|Driving to the airport to pick up Becky, I had the window down and my arm resting on the door and saw the reflection of my arm in the mirror with the little wide angle mirror looking like a window through my arm. Dug the camera out (while driving the twisty road with one knee on the wheel) and played with the idea. None of the pictures turned out exactly as I desired, but I like this one pretty well with all the various layers.|
I know that I'm not the only one who has somewhat tuned out of the daily depression-inducer that is the news as we know it. As the race warms up for the 2004 presidential elections, I think it's our duty to tune back in and do whatever we can to ensure that 2005 brings us a president who is more likely to support the America we love rather than strip mining its resources to feed the appetites of his rich buddies.
Toward that end, MoveOn.org is hosting a straw poll to see who among the Democratic candidates are most supported by MoveOn members so they can involve those candidates in their agenda setting activities.
I find that I don't know enough about these candidates to make a fully informed decision in the poll so I'm going to be doing a little research. At this point what I'm mostly interested in is what the candidates say they stand for, so I'm going to do my research by examining their individual campaign web sites. This post is here mostly to serve as a starting point, but also as impetus through commitment: if I say I'm going to do this right here in front of God and everybody, I'll be more likely to follow through.
Here's the field as we know it (web site addresses found using google for "first last president". The number in square brackets indicates how far down in the search results I had to go to find the candidate's campaign site):
Stay tuned for my condensations of their positions.
A few years ago this would have been a find for me. Free smokes! But I have reformed myself to the point where after picking up some wayward Camels from the side of another Issaquah street a few weeks ago, I haven't broken my fast. They're sitting on my bookshelf at work and I haven't really been tempted.
Even when I was a smoker, I was a light smoker, addicted to the process and the cool of it more than the nicotine. In the jobs I've held for the last 14 years or so, termed "exempt" by the HR people, nobody takes breaks but the smokers. For them, every few hours give or take, that little itch starts up that tells them it's time.
For me it meant a break from sitting in a chair, typing on a keyboard, staring at a CRT. Grab my makings and stroll through the maze of beige cubicles, down the stairs and out the door. Step out of the climate-controlled building and experience weather. Feel moving air. Variations of humidity. Heat and cold. Smell the constantly changing stew of aroma that is masked by indoor stagnation.
At our building, smokers are banished to a patch of gravel access road that circles a storm water settling pond. It's a hundred feet from the building, and completely unsheltered from the elements.
Once in the "smoker's lounge" I would take out my packet of tobacco and paper. Peel a folded paper off the pack and hold it between my fingers. Open the tobacco and pinch out a reasonable quantity, feeling the coarse texture of the leaves, smelling the loamy aroma like the soil of the bottomland where it was grown. Place the curling strips of leaf into the stark white of the paper and with thumbs and fingers coax and persuade it into the semblance of a cylinder. Lick the adhesive edge of the paper and perform the final roll that transforms paper and dried brown leaves into a cigarette. A little ritual craft project resulting in an artifact, a physical accomplishment in the midst of a day of abstract bit twiddling.
But then comes the best part: fire! The magical flare of a lighter pulling flame out of nowhere or the alchemical wonder that is a match flaring in an instant of violent consumption, fading to a steady glow of yellow, red, orange, blue heat and light. Software engineer turned to caveman harnessing the elemental force to his will, touching fire to tinder, producing smoke and a glowing ember.
Draw the smoke, product of my labor into my body, absorbing the mild stimulant of it, altering my awareness ever so slightly. Breath made visible, made tactile, the miracle of inhale exhale sustaining life. Transforming the ubiquitous involuntary action of breathing from background to foreground. Feel the air moving in and out. See it. See how an exhalation doesn't instantly blend into the homogeneity of the atmosphere, but retains its identity for a time, moving out from lungs, drifting away from the body that it has sustained, still connected in a chain of molecular presence leading in and out and out and out into the world.
