Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Harrison Ford isn't on fire...

Harrison Ford's latest, "Firewall," returns him to his trusty role of a likable, trusting family-man who gets into some really nasty trouble at the hands of some really nasty people. It's no different a character from those he has played in "The Devil's Own," "The Fugitive," "Clear and Present Danger," etc. In fact, when it comes right down to it, the plot oddly resembles his last big hit, 1997's "Air Force One." Here, instead of PotUS, Ford plays a healthy bank's CIO, whose family is ransomed by cyber-saavy bankrobbers (instead of terrorists) for access to the bank's biggest customers' accounts. Well, as you can imagine, there are lots and lots of coincidences that work in the bad guys' favor, as well as a few that work against them (how convenient that Harrison Ford's character gets a new trackable GPS-ish leash for their dog on the same day as the kidnapping...do you think that will come up later in the movie?) The result is a predictible rehash of things we've seen Ford do in a dozen other movies.

Having said that, Harrison Ford is comfort food, and when we've seen him try to do other things ("What Lies Beneath"), it usually tastes like that dish you shouldn't have ordered instead of your traditional favorite--you always wish he'd stick with what works. (If only this one worked a little better...). The movie is harmless, has a few laughs, a few thrills, and lots of gratuitous shots of that new Chrysler. Won't be included on Harrison Ford's lifetime achievement award reel, but it might be worth a DVD rental, if only to remember the type of character we love him to play. (**1/2 out of four)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Walking the Line

Tonight was a perfect night. I cuddled up to my sweetheart under a blanket with a bowl of popcorn (air-popped of course) and watched a good movie in the dark. I can't think of very many things that I'd rather be doing.

The movie was "Walk the Line" with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Without having seen any of the other Oscar nominees, I can state with complete subjectivity that Joaquin was robbed. He was stunning as Johnny Cash--not only electric and emotional, but entertaining as well. That said, the Academy got it right by honoring Reese, who was the epitome of charm as June Carter. They were two of my favorite performances in a looong time, and made the movie completely convincing. I hope to get the soundtrack soon too--those two can sing!

The movie is yet another example of something that has become clearer and clearer to me as time goes on: behind every great man is an even greater woman. I don't condone some of Mr. Cash's actions, but found comfort that he finally achieved happiness and stability once he found himself with a woman who loved and supported him, even through his ugliest of days.

Wendy and I have one painting hanging on our wall at home; it's a print of James Christensen's "Poofy Guy on a Short Leash." It humorously depicts a stalwart-looking woman keeping a, well, poofy guy grounded, who otherwise would fly away without direction or boundaries. Anyone who knows me knows why the painting hangs in our home. I guess that's one thing I have in common with Johnny Cash: we both ended up with our June Carter.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pride and a bit of Prejudice

At the risk of offending my massive reader-base, I feel I must confess my thoughts upon finishing the book "Pride and Prejudice" (here only three weeks after book club...): Overall, I admired the book; the prose is beautiful and witty, several of the characters are unique and memorable, and there are some genuinely poignant moments.

That said, I have to admit that I do not find myself on the list of Austen fanatics that will quote this book--or even really remember it--a few years down the road. Part of the problem may be that I allowed myself to read it over too long a period of time (2 months I think), which gave the lengthy book an even longer feel. Another challenge is the book's British origins; sometimes the writing was just a little too fancy for my simple mind. (As an English major, I should probably disclose that I much preferred American literature to British, so take my comments with a grain of salt.)

Reading "Pride and Prejudice" was a pleasant experience--a clever study of human nature and communication--and I'm happy that I got through it. Time will tell if it grows "more dear" to me, but for now, I'll settle on the 2 hour DVD version (no thanks on the A&E marathon...) if anyone in my house needs a quick-fix of Jane Austen. In the meantime, I'm excited about this month's American book: "Cold Sassy Tree."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Brand new X-Men 3 Trailer!

Special thanks to recently alive Jack Bauer for giving us our first look at the new X-Men 3 trailer. Fortunately for us, the only thing more exciting than the trailer itself was the episode of "24" that it appeared during (have fun with that sentence, grammarians). For those of you that haven't gotten hooked on "24," you're missing out!

Anyway, here's the link to the new trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/tls/trailer/large.html

It looks pretty good, considering a new director and writers. Can't wait for that summer movie season to start kicking into high gear...
Oscar thoughts

With no Oscar Party to keep me entertained, I quickly remembered why I started holding an Oscar Party in the first place...the show is surprisingly dull for about 75% of the time. The clips are too long, most of the awards are uninteresting, and the "banter" is awkward and forced. Last night's show, in particular, had a few particularly puzzling elements: What was with the band playing through the winners' speeches? And why oh why do they ask senile old screen legends (like Lauren Bacall) to give stilted old speeches that are impossible to read without bifocles? Did the show's producers learn nothing from Elizabeth Taylor's embarrassing "Glaaaadiator" debacle at the Golden Globes a few years back?

That said, there were a few bright spots from last night's show. Reese Witherspoon's win was as welcome as her acceptance speech was cheery. I also enjoyed Jon Stewart overall. And I could actually hear the collective gasp when "Crash" won the Best Picture award, stealing the thunder away from "Brokeback Mountain." Oscar surprises are so rare; it was fitting that the best surprise of all was reserved for the end of the show.

As predicted, however, this year's telecast was the 2nd least-watched Academy Awards ceremony since 1974. Cry as he might, George Clooney just doesn't get that Hollywood really is out of touch with the rest of the country. Here's hoping that next year's awards will give us something to cheer about.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"The Island" and "Zathura" DVD reviews

Wendy and I caught up on another couple of DVDs last weekend, and surprisingly, neither of them was half bad.
  • "The Island"--This was a decent sci-fi action movie/mystery with just enough big chase scenes and mystery to keep the story going for most of the movie. Ewan McGregor doesn't really seem like the ideal action hero, and Scarlett Johansson is bland as usual, but the premise itself is just intriguing enough to allow us to forgive the plotholes and casting mistakes, at least for a while. Sort of a bigger-budget cousin of "Gattaca"--a high concept fantasy that works most of the time. (*** out of four)
  • "Zathura"--The studio tried to get some real leverage out of the inevitable "Jumanji" comparisons, but for once, I think the advertising hit it right on the head: "Zathura" really is just "Jumanji" in space. That can be a blessing or a curse, but this movie never pretends to be anything different, and as long as you go into it thinking that it's going to be all about a magical board game that causes things to come to life, you'll enjoy yourself. The acting is decent--especially by the youngest of the two brothers, who is adorable--and the movie has a pro-family (especially pro-brothers) theme to it. The special effects are impressive, there is plenty of humor mixed in with the action, and there is a happy (if not entirely logical) ending to wrap up all the mayhem in the middle. A decent 90 minute diversion that is appropriate for most of the family (might be a little intense for younger kids). (*** out of four)