Growing up, one of my favorite shows had to be Get Smart starring Don Adams. The silly exploits of the hapless spy from CONTROL tickled my funny bone like nothing else. Turns out that Get Smart is the latest television property to be turned into a big screen feature, this time starring the hilarious star of The Office, Steve Carrell. The trailer looks funny enough, but I suspect they are saving the best bits for the actual release. I can only imagine Carrell’s riotous take on my favorite Smart gag, the Cones of Silence. I refuse to get my hopes up too high however, thanks to film disasters like The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched and Starsky & Hutch. I pray that Carrell will pull if off, if for nothing else but to save us from all of the reviews that will no doubt start with “Missed it by THAT much!” if he fails. I guess we’ll find out this summer.

Hat tip to Imagication for this post.

Oh, Me of Little Faith!

September 28, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, during a particularly nasty losing streak, I had pretty much given up all hope for my beloved Red Sox of ever making the finals this year. I watched as their 14+ game lead in the A.L. East slowly, but surely dried up. At one point, those damn Yankees managed to pull within 1 game of the lead, and so I had had enough. I brushed Boston aside and tried to focus on other things, all the while keeping one eye on Beantown.

Reverse psychology never worked so well! Tonight, Boston’s win over the Twins combined with the Yankees 9-10 loss to the Orioles in extra innings means that the Sox have won the A.L. East title for the first time since 1995. Just minutes after the Yankees game ended, the A.L. East entry over at Wikipedia was updated with the Red Sox’s achievement. Their win means that the Yankees’ stranglehold on the division is finally over and the Sox’s stunning victory over the Bronx Bombers in 2004 is now “complete”.

I have to hand it to these self-proclaimed “bunch of idiots”, they never gave up. Despite horrendous performances by Eric Gagne, badly timed injuries to Manny and Youklis, and a New York team that seemed at times, unbeatable, the Red Sox have emerged as this year’s champions. The Sox claimed the lead of the division way back on April 18th, and amazingly enough, never gave it back. The entire Red Sox Nation can now look forward to the post-season and take a small, but needed, sigh of relief. Next stop, the playoffs, and this time I promise not to look away!

I long ago gave up trying to predict how Wall Street rewards stocks. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, along comes a day like today and you’re back to oval seven. Today, Apple Computer’s stock hit a 52 week high of $153.18 for what appears to be no good reason. In fact, this occurred in spite of the fact that Amazon launched what could be considered the first real competition for the iTunes music store, Amazon: MP3. Do investors believe that Amazon’s entry into the market space will spur competition and keep Apple “thinking different”? Did Phil Schiller’s casual remark about unlocked iPhone’s becoming “bricks” bolster investors? Or perhaps they have begun to see the reporting of clueless “experts” like theStreet.com’s Scott Mortiz, as the fabricated bullshit that it is.

No matter what the cause, the $150 goal for AAPL has been met and suddenly $200 doesn’t seem all that impossible. The Christmas buying season is just around the corner. The iPhone is about to launch in European markets and there is now an entire new line of iPods in the channel. Despite some recent miss-steps, Apple has seemingly stayed ahead of competitors (Zune 2.0? Please!), scared the bejezus out of the cell phone carriers and given Mac users even more reasons to drool over hardware. Let Mortiz and company try to short the stock. Apple’s innovation along with revenue from this year’s product releases will push the stock to new heights. You can bank on it.

Disclosure: If you have not figured it out, yes, I own stock in Apple Computer.

Just Don’t Touch the Sink

September 23, 2007

I don’t always concur with Will Shipley’s take on things, but after reading his latest post entitled “Bush & Sons, General Contractors.“, I found myself shaking my head in total agreement. His clever allegory for the war in Iraq is all too true. I especially like this bit:

“I know I threw that party for my boys and said we were “done” years ago… but that really needs to be put into context, you see. When I said “done” I meant “done with the hard part,” which was convincing you to let us tear up your bathroom. I mean, we knew once we got in there wasn’t going to be any finishing for years. No, in retrospect, I guess I could have been clearer about that. But that’s ancient history, now. I mean, you’ve got a new toilet to look forward to, someday! Right, and a shower, if we get to it.“

The comparison of the Bush Administration to an inept bunch of pseudo-plumbers is an apt one. They scared us with false threats of leaks that could become floods at any second. When no cracked pipes were found, they justified further “repairs” with feeble arguments that they said weren’t apparent until they ripped up the floor. Unlike Will however, I believe the worst part of the entire affair isn’t the cost involved, but rather the horrendous number of people who have lost their lives on the “job”. Iraq long ago became the ultimate fixer-upper from hell for all involved.

