Monthly Archives: December 2007

“Why is Congress saying one thing and doing nothing?”

God bless Aaron Sorkin. Fans, lamenting the loss of The West Wing, were excited when they heard that Sorkin would be returning to NBC to helm his new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The show had a star-studded cast and NBC was obviously dropping some bones on production, so it was a disappointment when the show failed to do anything besides give Bradley Whitford a chance to act like Bradley Whitford. BUT, in the end, it didn’t matter. Sorkin could have written Dude, Where’s My Car? and then said “What now bi**ches? I wrote A Few Good Men,” and we would all bow down and forgive him.

Charlie Wilson’s War is the true story of democratic congressman Charlie Wilson (Hanks) and the U.S. effort to arm the Afghan mujahideen against the invading Soviet Union. The film is obviously a shoe-in for more than a few Oscar nods – which comes as no surprise – with a cast including Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, directed by Mike Nichols, AND written by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is in full form here, the political stuff being where he really shines. The screenplay is smart, witty, and gives you that “entertainment for grownups” feeling. It’s always nice to see a movie like this without feeling like there’s a ton of information flying over your head.

The cast are all seasoned vets, and work well with each other. About half-way through the movie, it did occur to me that a movie like this is a bit of a departure for Tom Hanks. Regardless, he still performs well here. He’s done maybe three or four so-so movies in his entire career. I mean, it’s Tom Hanks. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like him? As far as casting goes, the only disappointment was Julia Roberts. She performed her role as well as she could, it just felt like it was too small for her. Her role seemed a little miscast. The real surprise here was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was really kind of blown away at how good he was in the film. He’s come a long way from Dusty the pothead in Twister. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a Best Supporting Actor nod when Oscar nominations are announced.

2007 hasn’t been the best year for political films. Movies like The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs and In the Valley of Elah all failed to meet expectations. That said, Charlie Wilson is one of the few films that will probably come out on top this year, for a couple of reasons. One, the movie’s funny, and not being advertised as a straight-up political film like The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs were. If you’ve seen any of the commercials, they have a little more upbeat feel to them. Second, these are obviously politically-charged times we live in. Most of the country is sick of hearing it, and everyone gets touchy when things like Iraq come up. Another credit to Aaron Sorkin is that the film manages to make a political statement without punching you in the face with it, something other films we’ve seen this past year haven’t been able to pull off. The movie takes care of all its soap-boxing in the last ten minutes. Wilson, talking to other congressmen about approving funds for the rebuilding of Afghanistan says that America always seems to go into other countries with her big ideals, changes the world, and then just leaves. The entire movie is wrapped up with the quote, “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… And then we fucked up the end game.” It kind of all makes sense. B-

“I am a survivor living in New York City.”

This is the third time Richard Matheson’s novel has been adapted into a movie. The first two, The Last Man On Earth and The Omega Man, were campy and fun in their own way, but not much more. Will Smith’s latest, I Am Legend, if the first movie to do the story justice. The previews had me really excited for this one, so I was a little worried when I read reviews saying that the movie really reached up there, but ultimately fell short. However, after checking it out myself, I’m happy to say that Legend is probably one of the best films of the year, and a contender for my coveted Top Three of 2007, which all films aspire to be.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Robert Neville (Smith) is a scientist studying a supervirus that’s killed off 90% of the world’s population. Those who aren’t dead or immune have been turned into vampires that either lurch around like zombies or come at you like Zinedine Zidane on gameday. Living in an abandoned New York City in the year 2012, Neville spends his days hunting deer, practicing his drive and searching for a cure. I don’t want to give anything away, but things go wrong. HORRIBLY wrong.

This is an action movie with a lot of action movie staples in it, but what sets it apart from some of the other flops we’ve seen this year is Will Smith. 95% of the movie is Smith all by himself. The fact that he’s able to carry it, and carry it well, is really a testament to the man’s acting chops. There’s a lot of good suspense. The movie isn’t predictable so you’ll be on the edge of your seat a lot of the time. I’m a huge sci-fi fan, so I spend most of my time sad that there are so few people who can do the genre any justice. Legend is a welcome change of pace.

