Friday, May 28, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

Movie: The Day After Tomorrow

Okay, let's get it understood right off the bat that this obviously isn't Shakespeare. The story's so thin it's like it's not even there. It probably would be better if it wasn't, since it's so ridiculous. The idea is that global warming causes the next ice age, not over a period of a thousand years, but a week. The writers hammer home their environmental message a few too many times, which actually hurts their cause, because the movie's so preposterous it makes their dramatic "we must learn to care for our planet" speeches sound silly. Story itself is about a lone wolf scientist who's ringing the alarm bell on global warming, but of course no one will listen to him, until weird weather -- hail in Tokyo, tornados in L.A., etc. -- suddenly brings the matter to importance. Of course the scientist has a son who's trapped in Manhatten as it goes underwater when the polar ice caps melt and cause the ocean to rise. It's all very dramatic and unnecessary, with stereotypical characters like the homeless guy with his dog and the beautiful girl who's just a friend.

No, the reason you go to watch a film like this is for the spectacular special effects, and here the film succeeds remarkably. I wouldn't have thought weather would be that dramatic or interesting, but the producers include lots of amazing shots from space, showing the planet as it undergoes a fantastic climate shift. The scenes of towering storm clouds the size of mountains were amazing, and all the New York City stuff -- the ocean taking over and freezing solid, all the skyscrapers snowed under -- was impressive. I was less impressed by the wimpy tornadoes in L.A. That was all shown in slow motion, which didn't reveal the power of the wind properly: it looked artificial and much too clean. It should have been done at full speed and been totally chaotic: that would have been frightening. Overall, though, the effects are not like anything you've seen and make the film worth seeing. I don't put two cents toward the silly science, and the story's too ordinary and predictable with no emotional resonance at all, but it's still a fun amusement park ride.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Casa de los Babys

Movie: Casa de los Babys
Writer(s): John Sayles
Director(s): John Sayles

Unusual talky film about a group of American women in a hotel in a Latin American country waiting for their baby adoptions to go through. What's neat is that the film is half in Spanish as we observe both sides of the transaction: the hispanic workers and hotel owner, a pregnant teen who will give her baby up, as well as the stories of the American women who a desperate for babies. Nothing too dramatic happens, but characters are revealed and relationships formed. It's interesting. The film has flaws in momentum and an awkwardly abrupt ending, but it's a unique slice of life as scene from a different perspective. It makes you think about a number of things -- the meaning of motherhood, racism, nature versus nurture, abortion, America versus foreign cultures -- but in a low-key way and it never tries to manipulate your thinking or tell you to think a certain way. It's just a brief picture of a reality you're forced by its pressence to contemplate. 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.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Shaolin Soccer

Movie: Shaolin Soccer

This is a wild fantasy of a film. It appears to have been created by a kindergarten kid on LSD. It bears no resemblance to reality, everything is stereotypical and exaggerated, and it has a number of bizare twists, like characters breaking into musical dance numbers for no apparent reason at all. To give you some idea of what the movie is like, the enemy team our heros must beat in the grand finale soccer match is called "Team Evil." And you know what? I liked it! It's great. Hilariously campy, fun, and so silly you can't help laughing and enjoying it. The special effects are amazing: not because they are cheesy (though some of them are), but because they are so over-the-top and non-stop you just can't help but admire them. For instance, a kicked soccer ball picks up so much speed flames burst around it like a meteorite coming through earth's atmosphere... and then the flames turn into the shape of a dragon! The whole film is filled with such craziness. It's great. Granted, there isn't much soccer here. Probably only about 20 minutes in the whole film. There's some soccer ball kicking, but the first "game" is more like a pub brawl than a match. The series of games at the climax bear little resemblance to anything in the soccer world, so soccer purists aren't going to be exactly overjoyed, but the film's not really about soccer: it's about fun. Soccer's just the excuse. The thread-bare plot's just a frame for all the cool martial arts special effects.

What makes the film work is that it is consistent. It's over-the-top from the beginning and never shies away from that all the way to the end. Too many American movies that try for a similar feel end up an awkward mess because they try to include some degree of realism that ruins the fantasy.

