5.31.2010

Phantasmic Links 5.31.10

I never thought I'd be happy to get a voicemail from my mom about her cat Cubby going to the bathroom on his own, but had he not, we would have been taking him to an animal hospital on Sunday afternoon, with our regular vet taking off for the holiday weekend. I was stuck in traffic, driving my dad and one of the trumpet players in our band back from a Memorial Day parade in Queens, when I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. It wasn't until we dropped off our friend 20 minutes later that I was able to check. Cubby seems to be walking a little bit better too, and his appetite has returned. I think we can rule out kidney stones, and hopefully kidney failure, and most of the problem may have been his inability to put any weight on his back legs. If normal function continues through Monday, he'll be able to go back to our regular vet on Tuesday, and we'll find out how his urinary infection is responding to the antibiotics. He's almost 14 years old, and given our track record with cats, he should be around for another 3 or 4 years. It might be less than that, but at the very least he won't be leaving us this weekend as we'd feared. When I think about how our other cat Chirp recovered from a respiratory infection two years ago, and how feisty he is these days, I'm reminded of why people say cats have nine lives.

The weekend isn't over yet, and I've got two more parades to get through honoring veterans who gave their lives. And my dad, 7 weeks out of a heart bypass, actually played half a parade on Sunday. He's discouraged that he got tired and took a break until the parade route looped back around to the corner where he stopped, but has to understand he's still recuperating and actually did very well. It's better to stop when he feels tired than push and get chest pains or worse, and it will take time to get back to where he used to be. I don't know if he'll attempt the other two parades, and it will be more than understandable if he decides to skip them, even though they're short, local ones. As for me, I'm just resting between gigs, glad everyone I care about is breathing, and I'm surfing the web for PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Check out this competition in which people have cleverly animated album covers. It took me a minute to see and appreciate the Mario one, this Beatles one was pretty clever, and I enjoyed the puns like Pastor of Muppets. There are a lot of geek references to things like Portal too. Many aren't as clever or well animated as others, but it's worth going through to see the gems.

(2) It's a testament to my own geek knowledge database that I recognized the authors of many of these comic character yearbook messages.

(3) This bow TIE fighter tuxedo t-shirt would be the perfect thing to wear to my wedding, if I wanted to scare her off at the last minute or test her level of commitment.
Hat Tip: J-No.

(4) I love photo manipulation; here are 40 masterful examples of it.

(5) Hello Worlds! is crazy fun, navigating a little gray octopus thing through parallel platforms collecting coins. Can you keep your eye on more than one world at once, where obstacles from one affect your character in another?

(6) The Death Star is everywhere....
H.T.: J-No.

(7) Transforming Italian furniture is not only more than meets the eye, but saves space!

(8) Customize the news you read with Topic Fire!
H.T.: Rey.

(9) Iron Baby may be the geekiest thing any parent has ever done using his child, but it may also be the coolest.

(10) Play alone or play against others in the race to find an Exit Path. Run and jump as fast as you can, avoiding increasingly challenging death traps and collecting hidden icons to unlock more achievements.


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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5.30.2010

WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 45

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 45th WWW:

1) Henry Poole is Here:
I've seen this described as a black comedy, but I think it's more of an independent dramatic film with healthy amounts of comic relief masking the more serious subject matter. From the start, it's clear that something weighs heavy on Luke Wilson's titular Poole. He's willing to pay any price for the home he grew up in, but as the family living there isn't willing to sell, a real estate agent convinces him to buy another house in the same neighborhood. As he goes through a bleak existence, barely decorating and talking about not being around long, you begin to suspect he's either contemplating suicide, or dying. Radha Mitchell plays a single mother who lives next door with her daughter, who refuses to speak. The little girl tends to walk around with a tape recorder, and after a few encounters of curiosity with her new neighbor, Poole begins to get through to her. Meanwhile, Poole discovers the hispanic woman who lives in the house on the other side of him in his backyard, praying to a stain on the wall. Is it the image of the Lord? Poole is skeptical. She brings in a priest played by George Lopez to check its authenticity, especially when the visage seems to have tears of blood. And when people start getting healed after touching the wall, from the friendly checkout girl no longer needing glasses to Mitchell's mute daughter talking again, everyone believes in the miracle, everyone except for the one man who needs a miracle the most. In the end, it's a nice character study about people and the power of faith, whether you believe in a higher power or just the power of positive thinking. The performances are all very enjoyable, and I came away from the experience with a good feeling.

2) Banlieue 13: Ultimatum:
David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, those French guys who made Parkour famous in the original B13, return for another bout of freerunning in opposition to corrupt officials. As the opening text tells us, the government has changed after the events of the first movie, but little else. Belle's Leito is still stirring up trouble, blowing up walls and running from the police in the ghetto for which the film is named. Outside those walls, the wealthy and well-off enjoy their lives with little regard for the problems in the gritty streets. Leito's friend from the first film, Raffaelli's Damien Tomaso, is still the same super cop he was in the original, perhaps moreso. We catch up to him on a way undercover operation to take down a drug smuggling operation. Things are smooth and coordinated, until the inevitable wrinkle that forces him to break out the parkour and some sweet martial arts, protecting a priceless painting while taking down thugs. Jackie Chan would be impressed. When a greedy developer wants to destroy part of B13, he frames one of the gangs there for the murder of some police officers, who were actually taken out by corrupt members of their own force. Leito gets his hands on a video showing the true killers, while Tomaso finds himself behind bars, framed for drug possession to keep him out of the way. Of course, this is exactly the thing to set him into action and call his old friend for help, and the formidable dynamic duo of leaps and kicks is back. There's even a tattooed female fighter in the fray before it's all over Some of the sequences aren't as impressive as the original, perhaps because the novelty has worn off, and some of the shots seem less authentic. There's also more fight scenes than Parkour scenes, but they're good fight scenes, and very stylish. There’s a lot more Parkour in the deleted and extended scenes of the DVD, too. The appeal of these films is that these stunt guys are really doing most of these moves, a la Jackie Chan, though the villain here is a bit more formulaic, and I was a little confused by one detail in the ending. If you liked the original, you might not like this quite as much, but you'll still like it. I gave this one four stars as opposed to the five I gave the original. And if you haven't seen the first one yet, then run, jump, swing, and leap to your nearest video store or computer, and let no obstacle stand in your way.


More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!

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5.29.2010

R13

Here are 13 random inquiries, courtesy of KevBayer:

1. Share one random item that has special meaning to you.
It's hard to pick just one, since I've never discarded anything and every object has some sentimental value, from action figures who were “alive” to me when I played with them as a child to little buttons my ex-girlfriend gave me back before we had started dating, when I liked her but thought she'd never go for me. I guess if I had to share just one, I'd go with my favorite sunglasses just because of all the events we've been through together.

2. How old is the oldest pair of shoes in your closet?
Trick question; I do not keep shoes in my closet. There's probably a pair of sneakers in my basement that I use when mowing the lawn that could be anywhere from 5-10 years old, and one even older durable pair of boots I only break out for paintball once a year. The regular shoes I wear every day, normally kept by the door on my way out of the house, are almost a year old, which is close to the normal lifespan of standard everyday shoes.

