Monday, February 28, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite

When folks around the office started quoting lines from Napoleon Dynamite, (well, quasi-quoting: "Get your own tots" was really "Get your own" - the tots being implied), I figured I needed to break down and watch this cult sleeper. I originally had put it on the "not enough time" list because the previews just depressed me, and Ebert, my guiding light with the exception of foreign films, didn't like it. But, when I praised Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle in front of some of the young-uns in a hallway gathering, I got a Napolean-esque: "Dude, Harold sucks. See Napoleon. Gosh!" And that clinched it.

Nonetheless, I sat down expecting an excruciating evisceration of that particular clique of nerd-dom (there are many stratified layers of that world, a few of which I eternally belong to). It ended up being excruciating, but wonderfully so and only because it was so honest and accurate about the kind of nerds Napoleon and his brother are. Which points out a truth about fiction: If a character or situation is portrayed honestly, then you needn't worry about it being exploitive, mean, or voyeuristic. Ebert's problem was he felt it was all of those - that we were meant to laugh at Napoleon and his gang, not with them. This film manages to deliver both kinds of laughs, but what's magnificent is all the laughs at Napoleon's expense are really boomerangs, and eventually you realize you're laughing at yourself, whether you know it or not.

Stephen King once wrote, and I paraphrase badly here, that every character, and every real person for that matter, is the star of the story in their own mind. Thus, when writing bad guys you have to realize that to themselves they're not bad and that their actions are justifiable. Napoleon - not a bad guy by any stretch - sucks you into his world, and that's why the laughs come back at you. In his world, he's the normal one, with the right viewpoint, and everyone else is messed up. It's a rare film that can do that. Try to list a few for yourself, and I bet you don't get past your fingers to your toes, or perhaps you won't even leave one hand.

I think the honesty of Napoleon Dynamite is proven by the fact that anyone who sees it can immediately think of the Napoleon from their high school. The Napoleon in my school was named Rodney, who oddly enough had a white-guy fro like Napoleon. One of my fonder memories of him was he was being mercilessly teased at lunch (as usual), this time about the sheer amount of food he put into his mouth for each bite. After a few minutes of this, with simple aplomb, Rodney opened his mouth as wide as possible, and the whole bolus dropped out of his mouth and hit the plate with a wet whack. It was still in the shape of his mouth, the ridges from the roof of his mouth clearly visible with teeth imprints lining each side. Totally gross. His tormentors left the table nearly immediately (perhaps they only paused long enough to stave off vomiting). Rodney popped the mass back into his mouth, and chewed on as if nothing had happened. I've always admired him for that.

Napoleon Dynamite is also universal in its appeal, and is a kid-friendly PG. My daughter, who's eight, laughed so hard at a couple scenes that we had to stop the DVD to allow her to recover. What's also telling is that during many other movies, if something is oblique or confusing - like a social situation or a story development - she'll ask us what's going on (for an interpretation). She didn't have to ask a single question during Napoleon Dynamite. The filmmakers have simply nailed Napoleon's world, simply and directly - right down to the 80s decor.

If you've got the time, an interesting set of bookends for a movie festival would be Napoleon Dynamite and Forrest Gump, in which the nether ends of the spectrum on the theme "misfit meets the real world" are presented in their most realistic and most idealized forms.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It's the Smell of Corruption

Big blog daddy James Lileks - everyone's favorite, including mine (don't feel bad Dooce and Blowhards, you're my vice-favorites) - wondered the other day:

I just find it amusing that people think that because I support less aggressive taxation and the War I must therefore believe gays should be driven into a pit lined with sharp stakes, and therefore I’m a hypocrite. How does that work? It’s like saying “you oppose partial privatizing of Social Security? Well, then you obviously want abortion legal up the moment when the baby crowns.” Doesn’t follow.

Well, he's right. It doesn't follow.

(Warning: Obligatory big but to follow.)