The artifact of the cigarette is slowly consumed. Paper and leaf and fire transformed into smoke and ash and dust.
This is what I miss about being a smoker. This little drama of making and unmaking. The echo of creation and destruction. The connection to the world of basic physical reality.
And then after the fire is out I would go back inside the sealed containment of the building, back to the beige cubicle, back to the modern ritual of qwerty and crt, back to the abstract shuffling of constructs with no physical manifestation.
Idoru was the first Gibson novel I had read in a long time when I picked it up in 2001. I enjoyed the pacing of that book, with its many small chapters and fun characters. It made me think that maybe I should start reading Gibson again. I picked All Tomorrow's Parties off the shelf at the library not even knowing that it's a sequel to Idoru. And more than a sequel, it has every appearance of being the middle book of a trilogy. Oh well. It is made clear early in the book that some big event is coming and that all the characters are going to end up at the epicenter. And so I watched as, sure enough, they all moved towards the site of the big mysterious something that ended the book. This is actually structured almost exactly like The Matrix: Reloaded, just with less philosophy. It moves along because the scenery is cool and the chapters are short enough to keep the pages turning, but in the end not much happens and what does happen doesn't make a lot of sense. The ending contains possibilities, so I'll probably read the third book when I figure out what it is.
The cool setting of most of the book is an urban jungle set on the Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate as the cover would have you believe). The bridge was damaged enough by an earthquake that it no longer supports vehicle traffic, but has been colonized by society's rejects resulting in an anarchic community that readers of science fiction will instantly recognize.
The book itself is plastered with hyperbolic blurbs by such bastions of literary discernment as Elle and The Financial Times. Fortunately I don't read cover text or anything before the title page in fiction, so I was not unduly influenced for good or ill by this effulgence.
|On the left is a cottonwood seed pod. There's probably a few hundred seeds in among all that white fluff. (the wad of fluff is about 2 inches long and an inch in diameter.)
On the right is the fuzzy white line the path has acquired of drifted seeds.
Last year I wasn't moved to do a cottonwood seed entry until May 30.
|Cory Doctorow blogged a similar sign from Vancouver, BC. I pedalled down to the end of the block to take this picture of Issaquah's version. The Vancouver ones seem to be the originals. I wonder if Issaquah got Cameron Stewart's permission...|
I'm pretty sure I put a hold on this from the library because of a review I read in the Powells Books newsletter (one of the best commercial email newsletters there is, BTW). The part of the review I read made it sound like the book would be an interesting mix of politics and computer geekdom.
The book starts out with backstory on the family life of Vi and Jens, daughter and son (respectively) of a New Hampshire insurance adjuster. Costello hooked me with these two people. Vi becomes a Secret Service agent protecting a vice president campaigning for the big chair. Jens works for a pre-IPO computer game startup. I could envision a bunch of interesting story lines with these characters. To his credit, Costello surprised me by not following any of the ones I could think of. Unfortunately, the one he did follow wasn't very interesting. Vi is burned out on the constant scanning of hands in crowds looking for the next Hinckley, Jens is disillusioned with his job writing (in his father's words) amoral software. And a good half the book is dedicated to other characters with similar levels of dissatisfaction in their lives.
There's commentary here about American lifestyles, American politics, American business, American law enforcement. But the commentary is mostly of the form "look how screwed up all these things are!" I have a hard time thinking who might find these observations illuminating, and I don't see any attempt in the book to suggest alternative courses or interpretations.
In short, not particularly educational or particularly entertaining. If there's another reason to read a book, I don't know what it is.
