Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter!

Everyone gets presents at Christmas. That is because it is Jesus' birthday, and people get presents on their birthday. The previaling theory is that there is a little bit of Jesus in each of us, and as such, we all get presents come Christmas time. Happy birthday to the small portion of Jesus that resides within our souls. So...Easter celebrates Jesus' death. And subsequent resurrection. This means that if you are one of those people who gives presents for Easter, you are basically giving presents at a funeral. I hate presents at Easter. Easter is about...dinner? With family? Or something? I don't know. It sure isn't about cards and presents. But if that's your thing, be sure to give Easter presents, but then you are obligated to bring gifts to the next funeral you attend, based on your prediliction for gift-giving. Think about it.

Who would win in a fight...Popeye or Pippi Longstocking?

I got into a bizarre conversation with my girlfriend's 13-year-old tonight. Who would win in a fight - Ronald McDonald or the Burger King king? I suggested that the king would win, because there is something sacreligious about hitting or killing a king. Ronald would have a hard time getting over that hump. The discussion then moved on to other fast-food characters, such as Popeye and the Wendy's straight-red pigtails girl, who is obviously Pippi Longstocking. We surmised that Pippi Longstocking was incredibly strong merely because she believed she was, and yet Popeye is strong because of spinach. Popeye therefore is using performance-enhancing supplements, and Pippi wins simply because of her natural ability to be super-strong. And by the way, if Popeye is just a regular guy before he eats his spinach, how does he have the strength to open spinach cans simply by squeezing the closed, metal can of spinach such that the spinach flies into his mouth? The discussion then moved on to McDonalds characters - Grimace would lose just about any fight, we figure. But Mayor McCheese ate cheeseburgers, the Fry Guys ate fries, that chicken thing ate chicken nuggets...they are all cannibals. As such, they might be evil and bloodthirsty enoughto take out even such robust corporate logos as Toucan Sam. Then he came up with a solid point - if all McDonalds characters are cannibals, shouldn't Ronald McDonald eat clowns? Forget the Big Mac, Ronald McDonald should eat clowns in his commercials. Wait for them to come out of that tiny car, then scarf them down one by one...he's creepy enough as it is.

America may well be ready for a black president, but they sure aren't ready for that pesky thing called "truth"

Barack Obama's preacher is in the news. In the States, where facts and issues take a back seat to style and perception, this is a major story in the media. I passed by Hannity and Colmes yesterday, or as Al Franken calls it, "HANNITY and Colmes". Sean Hannity said, and I quote as best I can: "If Barack Obama secretly believes - and I'm not saying he does - but if he secretly believes the things his preacher is saying, and if he wins the general election, then we would have a racist, anti-semite, in the white house!" This is terrific reasoning. By that logic, if John Baird ate babies (and I'm not saying he does), but if he did, our environment minister here in Canada would be a real, honest-to-goodness baby-eater! And if Jack Layton (and I'm making this up right now) was secretly a member of an underground neo-Nazi organization, and if the NDP won the next election, (which apparently will be threatened but not actually triggered until 2041) then we would have a neo-Nazi as prime minister of Canada! Both these statements are, factually true. IF Stephane Dion were a murderer, AND the Liberal party won the next election, THEN we would have a murderer as leader of our country. On second thought, I retract these statements. After all, I like Jack Layton and Stephane Dion.

I was hearing, for much of the day today, vitriol and rhetoric against Obama. People, the vitriol said, are frightened and angry when they hear about this kind of extremist Christianity. And I stopped. And I laugherd. Then I cried a little. Then I composed myself and wrote this blog. People are frightened of Obama? Because of...seriously...Christian extremism? This is what I'm hearing. Ummm....didn't exactly work against Bush, did it? The fundamentalist, mentalist, mental extremist Christian vote put him over the edge the last two American elections, no? The craziest of the crazy, the most evangelical, the grass-roots Go Jesus nutjobs who were terrified that without Bush the gays would take over the country, and there would be Abortions For Everyone, and stem cells might be used to cure disease and prolong life...thos guys? And yet Obama's preacher, Jeremiah Wright, is scary. He is vile and evil and racist and everything that is wrong with America. And why? I had heard so much about this man that I had to investigate for myself. Here is an (edited for length) transcript of what he said:

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)

“In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.” (magazine article)

“Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.” (sermon)

“Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”

“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.” (sermon)

“The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”

Ummm...right. Well, with the exception of the venom spewed toward Bill Clinton (and that's simply because I don't know enough about that to really comment), I agree. With every statement this man has made. Absolutely, there is a culture of white-over-black in the States. In fact, in North America. Is it everyone? No. It's enough people to make it noticeable. Yep, they did nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yep, the government does give them the drugs and build bigger prisons. Yes...yes...what is this man saying that is so hateful? That is so inaccurate that Obama should distance himself? OK...here it is - America is responsible for the hatred that is directed toward them the world over, and it is that hatred that spawned 9/11. THAT is the thing he is saying that makes him un-American, racist, horrible. THAT is the thing they are talking about on the news I've seen. And here I thought America was ready for the truth. That their behaviour, as a country and as a government, exerting unilateral force the world over with no regard for other countries or people, came back and bit them in the ass. No, apparently America wants to continue living with it's head up it's ass, especially in the media, and continue believing that the only reason their World Trade Centres came down was because Osama Bin Laden had some kind of mental defect that made him homicidal, and he just wanted to kill people, and he hates America simply because he is insane.