But, I spent most of the last election cycle getting told by the punditry I wasn't a patriot, probably wasn't even a worthy American, because I don't support the war and think gutting Social Security is wrong because I don't want to see little old ladies living on dog food.

Recently, the boys who brought us Swiftboat Assholes for Propaganda have been tasked with taking down AARP, as the administration sees AARP as the biggest hurdle in partially privatizing Social Security, and here's their first volley:

Cute, eh? There's that message again: You're an anti-American who hates our troops, and worse, you're a fag. (And this ought to get interesting; everyone knows that you don't fuck with the gray panthers.)

A good buddy of mine (Libertarian by bent) recently emailed me with a link to an article recently where a tighty righty pundit wheezed about German women being forced into prostitution because of their evil socialist unemployment system, which of course ended up being false, and about a boy somewhere in American who did a dynarama equating Bush to Hitler, which of course leads to the immediate application of Godwin's law. So I wrote him back and said pretty much that, and that I liked Social Security, unemployment benefits, and the safety net in general because it saved half of my culdesac in the waves of layoffs a year or so back. My spider-sense tells me it pissed him off royally, and I hope I haven't endangered the friendship by being honest, but I may have.

So, see, we can both play that game. And Lileks is right, assumptions on one's whole gamut of political views derived from one or two positions just don't follow. (Frinstance, I'm totally on the Republican side regarding gun laws, a strong military, and 2nd or 3rd term abortions - I don't like abortion at all, but I don't like what happens when it's illegal.)

The name-calling and the opposite views on governing and policy aren't the major issue for most who dislike this administration. Social Security doesn't really appear to be in danger of getting gutted. The Rove machine managed to insert a Stepford Reporter into a press conference: BFD. The war? I care about the kids getting killed for a futile reason, because the Arabs don't think like we do and I don't know if our actions over there will make a bit of difference as there has been unrest in the middle east involving Arabs my entire life. So, outside of the lives, I don't care, really, about the war, either. Further, I think the Republicans getting control of things once in a while and the Democrats doing the same in cycles is nothing but healthy; it keeps America balanced and on course; the excesses of one side are corrected by the other.

And here we happen across my point: The reason why those who oppose this administration do so is because they believe it is corrupt to its very core, because, after all, it really is Nixon redux. I don't think we'd mind (much) if it was Reagan redux, but it's not. It's all the bad boys who didn't get their dirty work done the first time before Nixon imploded. Overreaching secrecy is back in black, and Karl Rove is the ultimate puppet master who doesn't even bother to cover up his dark mutterings on his schemes when reporters are within earshot, and who openly attempts to destroy the careers (and by extension, the lives) of those who cross him and this administration. So, we who aren't happy with Bush are unhappy because we think he's as crooked as Karl Rove's colon. (Well, actually, most of us think Bush is too stupid to really be more than a puppet. The machine behind him needed a Dan Quail, but since no could keep a straight face when proffering him for president, someone must've said, "You know, George has a boy who's not very bright...")

Now, those interested in the tit-for-tat game will howl about how corrupt Clinton was. To which I respond: Bullshit. Of all the crap the wingnut echo chamber threw at him, the only thing he did was fall into a perjury trap because he didn't want his wife or American to know that Monika sucked his dick (and apparently flavored his cigars - which has always bothered me because everyone knows the perfect accompaniment to a cigar is a good scotch, but evidently being "hand rolled on the thighs of nubile virgins" just wasn't close enough for Bill). (And not to say cheating on your wife is OK.) So, let's not pretend that the whole "Slick Willy" fiasco was anything other than a smear campaign because the neocons wanted to be in power.

Long story short:
It's the smell of obvious, well-documented, and proven corruption, not so much the actual politics. That's the problem. I can't get behind that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Back to AM

Remember in Monty Python and the Holy Grail the little cartoon segment that summarizes part of the quest where, intermittently, there was "great rejoicing" marked by a less than enthusiastic "yay"? Well, that's me these days when it comes to radio. There is great rejoicing, but it's definitely rates just a lowercase, no exclamation point yay. Here's why...