Part coming-of-age, part thriller, part dysfunctional family portrait, but mostly a sweet dominant/submissive love story. The unbearably cute Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a young woman recently released from a psychiatric institution for her use of imposed pain as a method of coping with the emotional pain in her life. Lee seeks independence from her family through employment and gets a job as a secretary for lawyer E. Edward Grey played by James Spader. Grey's idea of the duties of a secretary are somewhat unorthodox, but dovetail nicely with Lee's inclinations. Spader and Gyllenhall really carry the movie, making their decidedly non-Hollywood characters completely real and sympathetic. The overall tone and pacing of the film, the score, and the look of it are all nearly perfect reflections of the story as well. It does dip briefly into the semi-surreal towards the end, but overall the movie is a charming look at an atypical relationship form.
I wouldn't have minded more extras on this DVD. There's a making-of featurette with too-brief interviews with the actors, a small photo gallery, and a commentary track with writer Erin Cressida Wilson and director Steven Shainberg. We haven't heard the commentary yet, but will probably listen to it some time (yes, this one made it into the collection before we even saw it)
Verdict: 3-1/2 stars (out of 4)
Whew! If you visited recently and wondered why there was nothing new, you'll probably do a double take today when I suddenly posted a bunch of stuff all the way back to a week ago. I got behind writing reviews.
Plus I wrote up a thing over in my homepage about a woodworking project I recently finished: an upholstered footstool for Becky.
Think I'll go read a book now!
Robin Williams plays Sy Parrish, a photo processing technician at the one hour photo counter in a discount department store. We find out pretty quickly that Sy takes a personal interest in his customers.
In one case, Sy's interest is a little too personal. He is secretly obsessed by the Yorkin family, Nina (Connie Nielsen), Will (Michael Vartan), and young son Jake (Dylan Smith). When Sy processes their pictures he makes an extra set for himself.
The movie starts with Sy being admitted into police custody, and we are made to know that something untoward has happened, but not what. The rest of the movie is in flashback with a return to the interrogation at the end.
Williams is extremely creepy as the photo guy. The Yorkins are lovely to look at and play their parts well. The film has a stark over-clean look to it that heightens the tension. The photography details are convincing. The story mostly manages to steer clear of the stalker cliches.
I wanted to like the movie (as much as you can like a movie like this), but some plot details half-way through strained my credulity to the breaking point and made me question the reality of what was happening enough that for the rest of the film I kept waiting for the revelation that it was all a dream (as happens after a brief passage earlier in the film). I won't say what the details were (unless someone asks in the comments ;-). They're small things really, but they're so wrong that I was blown right out of the film.
The DVD has a Charlie Rose interview, and a Sundance "Anatomy of a Scene" segment neither of which we watched. The obligatory making-of featurette was worth watching for the behind-the-scenes shots of Robin Williams being his usual cut-up not-Sy self. There's also a commentary track with Williams and writer/director Romanek that has a few interesting details and some amusing bits from Williams, but was mostly pretty dull.
One other thing that was weird that had nothing to do with the movie was that I kept being reminded of my dad when I saw shots of Williams as Sy. Purely appearance; Dad isn't a psycho stalker as far as I know ;-).
Verdict: 2-1/2 stars (out of 4)
The software department at work went to see this as a group. (The occasional movie is a lot cheaper than paying all the overtime they should). It's a good movie to see with a bunch of computer geeks. Actually, I'm not sure it's possible to avoid seeing it with a bunch of computer geeks.
The story picks up pretty close after The Matrix left off. Keanu Reeves's Neo continues to kick Agent butt. The rebel forces continue to resist their machine overlords (Star Wars and Terminator echoes abound). But now the machines are drilling down to the human stronghold in Zion to stamp out the rebels, and Morpheus's (Laurence Fishburne) prophecy of deliverance by The One (Neo) seems imminent. That's all the plot there is.
The movie is a series of eye-popping fight and chase scenes stitched together with an equal number of talky, boring expository passages. The effects scenes are as good as any such scenes ever filmed (though some of them are a bit over-long). The dialogue in the other scenes tries to move the story along while exploring the existential philosophical issues that the premise of most of humanity living in a simulated reality brings up. It does neither well.
