May 2004 Archives

The Day After Tomorrow

Roland Emmerich is no Irwin Allen.

Allen is the man behind such disaster classics as The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, and he knew the rules of the genre (he should, he created them): give the disaster center stage, stuff the cast with celebrities, put their tongues firmly in their cheeks, and let the audience play the guess-which-stars-won't-make-it game.

Oh yes, and distract people from the gaping plot holes by immersing them in SENSURROUND.

The Day After Tomorrow had pretty computer graphics, but no Sensurround and thus nothing to distract me from the horrendous performances of virtually everyone in the cast, the laughable dialogue, and the absurd plotting. And almost none of the main characters die. What's up with that? What's the point of a disaster movie where you can't wager in a death pool?

There's only one reason anyone enters the theater for this film: to see Mother Nature get paleozoic on our ass. And we get some good carnage early on as Los Angeles turns into The Wizard of Oz gone postal. But after that the film lapses into tepid melodrama about a family relationship that fails to engage the viewer on even a superficial emotional level, unless you've got X chromosomes and are inexplicably hot for Jake Gyllenhaal. There's a great wide shot as a tidal wave rocks New York, the water rushing through the city grid, but I wanted more. I wanted a flurry of scenes showing walls of water barreling through streets, of landmarks being washed away. I wanted ground's-eye views of oncoming doom. Instead the film has tunnelvision, focusing almost exclusively on Gyllenhaal and friends.

The Day After Tomorrow plays against an enormous canvas, but shows us only a tiny corner. The characters seem largely oblivious to the staggering death toll. Scenes of Americans desperately crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico come off as unintentionally funny. Where were the riots, the world-is-ending bacchanals, the global perspective of the chaos? There were many interesting stories that could have been told. What they picked wasn't one of them.

I also think it's a truism in Hollywood that if your script involves a pack of wild wolves attacking teenagers inside a frozen Russian cargo ship, you could probably use another rewrite.

Comments (6) | last by Mark, Jun 3, 9:47 PM

Paging Miss Manners

You're with a group of friends at a restaurant and the bill arrives. The expectation is that everyone's paying for their own meal. Let's say the total after tax and tip is $100 for four of you, and you all ordered the same thing so each of you owes $25. You have a $20 coupon. Do you:

a) pay $5 + the coupon
b) apply the coupon to the group tab, and everyone now pays $20 instead of $25
c) other

Now suppose it's a 50% off coupon instead. Do you:

a) pay nothing (since the table's tab is now $50 and you've effectively paid more than your own share) and have everyone else pay $16.66
b) pay $12.50 with everyone else
c) other

If you answered b, how does your answer change if you actually paid money-- say, $10-- for the coupon? Do you add the $10 to the bill and share the cost among everyone, or do you suck it up yourself?

Comments (28) | last by Tara, Jul 30, 5:55 AM

Credit what you will-- the explosion of televised events like Travel Channel's World Poker Tour or Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, or the Cinderella story of Chris Moneymaker's Internet-to-bracelet $2.5 million victory at last year's event-- but participation in this year's World Series of Poker has exploded. Moneymaker triumphed over a field of 839 contestants last year, but that number has more than tripled as Binion's hosts 2,576 players this week, with a record top prize of $5 million. Second place must make do with a mere $3.5 million.

But don't look for a repeat victory from last year's champ. Moneymaker got knocked out on day one after only 3 hours of play.

Burger Prince

In the wake of Supersize Me-- and for the thirty years prior-- it's been trendy to bash fast food. And such an easy target. The industry as a whole earned major karma points in my eyes with the creation of the Oreo Blizzard (nee McFlurry), one of the single greatest inventions of the twentieth century. But it's hard to work yourself out of the karmic debt built up by the McRib, McLean Deluxe, McDLT (the hot stays hot, the cool stays cool, and the styrofoam container stays forever), any form of chalupa, and-- may the Lord have mercy on their souls-- "Herb".

So when a positive fast food experience wanders by, it's only fair to stand up straight and salute. And so I present to you Burger King's Spicy TenderCrisp chicken sandwich, a study in juxtaposition and delivery on promises. TenderCrisp. The name itself promises much: not merely tenderness and crispiness together-- against all the laws of nature-- in one sandwich, but in sufficiently notable quality as to warrant the coinage of a completely new word. And "spicy"? Really, who are they kidding? Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich registers a .04 on the Scoville scale on its best day-- I was skeptical that Burger King could do better.

