Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ides of March: D

The Ides of March, originally uploaded by levi2411.

On Saturday, I ditched Scott and Sheena at The Thing and reluctantly saw The Ides of March instead. I would have preferred seeing Moneyball, but it started 90 minutes later than The Thing.

Although I doubt anyone reading this will actually bother seeing this movie.

I usually wait a week or two after seeing a movie to allow the most memorable parts of a movie linger, but in this case I figure I should write out my thoughts as I can only vaguely recall the movie only two days later. This was such a dull political movie laden with bland stereotypes and predictable political cynicism, it seemed like a bad West Wing episode. Primary Colors, Wag The Dog, and The Manchurian Candidate all come to mind as movies with similar political campaign themes with more original and interesting stories.

Ryan Gosling stars as a young, superstar campaign staffer for George Clooney's Obama-like Democrat presidential primary candidate. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti play opposing campaign managers that are completely jaded and interchangeable. The all-star cast's performances were great and kept a predictable story somewhat interesting. After the first half of the movie slowly set-ups the characters and setting for a political scandal to happen, finally a campaign intern affair similar to Bill Clinton or John Edwards is revealed. The story picks up the pace with a few predictable twists and political diatribes including Gosling's climatic confrontation that the one unpardonable rule is that presidents can't fuck the interns. Meh. It was a good line, but not worth building an entire movie on.

And the more I think about it, the more I suspect the writers did build the movie backwards from Gosling's one climatic scene. Why else would the rest of the movie's characters be so bland and one dimensional? To avoid actual political differences being the focus of the story, the movie is set within a party primary in which political differences are indistinguishable. And to avoid race and gender distractions, the main candidates and their staff are cast as white, hetero males. And to avoid the notion that the young woman intern could actually be a victim, the writers go out of their way to show her to be a flirt, unflinching in exercising her right to choose. Basically, the movie confirms the worst stereotypes that Democrats really are sexually amoral who just casually have affairs, hook-ups, and convenient abortions.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Contagion: B

Contagion Movie Poster, originally uploaded by nxusco.

We saw Contagion last month. I liked the movie, but I wouldn't call it "entertaining" with as with a story. It's more similar to a bleak documentary about how bad a swine-flu epidemic could be. Soderbergh did try to keep the movie fast paced and with a bass-beat soundtrack (which Scott hated) that tried to animate scenes of what otherwise are folks in talking on cellphones, blogging, working in labs, and getting sick.

I was mainly interested in the movie after hearing a NPR interview with the author Laurie Garrett. She wanted to make a realistic movie that didn't have silly science like the Dustin Hoffman movie Outbreak. A ridiculous helicopter chase with the heroes saving the day with a monologue and magic monkey serum probably would have made Contagion a bit more entertaining.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Florence Henderson: Getting crabs was 'karma'

I could have gone my whole life -- or at least this morning -- without hearing that "Mrs. Brady" got "critters". TMI

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger: B


Well, I'm slipping behind on my little movie review. Ma, Scott, and I saw decided to see Captain America: The First Avenger a few weekends ago during a hot weekend (well, hot for Portland). Maybe I'm just not a comic book fan, but nothing of this movie stood out to me as compelling or different from all of the other comic book movies. Worse, the movie once again reminisces about World War II.

I will say Capt. 'merica was well-paced with no lulls and it even managed to tone-down the mindless patriotic flag waving. There was even a nearly sensible explanation for Captain America's silly uniform. However, it overall, stuck to the Marvel comics movie formula.

When we gave the ticket taker our tickets, he told us to make sure we waited until after the credits to leave the theater. The after the-credits-shtick is getting old. Instead of appreciating the hundreds of names slowly scrolling by, I think, "wow, with all these people, no wonder it seems like corporate mediocrity". Anyways, a trailer for next year's The Avengers -- the Marvel ensemble movie which somewhat explains why all of these comic book movies had to come-out to explain the characters' origins.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens: C

Cowboys & Aliens, originally uploaded by Daniel Norris.

Scott and I saw Cowboys & Aliens a few weeks ago. It was a good summer movie. It was well-paced and it was nice seeing Harrison Ford back in an action movie. The story was relatively straight forward. However, over the weeks, my impression of the movie has dimmed at bit.