But who cares? The movie looks great, and is more fun than a roller coaster when it's moving, so if that sounds like fun, sit back and enjoy it. If not, you weren't going to go see this one anyway.
Verdict: 2-1/2 stars (out of 4)
|Theo's wife Louise's underpants fall down one day while she's watching the king's procession file by. She is mildly embarrassed (ahem), but thinks no more of it until Theo expresses his outrage. Then the room they have for rent becomes suddenly mysteriously popular. The play is your basic farce. I found it amusing in places, but I think it needs a full production by live actors to rouse the hilarity that the cover blurbs promised (not that I trust cover blurbs!) Or maybe I just read through it too quickly to get the big jokes.|
I picked this up to reread because I saw it referenced in the comment thread of this post over on Making Light where Teresa was talking about the nifty Rube-Goldberg-esque Honda commercial where all the action is constructed from bits and pieces of a car. You can watch it here with Flash. The discussion of "Cog" (that's what the little movie is called) wandered off into long single shots in films (like the opening sequence in Altman's The Player) and Ford popped in and said "I did once crank a single tracking shot out to 261 pages, but that's another you-know-what," to which Teresa immediately responded, "Drat! Mike, you beat me to it. I was about to observe that the longest single tracking shot I know of is Growing Up Weightless."
In my first review I actually commented on the fact that the book had no chapter breaks, but I missed the fact that it works as a single tracking shot. Actually, that's kind of stretching things a bit: there are some time dissolves and transitions between real and virtual realities, but otherwise the book really does track straight through as if you were following the characters around. And as I pointed out the first time, it just works, it doesn't feel at all like fancy narrative tricks are being played on you.
The book itself is about Matt Ronay, an early-teen son of an official in the government of a Lunar colony. The plot centers around Matt's and his friends' efforts to have some time away from adult supervision. Matt's father's point of view sneaks in from time to time telling another story about the politics and practicalities of life on an airless satellite. In the end, it's one of those rare books that has a wealth of details, but leaves a reasonable amount unexplained in such a way that it lets the reader speculate about what's really going on behind the scenes, and what will happen after the book ends. If I had a list of "favorite" books, this one would be near the top. Sadly out of print, but click the cover for a bunch of copies at scandalously low prices via bookfinder.
A look at the stars before they were stars. Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix, Elrond in The Lord of the Rings (and a whole bunch of other stuff over the years, of course)) plays a blind man with photography for a hobby. Which makes exactly no sense until you watch the movie and find out that he does it for perfectly sensible and very sad reasons. Russell Crowe plays a dish washer who becomes Weaving's friend after a chance encounter involving an alley cat. Completing the triangle is Geneviève Picot as Weaving's obsessive, ever-so-slightly psychotic housekeeper.
The movie reminded us of Memento with its similar theme of "who can you trust and what can you believe when you know your perception is impaired?" (The poster for Memento even echoes this film's a bit.) This is a much more accessible film than Memento. All three lead actors are excellent in what is basically a three-person story. A little more thought could have been put into the conflict--Crowe's character's actions strain credulity a bit--but with how well the rest of the plot was handled I'm willing to let that go. In amidst all the serious emotional issues, there is a fair amount of humor especially in a brief sequence where Weaving's character finds himself behind the wheel of a car being pulled over by the police.
Verdict: 3 stars (out of 4)
We went to the Museum of History and Industry on Thursday night to see (hear) singer/songwriters Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell. They each did a set and sang and played on a couple of each others' tunes. We knew Kaplansky going in, but Shindell was new to us. He writes odd, strangely touching songs that are mostly like short stories. He talked almost as much as he played, giving background on the songs. His guitar playing was fascinating, sounding and looking like he had a third hand somewhere out of sight picking out the melody. Kaplansky played mostly dark sad tunes, but that's sort of her field. It was a good show. Being there, though, we forgot all about the total lunar eclipse which was pretty close to totality at intermission when I took this picture of a mosaic in the lobby of the theatre at the museum. By the time we went out to the car after the second set, the moon, peeking through scudding clouds, looked just odd enough to remind me of the eclipse with a little divot out of one edge all that remained of the transit of our big shadow across its face.
