Friday, November 23, 2007

Vacation, Interrupted

While I was trying really, really hard to take a break from technology for a few weeks, I figured that the extraordinary events of this day warranted a short message to let you all know that, believe it or not, your blogger friend e is currently down in Antarctica. Perhaps even more unbelievably, I am on the National Geographic Endeavour--one of the two ships involved in the rescue operation early this morning for the Explorer, which sadly had to be evacuated after it began to sink as a result of damage incurred in its engine room (we don't know exactly what went wrong, but figure they hit an iceberg). The internet connection on board is slower than the dial-up line I had in 1996, so this will be the only message I'll post until I am back on December 3rd. However, since the story has made headlines (though from what I've seen, many of the details are incorrect), I figured I should let my dear readers know that I am down here, I am safe, and I will have some incredible pictures to post in December! The pictures of the sinking ship that are on the BBC (I have only heard about them, haven't seen them yet because of this slow connection) were taken by one of the crew members on board with us, Mike Nolan. Some from-the-air pictures, however, were taken from a helicopter from a nearby military base (I think it's Brazilian or Chilean, not sure).

Anyway, we are now almost back to where our ship was when we received the distress signal at 1:45 AM and will be disembarking soon at Half-Moon Island, and then later on this evening at Deception Island (it's never dark here, so that's a bonus), for you nerds out there with maps of the Antarctic.

Let's hope the rest of my trip is a bit calmer!

Until December 3rd,
- e

Friday, November 16, 2007

e's on strike, too!

Everyone else is doing it, right?

OK, so I'm not a member of any union and am not even working for The Man, so I guess I really can't go on strike. But I CAN take a break (and the best part is that I don't have to use any vacation days!), and I'm going to.

I will be back updating this site daily on December 3rd, and I promise some very cool posts at that point. Until then, for those of you in the U.S., happy Thanksgiving! Since this is the season for appreciation--thank you for reading and commenting over the years on both this site and Long Live Locke, it means so much to me!

Enjoy the last two weeks of November!

- e

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are You Smarter than a U.S. President?

Earlier this month, my husband and I spent a weekend in Washington D.C.--shout out to my brother and JB for hauling us all around!

While there, we visited the National Archives. That's the huge institution where all sorts of documents are housed--most notably the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I was prepared for Nicolas Cage to cold bust in there at any moment and steal everything! I don't think the very tired-looking security guards could've stopped him, either! Those two historic documents, along with a handful of others, are behind glass cases in a very cold, very dark area of the building in order to attempt to keep them preserved. Unfortunately, they are already extremely faded, but there are of course replicas of the originals that are more readable. But I was able to make out the fact that "Congress" was spelled Congrefs on the Constitution. Maybe everyone else knew this, but I didn't. I noticed this on several other documents throughout the building, and asked my brother if they used to put an f in place of a double-s or something. He said that back in the day that was indeed common. Here's why, if you're interested. I kind of dig it--bring back the "fs!"

While there, we also wandered through a traveling exhibit that was very interesting: "From School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents." Nearly all of the modern-day presidents were represented--they had pictures, report cards, elementary school essays, yearbooks, uniforms, even videos! Let's just say that not all of them did that well in school. What was most fascinating to me, though, was that a few current presidents had met future presidents, unbeknownst to everyone at that time. One example is a video of John F. Kennedy meeting Bill Clinton when he was in school. How crazy is that? And how crazy is it that they got it on tape?

One thing I was surprised to see was a picture of the former President Bush with his fellow Skull & Bones peeps at Yale. If it's such a secret society, why is there a picture of it in one of the country's major institutions, exposed to the masses? The Illuminati are gonna be pissed! (GHW Bush is to the left of the clock)

Let's end my talk of this display on a lighter note, shall we? Below is Bill Clinton, farthest to the left, in kindergarten. In every picture they had of him growing up, he was smiling or laughing (this is in great contrast to many of the other future presidents). Classic. I'm just surprised he's not closer to all the girls...

If you're not able to get out to D.C. before the exhibit ends in January, check out this detailed article that includes pictures of many of the display items.

