Archive | October, 2010

Influential Me

29 Oct

It is no lie to say that my photo is included in the latest issue of Fast Company magazine, the one with Lance Armstrong on the cover, on page 138, in a section about Social Media’s New Stars.

(Yes, that’s how it’s referred to on the cover.)

Inside, an article is called “The New Influentials,” and it’s all about the “unexpected players” who “exert outsize impact and power online.” As the magazine asks, “Who is the most influential person online?”

Well, according to Fast Company, I’m one of them.

That much is all true. Continue reading

What Did You Think Was Going to Happen?

18 Oct

About halfway through Jackass 3D, Chris Pontius sticks the bottom half of his face in a diorama where a couple of scorpions are crawling around. Seconds later, bitten and stung, Pontius is questioning his motives for partaking in such an inane stunt, and he’s asked, “What did you think was going to happen?” Exactly. Anyone considering seeing this latest film in the Jackass series must ask himself a similar question. After all, this is a movie in which the marquee stunt is something called “Poo Cocktail Supreme,” which features Steve-O sitting in a poo-filled port-a-potty that gets flung up on bungee cords and shaken around a bit (and yes, there are cameras inside the port-a-potty so you can see not just Steve-O’s reactions, but also the poo flying all over).

If you enjoy this kind of gross-out schadenfreude humor (and I do), then you’ll find Jackass 3D to be an enjoyable time at the movies. If not, well, then this is not the movie for you (and you already know that). That said, gags like “The Rocky,” “Roller Buffalo,” “High Five,” “Lamborghini Tooth Pull,” “Beehive Tetherball,” ”Sweatsuit Cocktail,” and an untitled midget barfight (featuring Best Supporting Actor contender Jason “Wee Man” Acuna) are funny, but not as high-larious as some of the stuff seen in the first and second film of the trilogy (and the MTV series). In addition, though this Jackass makes some amusingly gratuitous use of the 3D technology, overall, there’s really nothing here that wouldn’t have been just as funny in 2D. I laughed till I cried while watching Jackass 3D. “It had danger. It had puke. It had shit — and sex appeal,” as Pontius and Steve-O say late in the film. But I still left the theater thinking this was not the strongest film in the trilogy. So that’s why I’m only giving Jackass 3D a B–.

Not Dead. Just Retired.

15 Oct

What is Red?

Well, it takes a while to figure that out.

This quirky action-comedy about a group of over-the-hill former CIA agents who band together when a hit is ordered on one of them has some stylistic touches, and a distinguished cast — both of which make for a surprisingly enjoyable film.

After all, who wouldn’t love to see Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman putting on disguises, throwing punches, and shooting bad guys?

Bruce Willis, he’s the kind of guy you expect in a movie like this, but you don’t see him going mano a mano with Richard Dreyfuss every day.

Sure, you may not have as much fun as Mary-Louise Parker seems to be having, but thanks largely to its cast, Red is a good time at the movies.

I’m giving it a B.

If You Don’t Like Twitter, Then You Must Not Be Using It

14 Oct

CNN.com reported Tuesday that 71 percent of all tweets on Twitter are ignored.

I don’t believe that.

Just because only 29 percent of the things posted on the social network get an @ reply or a retweet, that doesn’t mean the others are being ignored. I’m sure people are clicking on the links in those tweets, or reading the tweets and moving on (they’re only 140 characters long, after all).

I’m an active user of Twitter, and even though I don’t reply to a lot of tweets I see, and I don’t retweet everything people post, I’m hardly ignoring everything in my timeline. Continue reading

It’s Kind of a Good Movie

11 Oct

Whenever a comic actor tries to stretch and takes on a more dramatic role, it’s a dicey proposition. For every The Truman Show or Greenberg, for example, there’s another example of a less convincing performance. So what a relief that in the new movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) is actually good at walking that fine line between sad and clown. In the film, Galifianakis plays Bobby, a patient in the psychiatric wing of a hospital, who takes a younger patient under his wing. That younger patient, 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist), has checked himself in because he’s feeling stressed out and suicidal, and needs to sort some things out.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (best known for Half Nelson), and despite the plot synopsis I gave above, it’s actually a sweet, teen-oriented drama. Boden and Fleck’s screenplay (based on the novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini) has some black humor mixed in with the drama, and it never once is a downer. There is, of course, a girl on the inside — Noelle (Emma Roberts) — but the romance between her and Craig is predictable and not very well developed. Still, this is a very easy-to-watch and enjoyable film, and as noted, Galifianakis demonstrates decent (albeit limited) range. If you’re going to be stuck in the mental ward for a week, he’s the kind of guy you want to have around. I’m giving It’s Kind of a Funny Story a B.