Hat tip to Airbag for this post.

You’d think with amount of mind-numbing hype coming from Redmond these last few weeks that Halo 3 was the second coming of the video game industry. But then you’d be wrong, that was called the Wii. So unless Bungie has been keeping a really big secret, Halo 3 is just another first person shooter. Am I wrong? Can someone please tell me why Halo 3 is such a big deal?

I get the fact that Halo 3 is probably the most popular thing that Microsoft has ever “embraced”, which is sad in its own right, but do I have to have the Master Chief stuffed up my ass every minute of every day? This must be what it was like for all of those people who were sick of hearing about the iPhone in the weeks leading up to the launch. I guess one man’s plague is another man’s present. Go figure.

In Defense of Kid Nation

September 20, 2007

Let me just say that I do not have children of my own. If I did, my view of the new reality based television show from CBS about 40 tykes in the New Mexico desert might be different, but I doubt it. Having watched the premiere episode, it seems obvious these brave kids have taken on an adult-sized challenge with courage and passed with flying colors. Kid Nation just might be poised to become the next big hit, as well as do something that TV seldom does – enlighten and inspire its audience. Unfortunately, the production was criticized as soon as the premise leaked. Critics alluded to violation of child labor laws, blamed greedy parents and warned of potentially life threatening situations even before a single minute had aired. Newsweek’s Joshua Alston has said that Kid Nation is an example of “how low popular culture can go” and made the inevitable comparison to William Golding’s 1954 classic novel, Lord of the Flies. A group of children, left to fend for themselves in the wilderness with no adult supervision. What will happen? Will chaos ensue? Will the children turn on each other and start dropping boulders on kids they want to “vote out”? As it turns out, chaos yes… boulders on kids, not so much.

Although we see the occasional bouts of anarchy (hey, these are children), what shines through is how well the children adapt. Led to an abandoned town in New Mexico, these 40 kids learned how to function as a society for 40 days without the benefit of parents, teachers or even guardians. The adult host and the camera crew would appear to be the only supervision given, but the show’s producers also provided for instant, around the clock medical attention and counseling for any child that required it. Reports do indicate that several minor injuries occurred on set including a sprained ankle, a burn due to cooking with hot oil, and one child ingested bleach accidentally. Ask any parent and I’m sure they’ll tell you that a single injury is one too many, but in exchange each child got a guaranteed $5K, chances to win $20K more, plus a once in a life-time opportunity to learn responsibility, make new friends and challenge themselves.

Kid Nation succeeds because it has just enough structure to keep the children focused running the town and working towards those coveted golden stars. Prizes and challenges aside, best part of the show is the kids themselves. The parents of these children should be proud, and with good reason. Sophia, age 14 helped feed the entire posse even though she’s never cooked before. Greg, age 15 helped another child who had a muscle spasm onto the back of a wagon and pulled him into town. Michael, age 14 stood up during a shouting match and lent a calm opinion to the town’s ruling council. And Taylor, age 10, resisted the urge to return to her family, and instead helped lead her yellow team to victory over older and stronger kids to become the town cooks. All of these children are remarkable and I’m delighted that their parents have allowed us to get a sneak peak at their pride and joys.

I’m sure in the weeks ahead, it won’t all be teamwork and high-fives in Bonanza City. Problems will arise, just as they do in real life, and these resourceful sons and daughters will have to figure out how to deal with them. They have already shown the type of resilience that many adults can only dream of. If I did have children of my own, I would let them participate and gain as much from the experience as they possibly could. Today’s kids are coddled, fawned over and more often than not, spoiled. Kid Nation might be a game show, but at the end of the day, these young ones will take home much more than just prize money. They will have the satisfaction of knowing they were a part of something life changing. They will look at themselves and other children in a different light, and perhaps all of us watching at home will too. I suspect TV viewers will see the good parts of the show, forget the burn and the bleach, and reward CBS with a winner. Nothing would be a more fitting tribute to these kids’ brave nation.