What could be more insane than this belief? That some wack-job who just wanted to kill people chose an elaborate scheme, over several years, that involved stealing planes full of people and flying them into buildings, just because he was homicidal? Believe me, I have never been to most of the countries in the world, but if you just want to kill people, I can think of easier countries in which to do it, and easier methods whereby you could carry out this plan. The most obvious question America should have asked, from day ONE, was "why?". And not in a rhetorical manner, like "why- oh but I know why, he's a maniac"...but "why" as in, "what did we do to provoke this?" That is the question. And no one seems, even now, seven years later, able to ask that question, or contemplate the answers. Maybe that is why America needs Obama. Maybe that is why anyone who smells even a little like Bush and Rove and Cheney should be kept as far away from politics as possible. Boy, that truth stuff sure bothers people.

Did you know Robert Stack did stuff before Unsolved Mysteries? Colour me surprised...The Untouchables, Season 2 Volume 1 - out now (*******7/10)

Yes, I did know that Robert Stack did something other than Unsolved Mysteries. I mean, I've seen Airplane! and all. (I have also, unfortunately, seen BASEketball and Caddyshack II.) But had I been aware of The Untouchables TV series, I would have been more upset when Stack died in 2003. In fact, had I been aware of The Untouchables, I might even have noticed when he died in 2003. This man was Elliot Ness. Of course I, like most of us I assume, am mostly familiar with the role of Elliot Ness as played by Kevin Costner in the movie version. Al Capone is Robert DeNiro, the other Untouchables are Sean Connery and Andy Garcia...sure. That movie was great, and it (thankfully) was not a remake of the old TV show. It was a movie unto itself, although it did borrow pretty heavily from other sources - this show was one of those sources. Another source was, amazingly, The Battleship Potemkin, for that baby-carriage-on-the-stairs sequence. By the way, those of you interested in silent movies, the Movie Network here in Canada is showing a bunch of great ones really late at night. I recently put a couple on my PVR, and Potemkin is one of them. I've also come across Metropolis, Nosferatu, and a few others.

But enough about stuff that isn't The Untouchables from the late 50s and early 60s. Normally when I get an old TV show to review (the Mod Squad, or Family Ties) I watch a full four episodes and then skim the rest. I don't normally have six hours to sit down and watch a TV show that may or may not entertain me solely for the purposes of writing a review. I get the gist quickly. But this was one of the first times I have sat down and watched the entire series. Which explains why I am late with the review. (This should have been posted on Tuesday, when it was released.) But I have just watched 16 one-hour episodes of The Untouchables, because it's cool enough to do that.

The Untouchables plays fast and loose with actual history, while remaining firmly grounded IN that history. Which seems odd at first, but it makes sense the more you watch. Al Capone figures in a few episodes, here and there, but we would assume that Eliot Ness spent some time hunting other bad guys, and not just Capone. There are two episodes on this set that involve Capone, and his attempted escape from a train en route to Alcatraz. Although Capone was in real life a bootlegger, and the series is set in the 30s, they never specify exactly what it is that Capone has done to warrant such attention. Other than murder, of course. No word on how he makes his money. Also, people are constantly drinking in the series, which seems odd given that Ness was a prohibition-era tough guy. Robert Stack is perfect as that tough guy, a cop with no sense of humour whatsoever and a single-minded purpose in bringing bad guys to justice. Shooting people actually kills them, good guys are sometimes killed, and bad guys are genuinely bad. Sometimes cartoonish bad, (like the neo-Nazi episode) which is perfect, because Ness is cartoon-good. When he busts up a ring of drug runners, he's not just arresting the bad guys. No, those arrests are always the final step to completely eradicating the drug trade in Chicago, and sometimes the entire U.S. Perhaps THE WORLD!

The narrator is terrific too. Talking in the voice one would expect of a narrator in the thirties, that quick stiff delivery that describes the action moments after we have seen that exact same action take place. Is the narrator superfluous? Usually. Redundant? Almost always. Awesome? Most definitely. Every second episode features a really hot woman who is either evil or needs to be rescued, and the other episodes feature less attractive women who, at the time, I suppose were considered really hot. But the main reason to watch the show is the "untouchables" themselves. Busting open doors, raiding criminal dens, beating criminals into confessions and following up leads with no regard for procedure or common decency - this is the way TV shows were meant to be, until they got sadly sanitzed and became The A-Team in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. The Untouchables, Season 2 Volume 1 came out Tuesday courtesy of Paramount.

Just because I am a tool does not mean I have tools...

