a little twist that isn't all that twisty, and it derails a lot of what the film built so I wonder why it was done. Still, it's worth seeing.


Saturday, March 31, 2001

Under 20: USA vs. Costa Rica

Soccer: Under 20: USA vs. Costa Rica

A bit of a meaningless game as both teams had already qualified, but fought hard for pride. The teams seemed evenly matched for a while, but then Costa Rica started really pushing. They finally struck in minute 42 with an incredible curling free kick blast from thirty yards out by Fajardo. Early in the second half, the US came back: Convey's easy long-range shot slipped through the legs of the hapless keeper and crept over the line. After that the teams just traded the ball. There were opportunities on both sides, with Costa Rica having the edge in possession, but in the end, neither team could break the other. Final: 1-1.


Monday, October 6, 2003

Under the Tuscan Sun

Movie: Under the Tuscan Sun

In some ways I liked this better than I expected, and in others ways I liked it less. One of the one hand it is cute and funny and Diane Lane is perfectly awesome as always, but on the other the story is a bit of a downer and the ending drags on too long. This is one of those films that must fight that delicate balance between being too predictable so it's boring or so unpredictable it's unsatisfying. The story sets us up for idealistic romance -- a freshly divorced woman, shattered, buys a villa while visiting Tuscany, and meets her true love... except that's not exactly what happens. Sure, what does happen is more realistic, but it's not exactly satisfying. The ending implies everything will be okay, but I still found it an annoyingly pat solution (particularly the way she ends up with a guy at the end after all the work to show us that she doesn't need a guy to be happy). See this for the fun, the humor, and Diane Lane, not for the romance or anything remotely profound.


Sunday, March 25, 2001

Under-20: USA vs. Guatemala

Soccer: Under-20: USA vs. Guatemala

Wow, what a romp! The U.S. Men's team struggles against lowly opponents like Guatemala, but not these American youngsters. They came out storming. This bodes incredibly well for the future of U.S. soccer. Many of these kids are already known for the Sydney Olympics and their play in Major League Soccer. Connor Casey started things with a goal just ten minutes in, quickly followed by two from 17-year-old Bobby Convey. Thirty minutes in it was 4-0 U.S.A. courtesy of Jamar Beasley. In the second half, the U.S. easily held Guatemala off and got one more from substitute Brad Davis in the 76th minute. Wow! 5-0 U.S.A.!


Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Under-20: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Soccer: Under-20: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Another slaughter, with the U.S. dominating. Things started off with a goal from Beasley quickly followed by Convey, who had two in the first half. T&T had a few chances, especially late in the first half, but the U.S. hit the woodwork several times and T&T was lucky the score wasn't 6-0 going into the half. In the second the Americans took off from where they'd stopped, quickly scoring again, and though they finally gave up a goal, they scored yet another to make up for it (Davis, late in the game). Final: 5-1 U.S.A.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Underword: Rise of the Lycans

Movie: Underword: Rise of the Lycans

This is a prequel to the Underworld series, detailing how the war between vampires and Lycan began. It's basically the tragic love story between a female vampire (daughter of the head vamp) and Lucian, the first Lycan (werewolf). It's stylish and violent and interesting, with terrific acting by the leads, but though I cared about the fate of the couple, I didn't much care about the vampires themselves. This is set back at a time when they ruled over humans and the vampires are arrogant monsters. That dislike took me out of the story. I wanted the couple to just elope and follow their story, but of course, that's not what happens. The key story elements were already revealed in the earlier films, so if you remember the backstory in those you know this plot already, but it's still a good story. For me the big draw of these films has always been actress Kate Beckinsale, so I expected this one to be lacking, but it's actually quite good. It definitely fits in well with the series, being a little better than the second one but not as good as the first. If you're a fan of the others, you'll like this one.