Horse Wins, Audience Loses

8 Oct

I know what you’re thinking: Will Secretariat be Diane Lane’s The Blind Side? No. No, it won’t be. It won’t even be this year’s The Rookie, Miracle, or Seabiscuit. This fact-based film about the Triple Crown–winning horse and his fiesty owner is cut from the same cloth as those previously mentioned films: down on her luck character finds salvation/redemption through sport and battles adversity and naysaying by others with the help of a quirky coach/trainer to win the big game/race — or in this case, races. Lane even gets to sport a blond hairdo, like Sandra Bullock did in Blind Side.

However, unlike those other films, Secretariat has neither the suspense nor the grace to pull off making this true story a compelling big-screen story. Instead, like its title character, it’s a hard-charging film that’s not exactly subtle. From its first minute you know just what kind of predictable, sanitized, connect-the-plot-points movie it’s going to be, and the platitudes and obvious metaphors in the heavy-handed screenplay only serve to, ahem, beat a dead horse. And sure, there’s some gorgeous photography of the horse races, but that’s not enough to make Secretariat the sports classic it so wants to be. So that’s why I’m only giving this film a C–.

Hey Zuck … Leave Facebook Alone, Will Ya?

7 Oct

During a much-buzzed-about press conference yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg announced two significant changes to Facebook: Users will now be able to download all their data to their desktops for safe keeping, and they’ll also be able to more easily segment their friends into groups.

Great.

It’s nice to see the site evolve, and for Zuck to continue introducing forward-thinking innovations that make Facebook an even more important part of our lives.

(And I’m sure he liked taking more attention away from The Social Network too.)

Except it isn’t so nice. Quite frankly, I’m getting really tired of Zuck changing the site on me every few months, or even more frequently than that.

Continue reading

Holding Out for a Hero

4 Oct

Judging by its title, you might think Waiting for “Superman” is either the latest superhero movie or an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett about what it means to be Clark Kent. The truth is neither of those. In fact, “Superman” is a documentary by Davis Guggenheim (who also made the Oscar-winning Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth) about the problems with the educational system in America today, and how a combination of unions, unproductive politicians, ineffective teachers, uninvolved parents, and short-sighted administrators are derailing the hopes and dreams of our youth, as well as the future of the country. The film’s thesis is that every child deserves a solid public-school education, but right now that’s far from what they’re getting.

In the film, Guggenheim uses the stories of a half-dozen children (and their parents) in various cities and the insights of some thought leaders in the educational world (including Geoffrey Canada, who is the closest thing this film has to an actual superhero) to illustrate what’s wrong with the schools in America: they’re overcrowded, not enough teachers are doing a good job, the teachers are represented by a strong union that won’t let even the worst educators be fired, and those children who do want to go to a better school are hampered by either financial limitations or a system that selects students by lottery. Presidents on both sides have pledged to be strong on educational reform, but none have accomplished much in this area. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The film builds to a climactic scene where the children all wait (in their various cities) to hear their name called in a lottery — which will mean they’ve been selected to go to a better school, and their dreams of going to college, of being doctors or whatever they want, are more realistic. To say the scene is tense and ultimately heartbreaking is putting it mildly.

But of course it is. While there’s no doubt that what we’re seeing is real, Guggenheim has engineered things to increase the drama quotient. He’s featured likable kids with supportive families, and he’s used heart-tugging music and extreme close-ups to make the lottery results even more emotional. At the film’s end, when you’re disheartened and wanting to do something about the situation, the best the film can do (during the closing credits) is direct you to its website, WaitingForSuperman.com, where you’ll find more information. I was hoping the film itself would have a stronger call to action than that, and might feature what some non-administrators have done on a grassroots level.

The reality, of course, is that this is a complex problem with no easy solution. Referring back to the film’s title, anyone expecting a “Superman” to swoop down and solve things will surely be disappointed. Though the film makes this clear and doesn’t present many answers, “Superman” does make a strong case that something needs to be done — and soon. The film (and its marketing campaign) believes the problems with our educational system are everyone’s problems, not just those with children in the system. And that’s why “Superman” is a film that needs to be seen by anyone who cares about education, children, or our nation’s future. I’m giving it a B+.

Boxed In

1 Oct

Talk about a high-concept film: In Buried, Ryan Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy, a military contractor in Iraq whose convoy is ambushed and who wakes up to find himself trapped in a coffin six feet underground somewhere in the desert. Amazingly, he’s able to make and receive cell phone calls (he must not have AT&T as a service provider), but not knowing exactly where he is makes it difficult to let his rescuers find him. You might think this sounds a bit claustrophobic, and you’d be right, but somehow, director Rodrigo Cortés is able to shoot the film in a way that gives both Reynolds and the audience space to move around (limited though that may be). That said, how well you go along for the ride depends on how invested you are in the action; at the screening I saw, I was distracted by giggles a few rows behind me. Buried could have been a bit more suspenseful and thrilling, and it probably is with the right audience, but unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it (probably thanks to that young woman behind me). And in the end, it wasn’t just Conroy who was hoping for rescue. I’m giving Buried a C.