I was wrong.

The TenderCrisp was-- hands down-- the crispiest chicken sandwich I have ever had. Fried to golden perfection, each bite yielded a satisfying crunch. And beneath that crackling exterior-- did my mouth deceive me?-- lo, a juicy breast of chicken yielding ever so gently to the tongue with an overall consistency that could only be described as ... tender.

But surely, you cry, the tepid seasonings would give the lie to the sandwich's moniker! The same thought flashed through my mind, gentle reader. And yet here too was my cynicism dashed against the mighty promontory that is the Spicy TenderCrisp jutting into a writhing sea of mediocre fast food. While the sauce did not inflame my taste buds and leave me panting for relief, it nevertheless bore a delightfully spicy tang that had me regretting the lack of a beverage at hand.

Add a hearty slice of tomato, a fresh leaf of lettuce, and a sturdy bun up to the challenge of containing such a bold sandwich offering and this, my friends, is the Real Deal. Yea, the Spicy TenderCrisp is verily spicy, tender, and crisp-- a triumph of the fast food arts the likes of which comes along but rarely in one lifetime, and which should not be overlooked upon its arrival.

Comments (4) | last by Aiesha, Sep 3, 12:52 PM

Shrek 2

I was very impressed with the technical merits of Shrek 2's animation. There's one slo-mo moment very early on where Prince Charming tosses his head, that seems filmed in slo-mo specifically to show off the amazing rendering of every strand of his hair. Truly impressive. The traveling sequences on the journey to Far Far Away also feature some fantastic stuff.

More importantly, I laughed. A lot.

There are lots of quick homages in this film-- so many, I'm sure I missed some (IMDB says there's a Spiderman reference, for instance, but I completely missed it). Favorites: Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Iron Giant-- the latter particularly because only about .01% of this movie's audience will get it, and they did it anyway!

Quibbles about the retread nature of the plot aside-- didn't we already do the "It's OK to just be ourselves" spiritual journey the first time around?-- I had a fun time, and I'm already eager for Shrek 3.

Comments (20) | last by Jackie, Dec 8, 10:03 PM

According to the U.S. Census, Seattle is the most educated city in the nation. And while my breast swells with civic pride, I must nevertheless offer one word in rebuttal.


Comments (7) | last by David desJardins, May 29, 6:58 PM

85% of the vote for Rupert. Not exactly the shock of the century. CBS and Burnett must have known that's how it would work out-- the web site's tracked Survivor popularity all season long, and Rupert's always been WAY at the top. Guess they decided to give the people what they wanted. Thank goodness the whole game isn't decided that way.

Rupert, Colby, even Rob-- OK, I get that. But... Tom? TOM? The man's a drunken mumbling idiot. I've gotta believe his vote count was tiny, but just a little less tiny than the next guy. Too bad the audience vote didn't happen right after the Marquesas-- Kathy would have been a shoo-in. Ah well, timing is everything.

So much for Survivor until September, and the inevitable bungee challenge.

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, May 14, 11:39 AM

Rating Their Pleas

The 18 All-Stars have each recorded a brief plea for the audience-awarded million. Let's review their pitches.

Alicia: Her whole attitude screams... well... attitude. Getting in the face of her opponents might have been a viable strategy, but getting in the face of the voters isn't.

Amber: She obviously doesn't expect the money, so the graceful thing to do would have been to say that she just won a million, let someone else have a chance. A lost opportunity to show some class.

Colby: Easily the most charming plea. Doubt it'll work, but nicely done.

Ethan: Props for coming right out and saying he doesn't need the money and that he'll split it evenly among the 18 All-Stars' favorite charities, but antiprops for saying he "deserves" the money because of what he'll do with it. Bzzz.

Jenna L.: Slow down, woman! Very big of you to lobby for Rupert, although your implication that stoners are going to vote for him was kinda odd. Also, the "Rupert's going to win anyway" approach isn't exactly the best line to use to convince people to vote for him.

Jenna M.: Simple, honest, heart-felt. Good on you.

Jerri: Wallowing in a bizarre anti-reality cause isn't going to win her friends or money.