Friday, September 19, 2003


Movie: Underworld

Surprisingly fun and well-done vampire action flick. Kate Beckinsale takes a break from her serious drama roles and romatic leads and plays an action heroine. She's a vampire and hunts down werewolves (Liken). The war between the species has been going on for over 1,000 years, though for the last six hundred it's been less stressful since the key Liken leader was killed and the Liken have almost been completely exterminated. But she uncovers a conspiracy: it seems the Liken leader was not killed as reported. He's still alive and rebuilding his army. He's after a particular human for an unknown reason, and when the girl rescues him, she discovers he was bitten and is now Liken himself. But she's fallen in love with him despite that such an affair is forbidden. So we're in the middle of a war, a conspiracy within a conspiracy, and a forbidden love affair. Of course this isn't great drama but cool action, and Beckinsale does a suprisingly awesome job at it: she's sexy and cool and clever and ruthless. The story gets muddled at times (was the bad young vampire bad or not?) and is too cleanly explained in the end (all neat and tidy), but the ending drew an actual cheer from the theatre audience who delighted in seeing the bad guy defeated in such dramatic fashion. Nothing profound here by any means, but neat action, a fun heroine, good special effects (excellent werewolf transformations), and an interesting new take on the whole vampire legend.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Underworld: Evolution

Movie: Underworld: Evolution

Like the first one, this is not a serious film, but pure fun. Kate Beckinsale is back as the lead, and looking gorgeous in her tight leather outfits as she slaughters werewolves and others. This movie takes up right where the last one ended, getting us deeper into the mysterious past of the vampires and werewolves. It actually makes some sense, though it's not really worth explaining -- after all, the plot's mostly an excuse to kill things. It's fun with plenty of gore and monsters and such.


Sunday, January 19, 2003


Movie: Unfaithful
Director(s): Adrian Lyne

Terrific, fascinating film. I love films that take a very simple plot and spin a lot story out of it. That's what Hitchcock did so well. It's so much interesting than these modern films that have a super plot and four or five subplots and two or three twist endings. Here we've got a happily married suburban housewife with an eight-year-old child. Suddenly she meets a guy, he's French, exotic, young, charming, and she's having an affair with him. Diane Lane is amazing: not only is she beautiful, but she's beautiful while being older, and she's an incredible actress. Somehow, despite what she's doing, despite lying to her husband and son and friends, she still comes across as sympathetic. That's because we can see the guilt on her face even as she succumbs to temptation again and again. She knows what she's doing is wrong, and hates herself for it, but she keeps on doing it. That's very powerful to watch. While the first half of the film focuses on the woman and her affair, the second half focuses on the husband and his reaction. I liked that a great deal because we got to see both sides. Richard Gere is cast somewhat against type as a regular family man (he usually would be playing the guy having the affair) and he's surprisingly good. In the end, the film turns dark as a murder is committed, and suddenly the fate of this couple is out of their hands. A beautiful, complex film. The sequence with Diane Lane on the train, remembering her affair, is worth the price of admission alone.


Sunday, January 9, 2000


Movie: Unforgiven (1992)
Writer(s): David Web Peoples
Director(s): Clint Eastwood

This film is the best western of all time. It's got action, humor, and realistic characters, yet it's one of the most profound movies I know. It raises so many questions about morality, life and death, killing and living. Unlike most westerns, all the characters are gray -- there are no guys in black or white hats to make the decisions or do the thinking for you.


Friday, April 28, 2006

United 93

Movie: United 93

At first I had no interest at seeing this film. Who wants to relive 9/11? But then I heard there was "controversy" and people trying to stop the release of the film. That flabberghasted me. What on earth could be wrong with making a film like this? After all, it's not political -- it's just a dramatization of the facts. So I went to see it. The first surprise was the Regal theatre I went to, which usually annoys me with 20 minutes of commercials and previews before the movie starts, had a sign up that said that due to this film's topic, they were not showing any previews and the film would start on time! Very interesting, though I wish they'd communicated that before I got there. Fortunately, I was right on time, so I don't think I missed more than few seconds.

