Saturday, December 5, 2009

Titanic (RiffTrax version)

Who: Bill & Melanie, and Melanie's co-worker/friend Liesl
What: Titanic-- The RiffTrax version
Where: On DVD, with RiffTrax commentary via Liesl's computer
Why: Who thought "Titanic" could be funny?

It's a sure bet most everyone (including myself and Melanie) has seen Titanic, the story of Jack and Rose-- he's poor and happy, she's rich and unhappy. They fall in love aboard the ill-fated Titanic. The ship hits an iceberg and it sinks. Jack dies. Rose lives. A depressing movie. But a MAJOR hit that brought Director/Producer/Co-Writer/Co-Editor James Cameron 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for 1997.

RiffTrax has its basis in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. RiffTrax's head commentator Michael J. Nelson was a host and writer on that show. With RiffTrax, you can download audio commentaries for selected movies from their website (for a fee) to your computer, and play them in sync with the movie. Such is the case with the recent addition with Titanic to their play list. Nelson, along with MST3K veterans Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, offer their "riffs" on everything from the characters (especially Jack, Rose and her snobbish fiance Caledon Nathan Hockley) to implausible situations, the ship's ultimate tragic fate, and the music as it concludes with an outrageously off-key rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". We finished the movie full of tears-- from laughter. Hard to believe this could be done from such a melancholy movie such as Titanic, but somehow RiffTrax pulled it off. Some of the comments do fall flat but more often than not, they're on target.

Movie fans looking for a different "perspective" than the usual cast and crew commentary might want to check out

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Couple's Retreat

Who: Rochelle and her Tupperware Co-Workers
What: Couple's Retreat
Where: Regal at The Loop
Why:  Living dangerously by going out on a week night after work!

I was skeptical that this was going to be a perverted movie.  It had its moments but overall it had a good message about being in a committed relationship.  It had some really funny moments and some predictable ones.  Silly kid things, barely dressed men, overweight men, uptight men, etc.  A lot of making fun of the guys.  I think it had some guy-funny moments too that I didn't find funny so it must have been a guy thing.  Such as a Guitar Hero play off that seemed to last forever.  This would be a great movie to rent.  What was really surprising is that Vince Vaugh was a co-writer.  He is a funny, creative guy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

True Grit

Who: Bill
What: True Grit
Where: Turner Classic Movies
Why: A classic John Wayne movie

No performer defined the western film genre better than John Wayne. One of his most defining performances is the character Rooster Cogburn in 1969's True Grit, which earned Wayne his only Oscar.

When her father Frank Ross is murdered, young Mattie (Kim Darby) embarks on a search to find his killer. She is smart, tough and emboldened with, well, "true grit". On her quest, she learns of the aging, tough and gritty U.S. Marshall named Cogburn. Mattie seeks his assistance, but Cogburn has doubts. Nonetheless, Mattie's determination and stubbornness impresses Cogburn who finds that Mattie reminds him a lot about himself. Also looking for Ross's killer is a Texas Ranger named Le Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who joins Cogburn and Mattie. He also hopes to collect a reward for capturing the outlaw named Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), who had earlier killed a Texas Senator.

John Wayne excels as Rooster Cogburn in all the character's irritable, hard-drinking, unclean, patch-wearing, anti-hero glory. You simply DON'T MESS with Cogburn. He is one tough SOB. Period. This was a tailor-made role for Wayne, then at the pinnacle of an extremely successful career. Adding credibility to their roles are Kim Darby and Glen Campbell. Darby continues to occasionally appear in movies and on television as well as teach acting classes. Campbell of course is a popular Grammy-winning country singer and its been said that Wayne personally selected him for the part of La Boeuf. He also sings the film's title song. Other performers of note include Robert Duvall as Lucky Ned Pepper, Dennis Hopper as Moon, and John Fiedler as a lawyer named Daggett, whom Mattie references throughout the story.

Wayne would return to play Cogburn in 1975's aptly titled Rooster Cogburn with Katharine Hepburn. A TV movie with Warren Oates as Cogburn titled True Grit: A Further Adventure would follow in 1978, and in 2009 it was announced that Joel and Ethan Cohen are planning a remake of the original movie which would more closely follow the novel upon which it was based.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot

Who:Bill & Melanie
What:Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot
Where:Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center
Why: Colonial Williamsburg was one of our road trip stops.

Melanie and I recently returned from a two week road trip up and down the east coast. One of our visits was to Colonial Williamsburg where we spent a leisurely afternoon walking through the restored city, which served as Virginia's capital between 1699 and 1780. Before doing so, we stopped at the visitor center. In their large theater, an orientation film has been shown several times a day continuously since 1957. Thus, Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot is the longest running motion picture in history.

The film is a dramatization of events in Williamsburg leading up to the time of American Independence. The story is told from the viewpoint of a fictional man named John Fry (played by Jack Lord), who does interact with real individuals such as Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington and others. For what is basically a introduction to Colonial Williamsburg, the movie boasts some outstanding production values starting with being filmed in and around the historical area itself. Co-produced with Paramount Pictures, the 40 minute presentation also includes full color wide-screen Vista Vision and an early use of stereo surround sound-- all very high tech for the 1950's and thanks to recent complete restoration efforts, holds up great for continued showings in the 21st century. Behind the scenes, director George Seaton won an Oscar for his work directing the original Miracle on 34th Street, and composer Bernard Herrmann worked with Alfred Hitchcock on numerous films including most famously Psycho. In front of the camera, Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot marks the first starring role for Jack Lord. In 1968, he would begin a 12-year run as detective Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O.

