Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quick Hits and Random Thoughts

1. A while back I called for a boycott of Starbucks coffee regarding their president's sale of the Seattle Sonics to a group fully intending to move it from Seattle. Starbucks profits were something like 150 million last year. This year, 5 million. I'd like to thank my readers, as the House of Milo claims a victory over evil.

2. Why do people keep giving Norv Turner head coaching gigs? Is his record anywhere above .500 as a head coach? Note to NFL teams, Turner is a great offensive coordinator, and a poor head coach.

3. Charlie Weis. Offensive guru. Not quite so much without Belichick's camera crew stealing defensive signals, is he?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new blog!

Yeah, as The House of Milo has laid dormant for some months now, I invite you to check out yet another project (if anyone is still even checking this anymore).

My good friend Jamie and myself are taking on this highly important discussion, to delve into the depths of stuff that Mormons like. Both being Mormon, we hope to one day be regarded as the foremost experts in the field, and hopefully some day recieve honorary doctorates in the field.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another blog from a sore, lazy, American loser.

This link, my friends, is a blog that exposes how disappointing we here in the U.S. have performed this Olympics. Basically, we here in the U.S. like to count our total number of medals, while everyone who wants to champion the cause of the benevolent host country points to how horribly we've performed in the Gold medal count. You know what though?

What gold medals has China won? Can you name me two other Olympic events that they have won medals in other than anything having to do with 12, oh, whoops, I mean 16 year old gymnasts? Times up! Don't feel bad, I couldn't either, so I decided to look up China's gold medal count to see how many of them are real medals, and how many are "fake". Not sure what I mean? You'll see.

Women's Wrestling
Real or Fake: Real
Prestige level: 2/5

Personally, this is probably a real sport, but women's wrestling is way too scary to comprehend. When I was an assistant wrestling coach, you know what terrified the JV's more than anything? Having to be the wrestler to fight the girl. We can have women's wrestling, but we're really getting rid of women's softball? Hmmmmmm...

Table Tennis (4)
Real or Fake: VERY fake
Prestige level: -1

Now, you will run into people who will say "You don't understand! This sport is amazing! It requires nerves of steel, and lighting fast reflexes." Yeah. You can also play it drunk with your buddies in a garage on Saturday night, thus failing the litmus test of being a real sport. - 4 medals to the hosts. By the way, it's called PING fricking PONG.

Taekwondo, Fencing, Judo (3), Boxing (2)
Real or Fake: Real
Prestige Level: 4/5

These are all real, but I have to say, for being the country where the famed Shaolin Monks reside, I feel that China actually underperformed in the martial arts. C'mon China, step it up!

Men's weightlifting (4)
Real or Fake: Real
Prestige Level: 4/5

Real. Men lifting heavy things. Good

Women's weightlifting (4)
Real or Fake: Real (sort of)
Prestige level: 1/5

I only fear for their life after weightlifting. This is just wrong. Again, we can have women's weightlifting, but not women's softball? And as far as women's weightlifting goes, I actually count it as a victory for our country when we don't win a medal in this event. (Sorry to the female olympians who have, please don't crush me).

Archery, Sailing, Canoe/Kayak, Rowing
Real or Fake: Real
Prestige level: 1/5

Unless you're splitting arrows ala Robin Hood, I've never seen anyone set their DVRs to catch archery. And sailing? This is what John Kerry did to show America how "athletic" and "in touch" he was with the common man. Oh wait, that was windsurfing...Still, quite foofy. Sorry China, file these under "who cares".

Badminton (3)
Real or Fake: So, so fake
Prestige level: -2

Shuttlecock! 'Nuff said.

But seriously, even if you count Badminton as a real sport (Shuttlecock!), has there ever been a country that has been inspired to greatness because of their proud Badminton tradition?

Country A: We will march upon you and vanquish you all! None shall survive!

Country B: We will not die like dogs, but we will fight like lions!

Country A: Have you forgotten our proud tradition and skills in BADMINTON!!!!

Country B: FLEE!!!!!

Country A: Ready the shuttlecocks!!!!!!!

Yeah. No.

Men's gymnastics (7)
Real or Fake: Real
Prestige: 4/5

I've never understood why men's gymnastics isn't as popular as women's, but it's not. I will say this. China is just stinking good at men's gymnastics.

Women's gymnastics
Real or Fake: Real (sort of)
Prestige: 5/5

So, it's real, and it's prestigious, so why the "sort of"? STOP SENDING 12 YEAR OLDS TO COMPETE CHINA! NO ONE BELIEVES YOU! I WANT THOSE ATHLETES CARBON DATED! 12! 12! 12!

Trampoline (2)
Real or fake: Fake (sorry!)
Prestige: 1/5

I watched trampoline. It is amazing. It is also a fake event. If you are in a bar fight, bragging about your country's superiority, you never pull the "Look how amazing we are at trampoline!" card. That would be like a comic book nerd trying to pick up a hot chick by bragging up his complete collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. It just isn't done. By the way, we have a trampoline in our backyard. If we own a trampoline, it cannot be an olympic sport.

Real or fake: Real
Prestige: 3/5

Diving is the chick flick of the olympics. Chicks love to watch, and guys, wanting to please their mates, follow along, not suffering too badly, but never admiting they'd watch it by themselves. Never would a guy say "Hey brah, I just saw 27 Dresses last weekend! It was sick! Catherine Heigl was the effing bomb!!!". Nor should countries brag about their diving prowess. Own it, but let it go.

Shooting (4)
Real or fake: Real guns, real. Air (read: bb) guns, fake.
Prestige: 2/5 for real guns, -1/5 for bb guns

Listen, if this were about real shooting, ain't nobody going to beat the U.S. In fact, I propose fully automatic shooting for the next olympics. We can recruit inner city youth, and I guarantee we would be tops in the world for London in 2012. Now, I was shocked to find out that shooting bb guns was an olympic sport. Sorry, ping pong and bb guns go hand in hand. What's the litmus test for this one? Does the 12 year old red-head on my block use a discus to shoot pigeons? No. Does he use an air (read: bb) gun to shoot them? Yes? Not an olympic sport.

So, yes, we will lose the gold medal count, but if anyone in the coming weeks following the olympics dares bring up how the U.S. lost this medal count to China, I have a retort for you.

Pedestrian A: Ha! The U.S. lost the gold medal count to Ch...
Pedestrian B: SHUTTLECOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Crazy cat ladies are the best...

It's been a long time since I've found a blog that so goes above and beyond the standards of interweb excellence, but today, that search ended, when I found this little ditty:

Yes, it is a blog, from the perspective of a cat. Crazy cat ladies have entered the blogosphere. The best part? It's name is Princess Kitty Smoosh Face. There are only 3 entries, but those three entries have affected me in profound ways.

Like helping me decide that I will never own a cat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wow, I have a blog???

Well, it's been a long time, and I have to say, after about a month of posting nothing, I'm happy that a few people are still even checking back. Sweet! I fully plan on doing a full fledged post, but to get back in the saddle I think the olympics deserve a mention. I'm actually pretty into them this year thanks to the modern miracle of DVRs. As much as I've enjoyed these games, there are some political questions to be answered. The first is a little bit more lighthearted, and comes to us via yahoo. It asks the question as to whether judges are being biased towards the home country:,101537&cp=1#comments

For those to lazy to click a link:

Every judging break seems to have gone China's way during these Olympics. I'm
not suggesting a conspiracy, I just think that judges are humans who are
influenced by big names, fans and other external factors. Oh, and they're also
terrible. Judged events will always be viewed with skepticism by those who lose
for this reason, particularly those who lose to a member of the home delegation.
(Think Roy Jones Jr. at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.)

It is because of this skewed inconsistency that Fourth-Place Medal introduces The Real 2008 Medal Count. Our medal count will tally medals won in sports decided on the field of play, not by a judge in a teal blazer. The judged Olympic events we will ignore for our tally are: boxing, diving, equestrian, gymnastics, judo, taekwondo, trampoline and wrestling. We debated whether to include boxing, wrestling and the martial arts in the list, as they can be decided by competitors. However, because the
judging is prone to error and shenaningans, we will include it.

The Real 2008 Medal Count
China: 22 gold; 11 silver; 11 bronze
United States: 21 gold;
19 silver; 21 bronze

This second article is by one of my favorite essayists, formerly of Sports Illustrated and currently employed by ESPN, Rick Reilly. He highlights some of the glaring ways that China's poor human rights record has been swept under the rug for their "coming out party". And it's funny! The format doesn't permit me to reprint the the entire article, so just do yourself a favor and click here:

Anyways, I hope you're enjoying the olympics (MICHAEL FREAKIN' PHELPS!!!) as much as we are. Go U.S.A.!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A milestone, a dissenter, and all things batty...