The film itself is very good. It just tells a simple story well. However, because it focuses so much on that story, told in real-time, the film feels one-dimensional. We basically see the flight controllers and the passengers, but we only see them in their roles, not who they are in their personal lives. There's nothing wrong with that -- but it does lead to a narrow, focused film, which some people may not be happy with. It's not a pleasant film, as we know the outcome before the movie starts, but it is an important film (everyone should see it once), and I liked that the story reminds of 9/11 and what happened on that day. I really liked that they actually show the towers burning, the airplane crashing into the tower, the shocked reactions of the air traffic controllers. So much of that is not shown on TV any more and people forget what that day was like.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The United States of Leland

Movie: The United States of Leland

This wasn't what I expected; it's good, not great. I thought it was supposed to be funny, but it's dead serious. It's about a boy who murders another for apparently no reason and we track his time in jail and try to figure out why he did what he did (even he doesn't seem to know). If that's all it was, it'd be a decent Kafaesque premise, but unfortunately the film undermines itself by gradually trying to show us why the boy did it. Since the main interest in the film is that we don't know why, revealing the why is anticlimactic and not satisfying. I'd have prefered if it would have remained a fascinating mystery.


Saturday, February 19, 2011


Movie: Unknown

This film has a gimmicky concept: after an accident while in Europe a guy's wife no longer recognizes him and another man claims to be him. The injured man is bewildered: is he losing his mind? But he has no ID or way to prove he is who he claims while the impostor has a password, family photos, and more. It's a little bit Bourne Identity and with Liam Neeson in the starring role, a lot of Taken. The beginning is poorly written, with weak dialog and nonsensical events. Often the dialog will telegraph the reaction (for instance, a character might ask a leading question that sets up the answer, something not done in real life when one doesn't know the answer). But the mystery is compelling enough to keep our interest, though sluggish at first, and later when the action starts, it's quite good. It's inconsistent, however, as though it isn't sure if it's an action film or psychological thriller. The "twist" at the end is surprisingly good, though I wasn't that impressed by how well it was handled. It comes across as forced, heavy-handed. In the end I was slightly disappointed thinking "This could have been really good," but then I was also thinking, "This isn't as bad as some might think." It's therefore not a great film, but it rises slightly above the paint-by-numbers routine you might be expecting for such derivative material. Fun.


Tuesday, November 2, 1999

Unnatural Causes

Book: Unnatural Causes (1967)
Writer(s): P.D. James

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Supposedly, mystery fans the world over love P.D. James' mysteries, but if this is characteristic of them, I'm definitely the opposite of a fan. If anything, James has a gift for making an exciting subject like murder boring. The book is tedious, glacier-paced, and as each character is introduced, we're given several pages of meaningless background material. The mystery itself is basically a "Who cares." The plot has a mystery writer discovered dead, floating in a dinghy, his hands chopped off at the wrist -- exactly like the opening scene of the novel he's writing. James seems to think this is a stunning opening, innovative as all get out -- I found it boring and pointless. I didn't like any of her characters, and thus didn't care one way or another what happened in the book. The murder mystery itself (i.e. the plot), wasn't bad, but I was so disinterested it's hard to judge. James is a good writer. Her style and diction is concise and elegant, remarkable in some ways, but there's something about her style that turns me off. It reminds me a lot of John LeCarre, who I can't read to save my life. Two paragraphs and I'm zoning, my mind drifting off. Nothing captures my interest for some reason. Strange and sad, but I've learned to accept it. I've stopped even trying to read LeCarre, and while I might give James another chance in the future, she's heading for that same inglorious position in my library. I liked her Children of Men and I'd had great hopes for one of her mysteries, but this one really let me down.


