Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Now, What If I Had Been A Serial Killer?

This is why texting will be the death of people.

The other night I took the wife to see Knight and Day -- the latest action spy-thriller starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Awesome movie, btw. Very well put together, with plenty of humor to boot!

Anyway, as we were leaving the theater, my wife needed to use the restroom. Fine. I waited outside. Lo and behold, a very young petite Asian woman wanders over to me with her eyes glued to her phone's screen and her fingers texting a mile a minute. She stands so close to me that she's damn near pressing her body against my arm.

Weird, I think. So I step a few feet to the right to give her some space.

Not taking her eyes off her phone, she immediately follows and continues standing uncomfortably close to me. I think I figured out what's going on: she assumed I was her boyfriend, who I had noticed earlier was wearing a similar black t-shirt to mine.

Rather than say something and have to deal with numerous apologies (which I hate, btw) . . . I create an even bigger distance between us. Surely she must be wondering why her "boyfriend" is avoiding her like the plague and look up, no?

Nope.

Yet again, she comes right up on me, still texting away.

Okay, she definitely has me mistaken for someone else. To make matters worse, I see her tilt her head towards me--eyes still glued to her screen--as if about to ask me something. Oh, great! So I turn my head away to pretend like I'm not aware of what's going on.

See, I'm not one of those people that enjoys when other people mess up. If someone trips going up some stairs, I'm not laughing. Shit like that is not funny to me. Nor do I need to laugh out of feeling uncomfortable for that person. Either way, laughing makes the other person feel like shit. And that's not cool. I take it one step further, though, in that I actively try to not let other people make fools of themselves around me.

I know, it's a losing battle.

Anyway . . . so this girl is about to say something to me. I'm looking away, hoping that she realizes the error of her ways and not feel the need to say sorry a hundred times while laughing awkwardly.

And it works!

She stops before the first word can come out, and I think I feel her staring at me for a second or two longer than is necessary. I mean, it seriously takes her 15 seconds to finally register what's going on. And when she does, she makes this funny sound and IMMEDIATELY takes off as if stung by a bee!

Her boyfriend was just coming out of the men's room at this point, and she quickly ran to him and locked her arms around his. I could hear her excitedly telling him everything that had just happened, and mention ". . . the same shirt!" I looked over and smiled at that, just a quick acknowledgment that I did indeed know what had just happened. They both laughed and continued on their way.

When Lisa came out of the ladies room, I related the incident and she got a kick out of that. Although she told me I'm too nice for my own good, and that she would have said: "Hey, back up off me bitch!"

Haha . . . no, she wouldn't have done that. I know her better than that. She's polite to people just as I am.

Still, this just goes to show the inherent danger to our society in being too tied up in our tech gadgets and fads. Remember to LOOK UP every now and then, people, and take stock of what's going on around you. Because if you don't, next time it might not be a nice guy like me standing around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Funny How My Mind Works

Way back in February I mentioned purchasing the complete DVD box set of the tv series, She-Wolf of London. I recalled how this was a favorite of mine back when it first aired during my early teenage years.

Well, I just decided to finally crack it open and take a stroll down memory lane over the weekend . . . and, damn, it still holds up! Yeah, it's painfully corny at many points -- don't get me wrong. But somehow I find myself still being sucked in by the atmosphere and the charm of the main actors.

Oh, and I still have a ridiculous crush on 1990's era Kate Hodge, the lead in the show. Wow!

Anyway, halfway through the episodes now, I began to reminisce on all the horror shows I used to watch growing up. One episode of She-Wolf in particular reminded me strongly of a show who's title I could not remember. The only details I could dredge up from my foggy memory banks was of yet another attractive female lead, and that the setting was some sort of old book or antique shop. I remember that the characters would encounter a strange, horror- or fantasy-themed incident every week -- very similar to the general set-up of She-Wolf, but airing a few years earlier.



