Thursday, June 29, 2006

My "Superman Returns" Review

I saw Superman Returns tonight with Bernie, and, without giving everything away, here were my impressions:

Brandon Routh was good. As good as it is possible to be when you are stepping into a role that was owned by Christopher Reeve. Routh doesn't have the universal good looks of Reeve, and he was playing a very mournful Superman, wheras Reeve was always a confident, smiling Superman (though a bit dumb, IMHO), but Routh did a fine job and will own this role eventually.

Overall, I loved the movie. It advanced the story of Superman in ways that you didn't expect, and that was the failure of all the previous incarnations of the Superman franchise. This one took brave new steps, which was refreshing.

I had only two problems with it:

#1. This movie was 30 minutes too long, and there were lots of places it could have been easily cut that would have benefitted it. On example is a scene near the end where Lois convinces her fiance' to turn around a seaplane so she can go back and rescue Superman, then they land, she jumps in the water, and finds him sinking, unconscious, and pulls him to the surface, then swims to the plane. They showed every bit of it. This could have been cut to him hitting the water, sinking and having a hand grab his cape and pull him out. This would have saved 5 minutes by itself. I didn't need to see Lois's motivation to go back for him. Obvious and redundant.

#2. The bad guy plot. Luthor gets the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude, engineers them to grow a new continent in the ocean that contains lots of kryptonite (and will also put the whole USA underwater, killing billions of people).

--a side note here, I always had a problem with Luthor being a genocidal maniac with a real estate fetish. Luthor shouldn't be motivated by greed, he should be motivated by revenge. He's supposed to be Superman's nemesis. The original movie made Luthor out to be a two-bit thug who thought big, and Superman Returns reinforced this premise. I hate it.--

Superman eventually lifts the whole kryptonite continent out of the water and puts it into orbit. This is after it's established that setting foot on the continent makes him so weak he can't stand up. It's just not plausible that he could overcome that by willpower alone. Kryptonite does two things by established rule - it takes away his powers, and it can kill him if he stays near it too long. Suspending those rules just because you need him to get out of a bad situation smells of deus ex machina, and is simply bad plotting. Shame on the writer!

Minor quibbles include:

  • The costume (which went in the wrong direction - it needed a muted blue and brighter red, and a bigger S shield, and the collar was too high for the cape to tuck in properly.)

  • A lack of "feel-good" moments for the big guy. This is truly a sad movie!

  • The fact that Clark Kent is apparently paid to sit around the office and not write a darn thing (He lets Lois do his assignment for him, for heaven's sake! Slacker!).

  • The fact that Superman causes three of Luthor's henchmen to get crushed by a falling cliff. Superman NEVER kills. Not ever!
But I don't let little things get in the way of enjoying the movie. There are some goosebump moments when Routh takes some iconic poses thoughout the movie. That was nice. The "Superman is Jesus" thing was nice (though I bet that my friend Chris pans the whole movie because of it). Jimmy Olsen is just great throughout the whole film. The effortless flying is wonderful. The cape on the costume is terriffic in the way it flaps and hangs during flight. The way the bullets bounce off Superman is great. Clark Kent is spot on - even better than Reeve's, IMHO.

Conclusion: Well worth seeing. Make sure you visit the rest room before the movie starts, though. I'm looking forward to the next one where we can hopefully jettison the baggage of the old movies and move forward. (Mr. Singer - please read some of the old comics for plots and villain ideas, OK?)

***Additionally, I agree with this guy on most points. The third act could have been much improved.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Waiter! Waiter!

Today wasn't the best day to eat out, I guess. We went to breakfast at a nice place in Indian Trail, Johnny K's. We've had breakfast there before on Sunday and it can be quite busy, but really good ol' Southern breakfast food. Today, it wasn't packed, but we had to wait 30 minutes for our eggs and pancakes after ordering. The waitress was really nice and apologetic, explaining that two really large groups had arrived just before us and therefore, the kitchen was backed up. We weren't in a hurry, and the food came out hot and delicious, so no big deal. I told Bernie that I'd never mind a wait for food, so long as it comes out hot.

We skipped lunch, and Bernie wanted to use some coupons we had for Steak 'n Shake, because she had never been there before. I told her that the food was just average there, but the ice cream was great. Anyway, we went there for dinner. Guess what? After ordering, the food took more than 30 minutes to arrive, and we saw food that looked suspiciously like our order sitting in the kitchen pass-thru window for 10 minutes. When the waitress brought us our food, that was indeed our tray, and the food was cold. We sent it back and waited 10 more minutes for our order to be re-made. This time it was hot. Still just average, though. I'd take a Hardee's thickburger or a Backyard Burger over Steak n' Shake any day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Johnny Cash I'm Not...

Here are all the States that I have visited (I don't include ones where I simply made a flight connection or drove through to get to somewhere else)

create your own personalized map of the USA

And here's where I've been in the world. Not too good, ah?

create your own visited country map

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Those Who Love Sausage and the Law...

...should never watch either being made. So true.

This weekend, my old buddy Bert will be coming down from Raleigh and we will be making loads and loads of homemade sausage. I expect we will start with 30 lbs of pork butt, and make about 5 kinds of sausage to freeze and use all year.

I got a new grinder attachment for my stand mixer for Christmas, and I can't wait to try it out. (We once had an unfortunate accident with the hand grinder, but Bert still has 9 fingers left. The sausage that year tasted pretty good, actually. Just kidding.)

We'll grind up the meat, divide it into batches, season each batch differently, and squeeze it into casings. (and, yes, we use real casings made from pig intestines. If you don't want to know, don't ask.)

