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Movie Review: I am Legend (IMAX)

Friday, December 28, 2007
I also happened to see I am Legend last night at the IMAX. (Among others, The Dude was there and wrote his own review.) I enjoyed the movie, and - having been curious about it - was glad I saw it.

The 30-second plot rundown is this: A virus has caused most of humanity to turn into zombie/vampire-like creatures, who have killed just about everyone who was immune - except for Robert Neville (Will Smith), one of the original scientists working on a cure. He's now living alone in New York City, scavaging during the day, continuing research during the evenings, and trying to stay alive by night - as there are plenty of former humans to keep him company. A glance at the Wikipedia page for the original 1954 novel shows that much was changed for the movie; I'm betting that fans of the book might not enjoy the film so much.

I, however - having not read the book - enjoyed the movie. Seeing it on the IMAX was great since a lot of detail went into the sets, and objects and articles scattered around really set the atmosphere and the background. Since my vision's not so great, I feel like I might have missed some of this on a smaller screen. There are some VERY tense and emotional scenes in the film, too, which were masterfully crafted and acted. However, without revealing the ending I must say that it was... a bit of a let down. C'est la vie.

The film reminded me of the movie Cast Away (a.k.a. the Tom Hanks show) inasmuch as most of the movie is just Will Smith, and all his dialogue is him talking to his dog. Yes, Will Smith does a fantastic job in this movie, much like Tom Hanks did in his.

Final word on I am Legend? Worth seeing, if you're intor that sort of thing. People who don't like tense films and fans of the book might not enjoy it so much, though.

Movie Review: Sweeney Todd (The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

I took my girlfriend to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street yesterday. I enjoyed it thorougly, though you have to be ready for a musical when going into it.

The basic premise of the movie is that a barber (Johnny Depp) is sent away for a crime he didn't commit so that a corrupt judge (Alan Rickman) can have a shot at the barber's wife. The barber comes back 15 years later, finds out his wife is dead and the daughter they had is imprisioned by the judge. He teams up with a baker (Helena Bonham Carter) and concoct a plan of revenge; he'll murder his well-to-do client and she'll turn them into meat pies. And so the story goes. Tim Burton directs the film and, being Tim Burton, easily conveys the dark, morbid tones of the original musical, while still capturing much of the humor, as well. And yes, blood flows in this film - lots of it.

I saw the musical way back in the first years of high school (so yeah, like 14 or 15 years ago) and I loved it then. I've always enjoyed dark humor, so much of which abounds in this musical production. What's not to like about murdering your customers and then turning them into pies? I mean, it seems like a waste to throw away such good meat...

Final word on Sweeney Todd? Worth seeing, if you have a strong stomach and like musicals.

A White Christmas

Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas to everyone!

Up here in the Portland area where I was spending Christmas morning with my family, it magically began snowing for like the second time ever in my life. That hasn't happened in my adult life (that I can remember) and it made for a beautiful view (though a somewhat treacherous drive).

a snowy scene

It literally dumped an inch of snow in 30 minutes where I was - just as I was trying to leave. Fortunately, I got out because it accumulated a few more inches before warming up and melting everything. 'Twas fun, 'twas pretty, and 'twas brief.

Movie Review: Live Free or Die Hard

Monday, December 24, 2007
I rented the fourth installment in the Die Hard the other night, and was quite delighted. We all know that Die Hard isn't just a great action movie, it's a great Christmas move. I was unimpressed with Die Hard 2, but loved Die Hard: With a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard lived up to the legacy set before it. It was full of action, sarcasm, humor, and Bruce Willis beating the tar of baddies.

The basic plot is that there's a group of people systematically attacking the United States electronically, targeting the increasingly connected infrastructure in a series of terrorist attacks. The FBI, having found replacements for the Agents Johnson in the first movie, is actually in the midst of trying to figure out what's going on and decides to round up anyone remotely capable of performing such an attack. Oh my, they're shorthanded and ask for a little local help getting a guy out of New Jersey, where good old Officer McClane happens to be stalking his daughter.

All this translated into saving the country

The plot was okay, but what was really fun about the movie was the non-stop action. I was a little disappointed in the PG-13 rating that the movie earned (the predecessors had an "R"), but there were plenty of things blowing up and, of course, the bad guys get there comeuppance at the end.

