Friday, May 30, 2008

More Fourquels? Or should the be Quadrilogy? Whatever!

If people bought the product the first time, make it again with some minor changes and customers will come back.

Hello, film franchise!

Who care's if it's quality as long as people are buying tickets.

After 2007 summer of trilogies with Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Oceans 11 3, Jason Bourne 3, and Rush Hour 3. We kind of got used to idea of things ending in 3.

Summer 2008 is far less sequely/trilogy-esque. But 2008 has it's share of returning characters...
The most notable return is Indiana Jones who comes back for a "Part 4" expanding the traditional trilogy. And with a combined gross of 312 million dollars with domestic and foreign grosses combined in the first week, the business man might ask...why didn't they do this sooner?
With mixed reviews, it just doesn't seem to matter...so why not make a 4th? At least if you're in it for the money. Die Hard 4 brought in the dough in 2007, and now with Indiana Jones...what's next.

Well according to Variety, Brett Ratner is in negotiations to direct a Beverly Hills Cop 4, with Eddie Murphy willing to take a fat paycheck to reprise his role as Detroit detective Axel Foley.

Other movie franchises have gone to 4 or further, especially the horror genre (Aliens, Batman, Child's Play, Friday the 13th, Halloween, James Bond, Harry Potter, Lethal Weapon, Nightmare on Elm Street, Police Academy, Rambo, Rocky, Saw, Scary Movie, Star Wars, etc.)

But what's next. What seemingly completed trilogies might be dug up to become quadrilogies?

Robocop 4? Madmax 4? Might Ducks 4?

Or one that would definitely get me to waste my money and get me in a theater...Back to the Future 4?

Michael J. Fox could reprise Marty McFly...and why not throw in Shai LeBouef into this one too...or Abigail Breslin as his child. Isn't that how these things work?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Shorter is Better: Cashback


Two versions of the movie Cashback exist. One is a short nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, the other is a feature film built around the short.

The short film centers around how four employees in a Sansbury's supermarket kill an eight-hour shift. The screenwriter comes up with some great examples of how the clock is the enemy. Some of the guys are jokesters, some put tape on the face of their watch and one stops time. The real treat of the short is the story is told in 15 minutes. This skill is something not appreciated in Hollywood today. My most recent example is having recently watched The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford. It tells too much story and has inconsistent pacing. I enjoyed the dialog, how the film was creatively shot, the pace and the length of the short. I'd post a link to the film, but there's some serious gratuitous nudity (which is a whole other topic). After all, Strange Culture is a family blog.

The feature film is not so good. They took the 15-minute short and wrote a script that included the entire short, in-full. The lead character's gift of stopping time is explained by his insomnia. The screenwriter develops the insomnia story line for much of the movie, but the second half of the film devolves into a boy-meets-girl-in-a-movie-that-could-star-Hugh-Grant type of film. The dialog along with the first half of the movie is good. The lead, Sean Biggerstaff of Harry Potter fame, has a good performance along with Emilia Fox who plays Sharon, a checker in the grocery store. The film has a good beginning and middle, but the ending felt like an afterthought and completely contrived.

The problem is that the character of a good a 15-minute story was completely changed by adding an hour and fifteen minutes to the story. The only other film I can think of that was adapted from a short story was Shawshank Redemption. Technically, that was a written short story and not a short film. If we were to play the game "name the cliche that best fits this film," the winner would be "a good story-teller leaves the audience wanting more."


Are there any other films that started as shorts and were successfully made into feature films?


You can read Adam regularly at the Stone Report.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reel People: Keira Knightley is Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

The movie is The Duchess and stars Keira in the title role directed by Saul Dibb, the book by Amanda Foreman.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Spencer was born June 7, 1757, the daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl of Spencer.

Georgiana, known for both a lavish sense of style and politically active lifestyle married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire June 6, 1774. Politically they were both members of the Whig party, but in personality, William and Georgiana was very mismatched. This relationship was satirized in a play called School for Scandal which was first performed in 1777.

In terms of political campaigning, Georgiana was most known for campaigning for her distant cousin and member of the Whig party Charles James Fox. In the election of 1784 Georgiana was rumored to have traded kisses for votes.

Georgiana did not have children right away which was a scandal in itself. Her first two children were born in 1783 and 1785, both daughters. Finally in 1790 she gave birth to a son, William George Spenser Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, who died unmarried.

Lady Elizabeth Foster was one of Georgiana's best friends, often called "Bess." Georgiana introduced Bess to her husband, and she became his mistress as well as his second wife after Georgiana died.

Georgiana had her own affair that almost caused a divorce between her and her husband with the later UK Prime Mister and Whig member Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, by whom she bore a daughter in 1792, Eliza Courtney.

In 1806, the lavish, political, and stylish Duchess Georgiana died deeply in debt as a result of her love of gambling, despite the wealth of the Spencer and Cavendish family.

The Duchess

In the biographical film, 2 time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes stars opposite Keira as the mismatched husband, The Duke of Devonshire. Playing the role of mistress and affair-mate Dominic Cooper plays Earl Grey, while Hayley Atwell plays Bess. Simon McBurney plays politician Charles James Fox, and Aidan McArdle plays playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Certainly it's not uncommon for lead actresses in lavish historical features to get critical acclaim, but not all do. Will Keira Knightley receive critical acclaim and perhaps recognition from the Academy for her portray of this Real (Reel) Person?

Google & Life's Biggest Questions - Question 3: What are we here for?

A couple weeks ago I asked "What are life's biggest questions?"
This question was asked in response to the Church Sign posted below:
Searching Google (with minimal effort) we have looked at Evil & The Future.

My deep and philosophical friends Jon & Bennett asked similar questions.

Bennett's primary question is exceptional worded... " 'Why did I walk into this room?' Which I guess could be translated, 'What are we here for?' "

Jon similarly asked in a series of questions: "Why am I here?"

Now neither Bennett nor Jon knew why I was asking this question, but I enjoyed googling the existensial question the way Bennett asked it because it pulled up the song (Walk into this Room) by the front man (Edward Kowalczyk) of a favorite band of mine (Live). You listen to the song on youtube or read the lyrics here...but like many of Live's songs, this song does seem to heavy spiritual themes that relate the question Bennett and Jon are asking with lyrics like: "The whole wide world feels like a shrine built to the worker bees/ Who stole it from God anyhow/ Lay it down child Lay it down child And walk into this room."*

Interestingly enough, Bennett's question isn't the only one that turns up videos. When I search "Why am I Here?" on Google I actually get links that points to a unique video that does a series of man on the street interviews tackling the question of why are you here, how do you connect with God, and what would you do if you knew you'd die tomorrow.

