Archive | September, 2007

Not Quite Fit for a King

30 Sep

Terrorism, at least on the surface, is a pretty senseless act.

It’s often marked by big, loud actions that do nothing more than disrupt an otherwise peaceful existence.

Though this analysis might be weak and simplistic, I find it an apt way to begin a review of The Kingdom because similarly, the movie is often big and loud, and on the surface, it’s pretty empty.

Kingdom tells how a group of FBI agents go to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist bombing in an American compound by an Osama bin Laden wannabe.

It stars Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Chris Cooper, but none of those folks — not even my beloved Jennifer Garner — give a performance that makes much of an impact.

Jeremy Piven’s also in the film, but he seems totally miscast. He’s playing an ambassador, but I kept giggling every time he was on screen waiting for him to bust out an Ari Gold–ism.

Which is not to say The Kingdom is a bad movie necessarily. But it sets everything up and then in about 15 minutes it blows up into explosions, chases and gunplay, and then it’s over.

Essentially, it turns a timely setting into a convenient place for an action flick. And it’s a good last 15 minutes, but sort of a waste nevertheless.

So I’m giving The Kingdoma B-. Sorry, Jen.

Down in the Valley

30 Sep

I wish I could review In the Valley of Elah fairly, but watching it was not a great experience.

That said, this is a very good movie.

Tommy Lee Jones gives a fantastic, Oscar-worthy performance as the father of an Army private who has disappeared after returning home from Iraq. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen from him.

This is a more introspective character and his performance doesn’t require him to bark orders or chew scenery.

Instead, he’s often quite heartbreaking — particularly in his phone conversations with his wife, played by Susan Sarandon. Continue reading

Yummmmm

29 Sep

Didn’t have much to do today, and I was still in a celebratory mood after last night’s Sox clinching of the A.L. East title, so I decided to spend the day wandering the city. After lunch in the waaaaaay too crowded Faneuil Hall, I walked to the North End and finally went to Trani, the unfortunately-named store where you can get baked goods injected with ice cream. (It’s right next to my favorite Italian restaurant, Al Dente.) I had what is called a “Bust-Out,” i.e.: a cupcake stuffed with ice cream and covered in fudge. Actually I had two: a yellow cupcake stuffed with chocolate ice cream, and a chocolate cupcake stuffed with vanilla ice cream. (What?! The cupcakes were really small.)

Can I just tell you how good these were? I mean, how could they not be? It was my two great loves — cupcakes and ice cream — in one delicious snack, with chocolate fudge on top. The cake was moist and tasty, the ice cream was really good, and the fudge, although it was the kind that hardens in seconds, was also good. Best of all, believe it or not, these were not heavy, filling snacks. If I was feeling truly gluttonous, I could probably have eaten two more. But I refrained. So next time I go back, I’ll have to try a brownie or a canoli, or any of the other yummy-looking things on the menu.

Don’t have much exciting to tell you about the rest of the walk, although I did find a nice park I never knew existed and that was pretty cool. Oh, and I checked out the new Hard Rock Cafe, now located where The Rack used to be. They did a nice job renovating that place. But anyway, lotsa people were out and about today. It was a great day to be in Boston.

Thanks for Nothing

29 Sep

To the two women who brought their two young children to the 2:50 p.m. showing of In the Valley of Elah at the AMC Boston Common theater today …

You suck. You really, really, really suck.

Why do you suck? Do I really need to tell you? Continue reading

Thank You, Yankees

28 Sep


LET’S GO RED SOX! WAAAHOOOO!!! We’re A.L. East Champs!!! Bring on the Angels! World Series here we come! YAHOO!!!

Not Wild Enough

25 Sep

I remember when I first heard the story of Chris McCandless. It was in 1997 on an episode of 20/20, where there was a segment about author John Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. Something about McCandless fascinated me and I went out soon after to buy Krakauer’s book. I read it, too. McCandless tapped into my young, idealistic sense of adventure and wanting more out of life. Ten years later, there’s still a part of me that yearns for such excitement.

All that is my way of saying I was pretty excited to see Sean Penn’s Into the Wild movie, especially because the reviews have generally been very good. So I’m happy to report that the movie is good. Mostly. True to McCandless, it doesn’t pander and takes its time telling the story of how, following his 1992 graduation from Emory, McCandless cut up his credit cards, donated his savings to Oxfam, changed his name to Alexander Supertramp, and headed out on the road to, as Thoreau said, “live deliberately.” There’s a natural, organic feel to the 2.5-hour movie, and Penn really wants to pay tribute to someone he considered a kindred spirit. To that end, the film was shot in many of the same locations that McCandless journeyed to, and rather than raise questions about McCandless’ motives and psyche — as Krakauer’s book did a lot of — Penn clearly takes McCandless’ side and makes you sympathetic to the character. Penn also knows the affinity people feel for the book, and there are all sorts of reveals that seem to make readers excited, starting with when McCandless first stumbles upon the abandoned bus. (Amazingly, the tragic site has become a morbid tourist attraction for McCandless fans.) It helps that as McCandless, Emile Hirsch is generally very good, capturing the alternately wide-eyed and yet fearful young man. In supporting roles, Catherine Keener and Vince Vaughn are also very good.

