Tuesday, May 31, 2011


KUNG FU PANDA 2 is rated an 8 for cool fighting and for making me cry.
ATLAS SHRUGGED gets a 3 for being a Lifetime for Men movie.

1. Po isn't as Jack Black-y as he used to be. Now that he's the Dragon Warrior and running with real fighters he only gets to be silly or funny in very infrequent bursts. Weird. Being awesome doesn't automatically make you not a geek. It just means you are an awesome geek.

2. My sister and I laughed out loud when Po had to climb the stairs.

3. Since when do wolves look like rats? This is a cartoon rat:

This is a cartoon wolf:

This is a wolf in KFP2:
Also not sure that Seth Rogan was the best choice of voice for the above wolf.

4. Whomever did the art direction watched a LOT of Samurai Jack.

5. This movie might possibly have the best depiction of a parent who is a "feeder" ever captured on film. Po's duck father gives him a hug and says, "Have you lost weight? I can almost wrap my wings around you. You must be feeling SO weak. How about a steam bun?"

6. Question: Is it more or less fun to watch a film and notice all the elements which will become a video game? Discuss.

7. 3D is not critical to the enjoyment of this film.

8. Master Tigress ROCKS! And Master Viper is SO my little sister! "Whatever, Mantis, this is not about you!"

9. This film is really more of a straight kung fu movie with some inner peace and a coupe of jokes. I liked it. I want to see it again.

10. When I walked out of the theater and saw the words "Fast Five" above the neighboring theater I got really excited about there being a movie all about the Furious Five!... and then I remembered that FAST FIVE is a Vin Diesel movie. Huge disappointment.

11. On the up side, there is the potential for KUNG FU PANDA 3. =)

I must admit that I went to see this film because I A) thought it would be absolutely horrible and B) my sister was invited to see it by a man-friend and part of me delights in tagging along and "throwing off the Emperor's groove", if you know what I mean. =)

I was wrong on both counts. This movie isn't absolutely horrible and I can't be absolutely horrible to other people, even if just for fun.

However, ATLAS SHRUGGED still is a pretty bad movie. It isn't as bad as GLITTER or THE WORK AND THE GLORY, or PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, but that doesn't make it good. All those SyFi B-grade monster movies are more fun. ATLAS SHRUGGED is just Libertarian porn. Below is my list of reasons why.

1. There are only 3 women in this film and 2 of them are horrible. The other 13 primary characters are men who spend a lot of time drinking and saying "manly" things in bars or wood-paneled offices, or the back of limousines.

2. The one "good" woman in this film allegedly has an engineering degree, runs the family railroad business behind her brother's back, wears a lot of short skirts, and says things like "Where have all the good men gone?" while looking over her shoulder at her steel contractor and batting her eyelashes.

3. No one in this movie called the one "good" woman a b*%&h OR a whore. So you know it's not realistic. (Really, we are all just lucky she doesn't wear glasses that she rips off before tearing off her ill-fitting business suit. That would have been exactly like a porn. And she would have looked like Sarah Palin.)

4. It's about trains. Trains. My great-grandfathers worked for the railroads. Trains? I like trains just fine but cutting edge they are not. To make this less silly they upped the bass on all the train noises. Because if it's thundering, it's cool.

5. The actors are forced to say the most contrived ridiculous lines whey they aren't spouting off about obscure governmental jargon and complex political maneuvering. Which means I rolled my eyes through 20 percent of the dialog and ignored another 50%. Obviously this makes me an emotional and economic leech upon those with enough brilliance and genius to Get Things Done. I totally deserve to live in a collapsed economic system with a corrupt government and rioting in the street and gasoline costing $37.50 a gallon. It's all my fault.

5'. Oddly, the characters themselves express surprise at how quickly crappy legislation gets passed in Washington.

6. Somehow, in this story, it's okay to cheat on your wife. Really? If you don't like her, have the balls to get rid of her. Cheating is just tacky. And how suspiciously homosexual is it to pick the leading actor for his body alone (he wasn't picked for his acting!) in a movie made primarily for men? He has two sex scenes. And the first of them is exceedingly unpleasant.

