Archive for May, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

Posted in holiday, humor, personal, random with tags on May 29, 2006 by Paxton

Keep in mind all the men who have died fighting for our freedoms. For it is them who have made it possible for us not to go to work today…oh and do all the things we take for granted everyday. But also the not working thing.

🙂

Dancing Hippo

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Movie Reviews: Da Vinci Code & Mission: Impossible 3

Posted in movies, reviews with tags , , on May 22, 2006 by Paxton

I saw this a few weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to the review. I wrote reviews of the first two Missions in an earlier article, so I want to continue with the newest installment in the franchise.

To recap the earlier reviews, I very much enjoyed the first movie. It was a little confusing, but very suspenseful and had some good action. I did not like the second movie. I don’t know what John Woo is smoking these days, but it must really be some good stuff because he’s focusing on getting more of that stuff than he is on his movies. When I saw MI:2 for the second time, it was marginally better, but still not a very good movie. Once again, the action was good, but the rest of the movie was a mess. It was almost a spoof on a Mission Impossible movie. Click here to see the full reviews of Mission: Impossible 1 and 2. So I was glad they waited 6 years to try to get the third one right.

In those intervening six years, though, Tom decided to make one movie I hated (Vanilla Sky), one movie I only somewhat hated (War of the Worlds) and two movies I kinda liked (Last Samurai and Minority Report). Tom also decided to lose his mind on Oprah, belittle the medicinal use of drugs, infiltrate Dawson’s Creek cutie Katie Holmes with his alien seed and buy a sonogram machine to perform illegal physical examinations on his closely guarded wife and aforementioned alien seed. So, with the announcement of another Mission Impossible, I was a little worried. Would I be able to enjoy this movie even though I think Tom’s a complete looney? We’ll see.

The first good news occured when they announced JJ Abrams as the writer/director. I had recently watched the first three seasons of Alias on DVD and thought he was the perfect choice. Next, the cast was coming together nicely. Ving Rhames was returning, Keri Russell was going to be a fellow agent and Phillip Seymore Hoffman was going to be the bad guy. His recent Oscar win for Capote aside because I didn’t see it, I had loved him in State & Main and Twister. The cast was pretty strong, hopefully the story will be too.

Well, the script is tight. The movie was fantastic. The style and action reminded me very much of The Bourne Identity. Gritty, realistic, personal. Many of the action scenes are intense, too. Literally, in the first ten minutes, several people have died. Not as many as in, say, Lucky Number Slevin or Saving Private Ryan, but several people bite it that you weren’t expecting. The cool gadgets make a nice return, too. You see how the cool masks get created and more neat little toys. There is a phenomenal action piece where Cruise breaks into a building to retrieve the “Rabbit’s Foot”. Left me on the edge of my seat.

I will confess, there may be some parts where the going gets pretty confusing. The action is fast, and you pretty much just have to hold on and enjoy the ride. For me, though, this was easily as good, if not better, than the first one. See it with confidence.

While consulting in the early 2000s, I was surrounded by people reading The Da Vinci Code on the plane. I knew I had to read it, but I wanted to wait until it came out in paperback. Little did I know, at that time, that it would take YEARS. While in New York I stumbled across a discarded copy of Angels & Demons, the prelude to Da Vinci. Knowing it came first, I read it (and Da Vinci still hadn’t hit paperback). I loved it. The reading was fast paced and the subject matter was fascinating. This made me even more excited to start The Da
Vinci Code
. Since, at this time, it still wasn’t out in paperback I borrowed a well-worn copy of it from my mother. I read it and loved it. The story pace was very similar and the subject matter, again, was fascinating. I still prefer Angels & Demons, though, to its more famous brother. I enjoyed these two so much I read Dan Brown’s other two books, Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which have nothing to do with Robert Langdon or the previous two books. They are also very fascinating, fast-paced and remarkable reads. As a matter of fact, of Brown’s four books, my favorite is Digital Fortress, followed closely by Angels & Demons.

I heard there was to be a movie of The Da Vinci Code after reading the book. I was excited until they announced Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. I had trouble seeing him as the titular symbologist. I would have preferred seeing Mark Harmon or George Clooney (who was actually on the list of potential actors). I did celebrate the casting of Ian McKellen as Sir Lee Teabing and Paul Bettany as Silas. All that was left was to sit and wait.