This search also pulls up the site for the help line 1-888-NEED-HIM which the St. Peter's Church Sign would probably approve of, because this website, phone, and associated resources help people answer those tough questions with Christ.

The question of "Why am I here?" seems so big, you'd think it make Google explode. But it didn't but it's also odd to think of people searching out that question and wondering, what is going to come up? Will it be helpful? And beyond that Why Am I Here? can be a personal question and a question for the human race as a whole.

It's is interesting to see what Google pulls up...include this Dilbert comic strip:

*Interestingly enough, I don't think this song has appeared on any album except the sound track to Playing By Heart in which the song is Song by Edward Kowalczyk and Neneh Cherry)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quality 80s? Part XII -- *special Indiana Jones edition*

I've seen probably about 5 hours of the 6 hours of Indy before rewatching them, but I couldn't tell you which scenes went with which films and how the stories all did and did not connect together. But as I'm catching up on my 80s viewing in the "quality 80s series?" searching for the best films of the 80s I thought it only timely to include the very-eighties Indiana Jones films in this film series.
Previous 80s film post in the series canbe found here: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, and Part XI.

(note: I might have to rework by Spielberg Top 10 now that I've caught up on much of the 80s fare I hadn't seen)

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Recommended by Oscar (4 wins, plus 4 additional noms, special award), Jeremy, jasdye, ando, and IMDB #2 80s movie.

What a great action hero entry with the Latin American cave scene with the not-yet-famous-at-the-time Alfred Molina. In fact, this films first five minutes is like a great grand finale, and that's what makes this film great. I love how Karen Allen's character is introduced, with an unclear past history and the way she really fits the mold of action film heroin. Indiana Jones' ability to get out of trouble is always dependent upon his side-kick, and in this film his side-kick is also his love interest. The connection to Indiana Jones' expertise in cults and religions makes sense as he seeks after this great treasure and despite some of the cheesy lines and exchanges (usually between Harrison Ford and Karen Allen) it makes no excuse about being fun and action packed. And when the supernatural finale comes into play at the end, Spielberg proves that he could out-do his exciting intro. An exceptional and iconic film.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Recommended by Oscar (1 win, plus 1 additional nom), Jeremy, jasdye, and ando.

This movie is boring, cheesy, and unrealistic (even with the Indiana Jones world). There are certainly famous scenes that are familiar and classic, probably only based on the strength of the franchise, but watching this film is painful. The best part of this film is probably the Tokyo introduction (singing, the spinning turntable and the chase for the elixir and the diamond). Yet past this point, especially when Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) enters the story and you realize that Kate Capshaw's character (Willie) is going to annoy you and drive you crazy for the next couple hours. The effects are too ridiculous, which you experience early on when the raft is falling from the sky and the three poorly paired crew members are holding on.
The story of trying to find the random stones is hard to care about, and the actual temple of doom...it's ridiculous. In fact the whole set design is remnant of a bad theme park attraction that goes on way too long, the eating of the random meal is over the top, the pit where they throw people into the fire is more silly than scary and the mine cart scene -- like the set design seems like an amusement park attraction, not an action film. It's simply a painful film and honestly Indiana's not that heroic...Short Round gets most of the action in this film.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Recommended by Oscar (1 win, plus 2 additional nom), Jeremy, jasdye, ando, will, and IMDB #15 80s movie.

It's kind of fun in this film that it isn't until this third film that it begins with an "origin story," explaining Indiana's hat, whip, and quest. River Phoenix is exceptional in this opening role. I think it's interesting that the father relationship in this film is much different than you would expect. Sean Connery is challenging as a father, relatively unhelpful, and hardly an action hero in this film, more of a necessary hurdle that Indy has to deal with. It seems like a natural return to see Dr. Jones pursuing not only a religious artifact, but also that the Nazi's are coveting this artifact as well. Alison Doody is another interesting woman to co-star with Indiana, it's interesting how unformulamatic each of these three different women are. Doody does great as Dr. Elsa.

It's interesting because when I watch this third film and it's action reminds me a lot of the Alias TV show story line as they look for the Rambaldi artifacts. Maybe that's just me? But this third film definitely returns to something that worked well in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The quest for the Holy Grail as depicted here is certainly famous including the faith walk. Again, like Raiders of the Lost Ark the problem is solved supernaturally. This film in many ways copies Raiders, but isn't that how sequels are supposed to work?
A late entry in the Indiana Jones blog-a-thon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quality 80s? Part XI

I really enjoyed many of the 80s movies in this group of three. Two of these films won their respective actress best Oscar trophies and deservedly so, their work is amazing. (Also, each of these 3 films received 7 Oscar nods a piece).

The "Quality 80s?" series was sparked by my own lack of respect and luck with finding 80s films that I could truly enjoy...yet I knew they had to be out there...maybe?

And I still can't believe that I'm doing this project...but I'm starting to enjoy 80s cinema as I watch more of these films.

Previous 80s film viewing thoughts can be found here: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
Directed by Michael Apted
Recommended by Oscar (7 noms, including a win for Sissy Spacek)

At first I would say if you haven't seen this movie but liked Ray or Walk the Line you have to go immediately and rent this bio-pic of country singer Loretta Lynn. But it doesn't even matter what you thought of those movies, or if you even know anything about Country singer Loretta Lynn, because this movie is wonderful and completely worthy of your viewing hours. It's an incredible role for Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. The relationship as portrayed in this film between a young girl married too young to a war veteran who must move away from her family, is simply just an amazingly enjoyable film and story. I just found that film
very (surprisingly) enjoyable.

Places in the Heart (1984)
Directed by Robert Benton
Recommended by Oscar (7 noms, including a win for Sally Field & best original screenplay)

A movie with a lame title like "Places of the Heart" with its Waxahatchie, Texas depression era setting seems like a disaster of a movie. And yet it's so wonderful, and almost magical. It plays on the emotions, but in unique ways that made me wish that more movies were like this one. It has all the devices of a fuzzy Hallmark movie, except the story is crafted with quality care, and it has some great/touching performances not just by Sally Fields, but also by Danny Glover, John Malkovich, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, and Gennie James. I would totally recommend this film, and I am very glad that I saw it. It's a charming heartfelt film, that simply needs a better title.