I'm sorry, I have been geeked this entire weekend. I have been checking in frequently with to see how the box office cume is doing, and it appears that TDK has outdone Spider-Man 3 (and rightfully so) as the all time first weekend box office champion. I'm glad that the slightly above average SM3 no longer holds that record, and to have my favorite super hero now stand as an all time giant at 155 million dollars, that's just nifty.
In light of this, however, I called one of my best buds to find that he hated the movie. While I was shocked, I checked out what he had to say, and while I don't agree with everything, his review is worth noting. You can check out and be linked from his own site:
Or go directly to his review at:
I think it's refreshing to see a dissenting voice among all the praise being heaped upon the film, and the author's prose is always a joy to read, even when I don't agree. You can also see my response to his critique 29 comments down, if you are so inclined.
Of course, as a complete unapologetic fanboy, I cannot be more elated that The Dark Knight currently sits at #1 on the all time rankings over at Godfather fans everywhere are throwing themselves out of windows as the website is hijacked by comic fans, batgeeks, and true fans of movie making. While I cannot believe that this will last, in the area of "Things that really don't matter", these are obviously good times for bat geeks everywhere.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Your expectations aren't high enough...

Review of The Dark Knight

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Four out of Four stars

Leaving the theater, my wife made a confession to me. "This Batman is the first one that I've thought is hot." Indeed, I share her sentiments. No amount of hyperbole I heap upon this movie is enough. I will not try. I will be simple, and direct, and all I need you to do is to follow my directions, very, very carefully.

Go, and, see, this, movie.

Quickly, I will share why you should in a quick Q & A session.

Q: Is Heath Ledger's performance as good as everyone is saying it is?
A: Yes, there will not be a better performance by a male lead this year. He probably won't win the Oscar, but he should. You cannot understand until you see him.

Q: Continuing in the mold of Batman Begins, are certain aspects of the Batman mythos explained in ways that are nearly real-world plausible?
A: Yes, absolutely. Have you ever asked yourself the question how a psychopath like the Joker could amass a legion of followers? The Joker's methods will make it very plain in the first 15 minutes of the film.
Q: Does TDK continue the first film's penchant for eschewing CGI effects for real world stunts?
A: Absolutely, and thank Odin for it. Batman Begins was understated, nearly to a fault. This film brings back the seemingly lost art of real world stunts, and its all the more visceral because of it. What little CGI there is is used perfectly and in no way pulls you out of the action. There is an absolutely jaw dropping truck stunt that simply must be seen to be believed.

Q: Is TDK an action movie?
A: Yes.

Q: Is TDK a dark comedy?
A: At moments.

Q: Is TDK a tragedy?
A: Yes.

Q: Is TDK a horror film?
A: Yes.
Q: Should I take the kids?
A: No. No no no no no no no. No. I have a bag full of no for you here. Nolan spares us in many ways, but don't let any toy tie-ins fool you, you should not take any children 13 or under, or any children sensitive to frightening images. This is a movie that squeezes every bit of PG-13 out of it's overwhelmingly ominous overtones.

Q: Does Heath Ledger's Joker unseat Hannibal Lecter as the greatest cinematic villain of all time?
A: I'm going to go out on a limb here, and I will probably be mocked more profoundly than if I went on and said I didn't understand why The Godfather was so great, but I am going to say yes. I wish I could tell you why without spoiling the film, but I think that coupled with the tragic loss of Ledger, something about this performance is going to resonate very deeply with the zeitgeist of cinema aficionados and casual filmgoers as well. I think the Joker represents the seemingly random chaos of a world increasingly turned upside down and inside out by terrorists that, while professing an agenda, seem content to just hurt the U.S. because they have done it for so long, and because we represent something that they hate, long after they have forgotten why. Their motives seem about as authentic as the Joker's ever changing explanation for his scars.

Q: Is The Dark Knight the best superhero movie ever?
A: Yes. In this golden age of hurculean comic book blockbusters that are (gasp!) good, The Dark Knight stands out as something more transcendent. Dark, yet sprinkled with fleeting hope. Bleak, yet somehow beautiful. The Dark Knight is not a movie. It is art, in the hands of a masterful virtuoso in Chritopher Nolan. These types of movies don't get Oscar nods because the unwashed heathens heap untold millions to see them, but if this movie does not at least get an Oscar nod, I will be greatly disappointed. And yes, I am prepared to be disappointed.

Q: Any parting wisdom for someone planning on seeing this movie?
A: What you have to know, is that for many years, Tim Burton's Batman stood as my favorite film. It's noir-ish yet semi-campy take on the Caped Crusader was my initiation into summer hype, waiting in line to see a movie, owning all the pertinent merchandise, the list could go on and on. I owned several shirts, several toys, and my sixth grade year I spent my free time thinking about how one day, I could be a vigilante. Perhaps I am more excited for this film because, for how much childish nostalgia I harbor for my first Batman experience, I cannot tell you how elated I am to feel this excitement all over again for a film that is more atuned to adult tastes, yet is as unabashedly exciting as any popcorn thriller that has come down the pipes in recent years. Please, just go, and thank me later.

Final Question: Could Batman beat up Superman?
Answer: Yes. Not even close.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hitting a bump in the road (or the night)

Review of New Moon

by Stephenie Meyer

Two of Four Stars

I am actually writing this review after having finished the third of what is slated to be four part series chronicling the adventures of Bella Swan and her vampire love muffin Edward Cullen. Sorry Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, but this winter, the premiere of Twilight has all salvos loaded, and the holocaust that this vampire love story is going to bring to bare on your notebook reading butts is going to make what the U.S. did to Nagasaki look like a kid knocking over a cabin made of lincoln logs.

Never mind that no adolescent nowadays will have not the faintest idea what lincoln logs are.

Yes, Twilight is the next event novel. Its rise may be a slower burn, but make no mistake, its crossover appeal between both paragons of moral virture (i.e. the Mormons) and it's undeniable appeal to emos (the new goth!) is going to make it a smashing success.

"So Mr. The House of Milo, why'd you wait to review this book?"

That's an excellent question Timmy! Let's get to the heart and soul of it.

I had to see if there was anything worth getting to. You see, for normal, well adjusted (generally) thirty somethings, slogging through the first two thirds of New Moon is going to be like walking barefoot through a room of rusty thumbtacks then letting your feet soak in in a vat of hydrogen peroxide for 2 hours. Okay, okay, maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. A more apt analogy would be comparing New Moon to reading a soul crushingly bad teenage emo poem. And then reading another one. Then another one. Then another one. Until finally you're sitting in your room with your hair in your eyes listening to I'm Not Okay by My Chemical Romance on repeat until your fingernails turn black...

Because you PAINTED THEM THAT WAY!!!!!

New Moon starts out promising enough, with Bella, the klutz that she is, cutting herself open at a lavish birthday party thrown on her behalf by her adopted vampire family. Blood, as you can imagine, is quite the temptation for a family of vegan vamps. This, is the way you start a story!

This episode, however, convinces Edward that he must leave Bella.

What you say? Edward leaves? For a large portion of the book? Yes, and with him, much of what makes the Twilight books so good. Because no matter what some people will tell you, these books rise and fall with the dynamics of Bella and Vampy McGee, a.k.a. Edward. Without him, this book is a punch line to a joke about an emotional skater boy who wears girl pants that no one asked.

A large part of my criticism, however, can be swiftly sidestepped by one unbeatable argument. Ready for it? I'm a guy. While I'm not entirely convinced that Twilight was written with the singular purpose to connect with girly adolescents (and I'm launching a campaign with my male friends, mind you, to make sure I'm not the only guy to have read it) there are certain aspects to the story which will undoubtedly resonate more strongly with a female audience. That's the long and short of it. For every van crushing, torso ripping bit of awesomeness, there is some estrogen fueled claptrap that is, quite honestly, difficult to swallow. I can see how Bella's lonelinenss and despair after her velvety voiced Marble God (Edward) leaves might find a place in the hearts of cheerleading team rejects, but I couldn't deal with it.

New Moon is not without it's redeeming qualities. Indeed, another interesting character (not compelling mind you, interesting) is fleshed out in Jacob Black. If you're still awake, you'll figure out in about 2 minutes what he is. After reading Twilight, you should already know what he is. Again, women will no doubt appreciate how he heals Bella's heart after stone cold lover boy takes off. I didn't understand.

Oh yeah, the last third of the book is flippin' sweet too.

So what is New Moon? A somewhat necessary dip in the series that drags out over endless chapters what could have been for one man, taken care of in a chapter and a half. If you're going to read all of the books, however, don't skip, as there are (somewhat lamentably) details here that are crucial to your understanding and enjoyment of Eclipse. I guess that is one benefit to reading the next book before reviewing this one.