I've was trapped in our mommy van lately with the new sprout, as mom did some past due shopping, as she has been laid up with the pregnancy until now. We have to stay close so mom can nurse upon demand, and babeh is still only 3 weeks old and can't go into public places yet. So there I sat.

Silence in a car is as alien to me as a paisley sky (note to those who care: I have always avoided hallucinogens as reality is interesting enough already), so I turned on the radio and began to hunt for something out there.

The hunt across the FM dial was as futile as ever. Denver radio sucks so badly, there's a web site dedicated to it. Clear Channel has decimated our airwaves to the extent that the little FM radio station located in my teeny hometown in the middle of nowhere that's primarily a big honkin tape made somewhere else (you can drive by the building and see the huge reel-to-reel cranking along) is way better than anything in the huge Denver market, which makes absolutely no business sense. We do have one of the nationally known stations - that being KBCO, home of the mellow yet occasionally rocking set list; I believe this is where "Adult Oriented Radio" was born. However, Clear Channel owns them, too, and if the jangly-guitar-centric sound doesn't bore ya, the over 25 minutes of commercials and blabber in each hour will. C'est la vie.

We have a comically reverent (the DJs speak in hushed, PBS tones as if they were sneaking up on a sleeping Yeti) "classic rock" station called "The Mountain" which refers, again, to the commercial content one has to scale to hear an oldie moldy you own anyway. We also have "Jack" (whose name is possibly trying to evoke the hipness of Jack Nicholson), which is probably one of those national stations that broadcasts the same main programming in many major cities with locally tailored station identification, which plays a slightly different set list of "classic rock" than "The Mountain", but with even more commercials and blather.

I kid you not, you can sit in front of your receiver and surf Denver FM from station to station hunting for songs, and maybe you'll find maybe 17.5 minutes worth of music you'd actually want to hear in an hour.

So with a weary sigh for the world of radio my new babeh been born into, I flipped over to AM to find something, because at least there's an old, established WAY oldies station there (I'm talking pre-40s oldies) that is interesting if not evocative.

We also have a new station which plays "Americana" which translates to bluegrass-tinged country rock and hardcore blues and, inexplicably, Tom Waits. Like most men, I had a blues phase, but I've passed out of it as most of us do when the 213th stroll through those 8-bar blues just, well, gives you the blues. Bluegrass has always vaguely annoyed me, maybe because I've never been a fan of tunes comprised solely of 16th and 32nd notes, primarily constructed to show off how fleet of finger the picker is. (I like the Edges (U2) of the world more that I do the Eddie Van Halens.) (And to be fair, this station has in the last couple weeks updated its format a little bit, and it plays some decent mainstream rock and pop, now, too.)

After briefly visiting those two tiny oasis (oasi?), there it was, an AM station playing eclectic - and imagine this! - GOOD rock and pop. I thought perhaps I'd used too much oxygen from the confined environment of the mommy van and was hearing things, so in order to protect the babeh and myself, I rolled down the window, until a car alarm three cars over began its futile attempt to alert the owner deep in the bowels of the store, who was affixed to a cell phone anyway, and wouldn't have heard her own cat getting run over by a steamroller. But, lo and behold, after the oxygen levels had been restored, the radio station was still good, and the DJ came on only to identify songs, give the temp/time, perhaps roll a commercial or two, and then back to music! When it's been a while since you've had a particular kind of endorphin rush, it can be as mesmerizing as a boa constrictor who's singled you out as a snack.

Today, on an errand, between those three AM stations, I was able to hear damn good music - and new music - for the entire run. That hasn't happened in years. Literally. I nearly wept.

There's also a nostalgia component to listing to buzzy, fuzzy old mono AM. As with nearly everyone who grew up in the vast Midwest, my sole connection to new rock and pop growing up was KOMA in Oklahoma, which turned up the wattage at night and supposedly could be heard all the way into the hinterlands of Canada. So it's kinda like being back in my big old boat of a gas guzzler car with my buddies, cruising around looking for chicks and/or something to do. I am 17 again in the AM zone.