Chariots of Fire (1981)
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Recommended by Oscar (7 noms, including 4 wins one of which being Best Picture), AK, & Will

I've actually started this film before and didn't finish it. But I do respect and love this very unique story that combines the sports movie with the spiritual dilemma from two different angles. I think at times when I watch this I get distracted by the disconnected story of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. Vangelis' famous Oscar winning score has it's annoying tendencies in a feature length film. This film is very different than anything that I've seen in more modern cinema, and I wish more films attempting to explore spiritual ideas could receive such widespread interest.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Reel People: Drew Barrymore is Edith Bouvier Beal (aka Little Edie)

The film is Grey Garden, which incidentally is based on a documentary with the same name from 1975 and which also has been previously adapted into a musical. The film marks the directorial debut of Michael Sucsy.

Edith Bouvier Beal (Little Edie)

Little Edith Bouvier Beal was the most notably the cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Born in New York in 1917 at the site that is now the Carlyle Hotel. She was only daughter of Phelan Beale and Edith Ewing Beal (Big Edie). Living a socialite life and encouraged by her mother to be a star, she would often sing for small parties and model in New York City and Palm Beach as a child.

In her teens, her father left her and her mother (Big Edie) during a time when her mother depended on their family network to provide for them.

With a various relationships that never led to marriage (including engagement to Joe Kennedy Jr.) Little Edith never married (she claimed she was only interested in Sagittarius, but needed to settle down with a Libra).

After some time on her own, Little Edie returned to her mother and into 1952 moved in with her at Grey Gardens (a 28 room estate in East Hampton, NY that had been purchased for Big Edie in 1923). Apparently a trust fund had been set up at one point to take care of the women, but Big Edie's brother Jack B ("Black Jack") Bouvier seized up the trust fund and used it to invest in his own daughter's Jackie and Lee. Instead big and little Edie received only $300 a month and gained extra money by selling off their Tiffany pieces.

The two women lived in isolation and poverty, especially after the death of their caretaker/handyman Tom "Tex" Logan in 1963.

In 1971 the Suffolk County Health Department raided the house discovering that countless violations has occurred within the large multi-room estate for years. The home was filled with trash, raccoons, opossums, cats, and human waste.

The scandal made national news, and the health department threatened to evict the women unless it was clean. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and husband Aristotle Onassis ended up footing the bill ($32,000) which was used to fix the inspection problem, replace the plumbing and furnace, and cart away over a thousand bags of garbage.

In 1977 Big Edie died. Little Edie stayed in Grey Gardens for a little while while starting a poorly reviewed cabaret career at 60. Edith stayed in New York moving from the large estate, to a cottage, to a studio apartment.

In 1983 she moved to Florida were she lived out the majority of her life, with the exception of some time in Montreal and Oakland, California.

Edith lived in relative solitude in an apartment in Bal Harbour, Florida spending her time swimming, and writing poetry and letters. She was discovered dead in 2002 at the age of 84, where she presumed to have been dead multiple days of a heart attack.

Grey Gardens

The film is based on the lives of Little and Big Edie and is largely based on the 1975 documentary that gave rise to interest in these two women who had recently had their house inspected and were saved by Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In this film Barrymore plays Little Edie while two time Oscar winner Jessica Lange plays Big Edie. Jeanne Tripplehorn plays Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

A big name in film, but with light and infrequent critical raves could Drew Barrymore receive critical attention or even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cookie Monster & I Say Thanks

Just like fuel the expensive gas that run my car, your comments and visits to StrangeCulture help keep it running. For those of you who have ever visited or commented on this blog...thank you. But I (and the big blue) wanted to specificly that those who have commented in the past month. These days, StrangeCulture gets about 500 visits a day...but the comments demonstrate interaction...adding to the conversation if you will. And that makes us (cookie & I) feel like you care. There's a lot of blogs out there you could read.

Cookie Monster & I wish to thank...

aaron, adam, aimee, ak, amy, amy, ando, artowawa, attila the mom, b/, b13, bennett, chase, chris, crackers and cheese, dan e., daniel g., elgringo, emily, fox, glenn, grete, is that so wrong, james austin, jana, jasdye, J.D., jeff reed, jeremy, jim, john, jolly green dad, jon, jose, kat, keith, kelly, kevin, kimberly, kris, magnus, Mark Doebler, maryann, melissa, mercurie, Michael Parsons, nate, pastor brian atwood, patrick, paula, praful h, rabbit647, redison, rh, scott, shannon the movie moxie, shelley, theresa, the cubical reverand, the teach, tucker, tyler, weepingsam, will, william petruzzo, & whitney

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reel People: Benicio Del Toro is Che Guevara

And he plays this role in two films, Guerrilla and The Argentine. Both scheduled for 2008 release dates. Both films are directed by academy award winner Steven Soderbergh, who directed Benicio Del Toro in his academy award winning performance from Traffic.

Ernesto "Che" Guevera de La Serna

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born in 1928 in Argentina. As a young medical student he traveled Latin America and was transformed by the wide spread poverty and disease he saw. Guevara developed his own brand of radical ideology against capitalism and colonialism. He became involved first in the Guatemala social revolution.

Later he was involved Mexico, and joined up with Fidel Castro to over throw Felgencio Batista in the Cuban revolution. He continued to have several various government roles, as well as writing various dairy citations and articles on topics of revolution, guerrilla warfare and inequality.

In December of 1964 Che Guevara traveled to New York to address the United Nations as head of the Cuban delegation. He then went on a world tour where he gave his last public speech in Algiers in 1965.

Che then went to work to help spark revolutions in Congo. Guevara saw the imprint of imperialism on Africa, and thought there was significant revolutionary potential. The revolt failed and Che spent some time in Prague and moved around in various parts of the world.

Eventually in 1967 Che came back to Latin America to help in revolts in Bolivia. It was at this time a CIA operative (Felix Rodriguez) headed an attempt to capture Guevera. Here the Bolivian government killed Guevera. Although Lyndon B. Johnson claimed this was an unwise decision to execute Guevera, but he could understand the Bolivian governement's decision to do so.

Castro declared a day of public mourning for the death of Che.

It wasn't until 1997 that Che's body was discovered and it was sent to Havana where special military honors were offered.

The Argentine

The Argentine tells the story of Che's involvement in Cuba beginning with himself and Cuban exiles, led by Fidel Castro leaving from Mexico in 1956 to end the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. In this film Mexican actor Demián Bichir plays the role of Fidel Castro. The film also features Franka Potente as communist revolutionary and spy Tamara Bunke (also known as Tania the Guerrilla).