My garage is flooding. The eavestrough from my roof, with the melting snow and all yesterday, was depositing water directly into the garage, and there is now a puddle about half a foot deep and ten feet by ten feet right where the car goes. So yesterday, after an extensive but futile attempt to bail out the garage with my bright yellow shovel, I tried a different tactic. I couldn't use my plastic shovel to chop up ice, so I got a butter knife and a hammer. I was in the driveway, on my hands and knees, hitting a butter knife with a hammer in order to chop a channel down the side of the driveway and hopefully allow the water to drain toward the street instead of into my garage. My efforts proved fruitless, however, and drew some strange looks from my neighbours, and I still have a massive puddle in the garage. For some reason, the people who owned the house before me carpeted the garage, on the walls, so I am anticipating the gross smell of rotting carpet come spring. It's either that or going out every half hour or so to use my makeshift bailing bucket to remove the water. My older step-son got home from school and eagerly jumped in to help, but I soon realized that to him, "help" meant "hit things with a hammer", and may have been slightly counter-productive. At least he wanted to help, whether it was because of his destructive nature or not. So I will wait until he gets off school today to begin phase 2 of my attempt to save my garage-carpet, which will be ripping the drain spout off the wall of the garage in an attempt to re-direct the water.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Toys For Boys.

It's over. The big winner was a man, one whose name I was not able to catch in the madness last night, but one who will be calling the Doc and Woody show this morning to share his thoughts on leaving Philthy McNastys last night with more than 110,000 bucks in prizes. It was a fine party, and went smoothly, although I realized that toward the end, when almost everyone had gone through and played their CDs, that the sphincters of the promo people were tightening, worried that the proper CD was not in there. Their sphincters tightened even more when Doc pointed out how tight their sphincters truly were. But of course, the right CD was in there, and the winner was suitably overcome and ecstatic, and 174 people went home disappointed. Well, most didn't seem too upset, the party was good enough that people had a good time just being there. I met several great people, like the guy who signed my anti-snow petition several hundred times to boost my numbers, the lady who once helped me and a listener win a "turkey run" on Thanksgiving a few years ago by driving like Jimmy Johnson in her bright yellow VW beetle, and dozens of other friendly folk. I thought, since I have been at every event for Toys For Boys leading up to the party, I would reminisce a little about the past few weeks and my favourite moments:

Bathrooms First: The first bonus code event for Toys For Boys, last year Bathrooms First was a sparsely-attended event, unfortunately coinciding with a massive snowstorm. This year, the weather pretty much held out, and more people were able to make it out. 10,000 dollars toward a bathroom may seem like a lot, but it won't last long if you purchase the toilet Howie Mandel made famous - the one where everything is remote-controlled and you don't have to touch anything. For ten grand, you could get two. Which would be kinda awesome. My favourite moment at the event was when I got to meet the couple who won the trip to Montreal to see Ozzy Osbourne, and a big Ozzy package to go along with it. They are the biggest Ozzy fans I have ever met, that trip for them was amazing, and they were still buzzing about it. Rarely do I meet people who are still that thrilled over a prize they've won. Maybe only Toys For Boys winners. Although I never seem to see them again. They just drop off the face of the earth and go live wherever rich people live.

Philthy McNastys: This event was at the same place we held the party, and it was one of the best we've done. The main reason it was so great was that people stuck around. It wasn't just grabbing a bonus code and taking off, people stayed to eat (the food is great) and have beer, and watch the hockey game. I got to watch hockey and drink beer while I was "working"! Terrific. Tiffany and I amused ourselves by reading the names on the Canadian Wall of Fame at the back and seeing which ones were mis-spelled. My personal favourite was the special place on the wall (and in the hearts of Canadians) for The Gus Who. But what do you expect from a place that mis-spells Filthy? One of our fantastic long-time listeners, Wolfgang, brought me a turntable, and we conducted the transaction as though we were doing some kind of drug deal, very secretive. Also, Philthys is close to my house, and I have a place to watch hockey every time one of those obnoxious pay-per-view events comes on.

Sub-Zero Hot Tubs: Before the event, Adam, the sales rep, had me memorize some line or other. Like..."the four day blowout of all 2007 model hot tubs and pool tables", or something like that. I had it memorized when I got there. I have since forgotten. But it was very important that I knew this and said it verbatim during every on-air segment. And I did. I repeated this phrase over and over on my way there, and I was ready to go. Which of course was not necessary, as Adam had written it down for me on several sheets of paper. No faith. It made me laugh though - it reminds me of the days when the radiothons are going on. Snowsuit Fund, or whatever it might be. And we come in early in the morning to see the phone number for CHEZ taped to every surface in the studio. We can't see each other because the papers are right in our lines of vision. And they all say CHEZ - 750-1061. That's it. If we don't already know that...we take them down and ignore them, but they're right back up there the next year. I got to see tow of my favourite listeners, Francine and Pierre, the NASCAR freaks, but my favourite moment at SubZero was when someone brought in a puppy. A tiny, almost-newborn puppy. And Tiffany's voice instantly rose about six octaves, so she sounded like Joey Lauren Adams on helium, and only the dog could really hear her. Puppies and babies. Gets 'em every time.

Laurentian Marine: A sort of out-of-the-way place just off Hunt Club, and yet incredibly well attended for such a small shop. On the bus on the way there, I ran into one of the Doc and Woody show's most frequent...contributors?...Kirk, who had brought us some golf stuff he was no longer using. Which was a solid way to spend the last half hour on the bus. It took me about two hours to get to Laurentian on the bus, and I ended up cutting it about as close as I could, showing up for the 3:00 event at about 3:10. Which is not something I make a habit of doing, but it does make me laugh when I see people panicking in the moment when I arrive. Mostly sales guys though, I don't like stressing Tiffany out. Well...not as much, anyway. Toward the end of the event, I called my girlfriend to come pick me up. She chose a location a little ways down Hunt Club to meet me, since she knew how to get there. I had to get our sales woman, Stacy, to drive me to the meeting-place, only to find out it was like two blocks away. My girlfriend doesn't do too well driving in the snow, and I drove home. And Stacy was kind enough to give me a lift despite the fact that I had shown up at the last possible second, and had continually referred to the "Princecraft Fishing Boat" as a "Pinecrest Fishing Boat" the whole time I was there.

