Saturday, September 27, 2003

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Wow, I thought last week's televised game was awesome, but this time I got to see the Quakes turn it on in person. Last week the Dallas Burn were supposed to be eliminated from the playoffs when they played the top team in the East, the Chicago Fire. Instead they came out and won, beating the Fire 2-0. Which Burn would show up? Which Quakes? The answers started immediately after kickoff. Right away the ball was kicked out of play and the Quakes' awesome rookie Todd Dunnivant took the throw-in. He's famous for his ability to throw long, and boy did he deliver. From the sideline on the Quake's half of the field, he threw the ball over the back of the Dallas' defense. Dewayne DeRosario darted onto it, and as the Burn keeper came out to cut down the angle, Dewayne slid it under him to the far post for the opening goal. This goal set an amazing MLS record for the fastest goal in American soccer history at eleven seconds! Wow!

But that was just the beginning. I knew Dallas isn't as bad of a team as their record indicates, and they showed it. Minutes later they tied the game on a corner kick that was headed into the goal. The crowd was stunned. But three minutes later the Quakes were back ahead when Donovan pressured away a ball just above the Quakes' penalty area, sliding it to Chris Roner and darting ahead. Chris fed the ball back up the sideline, but it got away from Donovan as the Dallas defense picked it up. But Landon didn't stop his run, continuing to pressure the defense. His pressure astonishly paid off as he won the ball and took off with a one-on-one with the keeper. But the angle was poor so Donovan did the unselfish thing and squared a ball over to an onrushing DeRosario who easily put it into an empty goal. The fans were going mad -- three goals in just eleven minutes. But we hadn't seen anything yet.

Just three minutes later, the Burn amazingly leveled the game again! The Quakes best defense in the league fell apart as Ali Curtis got ahold of a bouncing ball in the penalty area and managed to knock it around Pat Onstad to tie the score. The crowd went into stunned silence. My brother and I were freaking out -- could our hearts stand this kind of up-and-down emotional rollercoaster? Well, we needn't have worried. The Dallas goals seemed to inspire the Quakes who didn't want to pull a Chicago and lose to the worst team in the league. They attacked with vigor and fury, and by the end of the half, the Quakes were leading 4-2! Both additional goals were scored by none other than Landon Donovan. The first was a simple ball over the top where Landon beat the offside trap and made the finish against the keeper look easy. The second was a great Brian Mullan cross which Donovan calmly headed into the goal at the near post, eeriely reminiscent of his great World Cup goal last summer. What was amazing about the goal was that Donovan started the play in his own half and ran all the way to the goal leaving Dallas in the dust. That kid can run! According to the league: "The six-goal first half set a number of League records, including the fastest four, five, and six goal totals in MLS history. The 4-2 score line equaled the largest first half total ever recorded in League play, tying the record set by Dallas v. Colorado (June 16, 2001) and Columbus v. Chicago (June 2, 2002)."

In the second half, it was obvious the Burn were beat, as they couldn't get past Pat Onstad who made a handful of excellent saves. The Quakes certainly didn't stop, with Dewayne DeRosario duplicately Donovan's effort last week with a hat trick! He scored his third with his back to the goal, whirling and kicking without even looking, cleaning beating the Burn defense and keeper with a darting shot that curled into the far corner. Amazing! After never having a hat trick in team history until last week, the Quakes do it again a week later. Insane. The win eliminates the Burn from the playoffs (sadly, their first time not making the post-season leaving L.A. as the only team to make the playoffs every year) and puts San Jose eleven points ahead of second-place Colorado Rapids in the Western conference and six points ahead of everyone else in the league (awesome). With two more home games and a game in Colorado and L.A. left, San Jose has a chance to really distance themselves from everyone in the next few weeks. We'll see what happens. Final: 5-2 San Jose Earthquakes.


