Tuesday, June 28, 2005

crash, a little late

I heard little whisperings of praise for Crash during the past few weeks and finally 2 weekends ago I got the chance to watch it. So, this is 2 weekends late. But anyway, I've gotta say the film totally lived up to its reputation.

It was powerful -- in the racial issues it attacked. There were characters representing so many different walks of life, so many different social classes, and of course the most obvious, so many different racial groups. It approached the many stereotypes that exist in society head-on.

It was interesting -- I love films that have many different storylines that tie together with a common theme. Other examples: Magnolia, Coût de la vie (French), Happenstance (French). The characters are loosely tied together and pass through each other's lives, yet the focus is on the invidual storylines more so than the connections. This can be done badly to the point of confusion and not enough development of individual characters, but in the case of Crash, it was done perfectly. At least in my opinion.

It was nailbiting -- I was seriously sitting on the edge of my seat (okay, actually I was sitting back in my seat cuz I was freezing cold) wondering what was going to happen next. I was enjoying every bit of the movie, but it sorta was getting to the point of 'Please, let no more bad stuff happen, please!'

Anyway, I liked it. You should watch it.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

It's after reading books like these that I wonder how some people can have such good imaginations. I used to want to be a writer, but I think I quickly realized that I didn't have the kind of creativity required to write the kind of novels that I wanted to write...which were novels like these.

I've heard Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell described as a "Harry Potter for adults" and it's easy to see why: the setting is England and the subject matter is magic. The writing also has a similarly whimsical tone, which for some reason I've always associated with the British. The world that Clarke created for this massive book (over 800 pages long) is so clever and detailed that I really wonder how she kept it all straight, which is the same thing I've wondered of J.K. Rowling. That's really the end of the similarities though, because this book is well, not at all a children's book. For one, it is a bit more set in reality. Taking place in the early 1800s with the backdrop of the actually historical Napoleonic wars, there is no secret world of Hogwarts and Quidditch and evolved wizarding communities that ordinary people have no knowledge of. There is only a history and tradition of old English magic (with fairies and another land called Faerie) that has seemingly gone extinct. The book is written a bit like a history, complete with footnotes (a lot of which I didn't bother reading), and it recounts how it is revived by two modern and opposing magicians, first Mr Norrell and then Jonathan Strange.

The book is a little slow in the beginning...it took me a week to get through the first quarter of it, but then once it picks up, it's incredibly engrossing. I polished off the rest of the book that following weekend. The characters are all fully fleshed out (unlike in the last long book I read, The Time Traveler's Wife) and everything is really easily believable. I loved the humor, and at some points it almost reminded me of Jane Austen. This isn't an action-packed book, though. Entire chapters are devoted small stand-alone mysteries that eventually have significance, but those were all still a lot of fun too. I love early 19th century England, I love magic and magicians, and I loved this book!

In conclusion, a really satisfying, fun read, quite possibly destined to become one of my favorite books. I have a tendency to rush and skim a little too much near the end of books in order to find out what happens, so I think I might actually read it again and maybe even buy it. Apparently it's going to be adapted into a film in the near future, which done right would probably be fantastic. The book is so long and detailed though...it'll be interesting to see how they handle that.

Lots of other fun stuff at jonathanstrange.com. (Susanna Clarke is a Joss Whedon fan!)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Tom Cruise's Today interview

Click to read the transcript and watch the entire video here. Also courtesy of Pink is the New Blog, a link to another great transcript with "visual annotations."

Man, I kind of don't know what to think about the whole TomKat thing...I don't think that the publicity stunt theory makes any sense, but I mean, the whole thing is just so unnatural. The age difference is one thing, but then there was the sudden "announcing" of the relationship plus the press tour and the hyper-speed movement toward an engagement, and the whole Scientology angle, which I don't understand but would probably be less afraid of if Tom Cruise wasn't such a devotee. Of course all of this is further fueled by my hate for Joey Potter and that annoying toothy smile that Katie Holmes is always giving, but seriously, something just doesn't seem right here.