In the end, it was thoroughly enjoyable movie and one highly worth watching, or, as the main character is fond of saying, "Yippi-kay-ay, motherf..."

A Night at the Opera

... the rock opera, that is.

I was taken to see Jesus Christ Superstar the other night, live at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Ted Neeley - of Jesus Christ Superstar fame - was the title role, and Corey Glover - from the band Living Colour - played Judas.

It was a real treat to see this live. I saw it many years ago and enjoyed it immensely then, this production was quite different (though equally enjoyable). While the set in the first one was more active and "loud", the set on this was very austere. The most notable difference, however, was the inclusion of a new song. "How can they just include another song?" I asked myself. Well, I'm not sure but I can tell you that it honestly wasn't as good as the rest of the production. In fact, it really stood out as being "added on". Oh well.

The starkness of the set allowed the characters to stand out even more. The temple scene was one of the most powerful; when Jesus throws out the moneychangers, you know he's pissed. But it wasn't just that one - the whole production conveyed the characters and message well;

One thing about Jesus Christ Superstar: I've always liked the way they portray Judas. I'm a big fan of redemption and seeing the good in people; Judas gets a very sympathetic treatment which I think plays more into the "master plan" themes of the New Testament.

All in all, I'm privileged to have seen it, and thankful that I was able to.

Baking Cookies

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Exactly a year after I last tried, I have once again baked cookies.

me in an apron!

My first run was using that fabulous snickerdoodle that I used last year. Let me assure my reader(s?) that it's still a great recipe; the cookies are excellent! They weren't quite as easy to make, however, since I quickly discovered that my mixer isn't working well ("well" = "more or less at all").

bakes 3 dozen!

For the second run I wanted to make Oatmeal cookies. I was aghast at the price of ingredients while shopping, so I'll confess that I ended up asking Betty for help - at 1/2 the cost of doing it myself. The cookies, however, were better than the oatmeal ones I usually make but not quite as good as my snickerdoodles!

Trillium Lake

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I went snowshoeing over the weekend with my adventure buddy and my girlfriend. This time, we went up to Trillium Lake on Mt. Hood to scout around the area.

The trail itself was long, but pretty easy. We parked at the Sno-Park right across from the road up to Timberline Lodge and from there you descend down to the Barlow Trail, which then hooks up with the Trillium Lake path. Most of the trip was relatively flat, until someone (not me) said something like, "Hey, the Sherar Road trail is only a quarter mile that way! Let's go over there!" It is important to view a topographic map to understand what an... interesting idea this was. 20 minutes of vertical ascent later, we were on a much less travelled trail than the Trillium Lake path and feeling plenty adventuresome.

Us in front of Mt. Hood

What was nice about this particular outing was that it was the first time that I felt prepared and well-equipped for going out. Last time, I felt like I was dressed to warmly and the layers of clothing hampered my movements - and frustrated me. When doing Frog Butte I'd felt underdressed at times - it was bitingly cold at the top. And, of course, when it's raining like a bastard I tend to get very wet. But this time, however, the conditions were nice - not too hot, not too cold - relatively dry, and the gear that I've thus far accumulated kept me quite comfortable.

Me, looking quite sporty

In any event, it was a great time, I'm still sore, and I'm looking forward to doing it again. And again. And again!

Movie Review: Alvin & the Chipmunks

Despite the abysmal trailer that makes the movie look like a blatant exploitation of my childhood cartoons, I actually voluntarily went to see the movie Alvin & The Chipmunks... and I was actually impressed. Without trying to damn the movie with faint praise, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be - and, in fact, it was quite humorous and enjoyable throughout. I laughed, I cried, I didn't have regrets.

The movie is centered around three childish talking chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, and Theodore) and their adoption of a human parent-type, songwriter Dave Seville. If you can get past that, the movie is both cute, child-friendly (and child-appropriate), and funny. Really funny. While the trailers (and posters) show them as hoodie-wearing pop-music producing abominations, the chipmunks (as they appear in the actual film) are still genuine, generally sweet, and only wear ridiculous costumes when manipulated by evil-music-producer-guy.

