Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Love You, Man (2009)

Reminiscent of the 40-Year-Old Virgin, I Love You, Man, stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in bromantic glory. Although it has many of the Judd Apatow crew, it's not an Apatow Kingdom production.

When Peter (Rudd), an LA real estate agent, asks girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) to jump the broom, he has no male friends to tell and fewer to ask to be in his wedding party. He's been much more a "girlfriends" type guy and never made any male friends. When he realizes that this concerns Zooey and that he won't have groomsmen to match her six bridesmaids, he embarks on a man-friend hunt. He first enlists the help of his gay brother, Robbie (Andy Samberg), who starts Peter on the idea of man-dates to meet guys.

During an an open-house event Peter is hosting in an attempt to sell Lou Ferrigno's house, he meets Sydney (Segel) who isn't interested in buying a place, but attends open houses for the free food. The pal-ship begins and we are led through the stages of their budding relationship, but will there be enough room for Zooey?Viva la Rush

ILYM gets rolling immediately and doesn't lose steam. The theater was brimming with men and women with lots of laughs to be had. The casting brings out the sizzle. Rudd is an excellent choice for the lead. He exploits the unaffected simplicity he does so well. The same could be said for Segel, but he brings guileless confidence to Sydney's character. Other cast includes Jaime Pressly, Jon Favreau (as an odd couple who get their kicks by constant acrimony, Jane Curtin (as Peter's mother) and Lou Ferrigno, as himself! An in-theater must see (don't leave the movie get a snippet of fun midway through the end credits).

Director: John Hamburg

Country: US

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 105 minutes

Scale: 5

At the Death House Door (2008)

Carroll Pickett was a devout minister so dedicated that his congregation saw him more than his own wife and kids. When his wife asked him to leave his post at the church for the sake of their family and to save their marriage, he acquiesced. Shortly thereafter, Pickett was offered a ministerial post at the State Penitentiary in Huntsville, TX. He accepted the post but wasn't prepared for the bleakness and loneliness of prison. But, just like he did with the congregation, he built upon it. His new church had no organ, no choir. So, he started a choir with the inmates, including one of Don Ho's former backup singers, as well as a former Texas Supreme Court Justice who Pickett says, "sang like an angel."

Crosses marking prison cemetary graves The documentary dovetails Pickett's life--his devotion to work and how he came to oppose the death penalty--with the story of Carlos De Luna--a death-row inmate Pickett counseled prior to being executed for a crime widely believed De Luna didn't commit.

In 1982, Pickett learned he'd minister a death-row inmate for the first execution in Texas since 1964. Pickett would spend the day--from 6am through midnight when the inmate would be strapped to the gurney for the lethal injection--with the prisoner. He'd be responsible to earn the inmate's trust, counsel him, and above all, "seduce his that he won't fight at midnight."

Charles Brooks was his first. He presided over 95 during his tenure at Huntsville. After each execution, he'd return home and record an audio tape transcript that included his reactions, reflections and thoughts about the prisoner. In the audio clips, you can hear the burdened sadness on Pickett's voice. While extremely hopeful and a mighty believer in people's power to change, Pickett's family suffered due to his dedication to his work. In a scene where his grown children question Pickett about his views on capital punishment (they don't know with certainty), it's obvious how little they know him and vice versa. Although he's extremely forthcoming and open, the kids contend he kept his emotions locked up and they never knew what was going on with him; his post-execution tapes were a revelation.

But the question remains, was Pickett ultimately serving the state or the inmates?