3. Did you buy Girl Scout cookies this year? If so, what variety?
I did not. The last time one of the mothers in my office was selling her daughter's cookies, I think I went with chocolate chip, or plain with fudge stripes.

4. Do you know how to ballroom dance? If not, would you like to?
No, and probably not, unless I was trying to impress a lady.

5. Were you a responsible child/teenager?
If you were to ask my parents, probably not. If you were to ask me then, I would have said yes. I did my homework, I've never done drugs, and I didn't drink until my Senior year of college. I probably could have helped out more around the house though, and as an adult I try to make up for that and do what I can, when I can.

6. How many of this year's Oscar-nominated movies did you see?
Looking through nominees in the various categories from 2010, I saw NINE films, four of which were in the “Best Picture” category. I bet you can guess which ones....

7. If you're going to have a medical procedure done, such as having blood drawn, is it easier for you to watch someone else having the procedure done or have it done to yourself?
I have no problem having blood drawn, but as a safety precaution I've always chosen to look anywhere other than the tube in my arm. Occasionally at a blood drive I'll look at other people in the room and it doesn't make me feel faint, but I have a feeling if I saw the same thing happening to myself my reaction might be different. I might be fine, but I figure I shouldn't chance it.

8. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
I like Friday, because it represents the longest time between leaving work and going back on Monday. Saturday mornings are nice outside of band season, but the afternoon is usually broken up by going to church with my mom. Sunday is also a day I might have a music gig, if I'm not taking care of the lawn at home or at my dad's other property. But on Friday night, I can stay up late, and eat whatever I want, and not have to stress about what I have to do the next day.

9. Do you miss anyone right now?
I anticipate missing my mom's cat Cubby. He's still on antibiotics, and is actually walking a little better, although his front legs seem to be giving him trouble. His appetite is gone and my mom has been feeding him with an eyedropper, and he's still not urinating without veterinary assistance. When he does walk, he seems to want to go in corners or under furniture. The antibiotics might yet do the job, but based on past experience, I've seen these signs before. He never cared for me like our other cat, and always squirmed when I tried to pick him up, but I still see the tiny kitten my mom brought home 14 years ago, and I've cried a few times at the thought of what may be about to happen.

10. Do hospitals make you queasy?
I'm fine with hospitals, having plenty of experience spending time there, either for myself or my parents. The one thing in hospitals that does make me nervous is IV lines. I'm so afraid of stepping on one and giving someone a fatal air bubble, even though I know there are safeguards built in to regulate and prevent that. I was really uncomfortable in the first room my dad was in after his heart bypass. He had several IVs with antibiotics and saline solutions, a trach-tube helping his breathing, a line in his neck going directly to his heart, three tubes draining blood from his abdomen, and a wire in his chest attached to a portable pacemaker. Every time my mom got too close I'd warn her to watch she didn't step on any of the tubes. It doesn't make me queasy, but I do get extremely nervous, and the beeping of the monitors doesn't help.

11. At which store would you like to max-out your credit card?
I never would max out my card, but if I were to do so anywhere, Best Buy would be the best bet, with Target a close second.

12. Are you true to the brand names of products/items?
I could care less about brands, for the most part. There are a few electronics brands that tend to be my first choice based on good past experience, but I don't buy any one brand exclusively. And I really don't care about clothing brands at all.

13. Which is more difficult: looking into someone's eyes when you are telling someone how you feel, or looking into someone's eyes when he/she is telling you how he/she feels?
The former, unless the latter part of the question literally is asking about a he/she...

5.28.2010

Finale Time

A week that brought us the epic series finale to LOST also had another series finale, a season finale, and a season finale to a 99% canceled series(that 1% is wishful thinking on my part). They were all entertaining, some more than others, and though they lacked the emotional impact of LOST, they still affected me in various ways.

24 was a noble experiment when it began in 2001. Keifer Sutherland played Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorist government agent who played by his own rules. Who knew then that his character would become more of a household name than himself, or that the concept could last beyond one season. The idea was that the show depicted one 24-hour day in real time, with each of the 24 episodes dealing with one hour of that day. Terrorists were out to assassinate the president on the day of his inauguration. There was a mole in Jack's own organization. His wife and daughter would be kidnapped, and the day would be the last for one member of the clan. We saw a man on edge, a man pushed to his limits by his job, threats to his family, and an obvious lack of sleep. It was like watching this tense action movie every week, and it felt like a success at the end. Big name stars like Lou Diamond Phillips and Dennis Hopper even showed up before the day was done. No way could they repeat this formula beyond one season, though. How could anyone have 24 consecutive hours that were so eventful?

8 seasons later, some hours were stronger than others, with some filler subplots and forgotten threads along the way(Behrouz?) But each season on the whole crafted a more resilient action hero Jack, and Kiefer perfected the switch between a raspy whisper and an angry shout, both equally terrifying to those on the receiving end. The man seemed indestructible, surviving heart failure, nuclear bombs, toxic agents, and two stabbings over the course of the final day alone. The decision to make this the last season came midway through, so for the most part the final episode felt like another season finale rather than a series finale. All the major plot threads of the season were wrapped up, with just enough things left open for a planned theatrical film(one likely a bit shorter than 24 hours). There was a nice moment of dialogue at the end when Jack bids his closest ally, and by extension the audience, farewell. Chloe was this obnoxious computer technician introduced in the third season, who sneered at everyone and brought her baby to work. Jack basically acknowledges how the character grew on him as well as fans, and thanks her for being his ally all these years. There were one or two surviving members of the original cast that I would like to have seen at the end, but the show has to function within the confines of a given day and have people show up under realistic circumstances. I enjoyed it while it ran, and I'm looking forward to the movie, but I'm glad to have more time on my Monday nights.

Chuck is a big reason why I'm glad there are fewer shows on Monday. In danger of cancellation last year, the comedy/drama about a computer nerd who becomes a spy after his brain absorbs a government database was renewed for a limited number of episodes, with more added. Every finale manages to reinvent the premise of the show, and this one was no different. The title hero suffered a telegraphed but still impactful emotional loss, and over the course of the season we finally saw his secret identity exposed to those closest to him. This show has a lot of great geek references, a lot of heart, and a great blend of action and humor. I can't wait to see where they take it next season now that the status quo has been shaken up again. And sometimes, the episodes are just worth watching to see two of the geek supporting background characters cover popular music:



I'd post the clip from the episode with that video in the background, but it contains spoilers about Chuck's final awesome fight against a new and improved old ally and adversary. After LOST, this was easily my favorite finale this week.