As I stated before, I couldn't remember the name of the show for the life of me! But I did recall that it had something to do with a famous horror movie series, while not actually being related at all to said series. I thought it might have been called "Halloween: the series," but subsequent Google searches turned up nothing. Then I thought: come on, David, what other big horror movie series were out in the 80s? A Nightmare on Elm Street? The series? Nah, that just didn't feel right to me.

So, of course, that only left one more. I couldn't believe I waited until last when it should have been my first choice: Friday the 13th! Bingo!

I didn't even have to do a search, for as soon as the the name came into my head the memories all flooded back. I could see the show's title right there in my mind's eye. The opening sequence, the faces of the main characters -- even the music of the opening credits! It was suddenly as clear as day.



How the hell does that HAPPEN?

Btw, you can click here to watch the introduction yourself. Does it bring back memories?

Anyway, now I feel much better. This was the show I had been struggling to remember all day today. I looked it up and found that the series aired for 3 seasons from 1987 to 1990. Whoa! A bit older than I remembered it being. Means I was in my tweens when it started. I also discovered that all 3 seasons are out on DVD. I've already put the first season on my wishlist. It will have to wait until I finish She-Wolf, though, which I feel is starting to decline in quality as the series drags on.

Oh, poo!

Well at least I still have Kate Hodge to drool over:



Can you say . . .YUM?!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Preparation For Rome, Naturally . . .

. . . I have to watch some more episodes of "Rome."

Actually, I've been been humming the opening theme like crazy for the last week or so. I think I mentioned once before here how ridiculously awesome the HBO original series, Rome, is. And this is evident even just in the opening title sequence, which I provided for your visual enjoyment below. Check it out, why don't you?



Is that not an awesome opener or what?

Besides being an utterly memorable piece of music, the opening credits are so cool because they use actual ancient Roman graffiti found on the walls of excavated sites throughout southern Italy -- and animate them! A lot of people were shocked to learn that the ancient Romans were just as lewd and scatological as their modern descendants. Imagine that. My favorite graffito is the one depicting Athena exploding fully-grown from Zeus's head, just as in the myths.

What I enjoyed most about this series--and you can see some of it in the opening, too--is how accurate they got the "look" of what Rome used to be like visually. Gone are the stereotypical and WRONG set pieces of white marble and alabaster statues that backdrop most Hollywood depictions of this ancient society. No, in this Rome everything is colored, worn, and dirtied exactly as the living, breathing city no doubt once was. And what a rich tapestry of everyday living you get with this series! If you've never seen it before, you are really doing yourself a disservice. Especially if you are at all historically minded or a big fan of epic films depicting ancient civilizations. Each episode is so carefully crafted and expertly directed that that's just what you feel you're getting each time -- an epic film on your tv screen!

Now, as for me, I need to get back to packing for our trip to modern-day Rome while this tune drives me crazy in the background. I'll have to bust out the headphones soon before Lisa kills me. And that would just ruin my day, don't you think?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Uno, Due, Tre . . . My Secret To Learning New Languages

Been monstrous busy this past week, mostly to do with preparing for our cruise two weeks from now. As I've mentioned before, I'm doing what I did when we went to Paris for the first time last year. But learning Italian instead of French. Mostly basic words and phrases to help me through some possible scenarios while in Rome and Naples. I'm able to learn the fundamentals, at least, right away simply by applying the same exact language skills I learned while studying Mandarin in college -- repetition, repetition, and MORE repetition.

Sure, I know. You probably already know this technique. It's no secret. And yet, constant practicing doesn't always mean sitting at a desk with dusty language books and audio cues. Not for me. When I learn a language, I tend to live and breathe it everywhere I go. In this case, I take the lessons I learned the night before and constantly repeat them in my head while brushing my teeth, taking a shower, putting myself to sleep at night, etc. When I work out, I count each rep in my head in Italian. This way I get the numbers down pat.

