Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of the funniest films I’ve seen recently, mainly for the sharp dialogue between Downey, who plays a small-time crook that gets mixed up into a Hollywood audition when a robbery goes wrong, and Val Kilmer who plays a Hollywood private detective that’s also gay. Downey finds himself mixed up in a murder mystery that also coincidentally involves his childhood dream girl who escaped their smalltown to Hollywood.

I think the movie would have done better to lay off of the self-awareness of Downey talking to the screen or stopping the movie. It would have been way better if they cut that smartness out and did more with the characters because there was a really good flow between the two actors.

It’s hard to describe just what it is in print but the exchanges between Downey and Kilmer are really funny with Downey the clueless crook and Kilmer, the sarcastic yet witty know it all. Their timing and tone is just perfect. It’s too bad this film was slept on but it’s one of the few movies where I really thought it was beautifully shot from the title sequence down to the end. I really liked the opening visuals though it was somewhat reminiscent of the Ocean’s series.

It’s not all comedy. There are some serious overtones with the undercurrent of Hollywood’s viciousness and shallowness. Truly a boulevard of broken dreams. Are people really shallow and vicious or is Hollywood a place where people pretend to be what they’re not, leaving behind and hiding their true selves?

Family Plot

Family Plot was Hitchcock’s last completed film as his health declined.  Naturally, I watched it first to inaugurate my Hitchcock marathon.  It was classic Hitchcock but far from his best work.  I was shocked at all the gratuitous foul language.  Not sure what it is but I like my classics devoid of any swearing or explicit situations.  I think it adds a little mystery.

The master of suspense was at it again in this film intertwining two very different couples who get mixed up in each others affairs through a series of misunderstandings leading to murder.

Sandler’s Click

I liked Sandler’s Click probably because I’ve been watching way too many of his films lately.  I end up enjoying his serious stuff along with the juvenile stuff and all the stuff in between.  I actually like this movie because it really showcases all of Sandler’s talents as both a comedian and an actor.

I think all great comedians eventually reach a point where comedy alone just doesn’t cut it.  The jokes dry up as the comedian grows up and matures.  I still miss Eddie Murphy when he wasn’t preoccupied with philosophical stuff or worried about the Disney market.  I think Sandler can still pull off a more balanced comedy that stays true to his origins.

The plot of Click is hardly original but not necessarily boring, especially in the hands of skilled craftsmen, a universal remote to control not appliances but the owner’s entire universe.  Sandler is Michael Newman, an over-worked and under-appreciated architect and father.  He stumbles upon a secret lab tucked away in the local bed and bath where he’s looking for a universal remote to overcome his klutziness with house appliances.  Instead, he’s given a remote that can pause, mute, and fast forward entire scenes and people in his life.  What he doesn’t know is that the remote’s auto-learning knows more about him than he realizes and that you can’t go back and live the parts you fast forward.  All you get in return is a hazy recollection and TV archives of the time you spent on auto-pilot.

I loved it.  The scenes near the end were really moving as he reflects on life and wishes he can really cherish the things that need to be cherished other than his career, that fast-forwarding the "boring bits" lead you to miss the greatest things that life has to offer.

Look Ma, No Phlegm

These past two weeks I’ve had the distinct pleasure of coughing up prodigious amounts of phlegm every morning.  I’d get way better once I cleared out the phlegm but it would somehow build up during the night and creep into my nasal cavities.  It was really a nasty sight to behold.

I guess overwork + no sleep + winter = phlegm.  Sorry, I just had to write about this, you don’t know how fortunate you are until you stop coughing up phlegm.  Now that I got a brain busting session out, I’m finding it hard to dive right back in.  I just want to take it easy on the overtime for the rest of the month.


If Unleashed isn’t the first film I’ve seen Jet Li act in I don’t know what is. Jet Li plays a human dog, trained to be vicious when a heavy-duty collar is taken off to attack anything that the master says. With the collar on he is like a little boy with a small vocabulary and hardly any guile. Yet, with the collar off he is nothing short of a killing machine.

When his gang masters get gunned down by rival criminals, Li gets an opportunity to leave his squalid conditions, stumbling onto the father and daughter family of a blind piano tuner played by Morgan Freeman. Li slowly rediscovers his humanity and begins to awaken.

There’s enough action here for any other action film but Li does a really masterful job playing a human dog. The act fits him just right, probably because it doesn’t require much proper English dialogue. This is actually good as it highlights his acting talent (and he is a good actor as long as he’s speaking Chinese).

It’s a really grim, complex but ultimately touching film that I would recommend without hesitation.

Lessons of a Working Stiff

This last month was living hell if it ever was one.  Let’s see, I’ve already racked up close to 60 hours of overtime and I still have a whole next week for more.  There were a couple days where I showed up at the office at 8AM and left 11:30PM.  Not to mention I caught two different colds for the last two weeks.  Luckily, I’ve gotten through the rough patch.  I think.  Took a look at my bank balance yesterday and was shocked but not totally surprised.  I knew it was coming as I had somehow managed to charge close to $3000 dollars to my card what with the various doodads I’ve been buying.