Digg It!

It may seem to the casual reader that I have a bone to pick with cooking shows, but that’s just because they deserve it so much. I happen to think Bravo’s Top Chef is one of the best reality TV shows going, but even I’m having a hard time swallowing what head judge, Tom Colicchio, has been serving lately. This season, Colicchio’s behavior has gone from endearing to simply annoying. He’s been freaking the contestants out with his tendency to hover in the Top Chef kitchen while they are cooking. His criticisms of their food will go from “that was bad” one moment to “that was the single worst thing I’ve ever eaten” the next. He tends to think that no challenge is unfair, even ones that have little, if anything to do with a restaurant chef’s day to day job. And call me crazy, but any classically trained chef that doesn’t know how to properly hold a knife and fork, has no business telling others how to do their job.

There are large parts of Colicchio, and his participation on the show, that I enjoy. He apparently knows his stuff when it comes to cooking and is not afraid to be blunt with the contestants. If things are going south, he’ll let you know, and generally he’s pretty fair when it comes to who is performing and who is falling behind. His presence “grounds” the show from its inherent affected nature and lends credibility to its production. But at the same time, his level of patience has decreased while his need to critique has skyrocketed. The slightest flaw in the contestant’s cooking now has a tendency to set him off. On last week’s episode CJ’s brocoolini turned out to be the worst thing he’d ever eaten on the show. Never mind the fact that none of the chefs had ever used an oven on a commercial airliner before, or even prepared meals that had certain height requirements (yes, you read that right, height requirements). Colicchio seems to be becoming more and more jaded with each season, and I fear his likeability is suffering. It’s easy to sit in judgement on other people’s creations, and since I’ve never actually seen him cook, I don’t know if he’s just talking out his ass, or he has the truffles to back it up.

I’d like to suggest that Bravo inject a bit of humility into Top Chef by announcing a “Contestant’s Revenge” episode. I propose that for one episode, Colicchio, Padma, Gail and any other guest judges who have the courage, compete in their own mini challenge. They’ll get an impossibly small budget to work with, a miniscule amount of time in which to prepare and compete, and then be forced to serve their concoctions to the Top Chef contestants and a few snotty food critics thrown in for good measure. They say you don’t really know a chef until you’ve sauteed a mile in his pan. How about it Tom, can you take it as well as dish it out? I think we’d all like to see. In the meantime, I know a great place you can go and hone your table manners. I hear they have an opening.

Ever put serious thought into what your favorite top 20 movies of all time are? Neither had I until a bunch of us decided to get together and do a group blog post about the subject. The theme we decided upon was “20 Movies for a Deserted Island” along with some “guilty pleasures” thrown in for good measure. Corey Marion, David Miller, Anthony Piraino and I all brainstormed and came up with a list of our current favorite 20 movies. We made our lists without each other’s knowledge, but given our similar likes and interests, it doesn’t surprise me to find some duplicates among our choices.

The movies on my list are films that I have watched many, many times and never get tired of. If I happen to spy one of these movies while I’m flipping TV channels, I usually get sucked into watching until the very end. I hope some of your favorites are on my list. Be sure to post your picks in the comment thread if the mood should strike you, then hop on over to the guys’ pages and see how their list compares. Without further ado here is my list in descending order:

• • •

20. Terminator 2

What do you get when you pack amazing special effects, time travel, California’s rippling governor and the baddest liquid robot in the history of film? The answer is one of the best action flicks of all time. Terminator 2 has just enough plot to rise above the average shoot-em-up, but not enough to take away from the sheer cool factor of seeing Arnold rip into a dozen police cars with a mini gun. The strongest of the three Terminator films by far and one of Cameron’s best.

• • •

19. The Emperor’s New Groove

The “black sheep” of the Disney family, The Emperor’s New Groove hit problems from the very moment of production. What was planned as a sappy epic dealing with ancient Mayan Incan culture ended up instead as the single funniest film ever to come out of the Mouse House. Patrick Warburton as Kronk is my favorite Disney side kick of all time, as is Eartha Kitt’s Yzma in the villain category. Packed with one-liners and tons of heart, New Groove always delivers.

