Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot . . .




I don't usually waste time wishing it, but since this is the end of what has been a momentous decade at the dawn of the new millennium, people . . .

...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

This year had started out great, got a little bumpy near the middle, and then settled out to mediocrity near the end -- but it was a good year nonetheless.

By contrast, the decade started out very bumpy, got damn near turned over toward the middle, but has ended on a much higher note for me personally than I could have ever imagined. Closing it out, I'm: healthier, a lot more prosperous, and hopefully just a tad bit wiser than when I came in to the "oughts," and would just like to wish everyone happiness and good cheer as we face 2010 and beyond!

UP THE UNIVERSE!!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes



Earlier in the year I wrote this highly indignant blog entry in response to a just-released trailer of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film. In it, I pretty much railed against what I'd perceived as a great departure from the source material I'd grown up reading.

Well, I'm here to eat some crow and admit that I was dead wrong! Ritchie's latest flick is in fact a perfectly serviceable homage to both the literary canon of Holmesian lore, as well as the more successful television, film, and stage productions of the past. I'm going to have to look it up, but after watching this film I'm starting to wonder if perhaps the ex- Mr. Madonna might not in fact be an honorable Sherlockian. Such is the loving care with which he treats the characters and milieu of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest creation.

True, there are perhaps a little too many modern affectations thrown in to qualify this as an authentic period piece (for one, Watson constantly refers to himself as a "doctor" rather than a physician), but one learns to quickly roll with these few lapses and simply enjoy the film for what it is. Which is, to wit, a darn rollickin' good detective caper filled with surprises, plot twists, and wonderfully intellectual reveals that satisfies both the educated and non-indoctrinated Holmes fan alike!

I specifically want to praise Robert Downey, Jr. for a surprisingly adept rendering of the Holmes character. I was extremely skeptical before tonight, but now I'm a believer! He was almost spot-on, surpassing all but the late great Jeremy Brett as the most pitch-perfect Holmes I've seen. Only a few quibbles here and there knock him down a notch or two, primarily his short stature and permanently grizzled cheeks and chin. But, big deal. The attitude, quick-witted dialogue, and constant needling of Watson all live up to the Holmes I know and love.

I won't go into much detail regarding the rest of the cast, except to say that they were serviceable. Mark Strong as the villain Lord Blackwood was woefully one-dimensional but served a certain end, while Rachel McAdams was cute and lively, but sometimes a little *too* modern in portrayal compared to the character taken from one of Sir Doyle's classic Holmes' tales. Jude Law as Watson is the only really memorable performance besides Downey's, playing Watson exactly as he was always meant to be: A well-balanced foil to Holmes's relentless and acerbic repartee. Kudos to Law for bringing just the right amount of charm and humor to a role many before him have tragically played too stiff and proper. Sure, he could've been a bit shorter, older, and walking with a limp -- but that's nitpicking.

As someone well-versed in the literature, I was also delighted by all the inside nods and references the director peppers throughout the film--Watson's impending marriage; a certain female somebody from Holmes's past; and even the deft set-up of his nefarious nemesis, Prof. Moriarty--which helps solidify this movie as one of the better treatments of the famous super sleuth ever seen on the big screen.

Yeah, I am not being superfluous here, believe it or not. If it wasn't for how much I adore Ritchie's earlier works--particularly Snatch--I would dare venture the verdict that this is his finest film yet.

Aw hell, I *will* say it! This is Guy's masterpiece!

My only fear is that, given the way things comes to an end setting up for an obvious sequel or two, that Mr. Ritchie may not in fact come back to continue what he has started. Oh please let this not be so. As good as this outing was, I can only imagine the awesomeness of what would ensue if we got to see the world's greatest detective battle against the most brilliant criminal mastermind of the Victorian age. That's a showdown I would pay big bucks to see directed, but only in Guy Ritchie's more than capable hands.

Rating:  8.5/10

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mad Driving For The Holidays

Well, I made it back in one piece! Although, no thanks to myself, judging by the way I whipped the rent-a-car around some dangerous curves last night. You'd think I was intentionally trying to cash-in on all the liability insurance I signed up for at the agency.

For those who don't know, my brother and his girlfriend flew in for Christmas and we all piled into the car and drove 164 miles north up to my Aunt's house in the middle of the woods near the Massachusetts border. The route was a scenic one, and when we started to climb up into the mountains, it got very wintry wonderland around us. The trees were all silver with frost! Although, thankfully, it didn't reach the surface of the roads. Testing my glide handling on four spinning wheels is not a skill I wanted to acquire at this particular time, thank you.