7. Along the same lines, there is a lot of science-geek awkwardness. If you are attracted to a coworker and are contemplating cheating on your wife with her, probably not the best move to say "Did you get my wife's invitation to our anniversary party?" Well, unless it's Libertarian porn. Then that totally WORKS!

8. I'm not really sure who they are preaching to in this film. We live in a country which has Wal-Mart. We are not afraid of functional monopolies.

9. They think there's gonna be a sequel. Why do they think this? Who is John Galt?


Sorry, there are actually, according to IMDB, a few more females in this film. They are a secretary, a TV news announcer, a few waitresses, a widow rancher in Wyoming, and a bitter entitled white trash woman in Arkansas. So that makes it all better.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

THOR (7) -- by naudy

Natalie Portman has sad eyes. This is a problem because when she wants to look like she's happy, or excited, or attracted to someone, or basically any emotion which requires something other than sad eyes, she looks creepy because she always has sad eyes. Sad eyes while smiling equals grasping and desperate and panic-stricken. In the photo you should see above, Thor has just kissed her hand and she's supposed to have gone all squishy over it. Does she look swoony to you? Probably not. To me she looks like he just carefully licked her cuticles and now she thinks he's a complete nutter. (Note: there is no cuticle licking in this film.) I had thought that the wide-eyed panic one sees in her portrayal of Padme in EPISODE 1 came from being trapped in a movie directed by George Lucas. (Who, after all, made HOWARD THE DUCK.) Turns out, she just has sad eyes and it makes her look crazy when she tries to be flirty. It's not a debilitating condition, these eyes. It should just limit her range of films to intense stuff like V FOR VENDETTA, BLACK SWAN, and LEON:THE PROFESSIONAL.

THOR is three movies in one. First of all, it's a 3D movie. That means there is a ton of the swoopy, shooting-through-the-sky shots which look so cool in 3D. I didn't see it in 3D 'cause I couldn't be bothered but one can see how it was crafted to be good in that format. And, "well-crafted" is the best term for this film. It was outrageously beautiful and totally dedicated to the vision of the artistic directors. This film even had a "Food stylist" and I actually noticed it. Pumpkins are lovely. So are neatly wrapped Whoppers from Burger King. I even noticed the color palette and use of light between the three different environments. Asgard is gold and orange. The ice planet is blue and dark. New Mexico is overexposed windy big sky mid-century pastel. New Mexico incidentally has some mid-century furniture which, while striving to look like thrift store castaways, are expensive high-quality vintage pieces. Trust me, no one operating on a research grant can afford to buy lawn furniture that old and ugly. And airstream trailers are expensive. Am I criticising 'cause it's not realistic? Nope. I'm just appreciating the amount of cash they spent to make it look like it was cheap. =)

Secondly, this film is a broad Shakespearean father-sons play. It's slightly cheesy, totally predictable and I didn't mind. I don't know how it works, but Kenneth Branagh is in charge so it does work. What the previews don't tell you is that THOR is mostly a sci-fi movie about immortal alien royalty set on another planet. There's all sorts of noble things happening in massive halls and battles on ice planets and confrontations between powerful men and it's fairly engaging. I am happy Mr Branagh did this film. A film with overtones of Henry V is fantastic. (It could, after all, have been more like EPISODE 3, REVENGE OF THE SITH.) The only downside to this was my sister yelling "Johnny Weir -- on ice!" whenever the character Loki was around. To be fair she does have a point. Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki looks like this:

Johnny Weir looks like this:
Thirdly, and last, this film is part of the buildup for THE AVENGERS which comes out next summer. You see Agent Coulson really early in the film and we like it when we see Clark Gregg because we know he works for SHIELD. He complains about Tony Stark, other mysterious folks are focused on for no obvious reason, and everyone in the theater waited for the credits to end so Samuel L. Jackson could show up and say something cryptic. I don't know what THE AVENGERS will be like but odds are I'll go see it, especially since Samuel L. Jackson won't be carrying a purple light saber.

Friday, May 06, 2011

When an economist reads The Onion

This isn't a movie review. So sue me.

The other day I was happily listening to the third lecture from a class at Berkley (which I am not paying for since they post that stuff online for free) about the Psychology of Buddhism when I saw on the facebook that my buddy James had posted a link to a lecture about education. I was quickly into that and I had to laugh when the lecturer himself, addressing the audience, said "You people are weird. Unlike most of the world, you people go to lectures about education for FUN!"