Currently, the only ways to see this movie is by visiting the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center or to purchase the DVD from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Soloist

Who: Liz
What: The Soloist
Where: my living room
Why: I thought it looked interesting

I found this movie to be a little slow, but a lovely story of how sometimes we try to help someone and we take it too far. Robert Downey JR plays a columnist for the LA Times who runs into a homeless man one day outside the office playing a violin. Jamie Foxx does a fabulous job portraying the homeless man who has some mental issues. He portrayed Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, and Downey, JR played Steve Lopez, I believe this is a true story.
Nathaniel grew up playing the cello and was so good, he ended up going to Julliard. He had to drop out though, due to his mental issues. The story doesn’t really go into how he became mentally challenged, but it doesn’t really matter.
Downey gets very involved with him. He writes a column about him and a woman writes in and donates her old cello to him. (The violin wasn't really his instrument of choice). But since the cello is a pretty nice instrument and valuable, Mr Lopez feels that he should not be living on the street and brings him to a homeless shelter to live. He gets a conductor to come listen to him and really goes all out for the guy. Some things happen in the relationship and in the end, he learns that he really just needs to be Nathaniel’s friend.
There was a lot of music in this movie, so if you are a fan of Beethoven and Bach, you will enjoy it. I enjoy a true story and so I would recommend this film.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Killer View

Who: Amber
What: Killer View
Where: @ work
Why: 2nd in a sequence of books

Killer View is book number 2 in a (so far) 3 part series feauring Idaho Sherrif Walt Flemming by Ridley Pearson.

It's the middle of winter, it's ice cold, and the snow is over 6" thick in Idaho. When Walt gets a frantic 911 call in the middle of the night, he takes his Deputy (who happens to be sleeping with his ex-wife) and Randy Aker (a friend) out to the mountains to find a missing skiier. They split up, but the skiier is nowhere to be found, but his Randy turns up dead.

By morning, Randy's brother, Mark has been kidnapped.

Time is not on Mark's side. It's freezing and Mark has diabetes. Walt needs to find Mark, figure out what happend to Randy, and investigate a rape of a local woman. Then throw in an odd situation with ranchers burning most of their sheep. Is there a sheep version of Mad-Cow disease, or is there something wrong with their water source?

Of course, all 4 of these things (murder, kidnapping, rape, sheep) are related, and it's up to Walt, his deputy (who is sleeping with his ex-wife ... did I mention that already? Because Walt is thrilled with this discovery!), and the sherrif's photographer Fiona, who Walt has eyes for to figure it all out. Throw in an angry bear and you've got your self a murder/kidnapping mystery!
Now I need to head to the library to get the 3rd book in the series, which I believe is called Killer Summer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Killer Weekend

Who: Amber
What: Killer Weekend, by: Ridley Pearsib
Where: at work
Why: Jonathan recommended it

Killer Weekend is the first book in a semi-series by Ridley Pearson. I say "semi" series, because you don't really have to read all the books to know what is going on. All the books use the same characters, but the events of one book don't really translate to the other book.

Killer Weekend is about an Idoho sheriff named Walt. The story starts 6 years ago with Walt saving the life of a young lawyer , Liz Shatler. Flash forward 6 years, and that young lawyer is now a District Attorney, and she's planning to announce herself as a presidential candidate.

Of course, with any presidential candidate announcement party, security will be tight, and people will be out to get them. Such is the case with Liz. Somebody is out to get her, and he's a crafty dude.

It all starts with a blind man, who's just pretending to be blind. He's really a hit man, who's got the perfect alibi for the crime he's about to attempt ... he's blind! He's a master of disguise. He's got 2 separate rooms at the hotel, he's got 2 separate disguises, he's even got contacts that literally blind him, so he's not "playing" blind, he really is blind.

His plan is simple ... plant a bomb inside his seeing eye dog (which isn't really a seeing eye dog in the first place). The dog will be able to get straight thru security, and the dog won't be denied since a blind man must have his dog. Perfect plan ... right?

Not with crafty Walt Flemming putting all the pieces together. This disguise master isn't working alone. Who in the small Idaho town is helping him?

I enjoyed this book much better than it's 'sequel', Killer View. This book took place over the course of 3 short days (a weekend - hence the name!), so it was a quick moving book full of action.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Who: Amber & Jonathan
What: Zathura
Where: on cable
Why: I've never seen it

I really enjoyed Zathura. It's basically the movie Jumanji, but in space, but it was still good.

The movie features 2 brothers, a 6 year old and a 10 year old. Of course, the 6 year old wants to play with the 10 year old, but the 10 year way too cool for that. He's in 4th grade and has a girlfriend for crying out loud!

