Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Breach: C

'Breach' movie poster

Scott was sick with a cold this weekend, so we rented some movies. He let me rent Breach (IMDB.com) which is about the FBI's investigation into Robert Hanssen.

The movie is told from Eric O'Neill's perspective. O'Neill, portrayed by Ryan Phillippe, was assigned to befriend and work with Hanssen. Hanssen is portrayed by Chris Cooper who pretty much reprises the similar white, middle-aged, conservative, homophobic, manipulative character with secret sexual activities he played in 1999's American Beaty. Laura Linney's scenes as Agent Kate Burroughs were probably the most compelling and interesting moments of the movie.

My interest in the movie was sparked by the Fresh Air interview with Eric O'Neill and director/screenwriter Billy Ray. Unfortunately, the radio interview was more interesting than the movie. The scenes described by Eric O'Neill seemed to be more suspenseful as described in the radio interview than the movie.

I usually like movies that are careful to recreate actual events like the other movie Billy Ray directed, 2003's Shattered Glass. I'm not quite sure what is missing in this film. I suppose it is possible to make a movie too realistic.

Monday, July 30, 2007

rent-a-pet a reality -- rent-a-kid not far behind

I heard news reports this morning, (NPR, AP) about an idea I've had for some time: pet rentals. Caring for a high-maintenance pet like a dog is more like a full-time job. Why not just rent a pet?

The rent-a-pet...er..."shared pet ownership" service sounds humane and there is some commitment on the part of members -- at least in terms of monthly and annual fees. It's NOT like people are just renting disposable puppies. I suppose fashionable "shared child ownership" is not far off.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Portland Christian pride parade

Just as traditional as assless chaps, are anti-gay protesters at gay pride. However, this video by PDXLAD explains that it was actually the protesters' parade:

(Hat tip: Just Out's blog)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Waitress: grade C

"Waitress" movie poster

Scott, ma, and I saw Waitress (IMDB.com) today. Keri Russell was cute as a pie-making waitress with too little confidence to change her life. Her character Jenna is married to a needy, controlling, psycho husband played by Jeremy Sisto who similarly played crazy, incestuous Billy on Six Feet Under.

I thought the movie was only okay. The stereotypical small town waitress with no self-esteem working at the stereotypical small town diner who befriends the stereotypical good natured waitress coworkers was predictable and didn't cover any new territory. Worse, the movie confirms the Lifetime/chick-flick stereotype in which all the men in her life are patronizing jerks. It's really not a bad film, but I don't understand the attention and acclamation it's received.

Although I have to admit the highlight of the film is seeing the pies being made. Mmmmm. . . pie. . . "

Another highlight was seeing Nathan Fillion from Serenity/Firefly.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: grade C

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster

Scott, Jay, and I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix (IMDB.com) yesterday. My boss took her eight-year-old grandson on opening day earlier this week. He did not review the movie well, "It was BOOOORRRING." So, I was expecting the movie to be much darker and less action-orientated.

I've only seen one of the four prior Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and parts of the other three movies. I'm not familiar with all of the Potter mythology and didn't realize the movies were set dreary, ordinary present day. So not only was the movie darker, but also more real. Adding to the realism was a surprisingly poorly done broomstick flight through the London skyline. We also see the very real political inner workings of the wizard bureacracy.

Imelda Staunton (from 2004's excellent Vera Drake) practically steals the movie as party loyalist Dolores Umbridge. Her terrifically pink wardrobe and stereotypical Republican-ist legalism portrays the icy heartlessness we all suspect are hidden inside most political conservatives.

It was a little startling how significantly the actors aged from the prior movie. Not to be cruel, but Scott and I both wonder if Maggie Smith would be able to finish the series.

Overall, Scott and I both felt the movie mentioned so many characters, but never told their stories. It felt like the movie was unfinished. As part of a series of movies, it should be expected that a lot of material will be covered in the next movies. However, as a stand alone movie, it has its moments, but seems to have a lot missing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

1-18-08 mysterious trailer

Okay I bite and have become a little obsessed with a clever marketing gimmick. A nameless trailer was played before Transformers and has since stirred quite a few online discussions. The 1-18-08 movie is produced by J.J. Abrams's Bad Robot which also produces Lost and the new Star Trek movie.

A Hollywood Reporter article confirms that a relatively small $30M movie code name "Cloverfield" is in production, but it's very secretive. The script was not even released to potential cast members. Last week, Slashfilm.com reported that principal photography has not begun and it's unlikely that a big, special effects movie could be completed in six months. Of course, no one knows what 1-18-08 really refers to. It could be a release date, a date referenced in the movie, or another stunt. Isn't January an odd time to release a monster movie?

There appears to be an official website, www.1-18-08.com, but it only shows two moveable photos that appear to have characters from the trailer (and a really creepy face in one corner). Apparently, Abrams told AintItCool.com that there are more websites that have yet to be discovered. Interestingly, Abrams said that two other mysterious websites, www.ethanhaaswasright.com and ethanhaaswaswrong.blogspot.com, are not related to Cloverfield.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sicko: grade B

"Sicko" movie poster

Scott and I saw Michael Moore's Sicko (IMDB.com) this afternoon. I have to admit that I'm a Michael Moore fan. Although I've never seen Roger & Me, I remember his TV show TV Nation and his movies The Big One, Bowling for Columbine, and, of course, Fahrenheit 9/11. The Big One was particularly rememberable memorable to me because I saw it at a Michael Moore lecture in which he supposedly gave us an unauthorized pre-screening of the movie which ends in a climatic interview at Oregon's Nike.

Much of Sicko is about confirming what we already know, the US health care system is a complete failure and our nation's embarrassment. He then shows us the Canadian, UK, French, and Cuban universal health care systems.

