grrgoyl: (Bad Jesus!  Very Bad!)
[personal profile] grrgoyl
My, my, my I've been quiet. TOO quiet. Which is good news for everyone, because instead of writing a hugely epically long post, I'm forced to reduce it to key highlights from sheer lack of memory. So I have those, plus a large number of mini-movie reviews.

First, to wrap up the Parade of Homes 2011! I've been back to MyFriendDeb's to go on an unrelated outing. She wasn't exactly ready when I arrived, however, her pace of preparing to leave could be described as "hustling" if not "frantic," and we walked out the door five minutes later rather than twenty. If you knew Deb like I know Deb, that right there is as good as an apology, my friends.

In fact, Ryan was supposed to join us that day, but bailed at the last minute because he was spending the previous night with John (translation: drinking). While I'm not thrilled he's regressed back to him after more than a year's break, hey, whatev, I'm not his mother. But as I told Deb, I just knew it would be followed by a Facebook pity party about how much his life sucks and bemoaning being surrounded by losers all the time.

Sure enough, that night Tery was checking her page when she read it to me: "Last day off for 8 weeks and I didn't even do anything fun -- laundry and Facebook. Yippee." My first impulse was to comment "Awww, too bad you don't have cool friends that invite you out to an awesome day in the mountains." But I knew he was probably hoping for/expecting something from me, so I gave him stony silence instead. Because I'm done. And if you know me, it takes a lot for me to be done, but I'm there.


Tery FINALLY gets mountain biking. She lowered her saddle by two inches, and that has made all the difference between feeling like she was in control and feeling like she was going to pitch over the handlebars any minute. It also helped her feet reach the ground for dabbing, something she couldn't do before and something I was unaware she couldn't do. I wish I could take credit as her mentor, but the suggestion was made by an older woman hiker on the trail who noticed Tery sitting too high. Consequently we returned to Little Scraggy and, as predicted, she loved it--though probably wouldn't have without the adjustment. She is putting together a little video of our adventures that might be published here. Turns out she's quite the Steven Spielberg, because there wasn't much to work with.


Oh right, so I'm on the pill! Which still sounds weird to say a week later. I'm happy to say it was simply a matter of going to the clinic and asking for it: No intrusive questions about why I wanted it or lectures on the moral implications, etc. (Of course I did go to Planned Parenthood which might have had something to do with it). Didn't even have to lie about only wanting it until November and that was all, just "how many packs would you like?"

Tery's first reaction to the news was "Great. You're free to sleep with guys now," as if her only objection was with unwanted pregnancy (it certainly is not).

I spent the second day researching possible side effects, which include headaches, nausea, breast enlargement (PLEASE GOD NO), weight gain and mood swings. This last one worried me the most (not helped by [ profile] kavieshana's reassuring "You're about to turn into Queen Megabitch") -- I'm unsettled by the thought my mood can be artificially affected (control issues), and I spent the day imagining that a mood swing was gestating inside me like a chestburster alien. Tery isn't concerned about it; she thinks it's not something I would consciously notice, and anyway she's holding out hope that I'll be nicer, as if I'm so mean now there's nowhere to go but up (I really don't think I am).

There was one incident when we realized twenty minutes too late that the new "Office" wasn't recording, but I'd like to think that would have happened with or without chemicals. Other than that I've experienced a few episodes of random and extremely intense horniness, which I might blame on the medication. But if that's the worst that happens, I can certainly live with it.


In biking news, I think I've seen the guy whose picture you find when you look up the word "dickhead."

On my route I have to cross traffic three times, which is only a big deal during rush hour, as I've stated before when people don't care about anything but getting to work (or home) and God help anyone that gets in their way. One of these intersections is by far the worst, and that is where our story is set.

In fact this was afternoon, so the traffic was (mostly) returning home. I waited on the curb with a fellow lady biker and a male pedestrian. At one point the traffic cleared, no cars coming, so we all started across (it wasn't just me taking liberties here). We had almost made it to the opposite curb when traffic started coming over the hill. Let me explain that from the top of this hill drivers have clear visibility all the way to the intersection, a good 100 yards or so. Plus there were three of us in a big cluster, not one lone hard-to-see person. In theory, should be plenty safe for everyone, right?

As we were all just about to reach the opposite curb, the guy whose lane we were crossing (an SUV. Act surprised) suddenly slammed on his brakes so they would let out a dramatic ear-splitting squeal, as if it was a blind turn and he had just noticed us and came within inches of hitting us. You know damn well he saw us from the top of the hill, and you know damn well he deliberately avoided braking until getting right on top of us (in fact might have even accelerated a little) just so he could do that. Really? You want to be That Guy? Because no one likes That Guy.