As the 6 year old goes in the basement (of an old house his divorced father just bought) he finds the board game of Zathura (nobody saw that coming huh?). The tin game is obviously from the '50s or something, but everything is automatic. He presses a button to "spin", and a card shoots out of the game. "Watch out for meteors". Since the 6 year old can't really read, he asks his brother for help reading the card. All of a sudden, meteors are crashing thru the roof and falling all over the living room. The boys hide in the fireplace, and after a couple minutes, the living room is totally trashed, but the shower is over.

Well, now the 10 year old has been "forced" into the game. He reads the instructions and realizes that if they finish the game, everything will go back to normal. Thank goodness, b/c the living room is totally trashed and their dad ran out for a moment!

Crazy thing after crazy thing happens as the boys keep playing. By now their house is floating in outer space, aliens are about to board their 'house', and their older sister (the girl from Twilight) is frozen in a cryogenic state.

Thankfully, an astronaut (Dax Sheppard) shows up at their floating house to help with the alien problem. Dax the astronaut also had an alternative motive for being there. I won't ruin the surprise for you, but it didn't make a whole lot of logical sense, but it was still kind-of sweet.

Of course, they manage to get out of the game and the brother learn to work together, but how they get to the end game is pretty cool. Neat space effects! I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What: Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj
Where:  on cable
Why:  Kal Penn is normally funny

Oh wow - this movie was not very good.  It was a cookie cutter movie you've seen 100 times. But if you enjoy British accents, that might be a good excuse to check it out.

If you remember Van Wilder, the hilarious movie staring Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid, you might remember Van's sidekick Taj.  Actually, you probably don't remember him, because he was barely in the movie at all.  When Van Wilder came out, Kal Penn (probably best known for his Harold and Kumar roles) was a no-name actor.  But when he became immensely popular, he decided to make this piece of junk film.

Taj is a graduate student/teacher at some English University.  His father also attended this university, so he's pumped to pick up where his pimp father left off.   First stop - super awesome fraternity.  In cookie cutter format, the frat boys are total jerks and kick Taj and his bull dog out.

His only option is 'the barn', a building full of misfits (the nerd, the guy who doesn't talk, the hot girl (I'm not sure why she's a misfit) and a crazy Scottish soccer fan.   Taj teaches the kids about self respect and standing up for yourself … blah, blah, blah.  Of course, they throw a massive party and all the stuffing English people attend, which makes the snobby fraternity crazy mad!

Did I mention there is also a university wide competition to win 'The Cup"?  Seriously, this movie is Revenge of the Nerds all over again.

In typical cookie cutter format, Taj steals a girl away from the snobby frat (Revenge of the Nerds again!), the frat boys play a prank on Taj to make the girl mad at him, blah, blah, blah. You've seen and heard all this before.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special

Who:  Amber
What:  He-Man and She-Ra:  A Christmas Special
Where:  I borrowed a friend's DVD
Why:  Why not!

Oh wow - was this Christmas special super cheesy.  I loved watching He-Man when I was a kid, but I knew that 20 years later, it would look utterly ridiculous, and I was right.  It was silly. Why does He-Man wear animal skin undies?  And She-Ra's normal outfit is a leotard, but when she transforms, she's wearing a cute little skirt.  And she flies around on a rainbow unicorn.  It's so 80s, I love it!

So He-Man and She-Ra are getting ready to celebrate their birthdays (they are twins - remember?).  Actually, their real names are Adam and Alura (I think that's She-Ra's name).  All their cheesy superhero friends are helping to decorate for a rockin' party.

In the meantime, He-Man, and some creepy looking guy with a creepy looking mustache (maybe He-Man's dad?!?) have built a 'sky spy' rocket ship to help spy on Skeletor.  He-Man's doofis magical flying guy hops in the rocket, and accidentally launches it.  He crash lands on … guess where … Earth, where Christmas is a few days away.

Doofis magical flying guy runs into 2 young kids who are lost in the woods looking for a Christmas tree.   They are cold, so they go to the rocket ship to warm up.  Doofis magical flying guy  asks the kids all about Christmas, since he's never heard about it before.  The young girls talks about presents, but the older boy mentions that it's not all about presents.  He tip toes around the religious reason for Christmas.  I am proud of this cheese ball Christmas special.  It's now all about Santa and presents.  It's more about the real reason for the season.  Kudos He-Man!

Well, of course He-Man has the power to bring back the 'sky spy' rocket back to Eternia (their planet).   Well, the kids are still stuck in the rocket ship, so they come back to Eternia too.

The kids tell He-Man and She-Ran all about Christmas.  And the story spreads to their cheesy super hero friends as well.  Even Skeletor gets in on the Christmas spirit!

I don't think this special is on TV any longer, but if you have Nexflix, check it out!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blue Streak

Who:  Amber
What:  Blue Streak
Where:  cable
Why: I can watch this movie over and over

I've seen this movie 100 times, and I'll probably watch it 100 more.  It's one of those movies where I can just have it on in the background, and it's still hilarious.

Martin Lawrence (in his hey day) is a bank robber.  A heist goes wrong when his partner turns on him.  Martin escapes by entering a building that's under construction.  He hides a giant diamond he was stealing, then the cops find him.

