Meet the Fockers

January 6th, 2005

The much anticipated Meet the Fockers is out and is bringing down the house in box office revenue. The only thing that I cannot understand is why. The movie's predecessor, Meet the Parents has quickly become a smalltime favorite amongst adults and their older children. How could the movie made to follow be anything short of classic? Well, I will tell you how in one word: plot.

What did Meet the Parents lack? A plot.
What did Meet the Fockers have? A plot.

Therein lies your difference between good and bad in this series. Do not get me wrong, I was laughing hysterically last night....for about 33.33333333% of the movie. It started strong. Writers relied on what had made them successful in the first film and that was off the cuff, quirky humor. Robert DeNiro's strict persona as Jack Byrnes pointing out all of the faults in his to-be son-in-law Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller). I don't think I need to recap Meet the Parents. Odds are, you've seen it.

Though I was excited when I first heard they were going to make Meet the Fockers, previews and commercials told me what I could really expect. It was not for lack of funny moments in the previews, obviously they try to show you the parts you'll want to see, but rather there was some uneasy feeling I had from them. I simply had a sense that this movie would not be good. Call it "movie-watcher intuition". (I do a good job of leaving any expectations at the door on my way into a theater, so I do not think this negative premonition had any affect on my opinion of the film.)

It was a good move bringing in Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as the Fockers. Before I went to see this I was told that Hoffman nailed his part. I will say that I agree. He was great. My only complaint was that this role had him too similar to his character from one of my favorite movies (CONfidence).

If you have seen the movie, I felt it turned south as the scene changed to the restaurant at which the Fockers were throwing the party for Greg and Pam. It was here that the plot began to emerge from beneath the laughs. Sure there was a giggle or two beyond this point, but they were not nearly as hearty as those prior. I found the end of the movie dragged. They were tying loose ends from two movies. It was at the end of Meet the Fockers that we would see some conflict resolution. Funny is not resolution, funny is the conflict itself.

In Meet the Parents, Jack Byrnes uses his ex-CIA tactics to find out information about Greg and nearly tears his family apart. This same gimmick was used in Meet the Fockers, though this time it was something that was far more serious and this time he came even closer to disbanding the Byrnes family.

Why does a sequel need to follow the same path as it's predecessor? Why can you not make a movie as a continuation of characters and have new situations arise? Maybe it is too risky. Why fix it if it ain't broke? as the saying goes.

Last night I not only met the Fockers, I also met disappointment. Pass on this.

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

January 4th, 2005

I could hardly contain my desire to see this movie. Before its release I would watch the trailer roughly once a week just to keep myself appetized. I usually get my movie reviews up a day or two post, this review is coming nearly a week later. The only thing I can see as a reason it has taken me so long to get around to this one is that the movie is a difficult one to wrap your feelings around. Thoroughly confused yet?

I really liked Life Aquatic. I thought it was funny, and entertaining. It was a very unique story.

To fully enjoy this movie, please do the following: Do not compare this to any other Wes Anderson movie. There were reviews stating that in Life Aquatic Wes Anderson tried to out-Wes Anderson himself. I disagree with that perspective. I think what we see is a more true picture of Anderson. His earlier projects were collaborative efforts with Luke and/or Owen Wilson. Though Owen Wilson appears in Life Aquatic, he does not receive any writing credits.

I will admit that I went into Life Aquatic expecting to see another Bottle Rocket or Rushmore or another Royal Tenenbaums. I found at one or two points in the movie I was forcing laughter. When I realized I was doing this, I took a step back and came up with the information listed in the previous paragraph. When I had the new point of view, I focused only on Life Aquatic. I enjoyed this movie for what it was, not for how it compared to anything that came before it.

One thing that bothered me throughout the movie was the relationship between the characters played by Cate Blanchett (Jane) and Bill Murray (Steve). Jane comes to Steve as a reporter trying to write a story no one wants to read. She self-funds her trip just to get to know the man she has admired for so many years. What we never find out is why. I have my own theory on the situation, but am more than willing to listen (read) other opinions.