For those of you in the Denver area, here are the station settings:

- Great eclectic new rock/pop: 1150 KNRC? (no web site yet)
- Americana: 1510 KCUV
- Way oldies: 1430 KEZW

Put those three on the presets, and you'll be crusin'.

TLD: Whilst researching for this post, I came upon this little item:

The Grammy Awards may have been a critical hit, but they got their worst ratings in a decade; the show's estimated 18.8 million viewers constitutes a 28 percent drop from the 2004 Grammys. (Associated Press)

Could it be that perhaps NO ONE who likes music can find any to listen to on the radio anymore? And therefore doesn't give a flying star-spangled flip about who might win an award, because they don't know who the hell they are anyway? Me thinks so.

I keep wondering how long it's gonna take the conglomerates to figure out how much they've screwed up.

Heck, the only reason I knew to look on the AM dial in the first place was because my town is blessed to have an old fashioned record store still in operation, and the owner clued me into 1510 KCUV. (Thanks Steve!) So, think about that, we have one institution that's nearly gone - the mom and pop music store - recommending another, an AM STATION, so I can find decent music. In this day and age. Sweet screaming Judas on a Vespa, mang.

Monday, February 14, 2005


I think I would pass the hell out if this popped out of the ground near me:

I knew moles were ugly, but fer cryin' out loud.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Garden State

What a charming film. It was written, directed, and stars Zach Braff who is the main goofball doctor in the midst of his residency on the TV show "Scrubs," which is a new favorite of my wife's and mine. (We only found it last season, which is a DRAG, as we've missed the first few.)

Zach's character returns home from LA (where he's trying to make it as an actor) for a family event. He bumps into old buddies and new ones. Hilarity ensues (and this time I don't mean it ironically).

Two intriguing things about this flick are:

1) It's essentially plotless, like American Graffiti or The Graduate (which this movie most resembles), but it's compelling anyway. The writing is really good, which is unexpected since the star wrote and directed it. This should be a sucky straight to video vanity project, but it's not.

2) The visuals, achieved through the direction and design, are great! This film is fun to look at. Make sure you're seeing the widescreen version (if different versions exist), and have the lights down low.

Top that all off with Natalie Portman playing a sweet misfit, and you got yourself a popcorn and date movie extraordinaire.

Check it out, mang.

For the most part, I have avoided news stuff related to Democrat vs. Republican cooties. It's one of the blessings of being in a post presidential election year. We have sent the roller coaster clicking up the first hill, and what happens from here on out is just what will happen, barring the thing jumping the tracks.

My wife and I joined Netflix recently, because our last good video store in town closed their doors, and we have nothing but Blockbuster now. Like most movie lovers, I don't rent at Blockbuster unless I have no other alternative. A while ago I put in my queue Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and forgot about it. But it hit my door, and while my lovely wife was out running errands and the baby slept, I gave it a spin. "Outfoxed" demonstrates - Shock! Horror! - that Fox "News" is just a propaganda arm of the neocons. It's not like anyone paying attention didn't know that, but to have it spelled out in neon and indelible marker is partially fun and partially excruciating.

Like many liberals, I'm just trying to grin and bear it during the next four years, hoping Bush baby doesn't do too much damage to our nation, doesn't get too many of our kids killed in bullshit wars, and doesn't manage to dismantle Social Security. Our nation has survived worse, so I'm hopeful. And, who knows, there is a tiny, miniscule, itty-bitty chance that Bush's war on the Middle East will cool their jets on trying to kill us. If that ends up being the case, I'll take my crow with BBQ sauce, thank you very much.

