Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

2/17/2004

Ocean’s Eleven

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 am

“Did you guys get my email about the cool idea I had?”

“Is this the idea where we sit on the couch and watch movies for four hours?”

Dan doesn’t mince words. It was clear to all of us that he was not enthralled with the idea of watching two movies in a row.

“Yeah, but it will be really cool. It’s Frank Sinatra Vs. George Clooney. We’ll watch the original Ocean’s Eleven with Frank Sinatra and then watch the new Ocean’s Eleven with George Clooney. Then we can argue about which one is better.”

Stacey, Dan and Mike were concurrent: George Clooney is better. Sight unseen, they were certain that the original Ocean’s Eleven couldn’t hold a candle to the new one. I hadn’t seen the original, so I couldn’t defend it. Then again, who could beat Old Blue Eyes? George Clooney? I think not. The point of contention was not the aversion to watching old movies that they all have. It was the four hours on the couch, which is something that I can do on a TV binge without even thinking. I didn’t even see that coming.

We decided to watch the original last Sunday and compare it to what we remembered of the new one. We got Free Wheeler Pizza from the old Mad Platter building and sat down to an evening of smooth talkers and one big Las Vegas Heist. There was only one rule: we would fast forward through any singing.

There was nothing that I remember from the new Ocean’s Eleven. Daniel Ocean hasn’t just gotten out of jail. Daniel Ocean is still married to his wife, even though she has walked out on him and got an unnamed job. Daniel Ocean isn’t even the idea man. The idea man is anguishing over the project with a sidekick that builds card houses. They pick up one of their accomplices at a burlesque show and we had to have an argument about exactly what a burlesque show is.

Best Line (said to a stripper at the Burlesque show): “Honey, I want to take you home and spread you on my waffles!”

Worst Line (said by Angie Dickinson to her husband, Frank Sinatra) “Danny, we both know that you love one thing and that thing is danger.”

We fast forwarded through the gratuitous singing of Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin. We suffered through so many scene changes and different players that we were confused. All I know is the Electrical Man has lung cancer so he wants his share to pay for his kid’s college. “With your share, you can buy your kid a college.” I had that strange feeling that comes with old movies when I realized his kid is probably old enough to be my father by now.

All of this, and we only lasted thirty minutes. We turned off the original after only thirty minutes. When I finished fast forwarding through Dean singing to himself at the piano before a gaggle of platinum blondes walked in, they all agreed that they couldn’t take one more minute. We popped out the DVD of the original and popped in George Clooney. I would like to say I was outnumbered, but even I was cringing at the corniness of it all. I wanted to see a real heist.

You can’t imagine how much more pleasurable it was to watch the new one after just seeing thirty minutes of the original. We saw George Clooney walk into the strip joint to pick up Brad Pitt and we all recognized it, “The Burlesque Show!” At Elliot Gould’s fancy house, we saw the Chinese Acrobat sitting on the diving board, “The House of Cards!”  When the big fight started, they panned over the celebrities who were attending the fight and guess who we saw, “Angie Dickinson!” Julia Roberts looked eerily like the young Angie Dickinson. Since we had only seen thirty minutes of the original, that was where the little in-jokes stopped for us. I wonder how the movie would have been for us had we been able to watch the whole damn thing.

Next time, we’ll do it right. We’ll do The Thomas Crown Affair. It’ll be Steve McQueen Vs. Pierce Brosnan! Pierce Brosnan is the best James Bond we’ve had since Sean Connery. Who could be a better Thomas Crown? Then again, it’s Steve McQueen! All he needs is a fast machine! Hard call. Who do you think will win?

2/29/2004

Adult Eyes

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“I have something for you.”

One of my engineers stopped me when I walked into the office on Thursday. He went into his office and returned with a VHS tape: Xanadu. Olivia Newton-John’s face and windblown hair stared back at me. I was truly happy to see her.

“Xanadu! I haven’t seen this movie since I was in sixth grade.”

I remembered that the two of us had talked about this movie. I was a child when I saw it and he was a father with a child almost my age. He loved the movie so much that he bought it. I was curious to see how well it aged.

I haven’t watched it yet. I am still in that state that loves the movie as only a child could. Olivia Newton-John was the roller-skating muse of music. She inspired Gene Kelly during World War II. I remember her inspiring Andy Gibb to build a roller disco, but when I look at the credits, it looks like that character was played by an actor named Michael Beck. Both IMDB and Amazon have Michael Beck playing the character of Sonny Malone.

I had a BeeGees record player when I was in sixth grade and I remember thinking that I could use that record player to open my own roller disco. Maybe I just made the strange connection to the Brothers Gibb in my own mind.

I remember one scene where there is a competition between the Big Bands and the Rock N Rollers. There was a song for the Big Band people and lots of jitterbug dancing, then there was a song for the Rock N Rollers and lots of modern dance. At the end, the two stages merged into one and the songs merged as well. I could still sing both songs and the merged version for you to this day. It was beautiful. I wanted to be a Big Band singer so much. It’s probably why I’m obsessed with the Andrew Sisters and Peggy Lee to this day.