If you will go in with a clear head and give Wes Anderson a clean slate and a chance, I believe he will impress you. He certainly did impress me.

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January 4th, 2005

Saved!Good girl Mary (Jena Malone) and her best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are at the top of the food chain at American Eagle Christian High School. But all that is about to change in this "subversively funny" (USA Today) teen comedy about hype, hypocrisy and high school. Also starring Macaulay Culkin and Patrick Fugit, Saved! is a "boldly hilarious satire" (Rolling Stone)!

A point to which a few of you can attest, teen comedies do not usually do much for me. The plot lines are usually weak and the movies are based more upon which 14 year old girl can best try to make us feel like we belong in jail. Saved! was not the typical teen comedy. It was smarter; there was more to it. There was a story behind it deeper than the nerdy girl who could end up being a knockout if she would only get contacts.

What could be better than a group of high school kids at a Christian school deciding to show their classmates that being "saved" was not finding Jesus, but rather to begin to think for themselves?

I never thought I would ever be in a position to make a blog post with these few words: this movie was good largely due to the performance of Macaulay Culkin. He plays Roland, the brother of Mandy Moore's character. Paralyzed from the waste down and confined to his wheelchair, he is known to his friends as "Rolly". Through more than his nickname, Culkin brings the comic relief to a movie with a serious message.

Controversial? Yes.
Funny? Yes.
I liked it.

Buy Saved! $20.24

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January 3rd, 2005

Your love life will be happy and harmonious.

"Shot Down in Motown", or "How She Said 'No'"

January 3rd, 2005

For those of you who know me, this is not news. If we've never met, consider this your first introduction into the mind of "Privatjokr": I do not do well talking to the fairer gender. I have more stories of regret from not talking to girls than many people you have met. Now, a surprise for you all: I talked to a girl today.

I maintain my position in that I still am unable to approach a girl to whom I have never spoken. I use the term "cold calling" as approaching a girl would be the same as picking up a phone to make a sales call. (I guess the scary part here is that I was at one point trying to get into sales...) The girl in question today was not a "cold call". She works retail in the men's clothing industry. I met her through buying some fancy new stuff to wear on my work trips. The background is boring and I know you all want me to get to the good part and skip to where I lost my dignity.

I said "dignity", knock it off.

So I went to her place of employ today during my lunch break to do something that I am not known for: to see if she might like to accompany me somewhere sometime. I'll take you there now.

"What do you want?" she asked, jokingly.
"Actually, I came in to see if I could take you to lunch."
: pause :
"Like a date?"

Ok, I have to interrupt here. You know in the cartoons where the two guys pop up on opposite shoulders? The angel and the devil? Well, at this point in the conversation, cue my two little guys.

"Like a date?"
"No, it's wardrobe consultant appreciation week..." quipped the devil.

Alas, the angel won.

"Like a date?"
"Yes, like a date."

If any of you know any cool HTML tags to show the brilliant shade of pink she turned at this point, I'm open to suggestions. (That is the only highlight from my perspective, but blushing doesn't get me a date.)

"I'm flattered, I wasn't expecting this. : pause : But, I have a boyfriend, I'm sorry."

I went on to tease her about how the older clientele she deals with probably does the same as I. I figure it is in her training. "Let him down gently then cross-sell the latest ties." (At least she was laughing, but laughing doesn't get me a date.)

"Maybe lunch as not a date?"
"Sure," I said as if we both meant it.

I feel bad for the poor bastard who is her boyfriend. I'm not sure anyone has ever apologized so much for being in a relationship. She honestly said she was sorry like four times. I hope it wasn't a reflection on him. I kid, I kid.

The moral of the story, however is a simple one. Lay your dignity on the floor in front of a girl and she is still able to end the conversation in the expected fashion, "I hope you still come in and see me for your clothes."