Dick. Head.

I've found forums about traffic laws featuring bitter arguments in the comments over who the bigger idiots are, cyclists or motorists. Obviously it's a case-by-case basis, but I think motorists are by far more careless and dangerous -- most of the time they barely notice each other, let alone someone not driving two tons of death-dealing steel. And I include myself in this category: I'll admit I've almost hit people in the crosswalk because I wasn't paying attention. And conversely I'll admit I've done some stupid things on a bike because I made an incorrect split-second decision. But a cyclist's bad judgment will get themselves hurt more often than a motorist, whereas the converse isn't true.

I think one solution would be a mandatory day on a bike for everyone (I'd actually love a week, but let's be realistic), so they can get a tiny taste of how scary it is trying to negotiate traffic with people who either don't see you or who don't think you deserve to be on the road. And I nominate That Guy to take the first shift.


Now, movies! Oodles and oodles of movies! So many that these are mostly mini reviews. No spoilers really, except maybe for one or two you've never heard of/couldn't care less about. I've bolded all the titles so you can skim easily. Behind the cut: 127 Hours, Wrecked, The Reef, Trollhunter, Shiver, Piranha (1978 and 2010), Insidious, The Last Airbender, and Paul.

127 Hours This is the James Franco Oscar-nominated true story of the guy who cut his own arm off after getting trapped under a rock in the mountains. The movie was good, fairly entertaining, with Danny Boyle adding his own spin on what was going through the guy's mind to keep us interested. Unfortunately [ profile] kavieshana started texting me at literally the exact moment he starts sawing. "You're welcome" she said when I explained what she interrupted. No, because without this scene it's just 90 minutes of a guy talking to himself in a crevasse. This scene is the whole reason to watch the movie. It might help to know that it wasn't graphic at all, and apart from James screaming in agony the entire time is perfectly watchable. I don't need to ever see the movie again, but it did make me crave getting out on my bike and being alone in the wilderness (just not near any rock formations large enough to swallow me).

Wrecked In keeping with the man vs. nature theme: Adrien Brody wakes up trapped in a car after a crash in the mountains (different mountains. Woods, not desert). He's alone with a dead guy in the backseat and suffering from amnesia. He manages to free himself and tries to crawl to civilization with a badly injured leg. Certain clues in the car lead him to believe he was part of a dangerous gang of bank robbers (as hard as it is to believe anything sinister of Adrien). He keeps hallucinating seeing a woman he believes was a teller he killed during the robbery. His only actual companions are a remarkably well-nourished German shepherd who follows him, as well as an equally well-fed mountain lion whose condition is less of a mystery: He shows up occasionally to drag off Adrien's dead cohorts for dining.

At one point, after days of inching painfully through the underbrush, he finds himself back where he started from and for a moment I thought, "He's dead and he's in Purgatory, forced to crawl around in the woods for eternity." That would have been pretty cool, actually (that's not what happened). After more days of crawling he finally finds a road (it doesn't seem possible that it was that far away from the crash site -- the car was a classic Chevy sedan, not an SUV) and on it a dead body with ID bearing what he thought was his name. I thought, "He's dead and he just found his own corpse." That would have been cool too (that's not what happened).

No, the ending was actually rather mundane and not nearly as uplifting as 127 Hours. In fact, the most interesting fact about this movie was that, out of a principal cast of about eight people (half of which were dead bodies lying around), three of them (including Mr. Brody) were named Adrian/Adrien. Now what are the odds of THAT? That and the sum total of all the spoken lines in the movie probably fit on one page.

After this clunker (a Netflix Watch Instantly choice), I'm happy to say my luck turned around significantly.

The Reef. Basically Open Water with more likeable characters, better acting and more believable plot. Also (loosely) based on actual events. A group of five Australian divers find themselves with a punctured hull and an unpleasant decision: stay on the capsized boat that will surely sink within a few hours and hope for rescue, or make a 12-mile swim to a nearby island through shark-infested waters? All but one opt for the swim. Let the feeding frenzy begin!

I'm kidding. Actually nothing much happens for the first 12 hours or so, except lots and lots of swimming. Just as the group starts to relax and joke around a bit, though, the shark shows up. Not sharks plural as in Open Water, but that's not much of a consolation because the one they do meet is the only one you don't want to, a Great White.

