No need to buy

Cinescape has a short blurb about the release date of the X3 DVD release:
    X-MEN: THE LAST STAND will come to DVD in the fourth-quarter of this year. 20th Century Fox will reportedly announce on Friday that the movie will hit shelves on October 3, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film has made over $233 million at the box office and will be released in two extra-laden special editions.
Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker. I will not fall into the trap that I affectionately refer to as the Matrix: Revolutions folly and buy the DVD just to complete the series collection. X3 is the single most disappointing movie of the year, and clearly, of the series. Or, as a much snarkier commenter on that Cinescape page put it: "Too bad they don't have a DVD with an alternate X3 movie. Or maybe an alternate director and writers."

PS. The picture of Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde is there to note that every blind squirrel finds a nut.


King of all Film

What is it with Hugh Jackman? The trailer for yet another interesting and original-looking film, The Fountain, has me looking to buy my ticket. (The website is just trippy. Exactly what I'd expect from Aronofsky.) Paired with the upcoming The Prestige, it appears as though Jackman has cornered the market on cool movies. Or he has an arrangement with the Post Office to have all good scripts rerouted to his door. Whatever deal he has made, it is clearly with the devil. And it looks worth it.


The Prestige

What's that you ask? What is the coolest and most intriguing movie coming to a theater near you? Why of course it's The Prestige:
    From acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan ("Memento," "Batman Begins"), comes a mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences.
    From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Full of twists and turns, "The Prestige" is set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London, the exceptional cast includes two-time Oscar® winner Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie.
You still doubt me? Go see the trailer, then come back and apologize. I'll wait.


35 and counting

The time has finally come for yet another landmark birthday that a lot of people didn't foresee me making. As of 11:22 PM EST this evening, I will officially be 35 years of age.

As per the custom, this landmark birthday has inspired some self-reflection, some bits of angst, and some liver bashing. What has added a bit more of pondering about this year is that it is also the 10th anniversary of my moving to Washington, D.C. from Philadelphia, which means I've now lived here exactly as long as I had in Pennsylvania (counting my stint at State College, that is).

This does not mean I'm going to root for the Redskins. I'm afraid that I cannot in good conscience switch teams within divisions. Although I am sympathetic to the Redskins because of the many friends and relatives I have down here, my two premier teams will remain the Bills and Eagles. (I've contemplated who I would root for in a Superbowl matchup between the two teams (as if I would have to worry about that), and I have to give the edge to the Bills. But not by much.)

I've always had a fascination with the area as a kid, so it's probably no surprise that I feel at home down here. I remember the first time visiting D.C. when I was about seven and marveling at the beltway. Eight lanes just seemed so immense, at least compared to growing up in Allegany, NY. I could do a bit without the swamp-like heat in the summer, but the change of seasons, proximity to the beach, and plentiful bike trails are right up my alley.

So, since I've been down here, what have I accomplished? What have I learned since I was a mere pup of 25? What has changed? The appearance is probably the most striking. Back in the day I had fairly long, thick hair and was a skinny kid of about 165. Now, with the virtually shaved head that I've had since 2001 and another 20 pounds on the physique, it's a kinder, gentler, future me.

I've picked up the habit of working out on a daily basis, with weights and cardio, and kept that habit for about the last 7 years or so. That change in my lifestyle has allowed me to keep a strong social life while keeping off the rigors of a slowing metabolism. (Much of that 20 pounds is muscle.) Like my old math teacher used to say, moderation in everything.

I like to think the secret of my own personal health and sanity is moderation and balance. Never too much of any one activity, whether it be working out or drinking or work or play or writing. A combination keeps (my) mind at its least stressful. I know that I could never be truly happy just writing or just writing code, just reading books on the beach or just socializing. I've learned a lot about who I am, and I know what it takes to make me happy. The real challenge is actually DOING it, or combating laziness to do it.

A few weeks back I had issued an email to a bunch of friends asking for one word that they thought encapsulated me. Although this may sound like an invitation to uncomfortable responses, all of them were quite thoughtful and perceptive. However, probably the best (I thought) was "work-in-progress". The search, the journey itself is what drives me; complacency at a job, in relationships, in self invariably lead to stagnation. As such, I doubt the day I die (if I have a chance to reflect) that I will consider my life complete. And it doesn't bother me. What matters to me is to always have something to strive for, to be passionate about.