Friday, September 26, 2003

The Rundown

Movie: The Rundown

Fun actioner with typical lightweight full-of-holes plot. The Rock is surprisingly good, much better than in other movies. He plays a "retrieval expert," who collects debts or people or whatever. His boss sends him to South America to retreive his son (Sean William Scott), who's in the jungle looking for an artifact. What follows is beautiful choas and non-stop action as the son doesn't want to go back until he's found the priceless artifact, the wealthy mine owner (Christopher Walken) who rules that whole section of the jungle who also wants the artifact, and the rebels who want the artifact so they can free themselves from the rule of Walken. There's a lot of comedy and entertaining silliness, great action by the Rock, and a light but satisfying story to hold the mess together. The Rock and Scott have great chemistry, and the action sequences are digitally enhanced (or something) to create something new (not quite as innovative as wirework and 3D cameras of The Matrix but different and cool). Excellent entertainment if you aren't interested in a brain strain.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Anything Else

Movie: Anything Else
Writer(s): Woody Allen
Director(s): Woody Allen

Interesting, though annoying, Woody Allen film about a comedy writer (Jason Biggs) struggling to figure out life. His girlfriend (Christina Ricci) is lovely but frightfully annoying as she can't make up her mind and drives him insane. She eats before their dinner date, moves out without warning and moves back in just as abruptly, and worse. But he's too chicken to leave her. Biggs gets bizarre advice from another comedy writer (Allen) he met in Central Park. Woody's created some great characters here, and I really liked the intelligence of Bigg's character (it makes him more sympathetic). Allen's alter ego is hilarious and full of typical Woody Allen insecurity. The story is simple enough as Bigg's figures out his life and learns to move on (not without help), but overall, while this is better than some of Woody's recent films, it's lightweight. Ricci's character is too annoying to be likable (you want to slap her), and the best part is Woody's amazing dialog which is mostly intellectual entertainment (I'd rather read it than watch it).


Monday, September 22, 2003

The Chocolate War

Movie: The Chocolate War

I remember struggling to read this "classic" novel as a kid and not getting very far. It's a strange tale about kids in a private school, an obssessive teacher/headmaster, and a chocolate sale fundraiser. The main kid, a loner/loser type, refuses to "volunteer" for the sale, wreaking havoc on the whole order of things. The main "gang" (secret society) at the school sets out to force him to comply. The odd thing is the kid has no reason why he won't sell the chocolates. It starts out as a whim, but ends up a war. Supposedly there's something deep in there, and I get a glimmer of it, but just like the book, the film's not very illuminating. This is a good production, and to the best of my memory faithful (I can't remember if I even finished the book), but it ends up with the same flaws as the book: it's pretentious and confusing. At least the all Peter Gabriel soundtrack's awesome.


Monday, September 22, 2003

The Killing Game

Book: The Killing Game
Writer(s): Iris Johansen

I really like the way Iris bases her novels on character over plot. In this particular novel, however, she's a little heavy-handed. In addition to the whole "serial killer on the loose" plot, we're in the middle of a romance/war between the best friend, the heroine, and the wealthy lover. Some of the conflicts in this felt forced and overdone, and the outcome was brutally obvious from the beginning (which it was supposed to be, since the woman was closing her eyes to her best friend as a lover, but since we could see it from the beginning, it made wading through hundreds of pages of her hemming and hawking tedious). The serial killer plotline is superior, with an unknown killer telephoning our heroine with frighting threats and hints of future violence. She's lost her young daughter to a killer years ago and that motivated her to become a top forensic sculpture (she creates facial models from skulls to help identify bodies). By threatening to kill a little girl, the killer forces the woman to bond with the new child (who's physically similar to her own), with the plan to kill them both after they've bonded: diabolically cruel, to say the least. The chase is on, the killer always several steps ahead. Who is he? I fell for the red herring candidate, but right from the beginning, which made the ending uncomfortable. While the killer's identity was thus a surprise, it felt a bit artificial, almost like Iris decided on the twist after the novel was originally written with the other guy as the killer. (I doubt she did that; my perception is clouded by my pre-judgement of the situation.) A good novel, exciting and tense, with some interesting bits on police work and serial killer stuff. There were stereotypical aspects I didn't like -- the killer's dad was a religious fanatic (gee, that's original) -- and there were some odd technical mistakes toward the end (please, I retouch digital photos and if it's done right, no one can tell). But overall this was an excellent book. Interestingly, two of the best characters in the book, Monty, a cadaver dog and his partner, a hard woman named Sarah, apparently feature in Iris' next novel, of which this paperback included an excerpt. I'm definitely going to have to read that book.