Directors: Peter Gilbert and Steve James

Country: US

Genre: Documentary

Run time: 100 minutes

Scale: 4

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Then She Found Me (2007)

First, the good. Helen Hunt co-wrote the screenplay. She also directed, produced and starred in this movie based on the novel by Elinor Lipman. I admire her for taking so much on.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

The bad.I couldn't finish it. Helen Hunt's character April Epner BADLY wants to have a kid. As the movie opens, you can see the strain on everyone, especially her husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), who ends up leaving her very soon to pursue a different life. Upon the heels of that incident, her adoptive mother who keeps encouraging her to adopt, dies. Then, her birth mother (Bette Midler)pops into her life wanting a relationship. This movie takes on too much too quickly with emotional detachment. In the midst of all this traumatic chaos, teacher April meets the eccentric writer father (Colin Firth) of one of her students and he hits on her in an odd manner. Soon, after this, I turned it off. I couldn't stand it. It was wasn't for me. Helen Hunt was never a favorite. I remember enjoying Mad About You, but in this, her character is annoying, whiney and needs to gain weight. I can't endorse this yawn fest.

Director: Helen Hunt

Country: US

Genre: Boring

Run time: 100 minutes

Scale: 0

In Treatment (2008)

The main reason I said yes to cable after a 13-year hiatus was for HBO. Six-Feet Under, Sopranos, Sex and the City, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords, Life and Times of Tim and, most recently, In Treatment.

Gabriel Byrne plays Paul, a 50-year-old shrink, caught in a mid-life crisis and a crumbling marriage. Each show is a session with a client. Four days a week, we are in session with the same client on the same day. Every Monday is Laura (Melissa George), a young, attractive doctor who declares her love for Paul after a year in therapy. Tuesday, is Alex (Blair Underwood), a perfectionist Navy pilot who comes to therapy after an disastrous bombing in Iraq and a recent heart attack. On Wednesdays, it's Sophie (Mia Wasikowska), the teenage Olympic-hopeful gymnast who comes to Paul in hopes he will prepare an analysis that states she did not attempt suicide in a recent accident. On Thursdays, we get to know Amy (Embeth Davidtz) and Jake (Josh Charles), a volatile couple trying to figure out if they should follow through with Amy's 2nd pregnancy. Fridays are dedicated to Paul's own therapy with his former mentor, Gina (Dianne Wiest).

In Treatment is based on an Israeli drama called Be’ Tipul. HBO's adaptation is said to be faithful, albeit a few minor tweaks.

Sophie on

The first season has eight episodes of each client's therapy. The set up is odd at first. Without outside characters providing their usual judgements and opinions to push along the plot, you tarry in forming rounded ideas about the characters. Paul discusses the clients and his feelings and attitudes about them with Gina. Gina offers her own comments and it starts to work. After a few weeks, the characters and their volley sessions with Paul become addictive. You want to know...will Paul succumb to his desire for Laura and start a relationship with her? Will Alex fly too soon? Can Jake and Amy survive if they work through their differences? Is Paul too jaded to continue practicing? Why is Paul so antagonistic toward Gina? Events occur that get Paul out of the office. By the last episode, it's hypnotic. First season released this week to DVD; second season kicks off on HBO in a week. I cannot wait. From the sneak peek trailers, it looks like the client-patients are new. Uh-oh. What about my old favs?

Il Ya A Longtemps Que Je T'aime (I've Loved You So Long) (2008)

I remember Kristin Scott Thomas and her austere beauty from Four Weddings and a Funeral. Her character's love for Hugh Grant's character went unrequited. Here, she still possesses that same graveness in addition to boasting her French fluency--ooh la la.

The opening scene pans to Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas). The camera closes in on her face--make-up-free, haggard, lacking emotion. It's clear she is waiting, but for whom? And why?

Juliette has just been released from prison where she's served 15 years for killing her then six-year-old son. Juliette's sister, Léa (Elsa Zylberstein), shows up to take her to Léa's. Although we don't yet know what happened, Léa is clearly full of joy and happy to have her sister back, but the nagging question remains...why did Juliette commit this heinous crime? We soon learn that Juliette's husband testified against her, her parents shunned her and her sister was brainwashed against her only sibling. Léa's husband isn't keen on having Juliette in their home with their two kids.