The three things I liked about this movie (unlike Open Water -- refresher course here if you like) were: The acting. Have you heard the phrase "palpable fear"? That's what these actors were rocking. I mean, I really thought one of the actresses was going to hyperventilate at one point, and not in a hammy, over-the-top way. I could feel my heart beating faster along with them.

Second, the camera angles: Which never went higher than the actors in the water. If they couldn't see it, we couldn't see it. Did wonders in ratcheting up the suspense. Lastly, the shark attacks: There was none of this nudging, brushing against legs teasingly, swimming around endlessly until finally moving in. One minute their friend is treading water next to them, the next a big old shark head appears out of nowhere and snaps him right up. Don't know how accurate this is about shark behavior, don't care. Really freaking scary.

The greatest testament to this movie is the fact I started watching after my shift at midnight, and was kept absolutely riveted and wide awake until 2 am (movie is only 90 minutes, there were obviously breaks involved). Some reviews are calling it the second best shark movie behind Jaws, and I tend to agree.

Another winner was Trollhunter, a subtitled Norwegian "found footage" mockumentary. Student filmmakers follow a man they believe to be hunting bears illegally, but his quarry turns out to be nothing they ever expected (hint: See the title). I was looking for a cheesy monsterfest in this one and was only half right. Monsters: yes. Cheese: Surprisingly no. For such a clearly low-budget film, the effects were refreshingly...effective. Hans is employed on the DL by the TSS (Troll Security Service) to kill any trolls that break out of territorial bounds, which evidently happens quite often. What elevates this movie apart from its tackier counterparts is the attention to detail: Not all trolls are created equal. They are categorized into subspecies depending on environment, size and danger level. A stroke of brilliance is the tongue-in-cheek way they imply naturally occurring destruction in nature is actually troll-related, thus incorporating parts of the landscape into the story without having to pay a cent.

My luck ran out with Shiver however, a Spanish subtitled film by the makers of Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage, so my hopes were high. But I could barely stay awake, even during the scariest parts. The cinematography is gorgeous, but the story just didn't hold my interest. Santi suffers from a rare skin condition that induces photophobia (extreme sun sensitivity), but also inexplicably enlarges his canine teeth, apparently only for the purpose of setting him up to be accused of vampirism later. His mother moves him to a remote mountain village where it's not so sunny. Soon after people from the village start getting killed violently and Santi is naturally blamed. SPOILER: It isn't Santi (I never thought it was), it's a feral German girl living in the woods whose parents were murdered by one of the villagers who then kept it a secret, and apparently kept the girl locked in his basement until recently (?). Which doesn't explain why she looks like she's spent years in the woods, or why she never attacks Santi. Maybe I slept through some crucial plot point.

Piranha (1978 and 2010 editions): I watched the 1978 version because the 2010 one was on cable and the bit that I caught seemed excessively gory and terrifying. I had to work the hospital that night, and I can't tolerate horror movies before going into the hospital, no matter how remote my chances of being attacked by piranha might be. I thought I could handle 1978 better (despite [ profile] kavieshana still recovering from her original viewing X number of years ago). 1978 isn't as gruesome, and in fact was a little comical -- a school of mutant piranha are accidentally released into a river. The hero and heroine are trying to call ahead and warn people about them, but everyone either doesn't have a phone or hangs up on them in disbelief. Thus they spend the entire movie hopping from one camp to the next downstream trying to get the word out, naturally always about ten minutes too late.

Then I went back and gave 2010 another chance. It turns out the gore was much better handled after watching the excessive Spring Break footage and truly coming to despise the scantily clad teenage victims. Plus the opening scene is an awesome homage to Jaws in the form of a drunken and much older Richard Dreyfuss singing the sea shanty from Jaws before being eaten, and if that isn't made of all kinds of awesome then I just don't know what is.

AND, to later see Jerry O'Connell (who plays an enormous jerk-off) get attacked from the waist down, to be pulled from the water shrieking, "They took my penis! They took my penis!" -- and to later see the organ in question being spit out by one of the fish? Comic gold, ladies and gentlemen. Enough to make me overlook the blatantly CGI monsters.

No one was more astonished than me to have a feeling as the end credits rolled of being really entertained. Not terribly scary, certainly not Criterion Collection material, but surprisingly entertaining.

Insidious: Or "Insipid" as Tery called it as a joke once and it stuck. Contrary to all the negative reviews for this (including from [ profile] kavieshana; and I'm starting to realize it must look like I talk to no one else), I really enjoyed this vehicle from the Saw team. It is essentially a reboot of Poltergeist, except the small boy falls into a coma rather than being abducted into the television, but all the other elements are the same. In fact, some people notice subtle nods to the original, like a scene where a character holds a piece of steak against his black eye (I grant you VERY subtle). Meanwhile all kinds of demons are coming round looking to take over his empty body (he's not actually in a coma, but I don't want to give away too much).