Our national politics aside, something needs to be done about Fox "News". A simple truth in advertising suit might be in order, though it would be hard to win. As one of the commentators in the film points out, if someone has an established record of lying (he was referring to loofah boy Bill O'Reilly, though Rush "as long as it's pharmaceutical" Limbaugh would fit the bill, too), it's more difficult to prove that they KNOW that they're lying, and thus nearly impossible to prosecute them in the courts over the same. Ain't that a pickle?

The end result of watching "Outfoxed" for me was just getting pissed off all over again about something I can do nothing about. As long as people tune in to the propaganda network, and the advertisers know this, it will survive. Making laws about what's new and what isn't would never work, so really, this will only go away when and if folks who watch it as though it were real news eventually recognize it for the crap it really is.

About the only practical thing I can think of that can be done is the legitimate news outlets simply downgrading Fox "News" to an unreliable source, and never giving it any traction outside of its channel on TV. This may occur as a natural progression, actually, because lies and deceit are usually eventually uncovered. Let's hope, eh?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


My wife and I had a healthy, happy baby girl two weeks ago. I have been home enjoying her fully, hence the dearth of posts.

Similar in concept to that great lament of Willie Nelson, "Pickin' up hookers instead of my pen, I let the words of my youth slip away," I picked up my baby instead of the pen, so some of the more potent moments I made a mental note to record once I got around to writing this post have disappeared down the memory hole. Of course, I consider it time well spent, even if some thoughts died before being recorded.

I do have some random thoughts that have stayed with me, though:

- She had a lot of nightmares her first few days of life, and as I sat there holding her, watching the fear and dismay play across her freshly minted face, I wondered what in the world something so new and pristine could have nightmares about. And it began to worry me that she appeared to have only nightmares - no happy, serene dreams. After all, hadn't she just spent months in a spa with all the amenities? Surely good times were had. About day 4, though, the most beautiful smile blossomed across her dreaming face, and soon thereafter she smiled more than she frowned in her sleep.

- It's striking how much personality and behavior comes built in. As your child ages (we have an eight year old girl, too), you tend to forget all the little habits and flourishes that were there from the very start. This baby huffs and complains differently than her older sister did. She has this little annoyed hack she makes before she really hauls off and wails. The older one's eyes would roll (alarmingly) into her head when she would fall asleep, and they would go walleyed, like a Simpson character. This one goes cross-eyed when she gets tired and is about to drift off.

- Babies actually say "wah" when they cry. They form the whole word.

- Babies fart like weightlifters the day after Oktoberfest.

- Both the dog and the cat had to figure out what this new entry into the household was, and where it stood in the pecking order. Animals are cautious about their species' politics, so both remained ciphers at first. After a couple days, though, they had figured it out, and both animals made a show of licking the baby on the head in front of us, showing acceptance of the new whelp. The cat took longer, and acted as it was more of a blessing than an acceptance, of course, but I was surprised how similar cat and dog politics are in this regard. They know this is a new boss and not a new flunkie. (The dog proceeded the cat, but is still the flunkie in their little clique.)

- It's difficult to photograph something as tiny as a newborn. I had to discover all new settings in my camera just to let me get close enough, and to not dazzle her with the flash so she would close her eyes tight thereafter. I still have yet to get a good closeup.

- You know all those tribal tattoos that the female young'uns are getting directly under or around their navel? Imagine how those might look after one pregnancy. Or three. (For the record, untattooed tummies, like my lovely wife's, usually recover quite nicely, since there's no artificial pigment to throw off the aesthetics. Girls, take note.)

- Baby technology apparently grows in leaps and bounds. The swings, toys, and devices now available for babies are phenomenally improved from their state a mere 8 years ago. Strollers alone are a work of art and convenience unto themselves, with the cupholders and storage places and the ride that's smoother than a new Mercedes. Baby monitors are now so sensitive and modulated, I could tell which child was smacking her lips in her sleep from two floors away. I could hear the cat pass in the hall outside, even. Freaky. When I enter our bedroom now (where she'll sleep until she's big enough to move to her room), and the monitor's on, I automatically go into "cone of silence" mode, for fear that one of the neighbors might have a baby monitor on our frequency and could potentially hear me absent-mindedly scratching my ass.