And then there was FlashForward, a show that held a lot of promise, but ultimately succumbed to bad ratings. When the entire planet blacks out and catches a glimpse of themselves several months into the future, chaos ensues. Every single man, woman, and child on the planet went down, no matter what, which was especially disastrous for those flying aircraft or driving cars. As the show progressed, “What did you see?” became a common conversation topic. Questions of fate and destiny arose, about whether the future could in fact be changed, and if seeing events would cause you to make them happen, or choose to prevent them. It was fate versus free will, against the backdrop of an FBI task force trying to get to the bottom of things, especially “suspect zero”, the one man on Earth caught on blurry camera footage awake while everyone else was unconscious. Courtney B. Vance rocked as the no-nonsense FBI director, while Joseph Fiennes was surprisingly awesome as a brooding agent with a short temper and an alcoholic past. “Because I was LOADED, okay?!” became an internet meme after he shouted out the falling-off-the-wagon aspect of his own glimpse of the future, an important glimpse because it contained a board in his office full of evidence he had yet to collect. John Cho did pretty well with a dramatic role as his partner, a man who saw nothing when he blacked out. For most people, that meant they wouldn't still be alive on the date everyone had glimpsed. After that, the rest of the cast seemed to be there for less interesting subplots to fill out the hour. A male nurse dying of cancer opts not to kill himself when he sees himself meeting the love of his life. A babysitter is certain someone is drowning her, and that she deserves it for some reason. A lesbian sees herself pregnant and getting an ultrasound. An electrician sees himself by the side of a daughter he thought dead. And Fiennes' wife on the show, played by LOST's Sonya Walger, sees herself cheating on her husband in their bedroom with another man.

In the beginning, you wondered how some people would get from where they were in October to where they'd be in April. As the show moved on, you could see how things were out of their control. You could see where people consciously changed their own fate and the fate of others; the first person to do so did it in a dramatic and shocking fashion. Sometimes it was baffling when people consciously chose a course of action they probably would never have done without glimpsing the future in the first place. In the end, we finally do catch up to the big day, with the weeks leading up to it adding “There's gonna be another blackout!” to the catchphrase cache of Fiennes' Mark Benford. Overall I enjoyed the cast, especially the addition of Dominic Monaghan. He was a pretty serious little dude, dark and brilliant, although the show worked in some subtle jokes, including him with nine fingers pondering a ring. In the end, the show does end on something of a huge cliffhanger, yet the nature of the cliffhanger does allow room for us to see what might have happened if the show ran the full five seasons producers originally planned for. The season as many outstanding moments and great characters as it had head-scratching moments. Everybody wants to be the new LOST, but maybe they should plan these shows to have one-season arcs, with seeds planted for potential future seasons rather than whole trees. Ironically, the show's creators didn't see as far into the future as their characters did.

I think I'm officially done with network television for the Summer. I'm sure there will be a lot of crappy reality shows I won't miss, and I'll enjoy the break until the new season starts occupying my weeknights once more.

5.27.2010

Broken.

It's hard to believe it was back in October when we learned my mom's cat Cubby had gone blind. Since then, regular visits to the vet for shots and prednisone in pill form had kept his condition from otherwise deteriorating. He'd still occasionally walk in circles, but his appetite was good, and we'd even find him sitting on the kitchen table sometimes. He had adjusted to the handicap and was getting around just fine.

It's hard to believe it was 14 years ago that my mom heard a small, high-pitched cry from a window well near the office of one of my dad's doctors, and I came home to find a hamster-sized gray kitten. My mom nursed him to health, and his name became ironic as he grew bigger than most of the cats we'd ever owned. I think that, while 14 is considered old for felines, it's hard to see him as anything other than that little kitten. Most of our cats live from 16 to 18 years. My mom takes good care of them.

Last week, on Thursday or Friday, we noticed he was favoring his back right leg and limping a little bit. We didn't notice the limp as much as a low growl of pain every time he put weight on it. This only got worse over the weekend, to the point that he was falling over and my mom once found him lying in his litter pan. I was taking a vacation day on Monday anyway, so it didn't take much prodding for me to get her to take him in to the vet while I was around to help her carry him.

My own research seemed to point toward some kind of muscle problem, since a broken or fractured bone would be accompanied by swelling and other symptoms. He was feisty as the vet's assistant, wearing thick protective gloves, pulled him out of his carrier. He actually bit the carrier. The vet examined his back legs, moving them less gingerly than I had, knowing what he was doing, and determined that the problem seemed to be in his hip. The legs were of even length, so he ruled out a dislocation, and leaned toward it being some kind of soft tissue injury, in conjunction with my own independent research. He did something to make the cat empty his bladder, which was full after a day or so. The infection he detected with a simple litmus test was of more concern, and antibiotics were prescribed. The cat was already on 1.5 prednisone a day, one in the morning and half at night, so the vet recommended we up that to a full 2 pills. He had us set up another appointment on Friday to see if Cubby was responding to the antibiotics or increased anti-inflammatory.

Over the last few days he seems to have gotten worse. He doesn't cry when he walks, but he keeps the right leg pulled all the way up and the left one is starting to bow inward. He collapses a lot, and on Wednesday had no appetite. My mom had to put food on her finger and rub it around his mouth to get him to eat anything. Other than one accident, he hasn't been going to the bathroom either, which definitely doesn't help the infection or his appetite. A few times I thought he was dead the way he was lying stiff on his side, but he'd occasionally perk up and look around, sometimes try to walk. He keeps trying to crawl into corners, which is never good, and a behavior we've observed in dying animals before. He's like a child to my mom who raised him, and I can tell she's taking it hard. I was never as close to him as she was, but I've been pretty bummed out too.

I did find one article about his bladder problem, but we weren't as successful as the vet was. After 24 hours, that kind of retention can be deadly. I hope he makes it to Friday. I remember two years ago when I thought our other cat Chirp was done for, but after a few days of having a respiratory infection his appetite finally returned. Now he's perky as ever. He's been looking on at everything going on, keeping his distance but still observing, because animals sense when something is wrong with each other. That Cubby did as well as he did after a mini-stroke in October is excellent, but it doesn't seem like he's been disabled for that long already. And the fourteen years he's been with us simply flew. Miracles do happen. My dad came back to us twice in as many years, first from a bad shoulder infection and then from a heart bypass. Now he's ready to march in a parade and play his horn on Sunday. So I don't want to give up hope. But I've seen cats like this before, and I know time is usually short. All we can do is keep giving him his medication as long as we can get it in to him, and see what the vet says on Friday, and pray. Mostly, my mom is just keeping him comfortable, petting him, and telling him what a good boy he is. Somehow, when we weren't looking, this healthy young kitten became a broken old man. Soon, my mom's heart may be broken again, and for that mine breaks as well.

5.26.2010

PBW: Blehhh.

Photo Blog Wednesday:

So Mr. Chirp, what are your thoughts on people who didn't like and/or misunderstood the series finale to LOST?







Wow, that cat has an attitude...

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5.25.2010

I once was LOST

SPOILERS AHOY:

I had very little interest in LOST when it debuted back in 2004. I didn't want to add yet another show to my already extensive viewing list, and I couldn't understand why J.J. Abrams would be starting another show while (I thought) Alias was still going strong. Besides, there was something else on in the same timeslot, though I honestly can't remember now what show I was watching instead. All I know is that a dramatic version of Gilligan's Island with triple the characters probably wasn't going to make it past one season.

