Archive for September, 2006

Ricky Bobby

The following are one man’s opinions about “Talladega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “The Illusionist”.  I admit that these reviews are a bit tardy, but I am not a person who runs out to see the latest movie premieres.  In fact, some people might say that I tend to be a bit of a homebody who doesn’t want to watch anything until it comes out on DVD (you should know that “some people” in this case are my wife and…well, my wife). 

Despite my preference for home theater, I was recently lured out of the safety of my house twice by the promise of oversized popcorn and a large soda (for just 25 cents more). 

The first movie, “Talladega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” was, well, disappointing.  I sat down with my greasy tub of corn and prepared myself to laugh a filling into the hair of the guy in front of me. 

The movie started and my fillings never once budged.  There were some light laughs and some times when star Will Ferrell’s overall nuttiness was worthwhile, but nothing much more than that.

It seems that Mr. Ferrell has reached the point in his career when the powers that be in Hollywood think that everything he writes is hilarious.  Will Ferrell is so hot that he can do no wrong and Hollywood will ride him until he stops making them money hand over fist. 

This also happened in recent years to a man named Adam Sandler and the results were movies like “Little Nicky”, “Mr. Deeds”, and “The Waterboy”; movies so bad that they actually made people angry. 

Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby had some funny scenes, just not enough to justify the 9 bucks it cost me to see it.  It went:  funny scene, 15 minutes of blah, somewhat funny scene.  I have to admit that it’s possible that, since I’m not a NASCAR fan, some of the humor was lost on me, but somehow that doesn’t seem likely.  There were some other scenes that might get funnier once Talladega Nights goes through a relentless schedule of constant exposure on cable television.  I call this the “Mike Myers Rule of Second Chances”. 

Upon initial viewing, I have hated every single Mike Myers movie since “So I Married An Axe Murderer”.  The first time I watched “Austin Powers”, for example, I stomped out of the movie theater terribly disappointed, but by the 432nd viewing on HBO, I was a huge fan.

I would say that Ricky Bobby has a small chance to achieve this, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  It’s a decent movie with long and boring stretches that will probably keep me from rushing out to see a Will Ferrell project any time soon (a real shame because I think he’s genuinely funny – “WE’RE STREAKING THE QUAD!”). 

In direct contrast to the disappointing night at Talladega, I recently took the time to watch “The Illusionist” with Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti (the son of the late baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti), Jessica Biel, and some dude who looks like Jude Law (Rufus Sewell). 

I walked into the movie with high expectations and was only let down in one regard:  The popcorn.  I try to remember not to get the butter flavored grease, but then I always forget and get it, causing me to go through 1,345 napkins and still end up with shiny hands. 

The movie itself was very well done.  It was the type of the movie where the quality of the actors, in particular Giamatti and Norton, help to overcome what could have easily been a predictable and ho-hum script. 

Norton turns in his usual great performance as the mystical magician, while Giamatti plays the police detective who tries to serve not only his political masters, but also his own conscience while clearly caught by his own curiosity in Norton’s web of illusion.  Norton spends his time being mysterious and brooding while the viewer sees Norton’s illusions, both on and off stage, through Giamatti’s eyes as he puzzles to figure out what he is being shown. 

It is my opinion that Giamatti is the real star of the show, but that’s not surprise to anyone familiar with his work.  Giamatti lends true feeling to his roles and viewers immediately believe in him and his characters, going all the way back to his classic turn as Pig Virus in Howard Stern’s “Private Parts”.  Even in a movie I didn’t enjoy, such as “American Splendor”, I still enjoyed watching Giamatti perform. 

The other actors fill their roles admirably, and despite I spent half of the movie thinking that he was Jude Law, Rufus Sewell played a strong part as Crown Prince Leopold.  The Prince’s inability to accept any man or woman as an equal made him easy to dislike.  Jessica Biel brings her beauty to the role, but her acting, at least at this point in her career, pales in comparison to her costars. 