Gearhead: Working off my debt a little, after causing some havoc there earlier, this was a good time. Mary and Dan, the owners, had hired a bunch of hot young girls to help out in the store as greeters, and I'm not sure what purpose they served but they certainly created a great atmosphere for our listeners. Dan and Mary are two of the nicest people on earth, and since I set off their alarm and knocked over their display case, I have been wearing a Gearhead hat, sort of as my way of saying "you deserve what advertising I can provide". I recently lost the hat though when one of our sales guys made me take it off at a Rona event. Rona now selling motorcycles as they do, I guess it was competition? Or something. But they have agreed to send me another one. When I was in there they had a photo sheet made for me of the pictures they took when I was setting off their alarms. I love it.

Performance Mazda: Last on the list, the RX8 parked proudly outside, and bumped back to avoid that massive weekend snowstorm, this was by far our best-attended T4B event. Mark has always been terrific, and I would really like to see him driving the RX8 some day. He told me last night that he does drive it, but seeing as he must be six foot eight, it has to look kinda funny. My buddy Eric came by this event and hung out for a bit, saying the things I don't have the energy to say. When a young man came up to us and suggested that he hated Theory of a Deadman, we agreed. Then he explained his reasoning, that being that Theory of a Deadman are especially terrible because they are ripping off the most original, consistent and brilliant band in Canadian history...Nickelback. I turned to give bonus codes away to other people, while Eric stage-whispered into my ear "I think that's the unabomber". Eric went on to point something dreadful out to me. Nickelback's latest album has set the record for most #1 singles on one album with nine. NINE #1 singles. Nickelback. This breaks the record of 8, which was set by...Def Leppard. Both albums had a song called Photograph that hit #1. So we decided to record a song called Photograph, just to get rich. Then we will buy matching RX8s.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Doc Halen book of the month club. Gone Baby Gone.

Doc complained about the movie version of Gone Baby Gone. I thought it was amazing, but he was irritated because he had read the book first, and he couldn't picture Casey Affleck as the star of the piece, Patrick Kenzie. It appears that Dennis Lehane, the author of Gone Baby Gone, has done a whole series of books featuring Patrick Kenzie and his private investigator partner Angie Gennaro, and Doc has read them all. Therefore, he has a picture in his head of the couple, and Casey Affleck wasn't one of them. So therefore he couldn't get into the movie. I had a similar problem with the book. Because I had just watched the movie, and I liked it so much, I had a difficult time caring what happened next in the novel. I kind of already knew. So that coloured my enjoyment a little, until the story threw in a few elements that were not in the film. But there wasn't much different.

One of the cops has a heart attack in the book that he doesn't have in the film (the cop played by John Ashton). Also, in the book the private investigators and the cops visit the drug dealer in prison, whereas in the movie, they visit him at his home. And in the book, two of that drug dealer's henchmen figure prominently. Aside from this, there is very little difference at all, and although I really enjoyed the book, for one of the first times ever I would recommend the movie over the novel. And yes, I was picturing Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie the whole time I read the book. And no, that didn't change my enjoyment. I like Casey Affleck. And I liked this book. But I still think the movie was almost perfect. It's a short list, comprising mostly the Godfather series, but movies that outshine good books are hard to come by, and this appears to be one.

It pays to have a Dad with a sense of humour.

My dad gets me. At least, I think he does. It was his birthday on Saturday, and I am a bad son, who does last-minute shopping when it comes to birthdays, Christmas and so forth. I was working at Rona all day before meeting my father, so that was where I was going to get my shopping done. I asked the helpful staff at Rona Carleton Place for some suggestions as to what he might like. He lives in a small town in Saskatchewan, on a big property, and so I needed a gift that could possibly be used in a setting such as that one and also fit into his suitcase. After much assistance from Wendy and Lois, and much deliberation on my part, I chose a fence-measuring device with a telescoping handle and a small wheel, and a magnetic key-gathering device that also telescoped. It is the kind of thing that you can use if you drop something metallic into a crack, and must reach two metres into that crack to grab those keys or that butter knife or what have you.

Both gifts, I figured, were fairly useless, but they looked nice and made me happy, so I put them in a bag with the card I had purchased that same day at the Carleton Place Shoppers Drug Mart. I had chosen a "Congratulations on your 95th Birthday!" card. Inside I wrote "I couldn't manage the math to figure out your actual age, so I estimated". The real reason, and (I think) my Dad gets this, is that I hate cards. I hate the idea of greeting cards for all occasions, I hate the fact that people feel the need to get cards from a store, I dislike the cards that already exist...I am anti-greeting card. Frankly, how sympathetic could you be toward whatever my predicament might be, if you purchased a sympathy card featuring flowers and a poem inside from a Hallmark store? If you want to show sympathy, write me a note. Or bring me a steak. Either way...I keep the sympathy card section in business too, however. My anti-greeting card campaign actually keeps me buying greeting cards far more than I ordinarily would. I just make it a point to get inappropriate ones. For Dad's last birthday, I believe I got him a sympathy card, and wrote inside that I felt deep sympathy for anyone that old. For Doc's birthday last year, I used an old Christmas card I had lying around, and wrote that the reason I did so was that to me, he is Jesus.