• • •

18. Shawn of the Dead

The people who made Shawn of the Dead love action and horror movies to death. No pun intended. The black comedy in this UK sleeper hit is cranked way up, which is what makes it just so much fun to watch. More than just a zombie movie, Shawn takes typical horror conventions and turns them on their smashed and bloody head. The result is dark, brooding and hilarious.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

17. Raising Arizona

All of the classic Coen brothers techniques are in full force in Arizona. Snappy, memorable one-liners mix with a warped world view to tell the story of H.I. McDunnough and Ed’s misplaced efforts to “adopt” a child. Nicholas Cage’s deadpan delivery combined with clever camera work and a memorable score, all make for a movie well worthy of a deserted island.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

16. Aliens

The first time I saw Aliens in the theater, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire first 30 minutes. I knew what was coming, it was only a matter of when and how. I love the dark, hopelessness of the movie, its intense action sequences and Sigourney’s rock solid performance. The original Alien is a masterpiece of horror, and Aliens builds on that suspense and throws in a healthy dose of “kick ass” for good measure.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

15. When Harry Met Sally

My favorite romantic comedy of all time. Nora Ephron’s writing is sublime in When Harry as are the performances by both the lead and the supporting casts. This movie also helped me court my wife long distance, so it holds a special place in our home. The film is also a veritable fountain memorable quotes including “Baby fishmouth!” and the previously posted “Sheldon can do your income taxes.” If Mindy and I ever need a good laugh, we can always count on When Harry Met Sally to come to the rescue.

• • •

14. Se7en

This dark thriller grabs you and never lets go. More than most suspense movies, Se7en’s locations become just as much a part of the story as the main characters. It always seems to be gloomy, raining and gritty in this horrific world of sin and death, which only adds to the intense drama. The movie marches relentlessly towards its inevitable and climatic conclusion that is just as disturbing now as it was the first time I saw it. Great flick.

• • •

13. Mulan

Of all of Disney’s animated tales, Mulan is the one that strikes the perfect balance between drama and comedy. The Lion King comes close, but I love the Asian setting in Mulan as well as it’s core themes of family and honor. The songs are catchy and the art direction can’t be beat. The Japanese ink sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

• • •

12. The Matrix

The Matrix was such a watershed moment in American film that even Keanu Reeves can’t keep the film down. It is a perfect blend of archetypes, modern day paranoia and Hong Kong style action. Throw in Carrie-Anne Moss clad to the hilt in sexy black rubber and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith and you have a sci-fi classic for the ages. As an FYI, the other two Matrix films wouldn’t even make it into my DVD collection let alone on my deserted island. Yes, they are that bad.

Also picked by Anthony and Corey.

• • •

11. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Coen Brothers have an uncanny knack for creating memorable characters, locations and dialog. No where was this more apparent than in the hit film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Like his ancient Greek counterpart, Ulysses Everett McGill finds himself on an amazing journey in which he meets all manner of characters including an oracle, a cyclops and a set of seductive sirens. The film also makes special use of music as it even becomes an integral plot point. About the only thing I don’t like about the movie is when Babyface shoots the cows. “Not the livestock George!” Other than that, I can’t complain.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

10. Star Wars

The original. Not the re-release or the CGI special edition, or even the re-re-release. Before there were the ultra-crappy prequels there was this space opera for the ages. The first, best and only true Star Wars. The only thing that even comes close to Episode IV is Empire, but even that is a pale shadow of the original. May the Force be with us!

• • •

9. Young Frankenstein

A comedic spoof for the ages from the one and only Mel Brooks. Brilliant performances by Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman are just the tip of this hilarious iceburg as we watch Brooks send up every aspect of the classic horror genre. Clever dialog and a respectful homage to film’s black and white era only add to the piles of funny that are stacked up like so many of Frederick’s body parts. My favorite outright comedy.