This is a creative gem, fun for adults and kids alike, regardless of whether you like soccer or martial arts. The digital special effects are like scenery painted with colorful candy, the characters so stereotypical they are parodies of themselves, and the wild camera angles so much fun you just have to smile. Go and have a good time. It's harmless. Relax and enjoy it. Be a kid again. Let your imagination rule. Color outside the lines.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

MLS: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Yes yes yes yes! It seems like every trip to Spartan Stadium is special these days. The Earthquakes are rife with injuries and still haven't regained their championship form of last year, but things are starting to gel. After last week's victory in Dallas, a win at home against our archrivals, the L.A. Galaxy, who led the Western Conference by six points, was crucial. Memories of last fall's tremendous come-back were there, of course, but it's important to note that of the eleven Quakes who started that game, only five of those players started this one (mainly due to injury). L.A. had some injury problems of their own, but not nearly as bad as the Quakes. Midfielder Ronnie Ekelund was out and so Landon Donovan was moved back to play his role with Ching and DeRosario up top, a combination fans have been wanting for a long time. (Last year DeRo recovered from his injury about the time Ching went down, so they never had a chance to play together.)

San Jose came out storming, and the first half -- really the entire game -- was almost all Earthquakes. Chance after chance after chance was had, with L.A. keeper Kevin Hartman making a slew of excellent saves to keep the Galaxy alive. DeRosario was a monster, really aggressive and threatening every time he got the ball. After thirty minutes or so it started to get a little worrisome. With so much domination it's easy to get overconfident and make a defensive mistake. I worried the Gals might score on a counter. They did have a chance or two, the strongest being Cobi Jones' header which came off the crossbar, but the ball did not go in. Then on a brilliant corner kick Brian Ching was at the top the box and when the other Quakes moved away, dragging L.A. defenders with them, he went unmarked into the seam and banged home a terrific header to give the home team the lead just before the half. After the half Ching continued right on. A Mulrooney through ball sent DeRo up the wing and his pin-point cross eluded Hartman and found a rushing Ching who chested it into the goal. A minutes later another defensive mistake sent Brian Mullan in on goal. He's missed a few sitters recently and I could see him hesitate. I was sitting at the perfect angle, directly behind him on his way to goal. I was saying to myself "Go for it, shoot!" and he did! The ball went right past Hartman and into the far corner, a brilliant goal!

But all couldn't be perfect for the Quakes. The make-shift defense has cracks and a bit of bad luck came when a routine shot from Herzog was deflected to wrong-foot Pat Onstad and end up in the goal. Three-one was still a strong lead, but I knew that getting just one would energize the Galaxy and it did. They scrambled and managed to score with a glancing header off a free kick. With only a one goal margin things were really tight now: everyone was no down reliving the miraculous comeback from last November and wondering if the turnaround would be in the other direction this time. But those fears were quickly put to rest via a marvelous performance from Dwayne DeRosario, my man of the match. Hounded by several Galaxy players over on the left side, DeRo spun around, eluding them, and took the ball toward goal. A cut back lost another defender, and then he moved back toward goal in the free space and sent a low grass-buzzing shot into the left side of the goal past a diving Hartman. Four-two! The packed stadium went insane, the Galaxy's spirits slumped, and I knew we had the game wrapped up. The Quakes played good controlled soccer for the final ten minutes or so, not letting the Galaxy have much of a chance and creating a few shots to keep their defense nervous. Then it was over, a rallying 4-2 victory for the Earthquakes, and L.A.'s dreams of revenge vanquished. It was a terrific team performance, with good defense, great attacking play, and tons of unbelievable hard work and running. To show how lopsided the game was, San Jose set a new team record of a whopping 29 shots in the game and Pat only had to make four saves (he had ten last weekend in Dallas). Just awesome. The Quakes are now just three back from the Galaxy in the West and second place in the entire league, and we have a game in hand on L.A. Sweet. Final: 4-2 Earthquakes.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Manny and Lo