The real reason I picked up the "95th birthday" card, however, was that I found it awesome that enough people reach their 95th birthdays that it has become profitable for Hallmark to create an entire line of cards centred around that specific age. I would have been even more excited had I found a "Happy 93rd" card, but I was not willing to put in the time to search for one. As I said, I am a bad son.

So anyway, my Dad laughed with (I think) good humour, and then we all made fun of my gifts together. The fence-measuring device will likely never be used on an actual fence, but it was at least used on Saturday to measure the tables at the Broadway in Barrhaven. (They are, for future reference, 0.0010 kilometres in circumference.) The magnetic reaching-stick was used as well, to pick up knives from the floor and pepper shakers from the table. (The salt shaker, remarkably, was not sticking to the magnet. Same shaker exactly as the pepper, same metal top - the pepper worked and the salt didn't. Must be some chemical thing I once knew but have since forgotten.) And a good time was had by all. After dinner, we all went back to my house to watch Atonement, as I had to do so before I went back to work. My Dad and my Mom and I watched that upstairs, while my girlfriend took my sister and her husband downstairs to drink beer and play on the Wii. When they left, Dad suggested that he had enjoyed himself, but he still had that look in his eye that he gets sometimes that I can never decipher. It's either a look that says "I get the joke, and I'm still laughing inside", or one that says "I know you meant to be funny, but you should really see a doctor about your mental problems". I think he gets me...

Double standard in hockey?

Chris Pronger is not Chris Simon. This much is clear, in the sense that having Chris Pronger on your team can make you a Cup contender, but having Chris Simon on your team...well, I don't really see at this point why anyone would want Chris Simon on their team. Pronger was recently suspended 8 games for an incident that was very similar to the one that netted Simon his NHL-record 30 gamer at the beginning of the year. Now, the incidents were certainly different. Simon's came after the play was over, and it was a deliberate attempt to injure. Pronger's came while the play was still going, he was trying to disentangle his leg from Ryan Kesler's, and he stomped down on Kesler's leg in a deliberate attempt to injure. Both players stomped down, with a skate, on the leg of another player who was prone on the ice. Both players had been suspended eight times leading up to the stomping incident. Both players are known for being cheap-shot artists and dirty players. And yet the big difference here? Pronger is a Cup winner, a Hart Trophy winner, a Norris Trophy winner, and a superstar. Simon is a fourth-line brawler at best.

On the surface, this seems to be a no-brainer. With similar histories of suspensions and dirty play, with a similar incident to deal with, should these suspensions not be completely equal? Should Pronger not be given thirty games? Not that it's the same thing, but we saw what a skate blade can do very recently in that horrible Richard Zednik incident. So it's pretty clear that stomping on a leg could do an awful lot of damage, and there can be no question whether there was intent to injure. So the NHL is basically saying that Pronger gets 8 games because his stomp was reactive and Simon's was pre-meditated. Like a court giving a life sentence for first-degree (pre-meditated) murder and an 8-year sentence for second-degree (in the heat of passion) murder. Which is something that seems like a stretch to me. If someone is able to get into say, an argument with someone at a bar, walk out to his car and get a gun and go back inside and shoot that other person, or when they are able to stab someone to death in an incident of road rage, isn't that person the one who is most likely to kill again? That person has no control whatsoever of their impulses, no matter how irrational they are.

However, I checked a little further, and realized that the suspensions were a little more equal than I thought. This year, Chris Simon is being paid $475,000.00. Therefore, his 30 games cost him $169,642.86, or thereabouts. Chris Pronger, on the other hand, is earning $6,250,000.00 this season, and therefore he is losing even more money than Simon - $595,238.10 over his 8 games. So. I don't know what all this means. I guess, more than anything, it means the Ducks will have Pronger by the time the playoffs start, so he can be a part of the team as they defend their Cup and are all over the TV. Boy - think of how low those American TV ratings would be without Chris Pronger!

Out today - Love in the Time of Cholera! How long would you wait for love? (****4/10)

Love In The Time Of Cholera is two and a half hours long. The tag line on the DVD box is "how long would you wait for love?" My answer is "not this long". The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and it takes place in South America. I have always wondered this about period pieces. If the characters are in a time and a place where they would logically be speaking Spanish, why then do they speak English with Spanish accents? It makes more sense that the movie would be in Spanish with English subtitles, or in regular English. Why try to do half-and-half? At least in The Hunt For Red October and movies like that, the movie begins in another language with subtitles, and moves seamlessly into English so that we can watch the movie in that language. Either way, in any language, this movie blows.