A few friends at work thought otherwise, and as we discussed it at lunch the next day, one told me he was hooked because there was “some kind of monster” on the island. This made me think it was less like Gilligan's Island and more like Jurassic Park. It piqued my curiosity enough to watch bits of the premiere when it reaired the following Saturday night. I have to admit it had one of the most captivating openings of any prime-time show. We start with a close-up of an eye snapping open, the pupil dilating like dissipating smoke to reveal the reflection of trees overhead. The camera pulled back to reveal Matthew Fox in a field of bamboo, wearing a disheveled suit. He reacts to some noise and turns to see a labrador run off into the jungle. Fishing in his pockets, he finds a small bottle of alcohol, the kind you might have on an airplane.

Fox eventually makes his way to the beach, passing a sneaker hanging from a tree, where the tranquility of his location is broken by the sound of screams in the distance. The camera pans over to the horrific wreckage of a plane crash, people screaming in mass confusion. Fox springs into action, taking charge and saving lives in a flurry of activity. These people are all strangers, but he's compulsive in his need to help. He is Dr. Jack Shephard, and though he doesn't know it yet, these will soon be his closest friends. One of the first ones he rescues will even turn out to be family, though we won't know that for a few seasons.

As exciting as that introduction was, my attention span wavered after that. I flicked back and forth, catching some of the early mysteries. Why were there handcuffs lying in the jungle? We find out in the same episode who they belonged to, but not why. A wheelchair sits by a fire, not to be significant for a few more episodes. We hear but don't see the monster. Trees fall, and there's a howling in the darkness. Whatever it is, it never shows itself, and the only person it kills directly is the pilot. It will be four years before we learn that pilot was never supposed to be there in the first place, and five before we learn why the monster couldn't directly kill the main cast. Mysteries grew as some of the castaways encounter a polar bear in the jungle while making their way to high ground, to get reception on a transceiver. What they instead get is a 16 year-old looping distress call from a Frenchwoman. “Guys...” asks Charlie Pace, a likable heroin addict and bass player, “Where are we?”

In hindsight, it's a great first episode, especially looking back on it six years later and realizing how much was established there that paid off in the finale. I think I skipped the next episode at the time, and tuned back in a few weeks later for an encore airing of Walkabout. While the pilot episode(cleverly called “Pilot”) gave us some flashbacks to these people on the plane minutes before the crash, this one went back a little further, cutting between our castaways on the island and one John Locke and his sad life, a lonely man working for a box company. He eventually makes his way to Australia to go on a walkabout, only to be stopped at a tour bus. “Don't TELL me what I can't do!” shouts Terry O'Quinn, hammering home the character's signature catch-phrase. Only then do we learn why he was always sitting down in every flashback scene, as we learn he's in a wheelchair. That chair on the beach in the pilot was his, but when he awoke after the crash, he found he could wiggle his toes. Now I was intrigued.

Locke would soon become a central figure of faith on the island, believing they had all been brought there for some greater purpose. He didn't know what it was, though he was one of the first ones to come face to face with the island's monster. Jack was more practical, more concerned with the safety of their people and finding rescue. Even when he saw his dead father, and followed him to some water near the empty coffin his father's body had occupied, Jack couldn't accept the more supernatural aspects of the island. Some viewers had trouble too, and dropped out when the answers didn't come as quickly or concretely as they would have liked.

In the first episode, Locke plays Backgammon with Walt, a young boy who survived the crash, owner of Vincent, the dog Jack encountered when he first woke up. He explains that there are two sides to the game, one light and one dark, holding up the pieces with the dark one on the side where a scar runs down his face. Years later, after learning the history of most of our castaways, saying a few tearful goodbyes, and meeting some adversaries already on the island, we'd learn of Jacob, a mysterious protector, and The Man in Black, his mysterious adversary. They were not the first to come to the island, nor the last, but the thousands of years they spent there were key to our plane crash survivors. Twins raised by someone other than their mother, they grew up in isolation until the Man in Black left to be with others living on the island and learn to tap into the mysterious electromagnetic energy at its core. When the Man in Black kills the woman who raised them, Jacob hurls him into the core cavern with the mysterious light, where his soul is torn from his body, creating the black smoke monster. Sometimes the man in black could assume his old form, and other times he could take that of any dead body brought to the island. Jacob believed there was good in man, and would use his powers to bring people to the island to prove this to his brother. He also sought a candidate to protect the island when he was gone.

When Jack and a few others escaped the island for three years, Locke sought to bring them back. Ben Linus, former leader of the “Others” who were already living on the island when the plane crash survivors arrived, killed Locke in a fit of jealousy. Ben would convince Jack and the rest to return, along with Locke's body, and believed the island had resurrected Locke when he appeared again alive and well. But it was only the smoke monster, taking Locke's form, manipulating them all. Ben would learn the truth too late, only after the Smoke-Locke tricked him into killing his brother Jacob. Jack would step up when the deceased Jacob appeared to him and his surviving friends around a campfire, and volunteer to be Jacob's replacement.

The stage was set for the ultimate confrontation between the monster, in the form of Locke, and Jack, now as much of a believer in the island as the real Locke had been. After six seasons, how would it all play out? LOST would always raise mysteries and answer questions in ways that only raised new questions. At the heart of it all, it was about an excellent cast of characters. My eyes never teared up as much watching a television show as it did for this one, thanks to the combination of great acting and a phenomenal music score. At the end of the fifth season, the detonation of a nuclear bomb back in the 1970s gave hope that perhaps history had been changed, even though a physicist on the show had previously stated that it was impossible to change the past. All through the final season, we saw these people in what appeared to be an alternate reality in which their plane never crashed, and the island was on the bottom of the ocean. It was great to see this ideal world in which characters who had died were alive and well. But, one by one, they began waking up to their memories of their original life. And, in the final stunning moments, we realized why they had these memories.

They were all dead.

Now, many misinterpreted the final moments of the show as a cheat, that everything we'd seen had been some purgatory and everyone died in the crash. This was not the case at all, and the producers were telling the truth any time they denied people's early theories that we were watching dead people. Jack, in his final moments on the island, helps lower Desmond Hume into the heart of the island, where Desmond's unique resistance to the island's energy allows him to remove the “cork” holding back dark forces(Hell itself?) from beyond. Desmond had glimpsed the other side and told Jack nothing on the island mattered, mistaking the afterlife for an alternate life. Removing that stone cork causes the island to crumble, even as a storm rages, because there's always been a storm during these dark moments on the island. The faux-Locke wants to be free, and knows destroying the island will allow him to get on a boat and leave it. But this also cut him off from the source of his own immortality. Jack is able to finally injure him, though “Locke” delivers a fatal blow with his knife. Kate Austen, Jack's on-again off-again love interest throughout the series, shows up in time to shoot Locke before he can finish Jack off. The monster is finally defeated, but the island is still crumbling. Jack and Kate exchange “I love you”s before he goes off to replace the cork and hopefully save the island, aided by Ben and Hurley, the castaway with the biggest heart.

