Archive for Entertainment

Marie Antoinette – The Movie

Jodi and I went to see this one last night, and it was pretty good. It was a bit longer than I had expected (and hopefully no spoilers here), that’s even without all of the nastiness at the end of her life included as part of the film.

Having read the Wikipedia entry about her, I felt prepared (or at least much more prepared than I would have been several weeks earlier, when I knew almost nothing of the history). I found the film to be well made and interesting. There were a couple of times where it seemed to drag a bit and spend too long on one activity, but it seemed pretty clear that these were intentional to show how utterly boring it would have been to live that “life of privilege” (more like “life of duty and expectation”).

In the film, you really could empathize with her predicament. Here she is, a young teenage girl, and all the (much, MUCH older) adults in her life keep telling her what a horrible failure she is/will-be if she can’t convince her asexual teenage husband to impregnate her. This problem she faced is a well-known secret of their marriage 200+ years later, but it was probably just awful for her to have to face this day in and day out at the time. Not to mention the way it must have felt to have many people in her court (and in the country at large) sniping at her behind her back. No wonder she escaped to her little village!

In other news, AMC Theatres are the bomb. Although they are not Landmark or IFC(see this previous blog post and this one too) and are therefore not perfect in every way, they are definitely a close runner-up. There were two key things last night that made this clear to me:

  1. The theatre had about 30-40 people in it (probably not bad for a weekday evening show) but it was totally quiet apart from the movie — almost uncomfortably so during a few moments of silence as the movie was starting and I was chewing loudly! No cellphone ringing, nobody talking through the movie, nobody yelling at the screen. Awesome!
  2. We hadn’t had dinner yet and were hesitant about having hotdogs, pretzels, and popcorn as our official dinner. But AMC to the rescue, they told me that I could bring in outside food and that this is their standard policy! I ran out and got a quick burger to go and brought it back into the threatre as a very satisfied customer! Bravo AMC!

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This Film is Not Yet Rated

While in NYC yesterday, I went to the IFC Center to see This Film is Not Yet Rated. Now, I just like the idea of an IFC-associated theatre (see my earlier post about IFC). It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in New York or I’d have to spend a lot of time and money going to all the cool films they show at this, and similar theatres in the city.

The film was just about what I expected it to be, based on reviews I had read. I was not particularly shocked or appalled that they exposed the identities of the various raters. It didn’t seem to me like they exposed anything particularly private about these folks (how many kids, what ages, maybe what car they drive or an image of their house). Nothing dastardly like the Craigs List scandal, at least.

I found the whole thing a bit interesting, and not at all surprising. Anyone who is surprised that over-the-top violence gets a walk while anything more than a buttcheek gets an R or an NC17 rating must not go to see a lot of movies here in the US. It’s appalling, and it’s wrong. But it’s how we do it here in the US, and have for many years.

Particularly interesting were the parts of the film related to getting HIS film (this film) run through the ratings gauntlet and then the subsequent appeals process. Again, no real surprises, but still a very crazy process and a crazy outcome. I doubt this film was deliberately suppressed to “silence it” (let’s be realistic, he included uncensored footage from a bunch of other films that had been initially rated NC17 so it seems unlikely he’d get anything less than that with the current system).

Another interesting point was made about the film shot in Iraq – real-world violence, swearing, blood, etc. And it got squashed by the ratings. How can you rate real world images? I guess that’s why documentaries are often not rated.

Since this was only in Seattle for a week, and only showing at one theatre in NYC right now, I have no idea how widely this will ever get distributed. Unfortunately. Because it is worth seeing.

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Little Miss Sunshine

Jodi and I went Sunday night to see “Little Miss Sunshine”. This… movie… was… hilarious!

It was much funnier than I had expected, even with the suitably hilarious cast already known to me. Also, even though not a single one of the characters had any particular similarity to my family, somehow I found myself relating to the off-the-wall antics and the lengths they had to go to. Maybe it was their terrible car for such a long trip… we always had terrible and unreliable cars for our trips when I was growing up.

Anywho, the story was unexpectedly sweet and definitely funny… right up through the performance at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant and the resulting fallout.

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Ricky Bobby

Jodi and I saw the Ricky Bobby movie last night. It was hilarious!