Finally, we roamed around the rest of the building--they really had some unbelievable stuff. For example, there was a letter from Fidel Castro (age 12) to President Roosevelt, asking for a ten dollar bill. You can see it here. His English was not very good, but you can't blame a kid for trying. What is not explained, however, is exactly how and why they still had that letter?!?! Hellooooo, who would have known what young Fidel would grow up to be? They are archiving everything, my friends. Big Brother is watching!

But I digrefs.

- e

Monday, November 12, 2007

Things I Did When I Gave Up Looking for Frodo, Part Three

And now, for the final installment of my 2006 New Zealand trip review. When I last left off, my husband and I were in the northern part of the South Island. We realized that if we stuck to our original itinerary, we would completely miss the Franz Josef Glacier, so we scrambled to cancel our hotel reservations in Christchurch on the east side of the island and instead headed west. Neither of us had ever been on a glacier before, so we had no idea what to expect. I was excited at first because it looked like we were about to head off into Mordor. Unfortunately I did not have the One Ring with me to destroy.

The snow that you can see in between the mountains is the start of the glacier. It may look like it was fairly close, but it actually took an hour to reach!

To prepare to finally climb up on the ice, we all put on talons/clamps over our boots so as to not slip. The guides ran ahead to make sure the "stairs" were ready for us... they basically took their ice picks and hacked away at the trail before the rest of us followed to ensure that the path wasn't too icy. As you can see below, it was an almost completely vertical climb up (climbers are the line going up in the middle). On the steps there was a rope we could hold on to, but once we reached the top we were on our own. Anywhere I travel outside of the U.S., I always marvel at the fact that you can do things where you could easily be injured or killed, and you don't have to sign any release forms. It just goes to show how sue-happy this country is. Whereas in New Zealand, they're like: If you're dumb enough to step over the edge of a cliff, it's your own fault. I can't say I disagree.

Once up on the glacier, it was pretty amazing. The bad part was that it started pouring rain and never let up. While all of the other gear the hiking company provided was awesome, for some unknown reason the gloves they gave us were seriously that crappy kind that you can buy at Walgreens for $2. You know what I'm talking about--they're made of thin cotton and should truthfully never be used except perhaps under REAL gloves. They got soaked within the first ten minutes and actually made our hands feel much worse, so we were up there running around on the snow and ice in the freezing, pouring rain with bare hands. That part was NOT fun. If you ever go, take my advice and bring your own waterproof gloves--you'll thank me later.

While I thought that walking around on a glacier was going to be just that, it was actually quite physically demanding. You cannot be even the slightest bit overweight and do this hike, or else you will literally not fit through some of the passages. Below is a trail they carved out through a wall of ice, but at another point we were crawling through a frozen tunnel on our bellies, no lie. Not something for the claustrophobic!

After we had survived Franz Josef, we drove on to the last stop on our trip, Queenstown. We stayed at an awesome apartment right on Lake Wakatipu, which looked out at The Remarkables and an area called Deer Park Heights, at which many of the Rohan scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed (covered in this post). What happened when we weren't posing for pictures at the various movie scene sites was that I got attacked by goats.

What can I say? I'm like Snow White, animals just flock to me. Or perhaps it was that I had a huge bucket of food (you can buy them throughout the farm area).

The finale of our trip was a cruise through Milford Sound. When people talk about how beautiful New Zealand is, this area is one of the best examples of its awe-inspiring scenery. It was the perfect way to end the vacation.

I hope you've all enjoyed my walk down memory lane. I promise I won't take a full year to post pictures of my next trip...

- e

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ma-a-a-a-a-a-aps, Wait! I Don't Love You Like They Love You.

A few nights ago, I went to an event that celebrated the launch of the Festival of Maps, a first-of-its-kind exhibition that spans several institutions here in Chicago.