Someone put in a mindboggling amount of work to do one of the silliest things I've ever seen. Fellowship of the Peep is a shot-by-shot recreation of Peter Jackson's movie (as html and still images) with Peeps in all the roles.
Extreme dedication to sheer lunacy.
(via Making Light)
Fun documentary about the pool of studio musicians collectively known as the Funk Brothers who played the music behind just about every Motown hit you can name. The film interviews the surviving members, reenacts some memorable events from their history, and has live concert footage of the Funk Brothers now playing the hits they made for some contemporary singers, notably Bootsy Collins (who is that guy?), Joan Osborne (who had more soul in the 2 seconds of "Heard It Through the Grapevine" that she sang in a cafe interview scene than the entire full rendition later in the movie by Ben Harper), Me'Shell NdegéOcello, Chaka Khan. I don't include the names of the musicians here because I've never heard of any of them and assume you haven't either. They're the real stars of the film and it's unfortunate that the singers get more of the spotlight in the concert scenes than the players, just like it was back then. Still, the music is great and the stories are interesting.
Verdict: 2-1/2 stars (out of 4)
This adaptation of Chris Fuhrman's posthumously published book The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys made me want to read the book, but it's also a successful movie in its own right. The story follows a couple of early-teen boys and a girl through the torture that is adolescence made even worse by the fact that they have to experience it along with the torture that is Catholic school. Intense friendships, youthful rebellion, first love, and the collision among them are spot-on here, and bring back memories of that time of my life, both horrible and ecstatic.
One of the coolest things about the movie is that it brings to life the comic book that the characters are drawing and writing in full-screen animation. This works really well to bring the characters' internal torture out on screen without having to make the real characters unrealistically melodramatic.
On the minus side, there was something a little off about the depiction of the 1970s that kept reminding me I was watching a movie. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it was.
But the thing that really bugged me is the death of a character late in the film. It's probably straight out of the book in which case it will bug me about the book too. Why do writers feel like somebody has to die for their characters to experience strong emotions? In this case in particular, I didn't feel like the death made any of the characters involved go through anything fundamentally worse than what they'd already had to face in the rest of the movie.
The DVD has a commentary from the director that we didn't view. There's some slightly extended scenes that weren't really worth the time. The obligatory featurette is worth watching if only to see the glee that Jodie Foster obviously feels at playing the evil and repressed Sister Assumpta, glee that never once came through during her performance which is exactly as it should be since Sister Assumpta takes no joy in anything. The cast interview segment is hilarious for the sections with Jena Malone sounding like a jaded serious actress at the ripe old age of 16. Somehow she says this stuff that you've heard a hundred times about how "this script is so much better than most of the scripts that I read" that is just so cute when this little girl says them in all seriousness.
Verdict: 3 stars (out of 4)
EthicsPapers.com is a company that sells term papers specifically to college students writing papers on ethics.
Go look, I'll wait.
I still can't quite believe this isn't a hoax, but if it is, it's an extremely thorough one.
Along with their copyright, they emblazon every page of their site with this message (as an image presumably so that I can't copy and paste it):
Our work is designed only to assist students in the preparation of their own work. Students who use our service are responsible not only for writing their own papers, but also for citing The Paper Store as a source when doing so.
Uh huh. Right.
Could it be that the people behind this are actually poking fun at their own business and their customers? Or are they just laughing all the way to the bank?
Could be both, I guess.
(Link provided by Dan the Malcontented in this comment thread)
In an online community I belong to, it is very common for one person to say to another "You suck!" and instead of the thread deteriorating in flames, the recipient of this epithet will either preen quietly to himself, or say "thank you". This can seem to be a bit of a mystery to the uninitiated, and yet this usage of the phrase "you suck" has wide applicability in similar contexts in real life.
