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Review: The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally understand what all the fuss has been about. I’ve long put off reading any Pratchett, because his books were always on the shelf exactly where Mervyn Peake should have been. I’m glad I gave in, and tried this book. Pratchett does a great job of putting a new spin on some of my favorite tropes. The satire kept me chuckling like a simpleton throughout. As I started reading the last 10 pages, I started getting that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize that the TV show you’ve just watched for the last 45 minutes is just part 1 of 2, but I found the ending to be very apropos, considering the style of the rest of the book. I guess the one thing this book made me realize most, though, is that my luggage is entirely too boring.

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Posted by on August 14, 2010 in review

 

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Ninotchka

#20 Ninotchka

Ninotchka Movie Poster

“Garbo Laughs!”

That’s the big marketing phrase that sold this 1939 romantic comedy starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas.  One of the few performers to successfully navigate the transition from silent film to “talkies”, Garbo had a reputation for doing serious dramas and “Ninotchka” was her big entry into comedy.  Sadly, she only made two more films after this.

Made at a time when the U.S. and Russia were still allies, modern audiences might be a little put off by the slightly sympathetic tone the film has toward Communist Russia.  The film does lampoon the more stodgy nature of Communists of the day, but it pulls it off in a good natured way.  As a child of the Cold War Era, I found it a little awkward.

Ninotchka screen grab

No stranger to screwball comedies, I went into Ninotchka  with a certain preconceived notion of what to expect;  I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather tender love story.  Comedy was still the order of the day, and I have a feeling it was even funnier in 1939.  The guys playing Garbo’s three eccentric Russian friends nearly steal the movie, but Melvyn Douglas is charming, if not a little unbelievable as a 36 year old lawyer who falls in love with Communist loyalist, Ninotchka, played by Garbo.  Fans of the horror classic Dracula (as well as b-movie classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space) will be amused to see Bela Lugosi turning a scene as Garbo’s superior.

If you want a light, entertaining movie that effectively uses the Nazi salute as a sight gag, this is probably a good film to catch.  Find out just what it is that gets Garbo laughing!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2010 in Movie Challenge

 

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Ed Wood

#18 Ed Wood

Ed Wood poster

Once in awhile, Hollywood gives us a director who is astoundingly embraced by a cult following, an auteur who is misunderstood by his peers, and looked down upon by critics. With a unique vision, and a steadfast loyalty to a small band of actors with whom he always chooses to work, this filmmaker adheres to a visual style that is singularly his own, and eschews convention to make telling his story his primary goal.

Ed Wood Screenshot

Hangin' out...

It’s no wonder Tim Burton was the guy who brought to screen the story of the man generally considered to be “the worst director of all time,” Edward Wood, Jr.  If you aren’t familiar, Ed Wood is most famous for his film “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” a true masterpiece of bad movie making.  Ed Wood’s films, often looked down upon by his contemporaries, found a new lease on life in the form of VHS tapes and late nite movie channels.  His movies fall into the so-bad-it’s-good category, and serve as a true testament to Wood’s dedication to his craft, no matter how misguided he might have been.

Oh yeah, and he happened to like dressing up in women’s clothing.

Burton’s Ed Wood tells the story of Wood’s rise to mediocrity with an obvious admiration and a sincere touch of respect.  Where Wood was by no means a stickler for detail, Burton more than makes up for it by meticulously recreating the sets and even shooting some of the same scenes from Wood’s famous films with glaringly identical panache.  The casting in the movie is nothing short of phenomenal.  The actor portraying Tor Johnson is an uncanny carbon copy, while Burton favorite Johnny Depp almost channels the campy Ed Wood.  Lisa Marie as Vampira was an inspired choice, Jeffrey Jones is a passable Criswell, Vincent D’Onofrio looks just like a young Orson Welles, and I’ll forever be convinced that Martin Landau was born to portray an aged heroin addicted Bela Legosi.

If you are a fan of good movies, see this movie.  If you are a fan of bad movies, see this movie.  I guarantee, there’s something in it for you.  I should warn you though, swear words are bandied about with flare, and cross-dressing is featured fairly prominently.  If you are the sort that is easily offended, you might want to give this film a miss.  On the other hand, if you want to see Bill Murray as a flamboyant wannabe transgender, this is the movie for you.

You can watch the original Plan 9 online:

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Movie Challenge, Uncategorized

 

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Spring Break

#17 Spring Break

Spring Break Movie Poster

If you were a college student in the 80’s, it was practically a rite of passage to load up with your buddies and head to Ft. Lauderdale, get drunk, do drugs, have promiscuous sex, and watch wet t-shirt contests on the beach all in the name of Spring Break.