Hurley and Ben lower Jack into the cavern, where he finds Desmond still alive. Jack is dying from his wound anyway, and ties the rope to Desmond, before restoring the cork. The glow returns and water starts to flow, even as Hurley and Ben pull up the rope, surprised to find Desmond instead of Jack. Jack has appointed Hurley the new protector, and he in turn accepts a reformed Ben as his second-in-command. They discuss how Desmond will return to his wife and child once he recovers, while Jack washes up downstream in a scene that parallels the demise of the the Man in Black's original form.

Jack staggers through the woods to that original bamboo field, past that same shoe from the pilot episode, now weathered. He collapses on the ground, the wound in his side making him look more like a Christ figure than before. Vincent emerges, and curls up alongside Jack, who will not die alone. Overhead, a plane flies, carrying Kate and his other surviving friends. His eye closes, mirroring the first shot of the series. But, as always, these final scenes are not restricted to the island. We keep cutting over to what we thought was an alternate reality, where everyone except for Jack seems to remember their true past lives. Jack, after meeting up with Kate, has been brought to a church for what he believes is his father's funeral. In this reality, Jack has just operated on John Locke and given him back the use of his legs. In this reality, Ben apologizes to John for killing him, and is the one to tell him he can leave that wheelchair behind. Hurley pokes his head out to say goodbye to Ben, who won't be joining them just yet, and to commend him for his years as a second-in-command, even though it seems like we just saw them take over the island.

Jack finds his father's coffin, and his memories. The coffin is empty, and his father, Christian Shephard, is standing behind him with the final answers. He explains that this place was one they all created together, because they were so important to each other in life, they'd want to find each other before moving on to whatever was next in their journey. Jack doesn't understand. If his father is dead, then he must be dead. If they're among the dead, then everybody he ever knew is dead. "Everyone dies some time, kiddo. Some of them before you, some of them long after you ... there is no now here." So even though Jack dies in the final scene of the episode, he arrives at this sort of “heaven's waiting room” at the same time as Kate, who may have lived for decades longer, or Hurley, who may have lived an even longer life as the island's new protector. Every soulmate, every constant is reunited in this unique chapel. Every time memories were jarred, we were treated to a hazy montage of key past scenes. It was a beautiful thing. The most pivotal moment for all these characters was getting on a plane from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, that never made it. When they died, they found themselves on that plane, successfully landing at LAX, to lead an ideal fantasy until they could all remember together, and take one final trip. Some, like Ben, will not be ready. Some, like Eloise Hawking, appear to know the truth of this existence, but prefer it because it is the life she never knew on Earth. In time, those like Ben's daughter or Eloise's son will become aware and be ready to move on. Jack, Kate, and the rest of the survivors sit in church pews as friends and family, not unlike when they all sat on an airplane together as strangers. Christian opens the doors and a light bathes them. On the island, Jack closes his eye, and LOST comes to a close.

When they decided to make it six seasons, it allowed the writers to tighten their outline, and though not everything will ever be addressed, the key things were. In the end, there were answers. In the end, there are plenty of questions that people will debate for years to come. There were a few things I would have liked answered, perhaps more information on the scientists that came to the island or the ancient Egyptians that once had a presence there. But really, all that backstory is secondary to the fate of these characters, and is less important. Some things have to remain a mystery. I like that they managed to be ambiguous and open-ended in some areas, while also providing a true sense of closure. I'm glad I followed this series. I'm glad it's over. I will miss Jack, Kate, Hurley, Locke, Desmond, Ben, Charlie, Claire, Sawyer, Juliet, Sayid, Sun, Jin, and the rest. Someday, when I've had time to process it all and find myself with the free time, I may watch it all again from the beginning. As Desmond once prophetically said, “I'll see you in a another life.”

”I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”
-Amazing Grace

5.24.2010

Phantasmic Links 5.24.10

LOST. Sure, I played a lot of music this weekend with two different bands, but the most significant portion of the weekend was the six hours I spent in front of the television saying goodbye to that show after six years. There was closure, and there were answers, and there were more questions, and there was ambiguity, and in the end, it was both satisfying and sad. The cast and the characters have always been a strong point of the show, but more than ever I realized it was all about the score. Every time there was a montage of memories and sad music, that music got to me. I'm still processing it all, and will likely have more to ramble on about, but now is the time for this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) A little “unnecessary censorship” from Jimmy Kimmel shows a very different LOST from the one I remember.

(2) Here's Josh Holloway's next project now that LOST is done. It's probably sad that I subsequently went online to see if they were really making that movie, but in my defense I'd just driven home from a gig in Queens in record time to sit in front of the television for six hours.

(3) In terrifying astronomical news, a star was observed consuming its offspring.

(4) With MakeUseOf.com, I'm posting a link to a site full of useful links, which may themselves contain links, and there's no telling how far down this rabbit hole of an internet goes.
Hat Tip: J-No.

(5) Can you figure out what to do in the various interactive videos of the Self Control Freak?

(6) This dude is to be commended for the detail he put into his War Machine armor.
H.T.: B13.

(7) Fringe fans will appreciate the show's attention to detail in commissioning these alternate universe DC comic book covers.

(8) These “lost” issues of The Brave and the Bold show some team-ups I wish we really could have seen....

(9) Megan Fox will not be returning for Transformers 3. Damn. Looks like we need new eye-candy. There was the robot chick from the second movie, or maybe we can get closer to original continuity and bring in Carly Witwicky?

(10) Robot Wants Puppy, and with the help of a kitty and some upgrades, you just might get him to succeed. Keep an eye out for special achievements and one tricky secret section...


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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5.23.2010

WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 44

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 44th WWW:

1) Balls of Fury:
There's something to be said for going in to a movie with low expectations. If you don't know Dan Fogler as the mop-haired overweight lead in this ping-pong movie, you might remember him from Fanboys. That's pretty much the length of his fifteen minutes of fame, and while he does similar things in both roles, he's good at what he does. Here, he's a once great champion whose childhood failure and humiliation cost him both his reputation and his father. Years later, through an improbable set of events, the FBI sends a special agent(George Lopez) to recruit Fogler's Randy Daytona to enter a tournament that will help them catch an evil arms dealer(Christopher Walken in a ridiculous over-the-top get-up in stark contrast to his Walken-ness). As the films creators describe it, this is basically a kung-fu movie where every reference to kung-fu has been replaced with ping-pong. Daytona must go through training with James Hong, while Jason Scott Lee and others object to the forbidden training of a caucasian. All the archetypes are there. A lot of the humor is in Fogler's timing and reactions to some of the absurd situations around him, or conversely how he handles getting negative or no responses from people. At the end of the day, this movie doesn't have anything significant to say about society or competition, although one could argue a message that everyone might have talent beyond outward appearances and victory can be achieved through hard work and determination. Or it could just be a silly turn-off-your-brain romp with a lot of crotch shots and Def Leppard references. And sometimes, that's okay too.