I have to admit that until very recently, I really hated maps. I didn't rebel too much growing up, but my dad was always a big fan of maps and so my way of protesting against authority was to never know where in the hell I was--I would refuse to look at any maps. Smart, huh? It backfired on me later in life big-time when I got my husband (who was at that point my new boyfriend) and I pretty seriously lost in a really bad part of the outskirts of New York City. A year after that, I took a trip around the world for work essentially by myself, and I had to take a crash course in figuring out how to read all kinds of maps right away, so as to not get lost in, say, the bowels of the Tokyo subway system. Now I hate to admit that I think reading maps can be fun (but truth be told, I still gravitate toward the kind that have the little cartoon drawings of famous spots for any given city).

At the festival's launch dinner, one of the hosts talked about how he grew up with a huge map of the world on his wall, while another talked of how he also had a huge map on his bedroom wall as a kid, "but it was only of my small county in England, so I thought that was the whole world." Over time, these men, as well as many others involved in the event, started collecting maps. Eventually they all got together and decided that between their maps and the "famous" maps that many museums and institutions around the globe had stored in relative obscurity, they had a pretty interesting collection. And so that's how the festival came to be.

The maps are housed in several locations across Chicago (there is, of course, a map of the whole thing on the web site that you can download). We were at the Newberry Library site. I can't lie to you and tell you that my original motivation for going to the dinner was anything other than seeing where "Henry" worked in The Time Traveler's Wife (yes, I know he's not real). But it turned out to be a fascinating night--all of the "big names" in the map world were there like some of the members of the McNally family, but the main attraction was the original Lewis and Clark map of 1810 (which is technically attributed only to Clark). There it was, just ink on paper, laying out the country with all of these little hand-written notes all over it. Amazing. I couldn't get over how any of these maps from way back in the day could be even remotely accurate when there was no ability to look from above. But then again, I'm the same person who has been known to get lost in shopping malls...

- e

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The State of the Fall TV Season - Part Three

Time to wrap up my complaining about everything on TV... here's a look at the last batch of shows I've been watching.

Survivor: China

I used to be a HUGE Survivor fan. When it premiered back in 2000, I was swept up in the craze like the majority of the country. I went to see Rudy (remember him, the old cranky ex-Navy SEAL?) once at a book signing, dressed up as a contestant for Halloween and hosted Survivor nights in my grad school apartment--I was really into it. Even if you hate the fact that the airwaves are now swamped with crappy reality TV at every hour and on nearly every channel, you have to admit that Survivor truly was ground-breaking seven years ago.

Somewhere along the way, however, I stopped tuning in (how in the hell did they get to fifteen seasons already?!?!). But a few weeks ago when my parents came to visit, I Tivoed the latest installment (now in China) because I knew they continued to follow it. It's hard to put into words, but I felt an odd sense of comfort watching Jeff Probst say the exact same thing he's been saying at Tribal Council since Season One. I still had his spiel memorized--he must recite it in his sleep! Anyway, I was sucked in again, because there are definitely some interesting characters this year and the show is incredibly easy to pick up at any point in time. So, it's on my Season Pass list once again. If you are like me and used to watch this show but got sick of it maybe three or four years ago, you should give Survivor: China a chance and see what you think.

Survivors ready... go!

Saturday Night Live

Here is how I watch SNL. I watch the opening "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" skit, the monologue and the first full skit. If I have not been entertained by that point, then I will forward through to see if there are any SNL Digital Shorts. I always watch "the news" sketch no matter what, even though I don't like Amy and Seth nearly as much as I did the faux anchors of the past. If the musical guest is good, I'll watch their performance. Done!

I feel like this season has been pretty dismal with the exception of some of the Bon Jovi-related skits, the "I Ran" short and the "Andy Punches" short. The "I Ran" short has been pulled down of all sites that I could find (and was never on SNL's site because they failed to secure the digital rights), but the "Andy Punches" short is here -- the page takes a while to load and then you may need to sit through a quick ad, but trust me, it's worth it. It's one of those clips where you start off thinking "What in the hell is this?" but then thirty seconds later you are completely engrossed. I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it.

Best Week Ever

Since I am completely nerdy and am home by and large every Friday night, I always look forward to Best Week Ever to recap the week in pop culture. I've been watching this show since it started years ago, and I love how it's retained its B-movie quality and goofiness. I also appreciate how the featured commentators voice what most people really think about the majority of celebrities--they go a little bit further than most magazines or web sites dare. I do not, however, like how they have added in special effects for "The Sizzler" segment to try and better spoof the likes of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, but that's a small nitpick in the whole scheme of things. I will watch this show until it goes off the air, which is hopefully never.

