Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend of Television

After that goddawful premiere of the goddawful US version of Skins, E4 returns with its original series now in its fifth year. What a refreshing cool drink of water, I might say. Worried that I have to reacquaint myself with the show as it ushered in the third generation - not to mention that horrible mistake to (spoiler alert) kill Freddie off in the last series - I was surprised to see a delightful cast of colorful people, whose relationship with each other is still unknown. 

Hank Moody also returned to us earlier this month, joined by the new Showtime series, Episodes - which seems to satire the sudden boom of UK to US remakes. Starring Matt LaBlanc of Friends fame, the show follows two British writers who are offered a deal of a lifetime by creating a remake of their television show in the States. Things go terribly wrong when the lust-for-life, LA style bastardizes their vision. The show is both comical and smart, though with the ratings lagging and only seven episodes, I don't think the show will stand the test of time. 

As for Hank Moody, Californication returned for its fourth season. Picking up right after the events of season three, Hank Moody finds himself split from his family. The season, so far, is the funniest of them and filled with raw emotion. I cannot wait for the twist/cliffhanger presented at the end. 

Along with all these, I also started to rewatch Skins, starting with series one and will work my way through two, three and four later on. I also watched Saw and Saw 3D, which I'll write about later. Until next time, keep on huntin'.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Steam Team of Austin

As the first month of the new year comes to a close - can we even call it a new year anymore? - I'm looking toward the future. Meaning, I'm looking toward the middle of the year when baseball season picks up again and I find myself working at the stadium. What irks me more is that I might be on my own again. And it's not the burden of doing the laundry - a monkey could do the laundry - it's the grueling work of keeping the carpet and tiles clean all summer long. So I decided to ease my fears by looking up some carpet and tile cleaning tips when I stumbled across the Steam Team, a company from Austin, Texas. These guys would be great if they operated in deep South Texas, and it was in the budget to hire them.

While the Steam Team does provide services and bathroom tile cleaning tips, Austin is just too far away - okay, not that far away. I've figured out a way to keep the tiles sparking after every homestand - four days - but sometimes we have double homestands - eight days - or triple - twelve days!!! - and the evil four consecutive homestands which leaves me longing for the beach afterward. And if there's one thing I hate doing, it's waiting four days to clean a bathroom after several men finish wrecking the place.

And the tiles alone aren't the problem. Let's not forget to mention carpet. Last year, on the Fourth of July, the guys thought it would be a laugh riot to have a mini celebration inside the clubhouse. This included lightning firecrackers indoors - which is never a good idea no matter where you are - leaving burned carpet spots. The Steam Team takes care of that as burned carpet repair (Austin) is part of their repertoire.

The more I' look at this website, the more I wish The Steam Team was also located in deep South Texas, where I'm at. Because if it was in the budget, I'd so get these guys to come over to the stadium and clean up the heavy messes left behind by several minor league players and their field managers. I also noticed that they specialize in carpet and furniture cleaning (Austin), which reminds me that the fans are just as messy as the players. There definitely has to be a market for this in the Valley.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Movies: Musician & the Undead

La Vie En Rose
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Emmanuelle Seigner & Gerard Depardieu
Director: Oliver Dahan
Release Date: 14 February 2007
DVD Release Date: 13 November 2007
Approx Time: 141mins
Genre: Drama, Biographical, Foreign
Rated: PG-13

I picked up this movie during the Hollywood Video closing sale because it was cheap - a bulk sale - because I loved Edith Piaf's music and because I love foreign films, due to their classic Hollywood feel - when making movies meant something other than making money.

With that said, the only difference between this film and those films about American musicians (like Walk the Line, Ray, Selena, etc.) is that it's in French. That's not to say the movie isn't worth watching, but I was expecting the storytelling in an entirely different way. 

The story is told nonlinear - starting at the end, flashback to her childhood, flashforward as her career is on the verge of ending, so far and so forth. There isn't much I know about Piaf other than her music, so the film was educational and Marion Cotillard's performance of the French diva - see, I didn't even know she was a diva - was spectacular.

Final conclusion - four stars, for performance and educational purposes.

Starring: Fred Gwynne, Dale Midkiff & Denise Crosby
Director: Mary Lambert
Release Date: 21 April 1989
DVD Release Date: 26 September 2006
Approx Time: 102mins
Genre: Horror
Rated: R

Instant classic since I first watched it as a child. Other than the obvious plot holes in the story, there's nothing about this movie that isn't good. Even Herman Munster is in it. And that kid from A New Nightmare, Spawn and Full House.