Guerrilla

Guerrilla more specifically deals with Che Guevara's trip in 1964 to New York City to address the United Nations. In addition to del Toro, Bichir, and Potente, roles in this film also go to Benjamin Bratt, Lou Diamond Phillips, Julie Ormond, Edgar Ramirez (who will play Pablo Escobar in 2009) and academy award nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Will Benicio De Toro receive critical acclaim, his third Oscar nod and perhaps even his second Oscar win for playing this Real (Reel) Person? And for which film?

Google & Life's Biggest Questions - Question 2: Tomorrow

A couple weeks ago I asked "What are life's biggest questions?"

This question was asked in response to the Church Sign posted below:Last week I did a post where I saw what was on the surface to be found in a simple Google search of "why is there evil?" (thanks Nate for the question) and the discussion that followed. For some this question seemed easy to answer, and for others the explanation by other readers and Google "i'm feeling lucky" seemed inadequate.
Tomorrow

The question for Google this week comes from Jeff who asked, "What does tomorrow hold?"

When I asked Google that question and said "I'm feeling lucky" imagine my surprise when I got a CBS news article from April 2006...was this question really answered two years ago, and no one told me?

Well, like a time-delayed magic eight ball...google's response was in regards to Katie Couric's confirmed departure from the today show and it was suspected that Meredith Vieira would be replacing her. As we know Vieira did end up going on the today show.
But still, what about tomorrow? Not 2006!

Actually as I trolled around the Internet, probably one of my favorite "future resources" that I found was a special report that Forbes ran in October 2007.

I love this quote that is used in the articles opening: "Raised on a steady diet of science fiction, overzealous politicians and corporate hype, Americans expected to be living in The Jetsons -- but instead find themselves stuck in a scarier version of The Waltons."

The special report has a number of articles that are actually really interesting as different writers try to tackle the abstract concept and unknown future. For a good read I recommend the article by James Surowiecki title Crowdsourcing The Crystal Ball. It talks about prediction markets. If you're a movie person, you pay be familiar with the Hollywood Stock Exchange (hsx.com). Basically this article discusses how individuals are bad at predicting the future, but groups of people are better.

Granted all these resources provided on Forbes' report are angled more towards business, politics, technology, world events, and the masses' and not towards the lives of individuals. Making Jeff's biggest question one that Google certainly doesn't seem to answer well right off the bat, and certainly not in it's top 10 answers.

As you can imagine and know...the unknown nature of our own future and tomorrow actually fills the Internet. World history is filled with various methodologies, schemes, tactics, and rituals associated with fortune-telling...Crystal balls, fortune cookies, astrology, tarot cards, casting marked bones, reading tea leaves, prophets, palm reading, numerology, etc.

With the unknowns of the future, you can imagine many people are willing to put more than just a Google search in this question, and hand over money to various "seer-methodologies."

I'm not sure how exactly the church is even supposed to answer Jeff's question about tomorrow either? I imagine he wants to know more than just that the Apocalypse will happen someday?

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Music & Linear Notes from Tenth Avenue North

Today, I'm listening to the new album by Tenth Avenue North. The CD just came out today and is their first nationally released album called Over and Underneath.

I am pretty impressed with the writing and the production of the CD and just getting in to many of the honest songs about faith, longing for Christ, worship, and the search for truth. More than anything, as I listen to the album, what I hear is heart.

I thought I would share the message that Tenth Avenue North writes in the linear notes. It's well written, and I think probably does a pretty accurate job representing what Tenth Avenue North is about and what they're trying to achieve with this album.

Dear Friend:
We as a band would like to take a moment to simply say thank you. Thanks for buying the record. Thanks for walking into a store, handing over some of your hard-earned cash and taking a chance on a band that you've probably never even heard of before. Seriously...thank you. Now, maybe you don't think it's such a momentous occasion. You know, buying a record, throwing it on your stereo, playing it in your car - maybe it's not such a big deal for you, but it is for us. You see, not only has making music become our livelihood, but this particular collection of songs - what we hope is not just another batch of catchy, chart-topping ego-boosting, melodies and lyrics to "get you through the day" - is actually an honest expression of what's been going on inside our heads and our hearts for quite some time. These songs are hard-worked, hard-thought, and carefully penned psalms coming from a group of individuals who don't have it all together, who desperately want to know truth, and and who aren't afraid to admit that they struggle to believe it. And we want you to join us, our desire for you, as you listen through tracks 1-11, is that you would not just bob your head and sing along, but that somehow, in some way, amidst all the words, notes, and musical mayhem, our hope is that you would encounter Christ. Encounter him, not just hear about Him, not just sing about Him, but truly, sincerely encounter Him. Granted, that's a serious undertaking, epic really. But that's the kind of guys we are. We have been seized by a great affection, and so we will continue to believe that others can be too. We hope you are in that number. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Thanks again, and God Bless...Tenth Avenue North.


(Favorite tracks so far: Hold My Heart, Let It Go)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Identifying & Reacting To Spiritual Themes in Prince Caspian

(reader's beware: this post and the links within will undoubtedly contain spoilers about the film Prince Caspian)
After watching Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian with a good-sized group of friends tonight, my wife and I strolled down to Starbucks. After having a Venti Iced Double Shot at Starbucks I couldn't quite fall quickly to sleep and I found myself responding in prayer to some of the spiritual messages in the film. Particularly I prayed: "God, I want to come to your first in all situations, not second after I consult others, not last when all things fall to pieces, but first." And from there found myself communing with God about various things in my life as a response to certain themes in the film.

It's hard watching the film, knowing that C.S. Lewis' Christian faith and allegory intentions in his popular series with out either being brought in to his Christian message, turned off or distracted by his religiosity, or watching the film like a private investigator trying to soak up the message.

Buzzing from my coffee, I decided to read how people (not professional reviewers) were reacting to the Christian themes/messages/scenes that are present in the film and how they saw these messages fitting together. Below are a handful of links pointing to post written this weekend that I read.

I think you will enjoy the diversity of ideas, scenes, messages and reactions that these 15 film viewers and bloggers had to the Spiritual themes in Prince Caspian...

Kevin at Wright off The Bat, a Duke divinity student while critical of the Lord of the Rings style adaptation, greatly describes the most spiritual scenes in the film with great detail, and then compares the poor leadership of Prince Caspian and Peter to that of President George Bush in his dealings with terrorism.