2) Babylon A.D.:
Vin Diesel plays a mercenary hired to smuggle a very special young woman from Russia to the heart of New York, in a post-apocalyptic future tale that can be summed up entirely by this one sentence. Noticing an unrated director's cut on the flip side of the DVD, I opted to watch that one first, since experience has taught me that when a movie doesn't do well or disappears from theaters, the director's original version is usually better. With some shades of Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, I didn't think the movie was so bad. The girl seemed to possess some special abilities that warned her of impending danger, while other characters speculated she was secretly a weapon of mass destruction being used to smuggle in a virus. By the time the film catches up with the iconic explosive scene from the trailers and the opening of the movie, I felt like there was going to be some real payoff. But then it just sort of fizzles and ends abruptly. I could not believe where the movie cut off; it felt unfinished. So I checked out the original, fast forwarding through parts that seemed the same. It was definitely leaner, with more action sequences, with a few bits of dialogue changed and some scenes moved up in the film. The transition to the last scene, replaced by a voiceover in the director's cut, is instead a chase sequence. And there's one more scene at the end revealing the result of that truncated final scene. So I would say that somewhere between the director's cut and the theatrical cut, there's a decent version of this movie. In both cases, there are some decent visual effects. The plot could have had more substance, and I think the movie suffers in waiting too long to reveal who or what the girl is, where she actually came from, and why she existed in the first place. It had potential, but I understand why ultimately it fizzled.


More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!

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5.22.2010

Vowels are Overrated?

Hindsight, some say, is always 20/20. When I attempted to write a post sans vowels, it was a bit of a struggle. A few times my fingers hit one on the keyboard, and I had to go back and delete it before moving forward. It slowed down my writing considerably, and only when I neared the end did it occur to me that I probably should have written the post normally first, then gone back and removed all the vowels. Every day is a learning experience, some more than others. In any event, I'm now going to see if I can decipher/remember my own words, and provide a translation:

Dear Cloakfriends,

It's been a busy week. So busy, that I‘m too tired to even include vowels in today's post. For the sake of argument, I‘m not counting “y” as a vowel. To some, this will seem like gibberish. To others as insane as me, it will make perfect sense. It will be interesting to see how many of you can decipher what I‘ve written.

I have so many band gigs coming up. On Saturday, I have a rehearsal. On Sunday, some church gig(I hope I get home in time for LOST!). I am taking off on Monday, which will be the first day off in a month that was just to take off, not go to the hospital for my dad. And Tuesday night I have a procession for Padre Pio, so it's good LOST will be done. Then of course next weekend I have three gigs for Memorial Day! I really need that vacation day!

Wow. This is so much harder than I thought it would be. I don't know if I can write a whole post like this! I'm sure I‘ll accidentally forget to skip at least one vowel, if not more! Just Kidding. I did that on purpose. LOL. You would think writing fewer letters would take less time, but it‘s actually taking more. And there's no way to spell check this mess. So please, post your guesses in the comments section, and if remember myself, I‘ll tell you if you're right or even close.

Sincerely,
Michael Wayvid Whorenelli.

P.S.-I've also started training for that annual race companies on Long Island do each year. Wednesday night I didn't get home until almost ten PM. So besides catching up on TV, you can bet I‘ll be putting in more hours down at the gym. Goals are important, and sometimes sacrifices are made in other areas to achieve those goals. Still, vowels should return tomorrow. Or I‘ll be REALLY evil and write a post that's ONLY vowels!


I have to admit, some of those were tough, and I'm the one who wrote it. Context helps, although more than once I thought it would be funny to just put the same vowel for everything. All around, it was an interesting brain exercise, and I may try more complex “codes” in the future. No one attempted to guess, although Spockgirl did respond with her own vowel-less message. Here's my best attempt at translating:

”Your really weird. but said would count "y" as a vowel. obviously changed your mind and said "y" is a consonant. must see that posting in only vowels would be way more difficult, is too many variables. This was pretty easy, and actually fun, and perhaps retarded.”

I wasn't sure about a few words in there either, but I think I was close. Normal prose should resume tomorrow....

5.21.2010

Vwls r vrrtd

Dr Clkfrnds,

'ts bn bsy wk. S bsy, tht ‘m t trd t vn ncld vwls n tdy's pst. Fr th sk f rgmnt, ‘m nt cntng “y” s vwl. T sm, ths wll sm lk gbbrsh. T thrs s nsn s m, t wll mk prfct sns. t wll b ntrstng t s hw mny f y cn dcphr wht ‘v wrttn.

hv s mny bnd ggs cmng p. n Strdy, hv rhrsl. n Sndy, sm chrch gg( hp gt hm n tm fr LST!). m tkng ff n Mndy, whch wll b th frst dy ff n mnth tht ws jst t tk ff, nt g t th hsptl fr my dd. nd Tsdy nght hv prcssn fr Pdr P, s t's gd LST wll b dn. Thn f crs nxt wknd hv thr ggs fr Mmrl Dy! rlly nd tht vctn dy!

Ww. Ths s s mch hrdr thn thght t wld b. dn't knw f cn wrt whl pst lk ths! I'm sr ‘ll ccdntlly frgt t skp t lst n vwl, f nt mr! Jst Kddng. dd tht n prps. LL. Y wld thnk wrtng fwr lttrs wld tk lss tm, bt t‘s ctlly tkng mr. nd thr's n wy t spll chck ths mss. S pls, pst yr gsss n th cmmnts sctn, nd f rmmbr myslf, ‘ll tll y f y’r rght r vn cls.

Sncrly,
Mchl Wyvd Whrnll.

P.S.-'ve ls strtd trnng fr tht nnl rc cmpns n Lng slnd d ch yr. Wdnsdy nght ddn't gt hm ntl lmst tn PM. S bsds ctchng p n TV, y cn bt ‘ll b pttng n mr hrs dwn t th gym. Gls r mprtnt, nd smtms scrfcs r md n thr rs t chv ths gls. Stll, vwls shld rtrn tmrrw. r ‘ll b RLLY vl nd wrt pst tht’s NLY vwls!

5.20.2010

My 2010 Summer Show Five

I'm looking forward to the Summer, to having more time to catch up on my movies and maybe put some more time in the gym as I prepare for a race in early August. This is a week of season and series finales. Summer is also a good time to catch up on shows I didn't get to watch during the regular season, as well as quite a few shows that play during the Summer normally. Here are My Five shows I'll be watching this Summer:

1) Psych:
I've been catching up on this show over the last few months, and I'm a little more than halfway through the fourth season. It's episodic enough that it's probably not necessary to see every episode in order, but there are some references and subplots that run through the standalone tales, so I would like to catch up before season five premieres on July 21st.




2) Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
While I've been careful to avoid Psych spoilers, I've been less fortunate with the first season of Spartacus, having only caught about 5 or 6 out of 13 episodes. I made it very clear at a barbecue this past weekend that I didn't want to know what happened in the finale, but the punch-drunk kickboxer talking to my friend kept talking, and by the time he mentioned the death of a main character, I shouted “COME ON!”, forgetting for a moment that he was a seven-foot kickboxer. So I let it slide. But I really need to see those other 7 episodes soon...