Even though I had a pretty good idea about what was going to happen in “The Illusionist”, it was still enjoyable to watch the story unfold and it was certainly worth getting out of the house to watch, shiny hands and all.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 28 Sep 2006 No Comments

The 2006 Red Sox from an O’Shea Perspective

I was sitting at my computer, under a drooping Red Sox pennant, the other day when the phone rang. It was my old friend, confidant, and noted Yankee front-runner Rick O’Shea. He sounded quite chipper.

“How is my favorite member of Red Sox Nation doing? The last I heard, there was a line of people waiting to jump off of the Tobin Bridge.”

Rick, we’re doing just fine. The World Series win from 2004 is still fresh enough in our memories to keep us from doing anything drastic. When was the last time the Yankees won a World Series, again?

“Geez, it’s hard to remember which of the 26 titles was the most recent. I think it was somewhere around the turn of the century, but the Yankees have won 8 straight division titles and seem to be cruising toward big number 9. I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that the Red Sox didn’t hang on a little longer before taking their annual swan dive.”

Nobody remembers who wins the divisions Rick; it’s the World Series that people care about. We’re going to have to start a ‘YEAR TWO THOUSAND’ chant whenever the Yankees show up in town.

“I’d rather have my team lose in the playoffs than sit at home and watch them on TV. Besides, even in 2004, the Red Sox choked away the division title and had to sneak into the playoffs through the wild card. If it had been just over 10 years ago, they wouldn’t have even MADE the playoffs. With that being said, why do you think that the Red Sox didn’t make any trades at the deadline to help the team? How can they justify the ticket prices and then not try to win this year?”

That was a popular question around here for a while. I guess that the powers that be on the Sox just didn’t want to give up any of their young talent. Theo apparently really believed in John Lester, Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen and didn’t want to give them up for some veteran player who might help this year.

“Why would the Sox have had to give up any of those guys? The Yankees didn’t give up anyone that good and they got some really good players back. Was it just that the Sox were afraid of paying out big salaries?”

Well, that could be it…

“On top of that, in the past few years they have let Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, and worst of all, Pedro Martinez go because they didn’t want to sign them to big salaries. Then, the Sox went out and replaced them with Coco Crisp, Matt Clement, and David Wells. How did that improve their team? Those guys might have been cheaper, but they certainly weren’t as good, or as healthy. There was a lot of tough talk in the media when they left, but how would Damon and Pedro look in Red Sox uniforms now?”

I have to admit, it stings to watch them do well while the Red Sox struggle. It seemed to make sense at the time, just like it did when the Sox let Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs go, but it doesn’t seem to make as much sense right now. It sure seems like the local sports radio types do a lot of flag waving for the organizations and as a result, the fandom doesn’t freak out when the star players end up on other teams.

“Other than last year, when the Yankees lost Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte, I can’t even think of a really good Yankee player who walked away while they were still a viable star. They just don’t lose their players. Besides that, though, what’s the story with Boston athletes and serious medical issues? Big Papi has a racing heart, which hopefully isn’t really serious; poor John Lester gets diagnosed with cancer; Tedy Bruschi has a hole in his heart that leads to a stroke; Reggie Lewis; Len Bias; Darryl Stingley; Tony C…doesn’t it seem odd to have so many of those situations happen to athletes in one town?”

For a Yankee fan, you sure do know a lot about Boston sports.

“Hey, when you’re living in enemy territory you have to pay close attention to your surroundings. How can I make fun of Red Sox fans without ammunition?”

Well, I think that everyone is just thankful that the Patriots are about to start up again. At least we can start watching a good team again.

“Sure, at least until they have a game when they really need a great wide receiver and their best guy is sitting on the sidelines because the Pats don’t want to pay him. Sound familiar? Adam Vinatieri, Willie McGinest…”

Hey now. In Bill We Trust. The guy has been pretty solid so far.

“I guess. I was going to start rooting for the Colts, but they remind me of the Red Sox too much: Great right up until it matters, and then it’s off to Chokesville.”