Fast forward 2 years, and Martin is out of jail.  First stop - go back to that building that was under construction and get that diamond.  Unfortunately that once under construction building has been completed … into a police station.  He can't just stroll in there and head up to the 3rd floor.  He tried to fake deliver a pizza, and that doesn't work.  So he turns to another con-man who makes a bunch of fake IDs for him, and a phony police career as a new transfer.

Since Martin is a criminal, he knows how criminals work.  The minute he walks into the police station, they get a robbery call.  He just wants to get his diamond and get out of there before they realize his police record is 100% fake.  Instead he gets thrown with a partner (Luke Wilson), who's a quiet, nerdy guy, but he's smart.  With Martin's genius criminal mind, he is solving crimes left and right.  With in the hour, he's promoted!

He tries to weasel out of police work, so he has time to search the air ducts for his diamond.  Of course he eventually finds it, and drops it in a huge pile of drug evidence.

Queue the action car chase scene with the FBI as Martin works 'undercover' to recover his diamond.  Everything is for this diamond!

Will Luke Wilson figure out that Martin is a bogus cop?  He's pretty smart, but he's also pretty gullible.  How about the double crossing partner of his ... where is he after the bank robbing gone bad?  I'm sure he's after the diamond as well (hint, hint). 

Find this '90s movie on cable.  I guarantee you'll laugh.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Fast and the Furious

Who:  Amber
What:  The Fast and the Furious
Where:  on cable
Why:  Why the heck not!

This movie is a classic. Don't laugh or try to deny it.

Brian (Paul Walker) is an undercover police officer, and he's super cute.  There has been a car racing gang robbing big rig trucks.  The gang drives up in their super cool racing cars, boards the truck, and takes the merchandise somehow.  Brian has a short window of time to figure out what's going on.

Undercover Brian dives right into to the world of illegal street racing.  He's got a sweet car, which he immediately loses to Vin Diesel (Dom) in a street race.  After the race, the police stop by, and Brian helps Dom get away, so Dom assumes he's a good guy.  Dom's family/gang are questionable about Brian (they think he might be a cop), but Dom is the leader, and he approves.

Dom's younger sister also approves. *Me-ow!*

As Brian hangs out with Dom, his sister, his computer wiz friend, and stupid nerdy friend he realizes that they are all really great people, just trying to live their lives, and racing cars.  Brian reeeeally hopes that they are not involved with the robberies.  There is a rival, evil car racing gang.  Hopefully they are involved.

Lots of car racing, gang shoot outs, and truck robberies later, we find out who really is behind the robberies.  Is it Dom and his crew, or the rival car racing gang?  Will Brian be sucked into this uber-cool life style, or will he arrest the real thieves?   This movie is always on cable somewhere … if you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend it.

Also, laugh at Paul Walker's acting skills. He's a pretty face, but the acting struggles at times.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  Star Wars:  The Clone Wars
Where:  @ home on DVD
Why:  It was Jonathan's b-day present

**Warning - I will be spelling every single Star Wars name incorrectly!**  Ever since we went to Disney's Star Wars Weekends and saw Ashley Eckstein (the voice of Asoka), we've been The Clone Wars fans.  Thanks to DirectTV, we recorded all of season 1 of the animated series.  But the movie preceded the animated series, and I've always been curious about where Asoka came from.

Unfortunately, this movie doesn't answer any of those questions.  Asoka just shows up because Obi Wan Kanobi wanted another padawan learner.  Since Anakin turned out awesome, he's ready to teach again.  Asoka shows up and says she's here to learn from Anakin, not Obi Wan.  Well, he has no interest in a padawan learner.  He's a free spirit, he's reckless, he can't teach somebody. Nice switcher-o Obi Wan!

The Clone Wars is in full swing.  Obi Wan, Anakin and Asoka go from one battle to another. When to Jedi's rest or even eat or sleep?

Then Jabba the Hutt calls.  His son is missing!  Even though he's not a friend of the Republic (the good guys), helping out Jabba will be a great ally for later.  The Jedi's find Jabba's son right away, but he's very sick.  They need to get him back to Jabba alive, or he'll kill the Jedi's.  Also, the Empire (the bad guys) are trying to kill the Jedi's as well.  Count Duko (the main bad guy) has Jabba convinced that the Jedi's have already killed his son, and they are coming to kill Jabba as well.  Of course, the opposite is true.  Count Duko is the one who has actually captured his son.

Holy cow - Jabba is ugly, but his little baby son is adorable!  It makes me wonder, where do little Jabba's come from?!?  Think about that for a moment.

In typical Star Wars fashion, many droids are killed.  Red and blue gun fire is everywhere.  The clone troopers also fall dead left and right.  It's not bloody or anything, but those are still people dying.  It's kind-of graphic for little kids.  Although, also in typical Star Wars fashion, the Jedi win, and the bad guys loose.

The movie doesn't really end per say … this part of the battle is over, but there are many, many other battles to be won.  Stay tuned to Comedy Central for the continuation of the story.  Star Wars just keeps going and going and going!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

High Anxiety

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  High Anxiety
Where:  @ home on DVD
Why:  Jonathan picked it

So I'm sick on the couch, and my husband pulls out High Anxiety, a Mel Brooks movie.  I can't stand Mel Brooks.  But it's his birthday, so I have no complaints.