On the subway commute to work, I live out mock scenarios and practice my response to each. I don't say the phrases out loud, naturally, because then I would be one of THOSE people on the subway. But I do keep a constant inner monologue going.

At work, I plug in my mp3 player and earphones and play the audio lessons in the background while I work. In a nutshell, I immerse myself in that language for weeks before I arrive in the country. No, I'm not fluent or even close to being so. But at the very least I can say what little I do know very, very well. And my pronunciation ain't so bad, either.

See, there's no trick to it. And you don't have to have a knack for languages. Hell, I'm virtually tone deaf! All you need are the right practice materials, the technology to make the most of them . . . and the discipline to work away at it little by little each and every day. If you're like me, you might even find yourself dreaming in the language you're trying to learn.

Yeah, ain't that some heavy shit?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie Review: Duel Of The 80s Remakes -- The A-Team & The Karate Kid

I'm a little late with these reviews, sorry. It's been a busy weekend for me, so I hope you don't mind a double-feature review. It won't be a bargain matinĂ©e at the Paradise Theater type of double-feature, but maybe I can still capture that 80s nostalgia we all miss anyway. Maybe? Yes?

Okay, maybe not.

Anyway . . . we went to Times Square Friday night to get our 80s throwback movie party on right! First up: The A-Team.



To be frank, the A-Team was a cool TV show when I was a little kid -- but not THAT cool. Knight Rider was better. But it was still something that occasionally enough delivered the goods for an action-loving 7 year old, and that's all anybody could ever ask for. Most of all, me.

This new take is not without its faults, but I was surprised by how well plotted and written the screenplay turned out to be. It hangs up a little at the end, but overall it was a taught, intriguing, and well developed story that kept me mostly on the edge of my seat. It helps that the director, Joe Carnahan, is great with these types of ensemble action movies. Just check out Smokin' Aces as an example. Here he manages to deliver the same expert mix of high-octane action scenes combined with an intricate, sometimes dense, plot that balances just the right amount of seriousness and goofiness to not fall too firmly into either side of the melodrama or camp territories.

The cast of Sharlto Copley (Murdoch), Quinton Jackson (B.A.), Bradley Cooper (Face), and Liam Neeson (Hannibal) gelled really well together -- displaying that cool, brothers-in-arms chemistry that is so crucial for this to work right. And which worked better here, in this movie, than with the the original cast of the tv show I might add.

Yes, I went there. And if you take off your rose-tinted fankid glasses, you'll see it too.

Where the movie falters, in my opinion, is the lack of set-up planning montages that made the tv show so much fun to watch. I mean, sure, they're in this movie. Twice, in fact. But both times felt rushed and too veiled in mystery for their own good. Still, when the payoff "comes together" in the end--as the team's leader, Hannibal, so famously puts it--the result is much bang for your buck. Times TEN!!!

This fun popcorn flick with just the right amount of laughs and kick-ass action gets:   7/10.

Next up for the night: The Karate Kid.



Now, I'll come straight out and say it: I absolutely LOVE the original 1984 flick! Some of you already know this. I just gushed all over the movie a few weeks ago here, after all.

But, you know what? I think I might just have to say that this new remake is *gasp* . . . BETTER! Yeah, I know. WTF am I smoking, right? But it's true! Oh god help me, I think it is.

The 2010 version is filmed entirely in China. Yes, even the Detroit sequence at the beginning. And, as those who know me know -- I have this huge love for anything China-related. So that right there is already a major solid on the movie's part. Furthermore, the action sequences are both more brutal and authentic looking than the original. Which is no slight to the choreographer of the first film, martial artist Pat E. Johnson, who did an awesome job. But just that the stunt coordinator on this modern take--famous Hong Kong stuntman and frequent Jackie Chan collaborator, Gang Wu-- is better! And it shows. All of the fight scenes in this movie are more intense, longer, and more technically accurate.