Javier Bardem plays a man who is denied his true love (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) as a young boy, and waits 51 years for the woman's husband to die so he can go after his dream girl once again. In the meantime, he becomes the ultimate ladies man and romantic, and sleeps with six hundred and twenty-two women. On the plus side, we get to see many of their boobs. On the downside, this is two and a half hours of...not much. Benjamin Bratt plays the husband, and somehow his Spanish accent is kind of laughable. Also, because the movie takes place over 55 years, the stars have to get made up to look older and older as the movie goes on. Which sometimes works seamlessly, as it does with Bardem, and at other times looks like...well, makeup and fake moustaches, like with Bratt.

Predictable, and occasionally silly, Love In The Time Of Cholera is occasionally fun, sometimes painful, but mostly boring and slow. Javier Bardem is great, but why watch this movie when No Country For Old Men is out there? Stay away from this one, and rent No Country For Old Men again.

DVD releases today - Tuesday March 18th.

I Am Legend (8/10): Will Smith is the only man left alive. Will Smith is likeable, and just about the only actor in the film. Therefore, we like the film because we like Will Smith. Just don't read too deep into it.

Enchanted: Amy Adams is a fairy tale princess who somehow ends up in real-life Manhattan. Why don't movies like this one take place in Green Bay or Tupelo? Because there are not enough landmarks to let you know that it is Green Bay or Tupelo.

Atonement (7/10): The least deserving best-picture nominee, this movie is half flawless, half boring. A period piece about betrayal, childish perception and the consequences of a lie, the parts with Saorise Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave are far better than the parts with James McEvoy and Keira Knightley.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising: A young man named Will Stanton learns he is the last of a group of warriors who have dedicated their lives to fighting the forces of the Dark. And there is time travel...spoiler alert: In the end, Will Stanton may very well save the entire world!

Love In The Time Of Cholera (4/10): Javier Bardem is very good, Giovanna Mezzogiorno is very hot, and there are dozens of bare breasts. That's all this movie has going for it though, and that's not much for two and a half hours.

Revolver: Jason Statham, once again, is the star of an action movie. I like Jason Statham, but he just isn't a star, and if it hasn't happened yet, with Snatch and the Transporter movies and Crank and such like, it doesn't look as though it's gonna happen. The addition of Ray Liotta stamps this one as a B movie.

The Sickhouse (1/10): A colossal waste of time for a horror movie. One of the worst I have seen, sort of a movie-by-numbers thing, thrown together and poorly at that.

Southland Tales: One of the movies that has received the worst reviews of any film this year, yet strangely one I am looking forward to seeing. The Rock is once again teamed with Seann William Scott, this time with Sarah Michelle Gellar thrown in.

Also out:

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3
- this means my buddy Mark will be having a watching-party!
Borderland
Breakfast with Scot
Conspiracy
Deaths of Ian Stone, The
Dennis the Menace: Trouble, Trouble Everywhere
Go Diego Go!: Moonlight Rescue
Running with Arnold
Ungodly, The

Out today - The Sickhouse. (*1/10)

The Sickhouse is a horror movie that comes out today courtesy of Alliance Films. It’s a total mess of a movie, and will waste your time immensely. Even if you are a rabid horror buff, you can skip this one. There is absolutely nothing in this film that has not been seen before, and even by the already-low standards of horror flicks, this one fails. I don’t understand these direct to DVD horror films. Why are they made? Is there really a profit? This is yet another in an interminable list of my-first-movie horror hatchet jobs. For every Blair Witch or Cloverdale or Evil Dead, there are fifty thousand terrible movies out there, and The Sickhouse is one of them.

The basic premise is that a woman (played by Gina Phillips, who gets top billing even though I have no idea who she is) gets trapped inside a building. That building (of course) used to be a hospital for (of course) sick children. But it was also, many years earlier, the site of (of course) child murders, the black plague, and horrible acts of violence and evil and sadism perpetrated by doctors who were members of some kind of evil cult. Phillips is an archaeologist (of course) who is excavating the basement of this abandoned hospital. The building is scheduled for demolition early the next morning, so she has very little time to complete her dig. There are (of course) bad-ass kids who show up at the hospital to do bad-ass punk type things, like auto theft and graffitti and drugs. The four kids and the archaeologist are thrown into the hell together when a doll is found and a head is placed on it and a floor gives way and a head injury occurs and evil spirits are unleashed. Or something.

There is not one real scare in the entire movie. The end makes absolutely no sense, as though it was cooked up by a bunch of stoners who really wanted to "mess with their miiinnnds, maaan!" It is ludicrous, and the film makers definitely thought it was deeper and far more clever than it was. Here are a few tips for people who want to make my-first-film horror flicks. Weird camera angles are not scary. Blair Witch photography has not been scary since Blair Witch. A twist at the end is scary only when it doesn’t piss you off. Also, that twist has to make sense, and the rest of the movie has to be good enough to hold someone’s interest until you can unleash that twist. The Sickhouse misses the mark on every score.

Out today - Atonement. (*******7/10)

Atonement is the story of love between a sock puppet and a stick figure. The sock puppet is played by James McEvoy, who has become the go-to guy when you need a young, attractive, possibly rough-around-the-edges but with a heart of gold guy to appear in a period piece. Keira Knightley plays the stick figure, the female love interest in this period piece, which tells a tale of a time when food did not exist, and what food there was, was kept away from Keira Knightley.