Still, I don't drive much so this was a big one for me. The trip usually takes nearly 3 hours, but I did it in under 2 and a half. Seems I have a bit of a lead foot. I tried to slow down--I really did--but honestly, the highway was damn near deserted almost the entire ride up. All that empty road just *begging* for speed, I could not resist. The speed limit was a constant 55 mph due to all the curves, including some hairpin and S-turns. But--except for the really severe bends--it was a struggle to keep the speedometer below 72. Sometimes I was taking turns at 80 mph! I mean, SHEESH!

I definitely need to curb this bad habit. It's not something I want to continue doing when I drive in the future. I'm just begging for something to go wrong.

Anyway, I rented a cool 2008 Pontiac G6 as you can see in the pic. What a great vehicle! The handling was superb, and I have to commend the folks over at Avis for maintaining the car as well as they did. Especially the brakes! This car stopped on a dime like nobody's business.




Driving on the way back down, in the dark, it started to rain and rain HARD. I foolishly stayed in the fast lane and continued pushing near 80 even while other drivers were slowing down and taking it easy. We all made it back in one piece at least, and I can honestly say that I learned a lot about driving in the two days I've had the rental. I noticed today when returning the car that my road handling had greatly improved.

Thanks twisty thruway from hell! I knew you was good for something.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Karate Kid Remake Trailer



I'm sitting here with a big smile on my face.

See, the Karate Kid is one of my most favorite of 80s movies -- right up there with The Last Dragon and Coming to America. These movies are so indelibly connected to 80s nostalgia in my mind. Karate Kid in particular holds a special place in my movie-loving heart. It instantly transports me back to being 8 years old. I've seen this movie so many times I can recite it word for word.

See also, the Internet is full of jaded ass-hats. They heard that a remake was in the works, and that the core concept was being altered. Instead of Karate, the focus this time would be Kung-fu. And instead of an old Japanese man teaching a young American kid a martial art from his home country, this time it was an old Chinese man played by Jackie Chan. And--worst of all, according to these same ass-hats--the Ralph Macchio character, Daniel, was now Andre or "Dre" and being portrayed by Will Smith's son, Jaden.

Loud was the collective nerdgassing heard around the interwebs at this news. Loud, I tell you! Everyone and their crippled autistic uncles swore that this movie had no choice but to SUCK and suck it hard.

But now I've seen the trailer, and so shall you. And you will see why it is that I have a big grin on my face, and why it is that I think the cherished memories of my 80s youth have not been unduly molested. Click on the embedded Yahoo player below and judge for yourself:



Now I ask you, does this movie not look like THE SHIT? Because, to me, it kicks all 31 assorted flavors of ASS! This is so cool! I can't wait to watch this. I think the tone is just about perfect and, being that I love all things China, the setting is way cooler that the California "valley" of the original.

Go Jaden! I knew you could do it! Following in the esteemed footsteps of your daddy. You're going to take over the Hollywood game, I just *know* it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mmmmm -- Chocolaty!!!

The fruits of my latest baking endeavors:




I made a batch of two-dozen, lusciously thick chocolate brownies today using Ghirardelli squares cut up into pieces. Oooh, the way they melted in the center of the brownie mixture -- simply DIVINE! Biting into one after the pan cooled down was like pure heaven. I almost collapsed under the onslaught of so much baked yumminess.

Phew! These things are deadly.

First Major Snow Of The Season!

NYC, like most of the East Coast, got walloped with a huge snow storm yesterday. We got a whole 11 inches here in the city. Whoa! Because of the low-light conditions, I didn't take any pictures until this morning--when most of the major shoveling had already been done.




Funny, last year we got our first snow at roughly the same time: Tuesday, Dec. 16 to be precise. I blogged about the event (with pics) here. Of course, that snow was nothing compared to this one. We barely got an inch then. Contrast that with last night, and I wonder if this portends a much more turbulent winter this season.

Oh, I do hope so! Nothing I love more than seeing the city grind to a halt under a huge avalanche of snow. I hope we get lots and lots more in the coming months. *fingers crossed*










Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Day

Well, that day I look forward to all year long has come at last!

What am I referring to? Why, my last day at the office before my annual two-week vacay. The next time I'll be back, the calendar will say 2010!!!

I almost never do anything during these two weeks off at the end of the year. Maybe I'll clean the house, maybe I'll play video games (like Uncharted 2 this year, or Prince of Persia last year), maybe I'll write.

All or none of the above.

It doesn't matter, I can do whatever I want. That's the whole point! What I won't be doing, is stressing over the holidays. I could really care less at this point. I've decided not to get gifts for ANYBODY this year. Except, of course, my darling wife. She deserves it. And besides, I'm not a complete Scrooge!

Oh, and the kiddies will be getting gifts. Because no kid should ever go without something shiny and wrapped in flimsy paper under the tree at this time of the year. It's just INHUMANE! There should be a law against it.