Movie: Manny and Lo

Excellent little gem of a film. It's about two sisters, 15 and 11, who are on their own when the oldest, Lo, discovers she's pregnant. Realizing she's in over her head, she and her little sister Manny kidnap a maternity store clerk to help her deliver the baby. Funny as a black comedy, with oddly touching performances (a very young Scarlet Johansson steals the show and makes the film work), it's a fun, quirky little adventure. Though nothing too unexpected happpens, I liked it a lot.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Movie: Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Predictable, trite, silly comedy that falls flat far too often, but still has a few funny moments. The story is basically a washed up former child actor never had a childhood and thus can't relate to people or act, so he hires a surrogate family for a month to teach him what it's like to be a normal child. Yeah, a one-joke premise that quickly wears itself out. What makes it work, barely, is the presence of the "Mom," Mary McCormack, who plays everything straight and manages to keep things from going too over the top. Still, it's a weak film and not as funny as you'd expect based on the premise. The cameos of tons of former child stars adds to the movie, but generally the only humor derived from them is having them use foul language. Intelligent. Uh huh.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Shrek 2

Movie: Shrek 2

Terrific sequel. Has more of the same mixed-up fairy tale humor with a good heart. The story's a little slight -- Shrek and his new bride go visit her King and Queen parents -- but I loved the evil Fairy Godmother character, the witty jokes that come at you like from a gatling gun, and hilarious modern references (singing "Rawhide" during their journey, the "Far Far Away" kingdom as Hollywood, modern music, etc.). The ending's pat, but satisfying. All in all, a great sequel.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I'm Not Scared

Movie: I'm Not Scared

Unusual film from Italy. I hadn't heard of this but the reviews were astoundingly high and the plot sounded fantastic: a young boy in a tiny rural village finds a boy imprisoned in a hole in the ground and befriends him, only to later discover the boy's a kidnap victim and the whole town -- the first boy's parents included -- is in on the plot. The film is viewed from the main kid's point of view, which was an awesome decision because we see the world with the wonder and innocence and fear of a ten-year-old. When he learns of the kidnapping, the boy doesn't understand -- he can't figure out what the adults want with the boy. The performances of the children are incredible. My favorite scene was when the main boy, upset with his parents, decides to run away. He's hiding in a tree and his little sister comes to him. When he tells her their parents are not his parents any more, she says, in perfect lower-lip-trembling innocence, "Does that mean I'm not your little sister any more?" With stubborn cruelty he says, "Yes!" And then she asks if that means she can have his comic book collection! Great twisted moment, turning heart-break into humor. The ending of the film is both unexpected and satisfying, something most films of this type fail to do. Highly recommened and quite remarkable.


Monday, May 17, 2004

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Movie: The Talented Mr. Ripley

This was a surprisingly good film. I remember when it came out I wanted to read the book before seeing it, and I thought the reviews were not kind, but it was excellent. Jude Law is awesome, Matt Damon less so, but competent (he's slightly miscast in the role). The film made me want to read the book, so I'm going to do that. I'm very suprised Hitchcock never filmed this because it's exactly the kind of story he'd love.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Cold Creek Manor

Movie: Cold Creek Manor

This film was badly mismarketed; I remember it being promoted as a supernatural thriller. I knew it was supposed to be bad, but I didn't realize just how bad it was. The premise actually isn't that bad: a family moves the country to avoid city dangers and buys a foreclosed piece of property, Cold Creek Manor. Then the former owner shows up, recently released from jail. He begins to hassle the family in subtle and then not-so-subtle ways, eventually leading to violence. This is supposed to be a psychological thriller similar to Pacific Heights (which was far superior to this dud), and I can see how that could have worked. But the characters are one dimensional and so stupid we really don't care much about them, the plot's predictable, and the ending trite. The whole thing is overblown and overdone. Worst of all, the film was just boring. I read a book during most of it. Not worth anyone's time.


Friday, May 14, 2004

Deception Point

Book: Deception Point
Writer(s): Dan Brown

Dan Brown's best so far, though that's not saying much. This is one of his earlier books and is better written, though he still comes across with the same arrogant, know-it-all attitude despite many obvious inaccurances and errors. Brown also continues his same technique of building suspense by withholding information. For instance, the plot is about a mysterious discovery by NASA -- after pages and pages of build-up, we finally learn the fuss is about the discovery of proof of extra-terrestial life. It's kind of a let-down since that was so predictable. But what makes that discovery important is the fact that it's an election year and the budget of NASA is a big political talking point. Brown's characters are transparent cardboard (especially his ridiculously primitive and stereotyped political figures), but the story's mildly compelling. The ending's predictable and obvious and there wasn't the twist I expected, but overall a better novel than his others and much more readable and enjoyable.