By the way, my wife just woke up from a nap. She told me as I was finishing this review that she had a dream that Edward died. If that isn't a sign of this being the next event novel, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How I helped the Celtics win a championship

You know, a couple of weeks have passed since the Boston Celtics memorably dismantled Kobe Bryant's L.A. Lakers to win the NBA Finals. Did you know, however, that I helped them. Probably not, this is the secret story that ESPN doesn't want you to know, and the major media outlets won't disseminate.

Exhibit #1

Sports Illustrated ran this cover following the Celtics win:

Note, it says, "How Danny Ainge revived a great franchise." Not KG, not Paul Pierce, not Ray Allen. Danny Ainge. That's right. P.S., he's Mormon.

Okay, exhibit #2:

This is taken from a prgram that I happened to find in a mountain of memorabilia that I have. When I was back at BYU, for two seasons I worked as an usher courtside at the Cougars home basketball games. I happened to be working when Danny Ainge had his jersey retired. Well, on top of that, he was sitting about 10 feet away from me the whole time. Now, I like Danny Ainge. Mormon hoopster, the preeminent player in BYU history (sorry Shawn Bradley), a key piece in the Celtics championship teams, a one time Phoenix Suns player and coach. How could I pass up the opportunity? Yes, I became one of those annoying autograph hounds, but I had the perfect piece of memorabilia, and opportunity. I hope it's my last time ever. I walked over to him, and humbly told him I was a big fan (ugh), and he graciously, if somewhat bemusedly, signed my program.

Let me ask you this. How many championships did Danny Ainge win as a G.M. before I got his signature, hmmmm??? Yeah, that's what I thought. None.

The House Of Milo claims part of the Celtics championship for partial albino dreamers everywhere.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An open letter to Jim Gibbons

With the impending fight to repeal cost of living allowances for state employees about to kickoff this Friday here in good ol’ Nevada, I’m being bombarded with sample letters to send to state representatives and leadership. I haven’t found one, however, that has contained the appropriate tone, and therefore, I decided to create a “choose your own letter” so that anyone struggling with just the right words for Governor Gibbons can strike just the right chord. Enjoy.

Governor Gibbons,
(Greetings / Hello there! / Rot in hell!) I am a humble teacher in the Clark County School District here in Southern Nevada, which by the time you read this will be the (fifth largest school district in the nation / fourth largest district in the nation / wait a minute, four students just walked into my class).

As you can tell by my (concerned / incendiary / vitriolic) tone, I am writing to you in response to your (short sighted / asinine / !@#$@#% stupid) attempt to repeal the four percent cost of living allowance that we, the (humble / pissed off) public servants of the state were scheduled to get. Now, Governor Gibbons, with (all due respect / a burning hatred that will endure the scorching heat of Hades), I’m not going to talk dollars and cents with you, because (I wouldn’t understand it / you wouldn’t understand it), but there has to be a better way, doesn’t there? I even voted for you, something that many people wouldn’t even own up to now.

I have to say your questionable decisions in the time that you’ve been in office have caused me to (question my decision / cry myself to sleep / flagellate myself with a whip Opus Dei style!) daily. I know that in your eyes educators are (noble in thought and deed / lazy nogoodniks) but your actions (are not consistent with your campaign promises to be education minded / make you look like a simpleton and an idiot).

On a personal note, I hope that your divorce proceedings are (going well / going poorly / giving you what you so richly deserve). Please give my regards to (your mistress / your ex-wife / your other mistress).

In closing, I would just like to say (please do the right thing and keep the COLAs we were promised / good luck getting re-elected / please don’t get drunk and beat any women in any parking garages). Seriously.

With (sincere regards for your political future / a hope that we will make it above the poverty line next year! / a burning rage that makes Naomi Campbell look like Mother Theresa.)

Your Name Here

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yeah, I have another blog...

Anyone who is a regular reader (there's two of you, to clarify) might like to check out another blog I'm running. You can find it at:

You'll find the tone there decidedly more reverent. Many of my friends are Mormon, but many are not, and I designed this page to share more of my spiritual side. I hope it will become a place for people to ask questions that they might not in other forums, but it's also a reminder that as wacky a guy as I am (read my Paris Hilton review) it is truly my faith that has brought me a ridiculous amount of joy to my life. I'll post the link permanently eventually, and no, there isn't much there yet. I wouldn't be surprised to see some more postings over here at The House explore religious questions as well. Plus, there's pictures of my family over there for anyone thinking they aren't well represented over here (I'm just protecting the innocent!).

Anyways, I hope you enjoy:-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

My media quotes of the week...

Well, it's been a busy couple of months for me. I know that not all of you have kept up with my media appearances, indeed, your DVR might break under the strain, so I have some of my most pertinent quotes right here for you, in one easy place.

On MJ/Kobe comparisons:
"So Jay, we're done with this, right? We never, ever, for as long as we live, have to hear Kobe mentioned in the same breath again with his royal airness? Can we make this man law now? Kobe choked harder than Mary Kate Olsen trying to swallow food."
-The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, June 11, 2008

On the Twilight series of books:
"Do I have to turn in my man card, or cut off a corner, for having finished the second Twilight book? By the way, you may be the first person I've ever met with legs whiter than mine...Yes Conan, I'm about 50 pages into the third..."
-The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, June 9, 2008

On allegations of kickbacks from Paris Hilton for a favorable album review:
"That's between me, Paris, my accountant, and Matt Leinert."
Statement made to

On calling a Red Wings victory:
"You're right, it did take some serious cajones for me to call that for the Wings once they were up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Do I get some dap for that, Wilbon?"
-Pardon the Interruption, "Five Good Minutes", June 6, 2008

Responding to media criticism regarding Pau Gasol's performance in the NBA Finals:
"That’s why I don’t read the newspaper! Because it’s garbage! And the editor who let it come out is garbage! Attacking Pau Gasol, a pro athlete doing everything right! And then you want to write articles about guys who don’t do things right and downgrade them, the ones that do make plays. Are you kidding me? Where are we at in society today? Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 30!"
-L.A. Lakers postgame press conference, June 12, 2008

On success in the blogosphere:
"How pathetic is it to invent quotes on ones own blog. I would never do that."
-Interview with The House of Milo, February 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How do you like my Panda Style?

Review of Kung Fu Panda

Starring Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Anglina Jolie, Michael Cross, Jackie Chan and a bunch of computer animating geeks

Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson

Another summer, another blockbuster computer animated movie, and a Dreamworks picture to boot. You see, in the computer animated movie biz, there's Pixar, and there's everyone else. Pixar delivers the modern classic Finding Nemo (a personal favorite) and Dreamworks delivers...Shark Tale. About fish. And a car wash. Hmmm... Pixar delivers A Bugs Life a great little movie (and even one of their weaker entries) and Dreamworks hits us with, Antz. With Woody Allen. And the movie title pluralized with a "z". Right... If you take away Dreamworks' 900 lb. gorilla (or ogre) Shrek, and the chasm between the two studios is even greater.

Why the rift in quality? In short, I haven't the slightest. Pixar doesn't know how to make bad movies. Whereas Dreamworks, minus the Shrek films, are good. They're like Big Macs. Without the money to go to a nicer place, they'll do just fine. You eat them, you feel pleasant enough, and then you're burping thousand island secret sauce for the rest of the afternoon. One theory I have is that I think the Shrekification of movies has something to do with it. The scientific formula for Shrek is simple:

Big colorful characters for kids + mature in-jokes that kids don't get divided by # of fart jokes = Box Office Bonanza.

We like it, it works. BUT, we don't want it every time. We can only take so many zany and colorful talking animals guys. Give us something different, something a little more nuanced than neurotic giraffes a la Madagascar. Now that I've spent half my article trashing Dreamworks animation, let me tell you why Kung Fu Panda is their best movie since the original Shrek. Are you ready for this?

It's not very much like Shrek.

Okay, okay, it still admittedly a little like Shrek. You've got your talking animals, and your sprinkling of potty humor (which remains hilarious), but in essence Kung Fu Panda is a modern reinterpretation of the classic Kung Fu movie in animated form. It manages to strike a nice balance of wildly imaginative cartoon characters with a traditional quest to become the ultimate warrior, in this movies case, the Dragon Warrior. I'll be honest, this movie had me at the opening sequence, in which Po, the titular Panda, dreams of the Furious Five, this film's quintet of nearly indestructable warriors. He awakens from his dream world to a drab reality, where he is unable to kip up from his back to standing, and his association with the Furious Five is limited to the action figures that line his window sill, something that thirtysomething Star Wars geeks like myself will richly appreciate.

Po has a love of food, and Kung Fu, but is stuck living out his father's dream as a noodle vendor. We never learn exactly why Po's dad is a bird, but it doesn't matter. It's a nifty bit of foreshadowing that suggests to us that, like his family lineage, Po is not quite where he belongs. When he learns that the local master will be choosing the new Dragon Warrior, Po naturally finds a way to get to the event, and through a bizarre and serendipitous situation, he becomes the unlikely Warrior to defend the people from the menacing Tai Lung.