Illinois Church Planter Mark Doebler (aka Coach Mark) is much more positive about the movie, although he does note that it's somewhat slow. Yet he compares it's power in telling a spiritual story much like Jesus telling parables. He keys in on three main spiritual truths: Not seeing Jesus because we weren't looking, the importance of waiting on God, and the duel nature of God's power and gentlesness.

Caleb Click at Having Been With Jesus is a C.S. Lewis purist and is frustrated at not just the inclusions director/writer Adamson added to the story (minor love story), but certain exclusions and messages, such as Trumpkin's materialism, the attempt of the Pevensie children to be rational. Caleb is not impressed with the battle scenes and the lack of focus on Aslan in the story.

Christian Blogger William Petruzzo praises the movie, but criticizes the difference by Walden Media and Disney's motives (money) with C.S. Lewis' motives in writing the books (Jesus and making disciples). While methodically going through the various scenes and production values (which are all praised above The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe), he also praises the faithfulness to the theme that it is not about our own praise and honor but Jesus'.

Film lover Movie Dearest who writes for "gay and gay-friendly movie fans" post a review by Rev. Chris Carpenter who rants first about the PG rating, and how it really should be PG-13, especially with children initiated violence. For Rev. Carpenter, the message and allegory of Prince Caspian is about the crusades and the conquest of the holy land (the dark skinned vs. the light skinned). Rev. Carpenter is also unsatisfied with the entrance of Aslan as his actions are hollow, when he should encourage them to put down their swords and condemn violence.

46 year old night shift nurse Theresa saw the movie with her husband and enjoyed it, and sees a lot of spiritual references, although thinks they take more effort to identify then in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But she sees a variety of things including: "good verses evil but there is also, a deal with the devil (actually several of these), David verses Goliath, Moses and the Red Sea and a lot references to needing to be true to your faith even when others have doubt."

Sven at Christianity & Culture in the 21st Century argues that while there is Jesus-Aslan parallelism, that saying Prince Caspian is a Christian movie is an inaccurate statement. He also is mostly intrigued with the messages that arise with the scene with the reprise of White Witch in which Sven sees a message of having a positive influence on your neighbor and keeping them away from sin.

Alan G at his Big Al's Blog talks about the value of child-like faith as you see in Lucy and expressed in Matthew 8:13. Through the 12 step program and working through his relationship with his "higher power" Alan responds to Prince Caspian by trying to work through being open to new things and free from feeling locked down by the rules of his Church and negative things.

Jonathan in Mckinney, Texas is trying to spend 21 days to spending a small portion of his day worshiping and contemplating God. On the 13th day he saw Prince Caspian and the part that him was when Aslan confronts Lucy about why she didn't follow him in the first place, and her response was the she was Alone. And Jonathan responds by asking: "Why do we let our circumstance dictate our pursuit?"

Woman on the Edge who challenges women to live life to fullest loved the Christian symbolism, especially as it related to Lucy and Aslan's rebuke of not coming after him, even if it meant coming after him alone. Woman on the Edge gets very excited at the imagery of Lucy standing alone on the bridge with her tiny dagger waiting for the roar. Woman on the Edge feels like she is like Lucy in this regard.

Melissa writers on her Daring blog, not about a scene so much in Prince Caspian, but about the interaction she sees in the way that Lucy and the other children interact with Aslan. She loves how Lucy loves Aslan even more than her siblings, and that when Melissa feels like she has never seen Christ, she realizes that she has seen these images of Aslan.

Funyon Junior writes about how the plots really simple, and that Aslan's entrance is anti-climatic and the film steals major plot elements from Tolkiens The Lord of The Rings. Funyon thinks the correlations to C.S. Lewis' Christian messages about faith are unmissable, and maybe even the inevitability of Aslan's role in the conflict is a statement to how basic faith is in the first place.

Bleek at Common Grace Kingdom criticizes the film, especially it's predictability but then admits to be moved to tears and crying...specifically for the rescue and return of Christ. "come Lord Jesus. we don’t need a son of Adam, we need the second Adam. Caspian pales in comparison to our Christ."

Moniker at Rock, Paper, _____ sees something a little different. Moniker identifies Aslan as God but considers the 4 children that return to Narnia to be more like the Messiah who come to save everyone. Moniker also thinks that a variety of faith traditions could "get a tingly feeling" in certain scenes of the movie.

Pastor and Grandfather Brian Atwood, isn't too much into allegory but tackles Narnia's Prince Caspian and sees the story mostly about hope, and the hope that God will be able to tackle life's perplexities. He also sees it having a message in the importance of waiting, specifically waiting on God's timing. He also mentions the importance of Childlike faith, born out of knowing God's track record and character.

(my thanks to each of the above bloggers linked above for sharing there thoughts)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reel People: Jamie Foxx is Nathaniel Ayers

The movie is, The Soloist. The movie is based on LA Times articles by Steve Lopez, and has a screenplay by Susannah Grant (Screenplay writer of Erin Brokovich, which won Julia Roberts her Oscar). The film is directed by the hot director Joe Wright who's last two projects were the Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.

Nathaniel Ayers

In April 2005 Steve Lopez began chronicling the story of Nathanial Ayers in columns for the New York Times. Below is a basic bio I can piece together from Steve Lopez' articles.

Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, who was 54 at the time of the interviews/columns attended Ohio State University and later attended Julliard on scholarship in the 1970s for a couple years, when he returned home after getting sick. It's hard to tell if it was at this time that he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, or if this was another sickness. But he was later diagnosed as being schizophrenic.

Nathanial grew up in Cleavland, raised with his sister Jennifer by his mother was a beautician. Nathaniel's first instrument was the Bass, and switched to Cello during his time at Julliard. It wasn't until he became homeless that he began playing Violin, and had no formal training on that instrument. His switch was largely based on the fact that the Violin was easier for him to carry around in his shopping cart, and easier to replace when it was stolen. For a time he worked at Wendys or other small jobs to get money to replace stolen instruments.

Apparently for decades he would get worse and better off and on, as his struggle with Schizophrenia brought him in and out of group homes, on and off various medications, and in and out of the lives of his friends and family.

After Nathaniel's mother died in 2000 he moved out West. When Steve Lopez from the LA Times found him he only had two strings on his violin which he carted around with the rest of his belongings in an orange shopping cart. Lopez helped Ayers replace these strings (although Ayers was reluctant to accept) but once they were replaced he seamless played Brahms, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn.

Ayers chose to live in one of the worst parts of Los Angeles, an area known as skid row. Using his beat up violin a pillow and his bow to scare away rodent he would sleep in an area filled with homelessness, prostitutes, drugs, and violence.