So, what has been 'accomplished' over the last 10 years? I completed my first 'real' movie script since I've been down here and written over 50,000 words of a book (which I'm currently backstorying at a snails pace, but it IS being done). I've purchased my first car, bed, TV, computer, and couch, but I really need to get some damn golf clubs to replace my 30-year-old ones. I've swam in the ocean at midnight (a great fear of mine). I've drawn and framed works in charcoal, pencil, and pastel. I've seen Penn State kick the crap out of Nebraska with 110,000 other rabid fans at Beaver Stadium. I've traveled to at least 15 states and Canada (okay, 16 then). I've taught classes in a computer language that I only just learned the week before. (For someone who is afraid of public speaking, once you've been thrust into that situation, everything else is a bit easier.) I have opened a savings account and have become entirely debt-free. I've managed wireless for a publishing company. I've programmed a custom solution to software that didn't have any reporting. I've gotten a degree as a PMP (Project Management Professional). I've changed a frickin' tire on my car. I've failed to break any teeth or bones. I have three permanent wrinkles in my forehead from raising my eyebrows at incompetence. I have broken a 5-iron while hitting a perfectly good tee shot. I have done all this and more, and most importantly, I have survived. For some, that is a big enough accomplishment.

Financially, I am certainly in better shape than when I was 25. Being single, living in a low-rent house, biking to work, and engaging in a high-paying activity will do that for you. And speaking of being single, although I recently (well, several months ago) ended a long-term relationship, I don't have any regrets about those I have dated. For one reason or another, I know the right decision was made.

Which brings me to something that I certainly didn't know when I was 25: what I want in a companion/girlfriend/wife. Although this actually leads to less dating, as the pool will naturally shrink once you know what you want and more specifically what you do not want. I could probably easily list off the traits that I need to have (not a long list), those that I can deal with either way, and those that I cannot put up with (again, not a long list). All this comes with the territory of hitting 35, and although in past times one would consider 35 to be of incorrigible bachelor age, for Generation X and Y and beyond, it's nearly par for the course.

So, do I feel older? Slightly. I consider myself to be in better shape than I was 10 years ago, but I am aware of certain things in my body creaking a bit more. I don't feel older per se. I am more mature? Against my will, certainly. You pick up things along the way, you get 'over' acting like you are in your 20's, and I have successfully stopped sucking my thumb. But, what's strange to me is that my attitude, my personality, my goofiness and sarcasm, hasn't tempered at all with age. I am as relieved as I am a bit surprised, at least compared to my vision of what I'd be like from 25. As much as I could bear it, that is; I couldn't much imagine 35 back then any more than I can really see 45. Ick.

In any event, this rambling, self-indulgent prose has come to completion, and we are all happy for it. If you've made it this far, then chances are you are a friend or you are incredibly bored at work. My friends, of course, the ones I've made and the ones I've kept over these years, are my biggest accomplishment. Thanks and fade out.


Mission: Improbable (yet succeeds)

It goes without saying that Tom Cruise's recent antics of Scientology hawking, couch jumping, psychiatry attacking and South Park censoring (to name a few) have done close-to-irrepairable damage to his once impeccable image. In the space of a year's time, he's become an intriguingly dichotomous person -- at once the most ridiculed and powerful actor in show business. Even though this negative press has kept people away, whether in protest or just because they got the 'creeps', from Mission: Impossible III.

Despite all this negative publicity surrounding its seemingly unhinged star, the reviews for Mission: Impossible III have on average been not rotten, but often quite disparate. Just perusing over a few you'll have one finding it to be awesome and another it to be dreck. I'll admit I have a prediliction (I did not know you were so kinky!) for reading spoiler-free reviews prior to a film and detailed reviews afterwards. Of course, at the end of the day, overwhelmingly positive reviews won't make me go and negative reviews won't make me stay away. I will see what I want to see.

