Thursday, March 11, 2004

Movieblogging: Strange Brew
Slowly grinding my way through the collection here... Tonight we have a true classic on our hands: The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983). Most of you kids are too young to remember SCTV, but it was a half-hour long comedy sketch show similar to Saturday Night Live but set in Toronto and almost entirely starring Canadian actors, as opposed to SNL, which just heavily relies on Canadian actors.

There are all sorts of laws in Canada about what's broadcast in the country (or transmitted via cable/satellite), and a large percentage of it all (including music on the radio) has to be original Canadian entertainment. The Canadian government was concerned that SCTV wasn't Canadian enough, so they asked two of the main actors, Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis (then virtually unknown in the US) to fix the problem. They said, "What, do you want a couple of morons wearing toques and flannel who drink a lot of beer and make loon calls?" The Canadian government apparently doesn't pick up on sarcasm, and thus "Great White North" was born, a skit on SCTV that's probably it's best known legacy. It was sort of like an early version of "Wayne's World", and the two Canadian-stereotype brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie would get drunk and ramble about vaguely Canadian things for five minutes. It was the only skit on the show popular enough to merit a spinoff movie, and thus we have Strange Brew.

This is a classic 80s movie... It became sort of a cult classic enjoyed by people of all ages, because it was rated PG and didn't contain anything too offensive. Though I saw this a dozen times as a youth, I never picked up on the fact that the entire plot is blatantly ripped off from Hamlet until I was an adult and bought the DVD on a whim from the bargain bin. The brewery that serves as the centerpiece of the movie is called Elsinore. The owner of the brewery was killed by his brother, Claude (played by the prolific Paul Dooley, who married the owner's widow. The daughter simultaneously plays the roles of Hamlet and Ophelia, and Bob and Dog play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Meanwhile, the owner frequently appears as the ghost in the machine of the brewery computer system. It's really quite brilliant.

Throw in a bunch of dumb jokes, a dash of surrealism, really bad 80s computer effects, and a mad scientist played by Max von Sydow, and you've got a classic on your hands.
Movieblogging: Duplex
I felt the need for something odd tonight, so I picked up Duplex (2003). This movie completely escaped my notice when it came out, even though I'm a fan of Ben Stiller, the later work of Drew Barrymore, and the director/producer works of Danny DeVito. (One day, I'm going to be in a bar, and somebody's going to make some crack about DeVito, and I'm going to say, "Bro, Danny produced Gattaca." And then he's going to argue, and then I'm going to have to break a rib or two, and the other guy might get hurt as well...)

This movie is sick and twisted, and I kind of like it. Two yuppies versus an evil and manipulative old woman. And might I say, Drew Barrymore looks damned fine in this movie. She's got a healthy amount of meat on her bones, which sadly wasn't the case when she posed for Playboy back in the 90s. It's great to see her looking healthy and sober and sane. And in this movie she plays a graphic designer! Personally, I'm forever indebted to her for moving mountains in order to get Donnie Darko made and in the way the writer/director wanted.

There are some other fun actors in this--Mya Rudolph, the lovely actress of mixed ethnicity on Saturday Night Live. Wallace Shawn played the Sicilian Vizzini in The Princess Bride. Harvey Fierstein has a thankfully small role (great in small doses). Justin Theroux isn't a household name, but he's been in some good movies so far...

If you've ever had a roommate that annoyed you, or have had to take care of an elderly relative that drives you nuts, you'll appreciate this movie.
Kerry the Catholic
Slate weighs in on the isue of Kerry's catholicism, and his break from the more socially conservative edicts from the Vatican. If elected president, he'd be only the second non-Protestant president in U.S. history, the other one being John F. Kennedy. Kennedy and Kerry both have the same initials, and both were senators from Massachusetts during their runs for president. Kerry just needs to get a Lincoln and a Johnson in his cabinet and the force of coincidence could be very grim indeed.

For the record, the largest religious grouping of presidents adhered to the Episcopalian faith, with Presbyterians coming in second and assorted Protestant groups filling out the rest.
Jerome Lawrence, R.I.P.
Easterblogg brings us news of the death of Jerome Lawrence. You probably haven't heard of him, but he was one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. His best known and most enduring work was Inherit the Wind, a play based on the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the above posting, Greg Easterbrook tears into the play. While I'm normally one to stick up for the south (and my home state) when I feel we've been wronged, I don't think the play goes too far. Easterbrook feels that it set back the science vs. religion debate by making the conflict look more hostile than it actually was, but fails to point out that arguing the two is like conducting a debate in which one side speaks Russian and the other speaks Chinese. There's no logical way for it to work. And since our justice system, while certainly influenced at various points by religious ethics, relies on science, reason, and logic. Therefore it's absurd to give religious arguments equal weight in a court of law or, as far as I'm concerned, in the court of public opinion.