This movie wasn't half bad.  Normally Mel Brooks movies are unwatchable for me.  But this one wasn't too bad. I might even agree to watch it a second time!

It's a semi-parody of 3 Alfred Hitchcock movies: The Birds, Psycho and Vertigo.

Mel Brooks is a psychologist, taking a job as head doctor of a prestigious psych ward.  The previous head doctor was about to implement some changes, and he mysteriously died.  The head nurse is Cloris Leachman, who is unidentifiable at the ugly (and thin!) nurse.  She's a bad dude, who pretty much runs the joint.

Now, I was pretty sick on the couch, so I wasn't paying 100% attention to the movie, so I might have missed a couple plot points.  But Cloris Leachman is trying to run the entire mental institute by killing off anybody who gets in her way.

Mel Brooks heads to San Francisco to attend a conference.  A lovely lady breaks into his room.   She's the daughter of somebody who has been kidnapped by Cloris Leachman.  Que a HILARIOUS psycho-based shower scene (I admit - I laughed at somebody Mel Brooks did.  I hate to admit that) and a pretty funny The Birds based scene.

Have you seen the classic disaster movie The Towering Inferno?  Then you'll recognize the hotel that Mel Brooks stays in!  Those elevators are famous around the world! (or maybe just famous in my mind)

Mel Brooks is framed for a murder while in San Francisco.  It's crazy Cloris Leachman, trying to get rid of him with out actually killing him.  Stuff happens, yadda, yadda, yadda. Mel Brooks saves the day, and sings a funny song.

I can't say I "recommend" this movie, but I can't recommend anything Mel Brooks (even after seeing this decent movie, I still don't like his stuff) ...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

G Force

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  G Force
Where:  AMC Pleasure Island
Why:  Jonathan picked it b/c it was his b-day

Welcome to the world of talking guinea pigs!

Fat Jesus from The Hangover (Zach somebody … you know, the guy with the beard) is in charge of a crazy animal experiment with the FBI.  He's trained guinea pigs, moles, roaches and flys to be full fledged agents.  They can even talk!

The FBI is tired of wasting money on training animals, so in the morning they are going to shut them down.   So the guinea pig and mole set out on their very first mission. If they are successful, then maybe they can prove that this section of the FBI is worthy, and they can all keep their jobs.  Otherwise, it's back to the pet store.

Well, thanks to a computer genius mole and 3 super charged guinea pigs, they break into Bill Niegy's (the bad guy) house during a huge party, download a file from his computer and escape. Success!

Unfortunately, the file they downloaded from the computer doesn't show the "world domination" that the guinea pigs thought, it just shows how to make a coffee maker.  Not a success.  They are shut down and shipped off to the pet store.

Silly pet owners and realistic (ha!) escape plans later, the 3 guinea pigs (plus 1 stray guinea pig they found at the pet store) are back together, and ready to prove that they didn't screw up their mission.  They know they downloaded the correct file.  Why couldn't the computer genius mole find it to show the head FBI guy?   Could it be because he's a "mole"!?!  Get my drift …

This movie was ok, but I don't need to see it again.  The guinea pigs were cute (and not super CGI looking), but the circumstances were way ridiculous.  The bad guy was trying to make all his home appliances come to life like transformers and take over the world. Riiiiiiight.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Steel Trapp

Who:  Amber
What:  Steel Trapp by Ridley Pearson
Where:  @ work
Why:  Jonathan let me borrow it

Steel Trapp is a tween-y book, which I really enjoyed!

Steven Trapp is a junior high student with a photographic memory.  If he sees something, he will remember the exact details for years.  His mother calls his brain a "steel trap", and the nick-name stuck. His brain is really remarkable

Steel and his mom are on the train from Chicago headed to Washington DC for a robotics competition.  Steel is no genius, but with his photographic memory, he has built a pretty sweet robot.

On the train, he noticed a woman enter the train, drop off a suitcase in the overhead bin, then leave.  Young, na├»ve Steel grabs the suitcase and runs after the woman.  The woman claims it's not hers, but Steel knows better.  His brain never lies.  He know what he saw.  Still the woman refuses to admit it, so Steel returns the suitcase to the train conductor.

Curiosity is eating him up … what is in that suitcase?  Why did the lady lie to him?  He manages to sneak back to the lost and found room on the train and peaks inside.  It's a photo of a woman tied to a chair!  Oh no - somebody is coming in the lost and found room!  It's a bad, bad dude, who was supposed to pick up the suitcase on the train initially.

And now the story gets into high gear.  We've got a kid with a photographic memory.  A girl traveling on the train by herself.  A bad, bad guy.  And now FBI is on the train.  And where is Steel's dad?!?

The chase for the woman in the chair and the bad guy with the suitcase continues thru out the train ride, and over the course of the 2 day robotics competition in Washington DC.  Who is this bad guy, and why is he kidnapping this woman?  And will the girl traveling alone on the train (also going to the robotics competition) play into the story?