So, even though there is all this swirl around Tom Cruise, that didn't influence my choice to view the film. What has had more impact is the last one, M:I:ii, which sacrificed a lot of character development and plot for stunt acrobatics (expected of Director John Woo). It worked on a visual level, but otherwise it left me feeling rather disappointed. However, this time around, with J.J. Abrams (of 'Alias' and 'Lost' fame) on board to direct and script the film, I was more than curious to see what would happen. Certainly, I knew he wouldn't hire Tom Crooze.

In any event, somehow I found M:I:iii was playing in a theater right next door to where I work, and it was a slow evening, so I decided to take a gamble and see what it was all about. Here's 10 things I found out:
  1. It is by far the best of the three MI films. I know that this isn't saying a lot comparatively for some. I liked the first, and the second was pretty good. Neither are much more than neat espionage films. M:I:iii just flat out surpasses them. From the opening heart-stopping interrogation scene to the first end credit, the film rolls along at a riveting pace and never looks back. And you don't want it to.
  2. As with all action films, there is a degree of believability that you have to suspend in the action sequences. Once you get past that, the scenes are taut and exciting.
  3. Tom Cruise displays human emotions, draws empathy, somehow forms a character you like (i.e., not just some action guru), and actually mocks himself. Believe it or not someone actually mimics his 'couch jumping' episode in the film.
  4. It contains the most blatant macguffin since Pulp Fiction, and just like in that film, you couldn't care less. It's not important what it does, just that everybody wants it. J.J.'s script actually has fun with this.
  5. I want to marry Michelle Monaghan, too. She is sweet, emotional, and drop-dead gorgeous, without being of supermodel quality.
  6. The IMF team (Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Maggie Q), while clearly the support for Ethan Hunt, aren't relegated to the background and are each given multiple moments to shine.
  7. The dialog is peppered with great one-liners, subtle moments of character vulnerability, and intense exchanges, especially between Hunt and Owen Davian. Speaking of Owen Davian, Philip Seymour Hoffman didn't steal the movie, nor did he rescue it, but goddam can this guy play loathesome menace. Oh wait, that is an academy award on his mantle.
  8. Keri Russell's agent character was believable and incredibly moving. I will credit the writing and pacing as well as the performance. To go into detail would be to spoil.
  9. With J.J. on the job (and this is a Mission: Impossible film), you know that there's going to be plot twists amany. You kind of come to expect that all isn't what it seems, so I can say that I wasn't exactly surprised at the twists, but they were handled effectively. I will admit during once particularly shocking scene I was had, until I figured it out a few seconds later. Enough for me to smile at myself for enjoying what the film intended.
  10. It was worth the $7.50 and will be worth owning on DVD.
So, it's pretty apparently that I have been thoroughly brainwashed by Scientology's subliminal mind-control in this film. All hail Xenu and Tom Cruise!


Should've said "Jebus"

Here's a punishment you can avoid by being a fan of the Simpsons (specifically this one:
    HONOLULU - Junior Stowers raised his hands and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus!" in court last month when he was acquitted by a jury of abusing his son. But his joy was short-lived when Circuit Judge Patrick Border held him in contempt of court for the "outburst" and threw him in jail.

    Stowers, 47, sat in the courtroom and a cellblock for about six hours until the judge granted him a hearing on the contempt charge and released him...But his attorney in the contempt case, Deputy Public Defender Susan Arnett, said he wasn't treated fairly...

    "I don't think there's anything about saying 'Thank you, Jesus' that rises to the level of contemptuous behavior in this case," she told The Honolulu Advertiser. Stowers is a devoutly religious man active in his church who spontaneously expressed his thanks to the higher power in which he believed, she said.
Hopefully, people won't make that big of a deal about it. My guess is the judge had just about enough of Captain Devout. I already have and I wasn't even there.


Cool Poster of the Day

The award goes to the new teaser poster for Spider-Man 3.