Besides which, Tom Cruise scares the heck out of me. I mean, he's arguing with Matt Lauer, who was really being pretty reasonable, telling him that he doesn't know anything and how he should go and study the history of psychiatry? I think what bothers me the most is how dang SMUG he is. I'd be terrified to say anything to the man because there's probably a 50% chance that he doesn't agree with it and will be condescendingly telling me that I don't know anything!

The Get Up Kids @ Webster Hall

This was my first solo concert-going experience, and I have to say that it really wasn't that bad. The only real difference is that you don't have anyone to talk to in between sets and compare notes with afterwards. And of course it's much better than not having gone altogether. So yeah, if there's a show you want to see but no one to go with? Go anyway. It'll be worth it.

First up was Bella Lea, which consisted of a somewhat screamy girl on vocals and some stoner guys backing her up. All of their songs kind of sounded the same, but it wasn't unpleasant to listen to. Not much else to say really.

Next was the French Kicks, who I really loved! They headlined a Fanclub Collective show at Cornell this past semester, but I hadn't gone for some reason or another even though I had wanted to and should have. They have that Walkmen-Strokes-NYC-rock sound and I really enjoyed their performance, even though I was probably only one of a few that did. I guess indie rock and emo don't share that many fans or something.

Finally, the Get Up Kids came on, and it was every bit as good as I had been hoping for. I had read on the message boards that sometimes they're really drunk and sloppy, but this was an early show (it started at 6PM) so they seemed fine. I've been a fan for pretty long time and I knew the words to about 75% of the songs they played so it was just so much fun. I was especially happy to hear "Mass Pike," the first Get Up Kids song I'd ever listened to, and "No Love" and "Don't Hate Me" from Four Minute Mile, my favorite of their albums. This was a classic punk/emo concert in that things got pretty crushed and sweaty up near the front so I tried to stay outside of the pit area. I left after the first song of the encore because I needed to catch a train, and apparently I missed "Ten Minutes," another great song, but oh, well. I got to hear enough of their set to be satisfied.

The Get Up Kids kind of have a bad rap for being emo, and I'm not going to bother trying to defend them, but for some reason they've outlasted all of the other bands of the genre that I used to listen to, so uh, yeah, I'm really happy that I got the chance to see them on their final tour. So will this also be my last punk/emo concert? Haha, we'll see.

Statler and Waldorf From the Balcony

I didn't even know that those cranky old men in the Muppets were named Statler and Waldorf (names of hotels!) but I always thought they were really funny and now they're doing little movie review clips on movies.com and it's super cute! Plus they can get a lot of jabs in there because, well, they're puppets. And they're grumpy. Haha.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Batman Begins

I'll admit that I was a little skeptical of this movie from the beginning. Batman is a personal favorite of mine but the movies of late haven't been all that amazing...I didn't even see Batman and Robin because I couldn't imagine George Clooney in the role at all. This time around though, I was little more hopeful because of Christian Bale, who I've always kind of been a fan of. I loved him in Little Women, even though I hated that actress who played Amy...

Anyway, as the title suggests, this movie explores the beginnings of Batman. I found the trailers a bit odd, since it showed Bruce Wayne sword fighting, of all things, in what seemed to be Siberia, of all places. And it was still odd in the movie, but I guess it did make sense thematically so I was willing to go along with it. I did like all the flashbacks to Bruce as a kid, though. The real movie starts when Bruce gets back to Gotham. What I liked most about this movie was that the villains somehow didn't really seem to be that important. I liked Tim Burton's Batman but I felt like way too much time was given to the Joker, even though Jack Nicholson was really good in the role. This time around Batman was actually front and center. I mean, yeah, he was after the Scarecrow and Liam Neeson's character, but overall the movie was more about developing Batman and Bruce's motivations and his desire to make Gotham a better place, just like his father had.