But because the kiddies in question are on Lisa's side of the family, she'll be dealing with all their gifts. Less worry for me. Here's how the conversation went the other day with our 2 yr old nephew, Chandler:

LISA:   "Chandler, what do you want for Christmas?"

NEPHEW (big smile):   "Presents!"

LISA:   "What kind of presents?"

NEPHEW:   "Christmas presents!!!"

lololol . . . That boy cracks me up, no doubt about it. But at least he's clear on what he wants. If only the rest of us could approach life so.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Question For The Day

Why is it that when a woman says: "I hate men!" we think she's had too many bad dating experiences, but when a grown man says: "I hate women," it's because he hasn't dated enough?

Discuss amongst yourselves . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Robin Hood Trailer - OH MY GAWD!!!

I swear, is there no better director out there than Ridley Scott? Of course, I think I've about had enough of his collaborating with Russell Crowe, though. Haven't you?

Still, the man is a fine actor, so I can't really knock the relationship too hard. And judging by this teaser trailer for the upcoming Robin Hood historical hitting theaters next Summer, it's a pairing that obviously WORKS so well!



Wow, color me impressed. I still have a soft spot for the Kevin Costner-starring Prince of Thieves released back in the early 90s, but this is looking to be the most definitive Robin Hood portrayal yet! Woo-hoo! I really can't get enough of the tale . . . no matter how many times they re-imagine it.

Here We Go Again . . .

Looks like the other shoe has dropped: the Lord of the Rings trilogy is headed to Blu-ray next Spring! Read Mania's reporting of the news for more details.

So yet again I'm faced with the painful dilemma to triple-dip or not. See, I already own both the theatrical set and the extended edition set on standard DVD. Which, if you'd watched either set, you would know that calling them "standard" would be a gross misunderstanding. But considering these are my favorite fantasy movies of all time--and favorite trilogy behind the original Star Wars--I find myself sorely tempted to own the most definitive version out there.

True, these are only the theatrical copies we're talking about. If I were to shell out the money for a triple-dip, it would be for the extended edition on Blu-ray. Which, rumor has it, is going to see release on the format at a later date.

So as usual this means decisions, decisions by yours truly. Oh the agony!

And, hey, looks like Hitler predicted this would happen all along! If you don't have any clue what I'm referring to, hearken back to this blog post I wrote a few weeks ago concerning the "downfall" of HD-DVD and re-watch the video clip at the end. That's right: Adolf knew this would be a big deal, too!

'Nother One Of Those 'Year In Movies' Reviews

Because apparently I can't get enough, here is this week's Tara Perry (aka, The Movie Maven) clip from Mania.com:



As far as top 10 picks go for the year, most of these are spot-on for me. I just saw Up! for the first time on Blu-ray, and I have to say that that was one brilliantly amazing little animated film. Wow! It really is a must see. You hear that? I'm telling *YOU* that you must see this movie. As in right now. Yes, RIGHT NOW! Get up out of your chair, head to your nearest video store, and get this DVD as soon as humanly possible. You'll thank me later for it.

As for the rest of the list, I could nitpick the placement of most of those films (Star Trek is not my # 1, for instance), but I'll leave that alone. However, I would like to point out that someone on the Mania staff is smoking the good shit if they honestly think Drag Me To Hell or Paranormal Activity belongs on that list. Okay, okay . . . it's a well known fact that I'm not a big fan of horror films. Especially not the recent trends in that genre over the past few years (Thanks a lot, SAW). So I admit I'm a little biased here.

What do I think should have been on the list instead?

Well, for one: Watchmen. The exclusion of this is a travesty like no other. Especially for a genre site like Mania. What were they thinking?

Secondly: Moon. Okay, I know it's a little-known independent title, but Moon was the second-best sci-fi movie of the year, only behind District 9. Sam Rockwell should get an Oscar nod for his performance, and Duncan Jones should as well for writing and/or directing. It still boggles my mind that here at the end of the year the film has not seen a wider release. What are they waiting for? Anyway, the DVD comes out next month, so I guess I'll have to settle for having it in my home library. It should be on this list instead of Paranormal Activity, who's celebrity comes in the fact that it raked in millions despite only costing thousands to produce.

Moon is the far better movie.

What do you think?

NOTE: Click on the movie titles if you want to familiarize yourself with each film through watching the trailers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh, No Way!

Now, of course, this is just to whet the appetites (and dreams) of Batman: Arkham Asylum fanboys everywhere, but a teaser trailer for a sequel hit the web recently. So, of course I have to post it here:



You're not really showed a lot, although a lot *can* and should be read between the lines. For one, it seems old Jokes is still alive. Which isn't really that hard to believe, given who we're talking about here. But it also seems he and his goons have taken over Gotham. Or, at least, a very beat-down quadrant of the city. Whatever the case may be, it's clear the developers at Rocksteady cobbled this together from the already existing and still smoking game engine from the previous game. It has only been 4 months since it released, after all. So I'm sure most if not all of this footage will NOT appear in the actual sequel.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I'm not sufficiently intrigued. Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of my top gaming highlights of 2009. I love that game to death! I'm hoping this teaser means we'll only have to wait until next Summer for a sequel.