After Steve Lopez ran his first story a reader donated a Cello to Ayers. Lopez found Ayers out at his spot on skid row, but Ayers was not interested in taking the bait to get the Cello at a different location where Lamp Community, a mentally ill treatment facility was located. But he finally went, not just with Steve, but on his own to Lamp Community for an opportunity to play his cello.

After a couple attempts and visits to Lamp Community Nathaniel effectively stole his cello and took it with him away from the center.

After reading stories and running into Ayers, a downtown Los Angeles club owner (Alexis Rivera of Little Pedro's Blue Bongo) offered Ayers a job playing for an R & B performer Mickey Champion on Tuesday nights, and if he was early he'd get a free meal too. After returning late to his first performance Rivera continued to show grace, but before long Ayers had a disastrous night which involved a "belligerent tirade in front of his audience." His mental illness got in the way of his new opportunity.

In the early fall of 2005, Steve Lopez arranged for Ayers to go to Disney Concert Hall and see the Los Angeles Philharmonic during a practice, where he got a full tour and a private performance and a chance to meet many LA Symphony performers and director Esa-Pekka Salonen. After the concert and the musicians had left, Ayers removed his own violin from his jacket and played his violin in Disney Concert Hall.

The staff at Lamp worked with Steve Lopez to help coax on Ayers-terms into a safer place to live, an apartment of his own. Ayers was reluctant but the staff and Steve Lopez worked seamlessly together. In the process they even included LA Symphony cellist Peter Snyder who would be giving lessons to Ayers (in his apartment, NOT on skid row). Ayers was reluctant and after his first lesson did not return to his new apartment for several days. Lopez lured Ayers back by asking for his own cello lesson from Ayers. During this lesson he met a number of the other residents at the facility. Suddenly, it became Ayers place.

Working with the staff at Lamp Community and having a safer environment to live in, and continue practicing his music Nathaniel Ayers made great improvements and a part to a safer life off the streets.

The Soloist

I initially mentioned this project last year and the caliber of the cast and production team is certainly worth noting, making it an earlier contender for Oscar attention.

In the Soloist, Jamie Foxx takes on the challenging role of Nathaniel Ayers, while Robert Downey Jr. plays LA Times reporter Steve Lopez. The twice Oscar nominated actress Catherine Keener also plays a role in this film. Lisa Gay Hamilton plays Ayers sister Jennifer, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will be playing himself as LA Philharmonic director, in what I imagine is a limited role.

Jamie Foxx who received his Academy Award win for playing Ray Charles, will again play another, less famous, but certainly intriguing musician in this baity performance.

Will Jamie Foxx receive critical acclaim and perhaps even his second Oscar for playing this Real (Reel) Person?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reel People: Frank Langella is Richard Nixon

The film is Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard, and based on the stage play by Tony Morgan (one who's gone bio-pic crazy writing bio-pic films such as The Queen, Last King of Scotland, The Other Boleyn Girl).

The Life of Richard Nixon
Richard Milhouse Nixon, the 37th US President was the first and only president to resign from office. Prior to politics, Nixon first began his career in law in the 1930s. He married his wife Thelma "Pat" Ryan in 1940. He joined the Navy and became lieutenant commander in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Following the War he found himself in a political career, first in the house of representatives (1947-1950), followed by a time in the Senate, representing the state of California for a little over two years (1950-1953). After a short political career he was chosen as Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate, where he served as Vice President of the United States for the next 8 years. Eisenhower ran for president in 1960 against John F. Kennedy and lost. Nixon then ran for California Governor in 1962 but lost against the popular established candidate Pat Brown. After loss Nixon gave the popular speech about the press not liking him and that he would never give another press conference again.

At this time, Nixon then moved to New York where he returned to his law roots working in the law firm, Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. In 1968, the 60s were taking their toll and Nixon again took up politics campaigning towards what was termed a "silent majority," appealing to conservative voters who were not necessarily anti-war or involved in the 60s hippie sub culture, winning the California primary was a huge boost that helped eventually land him in the white house by 1969. He won a second presidential election in 1972.

In June 1972, the scandals associated with Nixon's aids and administration, particularly a group called CREEP/CRP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) began to come to light in what became known as the Watergate Scandal when some of Nixon's associates were caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

With a couple years of bad press and investigations included audio tapes, hush money and the resignation of Nixon aids, Nixon himself finally resigned from office August 9, 1974.

A month later President (Former Vice President) Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon of further indictment. Nixon later was disbarred, and no longer could practice law.

Despite the scandal, most people had great respect for his foreign affairs politics, and even after leaving office he still visited foreign leaders and helped provide consultation services to presidents and their aids.

Nixon's wife Pat died in 1993 of health related illnesses, and Nixon died less than a year later of a stroke in 1994.

Frost/Nixon
The story of Frost/Nixon is about a series of interviews in 1977 between Richard Nixon (3 years following his resignation and the English Television Presenter Sir David Frost. In the film Michael Sheen as David Frost and Frank Langella as Richard Nixon reprise the role they played in the well received play rendition of the same film.

Frank Langella won the Tony award for his performance as Richard Nixon on the stage, and as a veteran actor who received critical attention last year for his performance in Starting Out In the Evening, Frank Langella has an exceptional chance not just of being nominated for best lead actor in 2008, but also winning the Award.

Will Frank Langella receive critical attention and even an Oscar for his performance as Richard Nixon? It's entirely possible! And playing a Real (Reel) Person, can't hurt.

Real (Reel) People Win Oscars: 2008 Edition

In last years Real (Reel) People series, we learned that when it comes to Oscar, so far in this decade, people who play lead actors/actresses in biographical films have a great chance of winning the Oscar.

Of the past 16 Lead Actor/Actress winners 10 of them have been playing real people. (That means 62.5% of winners)

  • In 2007 Marion Cotillard played French singer Ediath Piaf and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
  • In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2004 Jamie Foxx played musician Ray Charles and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2003 Charlize Theron played prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2002 Adrien Brody played Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and won the Best Actor oscar.
  • In 2002 Nicole Kidman played author Virginia Woolf and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2000 Julia Roberts plays the unlikely activist Erin Brokovich and won the Best Actress oscar.

The exceptions, Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Hillary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Denzel Washington (Training Day), Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Russell Crowe (Gladiator).

I feel like 2008's possible male leads are particularly bio-pic heavy, so there is certainly a lot of potential for this trend to continue.