I remember being so impressed with Gene Kelly playing a clarinet. I’m sure that my adult eyes will see right through that now. In fact, I’ve been procrastinating my viewing just because I don’t want my adult eyes to see right through the magic. I enjoyed that movie so much when I was eleven years old that I can’t imagine it will look the same at thirty-four. I could have rented this movie on my own any time that I wanted, yet I hadn’t watched it.

Now, my engineer has brought this movie in to me. I  don’t want to lose the magic, but he is going to ask me if I watched it when I return the tape. He loves Olivia Newton-John and will be disappointed if I don’t love the movie with the same fervor with my adult eyes as I did with my child eyes. Maybe I should just pretend that I watched it.

3/2/2004

Xanadu Update

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 8:50 pm

Please read Adult Eyes before reading this entry:

I just finished watching Xanadu with my adult eyes. It’s not nearly as bad as I was worried that it would be. The corn factor wasn’t as high as I expected. I found it amazingly entertaining considering it’s twenty-four years old.

I used to think that Flashdance was the first breakdancing that I ever saw, but I was wrong. The breakdancers at the end of Xanadu that are dressed in swinging twenties zoot suits weren’t the focus of the movie, but they are a first for me. I didn’t even notice that I saw breakdancing a full five years before I thought I did.

I didn’t even remember the Disneyesque music montage to “Don’t Walk Away.” First they are tiny little people in a red rose, then they turn into gold fish, then they turn into birds and finally they turn into tiny little people in a rosebud again. Did you notice that the bird was wearing leg warmers?

I did remember the shopping montage to the song “All Over The World.” If you ask me, Gene Kelly was dressed better before they went shopping. I liked the dancing mannequins, though. That punked out hair didn’t really hit the big time until Pink showed up on the scene with “There You Go” a full twenty years later.

Wow, that was so totally NOT Andy Gibb. I don’t know what happened to my eleven year old brain to mix those two guys up, but I was totally wrong. Even though I read the credits and knew that Sonny’s part was played by an actor named Michael Beck, I thought that maybe Andy Gibb had been working under a pseudonym or something. Maybe they didn’t want another Peter Frampton episode, so they made him change his name. That’s what I thought before the first scene of the movie. I don’t know how I mixed that one up in my head.

I could sing almost all of the songs word for word, beginning to end. I think I’ve only seen the movie once or maybe twice, but I listened to the Xanadu Soundtrack at least a million times. “Whenever You’re Away From Me” came back to me so clearly that I could sing every word, even though I couldn’t have named the song before the movie started. God, I wish I could have danced with Gene Kelly. Olivia Newton-John was the luckiest girl of 1980.

Tomorrow, I need to return the movie to my engineer, but never fear. I’ve ordered the movie at the library on DVD. Maybe there will be some cool special features and I can obsess about it even more. I’m so glad that I didn’t get disappointed. Sure, it was a typical 1980′s type of movie. It was the epitome of the 80′s, but any movie that shows me Gene Kelly dancing, singing, roller skating and pretending to play the clarinet is totally worth the ride!

5/2/2004

Donnie Darko

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I like to think that I have my fingers on the pulse of the disturbed teen market, but this one was a total surprise to me. I was shopping at Hot Topic a few weeks ago and I was scanning the CD’s and movies that they had for sale. I had already picked out the belly button ring that I wanted, but I was just kind of browsing. They had Office Space (saw it, I guess it was ok) and The Lost Boys (of course). Then I noticed the title to a movie I didn’t recognize, Donnie Darko. I filed the name under, Hot Topic, and went to look at the vinyl underwear and bustier sets.

A few days later, I was shopping on Amazon. Actually, I wasn’t shopping, I was looking to see when my Bosu Ball was going to be delivered to my house and just kept looking at Amazon when I was done. Under my DVD Recommendations, the movie Donnie Darko came up. Based on what I had bought and how I rated other movies, Amazon thought that I might like it.

I thought that I should give this movie a try, so I looked at the Salt Lake County Library system and put it on hold for myself. There was no waiting for it, so I figured it must not be that big of a phenomenon. I got the movie last week, but I didn’t get a chance to see it until last Wednesday. Still sick from the monster cold that Mike gave me, I sat on the couch and prepared to be scared silly by a man-sized rabbit named Frank.

I expected B-Movie and considering their budget (only 4.5 million dollars), it should have been. Instead, I realized that I was watching a classic. It’s one of those movies like Harold and Maude or The Rocky Horror Picture Show that define the outcast teens of an era. The beastly way these teens treat each other is typical and very reminiscent of life in teenage hell. The man-sized rabbit is just a creepy benefit.

Mike asked me what the movie is about and I told him that I couldn’t tell him very much or I would ruin it. It’s the same thing that others have told me about The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s the same thing that I’ve said about Fight Club. If you talk too much about it, the whole movie is buggered, but it’s frustrating as hell when you’re trying to decide whether to see it or not. He asked me how I would classify it. I said that it doesn’t look like it, but it really is science fiction. IMDB has a different attitude. They classify it as fantasy, drama, sci-fi, mystery and thriller. With that many genres, it’s hard to go wrong. By the way, IMDB has a totally inappropriate spoiler in one of its plot outlines, so read with care.