I'll go ahead and name drop here, since I got to meet Jerome Lawrence back in 1992. I was a theatre student at the time (lighting tech) as well as a producer for the high school TV station and the city's public access channel. Lawrence spent two weeks with us, focusing mainly on the actors and the one or two budding writers, but I enjoyed talking to him nonetheless. For someone that's been heavily involved in Hollywood for most the 20th century, he was remarkably down to earth and kind, not to mention patient for putting up with a bunch of high school students. There was also a film crew with him shooting footage for a documentary--I don't know if it ever got made, but there's a few shots of me collecting dust on 3/4" tape somewhere.
Terrorist Attack in Spain
190 dead, over a thousand injured... The authorities immediately blamed the Basque separatist group ETA, but I'm inclined to think it's the work of Al Qaeda. There's already a letter from Al Qaeda claiming responsibility, and early evidence that Arabic language tapes were found in a van linked to the blast.

The government of Spain, like that of the United Kingdom, has stood steadfast alongside the U.S. since 9/11, even against the wishes of their own populations. Brothers in arms, now brothers in mourning.

Hoy somos todos Españoles...

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Movie Review List
All done... I've just finished making a list of all of the movies I've blogged. There are 126 posts covering 139 movies. 15 of those are in my collection, leaving only... 50 from my collection to blog. Oog...

Looking over this list, I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed. Without further ado, here it is.

Note that all of these links go to the Rum Smuggler reviews, and the IMDB links are located within those reviews. Also note that these links may not work, because of the transitory nature of Blogger's permalinks. At worst, you'll have to scroll down to find the review you seek.
  1. The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag
    Meet Wally Sparks
    Batman Forever
    Bend It Like Beckham
    Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde
    Double Whammy
    Taking Care of Business

  2. The New Guy

  3. Naked Lunch
  4. Max
  5. Private Parts
    Valley Girl

  6. I Spy
  7. Auto Focus
  8. Cleopatra
  9. Pee Wee's big Adventure
  10. Clerks*
  11. Beautiful Girls
  12. Raiders of the Lost Ark*
    Kiki's Delivery Service
    A Mighty Wind*

  13. Big Fat Liar
  14. Flirting With Disaster
  15. Ski School
  16. Harlem Nights
  17. Plain Clothes
  18. National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion
  19. Tillie's Punctured Romance
  20. A Mighty Wind (Extras)*
  21. Taxi Driver
  22. X2: X-Men United*
  23. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom*
  24. Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
  25. Johnny Be Good
  26. 100 Women
  27. From Hell
  28. Full Metal Jacket
  29. Ballet m�canique
  30. Pretty Woman
  31. L'�ge d'or
  32. Timeline
  33. Ringu
    Finding Nemo

  34. One Crazy Summer
  35. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers*
  36. Analyze That
  37. The Scorpion King
  38. The Hebrew Hammer
  39. Psycho Beach Party
  40. Un chien andalou
  41. 40 Days and 40 Nights
  42. Mulholland Drive
  43. The Battleship Potemkin
  44. Bruce Almighty
  45. Making a Living
  46. Tango Tangles
  47. Glory
  48. Pirates of the Caribbean
  49. Steel
  50. Kill Me Later
  51. Chasing Amy*
  52. Red Sonja
  53. The Majestic
  54. Almost Heroes
  55. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure
  56. Eight Crazy Nights
  57. Adaptation
  58. A Christmas Past
  59. JFK
  60. Black Dog
  61. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  62. A Christmas Story
  63. Slackers
  64. Sixteen Candles*
  65. The Breakfast Club*
  66. Weird Science*
  67. Bad Company
  68. Alex & Emma
  69. Run Ronnie Run!
  70. National Security
  71. Beavis & Butt-head Do America
  72. The Salton Sea
  73. Cast a Deadly Spell
  74. The League of Extraorindary Gentlemen
  75. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  76. The Godfather
  77. Sleeper
  78. Scenes from a Mall
  79. American Wedding
  80. The Doctor and the Devils
  81. Max Dugan Returns
  82. One Hour Photo
  83. After Hours
  84. Catch Me If You Can
  85. A Trip to the Moon

  86. The Bad News Bears
  87. Just Married
  88. Don't Say A Word
  89. The Man With A movie Camera
  90. Flicker Memories
  91. The Road to Perdition
  92. Opportunity Knocks
  93. The Exorcist
  94. Underworld
  95. Drumline
  96. The Jerky Boys
  97. Johnny English
    Ferris Bueller's Day Off*