And I remembered that I'm the kid who used to read the dictionary for amusement (words are cool!) and was grounded FROM the library. These days I'm excited when the TEDTalks link of the day shows up on my facebook feed. I am a NERD.

I blame my mother. I was home-schooled for most of my life so I never learned that learning sucks. It was something fun to do between chores and playing Uno with my little sister. When I got to college I discovered that I LOVED lectures (not so many of those in home-schooling. Well, not educational ones, anyway. Ha!) You can learn cool stuff by just sitting there and listening? AMAZING! Whoever invented this was a genius! Then the Internet came along and now I can sit around in my underwear (as opposed to the pyjamas I used to wear in college) and learn stuff.

So, because this is my blog and I can do what I want, I am gonna offer some reviews/summaries of some of my current favorite lectures. If you are part of the majority of society who dislikes lectures, thank you for reading - class is dismissed. The brains here are gonna get their party on. =)

**** Intermission ****

Okay. Let's get started. The most recent lecture (and the one for which this blog is titled,) is called "The Case Against Education" and it's by a big honking libertarian economist named Bryan Caplan. He's funny. Here's the link:


Now, he didn't just come out and say that he got his ideas after reading this article in The Onion


but I like to think he didn't have to. =) His main premise is that the educational system in the U.S. contains and appalling amount of wasted time and money spent learning things with little or no practical value. He maintains that the majority of our higher education functions simply as a signal to others that we are an acceptable, conformist, work-oriented person in the hopes that someone will give us a job. Mr. Caplan says that it would be a better investment if the government would stop spending so much time forcing folks to sit in school learning arbitrary stuff with no practical value. This would free up folks to get jobs and actually start learning something useful.

There's a longish Q&A section at the end of this lecture (it clocks at about 1 hour 15 min) where people raise all sorts of objections. Mr. Caplan is pretty dismissive of their concerns but he's an economist and isn't so into feelings. One comment I did really like, though, was right at the very end. Someone must have said that a Liberal Arts education is good for you (I don't know what they actually said since you can't hear the questions.) Mr. Caplan said that he loved opera and high culture but a lot of folks don't. If you force everyone in the U.S. to attend the opera on the grounds that it is good for them all you will do is cause a lot of unneeded suffering.

I am an opera singer and I think this is funny because it is true. =)

Anyway, I enjoyed this lecture 'cause it made me think, was based on actual math, and got me all rant-y and fired up about our educational system. It also showed me that I'm not very libertarian. Nice to have extremes to contrast oneself against.

**** 10 min break ****

Moving on. My next lecture is from the TED series and is about political apathy. Here's the link:


For those who don't know, TED started out as a conference in 1984 which brought folks from Technology, Entertainment, and Design (thus TED) fields together to discuss fun stuff. It has evolved into a place which supports the COOLEST THINGS EVER and I can spend hours listening to folks on their website.

Anyway this lecture is a nice little 7 minutes and presents Mr Meslin's 7 reasons why folks don't get involved with local, state, or national issues. Well, he didn't say state because he's Canadian but I don't think that makes any of this invalid. It just makes it polite. =) I really liked this lecture and I'm not gonna explain it any more than I have because you have already spent more than 7 minutes reading this ginormous posting of mine so it shouldn't be a problem popping over to TED for a bit. Go ahead and do that. I can wait. =)


And we're back. To finish up I'm gonna recommend a BBC miniseries that I had in my Netflix queue as "unknown" for years and then took it off 'cause someone posted the whole 4 hours of it on YouTube. We live in a beautiful world. Here's the link:


It's called "Century of Self" and it's about how the concepts of Sigmund Freud changed America. I find it fascinating. It challenged all the beliefs I held as established and made me look at materialism, advertising, and my relationship to it. It is well made and a fun way to spend 4 hours. Heads up, though, when they get to the '70's with all the hippies doing scream therapy and hot tubing together there is a bit of naked going on. It's made in England so they don't freak out about that sort of thing as much. Just an FYI.

Oh. So this ended up being a movie review after all. Huh.


And, that's it for today. Remember to read your syllabus and be prepared for a pop quiz. =)