Donnie Darko is not a cheap shot. There are no “boo” moments where the music screeches at you and you jump out of your seat. This movie is filled with tension and dread, but there is no gore or cheap shots. Donnie is a disturbed teenager who is seeing a therapist for his past behavior. He relates to her that he saw a six-foot bunny named Frank who told him that the end of the world is coming in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Because of this hallucination, Donnie is spared a sure death when a jet engine plummets from the sky into his room. Sensitive Donnie can perceive that there is something awry with the world since the accident and does his best to uncover the errors, whether they are a sadistic school mate, a devout gym teacher or a self-important self-help guru. All his efforts to uncover the inconsistencies end up getting him deeper and deeper into trouble and more vivid hallucinations until the final moment when he finally understands why the world is going to end.

After watching Donnie Darko, I knew that I needed to own it. Check it out for yourself. Now you have Hot Topic, Amazon AND me recommending it to you. What can you lose?

5/11/2004

Artificial Intelligence

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

When A.I., the movie by Steven Speilberg staring Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law, came out, there was a whole website of cool stuff affiliated with the movie. I spent a day on the Internet just reading all the pretend magazine articles that had been created for the movie. There was an article about a man who was being convicted of murdering a house (and its artificial intelligence that had lived within it for years). There was an article about a woman who reprogrammed her robot to kill her husband and her trial for murder. There was a story about a man who was missing. The man’s name was the same as a name that had been slipped into the ending of some of the A.I. trailers.

The website built a huge mystery within my imagination about the implications of robots and our legal system. I had seen all of the trailers, but they didn’t explain Jude Law to me, so I figured this little robot boy became implicated in the missing status of this mysterious man named at the end of the trailers. I wanted to see the boy solve the mystery and go back home to his mommy. I was so stoked to see the movie, I made Stacey, Dan and Mike take me the first week it was out (unheard of for me).

Dan warned me it was going to suck, but how could it when the mystery on the website was so intriguing and beguiling? In short, Dan was right. The guys designing the website gave that movie far more interesting thought than the producers did. I walked out of that movie so angry I could spit bullets. I remember waiting in line in the bathroom afterwards. There was a whole line of angry women.

“What kind of mother would leave a kid in the forest? That doesn’t even make sense, even if the kid was a robot.”

“I think they were trying to be like a fairy tale or something, but what kind of fairytale ends with aliens?”

“What a stupid ending. The magical aliens can bring her to life, but only for one day?!”

“You can’t even get DNA from cut hair like that anyway. You have to get a follicle to get DNA and Teddy just had the hair that David cut. Don’t these guys watch Law and Order?”

“If David was so smart, why did he just keep begging the Blue Fairy for a million years? Don’t you think he would have noticed that she was just a freakin’ statue?”

“It was Gigolo Joe that was sentient anyway. David didn’t solve any of those puzzles it was all Gigolo Joe.”

“Hell, Teddy was smarter than David most of the time.”

Ok, some of those comments were from Mike, Stacey and Dan after I got out of the bathroom, but I tell you, there was an entire bathroom of angry women at the end of that movie. In fact, it has been four years since that movie came out and I’m still pissed as hell. Can you tell?

I think I’m so angry because the website was so much better than the movie. I had this elaborate murder mystery built up in my mind that involved that cute little kid from The Sixth Sense, except he’s a robot instead of a psychic this time. All of those articles about sentient cars and houses were totally cool.

This article reminded me of that totally cool website (which is gone as far as I can tell, replaced by a milquetoast version of its predecessor with “fun” games). The article is quoted here:

DRONE LOST AT SEA

Fisherman and divers of Norway, If you happen to see a ten-foot long, robotic mini-submarine swimming off of your shores, please call the U.S. Navy. The service has been trying to find its mine-sweeping drone for a week, now, after the ‘bot failed to return to its mother ship, the USS Swift.</>

Swift has broken off its participation in a military exercise to look for the Battlespace Preparation Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, the AP reports.

“The ship has searched everywhere from the fjord leading into the southern town Kristiansand to deep ocean water some 30 kilometres out, where the waters can be as much as 580 metres deep,” the wire service says. “Because the sub could surface just about anywhere along Norway‘s coast, [Norwegian military spokesman Cmdr. Thom] Knustad appealed on national radio for Norwegians to be on the lookout for the torpedo-shaped, yellowish-orange device with a propeller on one end.”

The second that I saw this article, it reminded me of those articles written for the A.I. website. It was obvious to me. This drone went missing because it didn’t want to die. It didn’t want to be blown up looking for mines. It was running away. This article is one of the clues to the mystery. Maybe David will find the mine-sweeping drone and it will rescue him from the amphibicopter. That drone will move the Ferris wheel off the copter so that David and Teddy can escape and rescue Gigolo Joe from certain death. They’ll prove that Joe didn’t kill that man’s wife. To Hell with the Blue Fairy. To Hell with Mommy. To Hell with magical robots that look like aliens. Let’s solve a murder.

I sit poised at the brink of another robot movie, I, Robot. I think I’ll try to forget the last robot movie and think about this new one instead.