However, I think what gets me the most in this movie is the trip to the Buddhist mountain where Jackie Chan's "Mr. Han" leads Jaden Smith's "Dre" to show the boy the roots of true gong-fu. This whole sequence is poignant and beautiful, almost feeling like a step into another dimension compared to the hustle and bustle of noisy Beijing where the rest of the movie takes place. Mr. Han demonstrates to his pupil, Dre, that gong-fu is about stillness and reflection of one's inner peace, and not about an outward flashy display of prowess. I would watch the movie again just for this scene alone.


This theme of stillness and reflection is echoed well with another story thread in the film regarding Dre's gal pal (and somewhat love interest) Mei Ying, who is a budding violinist struggling to "capture the pauses" between notes. In this sense, both kids learn this lesson together by the end, and thus grow closer as friends. Trust me, it's a very tender and sweet relationship that doesn't stray too far into icky territory, considering that the two are only middle schoolers.



And, as a brief aside here -- the young, unknown Chinese actress playing Mei Ying is simply too cute for words! She is such a marvel in both acting and poise, somehow grounding the often outlandish aspects of Jaden's personality and seeming to make HIM a better actor in the process. Honestly, the scenes with the both of them are a joy to watch, and I think it's the actress, Han Wenwen, who should be given the credit. While I won't go so far as to say the two have excellent chemistry together, she's definitely more likable to this reviewer than Elisabeth Shue's "Ali" was in the original.

Now, to be sure, there ARE in fact big differences between the two movies, despite the fact that the new version borrows the dialogue almost word for word from the original. The 1984 version, for instance, starred an older protagonist and nemesis, which was definitely necessary in the time and age the movie was made. However, times have changed. With all the kiddie kung-fu movies like Spy Kids, Shaolin Soccer and this summer's upcoming Last Airbender movie being so popular nowadays, it kinda makes sense to cash in on this trending towards younger protagonists in action movies.

Also, in China, wushu is a national sport and practiced at a very young age. It's taught during what we in the West would call "gym class" as part of the normal school curriculum. So, in this sense, it's not at all implausible to see the 12 to 14 year olds being so proficient and accurate in their gong-fu prowess. They would have been practicing this since they were 6! And while the sheer evilness of the antagonist and his friends in this film is something that would not be so nonchalantly ignored by adults in real life, it does happen even in China. Yes, the bullying here in this movie is extremely violent and graphic. But, hey, I grew up in the South Bronx. This is reality for a lot of kids these days, as it was for me in my day.

The other big difference is in the dynamic between the teacher and pupil. In the end, Mr. Miyagi was a more effective character than Mr. Han. And "Daniel-san" was a more charming protagonist that "xiao Dre." Yes, this is definitely true. What can I say? Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita just had that special bond that is so hard to pull off right between actors. Jaden and Chan are good together, though. Don't get me wrong. Just not on the same level as their predecessors. But then, who would be?

Yet, still, this 2010 revisit of the same story is more modern, more relatable, and more authentic (i.e., less CHEESY) than the original in every other way possible. So there you go.

My rating for this surprise hit is:   8/10.

Yes, yes. I know. I gave it a higher rating that The A-Team. I expect almost no other male viewer in his 30s to agree with me here, but take it as it is. I honestly did get more enjoyment out of watching the Karate Kid "jacket off" than I did the A-Team "put a plan together."

As a last parting observation: The audience for the A-Team did not applaud when the credits rolled, though they did seem very pleased with the film. Whereas the crowd I watched the Karate Kid with was on its feet cheering and clapping at the end.

I think this says it all right there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clash Of The 80s Remakes!