Friday, May 14, 2004


Movie: Troy

Big and spectacular, but Brad Pitt is woefully miscast as Achilles. He seems out of place in every scene -- it's pretty bad. Everyone else is awesome (especially Peter O'Toole). The story's decent, but doesn't seem to follow the original story very faithfully. (Didn't the seige of Troy last ten years? Here everything takes place over a few weeks.) One problem is that there aren't any real heroes. The Trojans have our sympathy, but they did steal Helen to provoke the war. The Greeks are greedy snakes and Achilles is a mere killer, so who does one cheer for? In the end the war is just sad and meaningless and the "glory" Achilles seeks seems tainted and worthless. Supposedly we're to be impressed by the war, but I was just left feeling dirty. Still, the action is good: the sword fights are excellent and the battle scenes impressive. The shots of the city of Troy burning are amazing, as is the fleet of ships the Greeks bring. It's a long movie at nearly three hours, but it didn't feel as long as I expected. Overall I was pleased, but it was a shame the film was tainted with Pitt's awkward presence. It could have been better.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Blue Car

Movie: Blue Car

Terrific film about a troubled teenage girl who's father has left and who discovers a dangerous mentor in her poetry teacher. At first the relationship is innocent, but gradually becomes serious. It's a very simple story, elegantly portrayed, with terrific acting. The characters are believable and real; it's a beautiful film, though emotional and sad.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Mean Girls

Movie: Mean Girls
Writer(s): Tina Fey

This was excellent; the plot's predicatable to an extent -- new girl has trouble fitting into school and figuring out who her real friends are and screws up but succeeds in the end -- but the perspective is fresh, coming from a female writer. High school cliques are mocked, girls obssession with fashion and appearance, etc. It's a bit like Clueless crossed with The Breakfast Club. Not particularly deep, but fun and funny, and well-directed and acted.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Shattered Glass

Movie: Shattered Glass

Wow, this is a fantastic movie! It's about the real-life story of Stephen Glass, a writer for the New Republic, who fabricated dozens of stories for the magazine before finally getting caught. This is about how he was caught and what he did, and it's an exciting, interesting story. It's a little sad as well, because while Glass was certainly wrong, he does come across as pathetically young. He started off fabricating a quote or two, and when he got away with that, he started making up entire stories. A great movie, especially for those interested in writing and writers.


Saturday, May 8, 2004

MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

WOW! What a game! The Quakes have been off to a slow start this season and really needed a big win at home after two ties. Things started off poorly with a quick long-range goal from New York, but picked up with a terrific bit of play from Landon Donovan -- a slick backheel to free Brian Ching who finished wonderfully. A few minutes later, new Quake member Chris Brown got his first goal, also with a nice assist from Landon, who had a fantastic game. But the lead didn't last long when Vaca struck a laser into the upper left corner of the goal from a mile away. Just ridiculous. The Quake defense just gave him too much time and space. The Quakes came right back with a great opportunity from Landon who dribbled his way into the box and almost scored. A moment later, he did score -- in the box he juggled the ball keeping it away from the defenders and finished it was a splendid side volley. Goal of the Year candidate in my opinion. That goal gave the Quakes the lead just before the half and it looked like ideal timing... until NY's Fabian Taylor equalized on yet another long bomb that beat Pat Onstad. I don't really blame Pat that much on the goals as it was more the defense that gave the Metros so much time to shoot, but man, that was a wild first half. Six goals!