Reel People Post for Performances in 2008:

2007 Reel People Who's Films Are Now Scheduled for 2008 Eligiblity:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Google & Life's Biggest Questions - Question 1: Evil

A couple weeks ago I asked "What are life's biggest questions?"

In response to this question I got a numbe of great responses/questions. I specificly asked this question because that day I had seen the following church sign:
By the time I saw the sign, I wanted to objectively determine what readers might say are life's biggest questions were a put it to the test thus begins my attempt to see what happens when I ask google to answer life's biggest questions as submitted by StrangeCulture readers.

One question was asked about evil and suffering.

Nate says life's biggest question is: "The problem of evil: How/why does a good and all powerful God allow suffering in His creation?"

When I google search: "why is there evil?" I actually get a variety of post that pop-up.

If I'm "feeling lucky" on Google I get a link to a page in the website of CARM.org (apparently stands for Chrisitian apologestics and research ministry) with the headline "Why is there evil in the world?"

I didn't say anything specificly about God in my google search, although Nate includes it in his question. Incidentally, the "feeling lucky" web page does deal with this question from a Biblical perspective citing 4 reasons, using 13 different Bible passages.

The webpage concludes: Suffering is the result of human sin. The world is not the way that God created it and because of that, all are vulnerable to the affects of sin in the world. Why does one person suffer and another does not? Why do catastrophes happen to some and no others? It is because sin is in the world. But there will come a day when the Lord will return and cleanse this world of all sin and all suffering.

Do you feel like this "feeling lucky" answer provides an adequate google answer to Nate's question?

Other links that show up to answer this question include: Power to Change » If God is good, why is there evil and suffering?, Sermon: Why is there evil?, Why is there Evil in the World?, Graveyard of the Gods - Why is There EVIL ? as well as my personal favorite...

The YouTube video for White Zombie's Electric Head (Pt. 1, the Agony). While the White Zombie video is certainly not the answer to Nate's question, it's certainly the most entertaining.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quality 80s? Part X

As I continue to search and seek out the best 80s movies...trying to discover if there really were any great 80s movies...I have been watching reader recommendations for the past couple months. I'm now up to 30 different 80s films I've caught up on.
This post specifically contains three very unique 1980s love stories.

Previous 80s film viewing thoughts can be found here: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, and Part IX.

Directed by John Huston
Recommended by Oscar (8 noms, 1 win supporting actress Angelica Huston), & Will

Definitely a quirky black comedy. While acting accolades seemed to go to everyone but Kathleen Turner, I thought she did an excellent job. Angelica Huston is perfectly cast, and it's unique that she won her Oscar in a film directed by her father. Yet, I'm sure if blogging existed during that 1986 Academy Awards, people would have definitely suggested there was some Color Purple vote splitting.

Jack Nicholson plays a classic-Jack role, as a gangster hit man. The story unfolds in a way that is definitely predictable, but it's always a challenge when you see a film a couple decades old...you wonder is this film a cliche, or did this film set trends that generic films later would follow. It's definitely an entertaining "gangster romantic black comedy." (I can see Blockbuster having the title cards over this genre of film now GRBC for short.)


When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Directed by Rob Reiner
Recommended by Oscar (writing nod), Will, & Crackers and Cheese

This of course is a delightful and popular hit in one of the multiple Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan productions. I love the actual initial scene when Harry Meets Sally because for the actual hair and acting of Billy Crystal to look and act young is absolutely hilarious in itself.

I love the dialogue in this film, which in many ways almost reminds me as a more basic, more comical version of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, simply in the fact that so much of this film is a progression of dialogue between two characters, walking and talking, driving and talking, eating and talking, etc. I think I was surprised to what a high degree this film deals with the concept and idea of sex. I'm not sure if that was part of the initial appeal or comedy in this film, but when I think of it's "follow-ups" of Sleepless in Seattle (a personal favorite) or You've Got Mail, these films do not carry with them such a strong sexual theme.

Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Directed by Randa Haines
Recommended by Oscar (5 nods, 1 win best actress Marlee Matlin)

This film was surprisingly captivating, telling the story of a hearing teacher at a school for the deaf (William Hurt) and a bright and stubborn deaf graduate who refused to learn to speak or read lips (Marlee Matlin).

This film definitely is a love story, and yet at the same time feels like the precursor to Mr. Holland's Opus at times as well. While Marlee Matlin won the award, I was actually far more impressed with Hurt's performance. In this film he basically provides the dialogue for two people in a complicated love story, and when he's not creating two part dialogue, he's providing narration. It would have been really easy to make this line delivery distracting, or out of place. But yet, it seems so natural. Hurt's performance is incredibly impressive. I definitely enjoyed this film very much.

This is one of those films where half way though you realize that a completely satisfying ending is impossible. Had it been made today, I imagine the DVD would have contained an alternate ending, just to assuage those who weren't satisfied with the way play writer Mark Medoff chose to end it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Announcing: Dads In Media Blog-a-thon

This year, June 15th marks the day in many countries (including the North America, many European and South American countries) celebrate Father's Day. The first father's day was celebrated 100 years ago July 5th, 1908.

This Father's Day centennial also marks the first time I will be celebrating some concept of Father's day with a daughter due this June.

I am fortunate to have such an amazing Father myself, with amazing Grandfather's before hand to shape my own parents. And it is largely in these examples of fatherhood that I will draw on in my own personal fatherhood journey, as well as paving my own ways based on my own personality and changing culture.

Yet our examples of fatherhood extend beyond our own physical experiences. As all forms of media, movies, music, television, and art, attempt to capture life, father's appear in all forms of media and entertainment.

With this is mind I will be hosting the "Dads in Media Blog-a-thon." June 12th-June 15th I encourage anyone interested in participating to write their own blog-a-post about Dads in Media. Post your post, e-mail me and let me know when it's up and I will collect all the post in a central post (like I did with last year's Film + Faith Blog-a-thon).

While your post can be on any related topic, I would especially encourage you, if you are so inclined, to focus on redeeming examples, qualities, or lessons that can be seen in media fathers. Of course, the field's open to your own interpretation of the topic.

I look forward to your posts, thoughts, and reflections. If you have any questions or would like to be reminded of the blog-a-thon as it approaches e-mail me and I will help you out how ever I can.

Friday, May 09, 2008

W Update - 2008 Release Date & Brolin as Bush

I remember there being speculation that Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic, slated for 2009, might actually come out in 2008.

Well, Variety reports that the bio-pic, W, has now been picked up by Lionsgate and is expected to come out this year (October 17, 2008, just weeks before the November 4th election).