There is not much here that hasn't been covered before, themes of believing in yourself and using the gifts that we have and being who we are have been the topic of countless other films (Karate Kid?) but the quality is in the telling. Jack Black is used appropriately, but not obnoxiously, as the unlikely Dragon Warrior, and while the personalities of the Furious Five are never fleshed out beyond Tigress, voiced by Angelina Jolie, their differences lie in their various fighting styles (all of them, cleverly, represented by the actual animal. The tiger style master is a tiger, monkey style is a monkey, mantis style...yeah, you get it).

And their fighting styles are what elevate this film above previous efforts. The hook of thinly veiled adult humor to reel in Moms and Dads has been eschewed in favor of outstanding action. There were moments of intensity that rivaled, and in some cases trumped, The Incredibles, which for me is the pinnacle of animated action. And while Moms and Dads will no doubt flock to this film as their kids beg for it, this is a film that I could easily see curious teens and childless grown-ups enjoying without hesitation. I found the art direction to be just as fantastic as the action. While the movie's humor may make you forget, there are beautiful moments in the film, that whisk the viewer away to a place where warriors meditated on cloudy mountain tops to attain the universal secret to enlightenment, peace, and awesome !@# kicking abilities.

I entered Kung Fu Panda with moderate expectations and was well pleased with the mix of humor, action, and surprising beauty. Don't let this somewhat high minded review make you think you're walking into an animated Citizen Cane, but what the movie does, it does well. A bit surprising to myself, I give Kung Fu Panda four out of four pot stickers, and give it a Viper style infused 20 ft. high flipping dragon punch recommendation. Kids will enjoy. Action and martial arts afficionados will be delighted. Everyone wins. Believe me when I say that it does get a bit intense in the cartoon violence department, but just about every kid except for the most sensitive should be just fine.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Words simply cannot describe...

Review of Paris by Paris Hilton

Sometimes when we least expect it, fate intervenes in the lives of mortals. Such was the case today, when I thought I was just going to get fitted for a tux so that I could act as a secret service agent at a local high school graduation ceremony. I must recount the tale, so that the full gravity of my opening statement may be felt. As most even moderately technically savvy individuals do at the beginning of any road trip of any length, I mapquested the address of the tuxedo rental shop, and set out to burn gasoline as expediently as possible. When nearing the establishment, I called to see what the cross streets were. "Cheyenne and Cimarron" said the voice on the other end of the phone. "Really?", thought I, as I passed Charleston and Cimarron. Never one to question disembodied voices, I dutifully headed to Cheyenne and Cimarron, only to find...trees. I was puzzled. I headed back to Charleston and Cimarron (remember, how much is gas up to?) to find that, in fact, I had passed the shop the first time around. "Oh well.", thought I, as visions of four dollar a gallon gasoline made me as woozy as errant fumes. I got out of my van to find, a sign taped to the inside of the establishment.

"Will re-open at 4pm. Sorry for the inconvenience."


It was 3pm.

The closest gas station informed me that regular unleaded could be had for the unusually reasonable price of 4.05 for a whole gallon!

Unable to bare the thought of another trip to be fitted, I instead headed to a nearby library. My thoughts turned to my blog, believe it or not. Recently, I've found that my niche, something I truly enjoy doing, is dissecting the fruits of others creativity by way of reviews. I would pick up some music. After travelling for forty five minutes in my van, having wasted untold dollars on lining the coffers of the Saudi royal family, I was in the perfect mood to review something. But what? As I perused the bounty that the public library offered, I was flummoxed, as nothing stood out. It was at that point that I found myself at the cross streets of fate and destiny when she looked up at me in her disinterested "I have more money than God." sort of way, beconing me to pluck her out of the rows and rows of jewel case filled bins. I gently lifted her out, asking myself the question, was I really doing this? Would I really check her out?

I was, and I did. And let me tell you, my life hasn't been the same since.

You see, you might assume, that because of my own ineptitude and some bad directions, I would be in a completely lousy mood, and in no shape to review anything, much less the self-titled debut of a debutant who is famous for being famous. But as I gently loaded the CD into the van's disc player, something strange burned within me. I wasn't ready, nor could any mere man be ready, for her subtly crafted opening lyrics.

"Ah, yeah, that's hot..."
So began my sonic journey into Paris...her self titled CD. This singular work of studio production and non-chalant vocals was like a summer reality show breaking up the monotony of sunny days and workless weeks. Paris is an album long tour de force, showcasing not only the poor little rich girl we have all grown to, something, but an introspective and even brooding side. Until this album, I never knew that being a billion dollar heiress could be such a thankless and harrowing journey.
It is on the album's second track that this became readily apparent to me. Fightin' Over Me is a subtle and cleverly written flirtatious number, and her nuanced lyrics completely floored me with her grasp of the human condition.
"Everytime I turn around the boys are fightin' over me,
Every time I step out the house they wanna fi-ight over me,
Maybe 'cuz I'm hot to death and so so so sexy.
All the boys, all the silly boys, wanna fi-ight over me."
Until I heard this song, I would have never, ever figured Paris Hilton to be a postmodern feminist, and yet, I think hearing, or reading in the case of this review, is believing, wouldn't you? She walks a fine line, but guest rappers Jadakiss and Fat Joe seem to be up to the task of walking the tightrope. As they deftly maneuver the lyrical landscape, they seem to embody the tenets of postmodernity as espoused by Mary Joe Frug, Jadakiss representing postmodernisms assertion that human experience is inextricably connected to the power of language to shape our perception of reality, and Fat Joe, representing Frug's second tenet, that sex is not entirely natural, and that society has created a system of meaning for it and encoded the female body with said meanings. Indeed, as he assertively delivers the lyric "Yeah ma, you wit' the realist, how simple is that?" I found myself asking the exact same question.
After that post-modern feminist anthem, the album only picks up inertia. And while nothing short of a 2,000 page dissertation could do this piece of audio excellence justice, the short space I have here will have to suffice. Another standout track is Screwed, which is nothing more than a thinly veiled critique on the war in Iraq. "Please don't let it begin, you're under my skin." she starts in a casual tone, proclaiming her bold assertion that involvement in the middle east should never have been an option. She no doubt stood boldly with Obama when others were sounding the war drums. "Same old story, boy meets girl and she falls much harder for him. Baby, wheres the glory." It is obvious that the U.S. is the girl in ths story, and that we fell in love with the idea of liberating a subjected people, when in fact the boy, in this case Iraq, was really not in tune with the idea in the first place. Now we, deeply ensconsed in the middle east, are asking ourselves the very same question. Where's the glory indeed?
"Since I'm already screwed here's a message to you, my heart's wide open, I'm just knockin' through, to the lover in you, tonight, tonight, you're gonna turn out the lights. And give me a little more room to prove it to you."
Indeed, we're already involved, Paris seems to say. We've already lost billions in dollars and thousands of lives, but we're still trying to fulfill Bush's proud "Mission accomplished" moment so many years ago. Whether it's 2013 or a hundred years, we are commited to our lover, Iraq. Indeed, proud Iraqis, give us a little more room to prove it to you.
I could go on and on for pages about how Stars are Blind is a plea to help sightless children charities, how Turn You On is her tender homage to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Do Ya Think I'm Sexy is a cry for awareness for both bulemia and anorexia, but to do so here would only defile the singular glory that it is to listen to these seminal works. I cannot simply assign a score to her album. I can only recommend that you not only buy this album, but buy multiple copies, as you will listen to it so frequently, you will likely not only wear out your CD player, but the discs themselves. I would also recommend downloading several copies digitally through iTunes, as well as purchasing the several academic treatises that have been written to unlock Paris's cleverly hidden meanings and symbolism. I cannot recommend this album highly enough, and I can only assure you, that if you pay money for this album, you will definitely get what you so richly deserve.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tastes like good, smells like scout camp

If someone doesn't tell you about it, you'll never find it. Seriously. Don't let it's inauspicious location fool you, however. Buzz BBQ should surely be the Buzz of BBQ gourmets everywhere. When we entered the small strip mall location, we were greeted by one of the cooks and, presumably, co-owners (pictured at far right). We happened to be talking about a few of the other BBQ joints in town, and he defiantly declared that none of them could compare to Buzz. After the hefty portions of briscit, pork, and ribs that I downed, I agree with him. Let's go down the essentials.

Meat. Check.

Styrofoam plates. Check.

Wet naps. Check.

And really, that's all you need, isn't it? Let's not kid ourselves, you're not going to head to Buzz for a fancy night out of eating. The southwestern atmosphere is fairly sparse, the style can only be described as "lawn furniture chic", possibly minus the chic. This doesn't matter. In fact, it almost adds to the ambience, because you're going to indulge your inner Bubba (you know this when you're allowed to sign the wall in magic marker if you down their pound and a half sandwich), and let me tell you, Buzz does not disappoint. This is the best BBQ I have eaten in Vegas. Hands down. Bar none. I don't know what magic they pull to make the meat as tender as it is, and their sauce as tasty as it ends up being, but there is something in that campfire smell that makes you scarf enough BBQ to cause your digestive tract groan under the strain.