• • •

8. The Incredibles

It was tough picking just one PIXAR movie for this list, but The Incredibles wins by a nose. I’m a sucker for good super hero movies, and this combined with the fantastic family theme proved a winner for Brad Bird and company. I love Edna ‘E’ Mode and her passion for super fashion, Frozone’s arguments with his wife and the tilted humor found throughout the entire picture. I’m not much for sequels, but I think The Incredibles is one PIXAR franchise that is indeed worthy.

• • •

7. To Kill a Mockingbird

I remember the first time I saw To Kill a Mockingbird back in grade school. The film, told through the eyes of a child, was easy to relate to but also told the powerful story of a man, the family he loved and racial injustice in the Depression-era South. Gregory Peck’s quiet and determined performance as Atticus Finch won him the Oscar in 1962, and rightly so. I still get goose-bumps watching the last 20 minutes of this movie, even to this day. When Boo steps out of the shadow in Scout’s room, a big part of my childhood jumps right out with him. I love that about great movies, they can transport you. Mockingbird does it to me every time.

• • •

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Say what you want about George Lucas, but the man can create memorable characters. Indiana Jones is perhaps one of cinema’s most recognized heroes and that is in no small part to George Lucas. The story is a direct take on the serials that played in movie houses across the nation in the 40′s & 50′s and it single handily spawned the modern action era. Harrison Ford is perfect in the role of Indy, the locations are epic and the score by John Williams positively soars. Throw in a good helping of evil Nazis, the mythical Ark of the Covenant and an unforgettable showdown in a crowded Egyptian marketplace and you have one of the top movies of all time.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

5. The Princess Bride

It’s strange but when I think of The Princess Bride, I don’t really think of it as a comedy. It’s more like a tilted fairy tale, an obvious inspiration for more goofy movies like Shrek. Of all the films in my top 20, this one probably has the most memorable quotes, and there are lots of them. The dialog, pacing and performances all add up to a fan favorite that many people tell me is on their list of personal favorites. No matter what you think of Princess Bride, the film’s creators must have done something right to be loved by so many.

Also picked by Corey and Anthony.

• • •

4. Kill Bill Vol. 1

I love this movie. Let me say it again so I’m perfectly clear. I love Kill Bill Vol. 1. I love pretty much everything about it. Here are some things in no particular order that I think are particularly good: Uma Thurman, Hong Kong style action, anime sequences, the House of Blue Leaves super-long camera pan, Zamfir and oh yeah, Quentin Tarantino. I also admire the movie for what it is, not what some people say it is not. It is not pretentious and full of itself like Tarantino’s often touted Pulp Fiction. It is not a deep character study and it is certainly not a movie that all people enjoy. It is a kick-ass homage to martial arts films, pop culture and TV of the 70′s and I will watch it any time and any place.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

3. Saving Private Ryan

Our parents have Bridge over the River Kwai and The Longest Day, we have Saving Private Ryan. The sheer fact that Spielberg decided to start the movie with the Battle of Normandy and not end with it, speaks volumes about the story to come. We embark on an epic journey to find a lone private caught somewhere in the allied invasion of France. The film brings rich characters to life and confirms the raw talent of Tom Hanks as cinema’s “every man”. Veterans have said that Ryan is about as realistic as combat gets for the movies, and watching the skillful direction it’s easy to see why. Saving Private Ryan may be cinema’s definitive war movie, and for that, it deserves a place in the roster of my deserted island movies.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

2. The LOTR Trilogy

Yeah, so technically this is three movies, but I don’t view them that way. I see the trilogy as three parts of one story that all inter-connects (hey, isn’t that the definition of a trilogy anyway?). The depth of the various plot threads and the level of character development give new meaning to masterpiece. Peter Jackson and company pay tribute to Tolkien in so many ways, from costumes and makeup to music and set design, the entire trilogy is one giant labor of love to the late author. I remember how hard it was to wait in-between releases of these films and I still enjoy every single minute of them on DVD now.

Also picked by Anthony and Corey.