We'll make some German sausage (ginger and garlic), Hot Italian (red pepper), Breakfast (maple and brown sugar), Southern (sage and herbs), and Chinese (hoisin and cinnamon). Then we divide it all up and freeze it.

The best part of all this is the seasoning and tasting - you season the batch, then make a small patty and fry it, taste it, decide whether it needs tweaking, then repeat.

This is actually quite fun, and there's nothing like throwing a coil of homemade sausage on the grill on July 4th!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Rant About Other People's Kids

Bernie and I went to church today. We've been shopping churches between weekends when we are too tired to go at all, and we tried a new one today. I have never been an enthusiastic church-goer, and I would desperately love to find something enjoyable about the experience, but I really haven't found it yet.

Today might have been the first exception to the rule, but I'll never know, because some woman let her 3 year old whine and bawl continuously (yes, CONTINUOUSLY) throughout the whole service. At the top of her lungs. Apparently without any effort from the mother to shut her up, and definitely without any attempt to remove the kid from the church so that others could attempt to understand the pastor. I just wanted to kill her and her kid.

Here's what the sermon sounded like:

"I would like to teach the sermon from the book of NOOOOOOO MOOOOOMMMMYYY where Saint Peter WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA on the road NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA DONNNNWANNNNNAAAAAAAAAA and said to them NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO brothers and sisters WAAAAAAANTTTT DAAAADDDDYYYYYYY....."

I noticed while I was trying to ignore the shouting and whining and bawling that many other children under the age of 3 were present, and some of them were not quiet, either.

So here's my rant:

WHY would someone bring a child that couldn't understand one single thing about what's going on to a church service? The mother isn't getting any benefit, either, since she's constantly picking up the child and bouncing her, trying to get her to look at a picture book, etc. Why not leave? Instead, hundreds of people are denied their chance to worship. Look at how churches go out of their way to give you a way to avoid this:

  • There is a free day-care at every church I've ever been to, to keep the kids happy while their parents worship.
  • There are usually 'quiet pews' behind glass where families with loud kids can sit and not disrupt the service.
  • There is also a 'children's church' where the kids can get a little bible teaching seperate from the adults.
And this b-witch decided to ignore all of them.

I'm not a big fan of ultra-conservative denominations, but in a Southern Baptist church, an usher would have come to this woman and escorted her out. And I would have stood up and applauded.

I'm telling all of you this - When Bernie and I have kids, they will not be coming to movies or to church or to weddings, funerals, etc, until they are capable of being quiet for extended periods. If my kids aren't a joy to be around, I won't force anyone to be around them.

I can only hope that there is a special circle of hell for inconsiderate parents.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I Got Nuttin'

Well...I got just a little...

Here's the week's events in bullet format:

  • One of my co-workers walked out of the office this week and never came back. Guess who gets her accounts now?

  • My friends Phil and Selena are visiting us for the weekend. We got to proudly show off the house last night. That always feels good.

  • Hockey. Go 'Canes, but I'm not planning on watching. It'll be nice to see the cranial smoke from Canada when the Stanley Cup heads to NASCAR country, though. Maybe somebody'll strap it to the roof of Jeff Gordon's car for a lap or two.

  • Spending freeze. Bernie tells me we spent $5000 last month. I already knew we were making improvements to the house too fast, and this confirms it. We can live with what we've got for a while. I plan on spending my free time this weekend trying to save the lawn from the forces of evil.
That's it. Pretty boring week for me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Forced Labor

I probably have the most unique relationship with my parents. My folks love me and want me to have nice things. Unfortunately, those nice things are subject to opinion, and the one that counts is theirs.

Today is a wonderful example. Last summer, Dad bought me not one, but seven crape myrtle trees to plant at our new house. Last summer, the house hadn't even been selected, much less built and moved into, so buying me trees - especially trees that neither Bernie or myself had approved - was just a bit premature. Lucky for them that Bernie and I don't hate the idea of crape myrtles. We simply have not assigned them a top priority on our "things to do" list.

Now, I am a fundamentally lazy guy. I'll spend weeks 'getting around' to something, then do it, then bask in the glory for a few more weeks before 'getting around' to something else. The pleasure of doing things at a slow pace is something I get off on. I also HATE wasting a weekend on physical labor. Weekends are for fun, not work.

So, after the fence was built (the fence was a gift from my Dad, but we had to put it up ourselves, which I wasn't thrilled with), we had a good place to plant the trees - outside the fence, next to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, after the fence-building experience, I was not crazy with the idea of digging holes in my yard, which appears to be composed of a thin layer of dirt above a neutronium-titanium base, with rocks, gravel, and construction debris filling the gap.

Starting three weeks ago, my Mom starts dropping hints, "When are we going to plant those crape myrtles?". My answer - "How about September?" was not accepted. I tried to brush it off, and managed to procrastinate until today, when I got a call in the morning, "We're coming over to plant those trees." I guess subtle hints don't do it with my folks and the fait accompli was issued.

Therefore, I spent my Saturday digging holes, getting blisters, getting severely sore muscles, and getting guilt from my Mom for allowing my Dad to dig the occasional hole, in order to plant trees that I don't have any enthusiasm for having in the first place. It's blackmail, by the way - If I don't dig a hole fast enough, Dad jumps in and starts doing it, and I catch hell from Mom.

Well, at least it's all done now. I have one day left to relax before going back to work.

Does anyone else have strong-willed parents like this?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Great Xenu! Kat's a whacko??

Apparently, Katharine McPhee is a budding Scientologist. If this had gotten out months ago, she'd have never made the final 12.

Kat and TomKat

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