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Go! Go! Go!

While I get the domain forwarding set up, the new site is up and running.

GO HERE.  NOW.

Update your bookmarks, tell your family, your friends, your dog and cat and fish.

Thanks, guys!   The new digs still have some kinks to be worked out, but you know, the new space should be a lot better for everyone.

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You may not know this (you do if you follow me on Twitter, since you’ve been reading a lot of it lately), but I am a hockey fan.

Like all crazy sports fans, there is always one team I can’t stand.   In this case, it is the Detroit Red Wings, who I am convinced made some sort of pact with Satan and who I am so tired of seeing hoist the Stanley Cup.  Therefore, they cannot win this year.  It’s unacceptable.   I’ll take anyone but the Wings!  Anyone!   And that dude up top, Evgeni Nabokov, holds all my anti-Wings hopes and dreams right now.  The San Jose Sharks must stop the Wings for me this year.

Game starts at 8:00 p.m. my time; if you’re a hockey fan who visits, feel free to muck around in the comments and chit-chat about the game while it’s going on or afterwards.

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District 9 opens with an overview of the situation at hand.  Years prior, a spaceship full of half-starved, desperate aliens coasted to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa.   Presented with over a million aliens to care for, the South African government contracts with a corporation called MNU to set up facilities for the aliens.   Before long, the refugee camp becomes a permanent slum.   Human/alien tensions rise, crime soars, and anti-alien laws are enacted.

Given the awful nickname of “prawn”, the aliens are corralled into District 9, where gangsters prey on their poverty and desperation and MNU schemes to harness the aliens’ weaponry for their own ends.

District 9 utilizes the style of a documentary and introduces us to Wikus van der Merwe, an affable kind of guy with a great wife and a father-in-law in charge at MNU.   Wikus is the sort of guy who is the perpetually cheery, socially stunted sort of coworker you don’t like to get stuck in an elevator with.   He’s charged with getting eviction papers signed by all aliens before they are moved to District 10, a new “settlement” for the aliens.  While investigating an alien dwelling, Wikus is sprayed with some sort of black substance, which causes him to begin changing into a prawn.   He is taken into MNU custody, escapes, and runs to District 9 where he begins to seek answers about his condition.   Christopher, an alien with a small child, tells him the black substance will power the ship hovering over Johannesburg and they must get it back.   If they get it back, Wikus can be cured.

My main concern with District 9 was that the CGI would be distracting, as is so often the case, but the prawns are beautifully rendered and look as realistic as it gets, to be quite honest.   Wikus’ transformation from man to prawn is equally realistic, as if he’s Brundlefly without the exuberance at his transformation.

In fact, District 9 is one hell of a finely crafted sci-fi movie.  Wikus van der Merwe is horrifically, realistically human; Wikus condescends to the prawns even when he needs their help, constantly is looking out for his own interests and is only willing to make a change (albeit a slow, agonizing change) after witnessing the horrors that MNU, and by proxy, he has participated in.   Wikus is an incredibly flawed, at times unsympathetic character, but Neil Blomkamp boosts the character with the portrayal that all Wikus really wants is to get home to his wife, who he loves beyond measure.

District 9 is an unlikely Hollywood film.  Made in South Africa, featuring unknown actors and featuring a cast of humans who are the very worst kind of human and aliens that are probably the most human, it’s the kind of movie that got legs somewhere and it’s good that it did.   Sharlto Copley does a hell of a job breathing life into Wikus and Neil Blomkamp shoots the whole thing beautifully.   It may be weird to say, but my favorite character in the whole shebang is Christopher’s young son, who may be the most adorable alien ever put to film.

A very solid entry into the science fiction genre, I would imagine you’ll see District 9 on many “top sci-fi movies” lists in the future.  If we were running on the star rating here, I’d give it 4/5.

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10!

I got tagged by the ever awesome Whitney over at Dear Jesus for this one.  The premise is to list ten movie facts about yourself and then tag some people.

(The Count is my favorite.)

1.   My sisters and I tormented our parents as kids with approximately 10,987,134 viewings of E.T., Dirty Dancing and Follow That Bird.  My father cannot stand any more of Follow That Bird anymore, ever.  I believe if he is ever forced to see it again, he may have a complete psychotic break.  It remains one of my favorite movies from my childhood.   I have since come to understand how my father felt after an estimated 974 viewings of Finding Nemo with my nephew.

2.   Speaking of my parents, if you were a movie loving kid, my parents were great to have.  They pushed movies on us that we bitched endlessly about (read:  black and white) or movies that weren’t necessarily popular at the time.  I think I have a broader appreciation for movies because of that.  Also, they let me watch The Blues Brothers when I was really young, something that I think qualifies them for the Cool Parents Hall of Fame or something.

3.  I do not like very many romantic comedies.   There are exceptions, but I have problems with the way women are portrayed in a lot of them.  The prime offender in this category is stuff like Pretty Woman, which has so many problems, if I had to list them all we’d be here all day.  I find it slightly odd that shoes!dresses!makeup!mentroubles! end up being shorthand for what it means to be an (usually) American woman.