The two things I liked about this movie were: Little to no CGI. Practical effects are always better, no matter how close to cheesy they teeter, and some of them here have a high, high creep quotient. Second, there's a scene when the medium tries to contact the boy and dons an old WWII gas mask, complete with long nozzle extension. This looked so much like Dream's mask in the "Sandman" series that I felt it couldn't be a coincidence. Sadly, several minutes of Googling has failed to confirm this connection.

I agree with criticism that the third act veers wildly off course into WTF Town, but everything up until then was good solid horror. Still, that crazy ending so far has been enough to keep me from buying it. Maybe in a year or so when I can get it for $1 I can justify the expense. Which perhaps doesn't speak volumes of praise for the film.

That's nothing compared with how I felt about The Last Airbender. Ugh. For some reason I just felt like I should see this movie, I don't know why. I know nothing about the cartoon it's based on and certainly feel nothing special towards the genre. But watch it I did.

I can say the effects were terrific. A very pretty movie to look at. Here endeth the positive comments.

The acting! It was the worst! And these were experienced actors. It was like Shamalamadingdong (what I call M. Night) told them to forget everything they knew about acting. I know it's based on a children's cartoon, but seriously. The worst example I can remember is a scene where a little girl runs out of the woods being chased by big burly soldiers. When the hero demands to know why they're chasing her, the leader explains she's under arrest for throwing dirt clods at them. When the hero looks doubtful, the big burly soldier actually pouts a little and whines, "It really hurt!" I should have just wrapped it back up in its little red sleeve right then and there and sent it back, but I can be stubborn.

"Airbending" refers to one arm of a discipline of mystical powers. The others are, if you hadn't guessed, Earthbending, Waterbending and Firebending. Bending is really just plain old Tai Chi moves that benders perform to summon up the element of their specialty as a weapon. But the Fire Nation has been conquering the world, wiping out all the Airbenders first, now moving onto the other two branches.

Then there's the Avatar. The Avatar is the master of all four schools of bending, and keeps the peace by acting as a mediator between them. The existing Avatar had vanished, however, allowing the Fire Nation to embark on their path of destruction.

Except now the Avatar has been found. He's Aang, the last Airbender (get it?) who had been frozen in ice and accidentally woken by two bumbling Waterbenders. He's the young boy on the cover of the DVD. He was frozen before learning the other three disciplines though, so spends most of the movie trying to learn Waterbending for starters. How ironic, the Last Airbender actually does very little Airbending in the movie. Haha.

What made me roll my eyes almost as much as the "It really hurt!" line was when Aang explains they knew he was the Avatar when he correctly chose four toys that had belonged to the previous Avatar. Sound familiar? This comes directly from Buddhism, from a fellow last name Lama, first name Dalai. Shamalamadingdong, when did you get so derivative? At that point I wanted to take this disc out, chuck it in the garbage, and watch a far superior movie Kundun, and I probably should have (not so many martial arts, but just as pretty to look at. Better music too).

Everything builds up to a glorious battle, heavy on the effects, which of course Aang wins. But things are left wide open for a sequel I'm afraid, and the fact that the cartoon is still being made means this might become a whole THING. Not for me. I get off here.

I've saved the best for last: Paul, the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Seth Rogen alien bromance spectacular. I was wary of this due to Rogen, who I find rather off-putting, but he didn't ruin it for me. Not with the love that shines so pure and true between Pegg and Frost.

Tons of pop culture references (the boys' speciality). Tons of actor cameos. I laughed, I cried, then I laughed again. I am so buying this Blu-ray with my next paycheck. I had decided to even before reading Amazon reviews whining about the anti-religious "God-bashing" message of the movie (which is one freaking scene, I hardly would call it the point of the entire film). Yes, you poor persecuted innocent religious folk, who NEVER pick on anybody else and who are so loving and tolerant of everyone else's beliefs/orientations/life choices. Give us a teeny, tiny break. (As usual, the whiners are the "good" Christians who don't agree with the wholesale destruction of every gay on the planet, but lack the stones to do anything meaningful about it, like stand up to the hateful bullies who have hijacked their religion. No problem picking fights with atheists, though.)

Head over there yourself to check out tons of delicious religious flame wars in the comments sections of the reviews.
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