Monday, September 22, 2003


Movie: Thirteen

This is an amazing film, probably the best film I've seen all year. I could be biased, however, because I'm writing a novel that features young teens in similar situations. The story is wonderfully simple: it's about an ordinary, clean-cut, modest girl who wants to be popular. She manages to make friends with the hottest, coolest girl in school, and under her influence, is soon doing drugs, shoplifting, and getting tattoos and body piercings. Her mother (separated from her dad) struggles with these changes in her daughter while trying to keep her own crappy life together (she's apparently in AA or something similar). The film's really about the mother-daughter relationship and how that changes as the girl becomes a teen, but it touches on so many aspects of life: adulthood, sex, popularity, friends, rebellion, independence, drug use, cutting, suicide, and more. (On an interesting side note, driving home I happened to hear Avril Lavigne's "Anything But Ordinary" which could be the theme song for this film as it explains why kids want to do these crazy things -- they don't want to be ordinary. Since Avril was sixteen when her album was released, she was probably not much older than these characters when she wrote the song.) The film's ending is abrupt and unresolved. We're given hints that tragedy may be avoided, but there are no guarantees or pat sitcom answers here, just a faint moment of hope. I liked everything about this film. The acting was astonishingly awesome, from all the precocious teens (Evie is played by Nikki Reed who was thirteen when she wrote the story) to Holly Hunter who plays the mom. Someone in this cast has to win an Academy Award or there is no justice. The story is rough and realistic, and for once we see teens and adults arguing like they do in real life, not sitcom-speak. This movie is similar to the controversial Kids, but focuses more on the loss of innocence and is less into salacious activity for the sake of a movie and more into a documentary-style capture of real modern teen life. You must see this film.


Sunday, September 21, 2003

Domestic Disturbance

Movie: Domestic Disturbance

This is a John Travolta film I'd never heard of, but it wasn't that bad. The story's light but filled with potential (unfortunately minimally realized). It deals with a young boy who's parents have split and she's getting remarried. The boy is struggling with this when he accidentally witnesses his new step-dad murder someone. But no one will believe him: they all think this is his way of acting out against the marriage. Only his dad believes and starts an investigation, eventually leading to the step-dad revealing his true colors and being arrested. Predictably done, but I liked the whole "kid against the unbelieving world" syndrome (similar to the murder witness in Rear Window). If Hitchcock had done this he'd have had the kid be the main character instead of the dad (Travolta) and had him figure out a way to out-smart the villain. As it is, the dad really doesn't do much (which is lame): when he starts his investigation, that prompts the bad guy to attempt to kill him, which opens things up and spoils the "did he or didn't he" subtlty that was so appealing. There's also a scene near the beginning where Travolta querries one of the bad guy's friends rather aggressively, almost as if he suspected there was something fishy about the guy (who is later murdered). Like the whole movie, it could have been much better handled, but on the whole a neat idea.


Saturday, September 20, 2003

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

I usually don't write about televised games, but this one was special. Not only did the Quakes play brilliantly, but they set several club records in the process. First, the win not only puts them at the top of the league again, the 46 points is the most San Jose has ever gotten in a season -- and there's still five games left to play (15 potential points)! But the story of the night was Landon Donovan, who not only scored his personal season best of 10 goals, but netted the first ever hat trick (three goals in a single game) for the Earthquakes! Even better, these weren't simple goals. For the first goal, Landon faked out a defender like his was going right but instead slid the ball to his left foot and finished it into the back of the net for a gorgeous 1-0 lead. The Quakes extended the lead in the second half with defender Eddie Robinson's first goal of the season (an excellent header), but Donovan wanted more. His second goal was the best goal I've seen all season (even better than the Quake's awesome team goal in the 4-4 draw against New York earlier in the year). Landon started the play near mid-field, dribbled through two defenders, splitting them completely, broke in on two more defenders, sliding the ball to Dwayne DeRosario on the right while he dove left. The pass opened up space and Dwayne took the ball to the right and then crossed it in front of the goal where Donovan was heading. With a burst of acceleration he darted forward and beat a defender (former Quake Jimmy Conrad) and goalkeeper to slip the ball into the goal. The hat trick was complete late in injury time when Donovan got open at the top of the box and easily beat Meola to score his record third goal of the game. Wow, what a match! What a performance from Donovan, right as the team heads into the playoffs! This should boost the team's confidence (which was already high) and really give the other teams something to think about when facing Landon. Terrific win.