The film starts out in a familiar way, in that different people watching the same events perceive them differently. That difference in perception stems from the innate bias each character brings to the scene, and becomes a difference in truth as well. Specifically, a couple of scenes between McEvoy and Knightley that are observed by Knightley’s younger sister, played by Saoirse Ronan. Ronan is fantastic in the role that won her a nomination for best supporting actress at the Oscars this year. Her character, Briony Tallis, is actually played by three different actresses, including Vanessa Redgrave, who is terrific in her three minutes of screen time.

The first hour of the movie is fantastic, an hour that accentuates the distance between the characters by placing them all at great distances from each other in the country mansion in which they live and work. Briony Tallis intercepts a letter meant for her sister from McEvoy, and that begins a series of events that will destroy lives and crush romance. (By the way, this movie, and that letter, make the best use of the "c" word I have yet seen in a film.) The younger Tallis accuses McEvoy of a heinous act, one that we all know he did not commit. It remains unclear whether Briony knows, herself, that he didn’t, but we definitely know that she did not really see what she claims to have seen.

The second half of the movie becomes more conventional and boring in a period-piece sort of way, as McEvoy is released from prison directly into the army during World War II. There are some obligatory period-piece army scenes, and the lovers pine for each other from a distance as he gets evacuated from Dunkirk while she works as a nurse in a military hospital. This part of the movie (the second hour) sags immensely, and loses a lot of momentum. This part of Atonement could have been inserted in Becoming Jane, mid-way through, and no one would have blinked or realized it was a different movie. But the last three minutes redeem the movie almost entirely, as Vanessa Redgrave is magnificent as the older Briony, now a best-selling author, telling her tale and explaining the final result of her lie. Which the movie, with a running time of two hours and three minutes, is 51 percent excellent.

Atonement was nominated for best picture at the Oscars, and I think it was the least-deserving of the picks. Redgrave was more deserving of a best supporting actress nomination over Ronan, but Ronan is very good, and the new fresh face in Hollywood, so she will always get the nod over an elder Hollywood stateswoman. Atonement is good, but it is not Oscar-worthy. It’s just a well-done, well-written, well-acted period piece that will likely be forgotten in ten years. A far better choice for a nomination would have been either In The Valley Of Elah or Eastern Promises, two films that will likely have staying power and relevance far beyond what this one will manage.

Out today - I Am Legend. (********8/10)

If you are going to make a movie starring just one actor, you could do worse than Will Smith. I Am Legend is a movie concept that isn’t exactly new, it’s basically a remake of the old Charlton Heston post-apocalyptic film, The Omega Man. The film opens with a cameo from Emma Thompson, who plays a scientist on TV announcing a cure for cancer. I suppose we are to believe that whatever that cure was is the same thing that unleashed the virus that wiped out humanity. The next thing we know, it’s three years later and Will Smith is the only man left alive, and he tears around New York City in sports cars shooting at deer, who apparently now live right in the city with the humans. He is accompanied by his faithful dog, Sam, and he lives a fairly quiet life. He has set up mannequins in the local video store to appear as though there are people around, and he rents movies there every night. He has to make sure he is home by sundown, and then he sits there with his dog watching the films.

The reason, it becomes clear soon enough, that he has to be home by sundown each evening, is that not everyone has died. There are strange, mutated human beings living in the darkness. Like vampires, they die in the sunlight, and therefore the daylight hours are perfectly safe for Smith and the dog Sam. Like the volleyball in Castaway, Sam becomes a very human character in the film, like a child who can’t speak. He helps Smith with his work - which is, basically, finding a cure for the virus. Because he is immune to it himself, he uses his blood to try to cure the infected mutants, which he captures by means of snares and traps, the kind one might lay for rabbits as a third-grade boy scout. He then takes them back to his underground lab and injects them with...something...that might cure them. All very experimental, all very high-tech.

But of course, something has to go wrong. And I don’t want to divulge the end of the movie, so I won’t say exactly what it is that goes wrong. But I will say it involves mutants, since that seems obvious, and it involves Will Smith, since that too is obvious. He behaves, toward the end of the film, exactly the way I expect I would behave were I utterly alone save for a dog for three long years. There are some good action scenes, and the mutants are suitably scary. They do seem old-hat by now, however. We have seen many similar scary mutants in movies like Blade II, The Descent, 28 Days Later, and so forth. But they work, and they serve their purpose, so I really can’t complain.

There are some problems with the plot. How come his house still has electricity so many years after the world disappeared? How do his various cars seem to have an endless supply of gas? How come he has those massive steel doors protecting every possible entry into his house, yet the mutants can so easily break in at the appropriate moments? How do the mutants remember where he lives when the time comes? And how can he have the lights on in his house at night if he is afraid those mutants may discover where he lives? Furthermore, if his lab is in the basement of his house, how can daylight get down there to protect people from the mutants when the need arises? And most of those deer-in-the-city shots are very obviously (and therefore poorly) computer-generated.