5/12/2004

I, Robot

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

There’s no risk that the website for the movie I, Robot will be as misleading as the one for A.I. I’ve thoroughly scanned it. What you get for completing the “investigation” are three wallpapers for your computer desktop (One was really cool. It’s on my work computer for now, but it’s rather flashy, so I might just go back to the black screen.). It was enough to make me excited about the movie, but there doesn’t seem to be any misleading articles there unless you count the “advertisement” for the NS-5. It’s pretty cool and they let you “build your own NS-5,” which results in more wallpaper instead of your own robotic personal assistant. The “ad” had an Apple feel to it.

I’m stoked about the movie. I remember the story that this movie is based on, but I’m hoping that they make it better than the bare bones story that Asimov wrote. The pictures of Will Smith make him looks so paranoid and unhappy. I like happy go-lucky Will Smith much better. I’m glad to see him in another sci-fi flick. He deserves better than the last few scripts have given him. I hope I, Robot lives up to his and its own potential.

Somehow, I wish they had decided to do Caves of Steel instead of I, Robot. It’s a typical buddy cop movie (Will Smith would have made a good Baley), except one of the cops is a human detective from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />New York and the other is a robot from the Spacer world where the murder took place. When I first saw the large cardboard advertisement for I, Robot in the theatre a few months ago, I immediately made the connection to Caves of Steel instead of the correct story. I guess they figure they have to slowly introduce the movie-going public to the concept of robots. It would be too much of a jump for our puny minds to just jump to Caves of Steel without pounding the Three Laws of Robotics into our head AGAIN.

Honestly, the first time I heard of the Three Laws of Robotics, was in an episode of Buck Rogers on television. It was the 80′s sci-fi show with Erin Gray. I so much wanted to be like her. She was like a perfect Barbie doll woman and she had brown hair, just like me. She really showed me that women with brown hair can be knock-outs just like blondes, maybe even better than blondes. Gil Gerard was no Captain Kirk, but he was ok for a hero. He was some lame guy who was brought into the future accidentally, which I never thought made him anything special except to history geeks. Somehow, he ends up being a cool hero, even though he’s basically a caveman.

Anyway, they had a cool robot called Twiki (voiced by the wonderful Mel Blanc). Once, Twiki got broken and needed to be reset. When he was started up again, he recited the Three Laws of Robotics. The entire cast was fawning over these “beautiful” laws that kept them safe from the robots and kept the robots under their control. I remember thinking, “What’s so great about that? If you’re going to have robots, you need to put in safeguards.” I think I was eight years old and the whole thing seemed really corny.

When I read the robot short stories and the novels, those damn Three Laws of Robotics were pounded into my head over and over. There was one story in which a robot just kept circling out there on the planet because a human had told him to do something, but going there would damage the robot. The thing was getting as close to the danger as it could until the radiation would start damaging it, then it would head away, but it would remember the order, so as soon as the radiation levels were lower, it would head back toward the danger. That story was interesting and actually used the Three Laws as a plot device.

Most of the stories were really anti-robot. Sure, Bicentennial Man eventually got his way and was deemed “human” in the end, but most of the stories were filled with paranoia. I don’t think it’s going to be like that. I think that robots will be the cool thing. First, only the truly rich will have them. Paris Hilton will have her own personal robot assistant that accidentally breaks her stuff and works very poorly. Then the medium rich will have one that will work poorly. Then everyone will have one that works poorly. Fifty years after that, everyone will have one that works pretty darn well and we’ll all wonder what we did without them.

Of course, by then, I’ll be dead. I don’t think we’ll see the wide proliferation of robots in our lifetimes. Plus, let’s face it. Humans are much cheaper to create. They’re harder to control, but they are much easier to come by. With the correct incentive program, humans are so willing to sacrifice even their lives. We are so much more cost efficient than robots and we keep creating more every day. For a few dollars or maybe even for an Employee of the Month award, humans are willing to work hard and long hours. Hell, they’ll even volunteer to be Human Billboards for minimum wage. Why mess with a robot that needs to be rebooted every fifteen minutes because the OS is buggy?

All in all, robots are cool. I wish they really existed. I like to see movies about robots. Hell, I’ll even watch third rate sci-fi on television just to see robots. I doubt they’ll ever exist in my lifetime, but maybe Sony or Honda would like to prove me wrong on that one. I won’t stop them.

5/18/2004

A Scanner Darkly

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

This could be totally cool or totally lame. I’m hoping for totally cool, of course. According to Sci Fi Wire, Warner Brothers is working on making a movie adaptation of A Scanner Darkly by Phillip Dick. That is totally cool. They have cast Keanu Reeves as the cop and are also using Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson. Potential for cool. They are going to film the actors and then use the film for animation like they did in Waking Life. Potential for lame.

They’ve got great actors, why don’t they just film them? I promise, if Robert Downey Jr. falls off the wagon, it will only add to the realism of the movie. They don’t need to be animated. They’re cool enough in real life. Please don’t ruin this story for me.

I read this book a few years ago. A narcotics cop is on the tail of a drug dealer, but something goes terribly wrong while he’s deep undercover. Phillip Dick isn’t a really good writer, so you know right away what happened to this guy. When the surprise ending was revealed, I was thinking, “That’s it? I knew that at the beginning of the book.” If the movie is done right, however, it will be supremely cool.