3) True Blood:
The Southern drama about a psychic waitress, her vampire boyfriend, and all the other vampires, shapeshifters, maenads, and other weird creatures in their world returns on June 13. I'm all caught up on the first two seasons, so I'm ready for the latest in this quirky and steamy dramedy based on a series of novels.


4) Eureka:
A generally fun and lighthearted series about a sheriff of normal intelligence policing a small town full of super geniuses, Eureka took a few dark and gamechanging turns over the course of season 3. July 9th marks the start of the fourth season, and I'm looking forward to see how they'll keep it fun and fresh, and hoping we haven't seen the last of a few of the characters who said goodbye in different ways last year.


5) Happy Town:
Alas, Happy Town, I barely knew ye. It took three episodes for this gothic tale about a small town once plagued by mysterious disappearances to hit its stride, and precisely three episodes for it to get canceled. The remaining episodes are supposed to be burned off over the Summer, and I just hope enough was filmed to solve some of the larger mysteries. Amy Acker can't catch a break with series, and she was one of many cast members I always enjoy watching, along with Abraham “Kubiak” Benrubi, Steven “Wings” Weber, and freaking Sam Neill. How do you have Sam Neill on a television show and pull it? Perhaps the show's (possibly) unseen “Magic Man” claimed the show as another one of his victims....


And what will you be watching?

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5.19.2010

PBW: FlushingForward

Last week, Photo Blog Wednesday took you along for a Mother's Day excursion to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, site of the 1964 World's Fair. Now, my father did remarkably well for a man who'd had heart bypass surgery four weeks prior, but he still has his limits. Each week he pushes and exceeds them, and last weekend he walked alongside a two hour procession I played in with very little difficulty. But on Mother's Day weekend, it was very cold, and very windy, so at some point he and my mother sought shelter in the lobby of a theater to rest. This freed me to do a little more exploring on my own and travel further than I ever had before, even venturing over a highway to the other side of the park. This is what I found:




















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5.18.2010

Brackets: So Exciting. So Funny. So What?

B13 cast the deciding vote in the final round of TV Character Brackets:



It's fitting in many ways that Jack Bauer should claim the title of favorite current television character of my reader. By this time next week, 24 will have concluded an epic 8 seasons of the counter terrorist agent keeping the world safe for democracy while keeping our Monday nights tense and exciting. I loved it when it first premiered, but thought it a one time experiment. A mini-series set in real time in which 24 hours of a specific day are broken into 24 episodes is brilliant, but I didn't think it could be repeated. And yet, Jack Bauer and the people in the universe he inhabited went on to have another bad day every year. We wondered how some of them functioned without sleep, or going to the bathroom, or other practical matters, but these things were always overshadowed by the crisis of the day. Also, Jack seemed invulnerable at times. I remember his heart stopping in one season. Last year he was exposed to a lethal virus. He's been stabbed twice this season, and though the second time is slowing him down, he seemed to just shake off the first one. Jack Bauer is the man you want on your side, and the one to fear if he's not.

The last time I tried a bracket experiment, B13 rallied his readers for a record number of votes, and claimed a decisive victory. Overall, participation was much higher, probably because the blog owners had a more personal stake in the votes; it was about them. I definitely would like to try this bracket thing again, but I could use your input. What would have made this one as popular as the last one? Should readers have had a say in the initial 16 candidates? Were the television characters too diverse? If there's another bracket series in the future, what topic would you like to see as the main focus? You don't have to be B13 or Jack Bauer to chime in here, although apparently that doesn't hurt.

Keep tuning in Cloakfriends, same MCF time, same MCF channel....

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5.17.2010

Phantasmic Links 5.17.10

Sometimes a great weekend goes by too quickly. Other times, it can seem to last a long time. This weekend was the latter. I played a procession on Saturday morning and ate lots of great Italian food. That night, I hit a barbecue with some old college friends. Sunday, I mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedge at my dad's lot. I even watched a few movies, and got in a few naps, and still had time to spare. The weather couldn't have been nicer, and for once I feel ready to face another Monday and crush my to-do list. I've still got one more thing to do for myself and all of you though, and that's this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) If you think the sky sometimes has interesting clouds in it, you should see what they look like from space.

(2) Scientists discover the “Methuselah” gene. I want one.

(3) In this past Friday's finale, Smallville finally offered viewers a glimpse of what we've been waiting for after nine seasons. I hope Christopher Nolan was watching....

(4) Jon Favreau shares his thoughts on whether we might finally see The Mandarin in a third Iron Man film.

(5) Speaking of old Shellhead, check out some other element-based comic book characters.

(6) As someone who used to fill the margins of his notebook with artwork in school, I am in complete awe of the level of photorealism one artist reached using only a pen. (Some NSFW images)

(7) Hey kids, try not to learn anything from this Fake Science.

(8) Sometimes, the only thing that can save a superhero is a gritty reboot.

(9) If Super Mario Bros. first debuted in 2010, it might have looked a little something like THIS.
Hat Tip: Rey.

(10) And speaking of putting a new spin on old games, Pixel Basher is a block busting game with upgrades and guns and upgrades for your guns!


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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5.16.2010

WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 43

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 43rd WWW:

1) Year One:
I was warned that this would be bad, and Jack Black is definitely one of those hit-or-miss actors for me. But I thought the presence of Michael Cera might elevate the film above Black's weaker sophomoric leanings, and the trailer had some genuinely funny moments. As is the case with most disappointing comedies, most of those funny moments were in the trailer alone. It's a concept that might have worked as a sketch, casting the uncouth Black and nebbishy Cera as cavemen, speaking in their normal modern tones. And I think that was half of the problem, that these guys each have one note to play, so it gets old. When I saw the cast in the opening credits, I had some hope that it wouldn't be as bad as people said. But most of those other stars had little more than cameo roles as the wandering cavemen, banished from their tribe, ran into different biblical figures. It didn't matter if those people were contemporaries with each other let alone cave people; this wasn't the film to watch for historical accuracy. I also automatically subtract a star when bathroom humor gets to be too much for me. Human waste grosses me out more than blood in movies, and seeing Black pick up and taste feces in an attempt to track people was something that went on too long, not that there's a right length for such a scene. Seeing an imprisoned Cera hanging upside down, stammering that he has to pee in his awkward way is funny. Seeing it actually happen and dribble down his face is not, and way beneath the actor, in my opinion. With less crude material, there could have been interesting chemistry between these comedic actors. It's 90 minutes of my life I won't get back, and the few parts that were funny along with a Leeroy Jenkins reenactment as a special feature just weren't enough to make up for the bad parts of the film.