Did I mention Steel's dad is missing?  I highly recommend this young-adult book.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Who:  Amber
What:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Where:  cable
Why: I'm on a HP kick!

In my mini Harry Potter mania, I watched the 4th (I think???) movie, the Prisoner of Azkaban. This book/movie was probably the most suspenseful, both Sirius Black (the deranged killer on the loose) and Professor Lupin (the sucker who took over the Defense Against the Dark Arts job) aren't who they really seem.

Granted, if you read the books, it's not all the suspenseful, but if not, be ready to be surprised!

This movie was very long, and very intertwined.  Be ready for a long 'magical' going back in time sequence!  Oh that super smart Heromie, what will she get into next?

The big wizard news story of the year is escaped prisoner Sirius Black.  He's been there for 12 years, and he wants revenge on … guess who … Harry!  Seriously, Harry can't just can't catch a break.  12 years ago Sirius told Lord Voldemort where Harry's parents were hiding. Sirius is responsible for Harry's parents death!  Or is he …

Be sure to either read this book or see this movie.  One of the major characters is Buckbeak the Hippogrif.  When Universal opens Harry Potter Land next year, I believe Buckbeak will have his own ride.

Did I mention that magical people can willingly turn themselves into animals (awesome!).  So is that dog really a dog?  And how about that rat with only 9 fingers?  Is that a werewolf a person, or a killer werewolf?

Find this movie on ABC Family and check it out!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

50 Pills

Who:  Amber
What:  50 Pills
Where:  Comedy Central
Why:  Kristen Bell is in it

This movie was not very good.  I saw "Kristen Bell" on my DVR, so I figured I would give it a try.  I liked her in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The movie opens with the main character (I already forgot his name - that's how forgettable this movie was - I'll call him GUY) talking to the camera.  Talking directly to the camera is tricky to pull off, and he is not pulling it off.

Guy is going to college in NYC for the first time.   His roommate is a super stud, and Guy is mesmerized by him.   Guy seems like an idiot, even though he's got a full ride college scholarship.  Guy and roommate throw a huge party on day 1, it gets busted, and they are on probation.  One more slip up, and Guy's scholarship is gone.  Instead of not partying, they just sneak around a lot.

When Guy gets back from Thanksgiving break (his mom is played by the woman boss in 40 Year Old Virgin - she is just great!), he finds a note on his room.  The roommate got caught throwing a party, so that means Guy's scholarship is gone.  Really NYC college?!?  If your roommate throws a party over Thanksgiving break, you penalize the roommate who wasn't even there ... riiiiight.

Anyway, so the roommate offers Guy 50 pills of ecstasy and his pager.  He can sell them in 24 hours to get some cash to stay in school.

Really?  50 pills of ecstasy at $20 a piece is going to pay for school.  Wake up Guy - that's not enough money for college.  Plus the cute girl that likes you (Kristen Bell) doesn't approve).

He starts selling the drugs to funny and odd people.  Watching that part of the movie was amusing, but the rest was a waste of time.  Of course Guy blows it with the girl, but they get together at the end.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Who: Bill
What: The Bridge on the River Kwai
Where: Turner Classic Movies
Why: Had never seen this movie

When you're feeling sick and only have enough energy to do little or nothing, an excellent way to pass the time is to watch a three-hour long movie. And when its a GREAT movie, it is time well spent (sick or not). Such is the case with The Bridge on the River Kwai, a true cinema classic from 1957 that won seven Oscars, three Golden Globes, and numerous other awards.

Set in the middle of World War II, the story takes place in a Japanese prison camp. The newly arrived POW's are a group of British soldiers who will be forced to build a railroad bridge over the Kwai River. Their commander Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is steadfast in refusing to let all his men work on the bridge. He is punished by spending days in a locked box, about the size of a doghouse. He survives the ordeal and ultimately works out a deal with the camp leader Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) to supervise the completion of the bridge to the highest British specifications-- an odd move considering the condition the prisoners are being subjected. Meanwhile, an American POW named Shears (William Holden) escapes from the camp and eventually regains his health. Just before he is to be sent home, his true identity is uncovered and he is "persuaded" to join the British Special Forces in an attempt to destroy the bridge.

Based on the book of the same name, The Bridge on the River Kwai offers plenty of intense drama and outstanding performances from some of the finest actors of the 20th century. The film has been so highly regarded and significant in motion pictures, that in 1997 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Additionally, Alec Guinness and director David Lean would team again for the epic dramas Lawrence of Arabia(1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984)

But even if you don't watch those other Guinness/Lean films, The Bridge on the River Kwai is a movie that should be a definite "must see".

The Kingdom Keepers

Who:  Amber
What:  The Kingdom Keepers
Where:  @ work
Why:  I've abondoned my Summer Fun Book Club literary masterpieces, but I wanted to keep reading something ...

This is a tween book, but I still enjoyed it. Heck, I enjoy all tween-y books, because they are such easy reads.

If you like Disney, you'll love this book. It features Finn, an Orlando teen who has been cast as a 'virtual tour guide' at the Magic Kingdom. He, and 4 other kids, have been turned into holograms. They are mini-celebrities at the Magic Kingdom. It seems like a cool gig, especially because the kids get free tickets when ever they want.