Moving to a new neighborhood - a place where two lone houses face each other - the Creeds decided to settle in. Their neighbor, Jud Crandall (Gwynne), explains to their the dangerous of living in their isolated neighborhood - the road that has taken out several pets - and introduces them to misspelled Pet Sematary that's located down the path by their house. After Ellie Creed's (Blaze Berdahl) beloved pet cat is killed, Jud introduces Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) to another, darker burial ground. Not heeding any of Pascow's (Brad Greenquist) warnings, Louis buries the cat only to learn the secret beneath the earth - leaving him to wonder what the limits of this burial ground is.

Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, which I own but never read (shame on me), the movie is a childhood favorite. Final conclusion? Four stars.

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz & Richard Jenkins
Director: Matt Reeves
Release Date: 1 October 2010
DVD Release Date: 1 February 2011
Approx Time: 116mins
Genre: Horror, Vampire
Rated: R

Let Me In, first off, isn't a remake of Let the Right One In but an US adaptation of the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. With that said, treating this film like you would a remake would be a great injustice. I won't say that this film was better than the original adaptation, but I will say that I liked it better.

Owen (McPhee) is tired of being bullied at school, imagining his revenge when he meets the mysterious new neighbor, Abby (Moretz). While she's the strength he so desperately needs, her secret might be too much for him to handle. Meanwhile, a policeman (Elias Koteas) becomes obsessed with the random attacks spreading throughout the city. As days pass, Owen takes Abby's advice while the law closes in on the mystery.

The acting was the best I've ever seen in the vampire genre - something I needed after watching Queen of the Damned. Again, it's not better than the original, but I did like it better. Final conclusion? Five stars.

Man, I sucked with summaries. I promise I'll work on it. Until next time, happy huntin'.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

You should check out Camel Back Displays

You'd think, as a reader, I'd only go to events where crowd control isn't a big deal. That's not exactly true. Several events I've worked or attended have been one big headache to the next. Even book lovers know that when an author is signing books, it's a one shot deal to get your copy signed. So you start to get finicky and you start to get a tad is organized. At the stadium I work every summer, every year during free t-shirt or bat day, the crowd goes crazy. And since it's one per costumer, several people try to weasel their way in to get double. 

So having stanchions on hand is something to think about. The baseball stadium - heck, even the book signings - could sure use them during the busy days. They would also keep people from shoving each other, cutting in line and getting so disorganized that they can sneak back into line and claim another free item. Not only that, but workers and featured writers (as in the case of book signings) don't have to fear for their lives. 

Barricades, on the other hand, are useful if you need to divide parking lots, or close off entrances completely. And I'm not talking about the cheap, plastic ones either. I'm talking about fence barricades that are sturdy enough to hold their own. One of the biggest problems that we have at the stadium was the parking situation. So many patrons would drive over fallen plastic barricades, or toss them aside in order to not pay the parking toll. Something heavier would of much more use. 

It's just an idea to throw around. Places that maintain order ensures good times for everyone involved.

A "Review" of "What is an Agnostic?"

I decided to enter my year of religious texts by reading Bertrand Russell's essay, "What is an Agnostic?" - which you can read online here

My reason for picking this as the first text to read is simple: I'm an agnostic and I wanted to start with something familiar. Besides, I love Bertrand Russell's writing style and how he gets to the point. There isn't really anything that muddies the text or throws me off - let's face it, it's been years since I've picked up anything that was a literary work of fiction or nonfiction. Not that Russell's writings aren't stellar - they very much are. I especially like his collection of essays, Why I am Not a Christian.

I don't really know how to go about "reviewing" a religious/philosophy book, let alone an essay, so I'll do my best by stating it's very powerful. It answers the questions that most people have towards Agnosticism and those who practice it. Defines the difference between us, Atheists and Christians. I'm a little surprised that I haven't read before. 

However, there are a few points that I do disagree with the author, but mostly because I haven't evaluated them before. Such as when he wrote:
Many agnostics (including myself) are quite as doubtful of th body as they are of the soul, but this is a long story talking one into difficult metaphysics. Mind and matter alike, I should say, are only convenient symbols in discourse, not actually existing things.
I really don't know what to make of that, mostly because while I don't believe in the "soul", I do believe in the mind. However, its immortality is still in question. While I'd like to believe it does, a great chunk of my mind is dedicated to the idea that it doesn't.

Bertrand Russell will return in later posts as Why I Am Not a Christian is a part of my reading list, as are a few other essays that I found online, downloaded and converted to be used on my Kindle.

For further readings on my thoughts, check out City of Chapin here and here.