The list is the oldtools mailing list. It is dedicated to the discussion of old non-electrically-powered tools, mostly woodworking tools. A large part of the discussion centers around the acquisition of said tools and many postings include accounts of the latest deal the author has scored. These postings are generally somewhat boastful, and some members have perfected them into a sort of art form that is known as the Gloat.
There are various forms of Gloat. There's the straightforward Gloat: "I got a 1872 fangumpulator in perfect condition for only five bucks!" And long story Gloats where the reader gets to follow along from the beginning of the contact between buyer and seller, allowing the reader to vicariously experience the thrill of the hunt. Then there's the Drive-by Gloat where a poster slips an offhand reference to a deal into a discussion of another topic.
The Gloat is such a common form on oldtools that there has evolved a standard form for acknowledging one which brings us to the subject of today's bit of blather. When someone tells you that they bought a mint Stanley #1 in the original box over the weekend you say, "you suck!" And when they tell you that the asking price was $25 you holler, "you suck!" And when they make it known that they were able to talk the seller down to $5, you collapse in pain and whimper "you suck!"
The phrase perfectly communicates the combination of jealousy and admiration such revelations inspire in the hearer. It is simultaneously attaboy and pout.
I find myself starting to use this phrase outside of the oldtools group from time to time, but catch myself since it might be interpreted differently than I intend. So now that you've read this, if I ever slip and use it on you, you'll now know how to react.
And I bring all this up because my friend Tom decided on Friday to work at home today, and a little while ago he made it known that he was calling it a day so he could do some work around the house in roughly these words:
It's a beautiful Spring day here on the river, and I have the wood stove going, and the door open so I can hear the birds and river, and the Rhodies are starting to bloom, and everything is growing like mad, and I get to spend the afternoon outside working with my hands.
Tom, I just have one thing to say to that, and I mean it in the nicest possible way.
Watched the version on the flip side of the Truth About Charlie DVD. And, as I recalled, it's a much better movie than Demme's new remake. A large part of that betterness is due to the fact that the 1963 version is funny. Audrey Hepburn's character is forever making snide remarks and non sequiturs the way only Audrey Hepburn can, and there's no better straight man than Cary Grant. This was one of Grant's last movies before he retired from acting. It should count for at least a couple of roles with all the identities he goes through in the course of the movie (though they're all Cary Grant by another name). The fight scenes are all kind of cheesy, but they still manage to be suspenseful. Fun little movie.
Verdict: 3 stars (out of 4)
|The banana slug is our only native slug. The rest of them all oozed over from Europe or Asia or Alpha Centauri or something. I need to practice some more with the macro on this camera, I don't quite have the focal range internalized. That's a pen in the foreground of the first picture for scale.|
|This is old bloggage, but there's a new map out there that's worth a look. There's various regional names for carbonated beverages. The most common are "Coke", "Pop", and "Soda", but there's very marked regional variability on this point. This map breaks it down by county showing what the dominant form is for each US county and how prevalent it is. Becky missed being a Soda person by the width of the Michigan/Wisconsin border (and maybe a few years. Rach, are you Pop or Soda?) Of course everyone knows that the correct form is "Soda".|
|Meteor showers are pretty common, but meteorites (rocks that actually make it through the atmosphere to impact the surface of the Earth) are a little less so. Which explains the level of excitement inspired by an exploding meteor that showered a Chicago suburb with high speed rocks last week. The Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the hole in the ceiling of one person's house resulting from one of these rocks. Cool! Good thing they weren't directly under it at the time.|
The "what level of hell are you destined for" test has been making the rounds. Here's my scores. The Level 7 one is odd. I thought I answered negatively to all the violence-oriented questions. Hmm.