Friday, September 19, 2003

Cabin Fever

Movie: Cabin Fever

Another twist on the "end of the world virus" story. In this case it's morphed with the typical "trapped teens in the woods with a serial killer" plot. We aren't privy to where the virus came from (no silly lectures here on genetic research gone awry like in 28 Days Later) -- a diseased guy just shows up at some vacationing kids' cabin in the woods. The virus spreads, infecting the group, and we watch as the horrible skin disease mutilates them and they turn on each other in their fear and horror. In truth, the disease only kills one of them: the others all meet horrible fates but not by the virus. The idea's not that original, nor is the presentation, but it's done with such style and blatant gore that it's quite entertaining. There are a lot of "camera jokes" -- where the audience gets to see clues (like a closeup of the diseased water glass the victim is about to drink) the characters don't notice, which is the film's version of humor. There's plenty of blood and gore, but a surprising amount of the violence is off-screen. For instance, we hear a dog eating someone, but only see part of a leftover foot as evidence that it happened (hey, it could have been much worse). There's some bizarre stuff here as well: funny characters, idiot characters, and strange characters all keep you entertained and make you wonder who's going to die next. And oh, this is a wickedly horrible tragedy: don't hold out hope for anyone, as everyone dies. I do mean everyone. Pretty funny in a warped sort of way. Similar sense of humor to great gore films like Dead Alive.


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.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Buffalo Soldiers

Movie: Buffalo Soldiers

Not a film I was interested in seeing, but it was the only thing on at the time I was ready to see a film. So I went with modest enthusiasm. To my surprise, I liked this film a lot. It is modest and predictable in concept. We meet an American soldier stationed in Germany around the time of the Berlin wall collapse. He's the guy knows everyone and can get you anything. He's a slick talker who knows how to weave his superiors to do anything he needs. Meanwhile, he's selling U.S. goods on the black market, cooking drugs in the basement, and driving his fancy Mercedes. Then along comes a new officer who's got his number. He breaks the guy down, and it becomes a battle of wits between the two. To piss the officer off, the soldier begins dating the officer's daughter, but that backfires when the officer destroys the guy's prized Mercedes. Like I said, in concept it's predictable -- like one of Zack Morris' scams on Saved by the Bell going awry and him learning his lesson by the end of the episode. But this one escalates to death and serious drugs and money, and in the end our hero barely escapes with his teeth and returns to his old tricks. There's nothing profound here. Some of the characters, while interesting, are stereotypical, and the "twists" at the end are yawners. The uncomfortable part is that we're supposed to like the scammer when he's just stealing 1,000 gallons of Mop'n'Glo from the army, but feel justice is served when his serious drug activity doesn't go as he planned. It's the old "white lies are okay" approach to morality. Oh well. It's still fun, though I'm cautious in being manipulated to like the guy. And the film has a neatly packaged happy ending that leaves us wondering how we got there (much isn't explained). Not a great film, but more fun than I expected. A good rental.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

American Splendor

Movie: American Splendor

This is an excellent film about the life of Harvey Pekar, the ultimate ordinary Joe, whose mundane life was made into the American Splendor comic book series. What's fascinating is that this is a combination of drama and documentary. We actually meet multiple Harvey Pekars: there's the various cartoon drawings (portrayed by the many different artists who illustrate the comic), the real guy, and the actor who plays him in the movie. These various versions are blurred together. We cut from a comic drawing to the real or actor version, watch the actor and listen to the real guy narrarating, etc. It's a wonderful technique because it allows us to know all the Harvey Pekars and thereby understanding the whole man better. The story is pretty much chronological: we see Harvey at his dead-end job as a file clerk, watch him meet artist Bob Crumb, see the comic book become a success, follow the story of Harvey meeting and marrying his wife (after knowing her for less than a week), and endure his battle with cancer. The whole thing is marvelously done. My only complaint is that ultimately we aren't enriched by the process. Harvey seems like a decent ordinary guy, and it's fun meeting the man behind the cartoon, but Harvey's so ordinary and his morose attitude on life is so depressing that not much is to be gained by our experience with him. We're just listening to a guy whine about his misery for decades, never once doing a thing to get off his ass and do something about it. Granted, that's what his story is all about, and I suppose fans of the comic like that and would therefore like this film better. I found it interesting from a sociological viewpoint, and the presentation was fascinating, but I don't want to spend any more time with Harvey than I already have.