The first hour drags. I love that foreign films take their time telling stories, but there is a fine line. Almost as soon as the second hour kicked in, the movie picked up. The pieces began tying together. The sisters start getting past the informal, polite conversations into the nitty gritty. One felt shut out; the other abandoned. As they rebuild their relationship, Juliette struggles with integrating back into the world--work, men and friends. How does she explain her absence and sudden re-appearance? Eventually, you learn what happened with her son.

The movie delves into themes of connection, dreams and lost hopes. The acting is terrific. The turmoil felt by the sisters and a few secondary characters who become close to them is palpable. However, the movie could have easily been edited down 30 minutes. While I enjoyed it, it was too built up by the time I saw it and in the first hour, I lost some focus. This movie was nominated for two Golden Globes and heaps of other awards, so maybe I'm just a blowhard.

Director: Philippe Claudel

Country: France

Genre: Drama

Run time: 120 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Dash

Que frio! The dash is a well-loved tradition. In its 25th year, the race teemed with participants of all ages adorned, as usual, in vibrant, creative duds, including green tutus, dyed green hair, kilts; curly colorful wigs, animal suits, green caps, green socks, shamrocked arm warmers, leg warmers and stretchy athletic gear in bright wacky colors on a 5K course through Seattle. The predominant color, of course, is green.

The plans for the dash morphed all week--to run or to walk? With what group of folks? Who would meet up in the beer garden? In the end, Corinn and I were the troupers. We walked at a brisk pace. Large spongy snowflakes fell as we began; they later turned into a downpour. I wasn't cold until after the race. Then, the cold, wind and rain hit me, just when we were searching for the beer garden. It was housed inside a Seattle Center building. The line was LONG--at least 30-45 minutes--to get in. So, we instead headed to meet Carrie and Andy at the Five Point Cafe. A & C didn't do the race but they were in full support mode. (Shouts out!). They were there--warm and Corinn and Carriesettled with spots in their booth ready for the two soaking girls. I ordered Huevos Rancheros. Eggs were cooked over-easy--just the way I love--and placed atop a plate full of long, thin, crispy chip strips.Below the chips, a layer of chili. The entire concoction was topped with sour cream, salsa and jalapeños. It was the ultimate in deliciousness. Food never tastes better than after a rigorous workout. Andy played great music on the jukebox, including, AC/DC, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Guns and Roses and the Pixies.

Big Money and Tired Girl I spent a lot of time in the ladies room running the hand dryer for warmth. First, I dried my hair, then my warm-up jacket, followed by my gloves and hat, and finally my outer shell. Things remained damp. From there, we walked through Seattle Center to meet folks at Floyd's. The weather had turned. The sum made a shy appearance, but the wind stole the show. The gusts against my damp clothing were brutal! At Floyd's, I indulged in a hot chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream. It was an enjoyable afternoon. My only regret is that I never got to Pesos to meet Elli and her crew.

Next year, the Dash awaits, but fingers crossed for better weather.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Getting Lost in Boise

When I announced I was going to Boise for the weekend, the comments were in same vein: they all poked fun at Boise. "Why Boise?" "Ooh, exotic Boise." What I learned and these nay-sayers don't know is that Boise is a growing city. It's clean and culturally rich. It has a vibrant nightlife, friendly folks and lots to do!

I arrived there late on Thursday night. My host, John Mooney, picked me up at the airport. He had hot dinner waiting for me (thanks, John!). John has several roommates: Antonio and Angela are the humans. Then, there are the animals: Foxy (the best teacup Pomeranian I've ever met--she's the only one, but I'm sure she's the best), Nick the border collie, Chaoie--the long-hair Chihuahua and Tomás, the orange cat.

After dinner on Thursday, John, Antonio and I headed to a pirate-themed bar called The Plank where it was karaoke night.