2) Last Chance Harvey:
It's hard to not like this movie or empathize with the characters. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are leading parallel crappy lives at the start of the film. Thompson lives in England, is single and in her 40s, and takes care of her mother. Hoffman's titular Harvey is from America, but in London for his daughter's wedding. He's on the verge of losing his job as a commercial jingle writer, and his career has made him an outsider with his own family. His ex-wife(Kathy Baker) is married to James Brolin, a bit too perfect in the husband and stepfather department when compared to Harvey. Worse, Harvey's daughter wants Brolin to walk her down the aisle. Hoffman does a great job playing this complete sad sack, isolated and work obsessed. Missing his flight home and losing his job could prove that sometimes bad things could be the best things to free us for something better. He meets Thompson, and with nothing to lose, ends up spending the day with her, bordering on stalker behavior forgivable because he's so charming and endearing. The film's second act breaks down into a series of montages and a few heartwarming feel good moments. Their lives are so terrible in the first act, that it's great to see two people just connect and start to smile again. And if movies have taught us anything, it's that such things cannot last. I think that's my only criticism, is that things go so well, when conflict is inevitably introduced in the third act, it's kind of manufactured. I could be jaded from watching so many movies, but I never had a sense that things weren't going to go the way I wanted them to go. That's a minor criticism at best, since these two performers are enjoyable to watch and have great chemistry together. This isn't Hoffman's Jerry Maguire, but it's still a great date movie for couples, or a movie to give single people hope that it's never too late to get a last chance at love. The “d'awwww” factor is strong with this one.

3) Inkheart:
Brendan Fraser stars as a “Silvertongue”, a person with a very dangerous ability to bring to life any characters or objects from any book he reads aloud. The danger lies partly in the fact that his Mortimer Folchart is not immediately aware of this power, but also that it works both ways. When he inadvertently reads several characters out of a book of the same name as the film, his wife is sucked into the book. Years later, after searching for another copy of the book to free his wife, he's forced to tell his daughter the truth about her mother's disappearance. It's a pretty cool concept based on a novel, so in a sense it's like the characters really have been brought out of the book. Mythical creatures and well-known beings from other novels show up, such as Toto. One of the characters Brendan Fraser freed, the villainous Capricorn(Andy Serkis), finds himself another Silvertongue named Darius, whose stutter results in imperfect beings with writing partially covering them. Still, Capricorn has put together a gang and consolidated power, and managed to destroy most of the existing copies of Inkheart to prevent Fraser from sending him back. In the middle is Paul Bettany as the fire-manipulating Dustfinger, one of the more interesting characters from Inkheart. Freed at the same time as Capricorn, he saved Fraser and his daughter, but now seeks nothing more than to get back into the book and see his family again. This moral conflict causes his allegiances to shift a few times, but you'll have to see the film to find out where they finally settle. This wasn't the effects-laden mega-epic it could have been, and there were large portions of exposition that slowed things down. Author Cornelia Funke cited Brendan Fraser as the inspiration for Mo Folchart, so it was certainly fitting that he portrayed him in the film. The book was first in a trilogy, but the movie seems to have wrapped things up too neatly and I haven't heard of plans to make more. Overall, this was an enjoyable movie, and a celebration of literature and all the worlds authors create.


More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!

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5.15.2010

Better to Burn Out

There were days in this week on which I could not focus, or stay on one task without being distracted by another. My brain was like pudding. Everything felt off. Eventually, I made a list, and overcame my molasses mindset, but by then it was Friday, and I didn't accomplish as much as I would have liked.

I'm definitely due for another mental health day. The last time I took a day off, I took my father to the hospital at 5 AM for a heart bypass operation. I can't remember the last time I had a me day, as selfish as that might sound. It's also getting to be the time of year when I have a parade or feast to play nearly every weekend, and a few weeknights and weekdays as we get into the middle of the Summer.

Sometimes, it's good to slow down. I notice that when running, that if I take it down to a walk for a few minutes, I can get a second wind and run further over a longer period of time. That's true with anything in life. It's all about pacing and planning. I just haven't had a good break in my work schedule, between various meetings, emergencies, and side projects, to schedule a day off. But I'm looking for one in the next couple of weeks.

I'm even getting burned out on television, which is normal this time of year. Smallville, as always, delivered a season finale that surpassed most of the other episodes this season, with a few notable exceptions. And it wasn't so much the episode itself, as what it teased for the future of the show. If I'm right, they're bringing in a MAJOR DC villain for season 10. I'm actually glad that show is coming back, which is not how I would have felt three or four years ago.

I'm also glad other shows are done. As much as I love LOST and 24, finally having closure will be nice, and I won't mind regaining two hours of my week. I'm not too happy that FlashForward got canceled already; I think the way networks measure ratings is horribly outdated and unfair. And I was just starting to get into Happy Town, but they yanked that after only three episodes, with plans to burn off the remaining ones over the Summer. It was just starting to go somewhere, and never got a chance. I am glad Human Target has been renewed, and I'm kind of surprised V is surviving where FlashForward didn't. I like it, but the CGI is distractingly bad at times and there are only four good actors/characters amid a collection of distractingly bad actors. They also aired fewer episodes and took a break after the first four until March. When that wraps next week, it will have had a total of 12 episodes in the first season, half of what FlashForward aired. I don't get it.

Maybe the television environment needs to change. Maybe serial dramas need to plan shorter arcs, so if a new show doesn't make it past the first season, at least we have closure. 24 did that, and I never expected a second season let alone nine. I remember thinking, “how is he going to have another day as bad as that?” But then, I also remember when I thought the monster on the island in LOST was the Bad Robot from the production logo at the end of the show. I was mostly joking when I first posited that; less so when I first saw the black smoke and thought it to be a collection of nanobots. It's funny how impressions change as we get more information.

So it's been a long week, and an even longer year, and I'm just glad it's Friday. I still have a few movies to watch and review, a few shows from the week I haven't seen yet, a procession to play, a lawn or two to mow, laundry to wash, and a BBQ to attend. Most of that is fun, but it won't help me rest. This is how lazy I am; even when I have time off, I need time off to recover from that.

Life: it's busy, but it sure beats the alternative.

5.14.2010

Anyone else....

....drink coffee after 4 PM that doesn't fully kick in until midnight?

...catch themselves mumbling gibberish while driving, pretending to be speaking a nonexistent foreign language?

...feel like the Supernatural season finale, clearly written originally as a series finale, has the potential to make next season as disappointing as the extra season of Scrubs?

...think Happy Town never got a fair chance, starting in May at 10 PM on Wednesdays?

...think “they're just making it up as they go along!” is a silly criticism of writers, since that's their job description, at least as far as fiction is concerned?

...feel relief when most shows near their season or series finales, freeing up many hours over the Summer?

...make train whistle noises when driving over train tracks?

...wish Spring would pick one temperature(preferably moderate) and one weather condition(preferably clear and dry) and stick with it?

...think that commercial with the “800 pound gorilla in the room” riding in a convertible doesn't work at all, since the gorilla has to identify himself as such, and isn't actually in a room?

...wish all your problems could be solved with parkour?

...wish all your problems could be solved with Parkay?

...find news reports about terrorist activity more unsettling in terms of your geographic proximity to such activity?

....drink coffee after 4 PM that doesn't fully kick in until midnight, when it might also affect one's memory?

...think most of these are just me?