Monday, September 15, 2003

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Movie: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Writer(s): Robert Rodriguez
Director(s): Robert Rodriguez

This is the third film in the El Mariachi trilogy. It fits in wonderfully with the others. Like them, it's full of pure adrenaline, and the direction feels like a child let lose on a film set. The plot's a convoluted mess about an attempted assasination of a Mexican president by a drug lord, with a retired FBI agent and an eclectict CIA agent (played by Johnny Depp) in there to mix things up. El Mariachi, the guitar-playing gunman or lore, kills just about everyone, as usual, and the ending feels less like a conclusion than like we ran out of bad guys to shoot! Great action, stylish effects and direction, this feels a little like a live action cartoon, except for the serious nature of the killing and maiming (one guy gets his eyes routered out). This isn't meant to be a serious picture at all, of course. It's just wild fun and cool action. Forget the meandering plot and just sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.


Monday, September 15, 2003

Trust Fund

Book: Trust Fund
Writer(s): Stephen Frey

This is a can't-put-it-down kind of book, which is excellent. The story's about a rich son who's being forced out of the family despite the awesome work he's done turning the family fortune into a hundred billion dollar hedge fund. The guy's a hard drinker and supposedly the family's worried he'll be a liability to the number one son's presidential bid. But later he finds out secrets that reveal the truth. Eventually we've got a huge conspiracy that goes all the way to the highest levels of the government, murder and intrigue, and great action. It's a fun read.

However, there are a number of huge flaws in this book from a writing perspective. First, the main character, who has the drinking problem, is presented as a flawed hero: that's realistic, but it comes across awkwardly, for we're told about his drinking after the fact and we're not privy to the inner demons that drive him to drink. The author struggles with this because he doesn't want to alienate us from the hero, yet the hero needs some flaws. Unfortunately, the result is the flaws seem patched on, not genuinely part of his character. And even bigger flaw, a sin that is committed not once but twice in this novel, is the introduction of main characters half-way through the book. Now that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, except in this case, both characters are supposedly extremely close to the hero. One is the hero's best friend, the other the hero's wife. Yet we don't meet either until 200 pages into the book! That makes us immediately suspicious about the best friend (Who is this guy and why don't we know if him if he's such a good friend?), and wonder about the genuineness of the husband-wife relationship. That's just poor writing. Still, the novel's a fun, quick read, and it has a lot of excitement and suspense. I was disappointed by the ending: the dramatic reveal at the end was a bit of a tempest in a teapot (it was nothing more than a high tech twist of something from J. Edgar Hoover's days), but that's common in novels with so much setup. Frey does an excellent job of parsing information to us, piece by piece, in each chapter, revealing just enough to keep us starving for more. A good read.


Monday, September 15, 2003

Jeepers Creepers

Movie: Jeepers Creepers

After seeing the sequel, it was fun to see the original. Two very different movies. This one is almost claustrophobic in that there are only two teenage potential victims who spend the movie running from the creature, and the creature itself is hidden and mysterious most of the film. In this one, we think the creature's an ordinary serial killer or something, as the two teens witness him dumping bodies in an old drain pipe and go to investigate, finding more than they bargained for. Interesting ideas. Certainly neither film is great, but they are amusing.