In the second half the Quakes played better. It was obvious they were bound and determined to win this match. Landon was a phenom, just everywhere, and every touch productive and dangerous. It looked like things had gone the Quakes way when a run by Donovan was stopped by a foul and the ref ordered a penalty kick. Except that a moment later the ref reversed his own decision after discussing matters with his assistant ref. Crazy! Why not consult first and decide second? As it was the ref's mind-changing was disappointing and confusing for the player. Yes, on the video replay it did look like the foul was outside the box so it shouldn't have been a penalty -- but why call it and then change it? And why no yellow card on the break-away foul? Stupid refereeing. A few minutes later the Quakes were given a penalty kick. It was a foul on Mulrooney in the box and Ekeland finished it easily. The one goal lead was padded to two when defender Craig Waibel headed home a Jeff Agoos free kick. Things were looking much better but then Goose foolishly tripped Glen in the box and New York was given a penalty of their own, which they quickly converted. The Quakes still led, but the game was now tight. The ref got involved again when he didn't eject New York's Glen after he deliberately shoved Waibel into the wall off the pitch, and when an elbow to Ching's jaw went uncalled: it should have been another penalty kick. Those moments came back to haunt the Quakes when in the 90th minute a harmless shot by Eddie Gaven was deflected by Glen into the Quakes' goal: the score was now tied at a whopping five each! That's the way she finished; another draw at home for the Quakes. But what a game! Every goal was quality and show individual or team brilliance. Extremely entertaining, though heart-in-mouth for Quake fans. Wow, ten goals! That's a tie for second place for most goals in a match (it's only happened twice before and only one game had more goals, an eleven goal match by LA in 1998). Just crazy. The Quakes had the offensive hunger of last year, though: I expect them to keep it up! Final: 5-5.


Saturday, May 8, 2004

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd

Movie: Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd

Well the first movie was crude but funny. This movie tried honestly in a few places, but in general was just dumb. Some of the verbal "dumb" jokes were clever but so quick they were easy to miss, and the dumbness of the plot just didn't help matters. Not a needed sequel and it shows.


Friday, May 7, 2004

Van Helsing

Movie: Van Helsing

This film is receiving a critical bash and I can't figure out why. it's like film reviewers do not understand the concept of a movie as mere entertainment. To go into this movie expecting anything more than stylish action and spectacular special effects is just silly. While most critics are down on the slender storyline, I was actually impressed it was as full as it was! I've certainly seen movies with much less story than this one. But any story is almost beside the point. This is an action film and special effects vehicle. That's it. Don't go see it for any other reason. In that respect, the film delivers what it promises. The stars are cool and beautiful, the action is non-stop, the story has some unusual twists and nicely blends numerous classic horror elements like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, and there's the requisite moments of humor. It's fun. The digital special effects are everywhere and generally very impressive, though occasionally cheesy or just move too fast for reality. The latter's actually a criticism: often the action's just too fast to appreciate what happened. It takes away from any realism (assuming anything in this type of film is believable). There are some strange action events, too, like a scene where the female lead, who is human, is tossed against the side of a castle and bounces downward like a pinball and then gets up just fine. I didn't really get that. Sure, she's supposed to be tough, but she's not supposed to possess superhuman capabilities like the monsters in the film. Rather weird. Of course logic should not be used in evaluating this kind of a movie. In general, the action's interesting and pretty cool, though the climax goes on too long. Fun.


Thursday, May 6, 2004

Pieces of April

Movie: Pieces of April

I sort of wanted to see this but it sounded a little boring so I skipped it in the theatres. Big mistake. It's wonderful. It's not boring at all. The story's simple and the director intelligently keeps the film short (less than 90 minutes). I wish more directors would do that. Many, many of today's films would be better at 60 minutes than they are at 120. But back to the movie. I had heard this was about a girl preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner. Well, that didn't sound too exciting. But what was missing from that description is very important. First, the girl is estranged from her family: she hasn't seen them in years, and they disapprove of her lifestyle and choices. Second, the girl's mother is dying of cancer and this will probably be their last Thanksgiving and last chance for any kind of reconcilation. Ah, now the story has impact and importance! Why wasn't that info in the previews and descriptions? Who knows; it doesn't spoil anything but makes the film more intriguing. What follows is a relatively simple story: the girl struggling with the turkey dinner, her oven dying and her running from apartment to apartment trying to find an oven to use; the family driving to visit her, arguing and dreading a conflict-filled visit; the mother, troubled and dying and impulsive; and the girl's black boyfriend, not at all what her parents are expecting. The ending is fantastic: not a wrong note anywhere. Short and sweet, dramatic without being overdone. This film is a nice, well-done, emotional story without a lot of frills. Perfect.

