recent movies

Cube Zero:
    This movie was just ok. Backing up a little bit for context, I really liked Cube. I thought the "Lord of the Flies" aspect of the mistrust between the prisoners was done well, and the punchline -- (mild spoiler, I guess) -- that no one person really designed the thing, that it just sort of happened -- was a really nice alegory for how profound evil can occur in the world simply through bureaucracy rather than malice.

    Cube 2: Hypercube wasn't terrible, but it wasn't really very good either. Not only did it go into impossibly magical technology (where Cube hadn't) but it gave us actual bad guys, which I thought weakened it a lot.

    Cube Zero is a prequel that deals with the behind-the-scenes operators of the machine, and how they don't really know the whole story of what they're doing or why. In that respect, it's more in line with the first movie, but it still brings in a lot more fantasy elements. It seems like they wanted the ending of Cube Zero to mesh with the beginning of Cube, but it doesn't quite.

A History of Violence:
    This is great. Definitely Cronenberg's least weird movie ever, and as such, not as creepy as you'd expect from him, but still very good. It's all about violence begetting violence, and it's handled really well. The violence is pretty graphic, but in a realistic way that makes you not want to be anywhere near it, instead of the usual Hollywood way. All the actors are fantastic.

The Aristocrats:
    This is Penn Jillette's documentary about the history of a particular joke. The structure of the joke is such that it's an excuse for the teller to just be as crude as possible for as long as they can keep it up. There are a lot of different tellings of the joke itself, which are awesome, and that's not as repetetive as you might think, but there's also a lot of discussion about why the joke works, and why it's funny. I really didn't expect a concept like this to be able to hold it together for the length of a whole movie, but it really does. It's hilarious. There's a mime version of the joke. There's a version done as a card trick!

    This is old, but somehow I missed it. It's great: it's about a bunch of temps working in an office and how they start out as friends but eventually get beaten down by the system and turn on each other. It's kind of a sadder, less-comedic version of Office Space.

Party Girl:
    I liked Clockwatchers so much, I made that night a Parker Posey double bill. I'd seen this a long time ago, but it's still awesome. Shallow, directionless club promoter finds her true calling as a librarian, re-arranges room-mate dj's records by the Dewey-Decimal system.

Aeon Flux:
    If you were completely unaware that there had ever been a cartoon called "Aeon Flux", you might have enjoyed this movie. Since I was a huge fan of the cartoon, this movie was a huge disapointment. Not just because the story and characters bore only the slightest resemblance to those in the cartoon, but because it wasn't even the same kind of story. It wasn't even remotely weird enough. This wasn't a surprise, though; trying to make a live-action version of that cartoon was obviously a terrible idea from the start, even if everyone involved had been fans. I doubt it could be accomplished at all. I guess it wasn't the train wreck I expected it to be, but it still wasn't very good. Bad science, worse fiction.

    The plot of this one will remind everybody who hasn't forgotten about it already of the execrable The Island, making this a stupid re-tread of a stupid re-tread.

    The one good thing to come out of this movie is that they finally re-released the whole cartoon series as a 3-DVD set.

The Cooler:
    The always-awesome William H. Macy plays a miserable casino employee whose job it is to screw up people's winning streaks: but he does this just by standing near them, since his super power is that he is incredibly bad luck. Then he falls in love with a girl, which is of course his kryptonite.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
    I loved these books when I was little, though I haven't read them since I was 9 or 10, I guess? From what I can remember, the story was very faithful to the book. The acting was decent, and the effects were ok. I thought they did a lot better with the realistic animals than the fantastic animals: e.g., I thought the centaurs were kind of hokey, but the beavers were great. The big battle scene was mercifully brief. Still, there was something kind of flat about the whole thing. I can't put my finger on it, since all the right elements were there, but I came out thinking it was just ok.

    Still, I liked it a lot more than the Lord of the Rings movies. I thought Fellowship was ok, but by 40 minutes into Two Towers, I was done. It turns out that about 4 hours of Tolkien is all I can stand: I never even bothered seeing Return.