The Amazing Race

I love, love, love The Amazing Race! Props to AT and Miss M, who both tried to convince me for years to start watching this show (which I did a few seasons ago), because I am indeed captivated by it. As you may know, The Amazing Race is a totally different level of reality TV--it's five for five in the Emmy wins for "Outstanding Reality-Competition Program." If you love to travel, or if you wish you could travel, or if you like to see and learn about places around the world, this is definitely the show for you. Eleven teams race 30,000 miles around the world in the quest to win $1 million. I seriously tear up every episode because the places they go are so awesome and beautiful and I get all jealous. The show has often been called "a love letter to the planet," and I think that's a perfect description. Plus, its unassuming host, Phil, is a very cool guy (probably because he's from New Zealand). If you have never watched this show, you owe it to yourself to watch it once and see what you think. I am so excited that it's on again (it just premiered last Sunday, so you haven't missed much...), I can barely contain myself.

The only complaint I have about the show isn't the show's fault. Since it is on Sunday nights, it often gets pushed back drastically. It airs after 60 Minutes, and I have set up the Tivo to record a full hour after the show is supposed to end because often football games run late, then 60 Minutes is pushed back, and then TAR gets cut off if those adjustments aren't made.

I started watching in Season 9 (it is now Season 12), which I highly recommend if you want to get it on DVD. But from what I've heard, all seasons except 8 (the "family" season) have been awesome.

So there you have it, my assessment of the shows I'm watching this fall. Now that both 24 and Lost are in serious jeopardy and may not premiere as planned in the winter because of the strike in Hollywood, I probably need to start writing reviews of my freaking magazines because we're all going to have to find something else to occupy our time!

- e

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Don't You Know Who He Thinks He Is?

Time for a little break from bemoaning the state of television, inspired by a ghost of television shows past. As you MUST know because he's promoting it like his life depends on it, Jerry Seinfeld has been making the rounds on talk shows to hype Bee Movie. A few days ago he was on Larry King Live and the interview turned seriously awkward and painful when Larry asked Jerry if Seinfeld had been canceled. Before I go any further, watch it for yourself if you haven't already--it's less than one minute long.

After I watched this, I wasn't sure who I was more disturbed by. Let's start with Larry King. They really need to pull him off the air, stat! He's like the Joan Rivers of talk show hosts--he always forgets fairly important information about his guests, asks apparently innocent but often offensive questions, and is just all around annoying. His hard-to-watch interview with Seinfeld reminded me of his show with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in June, marking the one-year anniversary of Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-inspired production, Love. Wanders has a great recap of that interview's highlights, but let's just say that at one point, Larry called Ringo "George." And he also completely inappropriately plugged his upcoming talk with Paris Hilton to the astonishment of his current guests. Clueless!

But quite frankly, in the spat with Larry King, I don't think Jerry came off very well, either. Although Larry is an idiot for asking whether Seinfeld had been canceled, Jerry completely over-reacted to the insinuation and seemed like an arrogant ass. Get over yourself, buddy! It was a TV show. Perhaps I'm biased against Jerry at this point because I am SO SICK of the Bee Movie promotions. Especially the random plugs they keep dropping in the middle of The Office. I want to watch The Office! I don't want to hear anything else about these damn bees! Even though the movie is getting good reviews, I'm going to protest seeing it just because the marketing for it has been so intrusive.

Like most people, I used to really like Seinfeld. I went to a big party for its finale, I've seen Jerry's stand-up act when he toured in Chicago a few years ago--I had no problem with him. But the Larry King interview was not the first time in the recent past that he's acted like a jerk. Many found his rant on Letterman about the woman accusing his wife of plagiarism to be out of line (this clip's longer, at about ten minutes).

If you don't have time to watch the clip, this article sums up the reactions of many.