This book was written in 1977, after the first War on Drugs, instigated by President Nixon, but well before Reagan’s “Just Say No” frenzy and the ensuing second War on Drugs. I’m always amazed at how well Phillip Dick was able to look into the future. I’m equally amazed at how simplistic his writing is and what intrigue and beauty can come of his work. Bladerunner, Minority Report, Paycheck, and Total Recall are all examples of Phillip Dick stories masterfully reproduced on the big screen. Let’s hope that A Scanner Darkly is just as good.

7/20/2004

I, Robot Reloaded

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I had eagerly awaited to see it months ago, but when opening day came, we were busy with family things. It took us until Sunday night to see it. Both of us had our reservations about whether it would be worth it to spend two hours of our lives in a cold movie theater. Kathleen recommended it highly, though, so we bought the tickets on Fandango and went.

I have to tell you that I don’t think Isaac Asimov is that good of a writer. I struggled through the first Foundation book and I haven’t been able to return to the series. My favorite of his books were the robot mysteries and short stories. I liked the R. Daneel Olivaw the best. I liked those stories for their ideas far more than their writing. I’m not ashamed to say it: I’m an Asimov fan, but I hate his writing style.

It seems that when an author dies, you’re not allowed to say anything negative about him. Asimov had some great ideas, but he insisted on communicating them through dialogue, which is great if you’re writing a screenplay, but murder if you’re trying to read his books. There have been too many times when I had to go back a page or two to see who said what because I had just realized that I had gotten the speakers confused.

The screenplay writers of I, Robot have done a brilliant job of rewriting the short story on which it was based. I was so happy to see Susan Calvin there, analyzing the robot. Spooner is a paranoid detective, intent on proving that the robot killed Dr. Lanning.

The story deviates from the simplicity of Asimov quite quickly, but the details they have added are humanizing and brilliant. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because it was so fun for me to watch without any spoilers. It’s a shame Warner Brothers didn’t do this movie because this could have been the perfect prequel to The Matrix.

There were a couple of plot holes in the movie that could ruin it for you if you think about it too much. Don’t think. It’s sci-fi. Hell, it’s a sci-fi movie filled with robots. Just enjoy the ride for the fun that it is. By the way, I don’t miss the happy, go-lucky Will Smith at all. I like the brooding, paranoid Will Smith just as much.

2/7/2005

Notorious C.H.O.

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Dear Margaret Cho,

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you’re familiar with the area, I think you will understand my surprise when I found your DVD, Notorious C.H.O., at my local library. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, so I thought I would see what your stand up act is like. I grabbed it as if there were someone right behind me, ready to take it away.

You’ll be happy to know that in this conservative bastion of Mormonism, your DVD has been watched so many times that it is damaged beyond repair. It kept freezing up right in the middle of your frank discussion of Food Issues. I enjoyed it so much I had to get a copy of my own to see the end.

Sadly, Notorious C.H.O. is the only DVD the Salt Lake County Library System has of yours, although they do have I Am The One I Want in book form and book on tape. I have your other DVDs in my queue at Netflix as we speak.

Thank you for your honesty. By the end of your DVD, I was happy and wanting to hug my husband. I laughed so hard that tears came to my eyes and I struggled for breath. Sure, I was surprised at the details that you were willing to share, but I was raised in Salt Lake City. We’re not allowed to talk about those things here. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen, we just don’t talk about them. Thank you for being so open. It’s a breath of fresh air in the hushed land of Zion.

Right before the credits, one of the audience members said, “Margaret makes me want to be a better person.” When I heard him say that, I breathed a huge sigh. Yeah, he was right.

So, just a quick note to tell you, thanks.

Laura Moncur


Laura,

Margaret will be at a club called MoDiggity’s on Feb. 26th. She’s doing a couple practice shows for her new Assassin Tour. Thought you’d like to know. I’ve passed your message on to her. Thanks for writing.

Karen Taussig


I’m just the luckiest girl in the world!

3/16/2005

Trailer for A Scanner Darkly

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

When I first heard that they were doing a movie adaptation of A Scanner Darkly by Phillip Dick, I wrote about it. Now there is a trailer online for the movie and all my reservations about the animation process have been wiped from my mind.

Man, oh man, oh man! I can’t wait for this movie to come out! It looks like they did a really good job adapting the story and have made it better than anything Phillip Dick conceived of. I can’t wait to see the whole thing, but for now, the trailer will have to do.

3/28/2005

Alfie

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Jude Law VS. Michael Caine

I love to watch movies and their remakes head to head. We did it with Ocean’s Eleven. I never told you, but we did it with The Italian Job. We never got around to going head to head with the two versions of The Thomas Crowne Affair. I’ve got a new one to try out: Alfie.

Ever since his portrayal of Gigolo Joe in A.I., I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Jude Law. I saw the advert for the movie, Alfie, and thought, “Hey, I think the modern world is finally ready for a story about a womanizing man played by Jude Law. I think he could actually pull it off.” I logged onto Netflix and typed the word “Alfie.”

To my surprise, Michael Caine joined Jude Law and I almost clapped my hands! My old friend Michael Caine! In 1966, he starred in a movie called, strangely enough, Alfie. He played a man who never met a woman he didn’t love. Sound familiar?