    There's been a lot of talk about the Christian overtones in Lion, but really, who cares? It's still a good story, and as far as I can tell, they didn't mess with the book at all.

    Until he appeared on screen, I had completely forgotten that Santa Claus is in the story: he's their arms dealer! Onward Christmas Soldiers!

Good Night and Good Luck:
    This is about Edward Murrow going after Joe McCarthy. It was a great movie, and the analogies to modern goings-on were subtle (an easy mistake to make in a movie like this would be to beat you over the head with it, which they didn't.) I had heard that all of the McCarthy footage was historical, because they didn't want anyone accusing them of putting words in his mouth, and I was expecting some kind of CGI trickery, but it was a lot more interesting than that: they just showed you everyone watching him on tv. You get the strong impression that through this battle, Murrow and McCarthy never actually met face to face, which hadn't occurred to me.

    Overall, though, it felt like kind of a small story about office politics; I understand that standing up to McCarthy was an incredibly risky and surprising thing for someone to have done at the time, but it seemed like they didn't sell that very well.

    I kept thinking about The Insider, the story about the tobacco industry whistleblower who got left out in the cold by 60 Minutes when their corporate owners pulled the plug on the story.

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recent shows

It's been a while since I've written one of these... let's see if I can remember everything I've seen since last time. Sometimes I feel like if I don't write it down, in a few years I'll have forgotten that it even happened. Welcome to my offline memory.

Re-Animator Live:

    I enjoyed the stage production of Re-Animator, but I must say, I enjoyed their "Evil Dead Live" a lot more. Part of that is that Evil Dead is a much better story (face it, the Reanimator movies sucked ass) but I thought the production was better on Evil Dead too. It felt like a lot of Re-Animator was "ok, now we get a chance to fire the super-soakers of kool-aid at the audience again" rather than them being effects that just happened to result in a lot of splatter. The "severed talking head" effect was handled really well, though!

Capacitor: Digging in the Dark:
    Really awesome acrobatic dance performance. I don't know how to describe such things, really, but some of the bits they did were really impressive. One of the best parts was a big metal wireframe sphere, full of people: they'd hang symetrically on the outside and change its rotation by leaning in and out.

Cirque du Soleil: Corteo:
    This was pretty great: lots of the usual kind of incredible acrobatics and cool set design that you expect from them. But, they also always tend to throw in some really boring parts. This time it was an interminable gag about Romeo and Juliette with midget clowns. Now that sounds pretty funny, right? Well, maybe for 30 seconds, but it just went on and on... The gigantic scale of the production they put on is impressive, but both Capacitor and Cirque Éloize were much better shows, despite being so much smaller.

Henry Rollins:
    He calls it "spoken word", I call it "stand-up comedy", but either way, it's not to be missed. He stands there and tells stories about his life for 3+ hours, and is absolutely hilarious, even when he's telling you the most horrible, heart-wrenching things. This time he talked about going on a USO tour, meeting horrifically wounded soldiers, the last days of Johnny Ramone, his trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and all kinds of things. I've seen him a bunch of times and never heard him repeat a story, and he always makes me hurt from laughing so hard at least once during the show. And want to blow up the world a few other times.

Dig Jelly:
    This was a nu-metal/punk band consisting of a tiny asian girl singer and three surfer-dudes. They were enthusiastic, but not very good. I guess the best thing I can say about them is that she looks like she works out a lot.

    Southern rock. Absolutely intolerable. I guess the best thing I can say about them is that their music is timeless: in that a time traveller wouldn't have any idea which of the last four decades he had landed in.

Veruca Salt:
    The reason I suffered through the previous two bands, and oh yes, it was worth it. I'd never seen them before, and they were great. I was surprised at how much like the albums they sounded. I wonder whether that means the albums captured their live sound well, or whether it went the other way around. The between-song banter was pretty funny, too: "it's been a few years since we've been here, and I've had a few breakups in the meantime. You might know that, since I wrote an album about them... but it's ok, I'm over it now!"

    A couple of times, the guitar player just passed his guitar out into the crowd and let random people bang on it. Then he'd wave, and it'd get passed back up to him. Brave man!

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