Monday, November 15, 2010


Movie: Unstoppable

The trailer didn't make me want to watch this much as it seemed to tell me the entire movie: runaway train with hazardous materials on board and two heroic engineers out to stop it. But I was curious about the implementation. The trailer didn't make it clear how the train became a runaway, nor exactly how it would be stopped. I loved the way that was revealed in the film. It was a believable series of mistakes and bad timing that all led to every backup contingency failing. Then we watch as things get worse and attempt after attempt to stop the train fails, and the tension builds. There's also a side drama of the train corporation attempting to cover their ass and minimize their liability. That sets things up for our two heroes to save the day, and though that's stretched out too long, it is exciting and very well done. I thought the director did a decent job of explaining train mechanics and setting up the situation, and the action scenes of the train stuff are excellent, but there are several places where the train location and speed are confusing. For instance, in one sequence the train seems to travel 12 miles in a few seconds, and in another a 3-mile track at 70 mph takes 20 minutes of screen time. Some of that is necessary for storytelling, of course, but with a complicated train-rescue sequence to explain such inconsistencies should have been cleared up. Overall the film's excellent: a lot of fun, full of exciting tension, with some decent character stuff behind the scenes, and though the story's predictable, it is gripping and still worth watching.


Friday, January 25, 2008


Movie: Untraceable

I was expecting this to be dreadful, mostly because the premise is so technically ludicrous. But to my surprise it's not that bad. The best thing is no doubt the presence of Diane Lane, who rises above the ordinary script and silly plot. Another good thing is that the film is set in Portland, Oregon, which was unexpected and rather cool. The plot is absurd -- a murderer is killing victims live on an "untraceable" website and the more people who tune in, the faster the victim dies. But once you get past the illogic (20+ million people tuning in to see live streaming video -- we're talking Google-sized bandwidth that can't be traced?) the film does have an interesting point or two about our voyeristic culture. Say it wasn't a serial killer but a Middle Eastern terrorist killing Americans live on the web -- would we tune in? Still, this is a gimmicky film that can't escape that, but it's decent enough and not nearly as unwatchable as I expected.


Friday, May 29, 2009


Movie: Up

I am breathless. This is an extraordinary film. The previews hadn't told me much: an old guy attaches balloons to his house and floats away. But in retrospect I love that so much is left out of the previews. Too many films give away all their best material in the trailers. Much of what makes this film great isn't in the individual scenes, but the cumulative story line. The opening five minutes, which is pretty much a montage of 70 years of a man's life, is a complete film in itself. We see a little boy and his fascination for adventuring, his meeting a like-minded girl, their marriage and life together (through both good and bad), her death, and him becoming a grumpy old man. It's beautiful, poignant, funny, heartfelt, and absolutely wonderful. It's also almost entirely wordless, so the story is conveyed via the visuals. If the film had ended right there I could have gone home happy!

But the film continues, with the old man doing the balloon thing and going off on his adventures in South America -- but what makes that significant is entirely due to his relationship with his late wife. Why do we care about an old man going ballooning? Because his wife dreamed of adventuring all her life but they never got around to doing it. This is his making up for a 70-year-old promise to the little girl he met, and your heart just goes out to this wonderful old man. But of course the folks at Pixar are absolute master storytellers (they don't put a foot wrong in this movie) and we see how the old man changes and grows, due to a little boy he meets and the adventures they share. It's magical. If you can watch this without tearing up at least once somewhere, you don't have a heart. That's not to say it's a weepy film: it's mostly comedy, but that lightheartedness just makes the tender scenes that much more powerful and emotional. The adventure itself is wild and wonderful, just the perfect mix of silly humor and real danger (the obstacles the old man faces are not for the faint of heart at all, as this film actually shows death and even blood in a couple places). The bottom line is that this is a story you will fall in love with and you'll watch with bated breath rooting for the old man to succeed. Absolutely an instant classic, a film we'll still be amazed with a hundred years from now.


