Monday, September 5, 2011

Wheels, Elk and Eye Diseases....

Traditionally, Labor Day has been a weekend full of stress; school shopping for clothes and supplies, meeting the demands of a half dozen BBQ invitations, and soothing the nerves of my boys as they stare down the coming school year. Since we've moved to Idaho, Labor Day has taken on a different look. School actually starts around the 24th of August, so Labor Day has turned into a long weekend of leisure and fun....or at least it has the last TWO Labor Day's here.
This year we've had a strange mixture of fun, disaster and sickness. It made for an interesting few days....

What is missing in this picture? The wheel that was once on the left side of my cherished BBQ was burned to a black pile of plastic rubble on my driveway. You might also notice that the catcher that traditional sits beneath the the BBQ is missing as well. It was also missing when we brought all the food into the house, and left the BBQ to simmer and cool down. About a half hour later, after a few hot coals fell onto a piece of cardboard sitting underneath it, the wheel was fully engulfed. Had my sister not informed us of this bonfire on my driveway, who knows how bad this actually could have been.

Sunday evening, we were invited up to a beautiful elk ranch about a half hour drive to the east, to watch the elk rut and hopefully hear them bugle. Our destination was quite a bit off the beaten path and there is about 3 miles of gravel road to wind through to get to the ranch itself. What was supposed to be a leisurely jaunt around the property, turned into me changing a flat on rocky, uneven ground, and THEN driving down that rocky, uneven stretch on this little donut. I was angry and frustrated, but the gorgeous sunset helped to calm my troubled mood. We made it home safe and sound, albeit after a long, slow drive back.

Look at my right eye in each of these pictures. That is Viral Conjunctivitis. It's a little different than your run-of-the-mill pink eye which is more often than not a bacteria. Because its viral, there is no cure but time. I have drops that supposedly make it feel better, but its VERY temporary and I get very testy between the times when I can take them, which is four times a day. In the picture below, I am in between one of those times....can you tell?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stepping down. Pushing away.

Mood: Relatively sane. Regretfully sober.

Losing is really hard. I've lost thousands of poker hands. Many of them more memorable than the big wins. I played on a soccer team in my early teens that lost every game. 0-14. We struggled to get on the opposing side of the field most times. We scored 4 goals all season.

More recently, I played softball with a group of good friends. We spent 4 seasons together and had a good amount of fun. We played hard most nights; and lost most nights. After playing together for a few years, we solidified as a team and began to win. We took 3rd place in our division the last year we all played together. I remember every loss of that season very vividly, however, the wins are fuzzy and distant.

Today, 10-10-2010, was supposed to be a day of grandeur for me. A day when monkeys would leap gleefully off numbered backs, and streaks of futility would become history. Today, the stars aligned, and my two favorite sports teams played on television, back-to-back. However, both of my teams lost in spectacular fashion. Both of them imploded, cursed by bad management, and wasted talent, both of them living the cliche'; too little, too late.

Where was I in all of this? On the couch, on the floor, in the rocking chair, in the kitchen (as far away from the TV as I could possibly be, and still see the action), pacing nervously wearing a carpet track that I can still see. For 6 hours I roamed in the vicinity of the action, not wanting to miss a second, but wanting to run away all the same.

At some point within the late afternoon hours, I said to myself out loud, "There is going to come a point where I can't take this anymore." And here I am; reaching that very point.

I've spent the better part of two decades engrossing myself in every major sport; the personalities, the statistics, the scandals, the unlikely victories and the devastating losses. I have spent countless hours, days, weeks bemoaning a tough lose; replaying them in my head and second-guessing every managerial or coaching strategy. There were times when I thought I might never get over it; that I might never be able to let things go.

So here I am, a 32 year old, married, father of 3, unable to get over what is essentially childrens play. I have personally played all the sports I follow in one form or another. Sometimes I was very successful, and others, I was glaringly awful. But what remains is this; it is only a game. It has always been only a game. It has never been anything more. A game; with lines, fields, players, officials, boundaries and goals. I have wept more in the anguish of my teams losing, than in the joy of the triumphs of my children. I have showed more passion in the heat of a football game, than I have in the undeniable talents of my wife. I have devoted more time and energy to these games, than I have developing talents and ideas of my own that have laid dormant for a great number of years.

Where does this possibly leave me? Well, it leaves me here at this desk, typing to a world of strangers (and a few friends); not in front of ESPN's Sportcenter, swearing inaudibly, eventually dragging myself upstairs full of vitriol and sadness at my losses. No, that's not me anymore. My heart, my mind, the things I hold dear to me, just can't take it anymore. I'm a fat man shoving my chair away from Thanksgiving dinner. The World of Sports is about to take a backseat to hobbies, and individuals, that take precedence; and frankly, should have taken precedence long ago.