The casting was all excellent, especially Christian Bale and Michael Caine as Alfred. Katie Holmes wasn't as annoying as I expected, probably because her role wasn't really that big after all. Morgan Freeman is always perfect, and Gary Oldman was playing a good guy for once with Gordon. I really liked the style and tone of the movie also, and there was a good dose of humor sprinkled throughout the serious and dark stuff. I thought the action was pretty well done too, even though I'm really tired of long car chases (though this one did involve the Batmobile).

So overall, I was pretty impressed with this movie. It's not going to make the impact that Christopher Nolan's other film Memento did, but hopefully it will be remembered for getting the Batman movies back on track.

austin, the new philadelphia?

Oh my lordy. So, when they first start introducing the new characters? My reaction was, whoa this might be a boring season. These characters are kinda boring. Geez, did I eat my words. Like 5 seconds into the cast meeting each other, two of the girls make out in the hot tub, two of the guys make a bet on who they'll hook up with within the month. Then no less, within the first 2 nights: there are already 2 love triangles (Johanna likes Danny -- who's HOT -- who likes Melinda. Wes likes Johanna who likes Danny), Johanna is a lousy drunk, Melinda is a huge skank, Danny and Wes get into a fight with random strangers on the streets, Danny has a fracture on the ocular part of his skull? CRAZINESS! TWO nights!

Boring season, my ass.

On a sidenote, Laguna Beach Season 1 is available on DVD. Oy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005



Just found this amusing and so very true!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Modest Mouse @ Central Park Summerstage

A treat for the readers: two reviews of two different Modest Mouse concerts in the span of a week! Haha, anyway, I'd been wanting to see Modest Mouse for a long time and I was super excited to have the chance this summer. And it definitely exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high to begin to with.

First off, the opener was Camper Van Beethoven, which is a band and not just one person, and which I'd never heard of before, but I was pleasantly surprised. I guess you can describe them as sort of a country-rock-pop, but a lot of their sounds seemed very ethnically diverse. At any rate, their music was really happy.

And then Modest Mouse came on. My friends, who had seen them live before, informed me that they sounded a lot better this time. I wouldn't know, but they sounded really good. Possibly even better than some of their recorded versions. Like Mira mentioned, the balance between vocals and instruments was spot-on, and they had a lot of energy without being too drunk or crazy (which I've heard that they sometimes are). They played most of their new album, with some older songs sprinkled in between (I'm glad they played "Never Ending Math Equation"!), although my friends and I probably wanted to hear more older stuff. But overall, one of the most musically satisfying concerts I've ever been to.

I have to mention though, that in terms of personal comfort, this was possibly the best show I've ever been to. The venue was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be, but it wasn't crowded. Because it was outdoors and it was a cool night, air and breathing and heat weren't an issue, and people weren't being pushy so there was plenty of room to move. The overall sound level wasn't so high that I felt like my eardrums were being blown out. The stage was just elevated enough that I could see some of what was going on on stage even though we weren't in the extreme front (which is a good thing). And the crowd was more of a mix of ages (despite a few strange individuals), unlike most of the other shows I've been to which were all overrun with high school and college kids, and most of the people seemed really informed and excited about the music. I hate it when there are a lot of people at shows who just stand around looking bored.

Modest Mouse rules! I'd definitely see them again...assuming their future albums are just as good, which I hope they are!

Click here for some blurry and not-so-close-up pictures.