Yeah. There was a team like that a couple of years ago, if I recall correctly: They were up 3-0 in a playoff series and lost four straight?

“Good one. You’ll be telling that story to your grandkids when they ask about the last time the Red Sox won, so I hope you enjoy it.”

Sports Tim 14 Sep 2006 No Comments

Grad Class Overload

I survived a graduate class over the summer which met 2 nights a week for 4 hours a night; had a very aggressive reading schedule and involved 2 papers and 2 presentations. As a result of this, I decided to sign up for 2 graduate classes for the fall semester; after all, they only met one night a week for 2 ½ hours a night; how much more work could it be? I was sure I could handle the load. That way, I could take classes in bunches and finish up my graduate degree in record time.

The first of my new fall classes, Research, met this past Monday night. The first Research class seemed ok, but it was really more of a “talk about the syllabus and get to know the professor” class. We got there at 5pm and were out by 6pm. The professor spoke about an aggressive schedule of presentations and research, including at least one big paper and quite a few smaller projects that would involve a large amount of library time, but only asked us to read the first chapter of the textbook for next week – 36 pages; so far so good.

The second of my classes, Shakespeare, met on Tuesday night. I took the class because, hey, I’m looking for my graduate degree and what English major wouldn’t want to take a class about Shakespeare? Also, I got the impression that this class isn’t offered very often, so take it now or risk never getting another chance.

I had settled into the class and was having a nice little conversation with all of the other people in the class, some of whom had been in my summer class – in my experience, so far, English students are a pretty nice group – when the professor walked in carrying several thick folders full of paper.

She introduced herself, then had all of us introduce ourselves and then she began to speak about the class. She said that we would be reading one of Shakespeare’s plays per week, and that each week someone will be assigned to lead the discussion about the play. Also, we would be reading the work of certain critics regarding the plays and someone would be assigned to lead the discussion on the critical material. There would be a few papers that would need to be written and also a research paper at the end of the class.

So far, this seemed fairly standard to me, the veteran of 1 summer class, and I was still fairly comfortable.

She then began to speak specifically about what would be due next week:

Read 54 pages of the introduction of the textbook. Read The Taming of the Shrew, 40 pages. Read 4 handouts: 1 page, 6 pages, 18 pages, and 9 pages. Write a 1 page, single-spaced, response paper encompassing a reaction to the play and any one of the handouts…

While she was speaking, I was thinking about the wedding I am going to this week, plus the fact that I am scheduled to work one day this weekend and I have a work outing this week and I was supposed to go to a function with my wife (ok, I should have cleared my schedule once classes started, but weddings and stuff aren’t easy to cancel, plus I was hoping that we would start out slow – I am clearly an idiot. I know this.).

I began to perspire.

The professor then went through the rest of the syllabus, which was very challenging, which was to be expected from a graduate class, but by that point I was becoming numb. I’m always intimidated on the first day of any class, so it was no big deal. The weird thing was that the people around me, all English majors who are well into the program, began to get nervous as well.

It as at that point that the woman sitting to my right asked me, “Did you say earlier that you are taking Research this semester?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I’m only a little nervous.”

She looked concerned for me. “Research is a lot of work; hours and hours in the library every week. With that along with all of the reading for this class, you aren’t planning to have any kind of life or do anything other than school this semester, are you?”

Her question kept me up half of the night thinking, “Should I just drop one of the classes? Can I handle the workload? If I can’t, will I find out too late to drop and then get a bad grade? I really want to take both, but I really want to be able to do the work and focus on both and not just hack through it. I bet people in law school would laugh if they heard me so stressed out at this point. Am I a man or a mouse?”

This morning, I discovered that I had a particular longing for cheese. I dropped the research class, mostly because I’m excited about the opportunity to study Shakespeare. So, it will only take me an extra year to finish grad school…

The Day to Day Grind Tim 08 Sep 2006 No Comments