Friday, June 27, 2008

a change of scene with no regrets

WALL-E was everything I hoped it would be last night. The film covered all the bases with romance, comedy, action, and a socially-responsible moral to boot. Bringing Ben Burtt--Skywalker Sound's guru behind the Star Wars sound effects, among other films--was a brilliant move, as the robot characters in WALL-E were filled with life despite never really speaking more than a few lines of dialogue. It usually goes without saying that a Pixar film is visually stunning, but WALL-E was probably one of the most beautifully shot films I've seen. Not only was the animation jaw-dropping, but the cinemetography was on par with the best live-action films. The movie is an instant classic, ranking up with the Toy Story movies and The Incredibles as the best Pixar films. A must see.

5 out of 5 Davies. *****

Thursday, June 26, 2008

feed me weird things

In anticipation of seeing WALL-E tonight at midnight, I thought I would take a look at what other movies are coming out--or maybe are already out, in a few cases--this year that look at least somewhat promising.

The Top 2:
If these aren't the two best movies of the year, I will be greatly shocked.

The Highly Anticipated:
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Fincher has some awesome movies. The trailer looks great.
  • Gonzo - Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite authors, and this looks like an excellent documentary on him.
  • Burn After Reading - From the looks of the trailer, this should be another classic from the Cohen Brothers.
  • Choke - A good book from Chuck Palahuniuk (author of Fight Club) and the movie looks promising.
  • Pineapple Express - Looks hilarious. [Red band trailer, probably NSFW]
  • Tropic Thunder - Ben Stiller has been stale lately but this film looks like it might change that.

Looks Promising:
  • The Admiral - The trailer is very impressive, despite the fact it's entirely in Russian with no subtitles. I'm sure the American release of the movie won't have that problem.
  • War, Inc. - Looks like it could be a funny satire.
  • Quantum of Solace - The newest James Bond film will hopefully improve upon the success of Casino Royale.
  • Miracle at St. Anna - It looks like there is more to this movie than simply a World War II film but it looks good from the trailer.
  • The X-Files 2: I Want to Believe - Looks like it could be a solid second installment in the X-Files movie franchise.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Weird - This ridiculous-looking Korean spaghetti-western looks like it could be hilarious.
  • Traitor - An interesting action/political thriller starring Don Cheadle.
  • OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies - This should be a funny French spoof on the 1960s spy genre.

Might Not Be Bad?:
  • The Mummy 3 - The first two movies weren't terrible, so this might be a decent action movie.
  • The Clone Wars - You would think I would be more excited about this, seeing as it is Star Wars related but I have no faith in George Lucas anymore.
  • The Rocker - Could be funny.
  • Righteous Kill - Normally a film starring both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino would look awesome, and this but could be good, but the trailer didn't blow me off my feet.
  • RocknRolla - Another British crime film by Guy Ritchie.
  • Taken - Looks like a decent action movie starring Liam Neeson.

No doubt there are some I've missed, but that's all for now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

white house shadows who hide behind closed doors

The Democratic-controlled Congress helped the Bush administration strike another blow against the Constitution today when it voted to grant telecommunication companies retroactive immunity for spying on American citizens for the federal government, and broadening the domestic surveillance powers of the executive branch.

"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation," said Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001. "The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home."

California lawmaker Barbara Lee referred to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and concluded, "This bill scares me."

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) slammed retroactive amnesty, asking "Don't we realize there are some lines we should never cross?"

But the short debate and quick scheduling made it clear that the House leadership was confident the measure would easily pass, thus sparing conservative Democrats from campaign ads in the fall attacking them for not being tough on surveillance.

I don't see how someone can argue that this isn't a horrible thing. By definition, the very fact that Congress had to vote to grant telecom companies retroactive immunity means they were breaking the law; which also means that whoever ordered the companies to break the law--the Bush administration--are guilty as well.

Even if trust the Bush administration and don't think they would use these powers for ill, how can you be okay with the precedent this sets? All it takes is for a would-be tyrant to get into office, and all the groundwork has already been put into place. This should have nothing to do with allegiances to political parties.

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats who have continued to give the Bush administration a free pass to violate the Constitution should be ashamed, not to mention removed from office. They are either cowards for being too afraid to oppose Bush, or they are crooks and villains guilty of greed and a lust for more power at the expense of our liberties--in other words, they are cut from the same cloth as Bush, Cheney, and the rest. It's time to start holding our elected leaders accountable; they are in Washington to look after our interests, not their own. Steve Chabot will never get another vote of mine until he stops toeing the Republican Party line and starts voting for the Constitution.
Even Barack Obama disappointingly seems to be too afraid to disagree with the Democratic majority. Some "change" that is. It's truly a sad state of affairs when Dennis Kucinich is one of the most rational, patriotic politicians in the federal government by actually standing up in defense of the Constitution.

Why are we so willing to impeach a president for lying about oral sex, but not for repeatedly violating the Constitution? Which one of these actions truly represents "high crimes and misdemeanors"?