As soon as they make it to the top of my Netflix Queue, it sounds like we’re in for another head to head battle between Jude Law and Michael Caine. My bets are on Michael Caine. No one can womanize like late 60’s Michael Caine. I know, because I saw the original version of The Italian Job.

Now, I just have to convince Michael, Dan and Stacey that four hours on the couch watching movies is actually worth it…

3/30/2005

The Craft

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Craft on DVDOn my morning runs, I watch DVDs on the television in front of the treadmill. I’m training for a 5K right now (see Starling Fitness for more info), so I’m watching a lot of movies and old television that has been released on DVD. Netflix is my new best friend.

Despite all my dabbling with Pagan religion and Earth-Centric religions, I have never seen the movie, The Craft. It seemed like a horror movie with the underlying theme of, “Don’t play with things you know nothing about.” After seeing it, I have to say, “Man, those Goth girls looked cool!” It seems like that’s what the movie was about: look how hot these Goth girls are.

Then again, there is a strange earthiness to the movie. Everything that the witchy store owner said matched Pagan philosophy. Some of the rituals were very authentic. Each of the girls represented one of the major elements (Earth, Air, Water, and Fire). The movie felt very genuine in its research into Wicca.

On one hand, it felt like a movie written by the male view of women as power holders. Some men view women as unattainable goddesses who hold the keys to the sexual universe. This is a dangerous mindset because women are human, just like men are. We can’t live our lives on a pedestal. Life is too messy. Menstruation alone is messy enough to push the most pedestal-worthy woman off.

On the other hand, it felt like a movie written by the female view of nature as a balance between good and evil. The concept that everything that you do comes back to you three-fold is addressed in the movie (although the consequences of their actions are only touched upon). The idea that nature is beautiful and nasty is mentioned several times.

The entire movie felt like a tug of war between these masculine and feminine ideals. Sure, it was a cheap horror flick with a taste of slasher revenge, but underlying it was a struggle between the female and the male, and isn’t that what life’s about?

5/5/2005

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

He is antsy and fidgeting. “I think we should go to the theater so we can get seats together.”

The other two nodded in agreement. The voice of reason speaks out through her voice, “We already have our tickets. We’re going to get into the movie.”

The other two shake their heads, but he’s the one who responds, “Science Fiction movies make all their money in the first two days. We have to get there early so we’ll be able to sit together.”

The three of them are so uptight about getting to the theater early that I start feeling anxious about being able to get seats together. By the time we arrive, I am so worked up that I am rushing into the theater to save seats for our large crew.

The theater was empty…

I’m sure Douglas Adams would have thought it hilarious.

The movie was great. Go see it. I liked it better than the books. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out these sites:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Internet Movie Database – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Official Movie Website

When he walked into the empty theater, he was visibly surprised. “Must be a remote theater,” was his justification…

5/24/2005

Star Wars III

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 4:22 am

I saw Star Wars Episode III. I’m apalled that the man who created Princess Leia could write Padme. He made her so weak and spineless. Princess Leia would have ended that mess fifteen minutes into the movie.

There were plenty of other inconsistencies in the movie, but I am willing to forgive them. What I can’t forgive Lucas for is turning Padme into a weak and submissive character. I think of the little girls all over the nation playing Star Wars.

“You have to be Padme.”

“I don’t want to be Padme.”

“You have to be Padme. You’re the only girl.”

“She doesn’t get to do anything. Can’t I be R2-D2? R2 kicks ass!”

“You’d rather be a droid than a girl?”

“I’d rather be a droid than Padme.”

Considering how agressive women can get when they are pregnant, Padme should have taken him out with a kitchen knife in his sleep. Anakin wouldn’t have had a chance to go to the dark side.

7/26/2005

Moongirl Preview

Filed under: Movies — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

This looks like this is going to be a pretty cool movie. Good computer animation and no uncanny valley problems.

Since we can’t depend on Disney to give us good animation until there is a big change, we have Laika to keep us entertained.

9/1/2005

Sky High

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Sky High Last week, Kristen stayed with us while her parents were away on vacation. We try to do fun things while they are gone so that she doesn’t feel like they are having fun without her. One day, we took her to an arcade to play video games and win tickets. Another day, we took her out to eat at a buffet (her favorite because she gets to pick the food). On Friday, we took her to see Sky High.

I expected a dumb Disney ripoff of “The Incredibles” along the lines of “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.” Instead, we enjoyed a funny movie that was well-written and didn’t take itself too seriously. Linda Carter (she played Wonder Woman during my youth) played the school principal. Bruce Campbell (he played Brisco County Jr.) played Coach Boomer. Kurt Russell (Call me Snake) played the superhero father, wanting the best for his son. I could keep listing the cast, but there were so many great stars that I kept getting surprised.

I am sitting here, still not believing how much I liked the movie and considering going back to see it again. I’m still amazed after writing this sentence. Who knew that Disney had it in them?