Kathy: I expected a bit more of an emotional pitch from Kathy instead of "I played hard and with integrity." I don't know where people keep getting the idea that playing Survivor with integrity is a virtue. Winning after playing virtuously, ala Ethan, is commendable. It is not, however, a reason in and of itself to elect someone a winner.

Lex: Lex enjoins people to vote with their heart. Perhaps because he knows that he's got no chance at the money and everyone's going to vote for Rupert anyway.

Richard: You might have been the best player of the game in season 1, but not this time, pal. There are other players far more "deserving" of the cash than you.

Rob C: Hook a brother up! Love it. Love the tacit acknowledgement that Rupert's the populist choice, but Rob just comes off looking and sounding desperate. If people want the money to go to Rupert, they're going to give it directly to him-- not to you to split with him. You're flailing, buddy. Would have liked to have seen you win in the Amazon, but you're not getting this million either.

Rob M.: Here's where a touch of humility might have served you in good stead. "I'm being honest-- I deserve the million" isn't the way to voters' hearts.

Rudy: What can you say about this guy that hasn't already been said? A product of another time, in a good way. If this vote was happening after Survivor: Borneo, he'd be a shoo-in. But I think his moment has passed.

Rupert: After an uncomfortable start begging for the money by virtue of how many people it would help in Indianapolis, he did exactly the right thing and became the only one of the 18 All-Stars to thank the viewers for all their support, win or lose. Of course, the man could have made funny faces and baby talked for 20 seconds and he'd still win this million.

Shii-Ann: Babble babble babble. Anyone who actually uses the phrase "Outwit, outplay, outlast" in their plea deserves a boot to the head.

Susan: LOL. A woman who knows she's got no shot at the cash and at least decided to have some fun with it.

Tina: My first reaction was approval for her lack of greed, opening declaring she doesn't want the money. But my hypocracy detector went through the roof when she asked people to vote for the person who's going to give it away. Tell us, Tina, have you given all of your million away? Now that you've got yours, none of the other 17 are entitled to theirs? Feh.

Tom: Being in the game longer than anyone else doesn't mean you played better-- it just means people didn't see you as enough of a threat to get rid of sooner.

Thoughts on tonight's Survivor finale:

  • As expected, Jenna was an idiot. It's unclear whether players just assumed the tie-breaker would be a random draw or if it was explicitly spelled out for them beforehand, but either way she made the wrong call. Her only chance in the final endurance challenge-- and given the way all the challenges were reruns, she should have known it'd be another post-standing endurance challenge-- was to outlast both Rob and Amber, and she clearly overestimated her chances there. Her odds would have been much higher had she gone with the random rock draw. There was a 33% chance of being ousted right then, but a 66% chance of coming out as good or better than if she turned on Rupert. It doesn't surprise me that she cracked, but it disappointed me all the same.

  • Lex, meet Mr. Kettle. Mr. Kettle, meet Lex Pot. You're both black. Get over it.

  • Kathy's position, on the other hand, was far easier to agree with. Her vote surprised me, but only reaffirmed my affection for her. Rupert's going to win the audience-awarded million, but I'm voting for Kathy because the lady's got class.

  • While Jerri's protest over pain for entertainment had about as much place as a Richard Gere Tibetan rant at the Oscars, the crowd was way out of line in jeering her even before she spoke. I'd like to think they just got carried away being amidst a throng of other Survivor fans and went for the easy audience participation role, because Jerri doesn't deserve that reaction. She was a fun villain in season 2, but was not at all villainous this time and was in fact done wrong when she was tossed instead of Amber. A strike against the hoi polloi.

  • I already know that I find makeup distasteful, but am I alone in thinking Amber was far more attractive at the final tribal council than she was in the reunion?

  • Not a single moment with Rob Cesternino at the reunion? What's up with that?

  • I can't imagine that car giveaway went the way Chevy hoped it would. It came off as rushed, anticlimactic, and not dramatic in the least. In fact, I thought it was rather unfair to force Amber to make that choice on the spot. Boooooo.

  • Not that it matters since they're getting married, but the jury made the wrong choice. Amber was shrewd to use Rob as a human shield, but the bottom line is that Probst was right-- it was Rob's season. He dominated the game, and should have been rewarded for it with the cash. Assuming he and Amber work out, of course, I don't think he'll complain.