Adapting the Vampire

Queen of the Damned
Starring: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah, Marguerite Moreau & Vincent Perez
Director: Michael Rymer
Release Date: 22 February 2002
DVD Release Date: 27 August 2002
Approx Time: 101mins
Genre: Vampire, Horror
Rated: R

I've must've seen this movie about five times in my life, since its DVD release - even I knew back in '02 that this movie wasn't worth my while - I can strongly state that I never recall watching it. There's evidence that I have - I know how Akasha is taken down at the end. I know that Lestat calls out other vampires. I know there's some blonde haired vampire that doesn't seem to fit quite in the movie and I know there's a cute girl named Jesse in it that Lestat loves - for some reason that's never made clear. But most of all, I know it because the only reason that drew me into watching the movie - having never been interested in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles before, Interview with the Vampire included. The movie, by the way, ignores the existence of Interview and who could blame them? This movie came out eight years after the fact. - was the fact that Jonathan Davis of Korn was responsible for the soundtrack/score

A story with Lestat and no mention of Louis seems a tad cheap. Louis is Lestat's love and vice versa, even though they seem to ignore the matter. Without his affection for Louis, the character Lestat just flops over. Not even the ever powerful blood of Akasha can save it. 

I can't begin to tell you what the movie's about - it's something between a mash up of The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned mixed in with some water to tame it a bit with a toss of we-don't-give-a-fuck on the side. And I'm not stating the movie isn't worth the watch - you can get a few guffaws from it due to its complete and utter lack of storyline - but it's something you wanna do on Bad Movie Mondays. 

Though, I won't deny that Stuart Townsend and the late Aaliyah had some chemistry in the film. Being her second film role - the first being Romeo Must Die - she played the part of former Egyptian queen turn Vampire Mother well. 

And while I get why the homo-eroticism of the novels was toned down quite a bit - without Louis, well let's face it - giving Lestat a love interest in Jesse seemed to cheapen the character, as well. 

Now don't peg me as one of those book readers who think the adaptation should stay true to the book, but it mustn't betray it either. Now I see betrayal on two levels: when the movie is almost word per word as the novel - think No Country for Old Men - and when the film just takes a massive shit on the novel's story - think Lost World. Now No Country for Old Men was an excellent movie, but staying too true to the novel keeps readers sitting out on the fun. 

Anyway, the final rating for the film is two stars. The extra star, of course, going to Jonathan Davis who was screwed out of a great soundtrack when Korn's record company pulled the plug on the original recordings of the tracks. If you must, own the film, can I suggest getting it with Gothika? It might not be the best film of the world, but together, they make a pretty decent deal.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Your Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

I don't know where my mind is right now. How could I overlook the fact that it's the 202nd birthday of one of the greatest writers - not to mention Gothic writers - to ever exist? That's right, Mr. Bubble Head himself - Edgar Allan Poe. I was young when I fell in love with his writing - "The Raven," of course. I still have my days when nothing cheers me up more than one of his ghastly tales of tell-tale hearts beneath the floorboards, cats behind walls and his sweet Lenore. 

If you're looking to celebrate his birthday, I suggest picking up his collected stories or complete works - poems included - at your local bookstore. Pay full price - mostly because full price is usually not that expensive for public domain items. 

Check out other writers influenced by the master of macabre:

And the first book I've read this year is.....

After a grueling month, I finally finished Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned. Unlike the first two - Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat - Queen of the Damned felt slow moving. It lacked the same emotion the previous two presented - not stating that the book was without the human emotions that we've come to admire from Lestat and his pal Louis, it's just that the majority of it wasn't presented until the end. 

Originally, I wanted to finish the novel before the turn of the new year, but the slow movement in the book caused me to put it down several times and ignore it for days at a time. The novel, like the first two, is teeming with new and old characters - we even learn the name of the boy reporter from Interview - that all play an essential role in the story, one way or another. However, there are several times when I wonder why exactly I have to know about Baby Jenks and what role she played after her short life as a vampire. 

Of course, her death was used to paint a portrait of the afterlife, but it still felt unnecessary. 

Power is the force that drives this novel. Power to be seen. Power to be heard. Power to change the world. From Lestat to the vampire queen, Akasha, everyone wants a slice of the power to exist. Each knows that the queen is the central point of their existence, so when she raises from her slumber to mold the world into her liking, they have to weigh the consequences - to destroy her would to destroy all, that is, if they can destroy her at all. 

I did like the Legend of the Twins story that appears in the novel - as told by Maharet. It gives a rather original, detailed account of how vampires came to exist - rather than the brief explanation in Lestat. Other than that, I can't think of a single detail that stuck with me. Which is sad, because I really did like the second novel.

As I see it, I've completed my task of reading the Anne Rice vampire cannon. Though it's a constant reminder that the box set has a forth novel. Until next time, happy huntin'.

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