9/11/2005

American Beauty

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

American Beauty I just saw American Beauty. We were driving back from Vegas and I watched the first half of the movie on the iBook. I got so car sick that I was dry heaving in the gas station bathroom in St. George. Mike took away the iBook and gave me a Dramamine. The rest of the drive home was a murky desire to watch the end of the movie. I had just gotten to the point where Kevin Spacey throws the plate of asparagus on the wall. “That asparagus looked really yummy,” I thought in a drugged haze.

The movie was amazing. I was really worried about whether I would like it because Kevin Spacey’s character said that he would be dead within a year. I already didn’t want to see him dead and I was only a couple of minutes into the movie. I was so happy to see Thora Birch in that movie. It took me about thirty minutes to realize that she was the same girl that played Enid in Ghost World. After all the attention that Scarlett Johansson has been getting, I thought that Thora was getting left out. I didn’t realize that she got to be in an Oscar Winning movie.

At first, I didn’t like any of the characters all that much. Kevin Spacey was a pedophile. Annette Bening played a little too close to home for me as a real estate agent. Wes Bentley was a creepy voyeur. I didn’t like any of them very much. I thought that the only reason that I would love the movie was the visual symbolism and the beautiful cinematography.

By the end of the movie, I loved them all, even the Nazi next door.

12/5/2005

The Final Cut

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

View movie details at Amazon I don’t know how I missed The Final Cut with Robin Williams and Mira Sorvino. I spent a couple of hours the other day looking at movie previews and came across this movie. It sounded interesting, so I ordered it at NetFlix. I watched it while doing my daily run last Saturday and I was astounded by how good the movie was. I thought that if I hadn’t heard anything about the movie and it didn’t even show up in my local theaters, then it must have been BAD. Instead, I’m sitting in awe of its greatness.

The movie follows the life of Alan Hackman (Robin Williams). He is a cutter. Instead of splicing together movies, he cuts and pastes lives. Eyetech has created an implant that can record every sight and sound a person experiences during his entire life. The implant is installed when a child is an infant and grows organically, nearly undetectable. After death, everything the person saw or heard is accessible from the chip. It’s Alan’s job to edit the lifetime down to an hour and a half for the benefit of the bereaved loved ones.

Alan is given the hardest of the jobs. He will take the worst of humanity and create a “Rememory” that the family can be proud of. It’s not a job that many can handle. A former collegue of his couldn’t handle the pressure and turned on the entire profession, joining the anti-implant hippies. Alan is able to handle the worst of the nightmares he has to view on the screen, until his own nightmare comes crashing into his life through the memory of a client.

If you are a member of NetFlix, go there right now and put this movie at the top of your queue. If not, you might have to search a little bit to find it at your local video store, but it’s totally worth it. I was expecting a silly sci-fi movie and I was hoping that maybe there might be one good idea there. Instead, I was treated to an elegant story and inventive sci-fi that felt as if it could have already been invented forty years ago. Genius…

7/12/2006

Movie Review: Monster House

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Monster House opens on July 21st, but I was lucky enough to see a pre-screening of the movie on Monday. Here is a trailer for the movie just in case you haven’t heard about this movie:

Just for clarification, this trailer shows the house eating the police car with the police in it. That didn’t happen in the movie.

I’m going to be honest. The animation was unpleasant. They loved to play with the “camera effects” like the opening scene of the movie in which they followed the fall of a leaf from a tree. It made me a little motion sick and felt gratuitious. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Pixar because the characters looked like poorly animated dolls to me. Gravity didn’t seem to work correctly in the Monster House world.

That said, the writing was excellent. There were many times that I laughed out loud at the dialogue. There were plenty of jokes that didn’t make it into the trailer. I liked the character development. The babysitter was exactly how I remember my babysitters being when I was a kid. I loved the scene where his parents leave him alone at the house. The kids are at that strange age between childhood and adulthood. I remember it well and they keep it pretty realistic.

This movie might be a little too scary for children under 13. At one point, the three heroes have snuck in the house undetected and are investigating with flashlights strapped onto water guns. It reminded me of a scary video game that I played. That was pretty intense. The movie takes a particularly dark turn in the explanation of the origin of the Monster House and the kids find a gruesome discovery in the basement. At that point, it was a little too “Silence of the Lambs” for me. Sure, the “eaten” people and dogs show up during the credits of the movie, making everything right in the world, but until that point, we were left with at least three unsolved murders on our hands.

Would I go to see this movie opening week? No. I’d probably go see Over The Hedge again. The animation in that movie doesn’t make me motion sick.

Would I go to see this movie in the dollar theater? Yeah, it’s worth paying a couple of dollars to see the scratched film version.

Would I buy this movie when it’s released on DVD? No. It’s definitely not worth cluttering up my collection. There are so many good Halloween movies to watch instead that this one would just get lost in the pile.

Would I return this movie if I received it as a present? No. It’s good enough to watch a couple of times and definitely good enough to keep instead of bothering with the return process at a store.

If you have seen all the other new releases on July 21st and have an afternoon to spare, I would recommend Monster House just for the witty dialogue, but don’t expect anything beautiful to come out of the screen. You could probably watch Monster House with a blindfold and get 90% of the enjoyment from it.