The Last Word on Jenny

Ever since Brad Pitt got together with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston started shlumping around the planet, to mention any one of those three to a woman was to invite an impromptu litmus test of her level of insecurity. It's difficult to really criticize those that condemn Brad for leaving her (allegedly) for a younger, hotter, more successful, more world-conscious, sexier woman; it's the greatest fear of many to be replaced by the young.It's unlikely that there was physical infidelity on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith whilst the Pitt-Aniston union was winding down. What is very likely is that there was emotional infidelity, and it may or may not have inspired the divorce. The marriage was failing, here's a woman who's better in every regard and could help you become a better man; it's a no-brainer.Did Angelina "steal" Jennifer's man? That question prompts more eye rolls in me than should be humanly possible. Thankfully I came across a throwaway response to this question, courtesy of What Would Tyler Durden Do:
    This actually sounds really mean, except I don't like Jennifer Aniston, so I don't really care. The victim the article doesn't mention is all of us, who will have to listen to Jennifer's bratty ass whine for another year just because she was beaten by someone better. Not only is Jolie 8 billion times hotter, she's a better actress and a better person. It's the difference between a Mercedes SL600 and a donkey that fell in the mud.


Indiana Jones and the Hammer of Truth

Happy 64th birthday to Harrison Ford! And as a birthday present for our longest living action hero, Paramount has decided to go the Snakes on a Plane route of bluntly describing what the film is really about with the new title for the next Indiana Jones movie:
    Indiana Jones and the Ravages of Time is the current working title given to what will be the fourth of the Indiana Jones series of theatrical films. The film will be the fourth released, though the twenty-sixth episode chronologically, in a series of film and TV productions about the adventures of the heroic fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones.
Okay, okay, it's a working title, but so was Snakes on a Plane. (Incidentally, wouldn't Indiana just hate to be there?) Sounds like there's still some humor left in the ol' man after all. Either way, I'll be in the theater for it. Trust me.


Superman Returns

It's difficult to try to formulate the reaction I had into a nice succinct little blog. Not so much because I have an obvious problem with putting words to screen, but because I found Bryan Singer's Superman Returns a complex, moving, thoroughly enjoyable epic that should be ranked with Spider-Man 2 as film not afraid to stretch the bounds of traditional canonical lore and explore the character of the 'super' hero. [There, I guess that wasn't so tough, was it?]

Although the pacing of the first half-hour seemed a little off, once Superman appeared on the scene with the exhilarating shuttle rescue, I never again noticed the passage of time.

I should mention that the performances are all top-notch. Of course, the big question is whether Brandon Routh could pull off the role, and let's just say he succeeded. At some point early on, I just saw the character on screen as Superman, instead of some new-faced kid on the block.

As with every film, there were some little flaws with the movie that I would have nitpicked or fixed. (The premier of these would be to change the way Lois is kidnapped.) However, I'm not aware of any film that couldn't use a nip/tuck here and there, so I tend to wash over those little points. Those who can't suspend disbelief shouldn't be going to see a Superman film in the first place.

On the other hand, the film is wrought with moving, iconic moments, from homaged action poses to epic, brutal showdowns to soft, bittersweet moments of familial interaction. There are a lot of detailed recollections I could go into, but I'm going to talk about just one example, and one that does not have any plot spoilers per se. I'm that kind of guy.

One of the first things that you see Superman do with his new powers is something that most of us would do with them; spy on other people. In this case, his former love Lois Lane and her family at home. Although quite a few have found this to be rather creepy, I think it is consistent with the character's theme in this film, which is alienation, loneliness, longing, frustration. Yes, even for a God. Even the best, most super man has his needs and wants, and this superhero is shown to be the most vulnerable of all. His love has moved on, has a son and a fiance who is not a jerk (in fact is a human version of a super man), and during the super-eavesdropping even says she never loved Superman (not that we believe her). Well, that's what you get for spying on people; sometimes you hear things you didn't want to know in the first place.

When we feel rejected or hurt, sometimes it's too much to bear to think about, and we throw ourselves into activities, whether it be going out or sports or work. It was a nice touch to make Superman's reaction be a rather human one, in that he flies away clearly emotionally kicked-in-the-gut, and proceeds to throw himself into his work. Only his work involved flying around and fighting crime. Not just in Metropolis, but all over the world as the next day the news reports sightings of Superman in dozens of countries. It's a pretty clear and wonderfully subtle indication that he did not want to stop to think about his personal life, or lack thereof.

Superman Returns is not a kiddies' movie. It is a film made for adults that rewards the viewer who can look past the dazzling special effects, inspiring score, and hero-vs-villain line and understand what the characters must be feeling. If you can do that, then you are in for a treat.