I wanted to like this movie because it was one of the few original, non-sequel movies. Although it is based on a comic book like this summer's other movies (Green Latern, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, etc.), Cowboys & Aliens was a relatively unknown comic novel. The notion of mixing action genres sounds attractive. However, the movie's story seemed a bit too simple with too many cowboy and alien movie cliches tossed in.

Daniel Craig stars as the mysterious cowboy with an unknown past; however at times he seems more like super agent 007. Harrison Ford's old, crotchety cattleman reminded me of True Grit's Rooster Cogburn -- especially when it unsurprisingly revealed that he has a kind soul under the harsh exterior. More annoyingly, Cowboys & Aliens throws in sci-fi cliches such as an Alien-esque alien with mini-mouth for no apparent reason.

Overall, a good summer action movie, but probably not one that will be remembered as ground-breaking or original. I hope this movie is not considered for sequel -- unless they plan on mixing other genres: Cowboys & Pirates, Vampires & Aliens, Gladiators & French Aristocrats, etc.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: B

DH Part 2 Posters, originally uploaded by katherine ♡.

After returning from Seattle on Sunday, we saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Although I wasn't much of a Harry Potter fan, I did enjoy this movie. As it was the final Potter movie, Part 2 reminded me of a TV series grand finale in which favorite characters are killed, familiar settings are destroyed, and mysteries revealed in no holds barred final score-settling. Even knowing the fate of the three main characters beforehand, the movie still was able to maintain suspense and anticipation.

My main complaint is that because it was a grand finale of a eight-movie series, I still felt a little lost when names or prior events were mentioned. I had similar complaints with the Lord of the Rings.

Also, the story missed an opportunity by glossing-over Snape's revelation that Dumbledore had secret motivations for befriending Harry Potter. Maybe the book explains it better, but the movie doesn't how Potter so quickly reconciles Dumbledore's seemingly betrayal of his trust.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: D

Transformers 3 Poster, originally uploaded by Roger-the-Dodger.

Scott, ma, and I reluctantly saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It was a warm day and we couldn't agree on any outing, so we settled on a movie.

I'm really not a movie snob. I have nothing against big budget summer movies, but this was just too much...everything. Too much story with the gratuitous back story, boy-saves-babe. Too many cameos. Too many non-nonsensical CGI destruction porn. And worse, just way too long: over two-and-one-half hours.

But probably my biggest gripe is Buzz Aldrin's disgraceful appearance as himself discrediting the moon landing as a conspiracy theory (with a very creepy CGI President Kennedy). I was even more irked that Leonard Nimoy voiced a character that reverses his nerd-famous line from Star Trek II.

Like the prior Transformers movies, no amount of CGI, action, or celebrity appearances can make-up for lack of an interesting story, smart dialogue, or entertaining characters.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8: B

SUPER 8 POSTER, originally uploaded by JASON_CRYER.

On our way to the theater on Saturday, Mom reasonably asked what movie were we dragging her to. I was a little stumped how to quickly describe Super 8. Worse, I couldn't remember the title, Eight Millimeter, 8 Mile, eight something or other. I didn't want her to veto our choice by mentioning that it may have scary creature like Cloverfield, so I may have implied that the movie was about kids who find an alien like E.T. and the movie was made by Steven Spielberg.

During the movie, Mom expressed concern half-way through the movie saying she thought it was more like a horror movie. Afterwards, when I re-affirmed that Super 8 was like E.T., she remarked, "Yes, but E.T. didn't eat people." However, I think she enjoyed the movie.

Super 8 fully acknowledged that it was an homage to Spielberg's 1980s young-teens-go-on-adventure genre with a classic composition of fat boy, funny boy, and wimpy boy. And yet, this was a J.J. Abrams movie with a few flares, tragic character back story, Kelvin reference, etc.

My main criticism of the movie was that it was a bit too retro and pandering to Spielberg. Why set the movie in 1979 in nearly the same period as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. (1982), and The Goonies (1985)? Spielberg's kids movies were directed at kids in their time whereas Super 8 is directly at grown-ups who want to reminiscent about the kids movies they were raised on.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class: C

X-men: First Class Poster Redesignby rory_phillips, on Flickr

Scott, ma, and I saw X-Men: First Class yesterday. It was the first hot day of the year (80s f) and spending time in a theater seemed like a good option. Scott has been wanting see Thor, but for some reason that comic book movie just seems too 'out there'. Scott and I want to see The Hangover Part II, but I'm sure mom would not be enjoy that and we can probably wait for it to come out on DVD.