I only had two problems with the film. First, I didn’t like the the CGI vampires Smith is trying to save. The idea is cool, and it was executed about as well as it could be, but in the end they look like zombie versions of Imhotep from The Mummy. Second, the ending felt a little rushed to me. For everything that came before it, it just felt out of place. I won’t go into detail because the three people who read this blog might not have seen the movie yet.

All in all, a very enjoyable film. A great story, and Will Smith is fantastic. Four out of five stars. We’ll be back next week with Charlie Wilson’s War. Until then, I need to catch a cab. I’ll make sure the license plate says “fresh” and there’s a dice in the mirror.

Kids say the darndest things! ^__^

More substitute teaching goodness this past week. I was in a class, trying not to be obvious about texting with a friend (“Hmmm, no bars…) and overheard the following conversation, already in progress.

(**Wesley, Darius and Sarah are black. Ryan is a son of the soil, or a hillbilly. And yes, this actually happened.)

Wesley: Who?

Sarah: That guy. Who said that stuff about the Rutgers girl’s basketball team.

Wesley: Don Imus? Called them nappy-headed hos.

Sarah: Yeah.

Ryan: Well they are.

Wesley: What?

Darius: What?

Sarah: What?

Ryan: I don’t know.

Darius: Alright man, that’s enough. We let you get away with all the nigger jokes, but that’s it.

Ryan: Nappy-headed isn’t racist.

Sarah: Yeah it is!

Ryan: No it’s not. What does nappy-headed even mean? Is it, like, your hair?

Sarah: Well… it’s kind of like, dirty, or… I don’t know. But he shouldn’t have said it.

Ryan: Well, maybe they are nappy.

Darius: Dude, I hope you go to jail and get raped by a black person.

Wesley: There are some big guys in jail.

Darius: All they do is work out.

Sarah: They lift weights all day.

Ryan: Man, no one’s going to rape me.

Darius: What are you going to do?

Ryan: Fight them.

Wesley: Fight them? Man, that’s like you fighting your little sister. Except you’re your little sister.

Ryan: Whatevs.

Needless to say, there was much lulz. It’s things like this that make my day that much more bearable.

ebaumsworld sucks

The catchy song says it all.

I’m Hot for Teacher – Douchebag Anthem

I was listening to this song on the radio the other day and was tricked. I was tricked by the snazzy bass drum intro into thinking, “Hey, this is pretty cool!” FALSE. The more I listened, the angrier I got. I noticed I was grinding me teeth and my palms were sweating — I realized it wasn’t my wedding night, it was the song. I hate this song because it reminds me of every douche bag I’ve ever EVER dealt with. It’s not the music. The music’s not bad. And it’s not Sammy Hagar. I saw him on Cribs a while back and he seems like a pretty nice guy. The thing that pisses me off are the spoken lyrics they sprinkle like turds in my drink throughout the song. Let’s listen read…

Oh, wow, man, I said
Wait a second, man
What do you think the teacher’s gonna look like this year?

There are the underachievers, sitting with their feet up on the desks. Their ripped up jean shorts showing off half their thighs. Their pastel-colored, stone-washed, button-up shirts over their pastel-colored, stone-washed undershirts. Their greasy beach bum haircuts covered up by their big dumb OU caps. And because they’re inside, in the middle of the afternoon, they’re wearing sunglasses. One guy who fancies himself the joker of the group throws a paper airplane. The teacher walks in. She’s the one they’re all hot for. I mean it says it IN THE TITLE. So I’m guessing she looks good, or as one of these puds might say, she’s a stone fox.

Hey, I heard you missed us
We’re back! (Hey!)
I brought my pencil
Give me something to write on, man!
Whoa

Hey! Whoa! The lyrics read, “I brought my pencil.” But the song makes it sound like, “Ah brawt mah PEN-sooooooooooooool!!1!” This part really makes my sphincter clench because it’s one of those things people yell whenever they’ve opened their mouths without really knowing what was going to come out. A few years ago, I worked at a high school with a bunch of “at-risk” kids. These were kids who needed some extra help getting work done and staying on track in class. What it amounted to was six months of me getting yelled at and made fun of by a bunch of punk gangbangers. One day, these two boys were screwing around and I had to send them back to class. One of them called me a “trick” (I don’t get their words) and the other one, before leaving, didn’t really say anything so much as squealed. It was a high-pitch “aaaaahhh,” and he put his hands up in the air like so…

Cool, right? WRONG!