  98. Teen Wolf
  99. The 'burbs
  100. About Schmidt
  101. Airheads
  102. Solaris
  103. Comic Book the Movie
  104. Groundhog Day
  105. Rare Birds
  106. Big Trouble in Little China
  107. Hot to Trot
  108. Masterminds
  109. Lost in Translation*
  110. My Boss's Daughter
  111. Deliverance
  112. Kate & Leopold
  113. Miller's Crossing
  114. Wild America
  115. Police Academy 3: Back in Training
  116. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
  117. Sapphire Girls
  118. Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
  119. Volunteers
  120. Going Ape!
  121. Kangaroo Jack
  122. Frida
  123. Best in Show*
  124. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade*
  125. School of Rock*
  126. Van Wilder*
*Denotes a DVD in my collection.
Movieblogging: Van Wilder
I'm busy with a few odd projects--actually, one of them involves making a list of all of the individual links to the movies I've reviewed here. But I need something mindless and stupid in the background, so let's load up... Van Wilder (2002). This kills three birds with one stone, as it's a DVD that I own that I haven't physically watched (I've seen it before), it's a movie that I haven't blogged, and it's a movie in my collection that I haven't blogged.

This is a great fun, stupid movie. I keep it on my shelf between Animal House and Old School. It fits in well between those two. And it's technically a National Lampoon movie, and one of the few recent ones that doesn't suck.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of this movie is the performance of lead actor Ryan Reynolds in the role of Van Wilder. In many ways, he pays homage to a young Chevy Chase, but manages to create a style all his own. Kudos to the director for casting Animal House alum Tim Matheson as Wilder's father.

Other notable performances include Tara Reid doing her hot yet smart blonde chick routine and Curtis "Booger" Armstrong as a campus security officer. Do we even have to mention the performance of Paul Gleason as an influential professor?

Mainly it's about dumb college fun stuff, gross-out jokes, gratuitous nudity, and all of the other things that make life worth living.
Dagwood Sandwich
A chap in England bought a loaf of bread, and upon getting home discovered that it had been sliced lengthwise rather than in cross sections. Rather than complain or throw it out, he decided to make a massive Dagwood sandwich that he called El Bocadillo Del Diablo. Looks pretty nasty to me, but I'm a sucker for any weird food challenge like this. Not to actively participate in, but I find watching and reading about such "extreme eating" to be hilarious.

One of my favorites is the guy who ordered a burger at In & Out that had 32 hamburger patties and 32 slices of cheese on it and ate it in one sitting. The pictures were educational, but I can't find the site right now. Another related challenge is to go to Wendy's and order one of everything from the 99 cent menu and then eat it all in order. The rules of the Wendy's Challenge permit you to sip your beverage throughout the meal, but otherwise everything else has to be done in order. As the article indicates, the baked potato at #6 separates the men from the boys. It's really hard to choke down a baked potato after two burgers, fries, chili, and chicken nuggets--and then you've got two salads and a frosty to down after the potato. I've read a few different accounts of people who took the challenge, some completing it, some with pictures, several involved eventual projectile vomiting.

Back to the sandwich... The technique shown is sometimes utilized by caterers to make little crustless finger sandwiches (pimento cheese, chicken salad, etc.) or small club sandwiches. You can make a lot of tiny crustless sandwiches very quickly and with little waste. Obviously this is done using only two or three slices of bread at a time; the above construction appears to be a little unwieldy for normal eating.

While I'm thinking of weird sandwiches, I'm reminded of this guy I knew in middle school. I don't remember his name--let's call him Greg. Greg was one of the oddballs who sort of orbited around my circle of friends for a few months, and our main contact with him was having him sit near us at lunch. Don't get the impression that I was in a clique--we were a group of unpopular nerds who played RPGs during lunch and talked about computers. We certainly weren't in a position to shun anyone, but Greg was pretty annoying. He was one of those guys that, at age 13, thought it was still a good idea to make loud fart noises in public and threaten to wipe snot on people. A real class act.

So one day Greg showed up for lunch with an absolutely monstrous sandwich. It must have weighed five pounds or more. I vaugely recognized it as being one of those super-wide deli sandwiches sold at the grocery store, meant for cutting up into multiple pieces and served at a party. Only a committed glutton or bulimic could consume the thing during a 30-minute lunch period. We asked him what was going on, and it turned out that his parents were out of town for a week, and had bought him the sandwich to use for his school lunches while they were gone. Skipping the obvious questions of why they didn't just give him lunch money or the raw material to make sandwiches (surely even Greg could have figured that out), we told him that he probably should have cut it in sections and left the rest in the refrigerator at home. "Naw man, I don't know how much I'm gonna want."