A few negatives made this experience less than perfect, however. Not as impressive as the meat itself (heaven in slabs of glorious protein) were the sides. They were utilitarian at best. Also, be prepared to wait if you get a large family meal to share with friends as we did, because when they say slow cookin', they mean it. We waited a good 40 minutes (possibly more, my wife swears it was an hour). Factor the time into your evening, and you should be just fine. Lastly, and this is nothing close to a deal breaker, you will leave smelling like scout camp. I kid you not.

If you can ignore these negatives, Buzz will indulge the inner carnivore in anyone. Don't plan any heavy lifting for after, because the heaviness of the meal will no doubt lull you into a state of stupid lethargy. The reviews they have framed inside their restaurant along with the Best of Las Vegas 2008 recommendation are well deserved. Buzz backed up their bravado with all of the fire we'd expect from a crochety prairie worn cowboy. John Wayne would be pleased.

7810 W. ANN Rd # 130

Unlike vampires, this book doesn't suck...

There are novels, and then, there are event novels. You know event novels. Harry Potter was the granddaddy of them all. The first event novel, if you will. Some telltale signs of the event novel are kids waiting in line at midnight dressed as their favorite witch or wizard at their local Borders or Barnes and Noble, blockbuster movie adaptations, and twenty, thirty, and forty somethings crashing the party in shameless fashion. With the advent of the event novel, has come the unavoidable vigil from event novel aficionados who ask the same question in a longing chorus.

What's next.

Because for every Harry Potter, there has been numberless Spiderwick Chronicles, Eragons, Golden Compasses, and Lemony Snickets which have been unable to capture the popular imagination of enough of us shameless eternal youngsters to be dubbed the next event novel. If I'm going to be berated for reading something targeted at an adolescent, it had best not disappoint. Enter Twilight. I am not ready to dub this the next big thing, but if Harry Potter is the summer blockbuster of novels, then Twilight is the ridiculously successful viral internet campaign. In the course of a weekend, I barely beat out a Hollister wearing LDS twenty something for the last copy of the third Twilight novel at Wal-Mart at 7am. Now this was not even a new book, mind you. It was a newly released "special edition" which contains the first chapter of the fourth Twilight book. Tricky, eh? I watched as my wife's copy of the book made the rounds with four of my wife's friends in 24 hours. By the way, the movie will be released in December. The trailer preceded Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

If you pick up Twilight and take all of 10 seconds to read it's book jacket, you will find that this is a love story. With a vampire. Now wait, before you go running for your garlic and crosses as images of that freaky goth girl from fourth hour come flooding back to torment you, let me assuage your fears. While I am sure that some emo-tastic youths will use Twilight as the standard to which they will pin their hormone driven hopes and dreams, this novel does away with many of the gothic trappings of vampires that are likely to drive away the defenders of normalcy. Gone are their aversion to crosses, to daylight (at least in the traditional sense), and the traditional methods to do away with them. The concept of the vampire with a conscience is not new, but it is written here in a realistic enough way that it seems new and fresh.

Twilight is written from the viewpoint of it's heroine Isabella, or Bella, Swan. She is written in a way that is at once familiar and accessable. She's that smart girl you knew back in high school who was cute enough, but whose intangibles such as her sarcastic wit and keen intellect elevated her to something more. I envision her as the poster child for the emo-nation, brooding and hopeful, funny in a dead pan Steven Wright sort of way. For any of you Generation Xers out there, she's a hotter and more outgoing version of MTV's Daria.

Bella is new to Forks, Washington, the perfect setting for vampire love. You see, Forks is in the most overcast region in the U.S. As Bella gets her bearings in her new town, she makes friends, and is intrigued with a fashion model hot group of ousiders who are all members of the Cullen family. She notices that they keep to themselves, they have pale complexions, and their names are all a little out of place in the present day. Quite interesting. Hint, and a fairly major spoiler...

They're vampires.

And if you don't know that the first moment they are introduced, you my friend, are an idiot. And if you don't know that Bella is going to fall for the super hot Edward, then I have some land in Florida to sell you. Yes, Twilight navigates it's efficient narrative with all the subtlety and nuance of a jackhammer at 3am. You will find no revolutionary plot twists, and any man card holders may have to temporarily relinquish them or have a corner cut off to make it through some parts, but in the end, Twilight turns out to be a rewarding read.

My recommendation for guys who are mildly curious, especially married guys, would be to give it a shot and chalk it up to research. I've been watching my wife tear through these books at a disturbing clip, and it is quite interesting to see what has her twitterpated. A word of warning, however. I did grow tired of after the two hundredth time or so reading about how Edward (vampire love muffin) was an Adonis, a God, how chiseled his perfectly formed chest is. I get it. He's hot. Let's get back to crushing vans in half.

Twilight earns three cloves of garlic from me out of four. It isn't exactly fast food, but as the commercials say, it's good food fast. There's plenty of romance for the ladies, some good action for the fellas, and enough innovations with vampiric lore to keep everything new.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The new standard bearer in pro franchise excellence

Since winning their fourth championship in the last 10 years, the San Antonio Spurs, those of the floptastic and uninspiring gameplay, have been lauded as the standard bearers of excellence among all professional sports franchises. Indeed, a Sports Illustrated cover from last year hailed them as such. Had the Patriots not executed the finest choke job of the modern sports era (in fact, has their been a bigger choke job ever? Eli Manning won the Super Bowl, for crying out loud!) perhaps they would have unceremoniously ripped the mantle from the Spurs, all the while Bill Belichick pointing and chanting "Nanny nanny boo boo, stick your head in doo doo NFL!" With the Patriots flopping like the Spurs, and the Spurs flopping against the Lakers like, well, also like the Spurs, the window has been opened for the most dominating team you have most likely never seen.

My journey with the Red Wings began during the 1994-1995 NHL season. Seinfeld was in full swing back when Thursday really was must see. Teenagers were just getting over the Seattle grunge movement, Dr. Dre was tearing up the radio, Napster was still a few years off, and a younger version of me was learning the ins and outs of one of the hottest extreme sports out there, before we even knew what extreme sports were. I was an in line skater. My buddy Bryan and I had been skating around Las Vegas for years, but were just finding out how enjoyable street hockey was. Of course, checks and hits produced scrapes and scars, because we were rarely smart enough to wear protective gear.

During this time, I realized Hockey was ultimate dopeness. Today's crazy teens might have called it "sick". Either way, I realized that I was going to have to follow the NHL, and that I would need a team. Being a native Las Vegan, I've had to poach my favorite teams from other cities. Steve Young made me a believer in the 49ers, and I have loved them since the Cowboys first beat them in the NFC championship. I followed one of my favorite UNLV players in Arman Gilliam to the NBA and have been a Phoenix Suns fan ever since. Hockey was a trickier proposition. I had no previous link to the sport, other than the fact that I was now going to be a fan. I had to choose my team well. During this process, I read in an SI article that talked about how the Detroit Red Wings were currently in the midst of the longest Stanley Cup draught (27 or 28 years, I believe it was) so there was compelling drama. They were an original six hockey team and they had been the team of Gordie Howe so they had tradition. They had sweet unis, which any of my friends will tell you is extremely important to me. Lastly, they threw octopi on the ice during the playoffs, symbolizing the number of wins required to win the Stanley Cup in the original playoff format. When I realized that I could be a hockey fan AND piss off PETA at the same time, I was sold.

You can see then, why this bitter and disenfranchised Suns fan has had the chance for ultimate redemption during one of the best times in all of pro sports, when basketball and hockey frolic for a rollicking month, and thrust un-reality TV back to the depths from which it sprung. The Red Wings are en route to another Stanley Cup, and the Spurs, the previous gold standard for pro sports, will reluctantly lose their tenuous grip on the unofficial title of "most successful pro franchise".

So, why will the mantle of greatest pro franchise be unceremoniously ripped from the San Antonio Spurs by the Detroit Red Wings? Let's compare the franchises. First, obviously, the most important measure by which any franchise should be considered, number of titles won.

San Antonio: 4 Detroit: 4*

Now, I may jinx my team, and maybe they will suffer one of the biggest collapses in the history of the NHL, but I'm going to call the Stanley Cup in their favor with them up 3-1. I could just wait for them to win to see, but it's much more dramatic to make the call early. Now, we have this raw number, let's judge the quality of these titles. One of San Antonio's titles came in a strike shortened season. Oops, strike one against them. Two of San Antonio's titles came against the Juggernaut known as...The New Jersey Nets?!? Strike two. NBA Finals ratings have tanked when the Spurs are there. Not really a measure of their greatness or not, but rather a measure of America's good taste, but they are boring, so we are going to count that as strike three.