Between his defense of his wife and his intense promotion for Bee Movie, I'm a little fatigued. Now that the movie is actually out, perhaps the "buzz" (pun intended, albeit lame) will die down and I can go back to having more pleasant memories of Jerry Seinfeld.

- e

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The State of the Fall TV Season - Part Two

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If the writers are on strike in Hollywood, but no one is watching TV because most shows are poop, does it matter? (answer: only if it affects Lost come February)

Let's continue with our review of the dismal Fall TV Season...


After reading an article in TV Guide about Kevin Smith's involvement in this show, and after I got a few comments on this site recommending that I watch it, I tried it out for one episode. I did like it, but unfortunately not enough to keep tuning in. It boils down to the fact that I am still very much afraid of Ray Wise (the guy who plays the Devil) because of his freakiness back in the day on Twin Peaks. I'm just never going to get over that. I also have a problem with shows revolving around death in general (which is why I cannot watch any of the CSIs or Pushing Daisies even though I know that one's light-hearted). My imagination cannot handle that kind of stuff--I end up losing sleep thinking about all of the "what ifs?" that these types of shows raise. So yes, even though I know that Reaper is meant to be a comedy about a kid whose parents sold his soul to the Devil, it still unnerves me too much to revisit that concept week after week. The episode I saw involved the main guy, Sam, and his friends trying to capture a soul that was embodied in some evil magician. They caught him, but not before the magician killed someone else (with a sword!) and wreaked other havoc. I need to wind down before I go to sleep, so, with the exception of Lost, I need shows that are not going to get me thinking too much--I'm already an insomniac. All that being said, most people might enjoy Reaper because it certainly is a unique premise for a show, Kevin Smith is one of the directors so it's definitely well executed, and... it has Spanish from Old School in it! I have a special place in my heart for Spanish (real name: Rick Gonzalez) because I ran into him in Chicago once and he indulged my request for a picture. "This suit is crazy hot, yo!"

The Next Great American Band

You may recall that I was very excited about the premiere of TNGAB. However, the second episode really depressed me. It was two hours once again, and this time the twelve bands who made the cut were on stage in a small theater-ish type of venue, so you would think that they'd sound better than they did outside in the Nevada desert. Think again. Almost all of them sounded awful. I wasn't sure that I could even make it to the next episode. I did (mostly because I was curious about who would be the first two bands to get kicked off), and thankfully they must have not only fixed the sound quality/mixing on the show but also many of the bands got their acts together and did well once again. I'm annoyed that the "big band" is still in the competition because the lead singer is a complete dork, in a bad way. I also don't like the "girl band" Rocket, The Muggs (even though they hail from my previous home state of Michigan), or Dot Dot Dot (even though they hail from my home town of Chicago). The singers of all these bands are really bad, I can barely stand to listen to them. The guy from Dot Dot Dot is the best of the worst, but his personality is so annoying that I can't take it. He is a cross between Alan Cumming and Pee-Wee Herman. I think everyone would agree that that was not a compliment.

Sixwire and The Clark Brothers are still good. Franklin Bridge needs to start singing some better songs because I know they rock, but I didn't like their performance this last episode. And I am SO happy that the Light of Doom kiddies put on some shirts. I still get a kick out of them and hope they stay in for a while.

But someone has GOT to boot Johnny Reznick off the show. He is the WORST. CUT YOUR HAIR!!! Sheila E just needs to reach over and snip off some of those bangs of his, because he's making ME squint just by looking at him. And he remains all whiny--he can't stand it when the audience boos him. Keep booing him, maybe he'll leave!

The Hills

Nothing continues to happen on this show. It's really amazing how they pull it off, I must admit. Literally nothing happens. But it's a good show to end the day with for that very reason. There is no suspense, no one's dying, no one is in danger, they just need to look pretty and say dumb things. Oh, and seat 390 people in 15 minutes for the Teen Vogue Fashion Show. Like, OMG, Hilary Duff isn't seated yet!!!! Don't send out the models!!!! That's what I'm talkin' about for escapism.

However, when Spencer comes on the screen, I now look away--honest to God. I cannot even stand his face anymore. His mouth is way too small for the rest of his face, so he looks like an evil, blond chipmunk and that's the last thing I need nightmares about.