One tip to the filmmakers: if you use an oven bag, you can cook that 15-pound turkey in two-and-a-half hours instead of five. Of course that would have eliminated one of the film's central conflicts!


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

13 Going on 30

Movie: 13 Going on 30

I really really liked this movie! The critics compared it to a mediocre Big and we're impressed, but I thought it was great. It's obviously not a life-changing sort of film, but it's fun, clever, and very entertaining. Jennifer Garner is a vision and delight and displays some amazing comedic acting chops, somehow channeling a 13-year-old girl inside her adult body. The story itself is predictable: an awkward 13-year-old girl wishes she were a mature 30 and wakes up 17 years later. She's still 13 in her mind but has the body and career of a 30-year-old. Humor is gleaned from this mismatch, of course, but heart comes through when the innocent inner girl changes the cold-hearted bitch the 30-year-old had become. It's light-hearted fun, but Garner brings a warm sincerity to the role that makes it charming and wonderful. It can be trite or sacchrine at times, but overall it's pleasant and just plain entertaining. Highly recommended for the children in all of us.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004


Movie: Duplex
Director(s): Danny Devito

Another black comedy from the director who brought us Throw Mama From the Train (I liked it, but I love black comedies). Like most of these kinds of films it's uneven, but it has some really funny moments. Overall I liked it, especially the ending, but unfortunately the tone of the film feels negative. It's not always fun to watch because so many bad things happen it feels like it's too much. The basic plot is this: a young couple buy a duplex but because of rent control, they can't kick out the old woman upstairs. She seems innocent and harmless, but she drives them crazy and makes their life miserable. Eventually they actually plot to kill her, but even that fails. It's a neat idea -- the ineptitude of failing to kill a harmless old woman is hilarious -- but so much of the film is dark and depressing you want to turn it off before the end. Too bad, because it has some funny parts and the hilarious ending explains everything. Black comedy fans will like this; others may have reservations.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

The Eyre Affair

Book: The Eyre Affair
Writer(s): Jasper Fforde

Fascinating book and hilariously witty idea. This is a story set in a fictional world where literature is all-important and reality is flexible. It's a bit Harry Potterish, in that sense. But instead of magic, this is just fanciful strangeness, usually with grammatical humor. For instance, one of the characters, an encentric scientist, modifies the DNA of bookworms to turn them into a thesaurus. You feed them text and they read it, producing ampersands and apostrophes as a waste product! The main story is about Thursday Next, a Literary Detective, who's out to catch the fiend who's been messing with great novels. When the fiend kidnaps Jane out of Jane Eyre, Thursday must go into the novel to stop him. This sounds and is terrific, but unfortunately so much happens in this novel that's not part of the main plot that I found it difficult to keep motivated reading. The main story would probably take less than 100 pages: the book's 350. Some of the other stuff is really interesting and funny, but there's a bit too much unrelated stuff going on and the main story lags. Still, it's a brilliant idea and the characters are cool. Jasper's written several sequels which I shall definitely be reading.


Tuesday, May 4, 2004

My Boss' Daughter

Movie: My Boss' Daughter

A surprisingly okay comedy. It tries too hard at times and there's too much gutter humor, but in general it's not too bad. Certainly not as crude and lame as it sounded from the previews. The plot's about a regular guy who's interested in his boss' daughter and ends up house sitting for the guy. Everything goes wrong to ridiculous extremes (strange visitors, distruction and mayhem, etc.) but ends up happily ever after. Predictable but has some good moments and the basic romatic storyline is okay.