Then the funky dreams start. It seems like a dream, but it also seems real. Finn dreams he's at the Magic Kingdom at night, and a cast member Wayne is asking for his help. Finn needs to track down the other 4 hologram kids, and Wayne has a quest for them. Suuuuuuure.

But the dreams don't stop.  Wayne still needs his help.  And why are the Pirates of the Caribbean animatronics figures walking around the park OUTSIDE the ride?  And they are holding laser guns from the Buzz Lightyear ride, that shoot real lasers that burn you?!?

Finn manages to track down the other 4 kids (who are all from different middle schools). They've all been having the same spooky dreams.   They all decide go to bed at the same time, and meet up inside the Magic Kingdom.  It's not a dream, it's real!

Wayne gives them an assignment.  The evil Disney characters are coming alive.  They are realizing their powers. Who knows what kind-of trouble they might get into.

The kids realize that because of the hologram technology, they have special powers as well. Will good triumph over evil?  Or will the story continue in Kingdom Keepers 2 (which has already been published)?  Ha ha ha.  I can tell you, the story is full of action and adventure, and it does have the kids capturing 1 evil character.  But every Disney fairytale has an element of evil, and the stories continue . . .

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love

Who:  Amber
What:  Eat, Pray, Love
Where:  @ the Saturn dealership
Why:  Book #3 in my Summer Fun Book Club

This was book 3 in my friend's "Summer Fun Book Club", which I have totally abandoned for the summer after struggling to get thru East of Eden (I made it about 25 pages).

This is a autobiographical book about 1 year in the life of the author.  She just got out of a horrible divorce, and she also had a crazy lover, so she's taking a year off to travel the world.  To be honest, Liz doesn't really seem like the victim of the divorce (she wanted the divorce) and she kept getting back together with the crazy lover.  Anyway, she's about to Eat in Italy, Pray in India and Love in Indonesia for 4 months each (4 months X 3 countries = 1 year).

First up, Italy. Liz has always wanted to learn Italian, the language of love.  What better way to learn a language then in Italy!  Liz is one of those people who makes friends very easily (which I'm pretty jealous of her).  She pigs out for the next 4 months, and has many fun adventures with new Italy friends.   Liz has planed to be celibate for this next year, so no lover in Italy.

Next up, India.  She was given an invitation to join some kind of monetary (I didn't fully understand it).  India is the total opposite of Italy.  Not much food, not a comfy bed, just praying and chanting 24/7.  She does meet many interesting people in India who are also looking for a little kick in the pants thru the power of prayer.

Next up, Indonesia.  She really has no plans here.  She visited once, and just wanted to spend more time here.  She falls off her bike, and goes to a local woman who is a master healer (although, no medical training).  She finds out this woman is dirt poor, but has adopted a bunch of adorable kids.  Liz makes it her mission to help this woman anyway she can.  She also meets a guy 20 years her senior.  She tries not to get romantic, but she just can't help me.  Celibacy is out the window!

I've left out a ton of details, because I would recommend this book to women everywhere.  Men, you'll be totally bored.  I was also kind-of annoyed by Liz.  I mean, who really takes a year off from their life after a divorce?  She did touch on this subject, and made me feel like a jerk for being jealous of her.  But I stand by my jealousy!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Proposal

Who: RR and Bob
What: The Proposal
Where: AMC PI
Why: Birthday Date Night--I picked the movie!

You probably saw a glimpse of this movie being advertised. It stars Sandra Bullock as, Margaret, a high-power publishing executive. She is on the verge of a huge deal with an author who hasn't done an interview in years and she got him on Oprah. At the peak of the deal coming together, her boss let's her know that since she didn't finish her immigration paperwork she is being deported back to Canada. In a last minute ploy to save her job and stay in the US she tell her boss that she is engaged to her assistant Andrew, played by Ryan Reynolds. He agrees to the marriage after he learns that she is really his only ticket to an Editor position and a better career. They go to the immigration office to fill out the appropriate papers and are confronted by a skeptical nerdy agent. He challenges their relationship and threatens to blow their cover and deport her and jail and fine him.

In an effort to prove their relationship is real, the couple goes to Alaska to meet Andrews parents, friends, and family. Upon arrival Margaret is the obvious fish out of water but learns that Andrew's family is wealthy and soon finds herself being one of the girls and loving being a part of the family. Over the course of the weekend the couple learns about each other as preparation of the grilling they will get through the immigration process. Gradually the focus shifts from all attention on Margaret to Margaret learning that Andrew is actually a great guy. The rest would ruin the movie so you will have to go see it.

I was expecting this movie to be very predictable and just another comedy-romance. I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There were some very funny moments and as always, Betty White, really steals the show! It was a bit predictable but it was still entertaining. If there isn't anything else showing that you are interested in and you want to see a movie this is a good fill-in.

The Strongest Man in the World

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  The Strongest Man in the World
Where:  @ home on cable
Why:  Classic Disney!

In the age of steroids in sports, this movie is a little less funny than it probably was back in the '70s.   I mean, these kids are eating cereal spiked with some sort of crazy science formula, and they can suddenly clean and jerk over 1000lbs.  But I digress ...