In these situations, I try and keep a witty retort on hand so the kids won’t think I’ve fallen off the trolley. This time though, I was so befuddled at what I had just seen that I just stood there slack-jawed while these two cholos walked off high-fiving each other. I was speechless. I thought I was in a movie or something. Anyway, the songs over now, right? Ahh sh–

Oh man, I think the clock is slow
(What are you doin’ this weekend?) I don’t feel tardy
Class dismissed!
Ooh-yeah!

Yeah my main man, I didn’t even know I was tardy because I was trolling for tail when the bell rang! Give me some skin! What? Yeah class dismissed! The entire school erupts into some messed up Rock n’ Roll High School orgy. Kids are running through the halls. The teacher is standing there like a big dumb idiot with her glasses crooked and her hair all messed up, and even though this a Van Halen song, the Ramones are there walking through the halls PLAYING THEIR GUITARS WALKING THROUGH THE HALLS. Look the song up on any lyrics site, and you’ll see that the rest is made up mostly of “Ooh yeah!”s and “Woo!”s — or go rent Rock n’ Roll High School. That should help you visualize all of this a little better.

“I need to go north! To fight!”

DISCLAIMER Although I found the movie very entertaining, what was REALLY great about it was how it destroyed my faith in organized religion. I don’t know if that’s what the producers were shooting for when they made it, but there you are.

Drunk off the sweet success of franchises like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, film studios have been snatching up the rights to popular children’s/fantasy books in pursuit of their own god, the almighty dollar (not to be confused with the one and true God, whom the filmmakers obviously hate). I think The Golden Compass succeeds where a lot of these other movies have failed. The themes the story explores are a lot more adult, although (from what I’ve read) a little simplified for the movie version. These are books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, so I really can’t comment on what they’ve changed and how much they’ve changed it

The movie is surprisingly short (about an hour and forty-five minutes) for a story like this, and as usual there are many different players, all pursuing their own agendas. The film’s protagonist, Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), is an orphan living at Jordan College in a parallel world. Lyra and everyone else in the world are accompanied by a daemon, the physical manifestation of their soul in animal form. Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), is a scholar at Jordan who is planning an expedition to the north to study a substance called Dust, which he believes can bridge the gap between parallel worlds. His expedition is being opposed by the Magisterium (read the Catholic Church), who goes so far as to try poisoning him to prevent it. Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) represents a faction of the Magisterium that’s been kidnapping children and performing experiments, splitting children from their daemons in an atempt to keep them from ever knowing sin. Mrs. Coulter is planning her own expedition to the North, and takes on Lyra as her assistant. This works out nicely, because Lyra’s friend Roger has just been kidnapped and taken to the Magisterium’s super-secret base — you guessed it — in the north. If all of this sounds confusing, it is. With stories like these, there’s always a ton of backstory that needs explaining, and here, Compasscup runneth over (to borrow a phrase from the Bible, which after seeing the movie, I recognize as one giant lie).

On their way, Lyra finds out that Mrs. Coulter isn’t exactly on the up and up and sets off on her own. Along the way, she meets up with witches, aeronauts, Gyptians, and an armor-plated polar bear (who really shines in a scene that’ll be sure to send your kids home crying). The movie ends kind of unexpectedly, although you’ll see how the next two films are being set up. I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any movies in the near future that live up to The Lord of the Rings, but The Golden Compass is one of the better ones that’s trying to. As said, the themes are a little more adult, and the story and its characters are really interesting. Even though I haven’t yet read the books, I enjoyed watching it all unfold onscreen. Even though the movie has a lot going for it, it does suffer from a few shortcomings. There IS a lot of backstory here, so a lot of time is spent explaining it. Also, there’s a lot of book condensed into not a lot of movie. Every obstacle the characters face is resolved without a lot of effort. So hopefully we’ll see an extended DVD version eventually. That makes up for it a little, but still, you go in expecting more. Kids will love it. Adults, give it a 50/50 chance.