I think George Orwell could see the future when he wrote 1984, he was just off the mark by about twenty-five years.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

never failed to feel

I've been thoroughly enjoying Euro Cup 2008. Makes me a little less sad that the next World Cup is still two years away. Originally I had predicted that Portugal would defeat Spain in the championship game. I still could see that happening, but there are some other teams that have really proven themselves in the group stage. Netherlands has probably been the most dominant team in the tournament thus far. Germany and Italy have both under-performed so far, but seem to be improving and could get back into form in the second round. Turkey, Russia, and Croatia have been the big surprises--at least positive surprises--but the only one of those teams with a real chance of getting to the semifinals is Croatia. France and the Czech Republic were the two big disappointments to go out in the group stage; Sweden and Greece to a lesser degree. In the second round Croatia and the Netherlands should be able to handle Turkey and Russia, respectively. The really exciting matches should be Portugal versus Germany and Spain taking on Italy. While I still think my Portugal over Spain prediction for the final may pan out, I wouldn't be shocked to see something like the Netherlands against Germany instead. We shall see...

I wish that the South American World Cup qualifying games were also being aired on TV. The United States completely destroyed Barbados 8-0, and sadly we have to play them another time. In the three games the U.S. has played against Barbados, the cumulative score now comes to a total of 19 goals to none.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

say it ain't so

Weezer should go down as one of the most underachieving bands of the past twenty years--maybe of all time. I can think of few other bands off the top of my head right now that showed so much promise with their first couple albums, only to ruin it with a slew of mediocre releases. The band's self-titled debut album (often known as The Blue Album) was a masterpiece, and their sophomore follow-up Pinkterton came close to replicating that success. But when Pinkerton failed to receive a warm reception from most fans, frontman Rivers Cuomo put the band on the shelf for a few years.

Weezer attempted to channel the success of their debut album when they finally returned, making it their second eponymous album and even using a similar album cover. What has come to be known as
The Green Album is a good pop album, but it failed to reach the same level of excellence as the band's first two efforts.

Things got worse with the band's next two albums,
Maladroit and Make Believe. Maladroit featured a more "metal" sound which resulted in a lot of dull tracks, although the album is not without its highlights ("Burndt Jam" and "Keep Fishin'" to name a couple). Make Believe was even more disappointing considering the album was made with Rick Rubin, one of the best producers in music. While "This Is Such a Pity" ranks up there as one of Weezer's best songs, the album also features "Beverly Hills," which might be the worst piece of garbage Cuomo has ever recorded. Aside from a couple decent tracks, the album was the band's weakest yet.

With their latest release, Weezer once again tried to mimic the success of their first album by self-titling their new record and using a similar cover,
Weezer (The Red Album) is way off the mark from the band's early releases. It shows a slight improvement over Make Believe, but that may have more to do with the fact that the record doesn't have any songs as bad as "Beverly Hills" and "We Are All On Drugs" than that it features better songs. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of stinkers here like the emo-sounding garbage like "Heart Songs" and the irritating "Everybody Get Dangerous," but they aren't the worst we've heard from Weezer. Cuomo can't be blamed for all the bad songs, as the tracks written by the other members of Weezer ("Thought I Knew," "Cold Dark World," and "Automatic") are equally awful. The album has a couple hits like the catchy singles "Pork and Beans" and "Troublemaker," but most of the other tracks are completely forgettable. The Red Album is ultimately another disappointing release from a band that we know can do--and has done--much, much better.
  • 1994: Weezer (Blue Album) - 5 out of 5 Davies
  • 1996: Pinkerton - 4 Davies
  • 2001: Weezer (Green Album) - 3 1/2 Davies
  • 2002: Maladroit - 2 1/2 Davies
  • 2005: Make Believe - 2 Davies
  • 2008: Weezer (Red Album) - 2 Davies

Monday, June 09, 2008

like bullets on tin

Last night's UFC 85 event in England was a fairly boring affair, and which made me very glad I didn't pay to watch it. The only notable fight was the savage beating Matt Hughes suffered at the hands of Thiago Alves. Alves stuffed nearly every take down Hughes attempted while landing solid punches and knees. By the second round it seemed it was only a matter of time before Alves pummeled Hughes into unconsciousness, until Alves connected with a flying knee that put Hughes on the mat and forced referee Herb Dean to end the fight. After such a brutal loss coming not long after he was dismantled by Georges St. Pierre--and having lost three of his last four matches--, I would be shocked if Hughes didn't retire sometime in the very near future...

I'd never been much of a hockey fan before this year, but I happily jumped on the Cincinnati Cyclones bandwagon halfway through the 2008 season. I ended up having a blast at the first game I went to and went back a couple more times, especially for the sixth and final game of the championship series against the Las Vegas Wranglers. It was a close game, but the 'Clones ended up scoring twice in the third period to escape with a fantastic 3-1 victory and--most importantly--become the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Champions! Next year will find me cheering the team on again, although the sad reality is the team will likely see its best players leave for positions with teams in the NHL and AHL...

Jess and I went out for our six year anniversary last week. Crazy to think about how long six years really is. Anyway, we went to dinner at Nada, which was delicious, and afterward went to Nicholson's for a drink. Both establishments were fantastic; I would highly recommend both of them...

Thanks to Christy and Rob for registering and voting for my Capture Cincinnati pictures. I will add more as time goes on, so keep checking back.

Friday, June 06, 2008

like a sun against my head

Cin Weekly has started their second annual Capture Cincinnati photography competition, in which local photographers submit their photos in a contest. The photos with the most votes will be featured in the book Cin Weekly will publish.

I created an account weeks ago, but I just now got around to uploading some of my shots. The competition is pretty stiff, and I simply cannot compete with some of the people who clearly have A) Better photography skills, B) More expensive and nicer cameras, C) A solid knowledge of Photoshop, or D) All of the above. That said, feel free to create an account and vote for my photos, if you should feel so inclined.