Friday, September 12, 2003

Matchstick Men

Movie: Matchstick Men

Terrific film! Nicholas Cage stars as a con artist struggling with reality: he's obsessive compulsive to the max (he cleans his house constantly), and he begins seeing a shrink to help him cope with life. He learns he's got a daughter he's never met from an ancient relationship, and she wants to meet him. The fourteen-year-old girl is the antithesis of him -- wild, uncontrolled, impulsive, sloppy -- and when she has an argument with her mother, she moves in for a week. The daughter is played by Alison Lohman (White Oleander) and she's astonishly awesome. Like a real teenage girl, one second she's happily giggling, the next she's sobbing as her life is over. The result throws Cage over the edge, completely into unfamiliar territory. The girl wants to learn how to grift, and after some tears and persuasion, Cage teaches her how to con. It's obvious that the daughter's presence in his life is tremendously healing, and Cage talks about them becoming a family (he's going to file for joint custody). But then, of course, disaster. A big con goes bad, there's death and mayhem, and a big (but not completely unforeseen) twist. The twist is gimmicky and tends to erode much of what we thought we knew about the film, but it still works, mostly because of Cage's unexpected reaction to betrayal: it turns out to be the thing that kicks him out of his nest and into real life. The final scenes are charged with emotion and drama and finishes nicely, offering us a pat-yet-not-so-pat ending. I really liked this film, mostly because of the dramatic performances by Cage and Lohman. In retrospect you realize there's not as much depth as you thought while watching it, but the film still works. It may not be the most profound movie of the year, but it's fun, has great characters, a twisty plot, excellent direction, and is definitely worth seeing.


Friday, September 12, 2003

John Ritter

I am so sad to hear the news that actor John Ritter died. While most dismissed his Three's Company as silly, I consider him to be a comic genius. He was a master of physical comedy, making the incredibly difficult look easy (just try to make a fall look genuinely accidental, I dare you -- it's much harder than it sounds). John was back in a new hit series (though I never watched it), which was great, and things were going well. Very sad for him to go so suddenly and so young (he was only 54). Just another example of how we ultimately have no control over Life, no matter who we are, famous or infamous, rich or poor.


Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Medallion

Movie: The Medallion

I'd heard this was a poor Jackie Chan film, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Sure many of the special effects were digital, but they needed to be with this kind of plot. The idea is that there's this ancient medallion and it can bring you back to life after death and give you supernatural abilities, and so those abilities had to be done digitally. The bigger problem with the movie is that it doesn't get to the main plot point until nearly half-way through (that's when Jackie dies) which makes the first half seem rather pointless. (Why not just get to him dying right away?) The tone of the film is also odd: one of the minor characters at the beginning, an overplayed idiot, turns out to be a major character and one of the good guys (I never would have guessed from the initial scenes). Since he's the only person in the whole movie playing for slapstick comedy, his scenes, while funny on their own, really clash with the rest of the "serious" film. The movie's got a few fun moments, a few neat effects, but is generally quiet forgettable, but that's not unlike most Jackie Chan movies.


Monday, September 8, 2003

Jeepers Creepers 2

Movie: Jeepers Creepers 2

Strange movie. I never saw the original, but I like Ray Wise (of Twin Peaks fame) and there's really nothing else out there, so I gave it a go. I'd give it a C- or C+, depending on my mood. It's basically a mere survival story, but it's done in such as way as to make you think the plot's more than that, which makes it a bit of a letdown when you realize that's all it is. There's some flying goblin creature (it's never named -- no idea where the title comes in) that comes alive every 23rd spring and eats for 23 days. It's apparently thousands of years old and no one can kill it. A schoolbus full of a high school football team and cheerleaders breaks down in the middle of nowhere and is picked off one-by-one by the creature. The early "scare" scenes I thought were lame because what made them "scary" was that we couldn't see the creature. Once we get to the schoolbus at night, however, we really get to see the creature, which is cool. As he lurks about the schoolbus, we see him leer at the terrified teens, watch him eat and heal from horrible wounds, and more. The kids are all stereotypical and overdone, but there are a few suprises here. Then we get Ray Wise as the angry dad (he son was apparently killed by the creature in the opening scene though that was woefully unclear) who's built himself a homemade harpoon which he uses to spear the creature. In the end, the humans win -- sort of. The creature goes into hibernation, and he'll be back... in 23 years.

Whatever. Who comes up with this stuff? It's rather arbitrary. What's significant about 23 years? Why not 25 or fifty? Why not link to to the position of the stars or something? We get no explanation about the creatures' origin, and why can't he be burned or disassembled or locked in a steel coffin or something? Oh wait a second: I'm using logic. Sorry about that. I forgot what movie I was talking about. Forget all those negatives. This is a modest thriller. Not as humorous or as clever as Freddy vs. Jason, but okay, and the creature is a little scary, especially when he grins at you just before he pounces.