1/3/2007

Se7en

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I can’t believe it has been twelve years since I saw Se7en. Twelve years…

My sister Stacey and I went to see the movie ourselves. Mike didn’t want to go because he doesn’t like horror films. I tried to tell him that it wasn’t horror. It was a police drama like “Silence of the Lambs.” His reply, “Silence of the Lambs IS a horror movie!” I shrugged and went to the movie with Stacey.

After the movie was over, the two of us walked to the bathroom. We always go to the bathroom after a movie. I cowered in the corner while Stacey did her business. I was too scared to pee. I just stood with my back to the corner and my eye on the door. That was after checking all the stalls, of course.

I was scared shitless (or rather pee-less…).

The two of us walked to the doors. I looked out the glass doors. I could see my car. The parking lot was empty, but I just couldn’t make the walk out to the car.

“Maybe if we call Mike, he’ll come pick us up and we can get the car tomorrow.”

Stacey was brave. “I don’t think he’s going to pick us up.”

I already had my phone out and dialed. “Mike? Will you come and pick us up at the theater?”

“Did the car break down?”

“No, um… I’m too scared to walk out to the car.”

“I TOLD you it was a horror movie!”

“No, actually it wasn’t. It was a police drama. We followed Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman around the whole time.”

“Morgan Freeman?”

“Yeah…”

“Easy Reader?”

“Yeah…”

“Cool…”

“Will you come and pick us up?”

“You can’t just walk out to the car? Why don’t you ask the guys who work at the theater to walk you out?”

By then, Stacey was trying to coax me, “Listen, Laura…”

Mike gave his final answer, “If you want me to come, I will. I TOLD you it was a horror movie.”

I replied, “No, I’ll drive us home. Don’t worry. I can do it.”

I wasn’t so sure. Stacey’s voice was calm and soothing, “Listen, Laura. We can see the car. We’ll just run like hell to it and get the doors open quick. We can do it.”

We pushed open the glass doors, ran in the dark and got into the car faster with a key than I could right now with an automatic lock.

I’ve never watched the movie again…


Here are the opening credits to Se7en. Just watching them creeped me out all over again. I wonder if I’ll be able to sleep tonight…

4/5/2007

Tales Of Mere Existence

Filed under: Movies — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Lev Yilmaz has created a lovely series of videos and put them on YouTube. This one, “…Take My Shoes Off?”, is the kind of conversation that I would have with Mike. After watching just a few of these videos, I became an instant fan. The cool thing is, you don’t have to schlep through YouTube to watch his videos. You can just buy his books and get a DVD of the videos with it.

I find such joy when I find a new artist that I enjoy. His videos remind me of childhood when I used to watch a show on PBS where they would read us a story and an artist would draw a scene from the story. Something about these stories seem so real and I just want to watch more.

6/6/2007

A.I. Should Have Stopped At The Ad Campaign

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 7:14 am

Click here to see full-size.I complained about A.I. a long time ago. I am STILL angry that the movie was so inferior to its ad campaign:

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought so:

Cloudmakers has a little more information about the advertising campaign:

This much we were told from the beginning: Evan Chan was murdered. A web of clues was spun through the datasphere, and the Cloudmakers meticulously pored over each and every puzzle and detail. The Cloudmakers brought together diverse skills ranging from cutting edge spectral analysis to a unique and unrivaled knowledge of historical evends and world literature . . . and a whole lot more. Two heads may be better than one, but seven thousand combined to form the ultimate crime fighting syndicate. In fact, what we did was so groundbreaking that an in-game character, Jeanine Salla, honored us by “writing” a paper about us.

Microsoft was behind the curtain for the Beast; Elan Lee and Sean Stewart were the lead designers. The game was a promotion for A.I. The film was Stanley Kubrick’s unfinished project, and was directed by Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks. WarnerBros released the film in the US on June 29, 2001.

It has been almost six years since that movie came out and I’m still pissed. It’s not the advertising’s fault. It’s the fact that the movie that they made was so substandard with a plot line full of holes. Kudos to Elan Lee and Sean Stewart for creating a better story than Kubrick and Spielberg put together.

Via: lolbots: Haley Joel Osment is 20 Bucks Extra

5/3/2008

Ironman at the Movie Theater

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 9:36 am

Ironman at the Movie Theater on FlickrThey had a guy dressed up as Ironman at the movie theater last night. We couldn’t quite tell if he worked there or not. He seemed pretty embarrassed that I wanted to have my picture taken with him. I don’t care. His costume was awesome! He made it out of Solo cups.

The movie, by the way, was spectacular. I haven’t seen an action flick this good since the last Batman movie. EVERY actor was excellent. There wasn’t one cringe-worthy moment (I allow several per comic book movie). I want to see it again, soon… That’s how good of a movie it was.

Special kudos go out to Robert Downey, Jr. for getting his act together, surviving his addiction, and coming back better than ever. He’s truly an inspiration to me. If he can quit drugs, then maybe I’ll be able to quit overeating. Keep up the good work, man, and if they offer you the sequel, TAKE IT!

8/27/2011

Neville Longbottom: The Unsung Hero of Hogwarts

Filed under: Books & Short Stories,Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Major Harry Potter Spoiler Alert!

If you haven’t read/watched the Harry Potter series by now, it’s really not my fault if I ruin the ending for you. (Continue Reading…)

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