4.   I hate 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  THERE. I said it.  I CANNOT HELP IT.  May I never have to watch it ever ever ever EVER again.

5.   The older I get, the less I like John Wayne.

6.   I have cheerfully deranged reactions to people who have similar movie tastes to mine when I meet them in real life.  I can get a little over-enthusiastic.    If I ever meet you, reader, in person, I’m sorry in advance for the fact that I might appear to have snorted Pop Rocks in the bathroom.

7.  I worked for Blockbuster for two years.   After spending days listening to the same five minute trailer reel on loop eight hours a day, the following movies can go die in a fire:  Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Grizzly Man, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Closer.   God, the worst was that Diary of a Mad Black Woman trailer.  I listened to it every work day hundreds of times a day for months.

8.   For a movie buff, I rarely go to theaters.  This is because I hate going by myself, and usually no one I know wants to/has time to go see a movie.  So I catch everything on DVD.

9.  Number of times I saw Titanic in the theater:  5.    At least I got more awesome the older I got, what can I say?   And looking back, why in the holy hell did I find Leonardo DiCaprio attractive?   He looks like a squished ferret.

1o.   The movie I have gotten the most mileage out of quoting?   Zoolander.

Tag, you’re it:

Allison @ NerdVampire’s film blog

JD @ Valley Dreamin’

And you, YES, you!, if you feel so inclined.

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So… I lost my job yesterday.

I think the accurate term in the situation is “laid off”.   The particulars aren’t fascinating, but basically I am now without employment.

I’ve discovered job hunting only takes up so much of your day, so I’ll have a bit more time to blog while I’m searching for some place that would like to trade me some money in exchange for my hard work and general awesomeness.

Financially, I feel okay.   I’ll make it without wondering if carpet or that old pair of shoes is edible, or if I should switch my address to “third cardboard box on the right under the overpass”.  But after the past four years in my chosen profession of constant stress and long-ish hours, I am determined to at least enjoy the time I’m not spending in a pressure cooker.

So, you know…yeah.   Full steam ahead and all that.

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For the past couple of days, I’ve been off of work and I desperately needed to do something that I haven’t had a chance to do in a while:  go see a movie.  And given my current situation (more on that later), I needed something light-hearted, something that didn’t take itself seriously or was going to leave me even more of an emotional wreck.  Clash of the Titans it was, then, so I hopped off to the theater yesterday in the afternoon to go see it.

Clash of the Titans‘ greatest asset is the insane cast Louis Leterrier and company got lined up.  Pete Postlethewaite opens the movie, gaunt and bearded, as Spyros.  Mads Mikkleson and Liam Cunningham play soldiers from Argos.   Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes play Zeus and Hades, respectively.   That’s a lot of good actors to squeeze into a movie.

Sam Worthington is Perseus, a boy rescued from a casket at sea by fisherman Spyros and his wife when Perseus was a mere baby.   Perseus is happy as a fisherman and Spyros tells the young orphan that someday, someone will have to stand up to the cruelty of the gods.   On a nice day, the family is fishing when a group of soldiers from Argos topple a statue of Zeus, declaring that humans no longer need to worship the gods.   Hades rises from the deep, striking the soldiers down for their insolence and destroys Perseus’ family for their insolence.

On Olympus, Zeus is furious.   In Zeus’ eyes, the humans are ungrateful for the great gift of life he has bestowed upon them; he asks in return their love and prayers to sustain his immortality.   His fury leads Hades to persuade Zeus to allow Hades free reign in punishing the humans’ uprising.   Zeus agrees and Hades schemes to overthrow his older brother that cursed him to the underworld.   After a mortal queen claims that her daughter Andromeda is more lovely than any goddess, Hades appears and punishes her by giving the city of Argos an ultimatum:  sacrifice Andromeda or sacrifice the city to Hades’ wrath.   Either way, the Kraken will be summoned.

Perseus begins a quest to find a way to save Andromeda, Argos and avenge his family’s death at the hands of Hades with a group of Argosian (?) soldiers.  They visit some witches, go slay Medusa and Perseus returns on a pegasus to defeat the Kraken.  (Spoiler!)   There are scorpion fights and djinns and all sorts of godly muckings about.

Leterrier is great at directing action; both here in and Transporter 2 he has always directed tense scenes that have necessary urgency while still being able to be clear about who is doing what and where and when, something other action directors often fail at doing.   The cast is mostly great, although Gemma Arterton as Io is so boring one is tempted to cheer when she finally exits the film.   I genuinely like Sam Worthington but not necessarily as Perseus.  Worthington has a sort of nice normalcy about him that seems to be rare in Hollywood, but Sam, darling, please, please work on losing that Australian accent or keep it altogether.  Seesawing between the two is distracting.