  • The thing is, Tom is a dumbass.

  • Comments (10) | last by ROBERTA LAMB, May 15, 11:57 AM

    I Am Sam

    I wish it were possible to buy stock in actors and actresses, because if it were I'd invest everything I could in ten-year-old Dakota Fanning. She has me at "Hello." Her eyes are eerily expressive, and she exudes the presence of a mature woman trapped in a child's body. If somebody told me she were the incarnation of Bodhisattva, I'd be inclined to believe them. This is a girl that's going to break men's hearts someday.

    I first saw her in the Sci-Fi miniseries Taken, where she stole every scene she was in. I Am Sam actually predates that performance, but her simple portrayal of a loving daughter far overshadowed Sean Penn's more flamboyant stab at a kind-hearted mentally retarded father.

    The movie itself careens into a brick wall of an ending, leaving the viewer with the hollowness that comes from being robbed of an expected denouement. I'm not sure how we're expected to feel about Michelle Pfeiffer, except to reflect upon how much more interested we'd be in the upcoming Catwoman film if it was her in the black latex instead of Halle Berry. I Am Sam misfires on pretty much all counts except for Fanning.

    Will Fanning be another Jodie Foster, transitioning from child ingenue to adult thespian? I suspect so. And I hope in her adolescence she neatly avoids the kind of treacle that seems to suck in teenage actresses like Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, opting instead for more of a Christina Ricci-like trajectory. If she remains an actress, my money's on her to be a future Oscar winner. Or it would be, if I could figure out how to get it there.

    Comments (2) | last by Scott Hardie, May 10, 5:28 PM

    Curse Will Be Broken

    Tom's certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was in a tough spot. Faced with two alliances of two, he was the odd man out no matter which way he turned. And really, at this point players must realize that Rob has alienated everyone who's on the jury, so he's looking like the man to stand next to in the final two. So I can't fault Tom too much for not turning against Rob and Amber.

    But now that we're down to two alliances of two, the next vote looks like it should come down to the tie breaker unless either Jenna or Rupert turns on the other. Which would be INSANE, given that Rob and Amber are clearly going to stick together to the end, so Jenna and Rupert's best shot is to do the same.

    But somehow, I think the curse of the cars will be broken, and Amber's going to walk off with both a car and a million.

    Comments (10) | last by Scott Hardie, May 9, 10:19 PM

    The Immortal

    Laughed all the way through tonight's Angel, which was just superb. Well, all the bits with Angel and Spike, anyway. The Illyria-Wesley plotline is just tiresome. At first I was saddened when Fred was killed, since she and Wes deserved some happiness. Then Illyria grew on me as Amy Acker proved far more intriguing in blue. But Alexis Denisof's just phoning it in, mumbling his lines in a flaccid simulation of grief that furthers neither his character nor the show's quality. If internet scuttlebutt is true, tonight's episode sets up a poignant moment in the upcoming series finale, but I'm not sure if I'll care by then. Wesley was far more interesting when he was boffing Lila.

    But the whole concept behind The Immortal was just terrific, and the interplay between Spike and Angel was hilarious. Andrew's pontification near the end was the literary equivalent of a sledgehammer, but it worked. Fun stuff. Who needs Sarah Michelle Gellar, anyway?

    Comment (1) | last by Jack, May 11, 9:04 AM

    This site is certified 76% GOOD by the Gematriculator

    If you're a disbeliever, I'd like to point out that both and are 99% good. QED.

    Comments (5) | last by Jack, May 6, 3:18 PM

    Just got back from a wonderfully relaxing weekend at a friend's cabin in the San Juan islands. Nothing but cooking, eating, sleeping, reading, and playing games, with a great little nature hike thrown in for good measure. Good times.

    Upon my return, however, I discovered that the toilet water was running. The stopper hadn't reseated properly in the tank after the last use, which was on Friday before we left. That's over 48 hours of non-stop water flow. So this little weekend up in the San Juans will probably wind up costing me more than my upcoming trip to Crete for a friend's wedding. And that's going to be a small fortune.

    I've heard of flushing money down the toilet, but really...

    Comments (9) | last by antkam, May 4, 7:57 AM

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