Finals appearances since 94-95

San Antonio: 4 Detroit: 5

Now, you may judge and say "Wait a minute, they made it one more time, but they didn't win." Indeed, but just as the adage says, better to have won and lost, than never to have won before. Yes, that one loss in the Finals came in a strike shortened season, but all of Detroit's wins came in legitimate full length seasons. Advantage, Red Wings.

Conference Finals since 94-95

San Antonio: 7 Detroit: 7

Pretty even statistic here. San Antonio doesn't lose any ground, but doesn't gain any either. I would argue, however, that it is more difficult to win in the NHL playoffs, where the game's name changes to "Goalie" and a hot man between the pipes can knock off even mighty juggernauts.

Seasons with best regular season record since 94-95

San Antonio: 4* Detroit: 5

This statistic is important, because in the discussion of successful pro franchises, win percentage usually gets tossed out there at some point, and the NHL will get the short end of the stick every time because of its point system because games could end in ties until the recent rule changes. It's like trying to compare apples to oranges. The end result, however, cannot be disputed. How many times have these franchises been the standard for regular season excellence. Detroit has done it one time more, but San An gets a dreaded asterisk for sharing the best record with Dallas one year. Oops! To be fair, I should mention that the mighty Red Wings were upset in the first round one year having won the President's Trophy (record for most regular season wins/points) BUT, the difference is, a set back like that would derail lesser franchises for years. Just look at how the Dallas Mavericks have reeled since losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round. What did Detroit do? Rebound to make a conference final and Stanley Cup final. Much in the way wily job candidates make their negatives positive in job interviews, so do the Red Wings turn a colossal blunder into an example of their unending commitment to winning.


Now, beyond these measures of excellence, what are some of the intangibles that must be considered? All Detroit has done since the 94-95 season is win. Detroit has suffered no losing seasons in that time, and San Antonio has. The last time Detroit didn't qualify for the playoffs was the 85-86 season. In this years Stanley Cup finals, the Wings held the Pens scoreless through the first 2 games, an NHL record. Detroit has continued their winning with 3 different coaches, while San Antonio has had the luxury of one coach. The Red Wings have accomplished what they have in essentially one less season than the Spurs, losing an entire NHL season to a work stoppage. And speaking of the work stoppage, the NHL drastically revamped their rules and implemented a salary cap. The Red Wings have reached a conference final since that time and, presumably, will win the Stanley Cup this year under the new rules.

Final Verdict

You don't watch the NHL. That is a fairly safe assumption given their marginal ratings. In not watching, however, you have missed the most dominant pro franchise since 1994, and their winning is not done yet. So, if you learn nothing more from this little article, know this. If you want to really look like you know sports, and you ever happen upon someone who asks you "So who's the best team in the NHL this year?" Just answer the Red Wings. Season in and season out, you've got a great chance of looking like a genius.

Go Wings!!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Congratulations on 200 hits!!!!

We here (and by we, I mean me) at The House of Milo are all about being self-congratulatory. In the spirit of self-congratulation, I'd like to extend a hearty pat on the back Yup, in only 2 months, I've amassed 200 hits. Do you know what that means? That means, aside from the 50 or so hits I logged myself, not realizing that I was adding to my counter statistics (how stupid was that!?!) I would wager that, I dunno, 20-30 people out there are checking out my little corner of the internet. To those 20-30 people (and I would say that is a fairly inflated estimate) I say thank you, for giving half a care to things that I find interesting. What would somebody think about me if they visited here for the first time?

1) I hate the Spurs almost more that I like the Suns.
2) In another life, I would have chosen to be a reviewer. A reviewer of things.
3) I read a lot.
4) My church basketball team went undefeated and won the stake championship
5) I once went to a wax museum and since that day, have used the pictures I took to add a certain panache to my blog

So, to that special Spur hating, review loving, liberal news reading, championship winning, wax museum visiting internet browsing niche that I have been targeting all of my life, I say thank you. You are the reason I slave over this html shrine once every fifth or sixth day for 10-15 minutes. We salute you. And by we, I mean me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Awkward but Entertaining Finale

Fourth time may not be the charm, but it's certainly good enough. At least in the case of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth and (hopefully) last of the Indiana Jones Quadrilogy. I say hopefully not because this movie is a disservice. Far from it, in fact. However, like a quadrilogy, it is a bit awkward and disjointed, and all parties involved risk tarnishing the famed archaeologist's reputation if they dip into the tried and true formula one time too many. Speaking of the formula, as I watched the movie, I realized there were certain things that HAD to be there for it to be an Indiana Jones adventure. I have decided to rank these parts against previous efforts, to give fans a sense of what to expect from this movie. Beware some minor spoilers, and one fairly large one about the ending (which in all honesty, would not hurt the watchability of the film in the least in my opinion).

The Antagonist: Red Scare era Russians

1st place: Nazis (Raiders and Last Crusade)

2nd place: Crazy psycho cult (Temple of Doom)

3rd place: Kingdom

Yes, I have to say that I think Spielberg and Lucas were trying to slip something political in on us, and while these Russians are serviceable as baddies, they cannot compare to the iconic Nazis as epic foes, nor can they compete with the menacing members of the crazy cult from Temple of Doom. I was never able to shake the feeling that these Russians were nothing more than "Nazis Lite". Blanchet is a fine actress, but her performance is so far over the top that I heard John Malkovich called her. He wanted his Russian accent back from Rounders.

The premise/artifact: Seeking an alien artifact (The Crystal Skull)

1st place: Ark of the covenant (Raiders)

2nd place: The Holy Grail (Last Crusade)

3rd place: Kingdom

4th place: Whatever it was in Temple of Doom. Someone, please remind me.

I think that with George Lucas' penchant for satisfying his own whims with an occasional disregard for fans left many with bated breath, hoping that he didn't take it too far. I feel fairly certain that few fans will be outraged by this change of pace for the series, and I for one am glad that they took some liberties and went for something different. Even though there are some half-hearted attempts to mask this "mystery", I have little doubt that anyone who has been on vacation to Saturn for the past few months and hasn't caught wind of the extra-terrestrial overtones said to permeate the picture will have caught on about 20 minutes in.

Opening set piece: Indy outsmarts Russians at Area 51 and narrowly escapes a nuclear blast

1st place: Raiding the idol (Raiders)

2nd place: Kingdom

3rd place: River Phoenix and the Train (Last Crusade)

4th place: Jazz club chaos (Temple of Doom)

As perfectly and wonderously choreographed as it was, this opening romp is unable to unseat the perfect opening to the first Indiana Jones movie, with the wonderfully nostalgic rolling slab o' death, hundreds of natives with blow darts, and narrow bi-plane escape where we learn for the first time that Indy hates snakes. Of course, this isn't to Crystal Skull's detriment. It's sort of like saying DaVinci had a hard time topping the Mona Lisa. If anything, the opening to Crystal Skull is so good, the meat of the movie seems a little lacking in comparison.

Indy's Curmudgeonly Sense of Humor

1st place: Last Crusade

Defining moment: Throws german off of Zeppelin, and when bewildered passengers are concerned, Indy counters with "No ticket." Honestly, however, there are too many to name here.

2nd place: Raiders

Defining moment: Boom! Swordsman goes down!

3rd place: Kingdom

Defining moment: I really can't reveal this, it would be a pretty bad spoiler, BUT it involves a snake, and it's pretty clever.

4th place: Temple of Doom

Defining moment: Not sure. Eating monkey brains?

Raiders one moment almost powered it to the top of the rankings, it's so good, so anti-climatic. But for sheer charm (and for the cleverest screenplay as well) it is hard to top Crusade. In contrast, Kingdom feels a bit contrived at times, a bit forced, a bit like, well, it's almost as though all parties involved hadn't done a movie of this type in nearly 20 years. Fancy that. When the charm and chemistry of the characters works, it is great, and don't think for a second that the movie doesn't have a sense of humor, it's just that when something doesn't work, it jars you back to reality, and forces you to think to yourself "That should've been left out." Can't think of too many moments like that in Crusade. I can't think of any moments like that in Crusade.

Nasty creature moment: Millions of angry army ants

1st place: Snakes (Raiders)

2nd place: Army Ants! (Kingdom)

3rd place: Bugs (Temple of Doom)

4th place: Rats (Last Crusade)

While unable to compete with snakes (which are basically the Nazis of the animal kingdom) the army ants in this movie are fierce. There are a couple of moments that ensure that Kingdom earns every inch of its PG-13 rating, and those moments do not disappoint.