If you were a teenager in the 80’s, it was practically a rite of passage to sneak home vhs tapes of movies about college kids doing those things.  This movie really struck many nostalgic chords for me.  I never lived a life like the people in this debaucherous riot, but as a young gentlemanbeggar, I found myself envious of the great fun it seemed they were having.  Even as a more responsible adult, I see that the lifestyle depicted here is in no way enviable, but still, it looks like great fun.  There is a plot in this movie, albeit a thin one.  I won’t bother trying to explain what the major conflict is, because, really what matters is that it’s an ensemble cast of college kids enjoying spring break.  You’ve got your white-bread goody-two-shoes who’s rebelling for the first time, his slightly edgier best friend, the “professionally cool” guy from New York, and the secretly deep dumb guy who’s more loyal than your favorite dog.  Oh, and there’s plenty of gratuitous nudity.  Oh yeah, you’ve also got the girl next door who’s so pure that fresh snow looks dingy next to her.  Don’t forget the gratuitous nudity.

Spring Break Screenshot

Oh look! "The Man" wants to shut down the popular hot-spot!

Seriously though, even with all the questionable behavior and the T&A in this movie, there is a certain innocence in the film that is sadly lacking in more modern attempts to make “coming of age” movies.  So often, movie makers just don’t get it.  They rely too much on the notion that nudity=fun, not realizing that the true formula is fun=nudity.  There really is a difference.  On the cover of the DVD it says proudly “Mr. Skin is a big fan of this movie!”  Surprisingly, the nudity in this movie, while gratuitous, isn’t as prevelant as you might suspect.  In fact, this movie could easily be edited enough to show on network tv.  And I’d wager it’d still be as much fun.

Fans of 80’s music might especially enjoy this raucous romp which features music by NRBQ, .38 Special, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, and Cheap Trick.

You can actually watch the entire movie online at crackle.com!

What a great way to finish up my Spring Break week!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2010 in film, Movie Challenge

 

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Igor

#14 Igor

Igor movie poster

Let me get this straight… John Cusack plays a dopey-looking guy who tries to convince everyone he’s got a bad-guy streak in him but he turns out to be loveable. Jay Leno is a jerk who walks all over the public in general, convincing them all that he’s pretty swell–and he is in this movie, too. Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies. That’s really all you need to know about this movie. That’s right. Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies.

Igor--Scamper reads Hunter S. Thompson

It’s a shame that some of the bigger budget animated movies get so much attention while little gems like this one slip under the radar. Is Igor predictable? From the first 3 minutes. Is it fun? Absolutely.  Does the Louis Prima laced soundtrack rock the house?  You know it!  The thing that struck me most about the movie, though, is that it was just so “clean.” A lot of times, Hollywood thinks they have to include several jokes aimed at adults in kid’s movies just to keep us interested. While there might be one or maybe two little side comments that sneak into this movie, by and large I found it to be quite kid-friendly. The only things that I found about the film that might give pause for some were the fact that one of the characters is constantly trying to kill himself, and at one point dismembers his body as a key plot point. There is also a parody of a famous poster with a cute little kitty cat hanging by a noose. Don’t let the dark imagery dissuade you from seeing this movie though, it really does have a good message for kids, and it’s entertaining throughout.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2010 in Movie Challenge, Uncategorized

 

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An Open Letter to NBC

Dear NBC,

Ours has been, as of late, a tenuous relationship. Since Seinfeld left you, you just haven’t been the same. I have found my interest in you waining over the last several years, and have had little reason to visit with you. You continue to hang out with people like Traci Morgan, Alec Baldwin, and Tina Fey, and I can’t really condone that. I won’t even mention what you do on Saturday nights! Let’s just say that I, and a whole lot of other sensible people, don’t find it funny, and we wish you would change something. The whole “situation” with the guy with the gigantic chin and the other guy with the freakish red hair a few weeks ago hasn’t help your image any. Now you’re saying I can’t even watch your redheaded kid do his amazing stunts in the backyard unless I put on special silver clothes. This wouldn’t be so bad, but you’ve been putting up fliers all over town bragging about how awesome your child is. Do you know how uncomfortable those special clothes are? My friend Linus can barely even wear them!! Poor Mr. Toorvalds, I bet he’d enjoy watching Shaun’s magic show. I’m very disappointed in you, NBC–very disappointed, indeed.

I can’t be your friend until you change,
Gentlemanbeggar

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2010 in internet, Open Source, tongueincheek

 

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Groundhog Day

#11 Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day Movie Poster

If you only had one day to live, what would you do?

What if you had to live that same day over and over again for all time?

Bill Murray is an arrogant, self-centered weatherman begrudgingly on assignment in Punxatawny for the Groundhog Day ceremony.  Somehow, he gets stuck in a loop, reliving the same day, repeatedly.  At first, he uses the repetition for illicit gain, trying to take advantage of others, realizing that he’s falling for his boss along the way.  When things start to go wrong, and he loses focus, he settles into depression, to darkly hillarious effect.  It’s not until he learns to use his extra chances to better himself and improve the lives of those around him that he starts to discover the true beauty of a brand new day.  It’s not shakespeare, but it is a poignant look at life and what we make of it.

What would you do with a second chance?

Ned Ryerson greets Phil

Ned?!? Ned Ryerson?! Is that you?

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2010 in Movie Challenge

 

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