Next week is supposed to be the huge confrontation between Lauren and Heidi. I am oddly excited for it, even though I have since learned that essentially the entire show is scripted and fake. I don't care, I just want Heidi to get a smack-down!

- e

Monday, November 05, 2007

I'll save you, Shia!

I just about fell off my chair when I came across the following headline mere minutes ago: Shia LaBeouf Arrested in Chicago.

I'm going to get to the bottom of this--my boy's in town! I need to save him!

And so help me if I find out he was arrested at the Walgreens on MY corner.

OK... it wasn't my Walgreens (this is a real-time post! I'm finding out information as I type!). He was down on Michigan Avenue not more than a few miles away. So close, yet so far...

Let the stalking begin!
- e

The State of the Fall TV Season - Part One

I have been sneaking in little gripes here and there over the last few months about the sorry state of TV this fall, but now the time has come for me to officially judge some of the shows I've been watching. As I feel that there is so much crap on the small screen lately, I've actually tried out several new shows in search of something to help me mellow out before bedtime. Therefore, I'll be spreading my analysis over two or three posts because there's a lot to cover.

Here's the first round... and if you didn't read my post on the premieres of these shows, you may want to refresh your memory as I will allude to my thoughts from September in this follow-up of sorts.

Dirty Sexy Money

I had vowed that I would watch at least four episodes of DSM, and I did... and I'm still watching it. I'm not quite sure why, however. I continue to find the bulk of the characters extremely annoying, but Tripp (Donald Sutherland) and Nick (Peter Krause) keep me coming back. It's good "fluff" TV that doesn't take too much brain power--yet at the same time I'm not embarrassed that I'm watching it because it is by no means awful. My least favorite character remains Juliet (who went into rehab in real life for undisclosed reasons), and since I was complaining about the transvestite affair involving William Baldwin's character in the premiere episode, I'm certainly not happy that it's still an ongoing story line. Jeremy, the hard-partying twin brother of Juliet, is growing on me, as is Brian, the cranky priest who finds out he has a young son from a past affair. Everyone else I could take or leave. I have read that the writers do intend to wrap up the "who killed Nick's father?" story line, and I am very curious to learn 1) who actually did kill Dutch and 2) if the show will still be watchable after that major mystery is solved. Right now my intention is to keep watching the show until Lost comes back on and then determine if I still want to make time for it after that. I have been reading fairly good reviews of DSM in recent entertainment magazines, so I have a feeling it will be around for a while.

Big Shots

I had the same plan for this show as I did for DSM--watch four episodes and then make a call. Big Shots didn't fare quite as well in my test as DSM did--I have stopped watching it. It's kind of sad because I really did like seeing Michael Vartan on a weekly basis. But what's even sadder is that I did NOT like watching Dylan McDermott, who was my main reason for deciding to try out the show in the first place. He will just always be Bobby Donnell to me, what can I say? The story lines of Big Shots were way too out there for me, and the dialogue was embarrassingly bad and repetitive. At least once every episode there was some mention of how "women are the new men" which accompanied a conversation between the four main characters that always sounded too mid-life-crisis-ish to me. I'll be interested to see if this show makes it past its first season. In the last few weeks that I haven't been watching it, I haven't missed it!

The Office

I had been extremely worried about one of my favorite shows, The Office, after its season premiere... Michael was acting wackier than ever, Pam and Jim were together and seemed to have high annoyingness potential, and Dwight was turning me off by his insistence that it was OK to kill Angela's cat. Thankfully, I feel the show has gotten back on track since then. While Michael remains my least favorite character of the show and is still over-the-top, it's not as bad as it once was. Pam and Jim's story line has hit a comfortable stride and I think the writers could actually keep their relationship going with no adverse consequences--they haven't devolved into two googly-eyed lovey-dovey versions of their former snarky selves. While there's still not as much Creed as I'd like there to be, there is a lot more of Andy, and I'm trying to decide whether or not I can deal with that. I do think his attempts to win over Angela much to Dwight's silent horror are pretty entertaining--it's just that he can come off as a bit too eager and cocky, in an unfunny way. By far, the best scene of the season thus far goes to someone who isn't even a main character: Mose, Dwight's apparently Amish brother, who scares the crap out of Jim and Pam as he runs alongside their car as they pull into the driveway of Schrute Farms (yes, there is actually a page for it, just like on the show).