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What happens in Vegas leads to blackmail

Ok, I must be stupid because I don’t get it. I just saw a commercial on the tee-vee about “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Although I don’t normally watch commercials (thank you media center!), I was watching live so didn’t get an opportunity to skip.

What caught my attention about the ad was how creepy it was. The whole point of this slogan (as far as I can tell) is that you can get away with doing stuff in Vegas that you would not normally do. But the pretext of the ad was that a “normal” homeowner was getting blackmailed by his lawncare person who saw him doing naughty stuff in Las Vegas.

So not only was “what happened in Vegas” not (staying) “in Vegas”… but it was coming back to haunt this homeowner with open-ended and potentially disastrous consequences.

Oh yeah. I totally want to go to Vegas now because of that ad. Such a great selling point. But then again, maybe I just don’t get it and it’s saying something totally different…

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Arrested Development on MSN

Arrested Development returns… to the Internet. In a pretty cool, first-of-its-kind distribution method, Arrested Development (all 53 episodes) will be made available in syndication simultaneously through two cable services (HDNet and G4) and also THROUGH MSN ON THE INTERNET! See the Reuters details.

Part of what makes it such a special arrangement is that MSN will provide access to all 53 of the episodes on-demand, rather than on a schedule. So this means you’ll be able to watch them straight-through — start to finish — if you prefer!

It’s a shame it had to be so underappreciated during its lifetime, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving… now, by being a trendsetter in distribution method!

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Clerks II

Jodi and I met up with Chris again for a second Friday night out. We had such a good time at “Mexico” (at Pacific Place) last week that we decided to go back to the same place. We still have a couple of specialty martinis and margaritas on the menu to get through.

Afterward, we went to see Clerks II on its opening night. I had seen the original Clerks many, MANY moons ago (thanks Matt) and hadn’t found it to be a very funny nor interesting film (thanks again, Matt). So even though I have liked a number of the intervening Kevin Smith films, I had fairly low expectations for the Clerks sequel. This expectation was not helped by the nasty reviews it was receiving just prior to the opening.

So I stand corrected in my presumption by saying that I found Clerks II to be quite funny and worth seeing. Don’t go if you’re easily offended by Kevin Smith’s style of over-the-top sexual gags and innuendo or lots of cussing. But if you’ve seen other Kevin Smith movies and found them funny, this one is probably up in the top couple for humour.

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Who killed the electric car?

Jodi and I went up to the 7 Gables Landmark theatre yesterday afternoon to see the new Who Killed the Electric Car movie (out now in limited release).

The movie was about what I expected, although even cynical I was not prepared for the details of the depths to which various entities have gone to suppress electric cars! The basic summary of the movie is that out of the research success of the 1980s with electric cars (sunraycer at the World Solar Challenge), car companies were initially required by California to provide some small percentage of sold vehicles as zero emissions vehicles by some point in the future (now in the past). The car companies fought it, produced a handful (GM EV1 had about 1000 total production according to Wikipedia), and did everything they could to make them fail (according to the movie). Eventually the California Air Resource Board rescinded the requirement for zero emission and the car companies rejoiced by killing their electric car programs…

So, that was the message of the film. And I think they did a pretty good job of proving the point. The cars looked great, the owners (er… lessees) wanted to keep them, and there were waiting lists for many more. The concern was that the cars could not be produced at a cost that would make them profitable and that the batteries would be ineffective or problematic. The movie points out that they were not profitable primarily because they were not mass-produced (they were evidently hand-built at great cost). If these had been mass produced and using the more effective NiMH batteries they could have been much less expensive. And as the last few years of Toyota and Honda hybrid cars have shown, American consumers are very happy to pay a little more to get a “cleaner” car (and it’s also shown that the battery concerns are mostly unfounded).

Another point in the film that I found interesting was the dissection of the Hydrogen fuel-cell initiatives so many people are pushing for today (instead of the electric car stuff). According to the film, these are essentially just a pipe-dream. There was a 5–point list of reasons why Hydrogen fuel-cells are not going to be effective in solving this problem in the film. The movie points out that these hydrogen cars are far less $ efficient than electric cars, require far more expensive construction, and that hydrogen fuel is not widely available today like electricity. All good points.