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.


Sunday, September 7, 2003

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Great atmosphere, part of the double-header Sunday following the U.S. women's match. With Chicago's tie on Saturday, the Quakes needed a win to reclaim top spot in the league, as well as distance themselves from Colorado (whom they lost to last weekend). Things started out well as the Quakes pressured and had some near chances, but quickly went sour as a counter-attack gave a goal to New England. A fantastic through-pass by Steve Ralston beat two defenders and sent Pat Noonan in alone on goal. Quakes' keeper Pat Onstad was out quickly to shut down the play, but Noonan flicked the ball over Onstad as he dove, and the ball trickled into the open net. It was against the run of play and so quick the home crowd was stunned. But just a minute later the Quakes struck back! Brian Mullan threaded the ball into the New England penalty area to an open Dwayne DeRosario. It took Dwayne a touch to settle the ball, but no one closed him down, and his second touch was to blast the ball high into the net giving the Rev's keeper no chance. One-all into the half! The Quakes came out aggressively in the second half, and soon took the lead. DeRosario was again involved, this time in a run up the side. He opted to go toward the center, sliding the ball over to an open Ramiro Corrales. He waited, then put in a perfect ball to Landon Donovan in the box. Landon's header was hard and on target, but a sprawling Adin Brown punched the shot away. The rebound, however, fell into a crowd of players in the penalty area. Ronnie Ekelund managed to get the ball to Landon, who was open, and he easily finished it into the far corner. With the lead the Earthquakes sat back more than they should have, but fortunately the Revolution's offense sucked and the Quakes' weren't burned. They never really threatened, though the Quakes had a couple more near chances. Just before the end there was a scuffle between Brian Mullan and Rusty Pierce and both were given yellows -- but it was Rusty's second, and so he was off with a red card. Somehow the ref found five minutes of injury time to add on, but the Quakes dominated that, nearly increasing their lead. In the end the Revs just couldn't compete. The Quakes win, going to 43 points, nine points higher than the second place team in the Western Conference and three higher than Chicago, the top team in the East. Awesome, baby. Playoffs here we come! Final: 2-1 San Jose.


Thursday, September 4, 2003

Freaky Friday

Movie: Freaky Friday

A surprisingly excellent remake. I vaguely remember the original as being pretty decent, but this one is better. It's nicely modernized, but has the same basic plot of mother and daughter switching bodies and having to learn lessons about how the other lives. Nothing revolutionary, certainly, but enjoyable, and the performances by the leads (Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan) are superb. Great fun.


Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The Magdalene Sisters

Movie: The Magdalene Sisters
Writer(s): Peter Mullan
Director(s): Peter Mullan

What's shocking about this film is that it's based on reality. It tells the story of a group of girls in Ireland in the 1960's (not so long ago) who are deemed sinners by society (i.e., they've had sex out of wedlock) and locked away in a convent laundry facility. Here the girls do penance with back-breaking labor, eat modest food, and have no privacy or rights of any kind. The nuns rule with the rod and the girls are not permitted to leave. They are scarcely permitted to talk! No one may visit them, not even family. Society is ashamed of them and wants to pretend they don't exist. While supposedly they're here for a finite length of time, the truth is they're here forever, and it's basically a slave camp. The film tells the story of three girls sent to Magnalene (we also get to know a fourth), and how they handle being there. They want to escape, but are afraid: the penalty could be severe. One girl is rescued by her brother, another locked up in a mental hospital, but the others must fight back to survive. It's a terrific story, a bit one-dimensional (not much complexity here), but well-told. The Catholic Church is upset by this film, and for good reason: we see priests taking advantage of the girls, nuns abusing them, and other horrors. It is possible that things were not as bad as depicted in the film, and I'm sure most nuns are not as evil as the one portrayed here. But considering that the girls did nothing to deserve their fate (no actual crime), it's criminal that they could be locked up like this with no rights to stop it. The scariest thing of all is that the last Magdalene laundress closed in 1996 -- just a few years ago!