I haven't put up a Movie Maven clip from Mania.com in a while. So here you go! This week's topic is in honor of the two 80s remake films hitting theaters this Friday: The A-Team and The Karate Kid. Who will win? Nobody knows, but Tara Perry has already made her pick:



Personally, I think the Karate Kid will be the better movie. People who keep harping on the factor of the film's title are clueless douchebags trying to show off that they know the difference between karate and kung-fu, and that the movie producers should know better. Well the joke's on you, morons! Story wise, the title refers to Smith's character already knowing some karate before his family is relocated to China where he encounters kung-fu. The Chinese kids who bully him grant him the moniker "the Karate Kid" because this is all he knows, in a country where wushu kung-fu is king.

See how easy that was to explain? It's in the latest trailer, too!

Yes, of course the producers are capitalizing on the previous success of the earlier movies by using the same title. No shit, Sherlock. But my rule is: if it works in the story, then it works for me.

Haters just gonna hate, I guess.

I'll be watching both movies this weekend, so expect to see a review of at least one of them go up on this site before the week is out, if not for both.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Still busy planning stuff for our 11-night, 7-port Mediterranean cruise only 4 weeks away. I now have everything squared away with tours for: Istanbul, Ephesus (also in Turkey), Athens, and Naples. Now all I need to do is figure out things for Rome, Santorini, and Mykonos.

Rome should be fairly easy. I need to purchase tickets beforehand for the Colosseum and Vatican City, which I hope may also include the Sistine Chapel. Everything else in Rome will be a simple walk to and from for us.

Santorini and Mykonos, the two Greek isles on our itinerary, are proving to be a little more difficult. I was hoping to visit this awesome ancient archaeological site on Santorini, only to find out that it has been closed to visitors for several years now due to an accident involving a tourist there. They've been promising to open it up again for the past two years, and each time the date keeps getting pushed back. So I had to scratch that off the list. The only option left now is to go to the beach or walk through the main town and go shopping. Ugh and double Ugh!!!

Mykonos seems to be nothing but beaches and nightlife. Two things I can do without on this trip. But, I figure I should at least put in a showing at one of these beaches. You know, take a dip in the Mediterranean just so that I can say that I have. I'll also be able to add it to the list of major bodies of water I've swam in during my lifetime. So far that list includes: the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

So for the two islands, it might just be that I won't plan anything. We'll simply get off the ship and walk around looking at whatever there is to see. Santorini has volcanic black sand beaches, so the novelty of it will be interesting. Mykonos has decent shopping and a huge gay scene, the latter of which naturally doesn't apply to or holds much interest for us.

So, yeah, we'll probably just wing those two. Unless anyone reading this has been to both islands and can make any recommendations.

Anyone?

In the meantime, I need to get started on learning my basic Italian phrases. We'll only be in Rome for two days, and in Naples for one, but I always wanted to learn Italian. And now I have an excuse to start!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ahh! I Think My Head Just A-sploded!!!!


I can't believe it! They've gone and done it! They're actually bringing THUNDERCATS back! It's coming to the Cartoon Network in 2011. Looks to be edgier and darker. I'm actually digging the artwork and the people who are behind this.

"The 21st century reimagining of the series marks a creative collaboration between WBA and Studio4°C, one of the most vibrant animation studios in Japan, with credits including “The Animatrix,” “Gotham Knights” and “Halo Legends.” WBA is working closely with Studio4°C, utilizing the latter’s expertise to give the “ThunderCats” characters a new cutting-edge look while remaining true to the compelling storylines and mythology of the original series."

You can read more by clicking on this link. Now excuse me . . . I'm going to go dig out my Sword of Omens. Thundercats HOOOOOO!

And This Is Why

In this earlier blog entry, I explained why I now believe The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is my new favorite old movie of all time.

And after you watch this clip of the infamous standoff at the end of the film, you'll know why. I mean, you have a roughly 5 minute scene with no talking at all. Just three men staring each other down for what seems like eternity, as Ennio Morricone's ridiculous soundtrack wails in the background. Listen to that horn bleed its heart out, man! Study Leone's shots, too. How he deftly cuts between closeups and wide-angles. How superb each cutaway is framed. Simply put: GENIUS!



That right there is cinema history!

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