Female companion: Marian Ravenwood

1st: Marian Ravenwood (Raiders and Kingdom)

2nd: Two timing German hussey (Last Crusade)

3rd: The future Mrs. Steven Spielberg (Temple of Doom)

In a huge nod to fans, Marian comes back, and in many ways the chemistry shines. If anything, I felt that the relationship could have had more moments, more time to let the relationship develop. Thank heavens for strong female heroines, unlike the Annoying chick hall of fame inductee from Temple of Doom. Sheesh.

Outrageous Action Apocalyptic Climax: (MAJOR SPOILER)

Little green men vaporize Ruskies, annhilate a lost city, and leave no trace

1st: MELTING NAZIS!!! (Raiders)

2nd: Open heart surgery (Temple of Doom)

3rd: The three trials (Last Crusade)

4th: Ze Martians (Kingdom)

So much CGI is out of place in the Indy universe, and as another reviewer put it, Spielberg has done this before, and done it better. Why the appropriate ending would be an amalgamation of The Ark melting Hitler's minions and Close Encounters is beyond me, unless Stevie has a wheel he spins for movie endings, and these two happened to come up again. A bit disappointing.

Final quick hits: I felt Indy was a bit anachronistic in the late 50's, although they manage to recapture most of his magic. Also, bonus points for not trying to play Harrison younger than he is. Ultimately, some moments have a been there done that feel, but when the place you're visiting is a creepy sepulcre with Indiana Jones, you don't mind going back. This movie felt like a little less than the sum of it's parts. While individually scenes were excellent, together as a whole, the flow was off, and the overall package didn't seem quite right. When I take scenes as individual pieces, they work much better. Action ultimately trumps writing and story in this fourth movie, so fans of Indy's wit may be a bit disappointed. There are about 20 minutes towards the middle of the movie that I could have done without. Shia LeBouf doesn't Jar Jar anything, but ultimately I'm not sure how much he added (certainly not as much as Connery in Last Crusade). Strike that, there is ONE Jar Jar moment, and all I'm going to say is Tarzan. You'll know what I mean. In terms of an end for the series, it is awkward that it, and not Last Crusade (especially considering the name!) will be the series' capstone. While parts of it shine, Last Crusade was a more appropriate ride into the sunset.

When all is said and done, if you asked me would you rather have an imperfect but entertaining fourth Indy movie or nothing, I would answer that I'd rather have it, and that's what Spielberg has given us. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gets three out of four bull whip cracks, and probably takes it's place as about the third best Indy pic, behind Raiders and Crusade, but for the most part ahead of Temple of Doom. Older kids will enjoy, but the intensity is probably too much for the young ones (remember, every last bit of that PG-13 is used to the max). I didn't feel cheated as a full price view, but as a counter point, my wife said that she'd have felt better paying matinee money for this one. Lower your expectations and enjoy. Expect the world and be disappointed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I See Dead People (With Subtitles)

(Avast, mateys, minor spoilers ahead

I think that as I do reviews, I may have to sell the sponsorship rights to my dear Mom. This past weekend, with my wife and kids off on an adventure to Utah, my parents invited me out to dinner and a movie. Never one to turn down free food (or almost anything), I graciously accepted. The movie was a rental that I hadn't heard of. "The Orphanage". A horror film. Dead orphans stalking the living? How could we go wrong!

There are things that are scary, and there are things that are terrifying. Scary is someone in a mask wielding a meat cleaver. Terror, however, true mortifying, oppressive horror, goes deeper. It preys on our deepest fears. El Orfanato takes one of the most overlooked yet painful and terrifying scenarios imaginable. The unexplained loss of a child. As a parent, I can personally attest that the scariest eight minutes of my life, was when guests staying with us unloaded their van with our front door open for a good 10 minutes. In the ensuing chaos, no one had noticed that our little 1 and a half year old had wandered outside. After a time, my wife and I both came to the realization that neither of us had seen our youngest in some time. We both assumed the other had put her down for a nap. Ghastly scenarios swirled around my head. As I tore through the rooms in our house and back yard, I wondered if I might fight her having fallen from a high ledge, or face down in our 10 dollar kiddie pool. I will never forget running up our street, crying out frantically her name while barefoot, only to look back over my shoulder to see my wife sobbing with our little girl in her arms. She was playing in the rocks of our neighbor's yard. I have never cried like I did when we found her.

Now that you have no doubt called Child Protective Services, I had better finish this quickly before they come knocking at our door. The Orphanage, Spain's Oscar nominated foreign language film, takes us through this same scenario with a supernatural twist. The central characters in this haunting, frightening, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting (!?!) film are Laura and her son Simon. In the early goings of the film, we learn that Laura, an orphan herself, has purchased with her husband the titular orphanage where she grew up, with the intention of creating a special type of home for children where she, her husband, and adopted son Simon will also live. During the closing, however, apparently no one disclosed the dark history of the property, and of course, the obviously gifted and imaginative Simon begins to see and play with special friends. They teach him how to play a special game, where the winner is granted any wish they desire.

To give away much past this would be a disservice to this finely crafted story, but needless to say, Simon disappears mysteriously and without a trace. The rest of the story is Laura's quest to find the truth about her son's disappearance, while simultaneously unearthing her homes dark and guarded secrets. This trite description is as underwhelming as The Orphanage is powerful.

The plausability of the movie rests squarely upon the shoulders of Laura, played with ease by Belen Rueda. A bad note in her performance would bring this melancholy symphony to a grinding halt, yet she deftly undulates between frantic desperation and cautious hope. Her range is amazing as she channels the viewers' worst fears and dread. As anyone will agree by the end of the movie, she is called upon for such a broad range of emotion from beginning to climax, that you half expect her to be panting and breathless by the last frame. The story is an amalgamation of two of my very favorite tales, an oft overlooked novel by Orson Scott Card called Lost Boys, and the standard by which the modern suspense/horror movie is judged, The Sixth Sense. Viewers will no doubt draw comparisons between this and The Sixth Sense, but rest assured, there is more than enough original content here for the material to feel very fresh. Indeed, this is the first movie I have seen since Haley Joel Osmont saw dead people that had such an "Ah ha!" moment, that I almost immediately put it back in for a second viewing. I would not be surprised if others after coming to the conclusion immediately retraced the movie's winding course once again to see if, as M. Night Shamalan did so long ago, the movie followed it's own rules.

The Orphanage is rated R, but after having viewed it (indeed, a very naughty thing) I cannot fathom it's rating. Aside from it's overall opressive and grim atmosphere (and tense moments) viewers will find themselves witness to a very shocking car crash (with brief graphic intensity) but little else along the lines of viseral gore, and one F bomb. Of course, if you have any question, do not see it, and obviously, this is NOT one for the kids.

I give The Orphanage four out of four...orphans? Adoption papers? I dunno, I can't come up with anything good, except for the admonition that you should see this movie.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Juno what I'm saying, holmes???

The little movie that could. The only Oscar nominated movie that wasn't a nihilistic, violent, and/or depressing bringdown. The breakout role for Ellen Page. Juno is a wonderful little movie, which explores real problems without denying the viewer hope for humanity. Why is it that to be considered art nowadays, a movie has to be a painful exercise? Did you know, for example, that Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for best picture? Imagine that, a rollicking rollercoaster ride, well written and impeccably directed, could be nominated for best picture? Do you also remember that Forrest Gump, a touching, funny, and dare I say kind hearted movie actually won best picture? That feat will not soon be repeated in Hollywood, as the standards for quality seem to exclude popular movies from being nominated. Indeed, the nominating process in Hollywood is probably something akin to elitist music snob poseurs in high school fumbling over who discovered which crap indie band first.

Well, let me assure you, the moderate commercial success of Juno is assuredly not the crap indie band of my former analogy. Juno is pure vintage U2. It follows the story of the movie's namesake Juno as she unwittingly becomes pregnant, and in a serendipitous epiphany at an abortion clinic, decides that she will carry the baby full term and find it a great home. Where does one find such a home? Why, the Penny Saver, of course!

We follow Juno as she navigates the worlds of high school, her family, and the prospective parents to be. The interactions are priceless. The world of Juno exists somewhere between the Coen Brother's Fargo and the pseudo Rexburg of Napoleon Dynamite, although these characters are more acutely self aware and, dare I say, smarter than those that exist in either of those other movie created worlds. Indeed, one of the knocks on the movie is that kids don't really talk as smartly as they do in this movie (and as a high school teacher, I can verify this), but my response is, who cares? It is a wonderful little world that has been created here, full of characters that the audience cares about. Ellen Page has been heralded (and rightly so) for her performance, but the cast's ensemble is perfect. There is not a weak performance to be found.

Juno is not a perfect movie, but for a dramedy it strikes just about the perfect balance. Even though I drew a Napoleon comparison, the comedy to drama ratio is about 60/40 (although the wife says she'd peg it as the opposite). This is a relatively family friendly affair, although, to maintain cred with the academy they do drop the obligatory F-bomb, and there are scenes that insinuate sex. For anyone that wants a movie that explores an imperfect world, with imperfect problems, without robbing us of hope for a perfect future, then Juno will fit the bill nicely.