Sunday, December 4, 2005

The Upside of Anger

Movie: The Upside of Anger

This was a surprisingly good film. It's a little heavy-handed. It's about an older woman whose long-time husband suddenly leaves her and she becomes angry and drinks a lot. Because it's about anger all the songs are about anger and the characters sometimes talk about anger; that's too obvious. But the characters are interesting (the woman has four very different daughters she clashes with) and there is a bit of a story. The ending has a little twist that's interesting and brings things to a new light. It's not a great-great film, but it's good, a little unusual, and I liked it.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Uptown Girls

Movie: Uptown Girls

I'd been wanting to see this movie since I saw the filming of a scene when I was in New York City a couple of summers ago. At that time it was called Molly Gunn and I didn't know anything more than that. When it came out it seemed to be too much of a chick flick to see in the theatres, so I waited to rent it. It was pretty much what I expected: a rich socialite who hasn't worked a day in her life loses all her money had has to get a job as a nanny to an overly mature eight-year-old, and of course they teach each other valuable lessons about life. It's cute, predictable, occasionally funny, and a little syrupy, but decent overall. Good performances from the two stars, who are above the material. But much too light to be a great film.

It turns out the scene I witnessed filming is an important one: it's at the school where Molly picks up Ray after school, when they first meet! That's cool because I was worried the scene might be too brief to notice in the film, but it's key. I still can't believe how many trailers and people they had on hand to film that one scene. Compared to some movies I suppose it really wasn't that many, but there had to be at least 100 people and several long tables of food. The trailers took up several blocks of 5th Avenue. I think the same location was used for two different scenes in the film, so maybe they were filming much of the day (though I didn't see them later when I passed back by). It was kind of interesting seeing the scene being filmed and then seeing it in the final movie, though. I've never done that before. There was one still photo on the DVD extras (in the "video stills" section) which had a behind-the-scenes shot with the street I stood and watch from in the background. That was neat: you could see a few bystanders hanging around, though I was not one of them. I only hung around for ten or fifteen minutes. It was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait and boring to watch. If I'd been more aggressive, I perhaps could have learned a bit more about the movie industry. I remember thinking that there appeared to be minimal security. I stood right next to a cooler of water bottles on ice and was tempted to help myself (it was a hot day). There were a lot of staff hanging around doing nothing -- I'm sure I could have chatted them up and learned some interesting trivia. They were probably "important" people like a script supervisor or something (I was trying to guess the titles of the various people I could see). Anyway, I didn't because I was too shy, which was really dumb. Oh well. Maybe it'll happen again some day and I can get my big break in film.


Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Urban Legend

Movie: Urban Legend

Fun, campy horror flick. Great if you like the genre (horror mix with humor).


Thursday, June 22, 2006

USA Done

Soccer: USA Done

Well, the World Cup is officially over for the United States. It was not a good tournament for us. I hold our coach, Bruce Arena, at fault. He changed tactics and played a different formation and line-up in the World Cup than he'd ever used during the two years of qualifying. He played a conservative, defense-first style, and refused to start with two strikers or put in a second striker until late in matches, if at all. He blamed early mistakes and bad refereeing for the U.S. not having an aggressive attitude which his defensive line-ups were the true blame. We finish the Cup having scored only once (not counting Italy's own goal) and giving up six. We did manag the impressive tie against powerhouse Italy, but most Americans won't realize just how amazing that was. Unfortunately, while I was hoping Ghana had given it all in their win over the Czechs, it was the U.S. who had nothing left for the Africans, who deserved the win (despite the weak penalty kick call against the U.S.). Overall, not a huge surprise for the U.S. who were in the toughest group of the tournament, but what annoys me is the weak play, poor attitude, and defense-oriented tactics when we needed goals. Perhaps U.S. Soccer can get a new coach that will return the Americans to their aggressive style of old.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

USA versus Algeria

Soccer: USA versus Algeria

What a fantastic game and result for the United States. What impressed me the most was their composure and lack of panic, even when we had another goal incorrectly called off, hit the post and it just wouldn't go in, and time was running out. That goal was terrific team play well-executed, not a desperate Hail Mary. Best of all, the U.S. win the group -- an amazing feat few would have predicted -- and now we avoid the Germany side of the bracket and have the potential to go far in this tournament. It's not going to be easy by any stretch, but I like the way the team has progressed and matured, and after the trials they've had so far to reach this stage, I believe they are ready. A huge day for American soccer.