So, fair well my dear friend; I shall watch from afar, and will never be able to completely let go of you. However, I have given you a good many years, and life will certainly never be the same living it without your companionship. The boys of summer will have played their last game in the twilight of fall, and the men of the gridiron will grapple with each other into the wee months of winter. As for me, Lord willing, the sun will rise all the same.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waste of my time

Before I was married, I probably watched 3 to 4 movies a week. I was not picky, and usually, the more implausible and stupid the movie was, the more I was entertained. The last decade, as the number of dependents grow within the walls of my home, the number of films I watch has taken a steady decline to the tune of maybe 1 or 2 movies a month. Because of this drastic change in viewing practices, I usually try really hard to get the scoop on a film before I devote sleep and family time to watch it. I usually check with trusted friends, reviews on Netflix, and my trusted pal, Roger Ebert. I have also been known to take a chance on a movie solely because I think the story is enticing, or original; which is precisely what I did this past weekend with a movie called "The Lovely Bones".

The film tells the story about a girl who is murdered at the age of 14 in a senseless and brutal way. However, her character remains the narrator of the film as she watches life on Earth unfold from her perch above in some bizarro world between death and eventual heaven. It is later explained (at least, this my my take on it) that she was having a hard time letting go of her earthly, familial life, so she was kind of in limbo until she could bring herself to do so.

Well, in the meantime her family goes on coping with her death, each other, and the fact that the investigation into the murder has completely stalled. Her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) cope with their grief in entirely different ways, and seemingly grow apart. Wahlberg's character becomes very involved in the investigation and continuously pesters the detective in charge of his daughter's case. His contributions are both irrelevant and unwanted.

See, the plot doesn't sound so bad at this point, does it? Well, unfortunately for this movie, the director (Peter Jackson) decides to fill the gaps with mindless crap, plot holes the size of our lovely planet, and characters that lack importance, relevance and interest.

Let me just say, we know who the killer is within the first 15 minutes of the film. That works for Law and Order, but it doesn't work here. The reason being, the killer is one of the most uninteresting characters in the film and yet he is undoubtedly one of the most important. We never really know his motivation, we know very little of his background, or the desire that drives him. We. Know. Nothing. And really, we never get the chance to either. The audience never gets to either hate this man, cope with him in some way, or at the very least, gain an understanding of where he is coming from. All of that is overlooked so that we can follow around this young girl in her afterlife while she struggles to deal with the fact that her younger sister got kissed before she ever did. Yes....I am being serious.

The insanity doesn't stop there. The night the girl goes missing, the family is gathered around the dinner table wondering when Suzie is coming home. In the first scene, her little sister says, "she is staying after school for film club", and one scene later, while sitting around the same dinner table, dad says, "so, when did you say Suzie was coming home from the mall?" The sister goes on to answer the question, seemingly unaware that mere minutes prior she told him she was staying after school for film club. Bad editing, terrible oversight.

This movie also has one of those implausible moments where one of the characters is the strongest, quickest, most agile human beings on earth in one scene, then two scenes later nearly has a heart attack walking to his car. I will explain this scene, not because I want to ruin the movie, but because you need to know how ridiculous this is and share in my laughter.

So, the murderer has the little girl stuffed in a massive safe in his basement, which has a very long staircase to the main floor. There comes a point where he has to move the safe, and he has to do it fast. In a matter of about a minute, he has the safe up the stairs, in the back of his pickup, covered with a tarp, and he's outta there! Meanwhile, when he gets to his destination, he pays a man a large sum of money to help him move the safe towards a large sinkhole. Together, they move this safe painfully slow, rolling it on to its side, over and over again until they reach the hole. It is supposed to be a very somber, painful part of the film, but I just sat there stunned at what I was seeing. How do paid professionals oversee this??

Perhaps the most disappointing part of all of this is that it is Peter Jackson's fault. This is the man that directed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. How is this possibly the same person? As long as this review is, I could double it over again with more complaints. Honestly, I had heard this move was lacking, but wow, this is amateur crap. No stars for me.....but please, if you want a lesson in how to make a bad movie and spend too much time worrying about the pointless CGI in the afterlife, RUN RUN RUN to the nearest Blockbuster Video.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moon (2009)

The surface of the moon is lifeless and cold. On the parts that are facing away from the sun, the "nighttime" can get down to 243 degrees below zero. That's cold....even for a guy that lives in Rexburg.

"Moon" is about a man named Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) that works on the moon, for a duration of 3 years, monitoring harvester machines that process lunar rock and extract Helium-3, the newly chosen energy source of planet earth. Sam works alone. He is the only human on the station, however he is kept company by a robot named Gerty, who basically runs all components on the space station. He is highly intelligent, and is a nice, soothing voice (Kevin Spacey) to Sam.

Sam is a family man, and has left his wife and small daughter on Earth during his stint in space. He can communicate with them, but only through taped messages that headquarters sends him weekly. The live feed to Earth has allegedly been faulty the entirety of his employ, so these messages are his only communication beyond his lunar home.