- The processes and mysteries of lactation are something to behold. My lovely wife will be just standing there, minding her own business, and suddenly pools will form (more like "erupt"), and she'll say, "Oh, the baby must be getting ready to wake up and nurse," and sure enough, the pre-wail "I need attention" hack will arise within moments from the babeh. It reminds me of that old thermos joke: How do they know?

- Even if it doesn't stay as pure, everyone is blessed with complete and unconditional love for their child from the moment they arrive. It is quite the emotion to be in the thrall of. The intensity and depth is as frightening as it is exhilarating. You can sit and gaze at your baby for hours, and your stomach might rise and fall as if you were strapped into an actively rocketing roller coaster. Then you gaze at your other kid(s) and realize that emotion is still there for them, even if you're somewhat more accustomed to it. Ask any new parent, and they will be unable to describe it properly, but will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Welcome to the world, little one. I'll show you everything.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Mini Movie Reviews, 02/07/2005

Saw some flicks!

Door in the Floor

Premise: A husband and wife are in the final stages of grieving the loss of their beloved sons.

John Irving is my favorite writer, and Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors, so I had little hope that this would be any good at all (through the law of inverse hopes in proportion to quality of participants - sort of a critical weltschmerz if you will). I watched merely to note the level of suckitude, not the presence thereof. Well, heck, I love nice surprises, and this was a good movie. Not a great one. Not one you'll carry to your grave as a fond memory. No, it's just a good two hours spent. You'd be better off reading the book, natch, as with all Irving properties, but the movie will do, pig, it'll do. (Don’t take that personally, it’s a movie reference, babe.) In my opinion, the only truly enjoyable adaptation to an Irving novel thus far was The World According to Garp, but that's because George Roy Hill had a talent for adapting unadaptable novels. Yes, some folks like Cider House Rules, and it was a good adaptation, but it still pales in comparison to the book, as it has a tone that cannot be transferred to cinema. Mild warning: "Door" is rated "R" for all the right reasons, and besides, I think it would bore the hell out of anyone under 30 anyway.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Premise: Two pothead buddies decide they must have sliders when they see a commercial for the same after a couple post-work tugs from a bong. Hilarity ensues.

Cheech and Chong would have enjoyed this movie very much, that is if Cheech wasn't embarrassed about his stoner movie past and if Chong wasn't a political prisoner over having an online bong store land him in jail (and hopefully since Ashcroft has slide down his Crisco trail into the sunset, maybe that kind of shit will stop). It was a fun, lightweight flick if you enjoy pothead humor, which I do. Many reviews have mentioned the refreshing take on race in the movie, where it acknowledges, exploits, and defies stereotypes all at once. I would agree, but would say that it has a realistic take on race that's more in line with real life, and not like the after school special identity politics crap most movies indulge in.

Control Room

Premise: An "inside look" at Al Jazeera, the pan-Arabic CNN.

Boring, sloppy, and not worth the one bit of information you get from it, which I'll proffer here, so by reading this, there's no point to waste the hour and a half of your life: Pretty much everyone in the middle east now lumps us in with Israel; they view us as one and the same. No matter that it's not the case by any stretch of the imagination. So, just understand we are all Jewish in the eyes of the Arab nations, and therefore considered fair targets.

Before Sunset

Premise: A man and a woman meet again years after spending an intoxicating night together after meeting on a train.

Before Sunset is the wonderful sequel to Before Sunrise, which you don't have to see before seeing Before Sunset, but you should. If you've not seen the first, you should rent these together and watch both at once for a pretty cool movie experience. Be aware that these are just walking and talking movies; you could almost turn your TV off and just listen. I know a lot of folks who could never make it through a film that's just dialogue, so of you're one of those, do avoid. The rest of us will dig how profoundly right the exploration of new love and lost love are in these two (now) classics. Can Linklater (the director) do any wrong? (I just noticed through the All Movie Guide that he's remaking The Bad News Bears, so we will probably have the definitive answer to that question when it's released.)

