Monthly Archives: September 2008

Vocab Lesson #2


As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the best things about going back to school – even part-time – is learning new words and concepts. The latest list:

  • Gentillic
  • Sapiential
  • Pharaonic
  • Theodicy
  • Theophany
  • Disinterested piety
  • Stich
  • Chiasm
  • Psalter
  • Imprecatory
  • Sagacity
  • Terminus a quo
  • Terminus ad quem
  • Excursus
  • Paronomasia
  • Sitz-im-Leben

Burn After Reading, 3.5/5


Rated R. Click here to view the trailer.

FYI, this review includes an inordinate number of hyphens (18).
I really don’t know what to say about Burn After Reading. It’s a pretty decent movie, for what it is. But what is it? It isn’t a thriller, it isn’t a dark comedy and it isn’t an action movie, although it does contain bits and pieces of those three genres. All I can really say for sure is that it isn’t bad.

The Coen brothers’ latest offering is a convoluted D.C. tale of… convolution I guess. Osborne Cox (the ever-so-interesting-looking John Malkovich) is a down and out CIA agent who decides he can do better for himself if he pens his memoir. His wife, Katie (the ever-so-striking Tilda Swinton), is cheating on him wife with the ever-so-smug George Clooney’s Harry.

Meanwhile, back a the ranch, excuse me, local gym, Linda (the ever-so-quirky Frances McDormand) is pining for plastic surgery. She and Chad (the ever-so-adoptive Brad Pitt) hit upon a get-rich-quick scheme that involves their misinterpretation of Osborne’s lost-and-found memoir. Everyone’s story is tangled together at least two or three different ways, but it isn’t too difficult to keep it straight.

The actors are all stellar and they’re each marvelous in their individual roles, but as a whole the movie just feels off. It isn’t suspenseful enough to be a thriller, although twists and turns abound. It isn’t funny enough to be a comedy, although it certainly bears that Coen dark comedy edge. It isn’t bombastic enough to be an action movie, although several people do get shot and at least one person gets attacked with a hatchet.
I would have loved to have seen the Coens to commit to genre (preferably dark comedy) and add a few more laughs. They could have great expanded the ever-so-fun J.K Simmon’s role as the clueless head of the CIA.

Burn after Reading is a sharp movie and you certainly won’t fall asleep during it, but wow it could have been ever-so-much better.

Hancock, 2/5

Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

I don’t think director Peter Berg bears any ill will towards me, but you wouldn’t know it to watch Hancock. It’s not a horrible movie (nowhere near anything ever conceived by Friedberg and Seltzer), but wow there is an awful lot wrong with it. The best thing about it is that cool Boston College stocking cap in the poster.

Hancock (Will Smith) with a boozing misanthropic Super Man who more or less fights crime, leaving a massive death toll and destruction in his collateral damage wake. After his latest antics, along comes a do-gooder PR hack (Jason Bateman) to makeover Hancock. Charlize Theron and Smith exchange curious glances, setting the new standard for heavy handed and obvious foreshadowing. There are subplots involving spaghetti and French bullies. One person’s head is literally shoved up another man’s… well you know. There are atleast three Back 2 the Future references.

Does Hancock turn over a new leaf? Why are those two exchanging those knowing glances? Was the spaghetti good? I don’t really care and this hamfisted movie doesn’t either. There’s no real story, save for a plot twist midway through that would make M. Night Shamalamadingdong go “Huh?”It takes itself way too seriously, there’s absolutely no emotion from anyone, there is no villain, the camera work and editing are horrible and the special effects (especially when Hancock flies) are smothered in cheese. Don’t get me started on the plot holes or the graffiti on the moon.

Smith just can’t pull off being a slob and as much as I love Jason Bateman, he was pretty forgettable. Charlize is a talented woman but she must have owed the director money.

It was worth the $3 I paid, but not a penny more.

Ghost Town, 4/5

Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

Ricky Gervais is a funny man, and it’s his talent and squinty charm and elevate Ghost Town from a ho-hum romcom to a very enjoyable 102 minutes.

Gervais is a Scrooge McDuck-like dentist named Bertram Pincus (note to self: add “Bertram” to list of favorite boy’s names) who doesn’t necessarily enjoy inflicting pain on his patients, but certainly doesn’t mind that stuffing things into their mouths keeps them from yakking about their day. After a minor complication during a routine operation (he, uh, dies for seven minutes), he is stuck between life and death and can see/communicate with those who have passed on.

Greg Kinnear plays Frank, one of the dead with unfinished business. Frank has been cheating on his wife (Tea Leoni) and wants nothing more than to apologize and make up for his faults.

The conflict that arises when Frank tries to convince Pincus to help him and his widow is predictable but enjoyable enough. The same can be said for the inevitable romance between Pincus and the former Mrs. Frank and yes, character do learn lessons and blah blah blah. Yet, in all cases, the actors’ performances carry the story way beyond what it could have been.

Tea Leoni does a fine job in her role, and Kinnear plays his part with relish. Still, it’s Gervais that clearly rises to the top. His bulky, sarcastic, cynical “British-ness” (for lack of a better word) is infinitely entertaining. I dare you not to giggle when he grits his teeth and compares the effects of a laxative to a terrorist attack (no, this isn’t a gross out story). Kristen Wiig is a winner as Bertram’s fake-tanned surgeon.

Ghost Town looks like a run-of-the-mill, post-summer piece of studio fluff, but don’t let that keep you away. Sure, it owes a lot to Ghost, and it reminds one of Over Her Dead Body and Just Like Heaven, but stands upright on its own. It’s way more than the lousy poster suggests. Don’t skip it.

Going the Distance

The average American sees a movie in theaters four times a year. I did that just yesterday (Tropic Thunder, Ghost Town, Hancock, Burn After Reading). I don’t know if I’m proud of that or not, but I am proud that I stayed awake through all four..

Huh?

These are two of the latest ads from Microsoft (presumably in response to the I’m a PC, I’m a Mac ads) and they’re… I uh… hmmph. I don’t know what to say. They aren’t bad, per se, but… Bill Gates adjusting his shorts then doing the Robot? Churros? Toenail clippings?

Oh, and the campaign cost $300 million.

Video: Shoe Circus

Video: New Family

Best.Thing.Ever.

Holy crap, drop what you’re doing right now and go to www.morecowbell.dj/. It allows you to upload any MP3 file and customize the amount of cowball AND Christopher Walken you want. I don’t know about you, but I thought Coldplay’s Viva La Vida could use some pepping up. I went with 84% cowbell, and 67% Walken.

Listen to my remix of Vida La Vida.