From what I’ve heard, New Line has a lot riding on the success of this movie. “A lot” being the future of New Line studios itself. I don’t think there’s much reason to worry though. A movie like this seems guaranteed to do good business, especially with the Holidays coming up. The movie’s shorter run-time allows for more showings in a day, and there will be a lot of kids who want to see this. I give it three and a half out of five stars. It would have gotten more, but it DID turn me into an atheist, which I’m not really sure is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m waiting for the next movie to tell me which. B-

Kids WTF?

It is my great pleasure to work as a substitute teacher. The pay is decent, the hours are flexible, and I really don’t have to do all that much. On top of that, I have a front row seat to the Greatest Show on Earth, which is the crashing and burning of America’s youth. For reasons unexplained, I work mostly in high schools, but this past week, necessity forced me to accept a job at an elementary school. Once I got there and got settled in, I asked myself, “What took me so long?” Elementary schools are great. The kids are still scared of authority, so they don’t get too mouthy, and they still don’t know most of the good cuss words. Also, in fourth grade and under, they’re still too young to join gangs. Fifth grade though… you’re done, son.

If there’s a downside to working in an elementary school, it’s that your one class is with you all day. This means you won’t get any real breaks until the afternoon, when lunch and recess roll around. So a few hours after my 9:30 Big Red (straight from San Antonio!), I really had to use the bathroom. I told the kids that I had to run to the water fountain — I didn’t say pee because who knows whether Timmy or Tammy will go to the office, hold up their dolly and say “He touched me here, here AND here.” — and ducked out. On my way I passed by this little boy washing his hands. He had a haircut his mom had given him and gigantic, coke-bottle glasses that allowed him to see into the future. He looked at me as I passed by with a crooked smile on his face and asked, “Hi. What’s your name?” It really caught me off guard. I like kids, and would have stopped to talk, but that Big Red was really sitting heavy on me and it just wasn’t in the cards. “James,” I muttered as I passed by.

This is where the story gets awesome (disturbing?). The kid FOLLOWS me into the bathroom. And not just follows me, I thought he was going to trip over my feet. I walked into a stall and closed the door behind me. Weird Kid stands in front of the stall and continues the conversation. The following is as close an approximation as I can remember. He was mumbling a little bit.

Kid: James?

Me: Um… yes.

Kid: Guess what. Me and my friend, we were playing, and we huffed some perfume.

Me: You huffed perfume?

Kid: Yeah. We were playing.

Me: The hell?

The kid didn’t stick around to talk more. His teacher came in and took him back to class. I have a feeling Johnny was a repeat offender. Anyway, this is one of those things that makes working that much more interesting. Case closed, right? WRONG. Recess rolls around, and I was standing outside watching the kids play soccer, which the kids play on this raised concrete platform, and the ball gets kicked over the railing — wait for it — right to Johnny, who was jumping around in his red sweats with his jacket tied around his waist doing gymnastics or something. Of course all the soccer players start yelling for Johnny to throw them the ball back. This is Johnny’s time to shine. He drops his lunchbox and picks up the ball. His smile is now so crooked it’s sitting SIDEWAYS on his face. Here’s an illustration to better show what happened. Pictured are Johnny, myself and the soccer ball.

Johnny gets the ball. He tosses it up for a monster dropkick, but…

…Johnny’s thick tree trunk legs can’t swing high enough to actually kick the ball upwards so what happens is BALLSIDEWAYSWTF!!1! The ball comes right at me. I scream like a girl and dive out of the way. Johnny doesn’t seem to notice. He picks his lunchbox back up and skips off screaming “Rraaaaarrrhhhh!!!”, stomping his feet and swinging his arms like some epileptic Tyrannosaurus Rex. I picked myself up and ran back to the classroom. I heard kids laughing at me. I heard teachers laughing at me. The rest of the day was pretty much down hill. I was emasculated in front of half the school, and they had just lost all respect for me. I’m 25 now, and am starting to feel the divide between me and the kids I teach. I never knew things would get this bad. Anyway, I came back the next day and heard the news. Johnny had a weak heart, and the previous days’ exertion wore him out so bad they had to put him in the hospital. Whenever any of the kids gave me lip, I told them I put him there, just for making me mad. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade! A few of the kids started crying, but it also earned me the title “Baller for Life” from some of those gang kids I mentioned earlier, so I did a small victory lap around the classroom. As for Johnny, we’re all hoping he’s gonna pull through.