But where Penn stumbles, and where he lost me, was with some of the filmmaking choices. I didn’t love how McCandless would every now and then look right into the camera. That didn’t seem true to the character or the film. I also didn’t like the multiple points of view. Between McCandless’ letters, his voiceovers, his sister’s voiceovers, etc., you either didn’t always know who was actually telling the story or were distracted from it. Why the film is broken into four “chapters” is unclear. Also, there were a couple scenes that could have been cut. And there’s one scene late in the movie where Hirsch’s performance is so lame that it damn near threatens to derail the whole momentum of the film. In fact, it’s so bad that when McCandless does finally die (no spoiler there), I wasn’t sure if I still felt the sympathy for him that I felt earlier.

So I think I’m going to call Into the Wild a little bit of a letdown. It’s still generally, mostly, a good film, but I can’t really give it a stronger grade than a B.

Glory Day

24 Sep

How great — and rare — is it when Ticketmaster works like it should?

At 10 a.m. Monday I logged on to get my Bruce Springsteen tickets, and believe it or not, I got ’em.

No problems.

Piece of cake.

I got right in and snagged a pair for Sunday night, loge level, right in front of the stage — before the scalpers could get all the good seats.

According to Backstreets, apparently enough people complained about the original on-sale date — which was supposed to be Saturday, same day as Yom Kippur — that Bruce and/or Ticketmaster changed the on-sale date to Monday morning. That rocks.

So, I’ve got no complaints about Ticketmaster this time. I just wanted to say a public WOO HOO!!!! I’m real psyched for this show.

November 18 can’t come soon enough.

TV Time Again

23 Sep

Last year when the TV season began, I gave Brothers & Sisters a chance, and when it didn’t grab me, I stopped watching. But late in the season I came back to it and found myself enjoying the show. Now I’m eagerly trying to catch up on the entire first season before next Sunday’s season two premiere. Over the weekend I got the DVD set and I spent Sunday evening watching the first four episodes. Last time I did something like that was last November, when I visited Andrew and Rachel and we watched five episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Anyway, my point is, what a great show B&S is. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the family, and found the first few episodes really fun (well, maybe not the first couple, but once the show settled in during the third episode, it got a lot lighter in tone and more fun). I probably would have watched the fifth and sixth episodes if I didn’t have to get to sleep. This has to be one of the best acting ensembles on television, and I look forward to ending my weekends with them every Sunday night from now until May.

Of course, the week has seven days and you may be wondering what else I’ll be watching this season. Here’s my week at a glance, until I get bored or unless the new shows suck:

Monday: Chuck (8-9, NBC)
Tuesday: Reaper (9-10, The CW)
Wednesday: Kid Nation (8-9, CBS), Private Practice (9-10, ABC), Gossip Girl (9-10, The CW, recorded on the DVR), Dirty Sexy Money (10-11, ABC)
Thursday: 30 Rock (8:30-9, NBC), Grey’s Anatomy (9-10, ABC), The Office (9-9:30, NBC, recorded on the DVR), Big Shots (10-11, ABC)
Friday: nothing
Saturday: Saturday Night Live (11:30-1, NBC)
Sunday: Brothers & Sisters (10-11, ABC)

What will you be watching this season?

Enjoy the Silence

23 Sep

Marcel Marceau, the great mime, has died.

Please join me in observing an ironic, but appropriate, moment of silence.

A Fast Fast

23 Sep

It surprises me to say, but I think Yom Kippur may actually be one of my favorite holidays.

How can anyone like a holiday that features as its main selling points a day-long fast and a whole lot of praying? Well, I don’t know.

But this year, despite going 27-and-a-half hours without eating (yes, really), and doing so easily without even a headache after my mid-afternoon nap, I have to say, it really isn’t so bad.

But why does it rank as one of my favorite? Well, it’s odd considering the solemn tone and the heavy subject matter and all, but Yom Kippur features some of my favorite prayers, ones we only say on that day. Stuff like the Vidui, the Covenant, all that good stuff.

The tunes are catchy, the melodies are nice, and they’ve got some great harmonies.

And we may go a while between meals, but the dinners before and after are some of the biggest, best meals all year. What could be bad about that?

So, this is just my way of marking that the High Holidays have passed (at least the major ones have), and they were good.