My goal from today is to stop drinking alcohol after getting home (after I finish that bottle of wine) and binge eating chocolate at night.  It was certainly a growing experience and I do plan to take it easy for a bit starting with a truly refreshing weekend after finally being freed from a deadline.  You don’t know how much of a relief this is.  Next week I’m going to start partying more and taking some victims with me.

Not to bore you with my boring life, here are some nice tidbits I walked away with.

Wake Up at the Same Time

I do this seven days a week.  Only on weekends I might read the paper, watch TV, or exercise then sleep a little more but never sleep past noon, it’ll screw up the rest of your week after Sunday.  Keeping a regular sleep schedule is probably one of the best things you can do for your mental health.  If you can’t wake up then it means you need to sleep earlier not wake up later.  I can measure the stress I feel based on how dreadful I feel on waking.

The more turbulent your working life, the more your other routines should remain.  For me, it was exercise in the morning.  That’s where I draw the line.  Remember, a day has 24 hours and all you’re doing is subtraction.  If you subtract too much sleep and add too much work, you die or bore others to death with your zombie state.  The good news is that even if you subtract a bit of work, nobody dies.  Trust me.  You just need to work on multiplying the time that you do indeed subtract for work.

Intensity is Good, but Not All the Time

We all need a little intensity to spice up our life.   Without a little pressure you will not grow beyond your limits and for people, limits are always fluid and flexible.  Of course, there is too much of a good thing.  There’s a fine difference between a passionate affair and a stalker.  Don’t let work be a stalker.  Even if it costs you a tiny promotion, definitely decompress after you put in a full effort.  Otherwise, your brain will probably not reap the benefits anyway.

Learn How to Turn Off Your Brain

The best way for me to relax is to either exercise or watch a movie.  I can literally feel my head spinning after some intense programming sessions.  Even after my hands stop my head keeps twirling and twirling like a broken record.  The only way to get out of that maddening loop is to shut off all the rational facilities (obviously not happening) or divert their attention.  Exercise, movie watching, and sleep are probably the only real moments for me to really get away from it all.  Wouldn’t mind reading a book but that takes effort and something I don’t want to do when I’m tired.

Things that don’t stop my brain from spinning are: video games and web surfing.  I try not to do these things as they get my brain off of work but end up keeping my brain in a semi-excited state.  Beer helps too, but for that you pay a stiff price.

It really depends on what you are into.  There are some people who do needle point or play instruments (wish I could do that).  Whatever it is, indulge in it as soon as you hit the office door.  You’ll get better sleep too.

That’s all for now.  I’m going to start looking at my options for a better way to spend the weekends other than watching movies with a glassy look in my eyes or shopping groceries.  All the productivity tips in the world can’t save you from becoming a zombie unless you get creative on the weekends.  Wish me luck.

Adam Sandler the Actor

I’ve seen a couple Adam Sandler movies so naturally I’m now an expert.  The guy’s probably one of the most under-rated actors out there today.  I’ve seen him in Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love as well as a couple of his comedies.  When it comes to serious drama he really shows a wide range.  There’s always something slightly comedic no matter how serious the role but nothing that takes away from the performance.  Just a little added flavor.

In Reign Over Me, he was a dentist fighting the depression after losing his entire family in the terrorist attacks.  He was amazingly good playing a man in the deep throes of depression with just enough unintentional comedy to keep it from being a truly depressing film.  In Punch Drunk Love he was a gullible salesman in a tacky blue suit who was clumsy and easily pushed to the limit to go on a destructive rampage.

In both those films he showed a dynamic range of emotions as an actor and a high capacity for developing psychologically complex characters.  Even more amazing considering that he doesn’t play dramatic roles that often.  It’s obvious that this depth is the hidden spice in the various comedic roles he’s played especially those with romantic themes like 50 First Dates.

3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma was a good film.  Authorities finally capture the notorious highway robber, gang leader and killer Ben Wade played by Russel Crowe.  Christian Bale is Dan Evans, a crippled Civil War veteran with one leg struggling to stay a rancher and support a small family.  Evans is under the burden of debt and the railroads are gobbling up all the land.  His only shot at cash is to help escort Wade onto the train headed for Yuma prison, a job not many would willingly take.

Russell Crowe certainly shines in his element playing a charming but dangerous outlaw who can be reassuringly kind while inspiring fear.  Crowe’s Ben Wade is a simple but complex man.  Someone who stakes his life on honor and respect with careless disregard for the lives of those that get in his way.  Only Crowe can portray a character with vulnerabilities through a stoic and macho exterior and he does a fine job of that.

Christian Bale’s Dan Evans is a stark contrast to Wade.  He’s a small-time rancher, crippled in body, and crushed in soul who can no longer even command the respect of his son William, a brave if reckless kid who shows a fiercer spirit than his father.  Evans is a broken man clinging on to what’s left of his dignity in order to protect his family.  Wade always seem gentle until the moment he drives a fork through someone’s neck or throws them off a cliff.  He strikes quickly like a snake.  Evans in contrast, is constantly on edge trying to maintain a tough facade while essentially scrounging his livelihood.