I enjoyed First Class more than 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, but I can't say anything about it stands-out as terrific. The movie explains the origins of the franchise. Unfortunately, it doesn't overcome the challenges of all prequels as the story feels unnaturally forced. Not only does the story have to explain the origins of the Xavier Institute and the Professor X-Magneto rivalry, it's further squashed into the Cuban Missile Crisis. I've heard First Class described as a re-boot, but it seems to me have the same comic book feel and character of the prior X-men movies. First Class missed an opportunity to truly re-envision the franchise such as the gritty, realistic feel of the 2005 Batman or the unrestrained 2009 Star Trek reboot.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bridesmaids: B

Bridesmaids, originally uploaded by machu picchu.

Scott, ma, and I saw Bridesmaid the Saturday before last. Scott and I looked forward to seeing this comedy after seeing the hilarious trailer. I was concerned that it would be one of those comedies in which the best bits were in the trailer, but the movie was thoroughly funny. We were surprised that for a comedy, it was long -- just over two hours; however, it didn't seem long to me -- which is big praise since I think any movie should justify exceeding my 90-minute time limit.

I've heard the movie described as Judd Apatow's female buddy movie, but the movie was more about hitting life's bottom when it seems everyone else is peaking. There's nothing gender-specific about that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eurythmics - "Must Be Shopping For An Angel"

With compliments to the Kroger corporate DJ, this song distracted us from our weekly shopping at the 82nd Ave Fred Meyer:

I'm pretty sure the chorus lyrics were, "Must be shopping for an angel. Must be shopping for an angel. Must be shopping for an angel...." over the supermarket loudspeakers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Special Election Endorsements

05/19/2011 RESULTS UPDATE: The only big election surprise to me was that the Portland Public School's $548m levy, 26-121, narrowly failed by 1%, but the $308m levy, 26-122, passed handily by 16%. Considering the economy and the usual anti-tax rhetoric, I assumed voters would either be either all or nothing. However, some voters presumably studied the issues and decided teachers were more important than buildings and/or decided passing one levy was a good compromise.





MULTNOMAH EDUCATIONAL SERVICE DISTRICT: "...An ESD acts like a co-op that delivers regional educational services. Among other things, it provides speech pathologists, special education teachers and school nurses to school districts. And, oh yeah, the ESD offers local kids Outdoor School..." (
Dir., Pos. 7, Zone 3
71% (15k)
"...Kay Bridges, a nice woman who owns a flower delivery service, has no grasp of the issues facing..."
"...We see no reason to replace Kevin Spellman, ...Spellman has a strong understanding of budgetary issues and policy..."
Dir., Pos. 6, At Large
51% (39k)
"...'While the April 20, 2010, Regular Board meeting was in session, [incumbent] Director Delman chose to listen through earphones to radio commentary on a basketball game and, upon both private and public admonition from the Chair, continued while the meeting proceeded.'..."
"...We’ll go with Montgomery, a smart and highly qualified candidate who taught public policy at Portland State University and once served as a board member for the Northwest Regional ESD."
Apparently I live in PPS Zone 1, but my ballot includes zones 1, 2, 3, 7. Do I vote for all the zones and elections sorts it out somehow? (PPS Zones map - large PDF)
Dir. Zone 1
74% (46k)
"Adkins first ran in May 2007 on a platform of not closing schools. She won. Three years later, in October 2010, Adkins voted to close Marshall High...we don’t fault Adkins for realizing the district needs to consolidate resources..."
"...Adkins, a Yale graduate who works for a housing nonprofit, is a smart and tenacious board member who thinks strategically without missing the fine print..."
"...Larry Lawson, a network security manager and a photographer. ...he lacks any record of improving schools. ...He doesn’t offer a compelling reason for unseating Adkins."
"...Glen Livingston, a self-described community activist, is also on the ballot. His inexperience makes Adkins a clear choice."
Dir. Zone 2
52% (33k)
"Morton is the deputy director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. As a tribal member, he has a solid record working on issues related to poverty and the achievement gap...."
"Brister-Mashia is a regular volunteer at Jefferson High and brings a grounded perspective to issues of school quality and parent involvement. This race is a close call, but Morton's experience with boards and budgets give him the edge."
"Sweeney has run for almost every office available in Portland. We have yet to find one that fits his skills."
Dir. Zone 3
64% 40k
"Incumbent Bobbie Regan is running for a third term and faces token opposition from two challengers: Martha Perez, who works in customer service, and Christine Nelson, an artist specializing in pet portraits. Neither has mounted a serious campaign..."
"...Critics say Regan protects the interests of wealthier parents and students with programs like 'school choice.' That lets middle-class white parents who buy homes in gentrifying neighborhoods send their kids to schools in wealthier neighborhoods where the schools have more resources. We don’t always agree with votes she casts, but Regan is a knowledgeable board member who deserves another shot."
Dir. Zone 7
96% 45k
• Greg Belisle is the only candidate to file.
"...Belisle will have two young children in school at a time when most other board members have grown kids. Also, he's a member of the no-frills nonprofit world, where benefits are decidedly non-plush. His insights will be helpful as the district tries to improve classroom quality and keep labor costs aligned with what the community can pay."