Disney has taken us back to Medford College (which, I believe was the setting for another Kurt Russell Disney classic The Smartest Man in the World).  The dean of Medford is a total bonehead, and he needs to cut costs quickly.  Getting rid of the super cool science professor should do the trick!  He's always spending way too much money to silly science experiments.

Walking into the science classroom, he find a cow.  He is flabbergasted!  (He's pretty much flabbergasted the entire movie).  The Dean causes a ruckus, which causes the cow to go a little nuts, and 2 science experiments get mixed together and spill into some cereal.

Pan to the next day, when Kurt Russell is eating cereal.  His head hurts, he winces, and smoke comes out of his nose.  Pretty weird huh?  He tries to tie his shoe, and he tears the laces right off.  He pulls the doorknob right off the door.  He dunks a basketball and breaks the rim right off!  What the heck is going on?!?

It's the cereal mixed with science experiment!  It made him incredibly strong.  He tells the dean, who immediately goes into nutso mode.  This could make a ton of money for the school. He takes the "spiked" cereal to the head of the cereal manufacturer, eats some, and demonstrates how strong he all of a sudden is.

Naturally, the cereal manufacturer is thrilled.  And, naturally, she challenges a rival cereal manufacturer to a weigh lifting match.  She can't loose with her 'spiked' cereal!!  (how silly is this movie)

Of course, things don't go as planned.   The Medford kids are all really scrawny, the rival college guys are professional bodybuilders.  Medford is getting crushed in the competition, because the cereal mysteriously doesn't work anymore.

Can Kurt Russell save the day?!?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Parent Trap

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  The Parent Trap
Where:  Fort Wilderness campfire movie
Why:  I've never seen this movie!

I highly recommend this movie to everybody.  This is the version from the early 90s staring a new actress … maybe you've heard of her … Lindsay Lohan.

Say with you will about current Lindsay, but little 11 year old Lindsay Lohan is adorable and a wonderful kid actress.

Halley is a tomboy from California.  Annie is a proper girl from London.  Both are *ironically* sent to the same summer camp.  When they first lay eyes on each other, they are stunned.  Besides Annie's long hair, they are identical.  As 11 year old girls go, being identical is not cool, so they dislike each other.  Silly camp pranks ensue, and Halley and Annie are sent to the "Isolation Bunk".  Stuck all alone, they eventually being buds and talk about their lives.  Halley has a father but no mother.  Annie has a mother but no father. Their birthday is the same … dum, dum, dum … they are related!!

Since neither one has met the other parent, they decide to switch places.  Halley learns a fake British accent and Annie cuts her hair, and the switch is on!

Neither parent knows what's up, the Halley's cook and Annie's grandpa seem to think something is off.

A problem arises when the father is remarrying a 26 year old bimbo!  The girls must stop it and get their parents back together.  They all meet up in California and the parents are totally shocked, but pleased to see the family is all together again.  A ruckus at a hotel pool and a camping trip gone awry, and everything is happily ever after (in true Disney style).

This movie is very sweet, and little Lohan is adorable. The mother is played by Natasha Richardson, who recently passed away.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Who:  Amber & Jonathan
What:  Harry Potter 6
Where:  AMC Pleasure Island
Why:  I just re-read the book

I just love everything and anything Harry Potter. I'm kind-of embarrassed about it, but I just can't help it. JK Rowling is some sort of genius.

Movie 5 ended with the death of Sirius Black, Harry's godfather and only real 'family'. Remember in movie 4 Harry's classmate Cedric Digory died? There seems to be a "movie ending with death" theme going on here … and movie 6 continues with that. Although I won't tell you who dies, but I guaranteed you'll be surprised (that is, unless you read the book).

This movie is less action and more character development. The Hogworts kids are all around 16-ish, so love is in there air. It's actually quite adorable. Hermoine is really into Ron, but he's such a doofis, so he has no clue. He just wants to date anybody to be cool, and Lavender Brown (a semi-ditzy girl) steps in. Lavender and "Won-Won" are snogging all over Hogworts. In the meantime, Hermoine is crying and obviously upset (Ron has no clue). Harry has a thing for Ron's little sister (Ginny), but it conflicted. #1, Ginny has a boyfriend. #2, it's Ron's little sister -- will that cross the line?

Did I mention that Ron's older siblings have a magic shop, and their hottest selling item is a Love Potion? Let's hope the girls at Hogworts don't get their hands on that! (duh - of course they will).

Besides all the lovely, dovey stuff, the main part of the story is Harry and Professor Dumbledore trying to learn everything they can about Lord Voldemort. They figure anything they learn about him will help. We see flashbacks to little Voldemort's life pre-Hogwards and life at Hogworts. Voldemort has discovered a very dark magic trick. You can actually split your soul into pieces and put your soul into a random object. This way, if your body dies, you don’t actually die! In typical Voldemort fashion, he's split is soul into 7 pieces. Dumbledore has found one of them, and takes Harry on a crazy journey to find it and destroy it.

I won't ruin anything else about the movie. The ending is a total shocker (if you've been living under a rock and didn't read the book … or had somebody who read the book ruin it for you) … so go see the movie!