Friday, June 18, 2010

USA versus Slovenia

Soccer: USA versus Slovenia

If you missed this game today, you missed something amazing. I'm not sure whether I should love this team or hate this team. They made elementary errors early on to put themselves in a huge 2-0 hole in the first half, but rallied back incredibly to secure a 2-2 draw. A draw that should have been a win if it wasn't for the referee who canceled out the USA's winning goal for an invisible foul that apparently only he saw. The draw keeps us alive in the group -- actually, with England's woeful 0-0 draw we're in a good position where a win in our final match will send us through -- but why must the USA always be playing from behind? We must get our act together and play better against Algeria on Wednesday. If we play like the second half in this one, we'll be fine. I just hope that first half team doesn't show up.


Thursday, May 16, 2002

USA vs Jamaica

Soccer: USA vs Jamaica

Good confidence builder for the U.S. Josh Wolff had two, Clint one in just a few minutes on the field (he came on to start the second half and left 15 minutes later with an injured toe), Beasley got one, and Donovan set up three and scored one (though he was only awarded one official assist). Not the strongest opposition, but the U.S. played very well, and I think the U.S. needed a World Cup preparation game like this. Final: 5-0 U.S.


Sunday, May 19, 2002

USA vs Netherlands

Soccer: USA vs Netherlands

Good game. The U.S. didn't win, but the Dutch are a very good team, and the U.S. looked very dangerous the entire game. The two goals they gave up weren't bad goals. One was the result of a bit of bad luck, the other a simple defensive error. While the latter mistake is not good, it's better to have that happen now instead of at the World Cup. The American players need to remember that against world class competition, two seconds lack of concentration will cost you a goal. It's a good lesson. Overall, though, I was pleased with the U.S. play, though of course winning would have been better, but it might have made them overconfident. Final: 2-0 Netherlands.


Sunday, May 12, 2002

USA vs Uruguay

Soccer: USA vs Uruguay

Excellent game, the first of three final tune-ups before the World Cup. The U.S. came out storming, putting on a lot of pressure, and man of the match DeMarcus Beasley started things off by getting a corner kick in the fourth minute. Jeff Agoos put in a sharp cross that Tony Sanneh headed in to give the Americans the lead. Later, it was DeMarcus who pulled some incredible stuff at the top of the box to open some space for himself and he put it away beautifully. His first shot was parried by the keeper, but he pounced on the rebound and put it back in. In the second half, disaster. The Uruguayans really put on the pressure but the Americans defended well. They scrambled on more than one occasion, but when it comes to results, pretty doesn't matter. Then substitute Landon Donovan gave a lazy backpass to Earthquake teammate Jeff Agoos in the penalty box. An opponent picked off the ball and suddenly the U.S. was really under the gun. A shot went in but keeper Brad Friedel, who had an outstanding game, blocked it. A second shot followed but Friedel made another incredible save. Unfortunately, the rebound went right back to the Uruguayans and they put the third chance away. Controversy followed not long after as Uruguay scored again to tie, but the offside flag had gone up, nullifying the goal. On the replay it was clear there was no offside, but the goal had already been called back. The U.S. won 2-1, but it was a tough, physical match, with the Uruguayans playing their infamous rough style. Chris Armas left the game with a potentially serious knee injury, and that could really hurt the U.S.'s World Cup chances, but we'll have to wait and see if he'll be okay. Overall a good game, played with passion and World Cup seriousness, with nothing friendly about it.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

USL: Toronto Lynx at Seattle Sounders

Soccer: USL: Toronto Lynx at Seattle Sounders

Coordinated Seattle trip with USL soccer match at Quest Field. Nice stadium, though only a few thousand were at the game. Good atmosphere, though. Toronto's the worst in the USL and it showed: Seattle easily beat them 3-0, with all the goals coming in the first half. Pace of the game was moderate, but there was some definite skill. Quality of play definitely not MLS caliber, but not as bad as I figured. For my first USL match, I enjoyed it. I think I'll definitely have to go to some Portland Timbers games.