Girls are only after your commission.

Now I know that she most likely didn't mean it that way, but it makes for a better story if that is the picture I paint. Either way, I'm moving to the side of a mountain somewhere in Tibet. I would venture a guess that goats are more forgiving.

What a way to start the new year...

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It's official: Somebody hates me.

December 30th, 2004

So here's what happened. I was enjoying my 5 hour slumber, minding my own business. At one point I was conscious of my movement as I rolled over onto my stomach. My body was hence contorted in a horizontal ladder climbing pose if that helps you visualize. I had an arm over my head and a leg rotated up and out, bent at the knee. As I settled into the position described, I had a euphoric feeling that this position in which my body found itself was the position of legend. Try all I like, I would never find something so comfortable. Instead of any feeling of panic or anxiety over the fact that this would be my only chance for such luxury, I lost myself in the moment. My body melted into the mattress; I was one with my bed.

Though this sounds as if it were drawn out over time, the entire thing happened in a matter of merely one second.

The following second my alarm sounded...

NFL Week 16.

December 29th, 2004

What a week for football. 8 games decided by 3 points or less, one of which was in overtime. That and one game which came down to a final play, but there is more details on that coming up.

I offer my half-hearted congrats to Peyton Manning for setting the record for passing touchdowns in a season. As mentioned before, I like Peyton, but I idolize Dan Marino (previous holder of the record).

Controversy strikes! My apologies to the Chicago Bears for getting screwed out of the game against my Lions. The Bears lost the game 19-13, though on their final possession threw a pass to the end zone which was caught for what I would have considered a touchdown. I'm of the school of fan who awards touchdowns to receivers who catch the ball in the end zone by establishing possession and getting two feet in bounds. Apparently I am more lenient than the referees in that game.

The news in Detroit is that you will never make Lions fans happy. You lose and they (though used to it) are bitter. You win and they wish you'd lost for better draft position. I overheard a woman trying to explain to her young children that she was upset with the Lions for not taking a dive in that game in order to ensure a better draft pick. Do you think your 6 year old would really comprehend that idea? Is sandbagging for a draft pick a lesson you want to teach your child? Mind you I am not trying to tell her how to raise her children, but it did appear to be a silly conversation.

One more week. One week in which you will see most teams play like they did back in August. Starting QBs if they play at all will only play a series. Key players may take the week off to rest up for the playoffs. Only the few teams who are still in the hunt will actually play this weekend. For those of you who will be ending your fantasy season in week 17, have a stellar week. I'm glad our league ended when it did (Did I mention I won?).

Live Bait - P.J. Tracy

December 28th, 2004

Live Bait by P.J. TracyMinneapolis detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are bored--ever since they solved the Monkeewrench case, the Twin Cities have been in a murder-free dry spell, as people no longer seem interested in killing one another. But with two brutal homicides taking place in one awful night, the crime drought ends--not with a trickle, but with an eventual torrent. Who would kill Morey Gilbert, a man without an enemy, a man who might as well have been a saint? His tiny, cranky little wife, Lily, is no help, and may even be a suspect; his estranged son, Jack, an infamous ambulance-chasing lawyer, has his own enemies; and his son-in-law, former cop Marty Pullman, is so depressed over his wife's death a year ago that he's ready to kill himself, but not Morey. The number of victims--all elderly--grows, and the city is fearful once again.

The detectives' investigation threatens to uncover a series of horrendous secrets, some buried within the heart of the police department itself, blurring the lines between heroes and villains. Grace MacBride's cold-case-solving software may find the missing link--but at a terrible price.

Filled with intelligent, well-drawn characters; sparkling, snappy dialogue; and razor-sharp plotting, P.J. Tracy's stylish, high-voltage new nail-biter will have readers on the edge of their seats.

I want to get this disclaimer out of the way. This was a good book. I did like it. I have listed it as "Don't Read" instead of "Read" because I think though it was good, you might want to read something else.