My wife and I finally got to see the movie on the Sunday afternoon after it was released. The theater was still packed. The movie was very enjoyable. I think people who have read the book might be more inclined to enjoy it than those who haven’t. Even though they gloss over a lot of the historical details, it can still be pretty daunting to comprehend all that the characters are talking about if you haven’t read the book and been exposed to it. As for my wife and I, we really enjoyed it and, by the end, Tom Hanks had persuaded me that he was a good pick for Robert Langdon. I also enjoyed the very pretty French lady they cast as Sophie Noveau.

The movie practically flies through scenes and takes you on a breakneck, information laden chase through Europe for the truth behind the “Holy Grail”. There has been much controversy of the theories presented in the book and movie. Apparently people are taking what they read in this book as historical fact and thinking that the Catholic Church performed a worldwide coverup of the marriage between Jesus and Mary. If you go to Dan Brown’s website, there is a FAQ on The Da Vinci Code which explains that a lot of the ideas put forth by the book are just theories that have never been proven. The groups/sects of people and their rituals were true, but the way he uses them and their significance were all created by him for the novel. The ideas are interesting as just that, ideas in a historical fiction novel. Nothing more. The “controversy” has been good for the movie’s publicity though, no?

I know the movie will do well, so I hope they decide to move ahead with Angels & Demons next. That will be a sight to see.

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Movie Novelizations #3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Posted in books, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2006 by Paxton

Everyone has heard of the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, the show is a darkly humorous take on horror movies and teen dramas that has captured a very specific and loyal audience. The mythology of the show is very intricate and the rules very strict. In fact, the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer bears little resemblance to the 1992 movie that birthed it.

Back in 1992, 20th Century Fox decided to release Joss Whedon’s creation about a cheerleading vampire killer. Unfortunately, they also thought his vision was too dark. They decided to re-write it and make it more humorous and remove some of the darker aspects of the slayer myths and much of the killing. They continued to re-write throughout filming. So much so, that Joss walked off the set never to return. 20th Century Fox went ahead without him and we all saw the result. The movie tanked. I saw it in the theater because I thought it had a very interesting premise. While the underlying ideas were very cool, the execution was a complete disaster. If you are familiar with the tv shows Buffy and Angel, then you can hear parts of the movie that shadow what may have been. Donald Sutherland is great as the watcher, Merrick. Kristy Swanson is a pretty good, Buffy, too. The movie falls apart with the performances of two people. Rutger Hauer as Lothos, and Luke Perry as Pike. These two are bad, laughably bad. Not laugh ha-ha, but laugh “oh my god this is awkward” bad. I expected this from Luke Perry, as I was never a fan of him, even when I was watching 90210 religiously. But Rutger Hauer has had some really good roles. I have no idea what happened, but it wasn’t good whatever it was.

Buffy DVD Angel DVD
Since the movie was so bad, it took Joss another 5 years before he could begin to get the ball rolling on the Buffy storyline again. Figuring the damage done by the movie had long been forgotten, he wrote a somewhat “sequel” to his original Buffy script that became the pilot to a new show about the same character. To further distance the show from the movie, he moved the setting from LA to the fictional Sunnydale, CA and recast the lead actress. The show became a hit and spawned a very successful spinoff, Angel. I didn’t jump on the Buffy bandwagon right away. It was one of the first shows on the new WB in 1997 and I was just not convinced. After hearing about it for several years I checked it out but was a little lost because the storyline was so involved. Although I didn’t like it, I watched Angel which aired right after it. This show, while also confusing, had several characters I very much enjoyed and a darker premise. I really enjoyed Angel and watched it off and on until it was cancelled in 2004. I joined Netflix while consulting so I could watch the entire 5 season DVD collection of Angel. I finished it in Spring 2005 and the show stands as one of my favorite shows of all time. Buffy has been harder to finish. I am currently working through the season 3 DVDs as I have time (I bought the seven season Chosen Collection cheap during a sale last november). The show definately improves each season.