Monday, May 3, 2004

Man on Fire

Movie: Man on Fire
Director(s): Tony Scott

This is a strange and uncomfortable movie. It's two different movies in one and doesn't make a lot of sense. The script definitely needed another rewrite. It's about a troubled man with a mysterious past who takes on a job in Mexico as the bodyguard for a little girl. When she's kidnapped and killed, the guy takes it on himself to track down the kidnappers and kill them one by one. In the first half we meet the guy and see his relationship develop with the little girl. At first he wants to be cold and doesn't want to be her friend, but she gradually wins him over. It's touching and sweet, innocent and tender. But after the kidnapping suddenly the movie is explosions, blood splatter, and violent torture. It's an uncomfortable switch. The first half feels like a light-hearted family comedy; suddenly it's a dour, grim action movie. In his quest for revenge the guy has no scrupples whatsoever and it seems a deliberate tact on the part of the filmmakers to make us question if the guy's a good guy or not. That's not a good tact because the film should be telling us that, not forcing us to decide without giving us all the information. It makes watching the action uncomfortable. In Kill Bill: Volume One, another revenge flick, the attitude of the film tells us to root for the heroine even if we don't know why she's killing or if it's justified. I enjoyed the action in that movie, but not in this one.

Another problem is the ending, whch is bizarre and doesn't make much sense. I guess their's some "justice" to it, but I was expecting more. (Spoiler alert: stop here if you don't want the ending revealed.) In the film the bodyguard trades himself for the girl. That's weird because the guy already has the kidnapper's brother -- wouldn't he trade his brother for the girl? Yet he wants his brother and the bodyguard -- weird. Finally, I was expecting -- especially after earlier seeing the bodyguard's expertise with explosives -- that he would blow himself up with all the bad guys. But that didn't happen. Instead he was apparently killed but the film tacked on some text to reveal that the kidnapper was later caught by the authorities. What kind of wimpy ending is that? Lame lame lame. At least let him take out 30 bad guys in a bang, making his trading of himself make some sense. As it was he just let himself be slaughtered and it was just dumb.

Overall, a lame and poor excuse for a film. Not worth your time. If you want, rent it and watch the pleasant first half, but stop when the girl's kidnapped. Or just start it there and see it as a mediocre action film. But both parts together just don't fit and the ending is just pitiful.


Saturday, May 1, 2004

MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

After struggling last week in an extremely poor performance against Colorado, the Quakes are back with an improvement, but are still not the championship team from last year. I am not too worried, however. They show glimpses of their old form and just need more time to settle down. If they can peak toward the end of the season the team should be fine, make the play-offs, and defend their championship in the final again.

This game was a huge sellout (18,000 packed into tiny Spartan Stadium) because it was 14-year-old Freddy Adu's first visit to the Bay Area. And he started his first match! It was cool to see Freddy -- my season ticket seat is front row and he was almost close enough to touch -- but other than a few nice plays, he really wasn't a factor in the game. That's too be expected: keep in mind he's only 14 and though he's got fantastic skills, it still takes a while to get used to playing at this level. He'll be fine. I just worry the media will put too much pressure on the league, creating an atmosphere where the non-soccer watching public will expect Freddy to do awesome stuff and when he doesn't, they'll fade away. Freddy will do awesome stuff: just maybe not this year.

Not counting the Freddy factor, this was still a decent game. The Quakes had tons of early changes and scored in the first half off a Jeff Agoos free kick and Troy Dayak header. Great goal. But in the second half the heat (it was a 1 p.m. kickoff and quite warm) seemed to take its toll. Landon played 90 minutes for the USA against Mexico on Wednesday and it showed as he faded late in the half. None of the Quakes really sparkled in the second half. A bit of missed marking and poor timing gave D.C. a tiny opening and they took it, with Dema Kovalenko scoring. I felt that was harsh, because ten minutes earlier Dema should have been red carded. He had a violent foul against Brian Mullan and was yellow carded. In the very next play he deliberately shoulder-charged Mullan into the sideline, knocking Brian down. He didn't even try for the ball, just took out the man. That's normally an automatic yellow. If I was the ref I'd give it even faster considering he'd just been booked -- a yellow's supposed to be a warning after all -- but this ref decided to be merciful and just called a foul with no second yellow card. Poor decision in my opinion, but we really can't say it decided the match since the Quakes didn't really deserve a win considering their lackluster second half. But they certainly didn't deserve to lose and a point each seems like a fair result in the end. Final: 1-1.