Archive for September, 2008

9/25/08 @ 0400

Felicity Charis Johnson said hello to the world.

Mother and baby are doing great!  Will update soon.

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Movie Reviews returning

I am finally getting around to importing some of the movie reviews from the old site onto this one.  You can find a complete index here, or by clicking the “Movie Reviews” tab at the top.

Made of Honor (2008)

Ten minutes into Made of Honor, and Patrick Dempsey recalls just how well he can handle comedy, given a competent script.  By minute 11, however, the competence wanes, a flood of contrivances rushes in to fill the void, and it doesn’t let up for another 90 minutes.

Tom (Dempsey) meets Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) in college.  He’s cute.  She’s cute.  They both act cute together and then poof, ten years later, Tom is a serial dater (which is just a nice way of saying he’s a man slut), with a girl for every night of the week, except Sundays.   Tom keeps his Sabbath holy by enjoying a chaste platonic relationship with Hannah, whose friendship he’s somehow managed to maintain.

They cavort through city restaurants and street side vendors more like a brother and sister.  Hannah brims with a secret affection for Tom, and for the first half hour, it’s like watching two talents work their best at imitating Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  All that’s missing is an email chat.

Work calls Hannah away to Scotland for six weeks where she will meet a manly Scottish lad named Colin (Kevin McKidd) with whom she will fall desperately in love.  In her absence, Tom will pine for her as his nightly flings become less and less of a draw.

Come on, did you really think it was going to get more challenging?

Early critics called this a gender reversal on My Best Friend’s Wedding, a film that at least tried to challenge preconceptions.  Made of Honor makes no such effort.  It works hard to generate shallow chuckles at the expense of throwaway characters and maligned stereotypes.  It plays on every cliché, every gender bending joke, and lacks any courage or conviction to explore the implications raised by its premise.

The script offers some hints at depth that might have made for a better story, like Tom’s relationship to his father (the late, and missed, Sydney Pollack), a man who serializes marriage about as much as his son serializes dating.  Or when Tom gets together with his cadre of paper-thin friends to play basketball — they look like a bunch of posers, more at home putting together gift baskets after Tom has accepted his role as Hannah’s maid of honor.  When Colin arrives, his masculinity plays in direct counterpoint to Tom’s mere manly playacting.  Yet there’s never any conflict between the two that might urge Tom to step up.

These elements exist just to score a laugh.  There’s no development beyond the chuckles.  Nothing to challenge the character’s identities as masculine or feminine.  Nothing to suggest that Tom’s flaws might be linked to his father’s.  Everyone pretty much ends up exactly as they were in the beginning, with one tiny exception that you likely won’t have to struggle too hard to predict.

The whole effort feels like an idea that started strong, and was beat to death by one of those producer meetings Frank Darabont lampooned so well in The Majestic.  At the end of the day, it almost begs a comparison to Spam — cheap, manufactured, and unnatural.

(photo courtesy DreamWorks/Paramount)

Overtime

Been working overtime and finishing up my first grant.  I won’t get to hear what anyone thinks about it until the development director gets back to the office next Friday.

In the meantime, we’re getting ready for baby-number-two’s arrival, scheduled for a week from Tuesday if all goes well.  We’ve packed the suitcase, registered at the hospital, all that jazz.  Now, we’re just waiting…

…and working.  My lovely wife picked up a class to teach online, and we’re very thankful for that.  All the house work has fallen to me, though.  Not that I’m complaining — I’ve actually proven quite disciplined.

Got a lot on the plate and a lot in my head, and things are getting exciting.  I need to go turn the dishwasher on, and then I’m going to bed.

Later, homes.

“I hate Indiana Jones…”

I was killing time at a shop in the mall yesterday — one of those places that sells framed art like those back and whites James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, reprinted close-ups of man’s finger reaching for God’s, and that photo of the sailor laying a kiss on his girl — when I overheard a girl in the aisle behind me say, “Oh look, Indiana Jones!”

The response, from whom I can only assume was the boyfriend: “I hate Indiana Jones.  Like, how many Nazis did he kill?”

There’s a few places you could go with that one, and not all of them would be nice places to visit.  Of course, you never think of the really cool rejoinders until later (email me if you want to know what I should have said). I rounded the corner to get a look at the guy, and he might have been eighteen or so.  So he probably doesn’t know any better.

My wife, the more level-headed one, suggested he might have felt the film went a little overboard by always returning  to the Nazis whenever Indy needed a villain.  Maybe.  Still, a statement like that…

Quo Vadimus

Where are we going?

A few months ago, during a time in which I felt very confused (and would make for a good post someday), I decided that I ought to devote myself more seriously to telling stories rather than just yammering on about this week’s biggest slice of “who cares” on a blog.  I backed away from blogging, completed a second draft on a screenplay, put together notes on another story idea, and started work on a third draft of said screenplay.

Hard work, yes.  But it doesn’t pay the bills.

Since my wife resigned from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom for the kids’ early years, we needed to supplement some income.  She’s working as a teacher’s assistant online, and I picked up a couple assignments for the magazine, as well as some part-time work as a grant writer. 

So all the lofty ideas of becoming the next great screenwriter (as well as a healthy dose of reality visited upon me by the feedback I received from the latest draft) have parked in the backseat until further notice. 

In the meantime, I’ve spent a number of prayers asking just what He thinks He is doing.  Where are we going, huh?  I’d really rather not spend the rest of my life as a grant writer.  I could see myself really falling in love with feature writing, but I need to do more of it. 

Telling stories is still at the heart of my passion.  Writing features fills some of that desire.  It’s a step along the way to the goal, or so I’ve read. 

So, anyway, this is me, figuring things out…

Sarah Palin at the RNC

Saw Palin last night.  Loved it.  If that makes me a “partisan hack” or whatever then just go ahead and slap the cuffs on me (and I promise not to go into how I thought Hillary Clinton actually did well on her speech last week). 

As much as I want to go nuts over this and get excited, there’s that department in my head that lives under a sign that reads “reason” that will not leave me alone.  I want to cast an informed vote, and speeches only say so much.  What matters is what a person does.  (Or, should I channel Batman and say, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”).

As far as speeches go, however, last night’s was very good.  Both sides have delivered the kind of thing I enjoyed hearing from Martin Sheen whenever he delivered Aaron Sorkin’s words on The West Wing.  From the talk I’m hearing, Palin inspired a lot of people last night.  I heard Rush say today that he hasn’t seen the Conservative base this fired up in 14 years.  I like Palin so far, and I really want to believe that we have in her the kind of leader we need. 

But so far, all we have is words.  I’m trying real hard not to get my hopes up. 

The next weeks will likely shed a more reasonable light on things.  Once the frenzy dies down, cooler heads can dig into things, and we drop more of the mad rumors.  Scanning the internet, a comment regarding Palin’s political career in Alaska has received swarming play across the blogs, but not a single serious news outlet has touched the story. So far, its all just hearsay.

I want to believe that a great day in America is coming.  I want to believe that the people who lead the nation can take on domestic corruption and evil foreign regimes with the tenacity of Eliot Ness and his Untouchables. I want to believe because I do believe this is a great nation.  This is a nation that has survived more than 200 years and that has produced leaders and soldiers that have literally saved the world.  I already believe my country is great.  And I want it to stay that way.