On that note, I have to hand it to NBC for really upping the ante with The Office's incredible web site. I find it too annoying to actually create a log-in account for Dunder Mifflin Infinity, but it doesn't really matter because the "normal" web site for the show is good enough anyway. You can find Dwight's blog, Creed's blog, "motivational" poster spoofs, deleted scenes and a lot more.

In the coming days I will post my reviews of: Reaper, The Hills, Survivor: China, The Amazing Race, Best Week Ever, Saturday Night Live and The Next Great American Band.

Until then,
- e

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Movies: Eight Below and Disturbia

Since there's nothing on TV, we're slowly but surely getting through our Netflix queue. Our last two choices were both pretty good, but couldn't have been more different. One was the Disney movie Eight Below, about a research team and their dogs in Antarctica. The other was Disturbia, about a kid who is on house arrest and starts spying on all of his neighbors.

In Eight Below, Paul Walker stars as an expedition leader in Antarctica who loves his team of eight Huskies more than anything else in the world ("inspired by a true story"). I won't spoil what happens for you, but the movie centers mostly around the dogs. Which is a good thing, because Jason Biggs is one of the other human leads in the film, and his character is totally annoying. Go back to the pies, boy! Paul Walker was good, though. I still can't really picture him as anything other than "that guy from Varsity Blues with Dawson," but this movie helped inch me a bit further away from that perception. He remains easy on the eyes, so that was a plus (except for when he was all frostbitten, ouch). I had pretty low expectations for this flick since I thought it was for kids, but I actually really enjoyed it. There was beautiful scenery, a compelling story, lots of suspense, a little sadness, and of course, cool dogs! The "making of" feature on the DVD was interesting, too. Bottom line: I think most people would enjoy Eight Below.

I can't really say the same for Disturbia. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was really good, but it was scary as hell and I am not lying when I tell you that I spent 50% of the movie hiding under a blanket and asking my husband to tell me what was going on. I don't do well with scary movies, so if you are like me, you might want to skip this one. I'm not really sure since I didn't physically see any of the worst parts, but I don't think there was a lot of gore--it was more about suspense and psychological freakiness (it was only rated PG-13, which surprised me). For the parts of the movie that I did see (definitely all of the first half, and then on and off after that, even though I heard everything), I was loving me some Shia LaBoeuf. I declare him my new favorite actor! He was excellent in Holes, Transformers and this movie, and that's saying something, because it's not like any of those movies are Oscar caliber. I am even more excited for Indy 4 now, if that's even possible. Like I mentioned above, the premise of this movie is that a high-schooler (Shia) has to spend his three-month summer break under house arrest because he got in trouble in school. He has "issues" which are covered early in the story. His mom cuts off his gaming link and his iTunes (God forbid!), so he has to find ways to amuse himself all day. That leads to him spying on all of his neighbors and learning perhaps more than he should know about their lives. Eventually he starts suspecting that one of them is up to no good, but it's hard to tell if it's just his mind playing tricks on him because he's been couped up for so long (on top of his "issues"), or if there really is a bad guy living next door. If you liked being scared, then this is the movie for you. If you like being scared but don't like slasher movies/blood and guts, this is also probably the movie for you. But if you start worrying that things you see in movies could actually happen to you, then this is probably NOT the movie for you. I had to take an Ambien for the first time in months because I didn't think I'd be able to sleep since I was so freaked out. You have been warned!

Having said all that, I still enjoyed the film. I thought it was going to be really, really silly. Come on, what in the hell kind of name is "Disturbia?" Totally lame title. But the cast was excellent and they made the storyline believable. And Shia is a cutie. If you're a guy, fear not, you will most likely approve of the "girl next door" he befriends. There's something for everyone.

OK, time for me to go bust out the binoculars and check out the people across the street! I kid, I kid. My binoculars aren't that high-powered.

- e