In regards to this films election positioning, I imagine in many ways the film is trying to create some "election entertainment" using the election to help propel and market the film. At a time where people are more apt to be reading the political stories, following political blogs, and watching there news network of choice...this film certainly has a chance to get into spotlight. Honestly, I doubt this will have any effect on the election, although I am sure some will suggest that a film of this nature could help the democratic nominee, simply because Bush might be painted as a doofus in this film.

The pictures from this post are from Entertainment Weekly. EW has an article about the film and some new pictures of what we might expect to Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Bank's to look like as the President and First Lady. Honestly, I'm impressed with the Brolin transformation (and facial in the cover shot) but I am certainly not buying Elizabeth Banks.

Interestingly enough, this film hasn't even started shooting, even though it's expected to open in just over 5 months. Apparently shooting is scheduled to begin in Shreveport Louisiana in a couple weeks.

Here is an interesting Oliver Stone quote from EW article:

''Bush may turn out to be the worst president in history,'' he declares as he peeks into room after room. ''I think history is going to be very tough on him. But that doesn't mean he isn't a great story. It's almost Capra-esque, the story of a guy who had very limited talents in life, except for the ability to sell himself. The fact that he had to overcome the shadow of his father and the weight of his family name — you have to admire his tenacity. There's almost an Andy Griffith quality to him, from A Face in the Crowd. If Fitzgerald were alive today, he might be writing about him. He's sort of a reverse Gatsby.''


***


Other W Movie Post on StrangeCultureBlog:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Vomit Enducing Summer Movies (2008 edition)

Following the popularity of the 2007 list, and the 2006 list of movies I'm completly not interested in, namely for their horrible or ridiculous premises...I present the list of 2008 Vomit Enducing Summer Movies.
Consider these 15 films as your "Must-Avoid" Movie List for Summer 2008.

May 23: Postal
For starters, any movie that squares off the same weekend as Indiana Jones has to be horrible, unless it's a limited release film in a totally different format. This movie on the other hand in an action comedy. Far too similar in genre. Staring no one remarkably famous this movie deals with a postal leader, teaming up with a cult leader who accidentally chooses the same target for a violent attack as the taliban chose.

A buddy comedy about the downward spiral of a Tae Kwon Do instructor who goes on a journey to find his hero...no way. Especially if Will Farrell's not in it.

May 30: Savage Grace
I wrote last year about this movie about the story of the Barbara Daly Baekeland (Julianne Moore) murder case when this movie was slotted as a 2007 release. Hardly a summer flick, the story of a woman who has incest with her homosexual son. It doesn't matter how good the performances are, I'm totally not interested.

I've mentioned this film before, but as I see it, there frankly are just way too many American Girl books, and if Kit Kittredge is successful than they'll have to make an infinite collection of dumb movies about doll/book collection. Molly goes to School, Nina Washes her Hair, Marcy No Longer is a Slave, Polly Wants a Cracker. Saying no to Kit is like saying no to a whole line of scary girl dolls and their potential film conterparts.

July 3: The Wackness
Wow, believe it or not, a period film about the year 1994, really keying in on 1994 culture..."a time of pagers, not cell phones; a time when Tupac and Biggie were alive but Kurt Cobain had just died." This story about a depressed pot dealer in New York in 1994 trading pot for thearapy sounds Sweet! -- 'not!'

July 18: Hounddog
I mentioned this movie in June and July of 2006. Way before Hannah Montana/Mylie Cyrus was in controversial Vanity Fair photos, Dakota Fanning was filming a movie (when she was then 12) about a sexually abused girl who finds hope in the music of Elvis. Did people forget summer movies where about escaping the heat, smiling and eating popcorn?

July 25: Baghead
The imdb.com synopsis reads: "The Duplass Brothers explore the minutiae of relationship dynamics in this in-depth study of a group of desperate actor friends. And a bag. And a head." Umm...that's totally not worth $9.

August 1: Swing Vote
Are people so uninformed about the electoral college, voting procedure and simply enough general odds, election law? This comedy about the presidential election coming down to one man's vote is so dumb. Kevin Costner, I'm really sorry you have to take on film rolls like this that should go to actors like Ray Romano or Ice Cube.

Everyone loves a story about dismemberment and cannibalism on a midnight meat train. The family movie of the year.

August 1: Choke
What happens when a story that should have been a Saturday Night Live skit becomes a movie? You get a Choke, the story of a man who pays for his mother's hospital bills by pretending the choke and conning the victims who save him. A great film for the cynic who doesn't want to help or give. This film is based off a novel by Chuck Palahniuk author of Fight Club, so I could be underestimating this one...it could have cult favorite potential?)

Please...those pants better stop traveling or else they're all going to end up with diseases! (Where do young actresses go when there WB or comparable program goes off the air -- that's right...straight into the traveling pants)

August 22: Wild Child
Due to the writer's strike...we have taken an old story, only the names of characters and minor details have been changed. The premise: "A rebellious Malibu princess is shipped off to a strict English boarding school by her father where she falls in love with a boy she is prohibited to date."

In an attempt to remake an Asian film (a la The Departed) this Thai film unfortunatly stars Nicholas Cage in a plot that was probably being copies back in 1999 and now is way overplayed...the story of hitman who falls for a local woman. Again it only makes sense to blame it on the writer's strike.

August 22: The House Bunny (formerly titled I Know What Boys Like)
A playboy bunny is tossed out of the mansion and helps 7 clueless sorority girls save their sorority house. I'm guessing people will not being seeing this because of the plot?

August 29: Babylon A.D.
Rosemary's Baby + Jurassic Park + Da Vinci Code + Vin Dissel. It sounds like a bad combo too me. So does this movie about a Vin Disel escorting a woman across Asia who is the host body of a genetically modified Messiah.

GTA IV: Biggest Media Opening? - Yes Indeed

Last month I mentioned that Grand Theft Auto IV might have the biggest media sales ever, with an anticipated $400 million in sales in the first week.

Well the early numbers are in, and after the first week, Grand Theft Auto IV earned more than $500 million in sales in it's first week. Opening day (April 29th) the title alone brought in $310 million (Halo 3 did $300 million it's first week last fall).

I personally am not involved in video-game world, but I think many people would be naive not to be aware of the profound success and popularity of the video game industry. This is bigger than Tecmo Bowl and Donkey Kong. And honestly, I think being culturally aware and curious of the influence of the effect of video games and their popularity is something worth being aware of and thinking about.
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