Greg trucked the sandwich from home to school and back again all week. Presumably (hopefully) he stuck it in the fridge while at home, but we weren't sure. What was certain was that the sandwich was carted around at room temperature for eight hours a day, five days in a row. Some of you may remember a similar plot line from The Simpsons, a move that resulted in Homer coming down with a horrible stomach virus. Greg didn't get sick in our presence, but he wasn't looking too good by the end of the week, and while his enthusiasm for the sandwich had waned, he kept gnawing on it. We offered to pool our change and buy him lunch, but he was committed to follow his parents' instructions and keep munching on the sandwich.

Some may find this a parable of dedication, but for those that had to endure Greg, it was just another episode in a long line of nasty actions.
Though the offer hasn't been extended, John McCain said he'd be willing to run as John Kerry's VP. Talk about a politics junkie's wet dream... Though I don't agree with McCain on everything, I admire his track record of voting his conscience as opposed to voting the party line. He's probably the closest thing we've got to a true independent in Congress. There's Jim Jeffords (the only official independent), but he's got absolutely no connections on the Republican side and, since he hasn't officially become a Democrat and they ended up losing the Senate pretty quickly after Jeffords' defection, his usefulness is limited. McCain's got a lot of clout with both sides, and I'm sure he's got enemies from both as well, but he's actually in a position to get things done.

While fun to think about, I seriously doubt it will happen. I don't think there's ever been a split-party ticket (successful or unsuccessful). The closest was the election of 1864 when Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, chose a new VP candidate, replacing the sitting Hannibal Hamlin with Democrat Andrew Johnson. However, Lincoln and Johnson ran under the Union Party label, as both the Republican and Democratic parties were heavily fractured by the Civil War, and none of the Confederate states voted in the 1864 election. (Just check out the electoral maps for 1860 and 1864.) That was a compromise under a coalition party in the midst of really extreme circumstances.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Spalding Gray: Final Update
It's official; the body of Spalding Gray has been positively identified after being pulled from the East River. Given the decomposition, it looks like he may have been there since shortly after his disappearance.
Divided Government
This morning brings a brace of posts on the subject of divided government, one hopeful from Heretical Ideas and one encouraging yet skeptical from Vodkapundit. I've stated before that I love the notion of divided government, and let's face it, the 90s wouldn't have been as much fun with Republicans controlling all branches of government. As it was, congressional gridlock led to an unprecedented era of lower government spending. I'm concerned about the current situation, in which we have the Republicans cutting taxes (good) but increasing spending (bad) and engaging in weird religious campaigns about pointless issues (very bad).

I tend to agree with Vodkapundit's assessment of the prospects; it's going to be nigh-impossible for the Democrats to regain the Senate or House this year, especially since they're putting all of their energy into the presidential race. (In my opinion, a bad move--they should have concentrated on getting back the Senate, run an unconventional candidate for president like Dean, and then focused on building up the House in 2006 and ramping up for a takeover of the White House in 2008, since Cheney can't conceivably run for president that year.)
Movieblogging: School of Rock
This review is two days late, but I had an eventful weekend... Saturday night with the guys I saw School of Rock (2003), now part of the DVD collection thanks to a nice sale price. I enjoy pretty much anything with Jack Black in it, with the notable exception of Shallow Hal. (I wasn't offended by it as many people were, I just didn't think it worked as a comedy, drama, or a movie in general.) Many think of him as a one-note actor--in fact, he's playing basically the same character in this as he does in High Fidelity and in his band, Tenacious D. But he's got a surprisingly long resume, and is also able to play minor, less noticeable characters (for instance, in The Cable Guy).

This one should be well known to everyone thanks to well-deserved publicity and acclaim. The casting is superb, the music is kick-ass, and the writing is quite natural. I disagree with the PG-13 rating; I think it was safely in the realm of PG. It was directed by Richard Linklater, who directed Dazed and Confused, who's up there with Kevin Smith as an important slacker director of the 90s. Joan Cusack is always a joy to see, and she manages to play the principal without succumbing to the usual stereotyped performance you see in this kind of movie. Mike White plays Black's roommate; he's also the movie's writer (and wrote the outstanding Orange County, in which he had a small role as the English teacher). And Sarah Silverman? Yowza!

One thing pointed out in my drunken ramblings with the guys (I was drunk, they were ready to bolt for the door in case I started waving knives around or something) was that there are some excellent management strategies utilized in the movie, particularly making the most efficient use of your team members' strengths and weaknesses. While this movie contained many formulaic elements, I still think it has its own unique charm and can be enjoyed by a wide range of people. By wide range, I'm talking about guys ages 10-40 who are already familiar with Jack Black. I know a couple of female teachers I'm going to test it out on in the near future...

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