My rating? Three and a half pregnancy tests out of four.

Rated PG-13 for some insinuated nookie content, pandering to Hollywood hipsters with an F-bomb, a little edgy language, and themes regarding human reproduction (it's about teen pregnancy for heaven's sake!)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Suit of Iron, Box Office Gold

I must preface this review with a story which has very little to do with the review itself. Iron Man, for some time, has been on my summer to do list hovering around the second tier; something that I would like to get around to, but wasn't terribly pressing. Friday rolls around, and as I peruse (I check this website more than I think, I suppose), I stumble over two overwhelmingly positive reviews of Iron Man, one from CNN itself, and one from Time. I'm intrigued. I don't subjugate myself to reviews, but not having the unlimited budget of a Roger Ebert to see any and every movie that comes down the pipe, I have to research a bit. I hop over to to find out that their sampling of reviews are 92% positive. This is where it hits me.

The blockbuster season is upon us. I must see Iron Man.

Without having made plans the chances are dim. Enter fate. My mom calls, and asks if we'd like her to watch the kids so we can go see Iron Man. Hmmmmmm. I think about it for .034 of a second. I say yes, and by a serendipitous turn of fate, the wife and I are off on an adventure to see the summer's first blockbuster on opening weekend.

We are living in the golden age of comic book movies. I loves me a good comic book movie, and I loves me a good blockbuster. I love the dramatic, the different, the occasional art house flick, but when all is said and done my friends, nothing trumps the summer blockbuster, but above all, the well done summer blockbuster. The well done summer blockbuster doesn't sacrifice story for sizzle. Its over the top effects complement rather than crush the narrative. Iron Man scores points for doing neither.

While I wish I could be chic and be the dissenting voice I am happy to report that I cannot. Iron Man is another in a line of supremely crafted super hero pictures which puts the character front and center, rather than as an afterthought. Spider-Man 2 explored the human toll such great responsibility can wreak upon someone endowed with such great gifts. Batman Begins chronicled Bruce Wayne's tranformation into the Dark Knight in poignant detail, making his alter ego a conflicted and imperfect hero. The bonds that he forges with Alfred and Lucius Fox as his partners in the fight to take back Gotham strike the perfect tone. Tony Stark, then man behind the iron mask, takes a cue from Bruce Wayne, but runs with it. What makes Robert Downey Jr.'s performance spot on is that, unlike Wayne's attempts to feign being the billionaire playboy, Tony Stark is that billionaire playboy. This movie makes being a super hero fun again. He is flippant and fast fast with the quips. Downey was born for this role. This movie fails with anyone else in this role.
In the first 5 minutes of the movie, Stark is brought to the grim realization that there is heavy price for dealing in arms, and the rest of the movie takes on a bit of gravity with that realization. Somehow, Iron Man stays light on it's feet while dealing with this issue. These undercurrents don't stop the transformation from arms dealer to super powered war machine any less fun. We've gotten so serious with our super heroes, we've almost forgotten how cool it would be to blow up a tank and save a village of refugees. Iron Man strikes the perfect balance, and any comic book fan would be well served by the year's first great box office smash.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy Immigration Day!!!!

I found this article today on CNN's website. I don't necessarily frequent because it is the greatest reporting, but it is an easy web address to remember, and it is pretty funny to see what passes for news nowadays. The other week, no kidding, Martha Stewart's dog dying was a top story. But I digress.

Anyways, I like to peruse the op-ed's of CNN correspondents (I have to say, I think they have fairly good representation from a variety of political ideologies. FAIRLY good, not great) and I came across one piece that I found myself mostly agreeing with.

For those too lazy to haz clik (click on the link, to my English speaking friends) it basically illustrates where demonstrators go wrong when they are trying to fight for more rights for illegal immigrants.

"I don't buy this argument that there was no racism or acrimony in the immigration debate until the protests started. Get real. Those things have been present in every immigration debate for more than 200 years. Of course, they were going to be part of this one.

That isn't to say that a lot of people don't see red when they see protesters do things like waving the Mexican flag. They do. As tactics go, that's a foolish one: demanding rights of one country while showing allegiance to another. It's bad manners -- and bad civics.

Thank you! I finally figured out what bothered me about protests and marches for immigrant rights. I have to tell you, I'm a fairly level headed and moderate kind of guy. I lived in Mexico for 2 years for heavens sake! These protests were not supposed to bother me. But they did! And why? Because, gosh, we're in the U.S., and if you want more rights, don't talk about how great the place you came from is, talk about how much you love it here, and how much you'd like more of your people to have that opportunity.

Last time I checked we were a sovereign nation here, governed by the rule of law. I think we're allowed to determine what our policy towards immigration is, and just because we have an immigration policy, that doesn't mean we are racist. It's like we're your older brother to the north. Just because we don't want to let you in our room while we play Xbox and listen to Metallica, don't get mad at us. It's our room, and we decide when to let you in. We still love you though, and if you're cool with us, we'll let you come and play Halo 3 eventually.

It is just a simple fact, we cannot take in everyone. Logistically, it is impossible. But let's get this thing straightened out, let's get more immigrants legal, not with amnesty, but with a way to work towards legal citizenship while incurring some sort of penalty.

Another true story, as a missionary in Tijuana, we taught and baptized a really great guy, but when we came back to invite him to church the next week, his wife let us know that he was gone. We were dumbfounded. Where did he go? Well, he got baptized to help his chances to jump the border. And apparently, we were pretty good missionaries, because it worked. We didn't see him again for a few months. Why do I share this story? If you saw where this family lived, you wouldn't have blamed him one bit for trying to jump. However, I truly believe that jumping the border is not the solution for more than the short term. "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses". Amen. Absolutely. But, as you consider the decision to leave Mexico, the question must be asked, where can you best serve your country. You are needed to fight another fight. The government of Mexico, not the U.S. is the real monster here. I think that one protestor got it right.

"Cesar (a protestor)...blasted the Mexican government for allowing this kind of inequity to occur. That is who the immigrants should be picketing with their marches, he said, instead of wasting their time demanding rights and privileges from the United States. It was time to go home, he said, and fight the battle for fairness, dignity, and economic justice where it might do some good -- on Mexican soil.(quotation added by me) "

(Just for good measure, google Mexico's southern border policy and you might just get some interesting hits.)

I don't know who you are Cesar, or what you're doing. Possibly waving an American flag in a country you love, while figuring out how you can help your fellow countrymen back home in your native land. All I can say, my man, is amen Cesar, amen.

Que dios les bendiga en la lucha de libertad.

Say it loud, say it proud!

Well, there seems to be a few people visiting my first little foray into the blogosphere each day, or so says that free little counter I threw up here, but if I could trouble you to do so (and I don't know if I'm violating blog etiquette by asking) would you leave me a comment? If you like what I'm saying, or ESPECIALLY if you don't like what is being said, let me know. It is my hope that with a little humor, and a little insight, this could be a place to discuss ideas that people like you and I find interesting. I'm not asking for a novel, but I am writing for an unseen audience, and my only reward is feedback. Define me! Validate me! Make this insecure little only child feel the love.

Or the hate.

Just write something.



(and thanks to the people who have already left comments, your insights and commentary are appreciated)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The time honored tradition of presidential pandering.

Pandering is a long and established tradition among political candidates. I am just a little young (thank heavens) to remember, but in a debate with fellow Democrat Gary Hart, Walter Mondale famously countered Hart's continual use of "new ideas" as his slogan with this quote:

"When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'"

Where's the beef. That's right, Mondale countered with a popular catch phrase from this Wendy's add campaign.

Who can forget Michael Dukakis' famous tank ride to assuage fears that he might not be strong enough militarily:

I don't know about you, but he looked about as comfortable in that tank as Elton John would be at a Scores nightclub. Now, these were some pretty good examples of good old fashioned baby kissing pandering, but this year, our current crop of presidential candidates have really taken it to a new level, as illustrated in this recent bit to promote WWE Monday Night Raw:

Holy mother of pearl! That just takes the cake! Now, I'm all for flag pins, embarrassing catch phrases, brazenly irrational declarations of war against Iran (thanks Hillary!), but I have to say, in 100,000 years, I never thought I would see the candidates, hoping to take the office of the most powerful person in the free world, on WWE Raw. Unbelievable. I'm reminded of the phrase "elitist" being bandied about as though it were a bad thing. Personally, I want my president so many times smarter than me it cannot be measured. I want a president that has been successful in just about everything that they do. I hope that they would have the saavy and business sense to be millionaires many times over. I want a president that has been toughened cultured, and refined.

And with all respect to wrestling fans (I've watched my share to be sure) I'd like my presidential candidate to steer clear from debacles like this, like, well, like Elton John steering clear of Scores.