Anywho, that brings me to the 1992 movie novelization. What I was really hoping for was that the book would reflect the original Joss Whedon script and not the shooting script. I was wrong. There are several differences between the book and movie, though. Don Sutherland’s Merrick kills himself in the book to save Buffy, but he gets killed in the movie (like a bitch). The prologue in the book gives more information on the history of the slayers as opposed to the movie. Also, in the end, you see Buffy and Pike ride off into the sunset on a motorcycle. In the book, you see them ascending a long staircase at an old stone building, I guess alluding to their further adventures. The rest is pretty much the same. I enjoyed the book and there was definately more evidence of Joss’ writing in the book than in the movie. It’s an interesting proposition to think what would have been the result of the movie and tv show if they had used his original, and darker script. Would the movie have been successful? Would that have led to more movies and no tv show? Who knows.

A final note on the 1992 movie. I was suprised how many famous faces show up in this movie. One of Buffy’s group of girlfriends is Hilary Swank. Luke Perry’s buddy is David Arquette. If you watch closely at the end during the final basketball game, you’ll see Ben Affleck in a quick scene. The school’s counselor is Stephen Root who played Milton in Office Space and Jimmy James on the TV show NewsRadio. Several suprises I didn’t expect. Doesn’t really help the watchabilty of the movie, though.

Other Movie Novelization Reviews:
Clue: The Movie
Back to the Future Trilogy

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Crashing the House of Mouse for my Birthday!

Posted in Disney World, Florida, holiday, Orlando, personal, roadtrip with tags , , , , , , on May 14, 2006 by Paxton

Walt Disney World

This article has been over a week in the writing. Work has been slamming me so I’ve had to write it on and off over many days. Hope you enjoy it. It’s longer than usual so just bear with me.

I wanted to go somewhere fun for my birthday.  Since I now live in Jacksonville, FL, Walt Disney World is only two and a half hours away.  I hadn’t been since 1999, so I decided that is where I wanted to go.  When I went in 1999, my favorite park was Disney/MGM Studios because it had more of the rides and shows that I enjoyed.  To help seal the deal, Disney/MGM had also added a new ride, the Aerosmith Rock & Roller Coaster, since I’d been there last.  So on Cinco de Mayo we packed up the car and headed down to Orlando.

We stayed at a Courtyard Marriot in Lake Buena Vista.  It was, literally, a 5 minute drive to the park on Saturday morning.  We get to the park around 10:30am and immediately head to the first ride, The Great Movie Ride.  A great ride, not just in name only, it is made to look like Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA.  I have been to, and seen a movie in, the real Mann’s, and it’s a great replica.  The ride is a celebration of classic movies and showcases popular scenes from these movies with wax figures and small sets.  Very cool.  It’s like riding through a large Madame Tussaud’s exhibit.   A very cool attraction I like to ride whenever I’m at MGM.

Next we headed over to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  The lines were getting a little longer, so we grabbed a Fast Pass at Tower of Terror and went to stand in line for the Aerosmith Rock N Roller Coaster.

  If you’ve been to Disney and haven’t done the Fast Pass, you are missing out.  You grab a ticket from an automatic dispenser and it tells you to return to the specified ride at a specified time, usually about 1.5 hours later.  So with Fast Pass in hand, we waited in line at the Rock n Roller Coaster.  

The ride itself was very cool. The environment while you waited in line was like you were in the lobby of a recording studio named G-Force Records.  There was a lot of musical memorabilia like gold records and concert posters. All of a sudden a large group of you are ushered into a room that looks out on a recording studio. It looks like Aerosmith is putting the final touches on a track and they notice you. They inform you that they are about to leave for a concert but they want you to come with them. The dialogue in this little drama…is BAD. Do you remember the SNL Wayne’s World sketch they were on when Tom Hanks hosted? The drummer spouts off a long diatribe about supply and demand that sounded unrehearsed and fake. That’s kinda how this sounded. They even throw in the line “Everyone knows how we feel about our fans.” I’m on the ride, I don’t need to be pandered to. Anywho, we are shuffled into the loading area where you load the roller coaster. The cars look like a stretch cadillac limousine. It’s nice. As for the ride itself, it’s very good. Fast, furious and lots of Aerosmith rock playing. The ride is a suped up, much more fun version of Space Moutain. It’s all dark except for neon street signs that keep the feeling of a high speed run to the Aerosmith concert. Lots of fun, but too short. I was having so much fun that it ended just as we got started. I realize that coasters nowadays are getting faster and shorter, mush like our attention spans, but COME ON!!! If you go to MGM Studios, definately get on this ride.