All problematic, but in the end, irrelevant. As I said before, a movie with (basically) just one actor needs someone like Will Smith, who can make his way through scenes completely solo and still keep our attention. We enjoy this movie because we enjoy Will Smith, plain and simple. And despite the fact I have seen it many times before, despite the problems involved, I did indeed enjoy this movie.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hitman! Like every other movie about Hitmen! Out now. (***3/10)

With every hit-man movie, there are certain cliches that must be observed. Great hit-man movies have only some of them. Bad hit-man movies have all of them. Hitman is a bad hit-man movie. Those cliches are - there is a a massive shootout in a hotel or an apartment building, a shootout that kills dozens, maybe hundreds of cops, because who cares if cops die? This hotel shootout likely involves one or more characters crashing into other peoples' rooms, and almost certainly ends with the hitman escaping, either by leaping off a balcony or by disguising himself as one of the dead riot cops. The killer then has to go after his own bosses for some reason, because they set him up. These bosses always work for a shadowy, never-explained organization that operates outside the CIA, Interpol, MI5 or what have you. The hitman never fully understands the complete setup himself, and there is always a woman around to help him learn more about himself. (Quite often a goth-chick who gets off on the danger.) Also, the number TWO hitman in the world is always resentful of the number ONE assassin, and goes after him. There is almost always female nudity, the number ONE assassin is always the "good" guy, and there is a target he just can't kill that sets him back on the path to decency. (A child, a woman, or an old high school friend.)

Movies with some or all of these features are as follows: Assassin, Assassins, Fulltime Killer, The Professional, The Specialist, La Femme Nikita, Point of No Return, Ghost Dog, The Killer, Prizzi's Honor, Le Samourai, Pulp Fiction, Panic, This Gun For Hire, Killer, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Smokin' Aces, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Whole Nine Yards, 2 Days in the Valley, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Shoot 'Em Up, Crank, Kill Bill, Kill Bill 2, The Transporter, The Transporter 2, Grosse Pointe Blank, Red Rock West, Fallen Angels, Time and Tide, and many many others. Every one of those movies (with the possible exception of Point of No Return) is better than Hitman. Hitman uses every one of those cliches, mostly to startlingly bad effect. The Hitman in question is played by Timothy Olyphant, who for some reason appears to be channeling, or at least emulating, Keanu Reeves. Why, I wondered in watching this, would someone go out of their way to ACT like Keanu Reeves? And by that I mean an inanimate carbon rod. Olyphant plays Agent 47, a man who has been, along with many others, groomed from birth to kill people. His only name is 47, and he gets that name from the last two numbers in the bar code tatooed on the back of his bald head.

If secrecy is the idea here, and this group of hired killers is a bunch of "ghosts" who are never identified or seen, there are no witnesses ever, and no one is sure they exist...what's with the barcodes and bald heads? Wouldn't a bunch of people with shaven heads and barcode tatoos on their scalp be the most easily identifiable group of people on Earth? Wouldn't EVERYONE notice them? If you saw a guy like that in a bar on Canada Day, you would tell your friends. If you saw a guy like that moments after a president is assassinated, perhaps you would tell...the police? And if I were one of these shaved-head-barcode-tattoo hitmen, I would wear a hat. I would treasure my anonymity. I would attempt NOT to stand out from a crowd. But then, I don't kill people. And, judging by this movie, that should get me laid whenever I like. Of course, there has to be a woman who falls for the hitman. And seeing as Olyphant has the personality of a plum and the charizma of a bowl of wheat germ, the only identifiable reason she could have to fall in love with him is that he did not kill her.

And so...there are many people I have not killed. Should Scarlett Johanssen and Cate Blanchett and Famke Janssen all want to leap straight into bed with me simply because I did not kill them? This movie would have me believe this is the case. I now assume that whenever I meet a beautiful woman, she will likely beg me to have my babies simply because I left her alive. I asked my girlfriend if this was why she was with me, and she said that indeed it was. I have left her alive over the course of these past four years, and as such she is not only indebted to me, but also madly in love with me, since I spared her so generously. Single guys - I do this as a public service! Next time you see a hot girl in a bar, walk over and whisper in her ear - you're still alive, right? And when she says yes, then you say that you should celebrate that continued "living" with some sex. I have recently learned that no woman can resist this level of charm. Just try to say it with no emotion or charm (think like Keanu Reeves). It can't fail.

Hitman is very true-to-form, in that when hitmen have to fight each other to the death, they don't do so with guns. They have their own code of honour, and they usually use their fists or other weapons. In this case, swords. Olyphant clearly purchased his pants at the same place they made Bugs Bunny's fur. You know how in the Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny can seemingly produce objects at will by yanking them out of his fur? Olyphant's pants are similar, in that he can yank swords out of them. Swords that would have made it rather difficult to have that naked-boob sex scene earlier without chopping off some important parts. Swords that would have made it very difficult to do that running-through-the hotel and leaping-from-the-window thing without chopping off some important parts. Or, perhaps, that is why the sex scene never gets to actual sex. He has chopped off some important parts while carrying swords in his pants.

All you really need to know about Hitman, and about the contempt this movie has for it's audience, is this: When the assassins and executives and bosses and women and gun runners travel all over the world, the place they are is displayed on the bottom of the screen. Like this:

MOSCOW (Russia)
LONDON (England)
CHICAGO
PARIS (France)

This movie thinks that we are smart enough to know what country contains the city Chicago, but dumb enough to need it spelled out to us that Moscow is in Russia. That is, this movie believes that we, the audience, are dumber than marsupials. Judging by the fact that this movie made 40 million dollars, domestically, at the box office, an awful lot of us actually are.