*crosses fingers*

Saturday, December 12, 2009

With This Ring . . .



On her way out the door to work, Lisa stopped in the elevator, held up her hand, and wiggled her ring finger.

"You done good!"

LOL! It cracks me up that even to this day, over 4 years since we've been married, she still gushes over the rings I picked out. Especially her engagement ring, which she never stops admiring. I have to admit, it is a lovely ring. I put a lot of time and research into picking just the right one. A ring I just knew she'd love. Unlike some women, Lisa didn't want to pick it out herself. She wanted to be surprised. And she trusted that I knew her well enough, which I did. She never saw it coming, the day I proposed. And she thinks it's the most perfect diamond ring in the WORLD!

We're not a materialistic couple in the slightest. Our lives don't revolve around money, or the ostentatious flashing of trinkets that money can buy. But in this one thing my wife is not abashed. She's amazed that it sparkles just as brightly and clearly as the day I slipped it on her finger while riding a horse and buggy through Central Park. And although at the time I couldn't afford the biggest diamond, I did really push to make sure I had the highest clarity rating and color grade you could get. Makes a big difference, it does.

Someday, maybe, I'll get her a bigger carat size. But I don't know. This one has sentimental value, and I doubt she'd ever want to part with it.

So, yes. I guess I done good. Done real good!



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Movie Maven: Tara's December Picks

Well, it's that time of year when all the best movies are crammed into one or two weeks it seems. Avatar and Sherlock Holmes are my top 2 for the month, but The Lovely Bones is also a contender. And, hey, it's a Peter Jackson movie too! December really is PJ's month, y'know? What with all 3 LotR films AND the under appreciated King Kong all seeing release in this month. Hey, why change a good thing?

As always, click on the movie player below to watch this week's webisode of Mania.com's Movie Maven:



LOL! I'm loving the Xmas 'jammies Tara's wearing on Dec. 25th. Simply ADORABLE!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gearing Up For Battlestar Spin-off



So, I was searching in vain for a movie out of my home library for Lisa and I to watch last night, when it dawned on me that she'd not yet seen the pilot movie for the upcoming SyFy channel series, Caprica. This is a movie I'd watched on DVD at the beginning of the summer with my best friend, Tarrell, but didn't really think too highly of.

For those of you who don't know, Caprica is a prequel spin-off of the hit sci-fi show, Battlestar Galactica. It basically explores the events that lead up to the Cylon uprising, and is surprisingly nuanced with its multi-level exploration of religious and philosophical issues.

Watching the pilot again last night--and on my gorgeous new 37" HDTV, no less--I was surprised by how much better this second viewing turned out to be. Thinking back on it, I see now that my initial disdain had more to do with how sleep-deprived I had been at the time, and why it's better to watch serious, talkative drama-type shows when you're at least slightly more than half awake. Because apparently a whole lot of nuanced dialogue was lost on me the first time around.

I mean, this was an EXCELLENT 90 minute warm-up to what I'm now sure will be a kick-ass new series for the atrociously re-branded "SyFy" network. It won't be as good as its predecessor, for sure. But then: what is? No, seriously.

If you're at all enamored by the Ronald Moore-created Battlestar Galactica series, you owe it to yourself to check out Caprica this January. But before you do, PLEASE watch the pilot episode on DVD. Esai Morales and Eric Stolz are amazing in it, as is the entire supporting cast with the exception of the daughter. Ick! If they use her character again (which might not be the case), I sincerely wish they would hire a new actress. Honestly, she's a big sore spot in an otherwise amazing production.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whoa!

Had a ridiculous surge in new visitors to the site yesterday. Scanning over my tracker results, I was surprised to find most of them hailing from only two sources: a Facebook redirect from my good friend, Ashe; and the comments I made on sci-fi author John Scalzi's blog post regarding a new token-scale online market opening up.

All I can say is: Aww shucks, guys. Thanks!

More Movie Maven Goodness . . .

For those of you who have been enjoying the weekly "Movie Maven" spots starring Tara Perry and produced by Mania.com, here's a blooper edition to tide you over until new content comes out:



Now of course, some of this is made even more funny if you've watched the previous webisodes in the series. So, to that effect, click on this link to view the very first segment and work your way up via the YouTube sidebar on the right side of the page.

As I've mentioned before, there's a definite improvement curve at notice here. But they're all good!

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