Friday, June 17, 2005

modest mouse @ dar constitutional hall

Modest Mouse live is so incredibly awesome. They are definitely one of THE best live performances ever. It's funny because there are a few songs by them from their CD's (the only ones I actually know are Good News for People Who Love Bad News and The Moon & Antarctica) that I *really* like but a lot of the other songs on the CD's? Just not a big fan of. However, listening to the songs performed live? It didn't make me actually fall in love with the songs, but I really enjoyed it. They're so awesome to watch on stage because there is just SO much going on. There are a lot of different musical elements that go into each song. Whether the musicians are switching instruments in the middle of the song from guitar to keyboard to morocca-like things. Or whether there are 6 percussionists performing in one song. It was just so great to watch and to try to break down the songs by each instrument. I loved it when they used an electric cello-like instrument (I'm not really sure what it was) to play the bass-line. It was just absolutely fantastic. They look like they're having a great time performing together. And somehow even with a minimum of 2 drummers drumming at all times, the singer(s) were NEVER drowned out. I mean admittedly I didn't really know what they were singing most of the time, but that's just cuz I'm not good at listening to lyrics. But if I wanted to pay attention? I would've been able to hear the lyrics. It was just an incredibly energy-charged performance and I loved (Love it! Love it!) every minute of it. My only, ONLY disappointment with the concert is that they didn't perform "3rd Planet," but I guess since that was on their last album it's understandable... But it's okay, the rest of the performance was so great, I really shouldn't complain.

But yeah, Jenn, definitely something to look forward to!!! I eagerly await your critique on the Central Park summerstage concert in a few days. :-)

Monday, June 13, 2005

weekend movies!

(Jenn) I was visiting Mira this weekend in Baltimore so this should be a joint post! (Mira, edit this post with your reviews if you want.)
(Mira) Editted!

Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

(Jenn) I actually wasn't planning on seeing this movie right away but since everyone else seemed so excited about it I figured that I should be excited too. I did think that it was a bit too long (a few too many plot twists) but I really enjoyed it while watching it. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are both incredibly hot, and had respectable chemistry (I'm not going to comment on their real-life drama). And Brad Pitt is definitely best playing funny characters. The action was pretty well done and there were lots of laughs. Adam Brody was basically playing a Seth-clone character and it kind of seemed out of place but Vince Vaughn was hilarious as usual. Afterwards I didn't feel terribly satisfied though. Call me prissy but I'm always slightly bothered by movies that take hitmen and thiefs and people like that so lightly. And the plot itself wasn't very tight. All the focus is on Brad and Angelina so I guess we're not supposed to care that we don't understand who Adam Brody's character is and why the heck nobody seems to ever get caught by any actual authorities with all the massive shoot-outs and car chases and explosions and stuff...
(Mira) I personally really enjoyed this movie. I mean Adam Brody seemed really out of place, but then again so did Vince Vaughn! But I enjoyed that they were so off-the-wall, too. Angelina Jolie is absolutely gorgeous, and of course, it goes without saying that Brad Pitt is an incredibly sexy man. But moreso than anything I appreciated that it wasn't just straight up action, which is what I was expecting. I liked the little interludes of the Smiths sitting with the counselor talking about their marriage. I liked how they portrayed the chemistry between the two. I enjoyed that they made the movie funny in showing the two working so hard to hide their secret identities from each other. And I really loved how kick ass both of them were -- especially Angelina... So often in action movies I get really annoyed with women because they just get in the way. But Angelina just kicks major butt, and makes me wish to be as cool as her. Hahaha.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants:
(Jenn) I was really excited to see this and I'm glad that I wasn't disappointed. It stayed pretty true to the book, which I reviewed earlier, with only one big change in Lena's story, in making it of a more classic Romeo-and-Juliet type thing, which I assume was done to make it less complicated. Her plotline seemed to take up the most time too...though the scenery in Greece was so breathtaking that I can understand why. Alexis Bledel was really quite good in the role...I was afraid that she would be too Rory-ish, but apparently you take out the Lorelai-like babbling and she's not so bad. In fact, I thought that all the characters were really well cast, right up to Carmen's super-super-blonde new stepsiblings. And I really loved that they shows the pants actually traveling and being delivered in the mail because I had been wondering that while reading the book! All in all probably the best heartfelt teen girl movie I've seen since the Princess Diaries!
(Mira) I agree fullheartedly with Jenn. This movie was absolutely fantastic! I don't understand why so many people were like, "Oh man, Mira, you want to see what???" cuz it was SO good! Very rarely do I come out of a movie wanting to actually buy the DVD, but coming out of this movie I REALLY cannot wait for it to come out on DVD. It was just one of those movies that can make you happy, make you cry, make you laugh. So good!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

killers & keane @ merriweather

This is a little overdue, being that it has been a full 5 days since the concert. But better late than never, right? :-)