The whole story is very odd; the furious Zeus steps into help the humans he wishes to destroy, adopts the son he spurned previously as his own; the other gods are given the barest of mentions.  After Act I, Perseus only briefly mentions his adopted father Spyros; out of the trio of godly brothers of Poseidon, Hades and Zeus, Poseidon is given short shrift with a whopping two seconds of screen time and no involvement in the plot.   Andromeda is set up as a love interest for Perseus and then dropped in favor of the ageless Io.   It is odd and strange, but I guess I didn’t see Clash of the Titans for the story as much as the action – and Liam Neeson, natch.   (CHUD has a great article here on this.)

Which brings me to the weird of all this.

If I could ask anything, it would be what in the holy fuck the costume designer was smoking on this film, because never in my wildest nightmares did I think that it would be possible to make Liam Neeson look like someone genetically fused Waylon Jennings and Liberace together in one unholy body.   Observe:

WHAT. IS. THAT?

And Fiennes doesn’t get the better treatment, either – for some reason, his hairline’s receded an inch and looks like he has a band of grit traveling down his forehead.  Why?  Who knows?!   Everyone else has long, braided locks but Sam Worthington for some inexplicable reason has a shaved head.  I don’t get it.

Clash of the Titans isn’t bad, it’s just messy in the story area and the CGI is distracting at times.   Titans is a fun movie; it was worth the $8.00 to hear Neeson order “Release the Kraken!”  and Liam Cunningham chewed some valuable scenery.   It was nice, fun, exciting and light-hearted, which was precisely what I needed at the moment.

I give it a B-, myself, but your mileage my vary.

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Uh, not the Sean Penn version.

Jack Burden is a young newspaper reporter sent out to the small town of Kenosha to cover a story that’s interesting to his editor because it’s about “an honest man”.   Willie Stark is a Kenosha man tired of the corrupt politicians, so he runs for county tax collector.   Burden is intrigued; Stark does seem honest and righteous, the kind of guy who doesn’t drink and refuses to bow to the local good old boys who terrorize his family, throw bricks in his windows and prevent him from passing out handbills and talking to the townsfolk.   Stark warns of corruption in the contracts issued for building the new school.  He loses the election, but a group of slick politicians show up and convince Stark to run for governor.   It is their hope that he’ll split the vote between the two major candidates, thereby allowing a specific candidate to win.

Burden goes back to his newspaper job, but quits after a while, disillusioned with the fact that the paper owners want him to write stories that support a candidate other than Stark.

After Burden and campaign worker Sadie Burke inadvertently reveal to Stark the brutal truth of why he’s in the governor’s race, all bets are off.

Stark unleashes rage and fury at the men who set him up and at the establishment in general, appealing to his fellow men, the poor and the downtrodden — the “hicks”, as Stark calls them.   He goes ballistic.    He does not, however, win the election.

He spends his time preparing for the next election while Burden watches from a distance, Stark striking shady deals with corporations and spending money like its going out of style on circuses and barbeques for voters.    Stark gets elected the next time, with Burke at his side and now, in his bed.   He gives up the teetotaling in favor of drink and leaves his wife at home to spend time with Sadie and later, another woman.   His zeal for the common man turns ruthless and brutal, self-serving and greedy.   Jack Burden is hired as his hatchet man, and after that, everyone Burden knows that comes in contact with Willie Stark is painfully destroyed in some fashion.

Ideas are often noble and carry with them some sense of purity.    The problem is that once human beings must act on ideas, such concepts are left to the fallibility of human nature.   Ideas might be noble, but there is no such thing as a perfect human being.

Willie Stark starts out with a very noble goal:  to take back the government from the corrupt politicians in power.   He appeals to the very best of human nature while unleashing the absolute worst in himself.   Stark justifies some very brutal actions – bribery, blackmail, even murder – by telling himself that it is for the good of the people.   When Stark’s son kills a girl in a drunk driving accident, Stark attempts to bribe the girl’s father with a lucrative contract for the truth to remain hidden, something Stark himself railed against.   The father turns him down, disgusted, and later, the man disappears.  It is only when the man’s badly beaten body is discovered that Stark’s staff realizes the man was murdered for standing up for the right thing.   All those in Stark’s path lose their innocence or possibly even more.

Stark promised the people of his state certain things, things that he did deliver – a new hospital, museums, universities – but at what cost?    He destroys lives for the right vote or for a pair of eyes set to look the other way.   Indeed, Stark’s own reliance on the justification that he is doing all this for the little guy is just a smooth veneer on Stark’s need to feed his own ego, line his own pockets and solidify his power base.

It’s a cautionary tale, one based on Huey Long’s life, which Robert Penn Warren (the writer of the book All the King’s Men) witnessed first-hand.    The axiom absolute power corrupts absolutely might be a bit tired to trot out, but it’s nonetheless true.   Stark starts out as perhaps the best of men and ends up the wretched worst.   Broderick Crawford is perfect as Stark, a mix of righteous indignation and self-serving interest.    It’s a movie that doesn’t leave you easily, since Stark is so eerie and creepy, his staff and hangers-on so readily compliant and the crowds cheering him on.    All The King’s Men is the telling of a story of the worst of human nature, a warning, a lesson on what we choices we make to when it comes to the terrible side of life.

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