The Village

Premise: All who dwell in the Amish-esque village are afraid of the monsters in the forest who attack anything of the "bad color," which is probably an oblique jab at Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain" series.

Shyamalan is still a wonder, as far as I'm concerned. The secret behind The Village is ultimately somewhat silly, but the script is still full of small, real observations about love, fear, and commitment. As long as you don't expect the big "so that's what's going on!" bitchslap of his first three films, it's a decent flick.


Premise: A group of bank robbers take up residence in an old woman's house, as it is adjacent to a vault. Hilarity ensues.

Ladykillers was OK, but merely so. There are two burst-out-laughing gags, but the rest is kinda tedious, which is amazing considering the combination of Tom Hanks with the Cohen brothers. Also, both my wife and I quickly tired of the foul language. One character can't open his mouth without dropping multiple f-bombs. It might be amusing to watch this if it's ever broadcast on TV, just to see if they can reasonably loop (replace) all of the swearing out of it. It'll probably feel like a spaghetti western or an Asian flick, since the motion of their lips will not often match the dialogue.

Alien vs Preditor

Premise: The monsters from Alien and Predator open cans of woop-ass on each other in an ancient pyramid buried under the ice at the South Pole, which completely contradicts the premise of the original two films. Hilarity ensues.

Well, of course, and as has been noted elsewhere, this is a must see for all geeks, even though it had absolutely no chance of not sucking out loud. And suck it did. Sadly, the most egregious trend that took hold of the "Alien" series, that being an odd permutation of identity politics blended with gangsta faux badassness - to the point where a previous installment included a guy in a wheelchair being part of a band of rough and tough space vigilantes - has come to full odious bloom. In "AvP," we get Dora the Explorer all grown up and tougher than any guy (she likes to climb ice mountains when she's not training a bunch of Navy Seals), who represents and keeps it real, so that even the Predator gives her props and drafts her to help clean up the 'hood, rather than use her for target practice or sighting in a new weapon. The plot ticks along like so many predetermined puzzles in a video game that it becomes apparent that's all it is - especially when some scene elements are clearly gratuitous because they look good, like when they're running through mazes of frozen whale ribs - a video game that was filmed rather than coded and put on a chip. The only thing that's shocking about that fact is that the writers of Alien itself were involved for the first time since the original film. Well - surprising until I remind myself that this hybrid of fanboy wet dreams never had any chance at being decent, regardless of who was at the reins and the whip.


Premise: A modern day Ralph Cramden actually has success with a silly idea for a spray the makes poop evaporate, and his resulting wealth makes his best friend envious.

Envy needed to wink at the audience more often than it did. It's played as a straight-up comedy about a buddy jealous of his best friend's success. No Jack Black riffage. No Ben Stiller riffage. No poop joke riffage even though the door was wide open for just that! As such, it's pedestrian and predictable. I kept wondering, how can you get both Jack Black and Ben Stiller in a comedy and not kick out the jams? And how can you recycle a joke from Animal House so brazenly? The one saving grace is, surprise and yet again, Christopher Walken. Walken has a similar blessing/curse that William Shatner has in that his acting style is so distinctive that it easily lends itself to parody, and you'd think it'd limit the parts he could play, but he mixes it up so well and puts such a great spin on his persona in all of his roles that it's always fresh and believable. If you find yourself trapped under something heavy and this comes on the tube, make sure you regain consciousness for the Walken parts.

The Forgotten

Premise: A woman remembers having a son, who disappeared in a plane crash, but everyone around her insists she made it all up and is really a (real) red-headed actress who typically stars in sexually charged dramas and wherein she gets naked a lot.

The Forgotten should remain so. This is essentially an "X-files" episode wanna be. The primary difference is that the "X-files" managed to remain interesting over several seasons, where this movie is so tedious it's hard to sit through all 100 minutes of it.