Wednesday night I not only got a chance to see The Killers in concert (finally!!!), and to see Keane perform live again(!!!), but I got to do this UP CLOSE. My coworker and I had scored awesome 3rd row center seats; unfortunately your seats didn't matter at all -- pit was pit and so it was general admission pit. *sigh* While it was wonderful getting to see the bands up really close up, I've gotta say standing for 5 hours straight to do so is not my cup of tea.

The openers: Regina Spektor, Maximo Park, Louis XIV
While it's cool that so many bands were performing, waiting 30 minutes between each band for the staff to set up for the following band was painful. Fortunately we missed Regina Spektor because we got there an hour late. Unfortunately we didn't miss Maximo Park. I mean their music wasn't terrible, I don't think. Well, I'm not sure. We were too busy being grossed out by the waterfall of sweat dripping off of the lead singer's head to really hear what was being performed. I mean it's not their fault it was 90 degrees and they were wearing tons of clothes. Well actually, it sorta is -- note to bands performing at outdoor summer venues: wear less clothing. Next was Louis XIV, who I found to be a really good opener band. They play very energy-pumping music. I only knew two of the songs they performed but it was fun all-round. The only negative I have to say is that the lead singer wore *incredibly* tight pants which showed off a little too much of his package. *shudder* But "Finding Out True Love is Blind," and "Illegal Tender," both good songs.

The mini-headliner: Keane
I saw them back in February in Ann Arbor. And man, they were EXCELLENT then. This time was no different. Plus this time I was all the way up in the front right near them. The lead singer is not particularly good looking, but the pianist is cute. Except he's also married (I was so close I could spot his wedding ring -- yeap, I looked for it!). Not that it *really* matters, but yeah... Tom Chaplin (lead singer) is an incredibly talented man with a beautiful voice. Man, as my coworker would say "love it! love it!" Keane is fantastic on their album Hopes and Fears and amazingly even better live.

The stars of the show: The Killers
I went into the night saying, "My life will be complete when I hear 'Mr. Brightside' performed live..." Well yup, my life is complete. Except for one little thing. Brandon Flowers totally dedicated the song to the guys in the lawn seats. Brandon, you silly man, you were supposed to dedicate it to ME, all the way up front! The performance was solid. Most of the songs were performed to perfection. Some of the songs were actually angrier sounding than I expected (or as some would say, "more raw" sounding). But it was a terrific performance. The unfortunate thing is that I was exhausted by this time because of all the standing, all of the pushing other people out of my "personal space" near the front and in the center. Brandon Flowers, though your name is a lot funny, you are an extremely good looking man. The Killers were great, and totally worth lying in bed for 20 minutes wishing the pain in my feet would subside.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

recent viewings

Now that I am officially done with my undergraduate career and am just bumming around at home for two months, I've been watching quite a few DVDs lately. Some quick recaps:

Finding Neverland: Very feel-good and British. Despite the whole Titanic thing I really do like Kate Winslet as an actress, and Johnny Depp is always cool.

I Heart Huckabees: Really quirky. Parts of it just a little too bizarre, but I thought Mark Wahlberg was hilarious and the whole "existential detectives" thing was kind of cute.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen: Uhhhh basically nowhere near as good as Mean Girls and kind of a waste of my time. Good thing I have a lot of time to waste.

Spellbound: I was probably more interested in this because a spelling bee champion was a few of my classes in high school (Rebecca Sealfon), but I really enjoyed it. I mean, I still don't really understand why these kids have the compulsion to learn how to spell words they will never ever use, but it was fun to watch anyway.

The Sweet Hereafter: An old one. It was a bit odd...one of those critically acclaimed films that's supposed to be very deep and whatnot, and I sort of got it. It was obviously very intelligently made and the acting was quite good but I guess these things just aren't always my cup of tea.