Ben Foster plays Charlie Prince, Wade’s second in command, a sociopath with strong gay undertones toward Wade.  He really steals the show when he takes center stage.  I never thought I’d see a flaming cowboy played so convincingly without so much as a single gay kiss.  It’s clear that he adores Wade, his boss and daddy figure.

The interaction between Crowe and Bale is truly a wonderful product of two great actors doing their best work.  You can see all the complex interactions unfold within their eyes.  Bale and his boy are perhaps the only figure Crowe feels any empathy towards, a man and his boy living a life that he could never have (not that he’d be able to stand it).  Despite the fact that Bale is the one that has hampered Crow on numerous occasions, he could never bring himself to really harm Bale.

As far as Westerns go it doesn’t get any more traditional than this.  Yet it still manages to feel fresh and modern.  Maybe it’s Ben’s flaming rendition.  The final scene didn’t seem to go down well with some but I thought it was a nice, real finish to an excellent movie.

iPod touch is Now 32GB

The iPod touch is now 32GB, at least the top of the line model.  I’ve got a 16GB model which is now the middle version a video iPod with 30GB (60 was the max, which is now 80GB and 160GB respectively).  It’s hard not to feel shafted when Apple keeps pushing out products that improve on the last.  I haven’t really gotten used to it since switching and maybe I never will but this is the right way to do it.  The only problem I have is that many times the first generation product line is more or less a beta release with lots of problems.  This wouldn’t be so bad if Apple took a better approach to customer service.

One thing I learned is that I wont be upgrading to 10.6 until I’ve seen the blogs go wild and the coast is clear.  I also have nothing against Apple for continuously improving their products.  The biggest problem is that most other manufacturers keep tricking consumers into thinking that products are improving when they’re not doing much more than taking advantage of technological advances from their parts suppliers (like faster processors) and repackaging it with a new design.  This wouldn’t be so bad if the design was continuously improving but anybody who’s followed a company like Sony knows that this rarely happens.  Some years you’ll see some great progress and the next year they come out with the ugliest crap you’ve seen and wipe out some really useful features.

I like Apple’s way of doing things.  They design something and stick with it for a while.  All the improvements happen under the cover.  You get a bunch of same looking products but different "generations".  This is how design really should be handled because good design should last more than a shopping season.  Apple sure does seem to be accelerating their release schedule though.  When I used to care about Sony it was easy for me to tell when a new model was on the horizon because they’d start discounting inventory like crazy and it usually came like clockwork around the change of seasons like summer or autumn.  Not so with Apple.  About the only time you can count on something is when there’s a big mac conference or the Apple Store goes offline a minute.

You just have to be aware that when you buy Apple you really have to make damn sure you want that product right now, warts and all.  I bought a 16GB iPod touch after much soul-searching.  Luckily, the 8GB model was sold out since it was Christmas season.  It was and still is the single best investment I’ve made recently.  When I’m having a tough week at work it’s the only thing keeping me from tearing out the freaking wall because the second I step into the train, it’s like I’m in front of the living room couch watching TV.  I leave everything behind before I arrive home.  Of course, 16GB is not much.  At least not for high-quality video files.  It’ll have to do until flash drives come down a bit more in the price department while increasing in the capacity department.  Still, it’ll do just fine until the time comes.

What we have to ask ourselves is what the hell happened to the rest of the consumer electronics market.  Why are there millions of models out there on the market without a single model that does what we want?  Why do manufacturers keep changing designs without ever really improving them over time? Maybe if some manufacturers lay down a rule that they wont ship a new product until they can make a fundamental improvement on the previous, we’ll see more innovation and progress.

The Italian Job

 The Italian Job was an entertaining remake or remix depending on how you see the original 1969 version.  It was an enjoyable Hollywood heist movie centred around a robbery gone sour after a backstabbing coward reneges on a heist and kills the father figure and mastermind of the group.  The stake is $35 million in gold bars stolen from some place in Italy.  Now the robbers want the money and they want revenge.

The betrayer is played by Edward Norton, who always does a nice job playing weasel types, now enjoying the good life in LA.  Mark enlists the dead mastermind’s daughter, the incredibly hot yet adorable Charlize Theron, to break Edward’s safe to reclaim what’s theirs.  The crew has the typical assortment of robbery specialists, the geek, explosives man, handsome conniver, mechanic, and other shady dudes.

It is a tired genre but one that continues to thrive for its pure entertainment value.  The major appeal of such a film is that it lets us get away from the reality around us where every move is "watched" and infractions are not allowed.  These modern day robin hoods make a farce of security systems and walk away with the prize.  Thieves with a golden heart tucked away somewhere.  Of course, you need to suspend your disbelief in epic proportions to imagine the city of LA would allow such elaborate set ups to go unnoticed by the police.

Charlize did a great job of playing a good citizen getting caught up in her father’s "profession" of lock-breaking not only for revenge but maybe as a way of getting to know the father who was either locked up somewhere or pulling off a heist in a far away land.