We got off the Rock N Roller Coaster at exactly the time our Fast Pass said to be back over at the Tower of Terror. So we head over and get in the Fast Pass line. We literally walked right up and into the ride. Maybe a 2 minute wait. That was nice. The Tower is a great ride. You walk through the basement of an old hotel, get in an old elevator and it takes you around the Twilight Zone until it drops you up and down in a random sequence. Very fun and thrilling. Another good ride.

Next we hopped back over to the other side of the park to visit the Star Tours gift shop. I had been on the Star Tours ride several times and so had everyone else. I didn’t see any need to go again as it is only a mediocre ride. If it wasn’t based on Star Wars, I would probably say the ride somewhat sucked. It seriously needs to be updated. While walking to the Star Tours gift shop, I noticed some things had changed since 1999. Outside the ride there used to be a life-size speeder bike you could get your picture with. Check out this cheezy pic from my visit to MGM in 1999. That is no longer there. And the gift shop, The Jawa Trader, has been upgraded tremendously. There is a lot more room and they built tatooine adobe builings around it. I guess they had to sell more merchandise. You think they would have upgraded the ride. This is what I bought at the gift shop. It’s a Star Tours passport to Florida. They never have my name personalized, so I gotta get the generic items.

From here we moved onto Muppet-Vision 3-D. This is an awesome 3-D show featuring the Muppets as they demonstrate their new breakthrough, Muppetvision. It’s pretty funny and the theater itself interacts with the movie. They even have balcony seats with Statler and Waldorf sitting in them yelling out insults just like the Muppet Show!! All of your favorite Muppets show up so it’s lots of fun. I love the Muppets so I love seeing this show everytime I go to MGM Studios.

Lunchtime, baby! We decided to eat at the nicest place in the park, The Brown Derby. It’s a recreation of a famous restaraunt in Hollywood, CA. It’s upscale and very nice. We had wine and I ordered strip steak and mashed potatoes. The food was phenomenal. If you go to MGM and don’t have a bunch of kids with you, this is the place to eat. Kids won’t like it much, but it’s a great adult place.

Lastly we hit the MGM backlot tour. It’s really short, and doesn’t compare to the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour, but it’s fun. In the beginning they show a special effects presentation featuring Pearl Harbour. They take members of the audience to perform. My group of 4 was chosen to be the participants. My wife had 900 gallons of water dumped on top of her and the rest of us stood on a fake PT boat and reacted to bombs going off around us. It was a lot of fun, but we didn’t get to see the performance. Apparently they take what we did and edit it into a short film that the people in the audience see. Since we were not with the audience and busy taking off our rain-gear we didn’t get to see the edited result and Disney said it gets deleted immediately. I was really disappointed to hear this. When we were “acting” on the PT boat, I really played it up. Running around and screaming like a girl, it was awesome. I totally wanted to see it edited together. Oh well. The rest of the tour took us on a tram ride to see a few abandoned movie props and an exploding movie set. Not bad.

By this point we were out of things to do at MGM, so we decided to park hop over to Epcot center. Epcot was in the middle of some Flower and Garden festival so it was all dressed up in pretty flowers. We first rode Spaceship: Earth which is a slow, meandering history of communication on Earth. It is housed inside the famous white “golf ball” that everyone associates Epcot with. The ride was okay, but it had been a long day and this was a welcome respite from the heat and walking. We then proceeded to the World Showcase and started to visit the countries. We went to Mexico and rode the River of Time. Another meandering “history of…” ride. The Mexican marketplace was cool, but boring. I did enjoy my “fiesta” margarita, as did everyone else in my party. We wound up drinking our margaritas while walking around Norway.

Of the countries we visited this time, my favorite was Norway…and not just because we drank margaritas next to the Maelstrom. The ride, the just mentioned Maelstrom, was fun and random, but the film they showed afterwards was a little on the silly side. Norway does have a cool giftshop where you can buy bad ass Viking helmets right next to not-so-bad-ass sweaters.

We finally stopped when I couldn’t walk anymore. I was so exhausted. We decided to hit a movie after leaving the parking lot. Well, for the next two hours we drove around looking for a theater and found nothing. The only theater we could find was the AMC at Downtown Disney, and there was no way we were getting a parking spot there on Saturday night at 8pm. Believe me, we tried.