50.7% 51k
$548m construction bond to rebuild nine schools and update others. has a handy calculator that calculates tax increase for both PPS measures. For us, the measures will increase our annual property tax $377.33 -- although probably more as assessed value increase 3% each year.
• "...Ballot Measure 5, passed in 1990, and Measure 50, passed in 1997, capped local property taxes. Before Measure 5, local property taxes supplied 2/3 of Portland’s education funding; now they supply only 1/4 and state income taxes supply 3/5. As the state equalized spending per student around the state, it left Portland Public Schools with less ability to fund the operation of their schools, and facilities maintenance was deferred..." ( PDF)
• NEARLY A HALF BILLION DOLLARS is a lot of money even for a large school district. This construction bond isn't comprehensive meaning more bond levies are sure to follow for the schools that are left out.
• What I find the most troubling is that the levy's authors seemed to choose schools based on political considerations instead of need. However, it is understandable that a comprehensive billion-plus dollar levy would be unlikely even in self-taxing Portland. Also, the political considerations are inherent since school improvements depend on neighborhood, city, and state.
• This is far from a perfectly-written levy; however, its faults don't outweigh the urgent need. Only complacency stopped critics from offering an alternative levy.
• I can't say that I'm overjoyed to pay nearly $400 more in taxes each year. However, I also realize that without Measure 5 and 50 from the 1990s, my property assessment and taxes would have been much higher. I agree with WWeek's reasoning, "...If taxpayers are willing to dig deep for elephants, fireboats and salmon, shouldn’t they also be willing to provide the setting for a proper education for our kids?..."
57% 57k
Five-year $308m levy renewal to keep 400 teaching jobs under the current levy and add 200 teaching jobs.
• Funds remain local - not diverted to state.
• Why should Portland taxpayers pay more than the rest of the state?
"Urban Renewal Districts in Portland utilize property taxes that could fund the operation of schools..." ( PDF)
• Besides the usual anti-tax extremists, it's hard to find anyone opposed to this measure. If anti-tax nihilists think 'the gummit' is so wastefully managed, why aren't they volunteering on the school boards or remodeling schools?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paul: C

Hot UK Comedy: Paul Movie Review

Wow, I haven't updated this blog in a long time. I can't even remember the last movie we went to. I think the Oscar-nominated animated shorts last month was the last time we went to a movie theater.

I dragged Scott to see Paul the other weekend. I think this is Simon Pegg's and Nick Frost's third movie pairing. I wanted to like Paul as I really liked Shaun of the Dead, but I tried to restrain my expectations. Their prior movie, Hot Fuzz was cute, but not really comparable to Shaun.

It seems Paul was intended to be about middle-aged sci-fi geeks growing-up with the title character making witty Americana references. Unfortunately, Seth Rogen's voice as the alien just didn't work for me. Rogen's voice is just too distinctive that they might as well have filmed Seth Rogen with alien make-up. Paul's alien Paul reminded me of American Dad's alien Roger with the equally absurd Paul Lynde-like voice. The difference is that alien Roger is more entertaining.

Overall, it was a cute movie and it was nice seeing the Pegg and Frost team, but I would rate Paul better paced than Hot Fuzz but far short of Shaun.

Roger and Klaus of American Dad

Sunday, January 23, 2011

True Grit: B

True Grit, originally uploaded by Matt Needle.

A few weekends ago, Ma, Scott, and I saw True Grit. Good movie. There isn't much to say about it. It probably isn't the Coen Bros. best or most ground-breaking movie, but it was a well done. My favorite line: "Keep your seat, trash!".