• • •

1. The Shawshank Redemption

What makes Shawshank so brilliant is the way it weaves what really are a series of small vignettes into one, wonderful story arc. Take any one of them by itself and you have great story telling and compelling drama. Follow the entire series over the course of two hours and you have one of the best movies ever made. The tale told by Morgan Freeman is one of hope and despair, of freedom and imprisonment which leads to one of, if not the most, satisfying endings in movie history. I think I’ve watched Shawshank about 30+ times now and it never gets old or boring. The look on the warden’s face when he pulls down Andy’s poster is priceless. A great film.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

I define “Guilty Pleasures” as movies that you love, but wouldn’t necessarily admit to loving in mixed company. I’d sure as heck take these movies to a deserted island if there was room on the boat, but I might watch them in a cave on the other side of the lagoon, far away from the judgmental eye of the tribe. :-)

Starship Troopers – This cheesy excuse for a big-budget sci-fi flick has it all: big overblown sets, method acting, scene chewing dialog “You’re some kind of SMART BUG!”, and Doogie Howser! Top it all off with a dash of Denise Richards, and a side helping of Michael Ironside and you’ve got the perfect guilty pleasure. It’s so bad, it’s good.

Legend of Boggy Creek – Sure it was shot with a 16mm handheld camera, employes the entire Crabtree family and has one of the sappiest love songs about a swamp monster you’ll ever hear, but it still ROCKS! Boggy Creek is by far the best of the 70′s docu-dramas about Bigfoot you’ll ever see. It’s regular viewing in my home and the Iconfactory in October. I take pride in the knowledge that I have hooked all the guys at the office on this super bad, super scary, low-budget number from my childhood.

Zoolander – Ben Stiller hams it up to perfection in this goofy flick about a model idiot. Filled with cliches and snappy pop tunes, Zoolander is nothing more than trashy, bubble gum fun, but it always brings a smile to my face. The exchange between Derek, Hansel and Billy Zane is classic, as is Derek’s one look – The Magnum.

Ghost – To say Ghost is sappy is an understatement. It’s so corny, that I can’t even get my wife to watch it, my WIFE! I’ll admit that it pushes a bit too many stereotypical buttons, but when that penny floats across the room to land in Molly’s hand, damn if I don’t tear up every single time! Sometimes you just gotta have a good cry, and so there’s Ghost.

FM Talk 101.1 Dumps Fox Noise

September 10, 2007

Imagine my surprise when I tuned into Brad & Britt this morning and the familiar Fox news bumper with the laughable “Fair and Balanced” tag line was replaced with the soothing tones of ABC News. Yes, it seems that FM Talk 101.1 WZTK has opted out of their contract with Fox to supply them with their on-air news updates in favor of the “World leader in news.” I called the station to confirm and they indeed told me that their contract with Fox was done.

I never personally heard an on-air Fox report on 101.1 that seemed overly biased, but I have witnessed it many times on Fox News. Personally, any company that decides to deny Rupert Murdoch even the tiniest piece of our world’s media inter-web, is okay by me. Now if we could just get them to do something about Michael “Weiner” Savage…

Another Reason RFID Sucks

September 10, 2007

As if massive privacy concerns and identity theft were not enough reasons to worry about the wide spread use of radio frequency identification technology, now comes word that it it may also cause cancer. It seems that a series of veterinary and toxicology studies from the mid-1990s, found that RFID chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats. Although the FDA has officially approved the chips for implanting in pets and limited use in humans, these studies found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed subcutaneous “sarcomas”, or malignant tumors, most of them encasing the implants.

Although the research is ongoing, I’m seriously thinking about having the RFID chips in our pets removed. Some people think all this FUD is hogwash, and that RFID is perfectly safe and secure. To them I say, have you ever had chemotherapy? I have, and let me just say it’s no day at the beach. If you’d like to gamble with an aggressive form of cancer that can kill you in as little as 3-6 months just to prove your pet theories, be my guest! The chips are even mentioned by bible enthusiasts as one of the signs of the end times for Pete’s sake! Do you really want to portend the apocalypse AND go through localized radiation therapy? No, I didn’t think so.

Earlier this month, California passed a law forbidding companies from forcing their employees to have RFID chips implanted in them. I plan on writing our representatives and asking them to support the very same measure here in NC. The chips pose serious threats to security, personal liberty and now, health. As far as I’m concerned, they can’t be banned fast enough. Now excuse me while I finish that Book of Revelations.

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