Lady Pirate  






 The Plank with John and Antonio

Because we got there late, we only got to see a few rounds of karaoke. There was a group of young dudes and two of them performed Rock Lobster by the B-52s. As they began their duet, the lanky guy went crazy with his alto singing and the husky guy instructed him over the mic: "Dude, don't blow your load so early." Maybe you had to be there, but it made for a hilarious song and even better line for the remaining weekend. Here they are:

Rock Lobster duet 






John doing Proclaimers' "I Would Walk 5,000 Miles":

Devil boy doing karaoke

Exiting The Plank, I posed with the excellent Polaroid collage:

Plant Polaroids







Marquee near The Plank: Bueno, Cheapo, Vino:


The Foxy show begins that night, back at Antonio's Neverland Ranch:



More Foxy

John and Antonio

Last year when Antonio vacationed in Hawaii, he left Foxy with his grannie. Upon his arrival back, Foxy had a pretty pink sweater and a new name: Ruby.


Antonio with the Girl


El gato Tomás:

Gato Tomas

Antonio let me kidnap Foxy on Thursday night and she slept next to me under the covers. On Friday morning, as John and I were planning our day, Antonio suggested we bring Foxy. We lined a bag with a pillowcase and put her in.

Pre-bagged Foxy Bagged Foxy Ready for Adventure

Two happy girls

Driving in Downtown Boise with view of Capitol building:

Boise Capitol Building

Capitol Building

John with blue skies and Capitol Dome

When I saw the following sign on the Boise Downtown library, I was sold.


A city that proudly displays its zest for books is a friend.


Coveted Stella scooter.

Baby blue scooter

Boise has a large Basque community. We took in the Basque Museum. The museum contained cool dioramas. But, what about the language? There are theories as to where it originated but it's so different from the Indo-European languages that many theories are out there as to it's origins. The Basque were whalers and the exhibits at the museum are art pieces depicting the rich history.

Basque Museum

Whale at Basque Museum

Knot collection at Basque Museum

Sidewalk art outside Basque Museum:

Sidewalk music

Sidewalk song

Foxy and John

Basque lunch at Leka Ona Restaurant: Patatas Bravas and Calimari strips served with the spicy red sauce.

Lunch at Leka Ona

River Sculpture by Alison Sky featured on the Grove Hotel building. Constructed of granite, fused glass, neon, aluminum and fog misters (!), this piece stands 50-feet high.

River Sculpture

Next stop was the Old Idaho Penitentiary. We started with a short hike.

John on Castle Rock trail

With Foxy on Castle Rock trail

With Foxy

View of Old State Pen

Then, we explored the grounds of the Old Idaho Pen.


Door to the grounds


Cells in Maximum Security



Laundry room

Peek inside bag at Foxy.

Sweet Foxy

The museum hosted an Idaho State Historical Society exhibit called Marked Men - Tattoo History.It was excellent. Highlights:

Tattoo exhibit

Tattoo exhibit

Tattoo exhibit

Tattoo exhibit


Pachuco Cross

When an inmate entered the prison, all tattoos were noted and kept in their file.

Tattoos bio

Tattoos bio 

Tattoos bio

The most sobering part of the Old Idaho Pen was Solitary Confinement. To walk into the small stark building and into a cell, you see why it was called Siberia. The cells were tiny and cold.

Solitary Confinement cells

Inside a solitary confinement cell

Solitary confinement

Solitary confinement

Siberia display

Siberia display


other buildings on grounds

Guards' watch tower

Botanical garden on Old Idaho Pen grounds.






Saturday morning:

John with Nez Perce meet Lewis and Clark

In front of Capitol


Trying to get pic w/ Basque flag

With John and Basque flag

Basque flag

John conversing with Carrie and Andy

Night on the town.

Two funny dorks at Basque Community Center Bar

Funny dorks

Antonio at Cactus Bar

Three dorks at Cactus Bar

At Red Room

At Red Room

Bartender at Red Room

At Red Room

At Red Room with our new Basque friend, Sean

With new friends at Red Room

At Red Room

Antonio channeling Jim on his ride

To conclude, Boise is a blue oasis in a red state. It rocks!