Also, Jason Lee does a great job. I've enjoyed watching him since Mallrats, and he's really good at bringing a touch of humanity to his roles. He's not an overstated character; he's just plays a guy who happens to more or less adopts a couple of talking chipmunks. What's wrong with that?

In any event, the movie is fun and highly enjoyable for the whole family. See it as a matinee or rent it if you have a chance.

Something that's been bugging me for years

Friday, December 14, 2007
So I like the Aliens movies. The original, Alien, scarred me for many years when I was exposed to it as a young one, but eventually grew to love Aliens, Alien Resurrection (for its own reasons), and, by virtue of proximity, Alien³. (Let us not speak of the Alien vs. Predator abomination.)

That out of the way, and understanding that this is now a gripe that goes back ages...

What the hell happened to the original alien that was in the derelict ship in which the eggs were found in the first movie? I mean, back on good old LV-426, there's this ship with an emergency beacon on that has a gigantic dead alien (literally not human, but not the alien) in it. In the second movie, a couple goes to this spot (like 80 years later), finds another egg, then a bunch of colonists die and we have a great film. The colony nukes itself (the only way to be sure) but I can only assume that this remote site is still intact, still with viable eggs.

A picture of the gigantic alien

Okay, so we skip past the third movie - which is on some prison planet where Ripley dies - and go to the fourth movie where they're cloning her because she's got alien DNA mixed in with her and that's how they can get what they want. Nevermind the fact that, aside from the convenient way to bring her back, there's still eggs laying around on LV-426 and, honestly, these things had to come from somewhere.

Maybe this is handled in some novelization. I don't know - but I'd love to hear about it. Can anybody tell me what that giant alien was and if that site is still there in canonical fiction?

(Note: Edited due to broken image link, now with Wikipedia goodness!)

Bellringer

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
This weekend, in the spirit of volunteerism, I did my first shift ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Last year, working with my team at school, we did a ton of work for them - but we also rang bells, which was a very rewarding experience.

A Red Kettle

So this year I signed up again at ringbells.org to put in some volunteer time. It was very cold out there, but it probably felt colder than it should have because I was essentially standing still while greeting people and ringing a bell. Next time, I'll bundle up even more.

Anyway, I highly encourage everyone to sign up and put in a little volunteer time out there!

Weekend Weather Update

Sunday, December 02, 2007
So, while the inches of snow that we were promised failed to materialize this weekend, I was still out in the elements quite a lot. Teaching on Saturday was an exercise in layering and chemical hand-warmers as temperatures were low and snow was falling - though it never really really stuck.

Teaching Sunday was an entirely different matter. While I'm no stranger to rain, it was coming down like God hated me. Everyone and everything outside got absolutely soaked - myself included. Standing out in the cold, drenching rain for seven hours was an exercise in mental and physical stamina.
The list of clothes that were soaked:
3 jackets (all "water-resistant" or better)
2 long sleeve shirts
2 pairs jeans
1 pair long underwear
5 pairs socks
2 pairs gloves (one labeled "waterproof")
1 hat
1 pair boots
Just about the only waterproof thing I saw all weekend was the paper we were writing on! Yes, at TEAM OREGON we don't cancel classes... ever.

And before anyone says anything: as an Oregonian, the rain doesn't stop me. That doesn't mean I won't complain about it, though!

Rewarding Stupidity

Saturday, December 01, 2007
I happened across an article today about a plan by the U.S. mortgage industry to "freeze rates" for certain folks who signed up for an ARM back when interest rates were nice and low but now are feeding the mortgage industry crisis as interest rates rise and the risk of default and foreclosure starts to loom.

So basically, the way it sounds to me is that people who weren't smart enough to see the potential issue (oh, interest rates actually go up?) are now going to be protected - and, indeed, rewarded - for their foolishness at the expense of everyone else who's going to have to pay for their rates to be frozen.

We're rewarding stupidity.

Of course, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. It seems like anytime the moron train gets rolling everyone who jumps on is saved when big brother steps in to bail them out. (It's those of us smart enough to avoid the problem that have to pay for it.)

I'm irritated. I didn't buy a house during this most recent boom, so now housing prices are through the roof and now interest rates - if this plan goes through - are going to be artificially higher (since no bank will actually lose money on a deal)... consequently my ability to buy a home in the foreseeable future is diminishing daily.

Grrr.

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