So we went to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings and then crashed back at the hotel. This was one of the most fun trips to Disney I’ve ever had. I’m glad I got to do it for my birthday and with our friends, The Stars. It was a blast.

The drive home the next morning was an interesting event. We hit not one, but TWO crashes. The normally 2.5 hour drive back stretched into almost 5 f’n hours. I was so salty when I got home that I could’ve spit. My friend, Dave, slept probably 90% of the way. When we got back to Jacksonville he had no idea we had been stuck in traffic for like 3 hours.

None of this dampened the experience though and I look back on that trip with much fondness.

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Corona Kool-Aid…Ole!

Posted in humor, Kool Aid, Photoshop, pop culture with tags , , on May 11, 2006 by Paxton

The newest flavor…and most fun. Next to Vanilla Ice, this is my favorite creation. How cool would it be to sit down with a bowl of chips and salsa and down glass or two (or pitcher) of this sweet nectar of the gods? Mucho cool, mi amigo.

As far as Mexican beer goes, I prefer Corona Light or Pacifico, but you get the idea. Kool-Aid ain’t just for snotty noses any more. Arriba!!

Check out all my other creative, and completely made up, Kool-Aid creations here.

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Happy Birthday to Me!!

Posted in holiday, humor, personal with tags , on May 9, 2006 by Paxton

Today is my 32nd Birthday. Let’s pause to reflect on the enormity of that statement.

I am 32 years old. Three and one-fifth decades old. The only milestone left in my life, age-wise, is the Presidency. In three years I can run for President. While I do fancy myself the modern day Millard Fillmore, I don’t plan on running for president, much to the dismay of my high school guidance counselor (much love, Mrs. Kolb). I’m having a good birthday today, so thanks to everyone that’s asked.

TV Technology to Prevent Skipping Commercials? Yes.

Posted in technology, TV with tags , on May 4, 2006 by Paxton

”TV

I was checking some tech/entertainment news this morning and this article caused me to do a spit take all over myself and my computer. After wiping up Full Throttle energy drink from my pants and in my cubicle, and then apologizing to the people around me, I got back to reading the article.  Apparently, Royal Phillips Company, also known as Phillips and one of the world’s leading electronics companies, has developed, and is trying to patent, a technology that would freeze the TV channel when commercials are airing.  This technology would reside either on the TV itself or in a set-top cable box and would force TV viewers to watch commercials.

Being a TiVo owner, I have come to loathe commercials like poison.  It’s so nice to be able to flip the fast forward button twice and get right back to the show.  After having done this for so long, the idea of being forced to watch commercials causes my banana and breakfast bar to make a return visit to my esophagus.  Every once in a while, my wife and I will watch a show live and have to sit through commercials.  It’s like water torture.  Not only are most commercials extremely irritating with fast-cut MTV editing, they are broadcast at least one and a half times louder than the show you are watching.  I do admit that there are some commercials I enjoy watching.  The Geico commercials are funny with the gecko and his limey accent.  I also enjoy the Burger King big-buckin’ chicken commercial.  Bud Light will always come up with some genius spots also (to check out the latest funny Bud Light commercials go here).

This technology, however maddening or close to patent it is, could never survive real life testing.  Consumer corporations like Sony and JVC may buy it and put it in their TVs, Motorola and Texas Instruments may buy it and put it in their cable boxes.  This is a technology you know the networks and ad executives can get behind.  And all of this can be implemented inside your hardware and not turned on.  As a matter of fact, this technology could be bundled with a larger service pack and the cable companies told they need it on their boxes to be able to capture the satellite signals.  It will then sit there until one of the companies gets the testicular fortitude to turn it on for a test audience.  The minute Joe Six-Pack can’t change the channel during commercials, he’ll flood the cable company with calls thinking his box is broken or malfunctioning.  The cable company may or may not know what is going on.  The technology will then be turned off and labeled a glitch in the system.  That’s how, in all likely-hood it should play out.

At least I hope so, because if I’m forced to watch commercials, the next logical step is staking out a small place of business and taking a hostage.  You can see me on the news, while being forced to watch the commercials.

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