Monday, June 06, 2005

jade empire

Okay, I'm not much of a gamer. In fact I'm definitely NOT a gamer. It took me forever of playing Halo 2 on Xbox to get the hang of the turning to change your perspective and walking forward, backward, sideways thing. Now I'm just starting to figure out the change the weapons to deal with different types of enemies. Oy!

Anyway, but I love RPG's. Cuz the pace of RPG's is manageable for the gaming-incompetent like me. Plus I love stories, and plotline, and character development. So when I read all the gushing reviews for Jade Empire, I was quite excited and jealous of all those who could play it being that I had neither the game nor an Xbox to play it on. Well, my wonderful friend Steve has gone on vacation for a month and lent me both so I got a chance to try it out. And well, frankly, I'm not really a big fan of it. First off, the characters are ugly looking. Okay not like ugly ugly, but they're not the super attractive types of the latest Final Fantasy's. They're more realistic looking, I suppose. Second, I just really like the graphics in Final Fantasy a lot better. They're prettier, sharper... Steve was explaining to me something about pre-programmed vs. real-time or something along those lines and how Jade Empire is cool because you control the perspective and stuff, but BAH! I just don't like it as much. Third, the fighting is different from typical RPG's in that it's more something. Hum, if I were a gamer I'd know the terms. But it's like you're fighting them in a fighting game-style. Which is pretty interesting and cool, but I suck at it. So I die a lot. Hahaha, man...

So, going back to how I started this entry. I'm not much of a gamer, so perhaps I don't understand the absolute awesomeness that is Jade Empire, but I think I will stick to my pretty Final Fantasy games. Ahh, and Chrono Cross; oh, how I want to play that one again...

Matt Roush answered my question!

Matt Roush is the lead TV critic over at TVGuide (and is living my dream career) and has an "Ask Matt" column on the website where he answers questions submitted by viewers. I submitted a question a few weeks ago and he answered it last Friday! It's the last question on the page.

I've been surprised by all your praise of Gilmore Girls this season. While finally putting Luke and Lorelai together was wonderful and long overdue, Rory has just become intolerable. I understand that the writers want her to make mistakes and put her through some trials, but it's gotten to the point where I didn't even want to watch the show because of her behavior. It's not compelling, it's irritating. Rory used to be the only really relatable high-school and then college-age girl on television, and now she's just another Dawson's Creek cutout. — Jennifer
That's a bit harsh. But I will agree with you that the one episode in which Rory followed Logan's dad around the newspaper office like an attention-starved puppy was silly and out of character. Her extreme overreaction to the boss' critique was problematic, but understandable for a girl like Rory, who has been given nothing but praise and support for her high-aiming pursuits. The fact that you're irritated by her ups and downs seems to me a sign that she's striking a nerve. I felt the turning points in the season finale were masterfully executed. But it's a fact that Rory has been a subject of debate and controversy ever since last season's finale, when she slept with the married Dean.

Haha, he called me harsh! Which is true, but then he somewhat agreed with me also. I just felt like there had been too much praise and sucking up to the show on his columns this season and I wanted to throw in an opposing opinion and it looks like he appreciated it. Yay for Matt Roush!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Beauty and the Geek

First new series of the summer and I am HOOKED!

I have to say that they found a really interesting group of people...I was reading the bios on the official site and I was surprised to learn that most of the girls are about my age and have been to college. And some of the guys really aren't that geeky. Joe, the short dude, is an English major who makes movies and has a blog! I really wonder why he's never been on a date...maybe because he seems so painfully shy. I know a lot of dorkier guys that have had plenty of girlfriends.

Oh, and the really clueless answers that some of the girls gave reminded me of a study we discussed in my science writing course last semester about how much the public knows as compared to the average person in my class, and it was really surprising. I mean, I guess it's not crucial to everyday life to know things about history and geography, but seriously! I wonder if it's a problem with the educational system or if people are just so unconcerned that they forget...