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
|Purgatory (Repenting Believers)||Very Low|
|Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)||Moderate|
|Level 2 (Lustful)||Very High|
|Level 3 (Gluttonous)||High|
|Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)||Very Low|
|Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)||High|
|Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)||Very High|
|Level 7 (Violent)||High|
|Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)||Moderate|
|Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)||Low|
|Under the 1-90 overpass along Rainier avenue. (here)
I'm not making any special efforts here to find these gloves, they're just turning up along my normal commute routes.
At this same spot there's a pair of rubber gloves that I'd guess were discarded by a graffiti tagger (the taggers are in a constant give and take on this overpass with the painters from the DOT), but I decided that since they weren't "lost" in the strictest sense of the word they didn't qualify for this series.
The first book in Barnes's new series was The Duke of Uranium, and while fun to read, it was pretty fluffy and had a plot that was far from believable. In this second volume, we get a much more Barnesian novel.
The basic outline is still straight out of a Heinlein juvenile: Jak Jinnaka (I have yet to settle on a pronunciation for that) has to come up with a project for school that will force him to learn Ethnography. He gets a mysterious summons from his old girlfriend, now Princess, Shyf, and he's off on a new adventure with his pal Dujuv.
While the structure is the same as in the first book, the protagonists are more in control this time out, and less shuffled around by the whim of their adversaries (who are in turn shuffled around by the whim of the Author) The setting gets more screen time in this book as well, in fact it's kind of fun watching Barnes find creative ways of plausibly inserting huge infodumps in a mostly dialogue-driven novel. The culture is built around something called The Wager. I haven't quite figured out what The Wager is, but it seems to be a mix of economics, religion, politics, and cheesy self-help book described by a bunch of one-liner Principles penned by someone named Paj Nakasen. There are at least a couple hundred of these principles and there's a dozen or so scattered through each of the books. No one seems to have collected them on the web yet (at least google can't find them), so I started a page to do it.
Anyway, fun, thoughtful SF adventure.
In the plus column, Thandie Newton is adorable and sexy channelling Audrey Hepburn, and Tim Robbins is a hoot in the Walter Matthau role. The soundtrack is pretty good.
In the not-so-good column I have to start out with Mark Wahlberg's performance which looked more like "in over his head con man" than the "who me? I would never do anything like that" suavity that the role calls for. A close second comes the wobbling weaving panning cutting motion-sickness-inspiring shooting style Jonathan Demme affects.
In the gutsy column comes the fact that the DVD release includes the 1963 original on the flip side of the disk so you can compare. We'll probably try to watch that before the disk has to go back to the library.
Verdict: 2 stars (out of 4)
I actually only watched part of this, so Becky will have to correct me if I get any of the details wrong. It's your basic disaster action movie where a New York tunnel gets damaged when something explodes. (It doesn't matter what explodes, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you). Naturally there's only one man who can save the poor civilians trapped underground: Bruce Willis. No, wait, wrong movie, in this one it's Sylvester Stallone. Sly plays a paramedic (Becky says he's a taxi driver who used to be the director of emergency services or something) who has a major guilt complex about a rescue that went bad years before where people died and it was all his fault. Anyway, Sly goes through the big scary fans (think Chompers ala Galaxy Quest) and leads the scared and scary civilians to safety. Well, most of them anyway. Stuff explodes, stuff implodes, people freak out, people persevere, there's even a dog.
Why would we watch such a film you ask? Regular readers of Mad Times will have already figured out that the answer must be Viggo Mortensen. Viggo plays an extreme sports star (Becky says he's a sports equipment salesman who's into extreme sports. She agreed with someone on IMDB who called him an "adventure man") who gets squished like a bug for hubris half-way through the film. It's almost worth watching the movie to see his very funny performance. Almost.
The movie was released in 1996, and is, in a lot of ways, a tribute to emergency service personnel, so it's kind of eerie watching the final scenes of the film where the World Trade Center towers are the backdrop for practically every shot as paramedics and firefighters guide the victims of this fictional disaster to safety.
Verdict:1-1/2 stars (out of 4)