My biggest takeaways from the film were a couple of things. American car companies will generally go with that’s the biggest short-term profit over the most stable long-term direction (notice how the Japanese Toyota and Honda jumped on the hybrid-electric thing pretty late in the game and now are going to clean up from their “early” investments). Also, that the petroleum fuel companies want not part of a future where they are not providing lots of sludgey oil fuel to millions of American consumers. They don’t produce the electricity, and they are going to hold off on allowing hydrogen fuel to be a practical reality for as long as possible. Finally, we Americans deserve a lot of the blame. We are still buying huge SUVs and trucks with great gusto. I thought $3/gallon would break us of that habit, but I guess it’ll take even more pressure to make this happen.

Finally, one other thing I found interesting at the end of the film was the brief discussion about hybrid plug-in vehicles. These would allow you to run primarily as an electric car, but you’d never end up “stranded” because it could always fall back on being a gasoline hybrid vehicle if the batteries ran down. Sounds like it’s even a relatively simple conversion kit for a preexisting hybrid gas/electric car like the Prius (ie – tune the car to run much heavier on the electric batteries when they’re fully charged and add a charger interface to let you plug it in wherever possible). Good stuff!

But one question I’ve had since I first started hearing about this stuff — why not a hybrid DIESEL electric car? I’d love to get a bio-diesel powered, plug-in, hybrid electric car. It’d be the green, tree-hugger’s fantasy car and they’d sell like crazy in places like Seattle and San Francisco! I don’t find a plug-in version, but the closest thing I can find is the GM/Opal Astra (which has a diesel hybrid everywhere but in the US, it seems). There’s rumours that this will come to the US in 2008 or 2009. I look forward to it!!

Back to the film analysis, fair play requires me to point out that GM posted a response to the film (indirectly) on their blog.

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X-men (III): The Last Stand

Went to see the 3rd Xmen installment last night. It was a decent summer movie, much in the vein of the first two.

But one thing I didn’t get was “the cure”. Early on in the movie (and as a significant plot point later on) they make a big deal out of “the cure” being connected to the young boy “Leech” — demonstrating this by putting him near Kelsey Gramme… er… The Beast, and showing that his blue coloring and hair goes away. Ok, so being near this kid makes not not be a mutant. Briefly. The coloring and hair comes right back as The Beast steps back. Got it. Committed to understanding. And then they go to great lengths to protect the kid. Ok.

But then later on, “the cure” was shot in freakily-unsanitary-looking hypodermic needles out of guns. So the kid is not the cure, he’s just connected to the cure somehow. ?

I looked it up a bit on the Internet and the best hypothesis I find says that it’s extracted from Leech’s blood and so that’s why it has its lasting effects even if you’re not sitting next to Leech. And that means that they have to keep him (Leech) safely alive to keep producing blood. I guess.

I’m sure this was in the movie at some point and I just missed it somehow. But it made it a little bit distracting while trying to keep up with what was going on.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Jodi and I headed downtown yesterday to see Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.

Going in, we knew it was based on his long-running slideshow/powerpoint about climate change and we knew that it was highly reviewed. The movie poster indicated that it was “terrifying” and that is the truth.

The point of the film should be no surprise to anyone: over the last 50 years or so we’ve been so escalating our CO2 emissions that it’s measurably (and I mean, REALLY measurably in the big picture) thrown our climate out of balance. Glaciers melting faster than ever before during the human span on earth, etc.

Actual, “sound” science. It tied together with a few other things I’d read lately, like Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science. (quick refresher – many folks are in denial that this is actually happening, and once it becomes unmistakable that it is through scientific data… these folks attack the scientific data, the scientific process, and even the scientists). And make no mistake about it, “these folks” who are disparaging scientific research are our elected officials.

Back to the movie, one of the key things in the movie that should scare the hell out of everyone was the one-two punch of:

  1. Greenland and the west Antarctic ice shelf are both on land (not floating in water) and are melting much faster than ever before in recorded history.
  2. If either, or both, of these melt at their current rate for a while longer… world-wide water levels will rise 10–20 feet or more.

Wow. Since a huge portion of the world-wide population lives near free-flowing ocean water, this is a scary, scary thing. For effect, various population centers around the world were shown before and after the effects of such a water-level rise. Trust me, you don’t want to live right near the water if the water rises even 1–5 feet above normal high tide, let alone 10–20!

So, go see it. And learn from it. And be scared by it. And be motivated to do whatever you can to help save it.

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