Like his other movies, Moore is very heavy-handed, but also entertaining. Of course, the documentary is very one-sided. The universal health care systems are described as utopian -- which they probably are. However no mention is made about whether these countries are struggling to pay for these systems. Also, Moore makes no mention of Cuba's repressive government. But these are relatively minor criticisms.

Overall, a good movie that makes excellent observations about our country. Certainly, I recommend it. However, as an informative documentary, I'm can't say I know much more from this movie.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Transformers: grade C

Transformers Wallpaper

Scott, Sheena, and I decided to see a movie today. I wanted to see Michael Moore's Sicko, but we were weary that it would be a downer. So we decided to see Michael Bay's Transformers (IMDB.com) instead.

Growing-up with the Hasbro toys and cartoon, Scott and I were familiar with Transformers. For some reason, I wasn't really into Transformers because it seemed too popular. I preferred Gobots based on the cheaper Tonka toys. I also preferred Voltron, which apparently has a movie in production for 2008 release. I believe I even promised my grandmother that I would do dishes for the rest of my life if she got me the whole five-piece toy. I'm sure that promise didn't lasted beyond that weekend.

The Transformers movie was certainly a signature Michael Bay movie with gratuitous action-adventure themes. Average teenager Sam (Shia LaBeouf) pursues the unbelieveably gorgeous teen girl (Megan Fox), befriends aliens, and saves the universe. Interestingly, Bay delicately set part of the movie in the Iraq war and confirms the US being led by an irreverent Texan president. However, the Iraq war and President Bush, Jr., were both neutrally portrayed. A US military unit is also heroically portrayed leading the climatic end fight and a Rumsfield-like Defense Secretary (Jon Voight) tries to keep up with the new threat the Transformers present.

The movie had several subplots that we're not really developed or followed. There was a subplot involving an attractive Australian woman and funny African-American man who attempt to counter the aliens network attack. John Turturro also pops-up playing an annoying protagonist character. These characters are abruptly forgotten before the climactic ending.

It was a predicable action movie. However, for a movie that was over two hours and twenty minutes, I never felt bored or strained. It was built for the short-attention span audience. It is also a violent movie, but not graphically gory and maintains the classic action movie rule that only the bad guys kill innocent bystanders.

It's a forgettable movie that will probably not withstand time well. Like the 1980s cartoon that marketed toys, the movie shamelessly marketed the GM line of cars. While the visual effects and CGI were very well done, special effects don't really mean much to me anymore since nearly anything can be created on the screen with the right time and money. Overall, I would give a grade "C" (nothing horrible, nothing special) -- maybe a grade "B" within its action-adventure genre.

Friday, July 6, 2007

controversial "Love Won Out" billboard arrives

Willamette Week's gay columnist, Bryon Beck, posted photos of Exodus's billboard promoting their Love Won Out ex-gay conference in August. It appears to be the same controversial billboard ad campaign Exodus use in other cities.

Interestingly, the ad makes no mention that the notorious Focus On The Family is really behind the conference. FOTF is definitely not a selling point for gays or progressive Portlanders.

Beck makes good point that it is near a high school, but I think it is in a relatively obscure location. I live nearby and don't have travel that street. I suppose with the rare billboard space downtown, it was the closest they could get near the gay bars.

During the last Love Won Out conference, Basic Rights Oregon helped organize a counter-conference for gay-affirming church. I have mixed-feelings about counter-conferences. On one hand, I think Beyond Exgay Survivors Conference pulled-off a great event that got out the ex-exgay story. On the other hand, I know ex-gay promoters believe any publicity is good publicity, so a counter-conference may bring attention to what would otherwise be an fringe religious event.

UPDATE: The Merc's Scott Moore also posted a blog entry about Love Won Out. Oddly, when he called to ask about the conference, the operator wanted to sign him up for the Focus On The Family newsletter -- what does that have to do with "helping" gays?

Finnish Power Metal

Super cute:

(via Greg at work and plime.com)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Alan Johnston freed!

Alan Johnston banner

Finally some good news from the Middle East: Alan Johnston was freed today!

I've been following the BBC reporter's captivity on the BBC Radio's World Have Your Say call-in show. They have devoted a segment of each day's show to airing pleas for his release and messages of support.

Although I know nothing of Alan or the events surrounding his kidnapping, I admit to getting caught-up in his plight. The initial weeks of silence about whether he was even held captive and the recent images of him attached to a bomb were disturbing.

In typical British understatement, Johnston described his violent captors as "often rude and unpleasant, as you can imagine."

I had wondered if he was able to hear the offers of support on Have Your Say. I'm so glad to hear he did:

I am hugely grateful to all the people - an amazing number of people that worked on the Palestinian side, the British government, the BBC from top to bottom, and a huge amount of support from BBC listeners and viewers.

I had a radio almost throughout, and was able to follow all the extraordinary level of support and interest in my case, and it was a huge psychological boost.

I had added the Alan Johnston button on the blog a few weeks ago, but admittedly wondered when the appropriate time would be to take it down. I'm now gladly removing the Alan Johnston button from the blog.

vote for The Simpsons' real hometown, Springfield, Oregon

Ned Flanders, originally uploaded by Azure.

Krusty Brand
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Hamm

Originally uploaded by oybay

Trojan Nuclear Power Plant
Originally uploaded by Andrew and Sarah

Of course everyone in Oregon knows The Simpsons real hometown is in Springfield, Oregon. After all, the show's creator, Matt Groenig, was raised in Oregon and named many character's after Portland streets. An infamous nuclear power plant was located just outside of Portland. Unfortunately, Fox/NewsCorp/USAToday have decided to toy with us and make us fight for our obvious birthright. So please vote.

The winning Springfield gets to host the premiere!