P.J. Tracy is the pen name for a mother-daughter writing team. Live Bait is their second novel. One time awhile back I happened to be perusing this internet I've heard so much about and came across a recommendation. It read something to the affect of: If you have read all of Jeffery Deaver's books and want something along the same lines to keep you entertained until he releases another, try Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy. I will try to dig up that review for you as it was written sometime in 2004 B.B. (Before Blog). Monkeewrench, though better than Live Bait, is still not as good as Deaver F.Y.I.

Live Bait, as the description states is surely "filled with intelligent, well-drawn characters"; so much so that there is just too much to juggle. Maybe I had too much on my mind due to the holidays, but I feel that the author(s) tried to track too many characters. You are not only introduced to, but also get at least a quasi-intimate knowledge of detectives Magozzi and Rolseth, the entire Monkeewrench software team (4 people), Marty Pullman and Jack Gilbert. This happens while you try to follow the story of 4 local murders and potentially dozens more world-wide.

Many authors write a book or two, establish themselves in the industry and then develop their serial character (Patterson - Alex Cross, Sanford - Lucas Davenport, Evanovich - Stephanie Plum, Connelly - Harry Bosch, Cussler - Dirk Pitt to name a few), Tracy has made the choice to begin with said character, or in this case characters. From Monkeewrench to Live Bait we see the continuation of 6 different people. Live Bait ends as the 6 characters are established further, readers know there will be a third book and the third book will follow the same 6 people.

The book is 340 pages long. I very much enjoyed the final 70 pages of the book. The first 270 seemed to be more of a jumbled mess than anything else. It was a unique story, another plus; however back to the "Don't Read" stamp on this book, it just took too long to get rolling for me to recommend it to you. If you are more patient than I (I don't set the bar too high) maybe you could enjoy this book more than I did.

Buy Live Bait $16.29

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December 28th, 2004
All books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hours, and the books of all time.
- John Ruskin

Last night at the Palace.

December 28th, 2004

It was nice to be in attendance for a Pistons win last night over anyone, but especially the Nets. For any of you who are actually New Jersey fans, first let me say how sorry I am for that fact, but also allow me to share this: Vince looked nasty last night. I think you'll be quite happy with his performance. The important thing, however, is that Half Man + Half Amazing still = a loss to the Pistons. He played very well and should have made you all proud until he quit. He "suddenly" got a cramp or something similar in what appeared to be his hamstring. Instead of taking his lumps and losing graciously he left the game and was worked on by the trainer for the last few minutes. Sure, he could actually have been hurt...maybe I'm biased, but it sure looked like he was fine until the proverbial nail was in the coffin.

Last season the Pistons were the first team to hold Jason Kidd scoreless at any point in his career. You may not agree, but I find some comfort in the fact that last night Kidd had 2 points. Each point represents made free throws he attempted as penalty to the Pistons for technical fouls. Take out some poor officiating and maybe Kidd goes scoreless again.

Enough about the actual game...I have a rant about Palace management.

I am not sure if it there was some special occasion at the Palace last night, but there appeared to be an unusual amount of handicapped people at the game. I saw one blind kid, a handful of mentally handicapped children and a large group of physically handicapped children (many in wheelchairs) lined the court to greet the Pistons at the beginning of the game with high-fives. That is merely a point of fact, I mean it with no ill intent. If this is the case, please explain to me why the house band (I believe their name is the Sun Messengers) decided it was a good time to play their Black Eyed Peas cover which cross-breeds the edited and unedited versions of the song "Let's Get it Started"? "Let's get it started, ha. Let's get retarded in here! Let's get it started, ha. Let's get retarded in here!" Maybe I'm too sensitive about that, but I felt it a little too inappropriate when I heard them play it at the game last week when I didn't see any handicapped attendees.

Some kid held up this sign, it was easily my favorite : "The Nets got Pist.on".