When we meet Sam, he has about 2 weeks left before he can return home. He is antsy, impatient, and starts to see things that aren't really there. This is where I'll stop........

The movie is great sci-fi. I loved it. Its slow, but don't get impatient. Every scene has its purpose, and Sam Rockwell is brilliant (see Matchstick Men). The moon shots are really cool, and the interior of space station has an eerie, morgue-ish, feel to it as well. This is not a (BOO!) scary movie, but it is frightening in mostly a psychological way. There are two great twists that I enjoyed, and there might be a third if you keep an eye out for it.

The movie is rated R for a few F-bombs, but otherwise its good stuff. It might be hard to find at your local movie store, but Netflix has it on Instant viewing.

Just a quick note.....the film was directed by David Bowie's son, who had been doing commercials up until this point. Kind of gives new meaning to Bowie's 1969 hit song, Space Oddity. I look for him to do some other great stuff in the future. 3.5 stars for me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clooney is polished

A few nights ago, I wrote a killer film review about George Clooney's "Up in the Air". Unfortunately, the genius that is blogspot, erased it, never to be found again. Needless to say, its taking me until now to get over it, and give a VERY abbreviated version of what I wrote:

Clooney sucked the last ten years....can we just get that out of the way right now? He did "O Brother, where art thou?" in 2000, and then became Danny Ocean for a decade. Weak.

However, in "Up in the Air", he is a true leading actor.....he actually leads! I say that because he made everyone around him better. Both of his female counterparts received Oscar nominations for their roles, as well as Clooney.

As with most of my reviews, I try to stay away from talking about the plot too much....if you are interested in the film, you can do that on your own....but what I will say, is there are so many things that could have gone wrong in this movie, but it just stayed the course and clicked along. I can get along with movies like that, and I did famously with this one. This is Clooney's best movie, and we get to watch Anna Kendrick in her breakout performance. She is going to be a lead some day, and a dang good one at that. 4 stars for me easily.

Oh, one more thing I mentioned in the original review that I almost forgot here.....Jason Reitman directed this movie as well as "Juno" and "Thank you for Smoking". I recommend both of these films highly.....this young director has a long presence ahead. Go make yourself acquainted with him won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"You have to keep carrying the fire....The fire inside you."

The above is one of very few lines in the film, "The Road". The reason there aren't many lines is because, well, there aren't many people left in the world to talk to.
The story follows the meandering trek of a young boy and his father through post-apocalyptic America. They spend all of their time heading toward "the coast", dodging cannibals, and forging for food and shelter.
But moreover, this is a love story between a father and a son....and their daily struggle to uphold morals, and test their strength and courage. Its also a gauge of their will to live in a world in which everything else is either dead, or on the verge.
This is a dark, depressing movie at first glance, and if you've read the book (by Cormac McCarthy) you know what I'm talking about. However, the film itself offers at least some semblance of optimism that the book, I am realizing now, hopelessly glossed over, or didn't offer whatsoever.
I enjoyed both the book and the film equally, which is rare in my world. I think its because the film wasn't trying to be anything other than faithful to the book. Furthermore, I found myself "recognizing" the scenes in the movie, as the exact way I pictured them while reading the book. In all, the film is great, and has a GREAT cast. My favorite scene was with the old man (Robert Duvall).....its very cool. I recommend this movie, but be aware that there are some rough patches and some scenes that are disturbing.....remember, we are looking at post-apocalyptic life....its not a very pretty sight. See it, or read it...let me know what you think. 3.5 stars for me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Back on Track....

Okay, now that Soleil has settled in, and I'm not making daily, if not hourly, trips to the hospital for weeks on end, I can go back to reviewing some movies......

Before a few nights ago, it had been many, many months since I had sat down and watched a movie (somewhat) uninterrupted. So, with some time on my hands the other night, I decided to watch a film I had seen on several "Top 10 in 2009" lists, and even one "Top Movies of the decade" list. So, I gave Coraline a shot......and then I wanted to be shot.

The first half hour was spent being intrigued by the animation (the ONLY cool thing about the film), and the rest of the time was spent being pissed at the lack of character development, the lazy dialogue, and wondering why the story (which was intriguing in the beginning) had turned to a jumbled, obscure mess. Is it cool to make your film unwatchable in the name of trying to make it feel, well, trippy?
Again, I was willing to look past the strange, yet original animation, if the story could stay interesting for its duration.
I don't know, perhaps I wasn't in the right mood for it, but then again, I am scared of the mood I might have to be in to fully enjoy this movie. 1.5 stars for cool animation, and for an interesting first half hour.

Friends.....stay tuned for more reviews coming up. I have a few good ones here from Netflix, and I've had one request for "My Cousin Vinny". I will do those as soon as I get a quick chance to watch them!!